title: Call and Answer
fandom: Gundam Wing
characters/pairings: Heero/Duo, past Heero/Relena, Trowa, Wu Fei, Quatre, Sally
rating: G/Teen
warnings: angst, sap, sex
summary: Heero takes a trip down memory lane, and finds himself back where he started.
notes: dedicated to Caroline. happy birthday, babe. ^_^
angsty, but with a satisfyingly (hopefully...) sweet ending. promise! also, i made up a lot of medical/scientific stuff. (all temperature measurements are in degrees Fahrenheit.) i did do some research... but i figure, if they have mecha, they can have other stuff we don't have now, right? ^_~ the title is from a Barenaked Ladies song.

Heero turned the wheel, and waited for it. In every other trip up the mountain pass to the cabin Duo and he had bought together, this was the point where the tension would melt away, and slip off his back, and he would start to enjoy the trip.

Of course, every other time, he had Duo with him.

The plane ride to get to up here was always stressful, as the only crafts that could make the journey were small prop planes, and no one was as capable at flying as he was, save perhaps Duo. So, sitting in the back of the plane, being jostled without being in control, always left Heero feeling vaguely unsettled.

Then there was the process of getting their things off of the plane, getting a ride from the pilot to the town, where they could rent an SUV, and then the long drive out to the cabin.

This time, Heero had to do it all on his own.

It was always at that one switchback, with the flinty boulder in the middle of the turn and the tall pine with the drooping lower branches on the side, that Heero's mood began to improve.

He waited for the effect to kick in. After three additional switchbacks, Heero decided that without Duo, it was going to take a bit longer.

He hadn't been to the cabin in three years. The last time, of course, had been with Duo. They had bought this cabin together when they had been together for a year. Heero negotiated the switchbacks, and let the past sidle up to him and take a seat in the car. The first time they had stayed in the cabin, they had spent the entire week buck-naked. In the first year they had been together, they came to the cabin four times, for a total of ten weeks.

After the first year, their trips were more and more sporadic, but they always came here to be completely isolated with each other. It was a refuge; it was a sanctuary.

It was the only thing that they still owned together.

Ironically, Heero had married and now was in the process of divorcing Relena, but it was his relationship with Duo that still had loose ends.

Of course, he had been with Duo for a total of seven years, and he had barely been with Relena for a year. The first three years he had been with Duo had been perfect. Well, in retrospect, and in comparison, they seemed perfect.

After the final war, he had wandered here and there for two and half years. When he got tired of traveling, and never having a home, he went to go find Duo.


Heero wasn't even sure how they had become lovers. It just happened. Duo opened his door to Heero as soon as Heero showed up on his stoop, and then it just happened.

After the last time they came here together, Duo had started going out to clubs. He complained that Heero was too staid, and that they were getting old just sitting on the couch. Heero, who had always been more protective of Duo than was completely reasonable, began to become jealous.

Not a healthy kind of jealousy, either, if such a thing existed.

Then Wu Fei had come to stay with them for a month while he was on assignment with the Preventers in L2.

Duo and Heero started fighting then, and eventually, Wu Fei left to stay in a hotel.

Heero was certain that Wu Fei was interested in Duo, and he resented any amount of time that Duo spent with the other man, even if Heero was in the room with them. He insinuated things to Duo, and made Duo crazy with his accusations.

It didn't help that Duo and Wu Fei shared some sort of bond - Wu Fei was always introducing Duo to new books and concepts and ideas, and Duo soaked it in like a sponge. Duo had never had a formal education, and so he loved the debates and discussions he had with Wu Fei.

Heero sighed as he slowed down for a particularly difficult switchback. Looking back, he could still feel the bile in the back of his throat. It had been like watching sand slip out of his grip, watching Duo with Wu Fei, and he couldn't stand it.

Things just got worse and worse from there, until Trowa showed up at their door.

Trowa and Duo had never been close, but apparently Trowa had developed a habit of clubbing, which only encouraged Duo to leave Heero's side and go out at night.

Heero clutched the steering wheel, his eyes narrowing. Maybe he would relax when he got to the cabin.

He hadn't meant to hit Duo, but he and Trowa had gone out three nights in a row, and Duo was being a damn prick about it. Heero just got so mad, and Duo had been provoking him.

Heero gritted his teeth. Trowa had seemed to enjoy pitting the two of them against one another, and he certainly enjoyed leaving with Duo that night. He had put his hand on Duo's back, and turned to smile at Heero.

Trowa and Duo had never been close. It made no sense. Heero had long been aware of Wu Fei's interest in his Duo, ever since the three of them had shared an Oz cell, but Trowa? It made no sense.

Heero sighed, turning off the road to go up the path to the cabin. This place really was remote - there was electricity, but no phones, and only satellite phones could work up here. It would be good to get away. He was supposed to be in court to finalize his divorce in three weeks, and he had taken two weeks off of work to just get away from all the stress and insanity.

It would be good.

Heero pulled into the clearing where the house was, and his heart dropped to his shoes.

In front of the house, there was a blue SUV.

