Paper Dress

by Talya Firedancer

A blaze of fire crashes to a flaming, skidding halt and his hands are locked on the controls. He forces himself grimly into action. He should not be affected by a mere memory. He should not be swayed by a tattered fragment of recall, a raw dying voice screaming his name. He should not...

...but he is.

Heero steadfastly fixes an assessing eye on the approaching mobile suits. He is encircled and overwhelmed. He knows he is finished.

Another suit explodes and he starts violently, throwing himself at the approaching line with the beam saber drawing an arc of spitting harsh lightning in the air.

Death approaches...

[so what we did, we redefined
perfect function to realize
some kind of potential]

Duo's arms flexed around him, drawing him closer as a chestnut swirl of hair tumbled over his shoulder. Heero stared down the intruding locks through half-lidded eyes then released a satisfied grunt, tugging at Duo's arm to tuck it firmly around his waist.

Duo pulled him down to the grass, laughing and sweet-mouthed, his violet eyes darkened but still sparkling with the moonlight and his liveliness. "Ne, Heero, have you ever done it under the stars... ?"

Duo's dismayed grimaces as he dumped the smoking, charred bird into the trash, then giving him an embarrassed but still wide grin.

Duo bouncing into his lap after the wrapping fell to the floor, winding his arms around Heero's neck to breathe into his ear, "Merry Christmas, Heero... " and began to kiss down the cord of his neck.

Duo's body, bruised blossoms flowering over his skin, yet containing every pained wince as Heero silently tied the bandages, fuming with rage that edged up by notches with every new scrape or contusion he discovered. How dare they; how DARE they touch his...

Duo, his face flashing over the cockpit, bangs falling in his eyes as he held up his hand to the viewscreen, gold crucifix knotted around his shaking fingers.

[And underneath the paper dress
she knows we're different
shoulders and a neck shrug away this distance]

"Relena... " Heero utters, surprised, as the girl holds out the blue ribbon, its color as piercing as a pair of eyes that had somehow managed to capture...

"My love," Relena replies, her expression fighting for composure even as he noted the desperation and anxiety.

He rocks back. She loved him? Why!?

"I don't care how far I have to fly to convince you," she says fiercely, rushing on. "I want you. And you must feel something for me, or... "

"I feel something," he interrupts.

Her face lights up.

He studies the elate expression, noting the differences, the similarities. He did feel something. He just wasn't sure what it was.

[Now in my home and in my car
I can't help but behold my thoughts
eventually drift back to this day]

He manipulates Wing Gundam's controls easily, second nature, flipping a switch and twisting the stick as he went automatically through the transformation he'd piloted a hundred times. Right. The base's defensive complement was at their lowest point and this would be easily. Unlike...

He wrenches his thoughts away, but not before the heart-shaped face, the wide violet eyes flicker through his mind. Trembling crimson-streaked fingers trapping the bloodstained crucifix against the screen...

[wherever we go,
wherever we go
this ghost will follow]

"Are you sure?" Heero queried doubtfully in low tones as Relena reached to pull him down to the bed, surprisingly aggressive.

He was the one who wasn't sure.

Already he was remembering the startled sensation of encountering a swell, a soft bump where there should only be flat hard muscle.

He hadn't -- he hadn't... since that last night, with Duo.

"I'm sure," Relena purred, wrapping her hands around his neck, straining up to kiss his lips. "Don't you want to, Heero?"

His body did.

Heero hesitated. "I... " Duo was dead.

He lowered his face to her waiting eyes.

[wherever we go
wherever we go
this ghost will follow]

Heero peers through the ring of flames, boosting his sensors to their highest gain. Strange, he thought he'd caught a flicker of...

An Aries struck from behind, actually shearing off a part of a wing and Heero pivots to slice the suit apart, snarling. The damage had been done. He'd lost flight capability. Just as he had that day when --

Stop! he shakes his head firmly, but too late.

Duo's face flashes in his eyes as it had done over the surface of the cockpit, that instant before Deathscythe had lit up and blown to hell. Had he known? ... had he heard in that last instant as Heero had retracted his own foolish lie, as he yelled out in answer to Duo's last hoarse whisper, his fingers jerking against the glass of the cockpit and Heero raised his own hand to touch their image, but Duo's eyes were already blank as he admitted I love...

[wherever we go
wherever we go
this ghost follows!]

"Duo... Duo!"

Relena's body went rigid underneath him as he panted someone else's name in her ear, crying out a dead boy's name desperately as his entire weight focused between her hips. "Duo... "

She was pushing frantically at his shoulders, her mouth set in a taut line and he rolled off, stunned at his utter lack of control. She grabbed her clothes, mouth working, looking as if she would cry.

"This is wrong."

He did not look at her as he pulled the sheets around his lap. He had been looking past her all this time, anyway. She shook her head from side to side slowly, several times, then dressed swiftly and left even faster.

He almost would feel sorry for her, knowing that he had ruined her first time, that he'd punctured the secure illusion that Relena Peacecraft could have everything and the heart of a simple soldier was not beyond her reach. But she was lucky. Relena had lost someone she had never truly had.

He'd thrown away someone who had belonged to him body, heart, and soul.

[the guitar crawls into a low thrum, slowing down with a hint of bass driving the melody. The music lilts into a repeating riff, gradually building into an electronic scream]

Heero closes his eyes.

"Merry Christmas... " Duo breathed into his ear, and Heero fisted the silver cross in his hand, regarding it with his head slightly tilted, a bit puzzled.

"It's like mine," Duo explained, pausing in his kissing and nuzzling of Heero's neck. He smiled, wide and positively cheerful. "Just think of it as protection... a kind of prayer, even though I know you don't pray. But maybe it'll give you some comfort, however small. And I thought silver was more your color than gold."

The barest hint of a smile graced his lips as Duo clasped it around his neck, then kissed the tip of his nose. He crossed his eyes and Duo chuckled gaily.

His eyes pop open.

The second and third lines of Leos and Arieses are closing in, and he gropes for the silver cross that spills over the bare skin exposed by his tank top, his other hand hovering over the self destruct.

I know you don't pray...

[wherever we go
wherever we go]

Death approaches, and as always he is ready.

And the line of Leos fell, belching flames. Heero frowns, hand darting over the control panel as he pans over the area, analyzing the data feed from his sensors.

... How is this possible?

It is impossible for him to tell anymore if the silhouette blazing into his retinas limned in fire was the phantom that had dogged his steps for the past months, or the impossible dream.

Heero forces himself into action, refusing to be baited, tricked by the raw tattered voice screaming his name; it was an echo, it was the same echo...

A gleam of gold.

An impish, cheeky grin.

Just an echo...

[this ghost -- aaie!]

A blazing line of green fire cut in a soughing arc, toppling another row of Leos.

Heero strained forward.

Death approaches...