1. Prologue by Oneesan Neko
2. Chapter 1 by Oneesan Neko
3. Chapter 2 by Oneesan Neko
4. Chapter 3 by Oneesan Neko
5. Chapter 4 by Oneesan Neko
6. Chapter 5 by Oneesan Neko
7. Chapter 6 by Oneesan Neko
8. Chapter 7 by Oneesan Neko
9. Chapter 8 by Oneesan Neko
10. Chapter 9 by Oneesan Neko
11. Chapter 10 by Oneesan Neko
Disclaimer: Considering we're all in the same boat here, do I really have to explain further? The characters in this story belong to their creators, and not to me.
Summary: A brief overview of the world we find ourselves in.
When `Newtypes' first appeared among third generation colonists, the general reaction was shock. The colonists saw them as hope for the future. Newtype children were blessed with powerful mental gifts and bodies extremely well adapted to space and space flight. Their smaller stature and lighter, more agile build made zero-g movement easier, and their mental gifts allowed them to save themselves and others from many space and colony accidents.
The colonists loved them, but many of the people on Earth saw them as freaks and proof that humans were never meant for long term space habitation. In attempt to protect their children from Earth zealots the colonies formed the Ganymede Center, otherwise known as L1 XCC0412. Public schools routinely tested children for Newtype genetics. Those that tested positive were sent to Ganymede Center on full scholarship to study with their peers. As adults all Newtypes were given permanent quarters on Ganymede, regardless of other residences. In this large group situation it soon became apparent that different classes or types of Newtypes existed: there were the telepaths and empaths whose gifts focused on sending and receiving mental projections; the psychokinetics, whose gifts allowed manipulation of objects with the mind; and there were the `Sentinels'.
Sentinels displayed none of the usual mental gifts except for latent telepathy, but their physical senses were enhanced far beyond normal human capabilities. At around the age of ten Sentinels would begin to experience loss of control over these enhanced senses, resulting in sensory spikes and zones where they lost track of everything. Control was only regained by forming a psychic bond with a full telepath or empath who served as a constant baseline for their senses to revert to. In this role, the bonded telepath or empath was known as a `Guide'. Those Sentinels who did not form a bond within several years of this critical point eventually had to be isolated for their own sake; and even then they eventually overloaded on sensation and went insane. Sometimes they even ended up killing themselves. Unbonded Sentinels seldom made it past the age of twenty-five with their faculties intact, and many succumbed even sooner.
All of the colonies knew of Quatre Winner's annual tour. Once a year, the youngest son and heir of Winner Enterprises flew to every colony where the Winner family owned property. He toured plants, checked on the local economy and oversaw testing of young people for admission to Ganymede.
This annual event included a faire and presented a chance for children that did not attend public school to gain entrance to the elite center. Families saved all year for the chance to attend the faire itself, though the testing itself was free. The very thought of joining Mr. Winner on his journey was something children dreamed of.
Heero Yuy felt like the children were not aware of what it was they were missing. If they were aware they would run screaming the other way rather then join up with this mad house. He winced suddenly as his hearing spiked. As a Newtype Sentinel Heero had lived at Ganymede Center since he was five years old. This year he had agreed to leave it in order to accompany Quatre and several of his other friends on the yearly tour. Thus far it had been hell. The constant traveling and changing of his normal environment compounded by his unbonded state was wreaking havoc on his senses. Quatre was an empath and he had been trying to help, but what relief he could give was fleeting. He was so busy with other business Heero couldn't ask for more of his time. Trowa and Wufei, their other friends, were also doing what they could to assist both Quatre and Heero. But now all he wanted was to go back to Ganymede and resume the search for his Guide.
Quatre sighed softly to Trowa as he walked past Heero's quarters on the Andante, “Any luck with Heero? I know this is hard for him but that's no reason to lock himself in his quarters whenever possible. I haven't seen him in the mess hall for days.”
Trowa shook his head and walked up along side Quatre, trailing his hand along the pale blue wall, “I think the spikes are getting worse. He seemed fairly stable when we left Ganymede but the last few times I've seen him he's complained of a headache. Once he told me that Iria's baby was driving him crazy.”
“But the baby's in a sound shielded room. To hear through that . . .” Quatre shook his head, “Why hasn't he said anything to me?” He twisted his face into a frown, and started to turn around, heading back down the corridor to Heero's quarters.
Trowa held out his hand to stop him, “He knows how busy you are with the tour. He doesn't want to disturb you. Plus, well . . . he just doesn't like to talk about himself, much less complain.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Quatre asked, stopping and walking back up to Trowa's side, “I've been using my empathy to stabilize his senses for him but I know it's not doing nearly enough. He seemed to be doing so well back on Ganymede. Startlingly so, for an unbonded Sentinel of his age.”
“He was also hardly leaving his room except for meals and adult training courses. I doubt he was doing as well as he pretended. So, add already unstable senses to suddenly being in a strange and crowded place. His stress levels are probably through the roof and the more stressed he gets the more his control slips.” Trowa nodded his head, slipped his hand behind Quatre's back and lead him down the corridor, “It's a viscous cycle. And don't you have a meeting soon?”
Quatre sighed once more. “Yes, and you're right, of course. But this is our last stop, the L2 cluster, and then it's only a five-day journey back to Ganymede. There's also a Ganymede branch office on L2 RC54VH9 where we could spend the layover after the Faire opens if he wants.” Quatre looked up, a smile on his face.
Trowa smirked and shook his head, “I'll mention it to him. Probably the quietness of the Sentinel quarters will appeal to him and L2 RC54VH9 is one of the nicer colonies in the cluster. The Faire is on L2 G117L66, but intercolony shuttle is fast,” Trowa stopped walking and removed his hand, “Well, I'll mention it to him. See you after dinner.”
“See you,” Quatre laughed and continued down the corridor, “Now if only the board meeting could be as pleasant.”
Heero looked up from his book suddenly and removed the headphones from his ears, “Come in, Trowa.”
Trowa smirked and entered the room, “You do that just to be a bastard, don't you?” He said, gazing around at the sparsely decorated, sparkling neat room.
“Hm?” Heero set his book on the table, and then placed the headphones on top of it.
“Announce who's at the door before they even knock.”
“Sometimes. Today I just didn't want to hear you knock.”
“That bad?” Trowa shook his head, “You could just tell us these things straight out.” He walked over to Heero and ran a soothing hand across his arm.
“Hn.” Heero closed his eyes, relaxing beneath the touch.
“Right, I forgot who I was talking to. Quatre suggested that we spend the L2 layover at L2 RC54VH9. The cluster Ganymede branch office is there and they would have Sentinel quarters,” Trowa quirked an eyebrow, stepping back, “Interested?”
Heero opened his eyes lip quirking wearily, “Yes, aren't you?”
Trowa nodded quickly, “Ready for shielded quarters? Of course. I've been holding shields day and night for how many weeks now? They're starting to get seriously frayed, but I don't dare take them down long enough to rebuild them. I don't know how Quatre handles it.”
“He's an empath, not a telepath. It's not as vital that he keep shields up constantly. And I rather suspect that he has been using the time while he has been inside my shields realigning my senses to rebuild his own shields.”
“Probably,” Trowa shook his head, a slight smile on his lips, “Devious little thing. Is there anything you need?”
