title: House and Garden
fandom: Gundam Wing (fusion with the movie The Others)
characters/pairings: Heero/Duo, one-sided Relena/Heero, Quatre/Trowa, Wu Fei/Hilde, Zechs/Noin
rating: Teen
warnings: rape, death, violence, some characters wildly ooc
summary: Heero, Duo, and Relena share a house with many secrets.
notes: you should see the movie The Others before reading this fic, because it's a great movie with a killer twist.

It was getting late. Or early. But the light was changing in the slim kitchen, the thin, smudged windows at the top of the wall throwing light across the weathered butcher block cutting table. Relena paused, letting the weariness seep into her all at once. Upstairs, somewhere, there was the distant sound of a squeaking bed frame. She gently put her hair in order, each squeak echoing in her, mocking.

It seemed odd, now, that there had ever been a time when she had been surprised to see the two of them together, much less that she would ever be so affected by them.

Heero and Duo were always together.

It just was.

She didn't even bother to sigh as she picked up the knife and began to meticulously slice the vegetables.

Strange as it all seemed, and it all was very strange indeed, they just had to keep going on.

It was morning again. Duo's eyes were rimmed in red as he hugged his knees to his chest. He sat in the grand foyer, it's great grey marble floor cold underneath him, but he was always cold anyway, so he wasn't sure.

The sun was pouring through the windows that flanked the front door, but the fog outside was even more dense than usual, if possible.

What had ever possessed them to come to this god-forsaken dreary house on the Jersey Island was something that Duo never pondered anymore. This was his home, now, with Heero and Relena, and he couldn't imagine being anyplace else.

He had spent most of the morning wailing, and now his throat was tired. He was tired. There was an ache in the center of his chest that refused to go away, his heart broken and shredded, his gut twisted into a giant knot. There were times when he was too tired to feel the pain, but it was always there.

It actually would have surprised him to find out that there used to be a time when he was cheerful. That was so long ago, before the pain, that it didn't seem real anymore.

He did miss the other guys, though, and Hilde, and Miss Noin. And Sally.

He couldn't remember if there was anyone else he should miss.

Heero was in the hall, watching him from the shadows near the archway. Duo knew that he was there, and he ignored him.

If Heero wanted something, he would come in. Otherwise, it was too much bother, really, to try to make an effort.

There was no telling what kind of mood Heero would be in, anyway.

Relena had come in early and offered tea. Relena was always making tea. She was most often found in the kitchen, or in the laundry room. It would seem strange to Duo that the former Queen of the World would be acting as if she were their housekeeper, but thinking about things was too much effort.

He felt weak just sitting up on the floor. He was mildly contemplating lying down and resting his face on the marble floor.

He didn't have it in him to worry about anything else.

Heero finally sighed and left, probably to go finish tearing up the carpet in the drawing room.

Duo managed to get his face down, his body crooked over his head.

He began to keen again, his soul-deep tears using the heart-rending cries to find release.

It was night when Relena wandered in, finding Duo still crooked on the floor. Sighing, she went to him and straightened his braid.

"Duo? Duo, sweetheart, it's dinner time." Relena crooned gently, used to getting Duo moving after all this time.

"'M not hungry." Duo's soft muffle was spoken mostly to the floor.

"You have to eat, my dear. What would happen to you if you didn't eat? I'll tell you what, Heero would be sad." She brushed his braid gently, soothing his back as she did.

"Get your filthy hands off of him." Heero had entered silently, as he often did. His dangerous growl echoed off the walls and floor, but before the echo could meet itself, Relena had already jumped up and backed away from both boys. "Don't ever touch him. Ever! Bitch! Just stay the hell away from him!" Heero's eyes were blazing, and Relena felt fear reach up and clutch her throat.

"Relena made dinner." Duo was still speaking to the floor, his voice betraying no evidence that he had any idea what was going on around him.

Heero immediately fell to his knees, his hands reaching for his lover. "Are you hungry, Duo?"

Duo's misery-soaked eyes turned to Heero, not really seeing him. "Heero?"

"C'mon, love. Let's get some dinner." Heero pulled Duo to his feet, and guided him to the dinning room, passing Relena, who was backed against the wall between the pillar and the sconce, without offering her the slightest glance.

Relena sighed. There was no reason for them to continue like this, but there didn't seem to be anything else to do, but go on.

She just wished that Heero would be less angry. Of course, given his reasons, Relena would be the last person ever to begrudge Heero his rage.

Heero tugged at the wallpaper, pulling long, thin strands off. The floor in the music room used to be green. He was sure of that, as sure as he was of anything. But now, the floor was polished parquet, the two-toned woods forming a pleasing pattern beneath him.

He didn't know when it had changed. Or rather, he knew, but he didn't want to dwell on it. Dwelling on things like when the floor changed, or when Duo stopped smiling, or when the door at the top of the stairs had to remained shut at all times only made Heero more angry, and when he got more angry, he yelled and threw things and general made a nuisance of himself.

Once, he had even thrown something at Duo.

The thought of that was chilling to the extreme, and so he definitely chose not to think about that at all. It was just, sometimes, Duo's keening wails got... irritating. Sometimes, Heero couldn't help but think of the times when Duo would smile and laugh, and then when he saw Duo's misery-soaked eyes, it made him angry.

Angry at Duo, for not being strong enough to smile through his pain, like he used to do.

He had learned that when he got that angry, he had to go to another room and destroy something, to stop the thinking.

He had been pulling at the wallpaper all morning, or perhaps all afternoon, and now the walls appeared to be slashed.

It pleased him to see the mutilated walls, and the small, futile act of violence soothed his angry spirit. He had taken a moment to admire his handiwork when he started to hear the voices.

Well, he could only hear Duo's voice, but that hardly meant anything. There was only one other person living with them, and she knew better than to make herself apparent to Heero too much. The thought of Relena talking to Duo, in hushed tones so that Heero wouldn't hear her, made Heero want to rip apart flesh with his bare hands.

He stormed out of the music room, his fists in knots at the end of his arms, his teeth grinding together in his mouth.

Duo was in the foyer, as he almost always was. Sometimes, Heero wanted to grab him by the braid and carry him off, anywhere but here, in the shadow of the room at the top of the stairs.

It was positively masochistic for Duo to spend so much time here.

Heero looked around, but though Duo was on his stomach in the middle of the foyer, chatting away dully, Relena was nowhere to be seen.

Duo's watery eyes stared straight ahead, as if he were looking directly at something, and he spoke, pausing before speaking again. "The gardens are nice. At least, I remember them being nice. It's been a while since I've been there... I like the attic. It's dusty and full of junk. Heero and I went exploring there when we first got here... We sleep wherever we like. Most times, I sleep downstairs, here or in the drawing room. I remember... the couch there used to be... But whenever Heero wants to go to bed, he carries me upstairs... No, Heero is nice. You just haven't met him, really... Things used to be different you know. There was a time... but that was a long time ago. There is only one thing you must understand. You can never, ever go in the room at the top of the stairs! Bad things happen there..."

"Duo!" Heero tried to keep his voice steady, but there was little point these days in trying to check his temper. "Who the hell are you talking to?"

Duo looked over his shoulder at Heero almost disinterestedly. "Joshua."

"Joshua. Who the hell is Joshua?" The hands at Heero's sides began to shake with the need to smash something.

