Duo Maxwell had become a liability to the mission.

Heero had orders to take him out. All liabilities were to be exterminated, Dr. J had told him. Even if that liability rested in the person you loved most in the world. Love was just an emotion, and emotions were not needed in war.

It was Duo's fault, really. He had gone down during a mission, apparently when he had prematurely set off explosives and had been standing too close, sending him flying backward and into the wall. He was knocked out almost instantly. At least that's what Heero gathered from Quatre's explanation of what had happened on the mission he and Duo had gone on. Quatre had returned not long after they had first left, Duo-less and completely freaked out for his friend's life.

Trowa had comforted the blonde, who went into a rein of it being his entire fault for leaving Duo behind. Wufei had told Quatre that it was a simple error and that they all could have made, and blaming himself wasn't going to get Maxwell back.

Heero had returned to his room not long after, in order to contact J. The man had confirmed what Heero had been dreading.

"Mission failure," Heero had told him, giving his cold look into the video screen. "02 captured."

J looked at him a moment. "Terminate 02."

"Sir?" Heero asked, a bit testy. He did not want to show weakness in front of the very man who had shown him what it could do to people, but still, Duo was a fellow pilot.

"You heard me, 01. 02 is a liability. Terminate him."

So that was where it had come to. Duo Maxwell, the one person Heero had been able to give his cold, emotionless heart to, had become a liability to his mission, to his very existence as a solider.

And he needed to be terminated.

Heero closed his eyes as he turned off his laptop and closed it, having copied the floor plan of the base to memory, before standing up and walking into the living room. He tucked his gun into his shoe easily… there was no room for error, he told himself. There would no doubt be double security at the base now that they had already been attacked once, and they now held a captive and injured Gundam pilot.

Quatre looked up from the couch where he was seated, simply cuddled up against Trowa. "Where are you going, Heero?" He asked the other, his voice giving away the fact that he was still broken over the fact that the mission had failed from right under his nose.

"Mission," Heero replied, which wasn't a lie. His mission was to illuminate the liability. "I'll be back by tomorrow."

Not bothering to ask, the blonde merely nodded and turned away, burring his face into Trowa's shoulder. Heero did not say anything in return as he left and took Trowa's bike, knowing the other would not care… and if he did, Heero did not.

The base was easy enough to locate, a simple two-hour ride that Heero managed in one hour flat, speeding down the empty back roads. He did not know why he sped… he was simply bringing himself closer to the thing he dreaded more than anything in the world. But no, he couldn't think like that, it would jeopardize the mission.

He could not think of Duo as a person, as a friend… as a lover. Duo was all that and a braided idiot, the only person who could ever make him smile anymore. Duo, who could brighten up a room with a simple smile. Duo, who looked beautiful when surrounded by his unbound hair, which moved with his every movement, his every word, his every breath. Duo, who could eat twice as much as any of the other pilots and still remain skinny, though not overly so, in a way that made him seem almost girlish when he walked around their shared room in only a towel after a shower.

Duo, who had become a liability to the mission. Duo, who he was ordered to kill.

Entering the base was not an easy task, however. There were twice as many guards, as he had predicted. Four at every door, obviously they expected him to come. Taking them out would be easy enough, but the problem was how to take out all four without one calling for backup. He could not handle a back up, especially when he was attempting to sneak in un-noticed.

Heero turned to the nearby bushes, and lifted up a rock that had previously been beneath his shoe. He threw the rock with perfect aim, hitting the bushes and ruffling them, catching the guard's attentions. As their backs were turned to him, he shot each one in the back of the head with his gun, the silencer making a whisper of a sound as they each dropped dead, not noticing until it was too late.

It seemed almost too easy.

He slipped inside then, taking their key-cards in case not all of them worked. The inside of the base was nearly empty, as it was late and most of the workers had gone home, leaving only the guards there to watch over it.

He snuck down the hallways in utter silence, gun raised and ready to kill anyone who stood in his way. Any liability to the mission must be terminated.

Like Duo.

He brought up the floor plan saved in his memory. Two rights, then a left. A door no doubt with a keypad, easily taken care of by the cards he had taken from the guards. If not, he had explosives on him.

The trip there was so uneventful he wanted to scream in frustration. For having twice as much security he would have thought he would have had to kill at least ten more men… then again, he was wishing to himself that it had been that way. He was inching closer and closer to the goal, and, for once, he did not want to get there.

The first card he tried working on the door, and it slipped open, revealing a row of heavy metal doors with no windows. Only one was guarded, and Heero took out the man easily with one shot.

He walked over to the door and went to press the button, but stopped short of letting his fingers push it. Duo would be inside there… He closed his eyes. Duo would probably assume Heero was there to save him… he would feel so betrayed when Heero raised the gun to his head… no, Duo was a solider, no matter how bad of one, and he understood the way the war worked.

Yes, but Heero was his lover.

It was one thing to be killed by another solider, it was another thing to have your lover raise his gun to your head and tell him he was going to kill you. He… he could not stand to even think about the way Duo would look at him, betrayed and hurt. The very thought scared him… how could he do it?

Simple enough, he thought hastily to himself. You are a solider. It is your duty to eliminate every liability that keeps you from your goal.

Even if that liability happens to have the most beautiful soul you had ever met.

He pressed the button and the door swung open, revealing a small room with black metal walls. The cold air in the room almost made him shiver in his simple green tank top, but he did not have the time to do so. He knew if he did not complete the mission soon he would be caught.