“No.” Heero canted his head, “Is Wufei coming to L2 RC54VH9 with us?”
“Don't know. I haven't talked to him yet.” Trowa paused for a moment, lips pursed, “Probably. You know he's only coming along because Quatre needed a bodyguard.”
Heero snorted, “And because Quatre used those damn eyes of his.”
Trowa's lip quirked, “Naturally. Are you joining Quatre and I after dinner?”
“Maybe.” Heero picked his book back up, and resettled the headphones on his ears.
Trowa walked over to the door, “Right. See you at 1900. Bye” The door swung shut behind him.
Dinner was a quiet affair, though Quatre smiled brightly when Heero showed up in the mess hall for the first time that week. Afterwards the four of them met up outside the mess hall and headed down the corridors to Quatre's personal quarters.
Quatre smiled brightly as he opened the door to his quarters, “Come on in guys. It's been so long since we had the chance to meet and talk and I figure today is as good a time as any right?”
“It is not terrible at least,” Wufei smirked, “Although your planning has clearly deteriorated with time. An e-mail message, really? Whatever happened to sneaking around at all times of the day and night to deliver each message personally?”
“It met with the indomitable force of time,” Quatre reclined on a pile of cushions, “I had three different meetings yesterday and my free time was spent arranging for testing at some of the L2 orphanages. Why I ever agreed to do work for Ganymede in addition to my business as Father's heir I will never know.”
“You like to stay busy,” Trowa was curled into some unfathomable contortion on the floor, though he seemed to be comfortable, “And Ganymede is very important to all of us. With all this new unrest stirring between Earth and the colonies you felt that taking a more personal stand was advisable.”
“Did I actually say that or are you making things up, Trowa?” Quatre stared at him oddly, “And please straighten out. You're making my back hurt just looking at you,” turning to the fourth member of their party he smiled, “How about you Heero? Any smart ass comments for the one paying for your trip out here?”
“Hn. Do I look like an idiot? If I say something I may just find myself stranded somewhere only marginally habitable. Unlike Trowa I don't necessarily prove advantageous to have . . .” Heero suddenly stopped and bit down hard on his lip.
“Heero?” Quatre stared at him, “Is something wrong?”
“It's nothing. Just a little spike . . .” Heero turned his head to the side and glanced down as if embarrassed.
“Just a little spike? Heero!” Quatre rolled over and crawled over to where Heero was sitting on the floor. Reaching out, he pushed up the sleeve of Heero's shirt, “Just a little spike my ass! You're reacting to your clothing! I can see the rash! You need to tell me these things so I can help you. How long have you been spiking?”
Heero turned his head back and glared, “Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters. How long?” Quatre glared right back.
“Most of the evening. I shouldn't have gone to the mess hall,” Heero pulled the sleeve of his shirt back down and stood up, then swayed as his vision suddenly spiked, zooming in on the fibers of Quatre's shirt.
Trowa grabbed Heero's arm, “Are you going back to your quarters or do you want Quatre to help you?”
Heero straightened and yanked his arm back, “I'll be fine. Don't worry about me.”
“I repeat: are you going back to your quarters or do you want Quatre to help you?” Trowa added his own glare to Quatre's.
“I'll just . . .” Heero suddenly swayed again as his hearing spiked, the noise of the ship overwhelming him and causing him to fall to the ground.
“Both then,” Trowa picked Heero up, “Hang on. Quatre?”
Quatre opened the door and gestured in front of him, “Go.”
Wufei led the way as they headed out into the corridors.
“We have arrived at L2 G117L66. Please stand by for disembarking.”
Heero glared at the wall speaker in the corner of the room. He would not be getting off here, he would wait on the ship until his friends returned and they went to L2 RC54VH9 for the duration of the Faire. He might not have minded this, were it not for the fact that he was not staying on board solely of his own intent. No, he had been ordered by his well meaning but oh so dead friend to remain on board the Andante until they arrived at L2 RC54VH9. He understood their reasoning: the spike three days ago had scared them, not that it had been particularly spectacular but it was probably the worst one that had happened in their presence. This did not change the fact that he was . . . forcibly confined to the ship, but it made it more understandable. Heero sighed, reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his noise reducing headphones and sat down at the desktop monitor, opening the flight simulation for a commercial CS 128 shuttle. Maybe he could work on his license qualifications while he waited. He couldn't take the test until he got back to Ganymede but the practice simulations were pretty good, if not as intensive as a full simulation suite.
“. . . And I welcome you to the Winner Yearly Faire 198. Have fun!” Quatre smiled at the crowds as he ended his speech before turning and walking off the stage to where Trowa and Wufei were waiting. Handing his earpiece and microphone to a stage hand he smiled once more, “Let's head back to the ship. I don't need to make another appearance until the closing ceremonies and we promised Heero we would leave as soon as possible.”
“Then let us go. I know Heero isn't the only one looking forward to our stay on L2 RC54VH9.” Wufei smirked, “Also, the sooner we get you out of this crowd the safer.”
Quatre pursed his lips and blew softly, “I know, I know, but I really do think you all are taking this far too seriously. It's not as if whoever made those threats against the center would come after me.”
Trowa glared, “And why wouldn't they come after you? Quatre Winner and his annual tour are practically the biggest symbol of Ganymede Center there is, at least to the average person. All of which means that you are highly recognizable. So come on.”
Trowa and Wufei moved to sandwich Quatre between them before walking back towards the ship to collect Heero for the trip to L2 RC54VH9.
Heero paused the simulation looked up at the sound of a knock on his door, “Yes?”
“It's Quatre. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes. One minute.”
Heero quickly exited the simulation and put the computer in on standby. Walking over to the bed he shoved the headphones into his duffel with the other things he was taking with him, grabbed the case containing his personal computer and headed for the door. Triggering the release he stepped out into the hallway where Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei were waiting.
“We're leaving now?” Heero tried to keep the excitement out of his voice, “How are we getting there?”
“Didn't we tell you?” Quatre smiled, grabbing Heero with one hand and Trowa with the other, “I've hired a shuttle and pilot from the L2 transport division. They're waiting for us over at launch bay three.”
Quatre started down the hall, dragging both of them behind him. Wufei groaned, and bent to pick up the bags left lying in the hallway.
Heero frowned, “A pilot? Is that really necessary?” he asked, as he frantically attempted to keep up with Quatre's quick pace.
“In this case I think it is. None of us is really in any shape to fly and it would have taken much longer to get a shuttle rental than it did to hire a pilot with his own shuttle.” Quatre released Heero's hand and signaled the guard to open the ships doors, “Close them behind us, please.” He walked out the doors, into the docking bay.
Heero and Wufei followed Quatre and Trowa out of the ship, bags in their hands. A quick walk across the bay to the catwalks, then down two levels and across one to launch bay three and they were at the L2 transport desk.
Quatre released Trowa at last and walked up to the desk, “Winner, I hired a shuttle for a hop to L2 RC54VH9?”
The receptionist looked at her screen for a moment, entered some data and nodded, “Black ship over to the right, slot A-27.”
Quatre blinked, “That's not an inter-colony hopper, that's a full space lane qualified shuttle.”
The receptionist smiled, “Yeah, he normally doesn't do inter-colony stuff but he was the only one available on such short notice. Don't worry about it, the pilot's a great guy, he doesn't really mind.”