Scowling, Heero pulled in next to it. He had thought it was strange that there was only one car at the place today, but he didn't pay much attention. After all, there were about fifteen houses up in the mountains that people owned for just such getaways.

He turned the car off, and just sat, letting the pleasant background noise of the woods soothe him.

It had been a year since he had seen Duo.

They really should have worked out all these details, like who owned the cabin, but the whole dissolution of their relationship had been so messy and vile, neither of them had wanted to really carry it all the way through.

Sighing, Heero picked up his duffle, and opened the car door. Each step toward the door to the cabin felt like a battle, and Heero was gearing up to face off with the enemy.

The idea of Duo as his enemy filled Heero with such a gaping vacuum, his felt like he was being pulled inside out.

The cabin was just as it had been three years ago. Everything was exactly the same. Duo was even in the kitchen making hot chocolate. For a moment, Heero could only stand in the door and stare into the cabin with wide eyes.

Duo dropped the spoon he was using to stir the hot chocolate.

Heero found his thoughts moving like sludge. Duo looked pretty good. He looked damn good. Actually, he looked a little tired, and pale, and had he perhaps lost a little weight? But he still looked good, damn good.

"What the hell are you doing here, Heero?"

Heero sighed, and closed the door behind him. "I'm on vacation. You?"

Duo sighed, and turned his back to Heero. "Well, I was here first, so clear out."

Heero's brow furrowed. "No."

Duo's spine was rigid. "Yes. Look, I'm sorry, but it's just common sense. We obviously can't be here together, and I was here first."

Heero regarded his shoes with suspicion. "This is my cabin as much as it is yours. We paid for it together, 50/50. We should have discussed this before, but we didn't. And anyway, there are two bedrooms."

Duo's shoulders fell, and Heero was overcome by the desire to take Duo in his arms, to hold him close, though his feet seemed formed of lead, and his legs were disinclined toward motion.

"I can't... Heero, c'mon. What kind of vacation would it be, fighting with me all the time? Besides, Relena won't..."

"Relena's not here. I'm alone."

Duo sighed. "Please, Heero."

For a moment, Heero was sure that he would acquiesce. He was sure that he would pick up his duffle, and walk away.

It shamed him to realize it was desire for Duo that kept his resolve firm; somehow, he still thought there was a chance that he could hold Duo in his arms.


Duo's head fell, and he sighed. "I've got the big bedroom."

"Fine." Heero made his legs move, and he took his things into the smaller bedroom, with the view of the woods in front of the cabin.

He sat on the edge of the bed, and stared out the window at the serene woods. Usually, the cabin was a place of happiness and peace. He was even here with Duo. It should be perfect.

He put his back against the scratchy wool blanket, and stared up at the ceiling blankly. He had the sick feeling that nothing was ever going to work out right ever again, and he was trying to ignore it as best he could.

His thoughts shifted over the canvas of the ceiling. He thought of maybe packing up and leaving in the morning. It was obviously going to be too stressful to be in the same cabin as Duo all this time. But then he thought about being in the cabin with Duo, and he wondered if maybe, just maybe...

Was there still hope? For the longest time, it seemed like there was no future for them at all. Even before they ended things, it had just gotten so hard...

He knew that Duo blamed it on him, but maybe there was still hope. Maybe he and Duo could change... He didn't need much from Duo, really. An apology, and a promise. That was all. Really. He knew that he could trust Duo more than anyone else in the world...

And it wasn't like Duo had ever cheated on him. No, he was the one to break their trust. Granted, spending the night in a hotel with Trowa after clubbing wasn't exactly innocent behavior, but still, Heero knew now that nothing had happened. Not really. Trowa had seen Duo naked, sure, and there was probably some touching...

Heero felt the heat rise up on his face, and he closed his eyes, pushing away the mental images.

Ok, it wasn't a simple problem. But that didn't mean there was no hope, was there?

Of course, Duo was probably still angry with Heero for his relationship with Relena, but that could be overcome in time, right?

Heero felt the room get darker in the pit of his stomach, the shadows passing over him seemingly embracing him.

If he were going to be alone for the rest of his life, it wouldn't be so bad if maybe he and Duo could be friends again.

That would have to be his new hope. He could get back the friendship he had lost with Duo. If he couldn't hold the other man in his arms, if he couldn't taste his flesh and feel the heat of his body, at least he could still have the benefit of his humor and sharp mind.

They could be friends again. Perhaps.

Heero closed his eyes, and considered again the possibility of just leaving in the morning.

Maybe Duo would leave once he saw that Heero did intend to stay.

When enough time had passed that Heero had started to get hungry, became starved, got to the point where he couldn't eat, and then felt like he could eat again, he got up and went into the main room of the cabin.

Duo was on the couch, apparently reading. Heero steered himself to the kitchen, and avoiding the possibility of eye contact. He had brought food, in his duffle, but there was a pot on the stove.

When he and Duo had lived together, the pot on the stove was a staple of their lives. Duo always made something like soup, and left it on the stove all day. It was usually thick, with loads of meat and vegetables in it. Heero had never been able to understand how Duo made it. Never knew when Duo had learned to make it. He knew, though, that it was good, and Duo always made too much. It was impossible not to, according to Duo.