"The little boy who lives here. He says that this is his parents' house, and we have to leave, but I told him that we were here first, so that didn't make any sense at all." Duo spoke calmly, still disinterested.

Heero stared at his lover. "Duo. There's no little boy living in this house. There's no one else in the room!"

Duo shrugged. "I see him."

"There's tea, if anyone wants any." Relena snuck into a shadow in the archway of the door, not wanting to get too close to Heero.

"What the hell have you been telling him?" Heero's eyes bore into Relena relentlessly. Obviously, if something bad was happening, Relena was to blame.

After all...

Relena shrank further back. "I haven't said anything..."

"Did you tell him that there was some little boy here? A Joshua?" Heero was now screaming, but he didn't care. He wanted to rip Relena apart and paint the walls with her blood.

Relena shrank so far back the shadows consumed her entirely. "I don't know what you are talking about..."

"Heero. You're scaring Joshua and me." Duo turned his eyes down, tracing the veins in the marble with his finger lazily.

Heero immediately moved to Duo, hauling him up to his feet so that his eyes met Heero's. "There's no little boy here, Duo. There can't be. There's only me and you, forever. Remember? I swore to you, we would always be together, always." Heero pulled Duo against his body, roughly holding him tight and flush. "There's no one else here."

Duo would have protested, but it was too much effort, really, and anyway, Heero didn't care. He kissed Duo passionately, releasing his pent up rage and need in Duo's mouth. He didn't even bother to make it enjoyable as he pulled Duo down to the ground, yanking his clothes off.

Duo was going to make a half-hearted protest that Joshua was still there, in the corner, but again, it was too much effort, and anyway, Heero didn't care.

Duo let himself be ravaged, his gaze trapped by the chandelier above them, which caught no light in the dim foyer.

Relena watched, shrouded in the shadows, as Heero had his way with Duo. It was a source of constant amazement to her.

They all just kept going on, as if nothing had happened, but surely that didn't make any sense?

Relena was just finishing rearranging the kitchen drawers. Everything in the kitchen had a habit of getting... out of order. It was inscrutable. She would leave, and all the spices would be alphabetically arranged, and all the tins and boxes would be properly faced, and all the cutlery and such would be neatly piled, but the next time she'd enter the kitchen, things would be... adjusted. As if someone was using things. But she knew for a fact that Heero and Duo never came near the kitchen.

It didn't make sense, but it gave her something to do while Heero was having sex with Duo upstairs. Tonight, he'd carried the fragile young man up the stairs, past the door that could never, ever be opened, and to the room in the corner, with the bed with the canopy.

Relena never slept upstairs. She had, at first, but then one night she was in a room that Heero had decided to use, and when he found her in there, he'd completely lost his temper. Duo had wandered off, unable to stop Heero and unable to watch.

She never made that mistake again.

Mostly, she just stayed in the kitchen, or the laundry room. Sometimes, she slept in the dining room. For the most part, though, she had little need to sleep, and she spent her time looking after her house.

Upstairs had been quiet, now, for a few hours, so Relena felt safe venturing out to dust the drawing room.

She had just finished the curio cabinet when she heard it. Voices. It sounded like there were people talking, and moving around.

Curious, and not a little bit nervous, she inched towards the library. The double doors that faced the main hall were closed, but the voices were definitely coming from inside. Relena was certain that Heero and Duo were upstairs, and besides, it sounded like at least three people. But...

The scrollwork around the doors cast long shadows in the pale light that came from off the side, down the hall, in the drawing room, inspiring Relena to heights of stomach-aching fear. Her hand seemed to stretch for ages as she reached for the curved door handle, her heart hammering in her chest as the sounds of quiet banter and small laughs brought her nerves closer and closer to the edge with each passing second.

The cool metal of the handle shocked her, as if she hadn't expected it to be solid. Slowly and deliberately, she turned the handle, swinging the door open swiftly so that she could face whatever horror there was within.

But the voices stopped and the room was empty.

The light was on, though.

Her heart still in her throat, she quickly crossed the room to the lamp, switching it off quickly before turning on her heel to leave.

She was only ten steps away when the light switched on again.

She stared back at the lamp, her eyes wide, her breaths coming so fast that she barely got one out before sucking the next in. For a moment, she crazily thought of running upstairs to Heero, but common sense reminded her that such a move would be futile, and ultimately more dangerous than facing whatever was within the library with her. She moved with false confidence to the lamp once again, switching it off quickly. Putting her hands on her waist, she spoke with the same dignity and poise she did a long, long time ago when she was involved in politics. "There's no reason for this light to be on. Whatever you are, just... stay away, or I'll get Heero, and you'll wish you had stayed away!"

Relena was just out the door when the light went back on again, and the door slammed shut behind her. Shaken by the sound of it, Relena stared at the door, clutching her hand to her mouth for what felt like forever. It was crazy, she knew, she knew there was nothing to be afraid of, and yet there was still that wild feeling in her rib cage that something truly awful was within, and she was going to suffer.

The voices started again, hushed and desperate, and Relena fled, moving close to the wall as she put distance between herself and the intruders.

She tripped her way upstairs, not wanting to be alone. She was outside the door to the room where Heero and Duo slept before she really gave any thought to what she was going to do next. If she knocked, or went inside, Heero might lose his temper. If she made any noise, like if she screamed or something, the intruders might come for her. Also, Heero might lose his temper.

She crouched in the doorjamb, shivering slightly, feeling very stupid and very, very lonely.

She sat on the floor, her knees tucked under her chin and her eyes watching the hall carefully, all through the night. The morning light was spilling over the hall carpet when she heard movement inside. Her heart started to thump again. In this foggy place where their house was, the morning light was grey and cold, and the dawn almost made her more uncomfortable than she had been all night. She still didn't know what she was going to say to Heero to make him not want to rip her head off.

But there was motion inside, and it was clear that she had to do something, now. She scrambled up to her feet, leaning against the jamb. Clearing her throat, she reminded herself that nothing really bad could happen. Speaking distinctly and at normal volume, "Heero? I... I don't want to disturb you, but... I thought you should know. There are... intruders in the house. I... I heard them last night, in the library, and when I went in there, it was empty, but the light was on, and every time I turned it off, it turned back on again. Plus, the door slammed behind me on its own. I thought... I thought you should know."

The door whooshed open, causing Relena to jump back. A very angry-looking Heero stood on the other side, holding the door, his nostrils flaring, his mouth in a thin line. "What?!"

Relena tried to force words out of her throat, but somehow, the fury in Heero's eyes froze every muscle in her body, including the ones in her throat.

Duo turned over, his long hair falling everywhere. Relena did not look at him, for fear of Heero's reaction, but she could feel his sleepy eyes watching her. She knew he was still naked under the china blue comforter. It amazed her that they still kept on, but she certainly wasn't going to be the one who said anything.

"Is Relena all right?" Duo's sleepy voice drew Heero's eyes away, the anger transmuting to affection as he watched his tousled lover raise himself up on one elbow, his hair falling in thick strands over his bare chest.

"Relena is delusional, and ugly. She's just leaving." Heero's sneer was vicious.

Duo sat all the way up, his hair seemingly everywhere as it fell over his shoulders and face and chest. "Relena?"

She didn't want to look at him, especially with Heero standing right in front of her, but she had to comfort him. Duo had enough to weigh him down without Relena adding to his troubles. "I heard voices, but Heero's undoubtedly right. It was nothing."

