Even on the Coldest Nights

by Talya Firedancer

"Kimi wo, kimi wo kimi wo, kimi wo aishiteiru shinjiteiru kokoro de mitsume te iru... samui yoru mo."

It was a ghost-track of sound, barely felt let alone heard.

"Oi, Heero."

Slightly louder now, as the chestnut-braided boy squirmed in the embrace of the blanket and the slender young pilot spooned behind him.



The heart-shaped face crowned with straggling, sleep-disordered wisps of bangs blinked sleepy, large violet eyes, peering at the slumber-softened features of his partner.

"Oi, Heero... you awake?"


Duo wrinkled his nose in a grimace then rubbed it against the other boy's in an affectionate gesture. "I know you're awake. That was your 'Duo, you're starting to piss me off' noise."


"C'mon, get up."

A faint growling noise exhaled from the Japanese pilot. "You just said I was awake," Heero put forth, testy. "Make up your mind."

"You're awake *now,*" Duo noted, smug and throwing an arm across his waist.


Duo planted a light kiss on his lips and then brushed over his brow, smoothing out the wrinkle that had appeared between the dark arching bands.

"So, what is it?" Heero prompted, intonations soft-slurred from being woken.

The American was quiet for so long he might have fallen asleep and indeed Heero was starting to drift off again when he received his reply.

"Heero... do you believe in God?"

The question itself, softly uttered, was not enough to wrench him to wakefulness but its content snapped his eyes open. "Nani...Duo?"

"Do you--"

"I heard," Heero interrupted him. "What's bothering you?"

A pause. "Nothing."

Heero lifted his eyebrow, a dubious expression. The pensive look fixed on his lover's face spoke otherwise.

"So, do you?"

Heero frowned. "I was never exposed to religion, Duo," he tried to explain. "I wasn't brought up to believe in a particular faith."

"That -- that doesn't matter so much." The violet eyes were closed now, moonlight falling over them and lending soft lids a silken sheen, forming hollows beneath. They looked bruised, from this angle, the face still and pale. "God isn't just what you're taught. It's how you believe."

Heero's frown deepened. What was Duo getting after? He himself hadn't been exposed to religion from a young age. It hadn't been a part of his training. He only knew the perfunctory definitions that he had come across in studies. Religion, even God, were abstract concepts in his world of concrete realities. In avoiding them, he avoided confusion.

"So what do you believe, Heero?" Duo continued, his tone growing quieter. Almost hesitant.

He preferred the garrulous, devil-may-care Duo to this reflective one, perhaps. However many times he had rebuked Duo for not thinking things through... now he was forced to admit perhaps one could think too much about something.

What did he believe in? It didn't take much thought.

"My Gundam, my mission, and the certainty that all who oppose me are my enemy," he replied, at length and knowing it wasn't the answer Duo was searching for. But it wasn't the whole answer.

Languid violet eyes opened, moon-drenched pools of bitterness. "What a perfect textbook soldier answer," Duo voiced in a raw whisper. "Have they really taken that much away from you, lover? Don't you believe in anything you can't touch?"

"I believe in you," the answer rose readily to his lips, before he could stop or edit it.

Duo flinched, then squirmed in their loose half-embrace. "But -- you're touching me, right now," he objected. Heero closed his own eyes, flexing his hand on the curve of the blanket where waist melted into hip. Somehow it was easier to say without violet eyes drilling him to the quick. "These feelings... I can't touch them. I can't even give words to them. Not the way I am now. The only thing I can do is show you." He fisted the blanket and tugged Duo forcefully close.

Half-parted lips breathed moist warmth into the hollow of his throat. Duo's arms wrapped around him, one worming beneath his body to lock him fiercely near. "I love you."

There. At least Duo could say it.

"What's bothering you, Duo? What woke you up?"

He wondered if it had been a nightmare. Since their reunion there had been a few nights during the past week when he had woken to liquid whimpers and tiny cries of dismay but Duo had calmed down soon enough with soothing hands and a few murmured words. And in the morning he had professed not to remember what had disturbed his sleep so badly. But this time it wasn't a noise that had woken him; it had been Duo himself.

"I... well, I just wondered if you believed in God. That's all."

With one hand he tipped Duo's chin up and wide amaryllis eyes fixed on him. "Give me credit for knowing you better than that," Heero stated.