Heero took out a metal bowl, and scooped the Duo-soup into it. Picking up a spoon, he went to go eat it.

The cabin was very simply made. There was a kitchen, a bathroom, with running water, thank god, two bedrooms, one small, facing the front, and one large, facing the stream in the back, and a large room in the middle, centered around a huge fireplace. There wasn't enough room in the kitchen to eat, so Heero had to go back to the main room, and because Duo was on the couch, reading, he had to sit in the uncomfortable wooden easy chair.

The soup was as good as he remembered, though.

Duo kept looking at him, his brow furrowed, and he kept making aggravated breathing noises. Heero tried to ignore it, but it was really the only thing to listen to in the room. Duo had a blanket over his lap, even though the room was quite temperate. His fingers moved erratically as he played with the edge of the page he was reading, and he seemed to be having trouble concentrating. Heero felt momentarily guilty for making Duo nervous, but then he let the feeling pass.

At least he was still making Duo feel something; perhaps that was a good sign?

It was a quiet night. Too quiet for Heero's taste. The only noise was the crinkling of paper as Duo nervously read, and Heero eating the soup. Heero tried to eat silently, but it was soup. A certain amount of slurping was unavoidable; Heero felt like he was being rude just by being there.

Duo thought so, too, from the way he was glaring at Heero. Eventually, even Heero couldn't take the tension, and he had to say something.

"Good soup."

"What the hell are you doing here, Heero? Won't the princess be mad when she knows you're with me?"

Heero sighed, and put his spoon down in the soup. "Relena and I are getting a divorce."

Duo shifted awkwardly in his seat, and stared at the page. "Well. Not like I couldn't see that coming..."

Heero nodded, his eyes drifting down to his bowl. "It was a big mistake, right from the start."

Duo's whole body went rigid. "You're damn right it was!" He growled, griping his book angrily.

"Let's not start," Heero said shortly, putting his soup bowl down. "We've hashed through all this crap enough, haven't we?"

Duo shook his head, scowling. "God, you haven't changed at all, have you?"

Heero gritted his teeth, and suppressed all his immediate responses. "What are you reading?" He desperately wanted to talk about something that wouldn't make them mad.

Duo sighed. "It's called Guanzi. It's pretty esoteric. Plus, I have a lot of trouble with this ancient Chinese."

Heero felt his back stiffen, and a snarl form on his face, and he felt as if he were watching his reaction from across the room, as if he were no more in control of how he felt than he was of the weather. "Something Wu Fei gave you to read?" He knew his voice sounded nasty, but he wasn't sure how he could change it.

Duo threw the book down in disgust. "My god, Heero, where the fuck do you get off still being jealous? Yeah, Fei suggested it, and yeah, he's been helping me get through it, but that doesn't mean we're fucking, and even if it did, it would be none of your god damned business now, would it?"

Heero got up and started to pace. His hands clenched and unclenched at his side. He couldn't help it. He couldn't make Duo understand. "I still care about you, damn it. I'm still invested."

"Yeah, well, you pretty much cashed in that stock when you went off and fucked Relena, so excuse me if I don't give a pile of rat shit about your jealousy now." Duo's face was pink, and he tossed aside the blanket. His eyes blazed with a fuzzy fury, and his arms and hands were quivering.

Heero blew air out his nose in frustration, and turned away. He hated that he was aroused by Duo when they were fighting. It gave Duo an unfair advantage. "I made a mistake. I know that. I was trying to hurt you... And that was a mistake, too. But fuck, Duo. You hurt me, too, and you never gave a shit. How was I supposed to feel?"

"Maybe," Duo stood up, and he sounded short of breath, "you should have respected and trusted me. Just sayin'."

Heero crossed his arms over his chest to keep his hands from forming fists. "I did. But then I got boring, remember?"

Duo stomped his foot down violently. "You really think this is all my fault? After all this time, I'm still the one to blame? You went off and fucked the one person in the whole fucking universe that you loved besides me, but it's all my fault we didn't work, because I like to dance and have friends. Fuck you, Heero. You never deserved me at all."

Heero couldn't say that didn't hurt, but that only served to direct his ire. "No, I didn't. I didn't deserve a lover who would get bored with me after a few years, and I didn't deserve someone who always had time for every damn person he'd ever met but me, and I sure as hell didn't deserve a lover who would openly flirt with someone else right the fuck in front of me and then go out and spend the damn night with him and expect me to just take it..."

"You bastard," Duo sneered, and suddenly he was lunging, though it wasn't clear if he was trying to get away from Heero or trying to take a swing at him, because he slipped and fell before he could get anywhere.

Heero waited for twelve heartbeats before he realized that Duo wasn't getting up.

For a moment, Heero just stared at where Duo had been standing, feeling out of place and lost. But only for a moment, and then he was leaping to Duo's side, his heart pounding painfully in his throat. Duo was trying to get up, but he looked so weak and pale, and he seemed to be fighting to stay conscious. Heero immediately got to his knees, and put his arms around Duo to help him up.