"Maybe it was Joshua's parents." Duo yawned, getting some hair caught in his mouth, but he didn't seem to care. "Or, it could have been that old lady. I don't like her. She's creepy. Her eyes don't see, but they follow you."

Heero and Relena stared at Duo, who was scratching the back of his head as if they were all discussing nothing at all.

"The old lady?" Heero's voice was uncertain.

"Yeah." Duo started to pull his hair into a loose braid. "Her hair is all wispy and white, and she has a strange voice. She keeps asking me stuff, but I've just been ignoring her. She's scary."

Heero stared at Duo until he decided that Duo wasn't going to suddenly start making sense. "Duo? What... what are you talking about? There's no one in the house but us."

"And Joshua and his family." Duo tied off his braid, tossing it back before listlessly looking around the room.

"There are intruders here!" Relena whispered furiously. "I heard them last night! Heero... you have to do something!"

Heero's eyes went from Duo to Relena to Duo back to Relena. "Duo?" Relena couldn't remember the last time his voice was so uncertain.

Duo was staring off into blank space. "I think they want us to leave, but I told Joshua that we were here first. The old lady is just weird, though."

Heero seemed to be on the brink of a decision. Duo looking fragile and needy staring off into nothing, though, made Heero want to hold him. Heero sat on the edge of the bed, and put his hand on Duo's face. "Don't worry, my only, I'll take care of these intruders. We'll get you dressed, and then the two of us will stay together. We'll root these people out, I promise."

Duo turned his face to Heero, rubbing his cheek gently against Heero's hand. Relena inched away, uncomfortable in the presence of the two of them when they were obviously in snuggle mode. She turned, preparing to go down to the kitchen to make breakfast.

Heero jumped up at Relena's startled cry, ready to fight, or at least bash her head in for disturbing them. She stumbled into their room, her eyes shockingly wide.

"The... the... it was closed, I swear it, only ten minutes ago! I wasn't anywhere near it! I swear!"

Duo whimpered and hid his face in the pillow. Heero tensed, then shot up and out, heading straight for the door at the top of the stairs. With barely leashed rage, he slammed the door shut, shaking the whole house, a primal growl ripping through him as he did. Then, he came stalking back to Relena, throwing her against the wall. "Did you open that? Did you?"

"No!" Relena tried to keep her eyes closed, not wanting to see the hate in his eyes.

"You fucking ugly stupid bitch! If you did that..."


Heero stepped back, and slapped her hard across the face. "Don't let me see you again. You little pain in our asses. You've caused us enough pain without being in our face all the time! Get out! GET OUT!!"

Relena scrambled up and ran out, ran down to the kitchen where she couldn't see Heero take Duo in his arms and comfort him, and she couldn't see that door anymore, and where she didn't have to think about intruders in order to make tea.

She really liked tea, now.

Duo sat on the couch in the drawing room, staring at the fog outside the window. He couldn't remember exactly, but he thought that there should have been a view of the creek that ran alongside the house from here. The fog was, as always, too thick to see through, and the only 'sights' that could be seen were a few bushes that were close to the window.

He missed playing in the water. Growing up, there had never been any standing water, not for a pool or anything, hardly enough water for a bath or a shower. He had lived in too poor a part of the colony for that.

Growing up seemed so long ago. There felt like there was some sort of quagmire in the middle of his memories. He remembered being young, and hanging with Solo, and Father Maxwell and Sister Helen, and Professor G, and Deathscythe, and he remembered the guys, and the war, and celebrating the end of the war with Heero.

He could remember when remembering that would have brought a smile to his face.

There was the rhythm of life in the house. But in between living in the house and his youth, there was a gap. He didn't even try to think of it most days, but today, he kind of wanted to go out and play in the creek, at least get his feet wet, and it bothered him that he couldn't remember the last time the creek was visible from the house.

They never went outside. The fog was always too thick. Did the fog never let up? The world used to be in full color, but nowadays, it was always grey, and Duo couldn't remember when that had been.

Heero was searching every room, and bringing Duo with him everywhere, since he didn't want to leave the other man alone. It was sort of sweet, in an entirely misguided way.

"Do you remember the creek?"

Heero jerked from behind the curio cabinet. As if an intruder might be hiding in the half-inch of space back there. He just glared at Duo, who was still staring out the window.

"It ran alongside the house. Do you remember, we were going to go wading, and maybe catch some frogs or something, if there were any? Did we ever do that?"

Heero considered it. When they first got to the house, it was sunny. Heero remembered that. Duo had been bouncy, excited about being on vacation with Heero. He had mapped out all the fun things to do in a five-mile radius around the house, and made plans for he and Heero to hit all of them.

But then...

"I bet the water would be cold and clean." Duo's voice was almost wistful.

Heero went back to searching the room.

Halfway through the house, he was convinced it was all some sort of plot of Relena's to spend time with him. Never mind the fact that Relena hadn't so much as tried to be in the same room as him for years, Heero was certain that she was behind all of this.

Until he heard the footsteps.

Duo was sitting on the stairs, listlessly cataloging all the places he'd blown stuff up in, when Heero heard footsteps upstairs.

Relena almost never went upstairs, and anyway, he had just seen her in the kitchen when he searched in there. The only way to get upstairs from the kitchen was to go past him to either get to the main staircase or to the side staircase behind the music room.

He bolted up the stairs at top speed, dashing to the room on the left where he was certain the noise came from.

Duo watched with half interest as Heero ran through the room, and then started systematically going through all the rooms upstairs.

Heero's body was really great. It wasn't something that Duo thought about a lot anymore, but he really did have a great body. He could remember when watching Heero was like a pastime for him. Watching Heero working on Wing, watching Heero making toast, watching Heero typing on his computer, watching Heero plant bombs, watching Heero looking bored. During the war, watching Heero was his main form of stress relief. And at night, when Heero was far away and Duo had to force himself to get some sleep so that he could function at top efficiency the next day, the image of Heero would slip through his thoughts, calming him and drawing him into pleasant dreams.

He used to have such vivid dreams. He dreamed of the day when he and Heero would have sex for the first time, together, and he would dream of living happily ever after with Heero, and he would dream of endless pornographic escapades he and Heero could delight in, and he would dream of Heero watching him.

He used to be so horny. During the time of the wars, there really wasn't enough time, but in the three or four encounters they had shared, he had been ravenous. And when Heero had returned from his little sabbatical after the Final War, he and Duo had actually had a problem keeping their hands off of each other. They had missed work, and missed appointments with friends, so that they could stay in bed together.

But he hardly ever had sexual thoughts anymore, which was just plain wrong, given what a muscular, tight body Heero had. Nice ass, too, and a good-sized package.

Duo didn't smile as his eyes tracked his lover's movements as he desperately searched the upstairs.

When had things changed? Duo felt sure that he knew, but he just couldn't... There was a reason why he didn't...

There was the sound of something whooshing through the air, and Duo froze on the stairs.

He couldn't even scream, just sit there bug-eyed, whimpering.

Heero was still running from room to room, threatening and yelling at the top of his voice. He didn't see Duo cowering on the stairs.

He didn't realize what had happened until he ran past the door at the top of the stairs. He was all the way past the door before he realized that there was a lot of light in front of it.

Turning slowly, he saw first Duo sitting on the stairs, his blue-violet eyes wide and frightened, and then he saw the door.


Quickly, he moved to slam the door shut. Just as he stepped down onto the stairs to comfort Duo, the door opened again.


