Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing/AC, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. Nor do I own the song "17". That would be The Smashing Pumpkins. Or their record company. Or their lawyers. Someone not me, at any rate. . .

This was the first fanfic I ever wrote, back in like, 2001 or 2002. And, I think, my only ever song-fic. I am aware of numerous things I don't like but, since it's nice to see the progress since, I'm leaving as is. I'm so sentimental. It's awkward and, as with all my fics, a little heavy on the spiritual stuff. *shrugs* But then, that would be a reflection of my life experience, so . . .

17

Warnings: OOCness, esp. Heero. Shoenen-ai hints, but nothing solid.
Notes: The idea here is to portray a moment in battle, approx. 17 seconds long. Not much time for character or plot development. So, when Heero says some. . . surprising things, don't write to me about how OOC it is. No kidding. There are several things I leave ambiguous on purpose. C'mon, it's only 17 seconds long, no time to explain. Oh, and the plural for Taurus should be Tauri—as is octopi or pegasi—but I thought that might confuse people, and writing "Tauruses" just grated. So I decided that the plural would be the same as the singular. As for Taurus in space, when I think they really wouldn't be (I think it's the Aries you'd find in vacuum), well, I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote this. It was my first ever fanfic. So go figure. Oh, and "baba"=bullshit. I think that's all.

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"Duuude," Duo moaned, "this is soooo very uncool." And indeed it was. A Leo had gotten lucky in the midst of Deathscythe's rampage. As the gundam's blade had sliced cleanly through the enemy, one had gotten one last shot off, which had hit between chinks in the armour. And now Duo was floating there, a sitting duck. Information was still pouring in, but there wasn't damned thing he could do about it. Deathscythe wasn't responding, even his comm-link wasn't working. Sure, he could hear the other pilots fine, they just couldn't hear him.

He looked at the data in front of him. Hm. Oxygen leakage, and another wave was coming in, and there was nothing he could do. They would arrive in seventeen seconds.

17 seconds of compassion

There was something wrong. Heero felt that the battle was too silent suddenly. Blasting three Taurus in front of him, he ran down a mental checklist: No, Wing sounded like it was working fine, hmm, Quatre was still there, Wufei was yelling about justice, Trowa would be silent anyway, and Duo was. . . not there. Heero's breath caught. That braided baka was always making the most noise in battle, laughing, yelling, condemning his enemy to his own special hell. He called up Deathscythe's condition on Wing's monitors.

"Che!" he muttered. It was bad. Someone had gotten lucky and hit the Gundam's pilot response systems. He was effectively paralyzed. And he was loosing oxygen. And there was another wave of mobile dolls heading right for him. Heero looked at the calculations. Duo had seventeen seconds.

17 seconds of peace

It was silent, watching the mobile dolls coming his way. For once, Shinigami was quiet. He sighed, once. Well, he thought, knew this would happen one of these days. Still, Heero, I wish I could have told you. . .

17 seconds to remember love is the energy behind which all is created

Time stretched around Heero. I cannot compromise the mission, he thought. I must complete it. It is my job.

Baba, replied another voice within. You can always beat the crap outta OZ. But you won't be able to fix this. This of what will be compromised if he dies. There will only be four of you left, three if you consider that you'll never fly again.

I am the Perfect Soldier, he interrupted, I will not let these emotions get in the way! I will complete my assignment.

Again, baba, the voice replied, You are not the Perfect Soldier. I AM. And because I am, I know that if he dies, the mission will never be complete. You know that. You have another mission now. And if you fail, there will never be a chance to fix it.

Heero screamed, blasting Wing away from the other Gundams and toward Deathscythe. He heard Quatre over the comm-link.

"Uh, Heero?" His voice sounded confused.

Heero brought his voice back to it's normal register. "Screw the mission," he said, his voice one again cold. "I've got more important things to do."

17 seconds to remember all that is good

Duo thought of cobalt eyes, the same color as the eyes of that stained glass angel he had Father Maxwell tell him about once. He thought of chocolate chip ice cream. He thought of chocolate chip ice cream and cobalt eyes. He figured there was no use in regretting, since he'd be dead soon. Might as well die happy. Or, as happy as he could lacking certain memories.

17 seconds to forget all your hurt and pain

Dr. J would be disappointed, he knew. His Perfect Soldier had cracked. But Heero didn't really care. The one shining light in his life was about to disappear, and he couldn't let that happen. Duo was the idiot who'd gone and torn down the walls around the heart Heero didn't even know he had. Duo it was whose mindless chatter filled the emptiness Heero had lived with for so long. Duo, who called himself Death, who had brought Heero the gift of life.

Duo, my Shinigami, he thought, you can't die because I haven't had a chance to tell you. . .

17 seconds of faith

Duo had heard Heero's surprising exclamation. Looking at his readouts, he noticed two things. Wing was headed his way, and Deathscythe was rapidly running out of oxygen. This would be exciting-- a three way race between the mobile dolls, Heero, and the rapidly diminishing supply of air.

"Well," he said, "Imagine that. Heero's gonna be my knight in shining armor. Too bad I'll never get to thank him."

17 seconds to trust you again

Heero also noticed that Deathscythe was running low. A pressure seal must have broken somewhere. Shimatta! The mobile dolls would soon be in range of Duo. Pulling his gun in front, he wished it were easier to navigate and aim at the same time.

His first shot took care of the dolls that were closest, but the distance was soon closed by those behind. And the seconds were ticking.

Checking the fastenings on his pressure suit and harness, he yelled into his comm-link. "Duo! I know you can hear me even if I can't hear you. Secure your pressure suit and eject! You won't last long enough in there if you stay!" He knew he wasn't close enough yet. He knew Duo knew it. "Don't argue! Just. . . trust me! I'll catch you!" Somehow. I cannot fail this mission.

17 seconds of radiance

Duo made sure the fastenings were tight. Unstrapping the safety harness, he got up to open the manual hatch that would suck him out into the void. An explosion nearby slammed into Deathsythe, hurling him against the wall of the inner chamber. Sparks dotted his vision as he stood again, staggering over to the release lever. Outside he saw a thousand supernovas as Wing decimated the oncoming mobile dolls, even from a distance. Still the distance was closing, and Heero was right. He didn't have a chance if he stayed inside. Though, one wrong shot out there, or another lucky one from the enemy, and there would be even less of him left. He grinned, flipping the lever, and suddenly he was flying outside, Deathscythe going away, fireworks lighting up all around him.

Heero saw Duo eject, and immediately stopped firing. Much good rescuing the baka would be if he fried him himself. It didn't look like the mobile dolls had noticed Duo's move-- of course, they weren't looking for it, they were too occupied with Wing. Heero checked his suit once more, then punched in the flight plan. This had better work.

17 seconds to send a prayer up

Duo looked over weakly to see Wing getting closer, dolls in hot pursuit. His vision was getting darker, and as the winged Gundam came closer, he noticed that it wasn't firing anymore. He closed his eyes. St. Michael, you're the only one who can help him now. Please, keep him. . . oh, I see . . .

Heero had never believed in the God Duo believed in. It had never been part of his conditioning. But still, as Wing swooped in and the hatch opened, Heero found himself calling out in his mind. Please, help me. Help us. Let him live. Please. . .

17 seconds is all you really need