Quatre nodded, “Okay, if you're sure. Thanks.” Turning to the others he smiled, “Well then, come on!”
Quatre set out across the bay to the indicated slot, with its jet black occupant in his sights. Trowa stopped for a minute to grab his bags from Wufei and then followed closely behind. Wufei followed behind Heero, who was lagging slightly, his head spinning. Upon reaching the ship, Quatre walked up to the hatch and pushed the entry request button.
“Yes?” The pilot walked out: a slender, male figure clad in a black jumpsuit, “How may I help you?”
Quatre smiled, “Winner Party? The receptionist indicated that you were the one who would take us?”
“Yes, I am. Come onboard.” He gestured to the open hatch.
Wufei and Heero arrived at the ship just then and turned to follow Quatre up the ramp. As they passed the pilot, Heero suddenly stopped.
The other three immediately turned to face him.
“Heero?” Quatre asked.
Heero walked up to the pilot and sniffed at his neck, then raised his face to stare the pilot in the eyes. “My Guide.”
Wufei frowned, and turned to the pilot. “Stay still for a moment.”
“Planning on it.”
Wufei turned to Heero, “Heero, none of us will take him away from you, but we need to go onboard the ship now. To do that you will have to step away from him for a moment or two. I promise he will not run away.”
Heero snarled softly, then stopped for a second and closed his eyes, “Acceptable.” He turned and followed Trowa the rest of the way onto the ship.
Wufei returned his gaze to the pilot, “I understand if you are upset, but this must be figured out now. Will you join us?”
The pilot nodded, “He's a Sentinel?”
“Yes. Come, we will sort this all out.”
The five young men gathered in the passenger area of the ship, sitting around the table in the lounge/eating area. A minute passed, and then Quatre began the conversation.
“Well, as you might have guessed, Heero here is a Sentinel.” He paused for a moment, and frowned slightly, “And you are apparently a Guide potential. His Guide . . . um, what is your name?”
“Duo, my name is Duo. Are you sure about this? Aren't guides supposed to be telepaths, or empaths? Because I've never noticed anything like that and I really think I would have. So isn't it possible he just . . . made a mistake?” the pilot, now identified as Duo chattered nervously.
Quatre smiled at him, and shook his head, “Doubtful, and definitely not after he made eye contact. Those telepaths and empaths with Guide potential emit certain pheromones that are very distinctive. And if you weren't his Guide, he would have known as soon as he made eye contact. You are a Guide potential, and more specifically you are Heero's Guide. There are no ifs about it.”
“No!” Duo exploded, “No, I can't be a Guide, I just . . . can't.” He stood up and started for the door, “I'll get you to your destination, and then you'll leave me alone, okay?”
“Stop!” Heero's voice cut across the room as he sprung from his seat and dashed across the room to grab Duo around the waist, “Don't leave.” His voice softened and he sat down on the floor, pulling Duo to sit on his lap.
“How do you know you're not a Guide?” Trowa asked, “Have you ever been tested?”
“I,” Duo struggled for a moment against Heero's grasp, then settled down, glaring fiercely, “No I've never been tested, there was never the opportunity when I was young enough.”
“So, how do you know you're not a telepath or an empath, a Guide? You have a Newtype body structure, it's perfectly reasonable that you have the gifts as well.” Trowa's voice was calm and soft.
“But . . .” Duo stammered, then sighed and slumped back. Heero drew him further onto his lap and rested his head on his shoulder, concentrating on sending calming feelings through the nascent bond.
“It's really not that bad Duo,” Heero insisted. “You may be a little older than usual, but it's not unheard of and you'll get the best training possible. I won't let them hurt you; you have nothing to be afraid of . . .”
“And what about my life, my ship, those sorts of things? I can't just pick up my life and leave!” Duo batted away Heero's hand as it began to stroke his arm softly, then slid out of his grip to sit on the floor in front of him. “I can't, really.”
“I'm sorry Duo,” Trowa knelt facing him, “But there really isn't any other way. We'll let you have some time to think, but you know what you need to do.” He stood, “We need to get underway. Duo, it's your ship. Heero, you're staying in the back. Give him some space.”
Heero nodded and stood, walking back to his chair and strapping in for launch. Duo also stood and walked out the forward door into the cockpit. Moments later, his voice came over the intercom.
“Ship will be launching in five minutes. All passengers must be in their seats with the belts fastened. Ship will be launching in five minutes.”
Heero spent the brief flight from L2 G117L66 to L2 RC54VH9 sitting stiffly in his seat, glaring at the door that separated the open passengers bay from the cockpit. Logically he understood that Trowa was right in that his guide, Duo, needed some time away from him to process things. If they were in the same room there would be no way he could keep from staring, straining, wanting to touch, and that would make his Guide even more upset. But still . . . his Guide! He had found him, after all this time and Trowa was keeping them apart . . . he snarled softly.
“No, Heero. I know you want to but leave him alone. We'll be at the colony soon, and I'll make sure he comes to the Ganymede offices with us but if you were with him you'd just distract him.” Trowa sighed and rubbed gently at the bridge of his nose. Talking Heero down when he went into Sentinel overdrive was always a long and tiresome process. Sentinels were highly territorial and protective, particularly of their Guides and stress or extreme emotion could send them into states where their higher reasoning stopped inhibiting these drives. Heero normally had excellent control, being of a naturally calm temperament but the stress of the last few weeks, combined with this very public `rejection' by his Guide . . . He was wound tighter than a clock-spring, barely holding on to control.
Quatre placed a hand on Trowa's shoulder and leaned across him towards Heero. “Heero, it's fine really. We'll be at L2 RC54VH9 soon and then we'll all sit down and figure this out. He's not going to leave you, I swear.”
Heero turned away from the door for a second to glare at Quatre, grumbling low in his chest.
“Okay fine. Just hold on okay? We're nearly there,” Quatre smiled brightly despite the glower aimed at him.
“Ship will be landing in five minutes. All passengers should return to their seats and fasten the safety belts. Ship will be landing in five minutes.”
Duo stood up and walked to the door from the cockpit to the passenger bay. As soon as he walked through his passengers would have him out the door and on the way to wherever they were headed. He didn't know what to think. On one hand, being a Newtype wasn't that bad, in fact it was the sort of thing children dreamed about. On the other hand, he had a life, a job and ship. To give that all up and become Guide to a Sentinel meant forging a bond as deep and meaningful as marriage, a bond that was for life. Duo sighed, shook his head and opened the door.
“Duo!” Quatre leapt out of his seat and ran towards the door as it opened, “I know we have some things we need to talk about. Please come with us? We're heading for the local Ganymede branch office, they'll have someplace we can all sit down in private.”
“Um,” Duo looked nervously at them, “What about my ship? I'm not going to just leave it here.”
“Don't worry about it.” Quatre smiled, “I'll pay the docking fees and we can pick it back up on our way off colony. Everything will be fine.”
“Umm, well,” Duo stammered, still unsure.
“Come.” Heero stood and walked over to him, placing his hand on his arm. “If Quatre says it will be fine it will be. We need to sort this out, my Guide. I'm not letting you go, but I don't want to ruin your life either. Please.”
Duo nodded once, “Okay, I'll come. You go sort out the docking fees and I'll close up the ship.”