He rushed up to slam it, yelling incoherently as he did. But the door opened again. He slammed it shut, only to watch it open again, and again, until Heero finally threw a tantrum.

Slamming the door shut, he held onto the knob, screaming obscenities and banging his free hand against the wall until it bled.

And still the door opened again as soon as he let go.

Heero ran quickly to the bedroom he used most frequently, and then back again, holding a length of drapery cord. Quickly, he shut the door, and tied the cord around the handle, knotting it to the banister of the stairs with a knot secure enough to make a sailor blush.

He was down the stairs in the next heartbeat, holding onto Duo and rubbing his back, vainly whispering endearments and reassurances into Duo's hair. Internally, he couldn't stop screaming.

Relena snuck away back to the kitchen, careful not to make any noise.

These intruders were getting out of hand.

They all sat in the warm kitchen together, the bulb over the stove casting yellow light over the room. In the kitchen, they could close themselves off from the house, as if it were the only room that there was. It was too dark outside to see anything but black through the glass panes high up by the roof.

Relena was used to enclosing herself off here, for the comfort and security of the kitchen's isolation, and because echoes of sounds from upstairs drifted through the ventilation system.

They sat at the table and listened for the footsteps.

Duo sat with his feet on his chair in front of him, his knees under his chin. His fingers played with the hair at the end of his braid, twirling it around the tips of his fingers. His pulled his lips between his teeth, still unnerved by the opened door. He sat very close to Heero, who kept his arm on the back of Duo's chair, casually. Rocking back and forth, the weight of Heero's arm behind him kept him from shivering.

Heero was glaring at Relena. He knew, knew, that she was responsible, somehow she was the one, it was all her fault, her and her stupid crush!

He hated her with all his heart.

Relena stared at the copper vent above the dishwasher. The occasional noise came drifting down from time to time, any one of which could have simply been attributable to the age of the house or the wind, but all of which made the hair on the back of her neck quiver.

No one spoke.

The kettle whistled, startling Relena, though nothing could shake Duo or Heero. Relena got up slowly, arranging the teapot before pouring the hot water in, settling cups and saucers on a tray, getting the tea strainer, before she turned to face the two at the table.

Duo looked haunted, his eyes still shivering. Heero was glaring at her. She bit her lip, her memory immediately tracking back to a time when Heero would move heaven and earth to protect her. Now, she couldn't even hope that he could look at her with disinterest.

Setting the tray down before them, she considered what she could possibly say, when the indistinct sound of voices echoed through the vent.

All three pairs of eyes were rifted to the copper grating, wondering, fearing, dreading.

Relena felt her hands shaking, and she nearly dropped the tray.

Duo inched closer to Heero, his eyes never leaving the vent. Speaking just below to whisper, "Maybe they're ghosts. Father Maxwell said there's no such thing, that God wouldn't allow his children to go lost, but... Father Maxwell's God is a myth, isn't it?"

Heero pulled Duo into his arms, kissing his hair gently. His arms pulled roughly, and Duo could barely breathe in his embrace, but he let it happen, comforted, as always, by the force of Heero's passion.

"They aren't ghosts, Duo." Relena smiled at him, real affection warming her features. "We don't have anything to be afraid of. But this is our house, and they need to know that."

"How do you know, 'Lena? How can you be sure?" Duo looked so much like a child, hugging his shins, his lower lip quivering.

Relena ignored Heero's glare, and smiled at Duo. "I know, Duo. You know too, but I can understand why you would forget. But, we can't let ourselves be shaken by these... intruders. We must be strong, together."

Heero snarled, his arms painfully tightening around Duo. "Together? This is all your fault, bitch! Maybe Duo and I should leave you to deal with the intruders yourself!"

"Yes," Relena said, sadly. "It is my fault. Mine and my brother's."

Duo moaned, the sound ripped from the darkest part of his bleeding heart. He turned and put his face in the crook of Heero's neck, rocking until his moans began to sound like "nonononononononononono..."

Heero was like an enraged bull. The intruders upstairs were forgotten in the face of this more familiar evil. "Get out." His voice was low enough to carry a threat in its brevity.

Relena spared Heero only a glance. "Duo, I know... I know he hurt you. I'm... I'm so sorry, baby, I really am... I'll never be able to tell you how sorry I am. I know... what horrible things happened to you in that room, but you have to realize that it was a long time ago, and it's over! It's all over! Nothing can hurt us anymore, I swear it!" The sounds from the vent were louder now, increasing Relena's tension and fear. She felt like she needed to shout just to be heard over the sounds.

Heero stood up suddenly, and pushed away from the terrified Duo. "Shut up! Shut up!! Just get out! You aren't wanted here! No one here has ever wanted you! Just get out!"

Relena shook her head. "Heero! Can't you see how much pain he's in? How long do you think we can live like this? He needs to face it, he needs to understand! Duo, please, listen to me, baby! It's over, and it can't hurt you anymore! He can't hurt you anymore! Milliardo can't..."

She didn't get a chance to finish what she was going to say, since Heero jumped over the table and slapped her across the face as hard as he could. Duo moaned in protest, his arms still locked around his shins as he rocked back and forth in his chairs, his eyes looking beaten.

Relena shook her head, facing Heero defiantly. "Nothing can hurt us anymore. We just keep going on and on, but it's over! All the pain, all the fear, it's over!!" She stood, facing Heero with all the courage she ever did have, and picked up a knife from the counter. Before anyone could say anything, she slashed the knife across the fleshy underside of her forearm. Sticking her arm out, she shouted, "See!"

The cut was red and angry, but it did not bleed.

Silence once again reigned in the kitchen, as Duo and Heero stared at the distraught girl's arm, wide-eyed.

It was just then that a voice from the vent could be heard quite clearly.

"Quatre!" Duo's legs fell from his arms like rubber, his mouth open into a small 'o'. He jumped to his feet, and rushed out before Heero could get a good grip on him.

Growling, the other man took off after him, not sparing Relena another glance.

Sighing, she followed them at a much more sedate pace.

In the main hall, Duo stood rigidly at the bottom of the stairs, staring up. Someone had obviously untied the drapery cord from the door, which was now wide open, stark light from a lamp pouring down the stairs below it. Duo's whole body was rigid, his breathing erratic as he stared up at the room.

Heero put his hand on Duo's shoulder, trying to pull him back. "Duo, love, don't worry about it, ok? I'll go up and take care of whatever..."

"No!" Duo's shout came out as a whisper, there was so much force behind it. "You can't go up there! The last time you went up there..."

Heero shook his head violently, trying to shove away the images that were getting stuck there. "It'll be fine! Let me just..."

"No!!" Duo turned his wild eyes to his lover, putting his hands on Heero's chest. "You can't go up there, that's where you..."

Neither boy could speak.

Relena stood back, leaning on the wall as she hugged herself fiercely. She wanted to say something, but she was afraid she would say the wrong thing. She certainly didn't want to cause them any more pain.

Before Heero or Duo could speak again, though, they another voice broke through distinctly. From the top of the stairs, they could hear Quatre, talking to someone about how long they had been trying to make contact. Then, Wu Fei's voice floated down, asking Quatre if he was sure that this wasn't some sort of scam.

Duo visibly shook. His body was so rigid, it almost seemed like he might shatter. His voice came out choked, like it was being forced through his throat. "Quatre... Wu Fei!" Slowly, ever so slowly, he raised his foot up to first step.