He tired to ignore the tightening in his chest as the figure seated against the back wall raised his face to him.

Duo looked like he had seen hell. He had bruises lining what parts of his body showed, and cuts across his face and lips. His eyes looked almost hallow, but still they held their spirit, letting Heero know that he had kept his mouth shut, had taken every beating like a true solider and had not told them a damn thing.

"Heero," he croaked, smiling weakly despite the obvious pain he was in. His hair was streaked with blood, as it unwove from its normal braid, loosened by the jerking around it had no doubt received. "I was wondering when you'd show up."

"02," Heero replied, unable to use the boy's name. To call him by his name would be to acknowledge that he was the very person Heero loved, to acknowledge that he was indeed a human being.

As if with those two simple numbers, Duo's world seemed to crash around him. He lowered his eyes, before closing them completely. "I understand," he said, and Heero was silently glad that Duo no doubt tried to spare him from the betrayed look. "01, do what you must do."

He pushed himself up, leaning heavily against the wall. Though it pained him, he lifted his head up in order to give Heero a clear shot of his head, accepting his death simply as a necessary part of the war.

That didn't stop the pain Heero felt at that simple act of trust Duo had placed on him in his last moments. Still, he forced himself to raise his gun and aim it between the other's eyes.

Duo said nothing, and Heero in turn did not as well. Though they both wanted to say something, anything… to tell the other they loved them, to apologies for what they both knew was about to happen. But still, both remained silent, and Heero forced himself not to close his own eyes. If he closed them now his aim could falter and he would miss, causing Duo more pain.

His finger squeezed, but not enough to release the bullet. He remembered be here once before. Then, he had been ready to pull the trigger… that was until Duo opened up those beautiful eyes and asked Heero if he was really going to do it. Everything in him shattered, and the very idea of killing such a beautiful creature, despite his years of training, sent him giving the gun to Duo and rescuing the other.

But now, Duo stood with his head held high, and his eyes closed. He obviously knew of Heero's weakness, though the Wing pilot could not remember ever telling him. The other's breathing was slightly forced, do to the pain he was in, but he did not falter, standing there with his head back and holding still, hands relaxed at his sides.

He had accepted death. At the hands of his lover.

Still, Heero had not pulled the trigger.

They both realized then that if Heero were going to do it, he would have done it already.

Duo opened his eyes, and Heero let his gun drop to his side. He stepped forward, knowing he was going to have to get the other pilot out of there, but Duo held up a hand.

"No," Duo told him. "Heero, you have to kill me."

Heero frowned at him, but did not step forward again. "Duo," he said. "I cannot."

The pilot before him wrapped an arm around his middle. "01," he hissed, copying Heero's previous attempt to dehumanize him. "02 down." He motioned to himself. "Chances are 4 to 1 against my favor that I will not survive these injuries. I am a liability."

Heero closed his eyes, trying to block out the emotions that flowed through him. Hadn't he previously just been calling Duo a liability himself?

"I can get you out," he told Duo, opening his eyes back up. Duo's head was downward, face blocked out by his long bangs. "I can get you to a doctor."

"Heero," the other boy told him, voice softening. "I will not survive an escape."

Even though it pained him, Heero realized Duo was right. The boy's breathing had become almost erratic now, and though he was forcing himself to remain calm, his body was slowly failing him. Heero was not sure what was wrong with him, since he could not see Duo's wounds under his surprisingly intact clothing, but he could see the signs of failing life on the boy's face.

"Please, Heero," Duo begged, legs nearly giving out as he held himself up against the wall. Heero realized Duo was crying… Duo never cried. "Please just end it."

"Mission accepted," Heero replied, and the other boy let out a small sigh of, the Wing pilot realized, relief. Duo was in a lot of pain, he realized, and not just from his body failing, but also because of the fact that he refused to let the other pilot leave. He knew if he did not accept to kill Duo then the other would die of a guilty conscious, and he did not want that.

Slowly he raised his gun and aimed for Duo's head. The other automatically closed his eyes, struggling to stay upright, unable to keep it up for much longer. Heero knew he had to, he knew that if they attempted to escape Duo would die anyway, and he knew he would feel bad for not ending the other's life the most painless way possible.

"I love you," Heero said suddenly, and a weak smile crossed the other's face.

"I love you too, Heero."

The silencer made the shot sound almost painless, the only sound being the gun dropping to the floor seconds later as Heero rushed foreword and caught Duo before he hit the ground.

He sat there for a moment, totally stunned at what he had done. This was worse then when he had killed that girl… because while he had only known her that day, he had known Duo for the past year… and he had loved him. Duo had loved him in return, without asking anything from Heero, knowing that the Wing pilot had issues with emotion, and easily accepting him for whom he was. Duo was beautiful, Heero realized, inside and out.

Even with that hole in his forehead.

He held Duo close to himself for a few moments, seated on the floor with the other cradled against him, face buried in light brown hair while Duo's blood-stained forehead rested against his neck.

The other had begged for death, begged for Heero to shoot him and save himself. He had known if Heero attempted to save them both than they would both die. He had given up his own life so Heero could get out… and he'd be damned if he was going to let the other's sacrifice go to waste.

But he'd be damned if he was leaving Duo's body there.

Slowly lifting the other into his arms, ignoring the fact that he was heavier than normal simply because of 'dead weight', Heero grabbed his gun and swung Duo over his shoulder, making a break for it.

No one saw him leave… at least he assumed so. If they had, they didn't say a damn thing about it.