Heero frowned, “Quatre and Trowa will take care of it. Wufei will go with them. I will stay with you until they come back.”
“Okay.” Duo gestured toward the door, “Everybody out, I need to lock up.”
Trowa and Quatre headed towards the docking office with Wufei behind them scanning the area for signs of danger. Heero stood beside the ship, attention focused on his Guide as he went about the lockdown procedures for his ship.
Heero's total concentration could probably be credited for the fact that he spotted the glint of light only milliseconds before Wufei and that neither of them had time to knock Quatre to the ground before the sharp crack of a gunshot rang through the receiving bay.
Trowa's instincts were on the mark as he launched himself at Quatre, knocking both of them to the ground. The move saved Quatre's life, but the bullet had been launched from above and went through Trowa's arm to lodge itself in Quatre's hip.
Heero and Wufei were instantly on the move. Heero grabbed Duo's arm and dragged him over to where Quatre and Trowa were lying. Wufei took off across the bay to where he had seen the light glinting on top of a shuttle. As Wufei and the bay's security personal tracked the shooter Heero knelt down beside Quatre and Trowa on the bay floor. Taking off Quatre's belt, he wrapped it tightly around Trowa's arm to stop the bleeding. Then he leaned over and began applying pressure to the wound in Quatre's hip.
“Call for an ambulance.” Heero's command to Duo was short and to the point. He could feel himself starting to zone on the blood as it absorbed all his senses on one point. “Hurry.”
Duo pulled out his personal communicator and called colony emergency services to request an ambulance. He then turned to Heero and reported, “Okay, done. What else needs to happen?” When Heero didn't respond he leaned over and put his hand on Heero's shoulder, “Heero?”
Just then the ambulance crew arrived, toting stretchers into the bay. They stopped beside them and lifted Trowa onto one of the stretchers. They nodded approvingly at the belt strapped to the wound. They went to lift Quatre only to find that Heero wouldn't let go of him.
“Hey, it's all right, we're here, you can let go now,” one of the medics attempted to reason with him. When that didn't work they turned to Duo, “What's wrong with him?”
“I don't know. He's a Sentinel, maybe that has something to do with it?”
“Shit, probably zoned. Where's his Guide?”
“He says I am, but we just met,” Duo sighed with frustration. “His other friend went after the shooter I think but maybe if I can find him he would know what to do.”
“Stay here. You're his Guide, you can bring him around. It's much safer than attempting to startle him awake or using chemical methods.”
“But how? I'm not trained for any of this stuff. I'm only here because he insists that I am his Guide. What if I break him or something?” Duo glared at the man while absentmindedly twitching the end of his braid with one hand.
“It's okay. Look, my little sister's a Guide so I'm going to talk you through this. Then the two of you can get to the branch office and get things sorted out, okay?” a medic stood up, leaving the others to tend to Trowa, “Now I want you to walk over there and put one hand on each of his shoulders,” Duo did as instructed, “Good, just like that. Now talk to him. Ask him to wake up, or come back. Be calm, but firm, he'll hear you.”
“Okay. Heero? Man, I need you to come back now. Quatre's hurt I know, but the medics are here now and they can't take him until you let go of him. Come on. Wake up now so the nice men can help your friends. Come on buddy.”
Heero groaned and opened his eyes. Disoriented, he raised his hands to his face and found them covered with blood. This instantly reminded him where he was, “Quatre! I oh . . .”
Duo stood up straight and removed his hands from Heero's shoulders, “He'll be fine. The ambulance is here now but they need you to move so they can help Quatre, so why don't you stand up, okay?”
Heero nodded his head and slowly stood, “Okay. What happened? I could feel myself zoning and then . . .”
“You zoned and then the nice ambulance worker helped me bring you around. Now he's helping Quatre.” Duo placed a hand on Heero's shoulder, “You should go with him. Your other friend, Wufei wasn't it? He's off chasing the bad guys. I'll stay here with my ship so I'm not in your hair. I'll stay and wait for you don't worry; but let's face it, I don't even know any of you really. I'd just be in the way anywhere else.”
Heero growled softly and turned to face him, the hand falling of his shoulder as he turned, “No, my Guide, you will not stay here. We will both go to the hospital, make sure Quatre and Trowa are being taken care of and then we will go the Ganymede offices on this colony.” He turned to the ambulance crew, “We have to get the ship taken care of and arrange for a message to be left for my other friend. Is it okay if we catch a transport to the hospital in a few minutes?”
“Yes, of course. There really isn't any spare room in the ambulance any way.” One of the medics came forward with a clipboard, “If we could have some basic information about your friends first, however, it would be very helpful
“Of course,” he pointed to Trowa, “Trowa Barton. Twenty-three years old. Telepath. No known allergies.” Turning, he pointed to Quatre, “Quatre Winner. Twenty-two years old. Empath. Allergic to chocolate.”
The medic nodded, “Thank you. That is enough for now but someone will need to come to the hospital as soon as possible and fill out more information. We are going to Shady Grove Medical Center.”
“Thank you,” Heero turned to Duo, “We will go back to the ship and clean up, then go pay for a berth and go to the hospital.”
Duo nodded, “Okay.” He walked back to the ship and began typing in the series of codes to unlock it. A minute or two later Heero came on board and joined him, walking inside as soon as the doors opened.
“You're fine, but I need to wash up.” Heero whispered in Duo's ear as he passed by. “Bring the black duffle from out side the ship to the bathroom? I need to wash up quick before I touch anything, and my clothes . . .” Heero made a vague gesture at his blood spotted clothes before walking into the bathroom and beginning to clean his hands and arms.
Duo reached outside the ship to where everyone had left their bags while going to get the ship berthed. After dragging all the bags into the ship he grabbed the black duffel and headed to the bathroom. He knocked on the door and waited until it opened before he passed the bag inside. “Here.” He then walked back to his personal quarters onboard the ship and grabbed a couple of things to add to his own bag. He took them out to the front and found Heero waiting, bag in hand. “One second,” he quickly shoved the items into his own duffel, closed it and tossed the strap over his shoulder. “Okay, lets go.”
They got off the ship and walked over to the docking office, where they paid for the ship to be kept for the immediate future and left a message for Wufei to find them at Shady Grove Medical Center. They then walked out the front and hailed a transport to take them to the Medical Center.
It took almost twenty minutes to get the ship taken care of and catch a ride to the medical center. By the time they walked into the emergency wing Heero was frustrated and worried beyond belief. Walking up to the desk with Duo trailing behind him, he inquired after his friends.
“They're being processed right now,” he was told. “The duty physician will contact us when they are done. If they need any surgery it could be a bit. In the mean time if you could fill out some paperwork . . .” The nurse handed him a clipboard and two packets of papers. “I'll call you as soon as I receive word on their conditions.”
Grumbling softly under his breath Heero walked over to the seating area, zooming in on two empty chairs placed next to each other. Taking one, he gestured for Duo to take the one next to him. He filled out the paperwork quickly and meticulously then tapped it once and stood to take it to the desk. When he returned to his seat he closed his eyes and waiting patiently for the call.
“Persons for Trowa Barton?” The call came from one of the doorways, where an emergency room nurse was standing.
Heero stood and grabbed Duo's hand. “Here,” he said, walking over to the doorway, Duo trailing behind him like a lost puppy.
