Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. This story is mine. Those who plagiarize will have Deathscythe Hell and the cutest God of Death ever sent after them to blast them into pieces. Have a nice day. :)
Waiting Game . . .

by Fushigi Kismet
They stepped into the waiting room, two boys, one heavily bandaged, yet looking none the worse for wear, the other helping him to a chair with discreet concern. Except for the bandages, no one would have known that they both had been in battle a little over three hours ago. The only marks on them were those on their minds and hearts . . . the invisible ones on their souls. Looking into their eyes, an unconcerned passerby might have sensed this, but rarely did anyone get close enough to do so.

"How is she?" Quatre asked, waving off Trowa's proffered chair, looking from Trowa to Wufei and back again.

The two youths didn't answer.

Quatre sighed and looked down.

"You should be more worried about *him*."

The blonde Gundam pilot turned to look at where Heero was leaning against the wall. "Heero?"

Heero pushed away from the wall with one arm and strode out of the waiting room. "He's the one who's going through hell now."

As Quatre watched Heero's retreating back, Trowa moved to place a comforting hand on his shoulder. "It's true, you know. Duo blames himself."

"But he shouldn't. He got there as quickly as he could."

"You and I know that, but it's hard not to blame yourself."

Trowa's eyes grew cold and distant. "The urge for self-destruction comes so easily to all of us."
* * *
I should have gotten there faster.
I should have known.
If it had been me . . . she would have known.
~~~~
Yes, she would have known.

She always knows.

When I wake in the middle of the night, staring at darkness, filled with darkness, filled with things I cannot put a name to, do not wish to remember or acknowledge, hers is the quiet voice at my door.

The hand that strokes my hair.

The arms that hold me, as I laugh and say inane things and pretend that I don't want to cry. That I'm not frightened by the things in the night, by the things within me, by myself most of all.

The one who always, always knows.

She embraces my shadow as much as she embraces me, with loving tenderness. She can see him, can feel him as he brushes against her on cold days, on lonely days, on days when the rain streaks the windowpane and it seems he is so much stronger than I. She's seen him lurking in my eyes, has duly exorcised him from my soul time and again with laughter and acceptance, has held his hand and smiled brightly at him without fear.

She cannot love him, but for my sake she doesn't mind him, doesn't allow him a say, overrides him at every twist and turn, and when she catches him unawares she will smile for him and he will stare at her in astonishment that any living being can be touched by him and yet find the strength to try and understand him and why he is.

She knows him. Not as well as I, who have seen his brutal handiwork firsthand and who has carried out his will times beyond counting, but she too knows him intimately. His shadow isn't simply mine, it also clings to her with the scent of fear and the taste of sorrow.

But with me it is different. With me there are times when we are not two separate entities at all but one terrible force bound by nothing and beholden to no one . . . not even the girl who looks at us with such a beautiful light in her eyes.

There is a rush. I won't deny it. There is a flash of terrible excitement at the havoc we create, at the skill with which we take that which is ours. Take it skillfully and without remorse. For this is what we were made for, no matter if there is a voice that will be crying out somewhere in the distance. No matter if with all our power we cannot stop the light from dimming in a smiling girl's eyes.

After all, she will come to me in the end, anyway.

I am the God of Death. Why did I ever think that I could be anything different?

I am Death. And Death chooses the innocent and guilty alike as his prey.

But I don't want her to go to that other me . . . the Shadow King who rides in the shadows of the night, seeking to harvest the crop of souls waiting for him with a swift motion of his scythe . . . . I don't want her to be among the dead in my collection. I want to keep her, goddammit. As Hades wanted to keep Persephone as his own . . . I want to keep her with me.

I want to keep her even if it's just for the tiny span of my life.

And now we are divided, Death and I.

It is the first time in many years. Years upon years. Since a boy decided that there was no God but a God of Death, and no one more suited to the role than he.

So now we play games.

We have always played games, the two of us.

The games we play are of chance and skill and determination. To kill or be killed. To live or to die. Each day we play a game to see if I shall cling on to the tenuous thread of life a bit longer or whether he will finally claim me altogether, his price in full for the honor he has bestowed upon me, to act as his tool, or whether he will whittle away a little more at the life that separates me from him.

But today's game is a bit different.

It's a waiting game I play with Death . . .