He didn't even get to enjoy the feeling of his former lover in his arms, because now that he was so close to the other man, he realized that Duo was burning up with a fever. Duo's skin was pasty, pale, and clammy, and so hot to the touch Heero felt scalded.

Panic set in, and he hefted Duo into his arms and carried him to the bedroom. He placed Duo in the middle of the bed with care, and ran to the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. Duo was lying still in the exact position that Heero had put him down in, his eyes only barely open. Heero sat on the side of the bed with one leg tucked under the other, and he gently raised Duo's head so that he could have a cold drink.

When Duo's eyes opened enough for Heero to be reasonably sure that the other man was awake and conscious, he asked, "Duo, what's wrong?" The urgency in his voice nearly masked the panic and fear.

Duo shuddered, and huddled into a fetal position. "Not now, Heero. I'm tired."

Heero nodded slowly, and he helped tuck Duo into bed. He offered to get medicine, but Duo waved it away with a limp gesture of his hand.

In just a few minutes, Duo was tucked away and sound asleep, and Heero took advantage of the other man's weakness, sitting himself in the chair in the master bedroom so that he could watch his former lover sleep. He badly wanted to get into the bed with Duo, but the fear that more body heat would be bad for him kept him in the chair.

He didn't think that he could stay there all night, but he stayed for several hours, his head spinning, his eyes constantly fixed on the sickly form of the person he loved best in the world.

Heero didn't actually sleep much that night. He went to his room as the sun was rising, and poked around his duffle, half-heartedly pretending to unpack. He changed, and then went out to the kitchen to make breakfast.

He remembered that Duo often liked to eat oatmeal for breakfast. He wasn't surprised, then, to find the box of oatmeal under the sink. But, he also knew that Duo preferred to have some fruit in his oatmeal, so he cut up an apple and a pear from his sack, and made the oatmeal. He also rummaged around until he found the nutmeg and cinnamon, and added them to the oatmeal. He would add the fruit right before Duo was going to eat it.

He kept the oatmeal simmering until Duo got up, which was several hours later than Duo would normally be up and about. Heero spent the time pacing the floor of the kitchen, wondering what kind of illness could take Duo out like that. He couldn't remember a single time when Duo had been sick in the whole seven years that they had lived together. He had gotten the flu twice, and three colds, but Duo seemed impervious to inflection.

To think of Duo being sick now made Heero's stomach melt and twist in his belly.

When Duo finally did trudge out of his room, he looked hunched, his braid hanging down his back like an anchor, his feet sliding across the floor weakly.

Heero clamped his mouth shut, and put the fruit in the oatmeal, mixing it up as he spooned it into two bowls. Duo sat down heavily on the couch, and Heero poured them each a glass of apple juice, and carried everything out to the main room on a tray.

This morning, he sat next to Duo on the couch, and helped the other man with his oatmeal. Duo attempted to smile at him when he noticed the fruit.

They ate in what would have been companionable silence, if Duo wasn't making the occasional whine or groan when the ache from his fever required release, or if Heero wasn't obviously waiting with bated breath for Duo to explain.

When his bowl of oatmeal was half-finished, Duo sighed, set it aside, and leaned back against the couch.

"I went to hang with the Sweepers after we split. About six and half months ago, I took a fairly dangerous retrieval job to the sun's corona. Things... didn't go as planned. Long story short, I got a pretty high exposure to Thelaron radiation." Duo spoke in a monotone, his eyes unfocused, his hands uselessly in his lap.

Heero felt chilled, down to his bones. Thelaron radiation was lethal...

"It was two days before I could be recovered, and start the treatment. I spent about four months in the hospital. I had some burns, some lacerations... Then all the usual vomiting, diarrhea, etc, etc... They had to put me in a bubble, because my immune system conked out, and then I had to have all these really painful treatments in my balls to protect my testes from developing tumors, and I had most of my bone marrow removed, and I got a transfusion, and I had a couple of sections of my bowel removed... damn, it's amazing what doctors can do nowadays. Anyway."

Heero could feel his blood pressure rising with each word. His love had gone through hell, and he hadn't been there. Duo had suffered, and he had been living with Relena. Duo had needed him, and he had left.

"Yeah. So now, I've got a pretty clean bill of health. I mean, they did everything they could. But the radiation is bit more... insidious than the average radiation. There's a syndrome - Lofton-Higgs Syndrome. See, there's a cyto-physio-response to the radiation, and it makes the immune response go all wacky. It creates a fever, and the fever forms a self-propagating feedback loop, and so the hotter you get, the more the response kicks in, so you just kinda... cook internally." Duo fidgeted a little, his eyes pointedly unfocused off in the direction of the empty fireplace.

Heero felt frozen. If he had never left, Duo would never have joined up with the Sweepers... "Shouldn't you be in the hospital? Or near one?"

Duo shrugged, helplessly. "There's nothing... There's nothing they can do. The fever will cause dehydration and junk, but really..." Duo turned to look at Heero, his eyes completely blank. "There's nothing more a doctor can do for me. I've had all the surgeries and procedures a person can have. Now... either I'll live, or I'll die. All there is to it."