“He's through now. We've placed him a room and you can go back now.” The nurse gestured down the hallway, which lead into the hospital proper. “Elevators are at the end of the hall way, on the left. Mr. Barton is in room 307. He may only have one visitor for now please.
Heero nodded, “Thank you. Do you know anything about the young man that was brought in with him, Quatre Winner?”
The nurse shook his head, “No, would you like me to find out?” he pointed toward the emergency room reception desk, “I can leave a message at the desk for you.”
“Thank You.” Heero turned to Duo, tugging slightly at his hand. “Let's go. You can wait outside the room.”
“Or I could wait here. It would be just as easy.” Duo tried to unclasp his hand from Heero's, meeting with only minimal success. “It's really not necessary that I follow you everywhere.”
Heero growled, “You are not going out of my sight. It's not that I don't trust you, but right now . . .” He tugged once more at Duo's hand. “Come on. I want to see him.”
Duo shrugged, tilting his head to the side. “All right then,” he finally freed his hand from Heero's grip and stuck it in his pocket, “Lead the way.”
Heero took of down the hall, Duo trailing behind, head down, and hands in pockets.
Once they got up to the third floor, locating Trowa's room was accomplished without to much hassle, thanks to clearly labeled signs posted at each corridor intersection. Once they arrived, Duo took up a stance just to the left of the door, leaning against a wall, while Heero went in.
Heero walked into the room. Looking around he discovered it was a double, with Trowa being in the bed farthest from the door, and the other bed currently unoccupied. Walking up to Trowa's bed he smiled, “Hi Trowa.”
Trowa's eyes flickered open, blinking at the light in the room, “Hey Heero, any news on Quatre?”
Heero shook his head, “None yet. I am hoping to hear something once we go back down. I'll try to get him transferred to your room, okay?” He smiled.
Trowa blinked again. “That would be great. I guess I'll see you then.” He yawned, “Now shoo. I need my beauty sleep.”
Heero shook his head and walked out of the room. Collecting Duo he headed back towards the elevator and the first floor.
When they came back down from visiting Trowa Wufei was waiting for them in the lobby of the emergency section. Heero made sure Duo was seated, then nodded to Wufei and gestured him over to a corner where they could talk somewhat privately.
“Any luck?” Heero whispered, placing a hand on Wufei's shoulder.
Wufei growled softly, and shook his head. “No. Unfortunately I was unable to track the shooter beyond the outer doors of the spaceport. I am sorry”
Heero sighed, “It's alright. Go take a seat; I need to see what the report is on Quatre.” He gestured Wufei into a seat beside Duo, then walked over to the desk
The note at the desk revealed that Quatre was in surgery to remove the bullet from his hip and would likely be done in twenty minutes or so. It was time stamped from 10 minutes ago, and the nurse at the desk informed him that Quatre would likely be in recovery for an additional half an hour after surgery was finished. After receiving this information, Heero walked back over to Wufei and Duo.
Wufei looked up at him. “Well?”
Heero frowned, “It will likely be another forty minutes before he is ready to be moved to a room. Some one needs to go and inform the Ganymede offices of the delay.”
Wufei stared at him. “You haven't called them yet? You, our own dear Mr. Efficiency haven't called to report what has happened?”
Heero snarled. “I've been busy, okay?”
Wufei nodded, “Fine. I'll go report in, and you can see to Quatre. Is it possible to have him and Trowa in the same room?”
Heero shrugged “I hope so.”
“Try. Explain the situation to the hospital; I'll be back in an hour to stand guard over Quatre.” Wufei walked out of the medical center, heading towards the railway. The offices were actually pretty close, but he needed to save time wherever possible.
Wufei arrived in one hour on the dot, just as visiting hours closed for the night. Heero had already explained the situation to the hospital staff, who had agreed to place Quatre and Trowa in the same room, and to allow Wufei to stand guard. Unfortunately, by the time Wufei arrived in a Ganymede chauffeured car, Heero was barely hanging on. His senses were all over the place, and he clung tightly to Duo. This continued all through the ride across the colony to the Ganymede offices; Heero taking even, measured breaths with his eyes tightly closed. By the time they arrived he was mostly back to himself, walking up to the door unaided and reporting to the front desk that he had arrived. He had barely done so when an odd figure walked through the doors of the reception area.
"Heero my boy we have been expecting you. And this is your Guide of course; I believe Wufei said his name is Duo?"
Heero started, blinking once and reaching back to grab Duo's hand. “Doctor J. I was not aware you were on this colony.”
“G and I were nearby and decided to come over when we heard you would be stopping here in case you needed him. You've always responded well to his mind touch.”
Heero bobbed his head in agreement. “Thank you for that consideration; I had been having some difficulties but if you've talked to Wufei you know that. As for the other . . . Yes, this is my Guide, Duo. Duo, this is the senior sentinel trainer at Ganymede. We call him Dr. J."
J's craggy face broke into a grin, “Well Duo it is a pleasure to meet you. Who was your training master? You weren't one of G's or I would recognize you.”
Duo stared at him, eyes wide, unblinking.
J looked at him, mouth twitching into a frown, “Well boy, speak up.”
Duo glared at him, "What's it to you?” He growled softly at the back of his throat.
Heero walked up to him, placing his arms on his shoulders. “Mine, calm down. J doesn't mean anything by it; it is a fairly standard question . . .”
Duo shifted his glare to point at Heero. “Yours? Since when am I yours? I may have agreed to sit down and listed and you explain yourselves, and even to testing if you insist, but that doesn't make me yours.”
Heero frowned. “You are my Guide. I can't change that. I thought you had accepted it. You brought me around, and you've been allowing me . . .”
“As upset as you were, I wasn't going to leave you alone. You needed help and I could provide it. That doesn't grant you some indelible right to my personage.” Duo's glare intensified, and his lips were forming a definite frown.
Heero sighed. “Okay. Look, why don't you let them take you to a room. I need to talk to J for a bit. In the morning you can talk to G, who is in charge of specialized Guide training. He can test you and arrange for training. Will you allow at least that much?”
Duo sighed. “Okay, fine.” He crossed his arms. “As long as it's clear that I'm not agreeing to anything.” He sighed again. “I guess I will see you in the morning.”
Duo turned to the front desk where the secretary nodded to him and gestured to a door. “Room 257, up one level and to the right,” he said.
Heero closed his eyes for a second and tracked Duo as he moved across the second floor. He sighed softly and then opened his eyes.
J looked as his pupil softly. "He is untrained?"
"Untrained? Yes and as you saw, resistant to the entire idea that he is a Guide, much less my Guide.” Heero shook his head, “At least he has agreed to receive training now. Before, he was refusing even that intrusion on his life." Heero stared at the ceiling, tracking his Guide's movement through the quarters he had been assigned. "I just have to hope now."
J rested his real hand gently on Heero's shoulder, "He'll come around. He likes you."
Heero shook his head, "Gods I hope so. And I'm not telling him about the connecting door, or even that my being next door is anything but coincidence."
J smiled and shook his head. "I'll tell G he has a new student."
Duo walked down the hallway of the second floor, stopping when he reached room 257. Looking at the door he could see not visible lock. Frowning he reached out and twisted the handle.
"Hello resident. Please clearly state your name for voiceprint lock."