"Duo!" Heero grabbed Duo's arm, pleading with him with a glare.

"I have to tell them." Duo sounded like he was in a dream. "They can't be up there. Bad things... Bad things happen in there..."

It was surreal. Duo seemed to float up the stairs, moving so slowly and so gracefully, his arms at his sides and his eyes never leaving the rectangle of light that was the room at the top of the stairs, as if he were being drawn up. Heero stayed no more than a step behind him, his hands out as if he were spotting Duo.

Relena followed, sullen.

They walked into the room for the first time in decades.

It was as if they had been placed under a spell, like they were drugged. As soon as they crossed the threshold, they forgot that they were together, suddenly overwhelmed by the room itself.

It wasn't much of a room.

Large, with floor to ceiling windows, it had a hardwood floor mostly covered by an Persian rug. There was a large bed on the other side, and a few dressers, an armoire, and a dressing table.

In the center of the room, there was a circular table, with several people sitting around holding hands as an old woman chanted, but they took no notice of them.

Heero wandered about the room, aimless and restless, until he came to rest on a particular spot. Duo stood nearly six feet away, slowly falling to his knees, his eyes down.

Relena crept in and stood by the wall, still hugging herself.

The old woman suddenly cried out, and all eyes flew to her.

"They're here." Her head bent down, her voice echoing off the walls like a death sentence. The priest to her right grabbed his wooden cross with both hands, his slick black hair appearing to quiver. On the other side of the old woman was a proper-looking man in tweed, who appeared quite pleased by her news.

The other people at the table were all known to the trio. Quatre stood instantly, looking around. "They're here? Really?" His eyes shifted all around the room.

"Quatre..." Duo's voice was forlorn and weak, but Quatre immediately looked to where the voice came from, excitedly.

"Duo!" Quatre jumped up and ran to his friend, but Duo could only just look up at him.

The old woman wrote away on sheets of paper placed in front of her, her head still bent down, and the man in tweed next to her read the sheets in sotto voice.

"Quatre, what happened to your face?"

            "Quatre, what happened to your face?"

Duo reached out and placed his hands just millimeters from Quatre's face.

"What do you mean, Duo?" He smiled easily, his bright aqua eyes glimmering.

"You... you look like an old man, Quatre..."

             "You... you look like an old man, Quatre..."

Quatre smiled, turning to Trowa and Wu Fei. "We are old men, Duo, it's just that, well... you didn't get the chance, you and Heero and Relena..."

"Who are you talking to, Duo?" Heero sounded confused, and angry. He didn't like the way Duo was talking...

             "Who are you talking to, Duo?"

Duo looked at Heero. "It's Quatre! And Trowa, and Wu Fei, and some priest and that creepy old lady, and stuffy-looking guy... Can't you see them, Heero?"

             "... Can't you see them, Heero?"

Quatre turned to where Heero was standing, smiling. "Hello, Heero!"

"Quatre says hi, Heero."

             "Quatre says hi, Heero."

Suddenly, Wu Fei stood. "If there's a light, walk into the light!" His head was now bald, and he looked like he spent most of his days in study, as he had when he was a youth, his eyes rimmed in small, round glasses, but even at his advanced age, he could still be ardent.

Quatre smiled, shaking his head. "Um, Wu Fei, I think we're past the 'walk into the light' stage."

"Why are you here?" Relena's voice sounded dark and empty.

             "Why are you here?"

"Quatre?" Trowa spoke gently. "What... What should we...?"

Quatre smiled at Relena, then Heero, then Duo. "The people who live here are concerned. They used to work for me, but they wanted to start a bed and breakfast, and live on the Earth with their son. But, so many strange things have happened..."

"Duo?" Heero fixed his glare on his lover, still rooted to the spot.


Duo ignored Heero. "Joshua's family. But I told Joshua that we were here first. Anyway, I came up here to tell you, you can't be in here. Bad things happen here."

             "...Bad things happen here."

Quatre smiled sadly. "I know. This is where you died."

"Died?" Duo started, and Heero looked stunned. Relena bent her head down, defeated. "We're not dead!"

             "We're not dead!"

"Yes, Duo, I'm afraid that you are. You, Heero, and Relena died here." Quatre closed his eyes as he told his friend of his death. "No one knew what happened. There was a fire... There were rumors. But, none of them made sense. Eventually, people accepted that someone must have broken in and killed you."

"Duo? What does Quatre say?" Heero watched his lover, too stunned to even think about moving.

             "Duo? What does Quatre say?"

"He says... that we're dead. That... we were killed. Here..." Duo sounded afraid.

             "He says... that we're dead. That... we were killed. Here..."

"No... That..." As much as Heero wanted to deny it, he found that he had no words.

             "No... That..."

"It's true." Relena raised her head, and looked at no one. "We did die here."

             "We did die here."

"Relena?" Quatre turned his eyes to her. "What happened?"

The trio of dead people just stared at nothing as each thought about a things that none of them had willingly thought about since they had happened.

When Relena started to speak, her voice was torn and quiet. "It was... there was a plan. Milliardo's plan. My brother... Well, after the war, he and Duo had become... Duo had been working salvage, cleaning up mobile suits, and Gundams, for the Preventers, making sure that no one else could use the materials for making new suits. Anyway, my brother became infatuated with Duo."

             "...my brother became infatuated with Duo."

Heero's eyes fell to the ground, as Duo hugged himself, rocking slightly. Trowa and Wu Fei, unable to see their deceased friends as Quatre could, watched the witch and the man reading what she wrote.

"But, before he could... you know, seduce him, or whatever, Heero returned, and Heero and Duo were together right away. I didn't... I mean, I knew, but I thought... I didn't realize... My brother came to me, he had a plan. We would all go away together, the four of us, and he would get Duo drunk and sleep with him, and then Heero would leave him and I would be there to comfort Heero. I don't... I don't know why I went along with him, except... I wanted to believe..."

             "...except... I wanted to believe..."

Relena was heaving, now, trying to hold herself together. Wu Fei looked like he might pop a vein. Quatre watched Duo, growing more and more concerned.

"I... I didn't know, though. I had never seen... But then, I saw them. Heero and Duo, kissing in the garden, from the back door window. And they looked... they looked perfect. Like... they were made for each other. Perfect fit. I think it drove me a little mad."

             "...I think it drove me a little mad."

Heero was now watching Relena, as if he wanted to know how the story ended.

"I don't know what I was thinking, actually. I... Heero and I were upstairs, and Duo and Milliardo were downstairs. I... asked Heero about Duo, I asked him if he loved me, if he ever could. I don't know why I had gotten Milliardo's gun, I don't really remember taking it out, or... or..."

             "...I don't really remember taking it out, or... or..."

Duo stared straight ahead at the floor. When he spoke, his voice was deeper than Quatre or Heero ever remembered ever hearing from him. "We heard a shot. I ran up the stairs as quick as I could, but still... Heero was right there," Duo pointed to where Heero was standing, "on his back. There was... there was a lot of blood. For a pacifist, she had damn good aim. She hit him right in the neck."

             "...She hit him right in the neck."

Quatre gasped slowly, lowering his head as if that might soften the blow. Wu Fei examined his fingers, his brow knit into a tangled scowl. Trowa just stared at the wall. He'd always thought that if he knew how his friends had died, it would be easier.