Heero felt it wash over him, the listless quality to Duo's voice, the way his body was slack. Duo had come out here to... "Do you want me to leave? I mean... I don't want to cause you any further stress. If you want me to go, I'll go." It was implicit that otherwise, he would be staying.

Duo's eyes fell to his hands, and he shrugged. "Naw, I mean, I don't really... I don't want to fight anymore, Heero."

Heero couldn't speak. There was something in his throat, and he couldn't swallow it or talk past it. He just reached out, and loosely embraced Duo, putting his forehead gingerly on Duo's shoulder. "No more fighting," he ground out.

Duo sighed, and nodded.

So Heero stayed.

He cooked for Duo, and brushed Duo's hair at night. He and Duo went outside and enjoyed the beauty of their cabin's location.

They talked. Every time Heero got angry about what Duo said, he forced himself to calm down. They actually heard each other.

Heero finally understood why Duo needed to have a nightlife, even after he had 'settled' down with Heero. Heero finally understood that Duo had no romantic feelings for anyone but him, and that Duo saw Heero's jealousy as a lack of trust.

Heero finally understood that Duo felt like he had earned Heero's trust, and that by refusing it to him, he was driving Duo away.

Knowing this, Heero was able to tell Duo, finally, that he didn't resent Duo's academic relationship with Wu Fei as much as he felt like Duo was drifting away from him, learning about things Heero never knew about.

They talked.

Nights were spent on the couch, and after a few uncomfortable days, Duo gave in and put his head on Heero's lap. Heero pulled and smoothed Duo's hair as they spoke, talking until Duo's voice began to slur, and his thoughts became indistinct.

When the two weeks that Heero had intended to stay came to an end, he never even mentioned it. He went down into town to get supplies, and called his lawyer and his boss. Neither one was happy with him, but he didn't care.

More and more, he realized something that he didn't want to think about.

Duo had come out here to die.

Every moment, every morning together eating oatmeal, every afternoon by the stream, or reading on the porch, every evening on the couch, talking about the millions of things that they used to talk about, before everything started to fall apart, every moment that Heero was within reaching distance of Duo, and every time he touched Duo - these times were more precious to Heero than anything else in the universe, and he couldn't imagine ever leaving.

It was as if time just stopped, and Heero could believe that he and Duo would be in their cabin together forever, just alone together in their refuge in the mountains.

The only thing that marked the passage of time was Duo's sickness. Every day, his temperature rose. He had multiple medicines to control his fever, and instructions on which medicine to use in order.

They stopped using the blue pills when Duo's temperature rose two degrees in a day. They stopped using the pink pills when Duo's temperature rose another two degrees.

Heero was painfully aware of the fact that they only had one other bottle of pills, and that every day, Duo was drinking more and more water, needing more and more electrolytes, sweating more and more, until they were changing the sheets to the bed every day, and that it was getting harder and harder for Duo to get around, as he got weaker and weaker.

It was a painful way to mark off time.

Eventually, Duo didn't even get out of bed much. Heero knew how to change the sheets with Duo in the bed, and he knew how to set up the IV, to keep Duo hydrated. He had to make a run into town about once every other day, as they needed to order medical supplies and keep everything in stock. Heero tried not to speed as he negotiated the complex switchbacks of the mountain road, but every second he was separated from Duo was torture.

There wasn't going to be enough time, Heero feared.

He was just heading down for another supply run when he passed an expensive all-terrain vehicle heading in the opposite direction. He stopped right away, looking back. There were only three houses up the way the car was heading, and Heero knew for a fact that the other two were empty. With a sinking feeling in his heart, he turned his car around, and headed back to the cabin.

Sure enough, the vehicle was there, and a man in a dark suit was having a cigarette as he waited by the car.

The front door of the cabin was open.

Heero parked quickly, and was out the door as he was taking the keys out of the ignition. As he passed the driver, he snarled and pulled the cigarette out of his mouth.

"Not here."

He bounded in the door, and dashed straight to Relena, pulling her away from the open door of the master bedroom as kindly as he could, under the circumstances.

"My god..." Relena's eyes were wide and glassy. "What's wrong with him?"

Heero let go of her arm, and dropped his eyes. "He's... got a fever. Lofton-Higgs Syndrome."

Relena gasped. Heero wasn't surprised. Relena was a good representative for the people; she kept up to date on all important issues that affected her constituency. "Oh, Heero..."

He could bear a great deal of things. He could bear, though it made him heartsick and miserable, all the fighting that had lead to his and Duo's breakup. He could bear the time apart from the person he loved. He could bear coming back to find Duo badly sick.

He could not bear Relena's sympathy - not right now, not when he needed to be strong.

He sank to his knees, reaching out to the couch to make the move seem less like falling. "He's... He's... He's dying, maybe."

Relena did not speak, she just kneeled on the floor next to him, and put her arms around him.

He did not think that he was crying. He made no noise, and no tears fell. But he felt like he was crying.

When he finally regained enough composure to pull away from her, he asked, "Why are you here, Relena?"