Duo blinked. That was interesting, but he supposed . . . "Duo Maxwell."
The door clicked open beneath his hand, as the voice announced, "Voiceprint registered. To gain access to this room for the duration of your stay, state your name to unlock the door."
Duo nodded absentmindedly and walked in. Looking around the room he found it looked like a very nice hotel room. The main room held a sofa and television and behind a wall screen there was a double bed and a small table. A doorway to the side led to a small kitchenette with a bar overlooking the room. Another door led to the bathroom while the third was locked. He sighed and walked over to the bed to collapse.
Lying on his back, Duo thought back over the events of the day. From meeting his new clients, to the sudden shooting, and now here he was, relaxing in a room at a Ganymede office after being declared a Guide. He had even agreed to meet with a Guide trainer. He wasn't sure what was happening but Heero had asked and damn it, he liked the guy.
Sighing, he rolled over onto his stomach and pulled one pillow over his head. He would think about it in the morning.
Duo awoke to a loud, repetitive pounding. It took him a moment to realize the sound was that of someone at the door. Groggily shaking his head, he began climbing out of bed.
“What is it?” He called to the person at the door.
“You mean who,” a voice answered. “It's Heero. May I come in?”
“Give me a moment or two,” Duo replied, making his way over to the door and unlocking it. “Okay, you can come in.”
“Thank you.” Heero opened the door and stepped into the room. “I hope you slept well. I thought I would fill you in on what would be happening today.”
Duo blinked once as a surprisingly soft hand brushed across his cheek and Heero leaned closer to him, nostrils flaring briefly. Glaring he stepped away from Heero and rubbed a hand across his cheek.
“Thank you, I guess. I would like to know what is going to happen . . . as long as they're not going to force me to do anything.” Duo frowned softly for a moment, eyes flaring briefly with anger.
Heero stepped back as well, eyes sad. “He won't force you to do anything, mi- . . . Duo. He will probably simply treat you as they would a newly bonded guide, or a person with just awakening gifts. G is very good, a powerful telepath, and an excellent trainer from all I hear. At least listen to him and allow the training of your gifts.”
Duo stared at him. “And what about the other stuff? The stuff that doesn't have anything to do with my gifts?”
Heero sighed. “It would greatly please me if you would agree to be my guide, but neither he nor I will force you to accept that aspect. In matters to do with guiding a sentinel I simply ask that you listen to what he has to say.”
Duo nodded. “I can do that. What are you going to do while I'm in training? I may not want to be your guide full time, but I saw you yesterday. You were a mess.”
Heero smiled softly at this sign that his guide at least cared and that his behavior yesterday hadn't been just fluke. “I will probably stay in my room and wait for Wufei to be relieved by the guards the center was arranging for. Once he has gotten some sleep he and I may go over to visit Quatre and Trowa. Then he will probably spend the evening tracking down leads on who may have ordered the shooting while I stay in my room.” The unsaid `And wait for you to come back' passed between them.
Duo smiled and laughed, “You need a life man. Come see me this evening and we can talk. I would like to get to know you, so if I . . .”
Heero's eyes softened for a moment before saying, “I'd like that.” His brain was racing as he said it though. `So if he what? So if he stays? Oh, please let that word have been stay.'
Duo's voice intruded on Heero's musings. “So man, you were going to tell me the plan for today, right? Spill.”
Heero pulled himself back to the here and now. “Hn. G will arrive at about 0800 and take you to the testing labs. There you will undergo the procedures all new Ganymede students undergo to determine the strength and type of your gifts. The tests will take most of the morning and afternoon, with a break for lunch. Sometime in the late afternoon the two of you will go up to the fourth floor, where you will sit down and make up a training schedule designed to bring you up to basic competence in your powers over the course of the next year. If you decide to accept the Guide training he has to offer, those will be an additional course you will take during that time. After you have achieved this level there are other, optional things you can study at the center itself, under other instructors.”
“A year! I can't just drop my life for a whole year. What about my job, my apartment, my friends?” Duo shouted. “What do you expect me to do?”
“Duo, it normally takes all of middle and high school to receive this training. One year is the absolute minimum.” Heero shook his head, “You can call your friends from the center and you have Sundays off. Someone will help you pack your apartment and move everything to the center. And as for your job, I thought you were self-employed. Sure it will be a setback, but if you have loyal customers . . .”
Duo growled, “I may be self employed, but I have a contract with the Sweepers for shipping work that I can't just back out on. I like my apartment and vid calls and one day a week are not the same as hangin' out with my friends.”
Heero ran a hand through his hair. “Sweepers will give you time off for this. Their Captain, Howard, was a late blooming psychokinetic. They know the deal. You're an inner space shipping vehicle's Captain; you're away from your friends and your apartment for weeks at a time. Once a week visits are fairly frequent and if you like your apartment so much, find a way to keep it.”
Duo walked up to Heero and waved a hand in front of his face. “Hello? Apartment takes money. No job equals no money coming in. I'm stuck with whatever crappy excuse for an apartment they provide.”
“On base housing is pretty nice, but I can see you're determined to be difficult.” Heero closed his eyes for a moment. “Can you please state the rest of your objections more softly?”
“Fine.” Duo said softly. “I'm sorry for being so difficult. It's just, a whole year . . .”
“Seems like a lot.” Heero's lips quirked into a small smile, “But you're starting to come on line now; and if you don't get training by the end of a year you won't be able to work at all. Late bloomers are usually much more powerful than other potentials and they tend to come on line all at once, instead of gradually over the course of a few years. Can you see why I'm concerned?”
Duo ducked his head. “Yeah. Okay. You said this guy will show up at 0800 right? Now scram, I need to get ready.”
Heero turned and walked out the door. Another crisis averted. Now if only he could get rid of this headache.
G wandered down the halls, tracking in on the feel of Heero's mind to locate which suite in the paired Sentinel - Guide quarters the pair had been given. Of course, he could have just asked the receptionist, but that would ruin his mystique. Ah, here they were. Walking up to the proper door he knocked twice, then stepped back to wait.
Duo had just finished braiding his still-damp hair when the knock came at his door. Standing, he walked towards the door while wrapping an elastic band around the end of his hair. “Who is it?”
G snorted. “Professor G. I'm here for one Duo Maxwell.”
Duo opened the door, “Hi, I'm Duo.”
G smiled at the young man before him, “Nice to meet you. Heero has told you what is going to happen, yes?”
“Yeah he did.” Duo flicked his braid behind his back and stepped out to let the door close behind him. “So, which way?”
G started off down the hall heading left. “This way of course. Elevator to the basement is at the end of this hallway.” He turned around, seeing that Duo had not moved. “Step sharp now. Don't want to get left behind.”
Duo shook his head and started down the hallway after G, `Man, this guy is . . . indescribable.'
Once in the basement, Duo followed G through a seemingly endless series of twists and turns, finally ending up at a plain metal door set into the wall. The sign on the door read “Testing”, and G opened it to reveal a large bank of computers situated behind a chair with an electrode mesh lying across its back. A technician sat on a chair in front of the computers, typing something into the system.
G coughed softly and then spoke. “Alan we're here now. Is the system up?”
The technician spun his chair around, revealing a young man of about twenty-five. “Yes sir. If the young man could have a seat in this chair . . .” He walked over and lifted the electrode mesh off of the chair, gesturing for Duo to take a seat.