Duo continued, sounding bereft. "He was already dead. I tried to get to him, but I... I couldn't stand, I fell. There was just... a lot of blood. Relena was there, holding the gun, and I... I still couldn't believe that she... And then. Zechs..." Duo made a choked sound, and he bent over himself, his face shielded.

             "...And then. Zechs..."

Heero watched him with clinical concern. He was shaking, not so much that anyone could tell, but still, feeling each word rip through him like blades.

Relena watched Duo with guilty compassion. "My brother came in. He took one look around, and swore. I don't know exactly what he said, but then he hit Duo on the back of the head. He was... possessed. There was such fury about him. I was so afraid, and my ears were still ringing... Nothing made sense, but he... he had a knife, and he cut... he cut Duo's clothes. He put the knife to his throat and he said... he said... 'behave, boy, it'll all be over soon.'"

             "...'behave, boy, it'll all be over soon.'"

Quatre's head shot up, his mouth agape as his shocked eyes begged Relena to just stop. Wu Fei swore in Chinese as Trowa shook his head silently. Duo just started to rock, the low keening moan that had been his song for the past several decades rising out of him like vapor.

Heero was too stunned to listen to Relena. He crawled on his hands and knees over to Duo, and took his lover in his arms.

"He started to... He... into Duo, he was..." Relena was shaking, her hands quivering as she tried to keep hold of her elbows, her head shaking, her eyes wet. "He was making all these noises and swearing. The knife... he didn't see, he wasn't paying attention... he was too busy..." She made an abortive attempt at mimicking a thrust. "The blood... And his eyes, his eyes were on Heero, right up to his death, and I could see his eyes change, I could see the life just... But Milliardo, he didn't see, he just kept... and the blood, it started to pool, but it stopped, it stopped before it reached the pool of blood around Heero, and I thought, how sad, their blood can't even touch anymore..."

             "...how sad, their blood can't even touch anymore..."

Heero picked Duo up, and put Duo's face in the crook of his neck. He crooned softly to his love, rocking him gently as if he were a tired infant, his body shaking. Quatre watched them, trying to see anything but the picture Relena was painting.

"When Milliardo, when he finally... He saw what he had done, and he swore. He cut off Duo's braid," Heero absently patted the braid, as if to be sure that it was still there. "Then, he grabbed me and shook me, said that everything would be ok, that he would fix everything, he just needed to clean up... He left, I could hear the running water, but he lied. Nothing would be ok. Nothing was going to get fixed. They were dead. I don't... I don't remember... I wasn't... The gun, it was on the floor, but I picked it up, and then... I just thought, it's not going to be ok, and then... At first, there were flames, and I thought, I'm in hell, good, that's where I should be... But then, I was in the kitchen, and we were just... going on, the three of us, and the house was different, but the same, and it didn't make sense but we just went on..."

             "...and it didn't make sense but we just went on..."

The room was deathly quiet. The pencil scratch across paper had stilled, and the old lady was like a statue. No one could speak or think. The only movement was Heero, rocking Duo in his arms.

Quatre felt like he was under anesthetic. He had to focus on speaking, as if it were complicated. "I think we're done here. Mrs. Kirschner, Mr. Landlun, Father Probst... you can go now."

The old lady's head popped up, her blind eyes blinking. Mr. Landlun lifted her arm, helping her stand, as he whispered in her ear. Father Probst shot up. "But! Mr. Winner! The exorcism!"

Quatre didn't even look at him. "That will be all, Father Probst. The three of us will take it from here."

"But you aren't...!"

Trowa stood, towering over the fussy priest. "We will handle things, Father. Thank you for your time."

Defeated, and a little afraid, he left with the other two, their long shuffles echoing off the walls as they made their way down the tall stairs to the front door.

The three surviving Gundam team members, Quatre on the floor, Wu Fei sitting at the table, and Trowa standing by the door, fell into a reverent silence. They had heard the rumors. Rumors that the vice minister and her lover had stolen away, only to be ambushed by his former lover. Rumors that the vice minister killed them all when she discovered Heero and Duo together. Rumors that Heero killed them all, unable to cope with life outside of the war.

None of them ever considered anything as horrible as what had actually happened.

Duo began to cry.

Heero knew that Duo never cried, not when he was beaten, and not when the people he loved died, not ever. Solo had told Duo not to cry for him, as he died in Duo's arms, and so Duo had never, in his memory, cried. But now that he was dead, his tears flowed, pouring off his face as his sobs became uncontrollable.

Heero kissed and stroked the tears away, holding his love as he crooned softly to him. "Duo, beloved, no, it's all right, I swear, it's ok, now, it's over, and it can never hurt us again, it's over now, love, please..."

Quatre started to cry, seeing his friend like that, thinking about how he had died, and though he didn't even know it, Quatre's tears fell and wet the carpet beneath them as Duo's tears couldn't. He swallowed his pain and his rage and his pity, and cleared his throat. "Duo... I'm so sorry."

Relena stood against the wall, her head down and her hair covering her face. Trowa stood by the door, his hands in fists by his side. Wu Fei watched Quatre from the table, wishing he could see what the other man could see.

Heero kissed Duo gently, kissed his cheeks and his eyes and his nose and his chin and his forehead, and he kissed his mouth, without passion.

Duo's sobs faded, and his eyes fluttered open, blinking away the last remnants of moisture from the long lashes. He looked up at Heero, and suddenly surged forward, wrapping his arms around Heero's neck, as he pressed his body into Heero's. They embraced like that for what felt like forever, although time had technically lost all meaning to them anyway.

"It's ok, my love, didn't I promise you that we would be together forever? And see, my love, not even death can keep us apart." Heero's words melted slowly into Duo.

When Duo was finally able to separate and look Heero in the eye, he had a quirk in his lips that almost looked like the beginning of a smile. "That's true, babe. Not even death..."

Heero took Duo's face in his hands and kissed him, pouring everything that words cannot express into his lover's mouth.

Quatre sighed, causing Wu Fei to ask him what was going on, which Quatre quickly shushed, hissing that they were kissing.

"Q..." Duo teased, "we're right here, ya know."

Duo rested in Heero's arms, sighing. His hand went up to check on his braid, not wanting to trust that it was still there. Sighing contentedly, he turned to Quatre again. "Why are you here, Q?"

Quatre smiled. "The people who own this house... they've been scared. Strange things have been happening, mournful sounds and things getting destroyed..."

Duo watched Quatre with serious eyes. "I've been wallowing. And Heero's been angry."

"Is there..." Quatre was not accustomed to not knowing what to do. "Is there anything we can do?"

Duo just rested for a moment, letting the question ferment. "I think..." He turned to face Heero, their eyes locked together. "I don't think there's anything we could possibly need anymore. I think... we should leave this house."

"You can't!" Relena took one half step forward. "There's nothing but fog out there! This is our house, this is where we belong!"

Duo and Heero never wavered, their eyes still joined. "It doesn't really matter what's out there, does it? It's about time we put this house behind us."

Heero smiled, that small smile that softened his eyes. He stood up, reaching out a hand for Duo. He hauled his lover up, their noses brushing against each other as they got their balance.

"Duo?" Quatre stood as they did. "Are you sure? I mean, I don't know anything about the afterlife..."

"It's dull, Q. Time to go explorin'." Heero had to grin; there was more life in that one sentence than he had seen in his love since they had died.

Heero and Duo walked away, Quatre right behind them and Trowa and Wu Fei blindly following him. Relena staggered after, shocked.