She smiled, though he didn't see it as his face was turned away. "You didn't show up in court. Your lawyer said you had instructed him to courier the papers to you, but I thought I would be nice and deliver them personally. I..." She faltered, her voice cracking. She raised her hand to cover her mouth, and she bent her head down, her hair falling around her face. "I had hoped to talk to you, to maybe... But it was always wrong, wasn't it?"

"I'm sorry." He hoped that she could hear him; he didn't think he could speak any louder.

"Here." Relena placed the divorce papers on the coffee table. "Sign here, and we can get all this over with." She guided him through the process of signing their marriage into oblivion silently. When everything was done, she sorted the papers so that he had his copy, she had hers, and the copy for the courts was in its envelope. "For what it's worth, Heero," she said as she stood up, "I'm sorry. Given... that we were not meant to be, I would have liked... I would have liked for you both to be happy."

Heero nodded once. He did not watch her leave. He sat on the floor for a long time, feeling more and more numb with every passing second.

He didn't like to dwell on his feelings like he had that afternoon, not when he was feeling sad.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when Duo plopped down on the floor next to him. "'Ro. What time is it? I had the weirdest dream... Relena was here, and she wanted ta steal ya from me, but then there was this chorus line, and we were at Tokyo Tower, fighting with mythic swords... Didja have a good trip to town?"

Heero pulled Duo into his arms, and kissed the top of the other man's head. "Relena was here, Duo. Our divorce is now final."

"Really?" Duo tilted his face up to look into Heero's eyes. "Just in time, huh?" Heero couldn't help but notice that Duo's skin was clammy and pale, or that his eyes looked a little wild. In fact, just sitting there, Duo was shaking a little all over.

There was a lump in Heero's throat he had trouble talking around. "It was the dumbest damn thing I ever did, and it's about time I ended it."

Duo nodded seriously. "No arguments here. You know... Heero, I'm a little afraid."

Heero shuddered, and closed his eyes, holding Duo a little tighter. "I know, love. So am I."

"Really? You are?"

"Of course."

"Oh. In that case... I'm glad that you came here, Heero. I... I'm glad you're here with me."

Heero kissed Duo's face in response.

When Heero did get to town, he took the time to make a call.

It was never too difficult to get a hold of the Winner heir, because Quatre was always so involved with business, there was usually some assistant who knew exactly where he was at all times.

It only took a moment for Heero to explain things to Quatre, and give him the directions. Thankfully, he was willing to call the other two, which was something that Heero wasn't entirely sure he was.

The next few days got steadily worse. Duo's temperature was slowly rising, and he was starting to become a little delusional at times. He had trouble eating, he had trouble sleeping, he was sweating buckets, miserable and aching, and there was nothing Heero could do.

He and Duo were on the couch when the guys knocked on the door. Duo had been unsuccessfully trying to sleep, and the loud noise startled him badly, but when the door was opened and Wu Fei walked in, he was overjoyed.

There was a small part of Heero that resented that he had to share Duo in these potentially final days, but that small part was silenced at the look on Duo's face.

They sat around the main room, Heero holding Duo in his lap, and chatted until Duo fell asleep. Trowa watched Heero pointedly as he tenderly put Duo to bed, but they exchanged no words. Afterwards, Quatre set up the air mattresses he had brought, and they talked quietly about what was going on.

Heero blessedly had to speak very little to let the others understand. For the first time in his life, he really understood what friendship was about.

Wu Fei promised to go into town in the morning for supplies, and he told Heero that he was going to get Sally to join them up here. She was a doctor, but she was used to working without the resources of a hospital, so she would be able to tend to Duo in the cabin.

Heero could actually feel the weight being lifted off his shoulders.

The next few days were like a reunion, and even though Duo continued to get sicker, he was more energetic with all the people around him. At the same time, he was clinging to Heero more than ever, in part, at least, in gratitude for bringing the rest of the guys there.

Heero understood how happy Duo was when he was washing Duo's hair that night.

Five times, Duo thanked Heero for calling the guys, and five times, Heero had to say it was nothing.

Duo smiled at him. "It wasn't nothing, Heero. I... made a mistake when I came out here all alone. I'm glad that... that I don't have to do this by myself."

"Duo, don't..."

"Don't tell me not to talk like this. Time is running out, love. I need to tell you something."

"Duo," Heero wrapped Duo's hair up in a towel and picked him up, carrying him to bed. "Please. We don't need to do this."

"Yes, we do," Duo insisted.

Heero sighed, and braided Duo's hair. He gently pushed Duo down to rest on the bed, kissing Duo's forehead.

Duo looked up at Heero. "I love you." His voice was ragged and weary, his eyes barely open, but there was need in the way his fingers clung to Heero's shirt. "I love you now, and I have always loved you, before I met you, and even when I thought you were a jackass, I loved you. And I'll love you even after I'm gone."

Heero didn't want to hear it. He knew he needed to, but he didn't want to. Couldn't. He put his hands on Duo, and tried to soothe him. "Don't talk like that. I love you, too, now you need to rest."

"No," Duo spoke firmly, fevered. "I don't need to rest. I'm gonna be resting for too damn fucking long soon enough. Right now, I need you to know..."

"But I know, Duo," Heero desperately tried to stop the flow of words from his love, "I know. Please, just put your head down..."