Duo walked over and sat down in the seat, leaning back slightly. The technician looked at his hair briefly and sighed. “Sir, could you please take your hair down so I can properly position the electrodes?”
Duo bolted upright. “Repeat that.” He said, eyes making his displeasure quite known.
The technician took a step back and spoke, his voice faint. “Sir, I'm sorry, but in order to properly place the electrodes I need you to take your hair down. Some of them lie along the back of the head and base of the neck, and in order to position them properly I need your hair to be loose, as in not braided.”
Duo glared, and then stood. “I'm only doing this because Heero asked me to, you understand. Whatever I may think of you, I respect him. But if you ever tell any one I did this, I'll hurt you.” Glaring and muttering under his breath, he pulled the tie from the end of his braid and began unraveling the strands. Once he was done he walked back over to the chair and sat down, leaning back and flicking his hair over the seat back
Once he was seated the technician walked over behind him and began placing electrodes on his head. The mesh rested on top of the hair, with the electrodes threading down to rest on the skull and secured with conductive paste. It took almost twenty minutes to get them all secured, after which the technician stepped back for a moment. “Okay now the next couple of hours are going to be kind of boring. We're going to ask you to do a number of weird things and to respond to weird things done by other new types. We'll take a break for lunch and then we'll ask you to take some tests with the electrodes still attached. That will finish up around 1600 and then you'll go upstairs with the Professor and work out your training schedule. Okay?”
Duo nodded. “I think I understand.”
The technician smiled. “Then let's go.”
Over the next three hours Duo felt like his brain was being taken apart. It started with a whole ream of people that walked into the room one at a time. They would just stand there, and then suddenly something would happen. His head would hurt for a second and then a box would fly across the room. They would stare him in the eye and he would start hearing voices. Occasionally, nothing would happen, but those moments were rare. Then the slew of people stopped and G stood in front of him and told him to try and recapture those feelings, with startling results. Trying to recapture that moment before something flew resulted in a paper exploding into bits. Trying to recapture the voices lead to hearing G say something about telepathy, without his lips moving. By the time they stopped his head was aching, there was a pile of exploded bits on the floor in front of him, and he had learned more about telepathy than he had ever thought possible.
Lunch was a simple affair. It was served in the lab by a plain looking girl who he thought he recognized from the testing. Duo ate quickly and neatly, trying not to pull against the electrodes still glued to his head. After lunch was cleared away, a table was pulled up in front of him, and a thick packet was set down on it.
G placed his hand on the packet. “This is a copy of the standardized testing all Colonial students take upon their graduation from High School. He placed three pencils and an eraser beside the test. “The card is inside the front cover, you have four hours. Go.”
Duo pulled the packet closer to him and opened it. Placing the answer card next to him, he verified that the format appeared the same as the one he had taken when he had graduated. Shaking his head he grabbed a pencil and began filling out the answers.
Three and a half hours later he pulled himself up from his focused daze and closed the test. G walked over to him. “Done already, boy?”
Duo nodded. “Yes.”
G smiled. “Knew you were smart. Alright then. Alan will take the electrodes off while I print off the test results, okay?”
Duo nodded again. “Okay.”
1600 found Duo ensconced in G's comfortable but eclectic office, hair tied in a loose ponytail.
Duo sat in the leather armchair, staring at G across the desk. “So Prof, what's the verdict?”
G smiled. “Well boy, you are unique if nothing else. One of the twenty existing doubles on record.”
Duo cocked his head. “Doubles as in I have two gifts?”
G nodded. “Exactly boy. You are a telepath and a psychokinetic. One of the more common combinations to be sure, but there are still only five or six of them at the center.”
Duo rolled his eyes. “Is that supposed to impress me, Prof?”
G laughed. “Not necessarily, but given that you are a Guide it's an interesting pair. Guides tend to be more passive. They learn to fight but usually rely on their Sentinels to protect them when it comes down to it. On the other hand, psychokinetics are known for taking care of physical dangers quickly and efficiently. See?”
Duo leaned back. “Yeah, I see. So this schedule we're supposed to be creating . . .”
G placed the testing results on the desk. “Normally it would take about a year to bring you up to what I consider a reasonable level. Given the results you've shown, and the fact that you already have a Sentinel, I've had to revise that some. So, for the next several weeks, while Trowa and Quatre recover, you and I are going to work on basic telepathic control and background material for Guiding a Sentinel. After that . . .”
Duo interrupted. “Wait a minute. While I've agreed to learn about my gifts and how to control them, I haven't agreed that I will become a Guide. That's a lifetime commitment, and not one I feel I can just make. There's more to my life than the center.”
G shook his head. “Heero's being too easy on you boy, and it's because he's your Sentinel and can't stand the thought of hurting you. So I'm going to lay it on you straight. If you don't agree to bond with him and become his Guide, sometime within the next eight years he's going to go insane, and you will have to watch the whole time and know you could have prevented it. If he doesn't go insane, it will be because he finally got tired of waiting for you and killed himself.”
Duo shot out of his chair. “What? I mean, yeah I knew he had some problems, but insanity, killing himself? Couldn't he just find another Guide?”
G frowned and shook his head once more. “That's not the way it works. One Sentinel, one Guide. They are, for lack of a better term, soul mates.”
Duo collapsed back into the chair. “Soul mates? So you mean for him it's me, or no one. I have a choice, but he doesn't.”
G nodded gravely. “Exactly.”
Heero jolted up in suprise as his door was flung open, and Duo came flying through. A wince, as Duo slammed the door behind him, and then he was rising to his feet and turning to face his irate Guide.
“Duo?” He asked, hoping his calm tone would lend some serenity to the situation, “What is wrong?”
Duo flamed up at that instead of calming. “What's wrong? What's wrong he asks. Only that you have been lying through your teeth every time you said it was my choice to stay or go. Lying because you knew if I found out the truth the choice would be nil. You think I want to see you die?”
`Oh, that. Damn it G, couldn't you have waited to tell him? I didn't want him forced into this . . .' He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, “I was not lying, precisely. It is and will always be your choice. I merely . . . omitted certain pertinent information.”
Duo snorted and shook his head, “A lie is a lie no matter how you pretty it up. That was something I needed to know to make an informed decision, and you kept it from me.”
Heero turned his gaze away and smiled sadly. “I didn't want you to feel forced. If it had come from me, at this point before we knew each other well, you would have felt pressured to make a certain decision, based on perceived obligations as a well meaning person. I did not wish that. I wanted you to decide on your own whether to stay or go. And it's not like I would have kept it from you forever. If nothing else, once we were onboard at Ganymede, the truth would have come out. It's common knowledge there.”
“Oh, so it's okay for me to find out secondhand, but not from you? Is that what you're saying? What's so much better about me finding out from someone else? Or were you just to chicken to tell me out right?” Duo scowled, glaring at Heero's head.
“No, I simply hoped that by the time we arrived at Ganymede you would have decided in my favor. I wanted you to make this choice . . .”
Duo interrupted him “Yeah, I know of my own free will. You wanted me to choose you because I honestly liked you and felt we would be good together, and not because of some perceived obligation. Well it's too late for that. I liked you enough that I was considering staying, now there is no way I can't stay. It's the decision I probably would have made anyway, just forced on me a little early. So don't worry about it.