Duo stepped outside first, holding onto Heero's hand as he did. The fog was so thick, he couldn't even see five feet in front of him, but the feeling of being out of that house was enough to make him want to smile.

Relena stood in the doorway, wanting to reach out to them, wanting to go with them, wanting to stop them. "Please! Reconsider! What if you get lost?"

Duo turned back to look at Relena, his head cocked to the side. "Don't worry about us, 'Lena. We'll look after each other." As an afterthought, he added, "And don't worry, Relena. I forgive you. I think I would have gone a little mad if I saw Heero and you kissing in the garden, too."

With that, Duo and Heero took off into the fog, hand in hand.

Quatre shook his head as he watched his friends dissipate. Trowa nudged him with his elbow, asking with his eyes what was going on. With a small smile, "They're gone. Together. Duo... forgave Relena."

The young woman ghost moaned, turning away from the fog, hugging herself.

Quatre watched Relena dispassionately. He wanted to hate her as much as he hated her brother, but Duo had forgiven her. Surely, he should, too, then? "Relena... The people who own this house, they want to come back..."

"Oh!" She turned, not quite able to focus on him. "Of course. I suppose... I won't be in the way, I'm sure. I mostly... I'm mostly in the kitchen, making tea."

Quatre nodded, heading away, leading Trowa and Wu Fei from the door.

They had all parked at the foot of the long driveway, outside the gate, as none of them had been sure what was going to happen. Just there, by the curb, waited the Grangers, anxious.

"Mr. Winner!" Leo Granger straightened up immediately. "How... The priest, he said that you were going to take care of things...?"

Quatre forced himself to smile. "Yes. The... angry spirit, and the sad spirit are gone. They won't bother you anymore."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Winner!" June Granger beamed. She had been tearing herself to pieces, ever since her son Joshua told her he saw the sad boy in the hall. "But... what about the other one? The girl?"

Quatre felt his resolve shaking. He needed to be alone right then. "Don't worry about it. Open your bed and breakfast." He turned to walk away, patting the large-eyed boy at June's side on the head, when he seemed to think of something. "In fact, you can advertise that your b 'n' b is haunted by the ghost of Relena Darlian-Peacecraft. Should be a big selling point." Smiling at Joshua, he got in the car he had hired for the three of them, and they left.

It was the next morning when they were able to talk about it.

"Something has to be done about Merquise." Wu Fei's clear voice was dark and ominous.

Quatre set down his teacup. They had packed, and were just having some breakfast before they left. "I know." Trowa and Wu Fei could clearly see that the head of WEI had a plan. "Go back to Hilde, Wu Fei. You'll... have to tell her what we learned. Give Max and Xiang a kiss from me. Don't worry about it. Just... be prepared, in case. The Preventers... may become aware. So... be ready."

"You'll take care of it?" Wu Fei's tone held not a trace of dirtiness to it. He was cold and clinical as he discussed what needed to be done.

"I'll go with you." Trowa smiled slightly at Quatre, nodding his understanding.

Quatre shook his head. There was no failure to communicate between them. "No. I need to be able to come home to you; I need you to stay clean. Don't worry. It'll be done within a week." The steel in Quatre's voice was lethal.

Zechs Merquise sat down in the plain, white room, his elegant limbs arranging themselves automatically as the soldier reviewed his situation. He sat back, relaxed, and waited for Quatre to come. It was obvious that he was put out that he had not been greeted immediately upon entering the desert bunker of the Manguanacs, but he was willing to be patient. To a degree. As he brushed away lint that only regal eyes could detect, his narrowed eyes watched the door.

Zechs had aged remarkably well. His hair had settled into a pure white, and he still wore it long, although he kept it in a tail that hung to his shoulder blades, as his hair had lost the fineness of its youth. At 63, he was in better shape than most boys in their early twenties, and while his face had a few distinguishing lines, it was still fairer than any man's face had any right to be.

Quatre saw this all on the monitor, but none of the beauty touched him, as his hands griped the arms of his chair brutally. He needed to compose himself before going in there, lest he fling himself at Duo's murderer too quickly.

Rashid stood one step behind his chair, to the left. Despite his age, he was as formidable as he ever had been, perhaps even more so now that the world had been at peace for so long. He watched Quatre brutalize the arms on the chair for a minute before interrupting him. "The room has been prepared as you requested. Ten of my best men are in position, should anything go... awry. As you anticipated, there was no difficulty in lifting him. He was in Cairo, finishing a consultation, and he came with us without so much as notifying his wife. No one knows where he is, or that we contacted him."

Quatre snorted. "Lucrezia was always a fool where he was concerned. She's still so dazzled by his beauty, she ignores the fact that he's hardly ever around. He never even officially married her; he just got her pregnant and then stuck with her. For a while, at least. Their daughter's not blind, though. She can barely stand her father." Quatre's intense glare made it clear that he agree completely with Juliet Relena Noin.

Rashid sighed. "Please, Master Quatre, let my men take care of this trash! You should not have to sully yourself with this sort of task."

"No, Rashid, I have to do this. For Duo. And besides," Quatre stood, resolving to get this over with as quickly as he could, "there's something that I need from him."

"I understand, Master Quatre." Rashid bent his head, accepting.

Zechs didn't even bother to look up when Quatre entered, a sure sign of his annoyance.

Quatre didn't go to greet him, instead choosing to stand by the desk in the corner. He folded his arms in front of him, and tried to force the glare off his face.

The whole effect was to make Zechs think that whatever he had been dragged out to the middle of the desert for was very important.

Quatre gathered his breath, straightening his vest. He wore all black, except for the rust blood colored vest, in memory of Duo.

Before Quatre could gather his thoughts completely, Zechs spoke, his deep baritone rumbled by age. "I take it there is some sort of emergency, Quatre?"

Quatre nodded once. "You could say that. I've been to the Isle of Jersey recently."

"Oh?" Zechs wrinkled his brow, clearly not interested in anything not related to his purpose here.

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Quatre dipped his head to one side, for a moment affecting the sort of innocence he tricked many with in his youth.

"Ghosts?" Zechs tried hard not to sound condescending. "Is this related to why you had me brought here, so abruptly?"

Quatre smiled. "As a matter of fact... I was at the house where Duo, Heero, and Relena died. The new owners, who used to work for me, called me in. They've been having... trouble at the house, and they had contacted a witch. She informed them that the house was infected with three spirits, one angry, one sad, and one neutral."

Zechs smirked. "That's... interesting... I suppose..."

"I heard a very interesting story while I was there, too, which is why I needed to see you." Quatre paused for a moment, for effect. "I was wondering... what did you do with his braid?"

Zechs had the decency to blink three times. "I... beg your pardon?"

Quatre smiled maliciously. "After you raped and killed Duo, what did you do with his braid?"

Zechs stared at Quatre for a full twenty seconds before he narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure where you might have heard such a horrible story..."

"I don't like playing games, Zechs." Quatre turned his back on the man, his voice low and dangerous.

"I'm sorry, but..." Zech's body was tense, his voice tight.

Quatre pulled the gun out of the upper left-hand drawer of the desk, aiming it at Zechs with professional precision. "You wanted Duo. You couldn't stand the fact that Heero came back for him before you got a chance at him. You convinced Relena that she would be able to be with Heero if you could get Duo to cheat on him. But, Relena killed Heero before you got a chance; she shot him in the neck. And when you found out, you raped Duo and sliced his throat open. Relena shot herself while you were cleaning yourself up. You set fire to the room they were in, and wiped down the rest of the house, thus destroying all evidence that you were there.