"Damn it, Heero, no!" Duo forced himself to sit up, and he violently kept his eyes wide open. His face was pale as death and determined as it, too. "There isn't any time left! I wish like hell that there was, especially now, but there isn't, so you're gonna listen to me, god damn it! I love you! I love you with all my heart and soul! I've never loved anyone like I loved you... It's not even the same word when it's applied to anyone else. There was never any competition. No one was ever like you. No one ever touched me like you do, no one ever loved me like you do. I was born to love you. I loved you even when I was shooting you. I loved you all this past year when I wanted to rip your skin off, and I'm gonna love when I'm gone, too. Because I know now, Heero. I didn't know before. I don't believe it, I know it. It won't end here. I'll die... yeah, but it won't end. Nothing can ever end this. That's how much I love you. I won't leave you, Heero. I'll be right with you, forever. That's how much I love you. So you have to keep going on, keep living, 'cause you'll be doing it for the both of us. And you have to know, not believe, but know, that I love you and I'm with you. Can you do that for me, Heero?"

Heero brushed his fingertips over Duo's fevered face, and he realized that he was crying. He pulled Duo's too-thin shoulders closer, and he held Duo's too-thin body in his arms. "No," he spoke, barely whispering the words out as he cried. "I'm sorry, Duo, I'm sorry... I love you, too, just like you said... But a world where you aren't in it somewhere... I can't..."

"Oh, Heero..." Duo sighed, weakly clinging to Heero's shoulders. "I'm glad the guys are here for you."

Heero laughed, a hollow, hysterical noise. "I brought them here for you."

Duo smiled, a ghostly reflection of his usual beaming smile. "I know. But I'm glad they're gonna be here for you."

Heero held Duo until the other man fell asleep. Held his as his body temperature started to rise, and Duo fell under the sway of the fever.

Had to let go of him to get a new IV set up, and was forced back as Sally and Wu Fei worried over his care.

Duo was asleep now, and it didn't seem likely that he was going to wake up again, at least not coherently.

He was in pain, too, and that tore Heero into shreds. Duo would thrash on the bed, moaning in agony, and it was all Heero could do to not take a gun to both of them right there.

If he had his gun with him, no one might have been able to restrain him.

The cabin became very quiet. No one ever spoke unless meaningful glances and gestures were inadequate to the task of communication. And when words were necessary, they spoke in hushed tones, as if they were in temple or church during a solemn ceremony.

Heero didn't speak at all. His last words had been to Duo.

He drifted. From Duo's sickbed, to the kitchen, to the main room, outside to the stream. None of it made sense to Heero... This was their cabin. Their retreat. Their refuge.

This was where Duo was going to die.

Heero sat by the stream, staring sightlessly out over the running water. The sun was just coming up, and the canopy filtered the light. The air was crisp, refreshing without being cold. The think smell of the woods and the soft crunch of the leaves, grass and moss below him connected him to the forest.

It was a beautiful morning.

Heero didn't know what he was doing at first. His fingers clutched the leaves beneath him, and his eyes closed. He did not speak, but he begged the universe to please, please spare his Duo. He begged for more time, for a second chance, for life.

He prayed.

He did not know who to beg, or if he was heard, but after an hour kneeling on the forest floor at the foot of the stream, he had the strength to get up and sit by Duo's side again.

The stream became his refuge for the next few horrible days. Duo's temperature continued to rise and rise, and everyone started to fear, silently, that even if Duo survived, he might sustain some brain damage from the prolonged heat.

Things were bleak and dark, and Heero got used to praying to the stream. He prayed for strength, for hope, for life, for peace, for Duo, for Duo's pain to end, however the universe saw fit to end it...

He was praying when Wu Fei came out to get him.

The Chinese man was moving faster than he had since he had first come to the cabin, and he actually called out Heero's name. His face was animated and he seemed very urgent.

Heero watched him come closer, feeling as if he and his thoughts were stuck in amber, and he felt cold down to his toes. He was afraid.

"His fever has broken. Heero! Come in here, his fever broke!"

Heero just sat there, stunned, too happy to be grateful.

When he did get up and move to Duo's side, he couldn't help smiling.

For the first time in weeks, Duo wasn't sweating so much. In a few days, his skin was cool to the touch. When he woke up, he was too tired to talk, but his eyes were bright with understanding, and relief.

Duo was going to live.

The IV was taken away when Duo could drink on his own. When he was able to maintain a normal body temp for three days, Sally left, but only after she had briefed everyone including the squirrels, about how to care for Duo now that he was in recovery. When he was able to walk around a bit, Heero let him eat something other than soup or gelatin.

Quatre was the first one to suggest that they leave Heero and Duo alone, although Trowa and Wu Fei regretfully agreed quickly. By that point, Duo was walking around and insisting he could start to resume normal activity, and he had his color back.

Wu Fei stiffly said goodbye, warning Duo that he intended to quiz the other man in the finer points of the Guanzi before too long. Duo joked that he would be ready as soon as he got his hands on a decent translation.