The silver-glazed eyes slid away from his. "I dreamed about it again."

"It?" Heero repeated, blank.

"Not the nightmare. The one where I'm alone in the bathroom, watching each bead of blood drip into the water." Heero clenched his teeth. It still shredded his guts inside to see the pinkish scars that trailed, furrowed thin worms just beneath the skin, up the track of his inner wrists. Duo tried to wear long sleeves most of the time but still he would see them. For Trowa, he was not worth emulating a willingness to die. And for Duo, he was not worth following once dead.

"Thinking how you sinned?"

Duo's startled-wide eyes worked over his face, trying to gauge his expression. "M -- mmh."

He sent his hand wandering over Duo's face, wide-lipped expressive mouth, snubbed nose, delicate brow, and wiped aside the unruly fringe of bangs. "Don't you see? The worst sin, truly the worst one?"

Duo's expression grew guarded.

"The worst sin was against yourself, Duo." Heero made another swipe at the bangs then settled his hand over one rounded cheek. "Not a code of faith imposed by men. You didn't sin against God, or your creed, or even what you thought was my memory. It was in not believing in yourself."

He settled back onto the pillow, eyes heavy-lidded, and watched Duo digest this. A frown puckered the expressive brows and tipped the wide mouth downwards.

"And what about us?" Duo finally spoke again. "Are we a sin?"

"Against your religion? Or against society's norms?" Heero returned, after a measured pause. "Or against the natural order of things, because we can't produce offspring?"

"Where to start...?" Duo's mouth twisted up in a wry smile.

Heero regarded him silently for a moment. "What do you believe, Duo?" He placed slight emphasis on the fourth word but from the flicker in the violet eyes he knew Duo had caught it.

"I... I... " Duo shook his head from side to side, slow, expression anguished. "I don't believe that a God who loves us could condemn *us* for loving." The American pilot buried his face against Heero's throat, his hot breath lapping over skin in erratic huffs. "I believe in us."

Heero closed his eyes and allowed his hands to move down Duo's spine, soothing comfort rather than erotic. This was something Duo had been wrestling with for awhile, he knew, but he couldn't provide any easy answers. It was something of a crisis of faith, and religion was a concept he had never understood. "Odin Lowe told me you should always follow your feelings."

The chestnut-crowned head lifted. "Even if your feelings are wrong?" Duo contested.

One brow shot up. That had clipped even more close than any bullet Duo could have fired. "Is that how you see it? Who defines what's wrong, anyhow?"

"God. The Bible," Duo replied, pushing away from him and making an abortive move to sit up.

"An outdated, millenia-old collection of superstitions and mysticism with any number of mistakes in its dictation and translations--" Heero began and from the furious flash of Duo's eyes he knew he had lost this round.

"You really don't have any faith, do you?" Duo flared. "You don't understand! How could you understand, when you were never taken in and loved and taught..."

"I was taught," Heero interrupted, stone-faced, "to analyze things logically. And faith is not logical."

"Of course not," Duo squirmed away and drew the blankets up defensively. "It's not something you can hold in your own two hands. It's not something you can hack into or blow up or point a gun at; faith is a place where the only thing you have is sheer belief."

Heero let the silence stretch between them, then turned over onto his other side with a grunt of effort and muted pain. His chest still hurt but it wasn't crippling. "And that's where I am with you. But you still have doubts."

In a rush, a warm weight pressed against his backside, radiant heat beneath the covers, and an apologetic hand reached to stroke his cheek. "I don't have any doubts about us, lover." Duo's voice was a tremor against the nape of his neck. "I love you. I believe in you. But... it's just... I'm having a hard time reconciling my faith, and my belief in you."

Pause. "I don't know if I can help you," Heero admitted, grasping Duo's hand and drawing the arm around him tight. "I don't understand religion."

Duo sighed and it was a pained exhalation. "That's okay, Heero. Just... be here for me."

"I am," Heero returned, a frown flitting over his expression then swiftly gone.

'How long' hung in the air between them, as the moon-frosted lines receded, and shadowed inky swathes filled up space where the light had been. Heero measured each breath ruffling over the back of his neck. Duo didn't ask again if he was awake. Heero didn't volunteer. They both knew.

Shadows crept along the carpet with each wakeful exhalation. Heero closed his eyes. Soon, they would swallow the whole room.