"I remember when you showed up at the scene." Quatre's voice trembled as he griped the desk, to stay on his feet. "You were so horrified, you could barely speak. But you wanted to know everything that was found, every print, everything. Now, I want to know what you did with his braid!"

Zechs watched Quatre carefully, measuring, his body ready for action. "Even if I did, somehow, have Maxwell's braid, that would hardly be enough physical evidence with which to bring me up on charges."

Quatre smiled sickeningly. "Ah, but as you know all too well, one of the many benefits of being rich and powerful is that you can get away with murder."

Zechs dropped his hands to his side, and leaned forward fractionally.

"I know what you are thinking, Lightning Count." Quatre's voice had a dreamy, threatening quality to it. "You're wondering if you have enough time to get to me before I fire, and if you do, if you can get out of this bunker before the Manguanacs can stop you. I assure you, you cannot. There are ten men targeting you right now. The walls in this room are paper-thin in some points, and they are equipped with heat-sensitive goggles. So, you would be shot down before you even got to your feet. Now, before I execute you, I want to know, what did you do with his braid?"

It was a standoff. Zechs tensely watched the room, his jaw clamped shut as he ground his teeth. Quatre held the gun aimed at his heart unwaveringly, even in his rage.

When Rashid came in the door, neither moved.

"We have found it, Master Quatre. He had it stashed in a secret compartment in his travel valise. It appeared to be... used. Abdul and Ahmed are preparing a pyre for it as we speak." Rashid's hushed tones did nothing to disguise his loathing of the man in the chair.

The words were barely out of Rashid's mouth before Quatre started to fire. Zechs had only a half a second to prepare before his body was riddled with bullets. Quatre's face was twisted into a snarl, and with each shot he fired, he only got madder. Zechs' blood and gore splashed on the wall behind him, a hideous modern painting of death, as bits of hair and brain got mixed in with the splatter. He began to howl with outrage, holding the gun with two hands as he tried to rip the body apart with hot bullets. When the gun clicked empty, he still fired, wanting to mutilate the body even further.

Tears were pouring down his face as he stared down at the inhuman biological waste. The gun thunked to the ground, forgotten. His arms became airy and weak, and his head spun on his body in the most disconcerting fashion.

Gradually, he became aware that Rashid was leading him out, but he craned his head back to look for as long as he could.

When the door closed, Quatre felt his limbs become jelly, and with Rashid's assistance, he was able to sit on a thin metal chair. A glass of water touched his lips, and he drank, because that's what you did when a glass of water appears at your lips.

Finally, he was able to speak again. He was surprised at how hoarse he was. He must have screamed more than he realized. "Have the room decontaminated, please, and the body destroyed. I don't want there to be a single ash left to incriminate anyone, please."

"It will be done," Rashid promised. He stood up, pausing for a moment before completing his task. He smiled, as a father would to his son after he had done something incredibly hard. "I know... it is difficult, now, Master Quatre, but you will be grateful you did this. Justice was served today."

"Justice?" Quatre sounded horrified at the concept. "You think this was justice? This was not justice, Rashid. Justice is a world where babies aren't made orphans by the squabbles of powerful fools. Justice is a world where children don't have to live on the streets. Justice is a world where boys don't have to settle the wars of men." Quatre's voice got more and more bitter with each word he spit out. "Justice is a world where good, decent people aren't raped and killed by perverts who desecrate their remains for pleasure!

"This wasn't justice, Rashid, this was revenge." Quatre sounded like death. "It's a cold, bitter dish, but it tastes far sweeter than regret. And may Allah have mercy where we cannot." He finished up the water, and stood up.

He wanted to get far away from here, back to Trowa and life and hope.

Neither Heero nor Duo knew how long or how far they walked, and neither cared. The fog was cold, but neither felt the chill, nor did their feet or legs tire. They held hands and walked through the fog, and neither time nor temperature meant anything to them.

All that mattered was the warm comfort of palms touching, fingers intertwined. With each step, Duo's heart lightened. He saw, for the first time, the weight that he had carried with him, but it didn't seem to matter now. Death, and the understanding of it, freed him from the obligation of pain. He needed no more grief or suffering. Each step brought more and more light to his eyes, more bounce to his step, and more cheer to his expression, until he was nearly smiling again.

Each time Heero looked into Duo's eyes and saw his love's old passion and fire, each bubbling burst of babbling speech, each tug at his hand as Duo pulled him forward chipped away at the ice around Heero's heart. He felt like he had been frozen in rage for so long, he might never feel warmth again, but he was melting in Duo's eyes, in his voice, in his touch.

They might have been walking for ten minutes or for ten thousand years when they saw the gate. The gate was in the middle of a wall so tall and so wide, in the fog, they could not see the top or end of it. Since they had seen nothing but fog in all their journey, it seemed logical to stop and investigate.

The gate was rusted iron, black and red, and the lock appeared broken. Beyond the gate, there was a garden, so lush and verdant that the humidity and heat from it could be felt between the slats of the gate.

It wasn't much of a decision to go to it. Hands still joined, they pushed the gate open and stepped inside, the screeching ache of the hinges echoing off of nothing.

Inside, there was every manner of plant, densely plotted, and many plants that no one alive had ever seen. Birds of amazing color and shape fluttered lazily around, while some stayed in the trees to sing, as no bird alive had ever sang before. Small furry creatures dodged and darted in the undergrowth, and dazzling lizards clung to the trees and bushes, their pearly eyes blinking as they took in their new neighbors.

And Heero and Duo were naked in the garden. Not just naked, but utterly bare, as they were the day they were born. Without a tie to hold his braid, Duo's hair fell around him like a cloak of wavy chestnut hair. The ice closed around Heero's heart broke at the sight of Duo, ethereally cloaked in his hair, his wide blue-violet eyes glimmering, and his mouth round with joyous shock.

"Let's explore!" Duo pulled Heero deeper into the garden before he could even think to respond.

Before them, a large, peacock-shaped bird drifted by, his long glassy tail feathers capturing the sunlight and dancing with it. On their left, a bubbling creek of green-blue water jumped with salmon-colored fish with shimmering fins like wings. On their right, a silver and jade kittenish critter nibbled on a nut, his long whiskers bobbling as his bushy tail swayed.

There were simply too many wonders to even see, although Duo made a valiant effort to catalog everything for Heero. They reached a clearing, and the sunlight poured down on them in golden beams, making the butterflies appear like faeries.

Duo spun around, catching Heero by the waist to pull himself closer. "Isn't it beautiful, Heero?" His smile was as wide as his face, and as he spoke, his laugh spilled out with his words, his eyes sparkling with mischief and love.

Heero put one hand and then the other on Duo's cheeks, running his fingers into Duo's thick hair, his thumbs stroking Duo's cheekbones reverently. Duo's laugh melted the last chip of ice clinging to Heero's heart, and he found himself smiling at his fey love in the sunlight. Bending his head down, he caught Duo's mouth in a wet kiss, pulling Duo's body as tight to his own as he could.

Still smiling, he spoke only a breath away from Duo. "Yes, it is."

ack... i'm so sorry i made Zechs a bastard!!!! *hugs Zechs, rubbing a little...* i didn't want to, but... there had to be a bastard somewhere, and Zechs worked well...