Trowa smiled, and made Duo promise to never worry them like that again. He made a joke of it, wryly suggesting that the next time Duo wanted attention, they could just go clubbing again.

Duo laughed, and Heero stared straight ahead, pretending to ignore it.

Quatre ignored Heero entirely, and threw his whole body around Duo, giving him a kiss on the lips as he pulled away. With tears in his eyes, he told Duo how much they all loved him.

Duo blushed, and stammered a response.

They were both glad when they had their cabin to themselves again.

Heero drew a bath for Duo that night, after he had washed the other man's hair. Duo gingerly stepped into the hot water, groaning happily as his body sluiced in and was comforted by the warmth. But he wasn't satisfied for long. Heero was naked, wearing just a towel around his waist, and he appeared to want to stay out of the bath, content to merely bathe Duo.

Duo was not content.

"Get in here with me."

It was not a request, nor was it a demand, but Heero quickly shed the towel, and slipped into the water with his love, careful not to disturb Duo.

Duo slithered against Heero's wet flesh like a snake in the water, grinning madly. "It's so good to be in our cabin again, isn't it?"

Heero smiled down at Duo with contentment. "Yes, it is."

Duo sighed, and put his head on Heero's chest. His hair trailed wetly behind him, fanning out of the surface of the water, drooping below to tickly Heero's legs when its weight was too great for the surface tension of the water to hold it up. "It feels like every moment is a gift. You know?"

"Yes," Heero spoke with emphatic passion.

Duo pressed his mouth to the skin of Heero's collarbone. "I worried you."

Heero ran his hands up and down Duo's back. "I'm... so glad. That I came here, that you were here..."

"That we're here now." Duo rubbed his chin against Heero's skin. "It... We can make this work, can't we, Heero?"

Duo's eyes were wide, and Heero found himself mesmerized by their facets. Duo's eyes were beautiful, so bright, and the color seemed to be toned and flecked so that they appeared violet in some lights. Heero traced the line under Duo's eye with his thumb. "I will never forget what it was like to nearly lose you, Duo. I can't... I won't ever go through that again. I swear to you, nothing we can go through will ever be worth that again."

Duo did not need to listen to the words exactly; there was such conviction in Heero's voice and eyes that all his fears went to rest.

Smiling, Duo put his lips on Heero's flesh again.

For some reason, Heero felt like he should be resisting this feeling that Duo was stirring in him, but Duo was insistent, and willing. The water swayed back and forth as they moved against each other, their mouths and eyes needed contact with each other almost constantly.

The taste of Duo was strong his Heero's mouth as he took himself and Duo in his hand and started to stroke. The sound of Duo echoed off the tile of the bathroom walls, and inspired shivers down Heero's spine. The feel of Duo in his hand and against his cock made Heero's skin tingle. The sight of Duo's slim neck, arched in passion, tempted and taunted Heero's desire. The smell of the bathwater and Duo's hair and Duo's skin so near him caused Heero's heart to thud in his chest.

The water was cool, and so were they, but neither was in the mood to move. Duo's fingers moved aimlessly over Heero's skin, and he was smiling, his face pressed against Heero's flesh so that Heero could feel it.

Heero wanted to get Duo out of the cooling water, but he couldn't get past the sluggishness of his limbs.

Duo sighed, and kissed Heero's neck. "This year has been hell. The worst of my life. I would never have believed that we could get back together. It's amazing."

"Yes," Heero sighed, his hand squeezing Duo's hip.

"I do regret one thing, though..." Duo sighed with regret, moving his nose against Heero's skin.

"Oh?" Heero tensed under Duo, stilling completely.

"Well... It's not really a big deal... But, you know, you are still the only person I've ever been with..." Duo closed his eyes and put his head down on Heero's shoulder again.

Heero coughed. "To tell you the truth, Duo... I never touched Relena."

Duo sat bolt upright. "What?! But you were married to her?"

Heero shrugged, disaffected.

"But!" Duo's eyes were wide, but there was a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. "You told me that you slept with her the night after I spent the night with Trowa!"

Heero coughed, embarrassed. "I did. She was on the bed, and I was on the chair."

"You bastard!" Duo slapped Heero's pec as hard as he could, which was still not too hard. "I can't believe you lied to me like that!"

"I'm sorry."

"God, I was ready to kill you!"

"I'm sorry."

"I thought I was going to die!"

"I'm so, so sorry."

"You are going to pay for this, you know."

Heero attempted to look chaste.

"You're going to help me read that damn Guanzi."

Heero smirked. "All right."

"And I think we should stay here until we can repeat our first time here. Remember?" Duo wiggled his eyebrows at Heero.

Heero smirked. "Oh, yes."

Duo leaned up and kissed Heero softly. "And, I think you should spend the rest of your life pandering to my every last sexual whim."

Heero paused to consider. "Well... since you insist, all right."

Duo smiled, his eyes sleepy. "Everything I said was true, you know. I will love you forever."

Heero took Duo's mouth deeply. "As will I, beloved, as will I."

Theralon radiation was the type of radiation in the Reman weapon in Star Trek: Nemesis. there, it was instantly lethal, but apparently in gw-verse, it's not. ^_~