A game of chess we both excel at. The board is empty but for the two kings . . . with no one left to defend them. Who shall claim the throne of the other? We are checked, and checked again.

The piece topples over slowly . . . it falls so heavily . . . so beautifully. Because it is a life. I want to catch it in my hands and place it upright again. And wait for it to fall again.

But I cannot . . . I cannot move my hands fast enough and it falls . . .

It falls . . .

But is it black or is it white?

The one is Death . . . the other Life.

Which . . . which will it be?

I can only wait . . .

Wait.

Because that is the game we play . . . Death and I.

With one another.

With ourself.

Until the last piece falls.
* * *
Shadows swim and fade away in darkness, touching her softly with the tenderness of an experienced but solicitous lover. Sometimes their fingers are icy as a chill wind; sometimes they are warm as the sun on her skin. Her vision is colored in black and white with brief infusions of color, slowly expanding and swiftly disappearing.

Something is pulling her along and she feels herself resting quietly against something that she can put neither face nor name to but which pulls her into itself and caresses her possessively. It is cold and dark and still inside and without and her skin feels permeated with a vague uneasiness. Her body is floating through the darkness, molecules and atoms spinning dizzily as though she had become a universe unto herself, dark and orderly, but strangely, dim as a deadened star.

She is not a black hole sucking in light; she is formless and opaque, neither giving nor accepting light.

Then there is a glow as a handful of atoms light up within her with the force of blazing supernovas and she can, for an instant, feel the touch of something far, far different than that which holds her now. It is warm and rough, clumsily painful, brilliantly burning. Something that smells vaguely of chestnuts and gunpowder and fear, and tastes sweet as desire tainted with the flavor of sorrow, which is a taste unto itself and cannot rightly be described as bitter.

It is also steeped in the darkness that holds her and she knows it immediately, knows it for what it is and, by knowing, knows once again who and what she is . . . knows that she does not want to leave that painful warmth for all the gentle seductions of that other, darker thing.

She turns, a universe spinning on its axis, a girl once again, turning in profound darkness. She turns and smiles at that which holds her and wants to keep her, that which will one day claim her for forever - however long that is. She whispers a promise to it, and there is light now, light in the eyes that had not existed a moment ago, breath in the body that she had not known she possessed, and feeling tingling through that body. She is shining now, brighter than a star, brighter than a billion stars with something that is not light but is greater and softer and smaller than light. Something that burns for a time and then is gone.

She smiles and lets go of the darkness for a time, lets go, lets go of everything, lets herself fall into nothing.

Her heartbeat sounds throughout it all.

Light glimmers and expands and the world is laid open to her.
* * *
Her eyes searched for an instant, blinded by remembered brightness, blinded momentarily by artificial light.

There he was, asleep in his chair. His head resting against her bed. His hands curled tightly about one of her own. He looked . . . exhausted. Pained.

Were those tears in his eyes?

Were you worried? For me?

She stretched out a hand to touch his, her fingers uncurling and extending to touch him, trembling as they did so for fear he was a phantom . . . a ghost. You're alive, aren't you, Duo? You survived . . .

Her heart beat once in fear, then . . .

The silken touch of skin on skin.

You're so cold. Like Death. Where did all your warmth flee to?

Her skin kindled a gentle warmth about her. His hands were rough and tight about her own, so much so that it was almost painful. He smelled like chestnuts and gunpowder and fear. She knew, suddenly, how he would taste if she kissed him. Knew without knowing at all.

She gazed at him a moment, his lashes dark against his cheeks, his violet eyes so full of life and vigor when awake closed in sleep. And she wondered if there would be other times where she would see him sleeping so soundly at her side. Where she could just sit and gaze at him for a moment and wonder at the feelings that he evoked in her . . . at the strange and wonderful emotions in her heart.

Is this what it's like to live? Is this what you saved me for, Duo?

She felt him stir and tightened her hold on his hands, struggling to form the words to call him awake . . . to call him back to her from the world he now inhabited, apart from her.

"Du . . . o?"

"Hilde?!" The response was instant, violet eyes opening wide, lanky form springing upright. The concern in his voice, the relief in his eyes, the loving reassurance of his hand's touch . . . They were her answer. To all of her questions.

She smiled weakly, her eyes alight with sudden joy. "Duo."

And Duo Maxwell knew that his wait was over.

The game had been won.