Heero looked at him for a moment, then reached out and ran a hand down his cheek. “You were honestly considering staying before he said anything?”
Duo smiled, and captured the hand just as it left his cheek, “I don't lie.”
Heero's eyes closed, a relieved look flashing across his face, “Okay then. Thank you.”
Duo released his hand, “It used to be my dream you know. That some how, miraculously, someone would discover I was a Newtype and then someone would want me. That's part of what scared me. If it was going to happen, why not when I was the young worthless kid at the orphanage? Why now when I was settled and grown. But at the same time . . . It's fulfilling a dream, you know?
Heero smiled, treasuring this moment of vulnerability from his Guide. “Sometimes, things don't happen at the time we want them, but at the time we are most suited for them.”
Duo rolled his eyes playfully, “Alright o great sage. So, what are we going to do now?”
Heero wrinkled his nose, “Great sage, am I. And now, you are going to tell me about your test results, and schedule.”
“Well, my test results I know, I'm a double, telepath and psychokinetic,” Duo blinked then frowned, “But as for my schedule . . . I kind of ran out as soon as G told me the facts about bonding, and Sentinels and Guides.”
Heero sighed, exasperated, and glared gently for good measure, “And I'm sure that impressed everyone so much. Come on, we'll go talk to G together, find out what he thinks we should do, and then . . .” A knock at the door interrupted him, “Yes?”
G's voice came from outside the door, “Heero, I know my erstwhile trainee is in there with you. So why don't you let me in so I can finish briefing him.”
Heero rolled his eyes as he walked over to the door. Opening it he stared at G's ear for a moment. “Should I even ask how long you've been here, sir?
G smiled, and pushed him aside to step into the room, “I'm sure you don't want to know. Touching conversation, but we really do need to finish business first.”
Heero nodded, “Very well then. How soon can we bond?”
Duo shrieked and looked absolutely panicked.
G smirked “I was thinking of other business, but that will work I figured I wanted some time to get the basics into Duo, so as long as you think the two of you spending time together will be enough, I had hoped to push the actual bonding off till the end of the month. That's a little over two weeks away. Ideally, by that time Quatre and Trowa will be recovered enough to transport, and we can go to Ganymede for the actual ceremony and the bonding week. After the bonding week we will move into intensive training, both singular training with Duo's abilities and paired fighting, and pair work after that, to get the two of you up to snuff.
Heero glared at him, not satisfied with what he had revealed, “And how long will that last?”
G shook his head, “Hopefully no longer than a year, maybe less.”
Heero nodded, “Acceptable.” Walking over to Duo, who was still standing frozen, he placed a hand on his shoulder. “Duo, mine, do you have any questions?”
Duo closed his eyes for a moment and then spoke, “I guess it all sounds okay. But what happens after? I would like to go back to my life eventually, but if I am going to be bonded to Heero, and he probably wants to live at the center . . .”
Heero frowned. He would prefer to live at the center, just because ordinary people were so loud, but he had promised he would not separate his Guide from the life he wanted to live. And he suspected his Guide enjoyed flying, and that that was the reason for the Sweepers contract and the shipping business, but he wouldn't allow him to continue making shipping runs alone. So . . . what did that leave of his old life for his Guide to continue?
G spoke up when it became apparent Heero wasn't going to. “So run business from Ganymede. We can have your ship sound proofed so it doesn't bother Heero to stay there when you are on another colony, and Sweepers does so much business with our colony that we have a small army of ships flying in and out every day. It should be no problem.”
Duo cocked his head, looking interested, “But what about my friends on other colonies?”
G shrugged, “You own a ship. And what are vid calls for, anyway?”
Duo smiled, “A good point. Very well then, no further questions. Now if you would, I need to talk some more to Heero.
G smiled, “Of course. Have fun.”
Once G had left the room, Duo grabbed Heero by the hand and led him over to the bed. Heero's room was set up as a mirror image of Duo's , except off his to one side was a small room containing a sofa, and a soft mat on the floor covered in a veritable mountain of pillows. Sitting Heero on the edge of the bed, he sat next to him and placed a hand on his thigh. “Hey man, you alright? Looking kind of shock-y”
Heero took a deep breath and opened his eyes, which had been closed as soon as they reached the bed. “I am, will be okay. I am sorry, I promised not to take your life away from you and here I am doing it.”
Duo smiled, and moved his arm to wrap around Heero's shoulders, “Hey man, its okay. My idea, remember?”
Heero smiled and leaned into the supporting arm, “Right, your idea. So then, we have your schedule, or an outline there of. I don't know about you, but it is late and I want supper, so . . . care to come with me?” He pulled out of Duo's half embrace and stood then turned and offered a hand to Duo.
Duo smiled and grabbed the hand, using it to pull himself upright, and feeling Heero help with the process. Once he was standing he rearranged his grip to he was facing the same direction as Heero, and headed for the door. “So, where are these mysterious food - serving places? What I had for lunch was pretty good, but I would like the opportunity to choose my own food.”
Heero smirked slightly as he was pulled through the door and into the hallway. This one was going to be a handful alright, “this way Duo,” He said as he led the two of them down the hallway to the cafeteria, which was also on the second floor.
Dinner wasn't grand, but it was tasty, a rare find in the world of cafeterias. An hour spent relaxing over some good food and getting to know Heero better left Duo feeling much more confident in his choice. He liked this man, and he now had few reservations about giving up his own lifestyle to protect him from a fate that was truly worse than death by his standards. It was still a little unnerving, but that didn't really matter, because his decision had been made as soon as G had told him the facts. And no matter what Heero said, that had still been his choice, and he was happy with it.
Heero walked down the hall from the Cafeteria to his room with Duo. He kept glancing to the side to stare at Duo, frustrated, but knowing if he let his thoughts be known it would earn him a nervous look. But Duo was his Guide, and here they were walking down the hall not even touching. If only he dared put a possessive hand somewhere on his body. He would be content with even an arm slung over the shoulders. Unfortunately, they had known each other for too short a time, and Duo was too unfamiliar with Sentinel - Guide relationships to allow for such a thing. He had always considered the older Sentinels somewhat strange for their insistence on touch, particularly with Guides, but now, oh now he understood, and there was still, damn it, nothing he could do about it.
Duo, meanwhile walked down the hall oblivious to his Sentinel's internal conflict. Instead, he was contemplating his schedule for the next two weeks. G had stressed that he and Heero were to spend as much of their free time together as possible. They were to eat all meals together, and the afternoon break was also to be joint. From what he understood, Heero would be spending the time he was in lessons catching up on his college classes, where he was working on a masters in Computer Science as well as studying for every pilot classification known to man.
They parted outside Duo's room, Heero reaching in for one last caressing touch before stepping away to his own door. Duo blinked softly before triggering his own door and stepping inside, mind spinning with the events of the day.
Duo found himself absolutely enthralled by the end of Monday in his first week of training. The day's lessons had been split into three parts, separated by lunch and an afternoon break. In the morning he worked with several different instructors, covering the basics of Sentinel history, behavior and medicine; or, as one of his instructors had referred to it, `Sentinel care and keeping 101'. The afternoon had been spent with G and another instructor, working on developing his telepathic and psychokinetic abilities. There had been much less progress than he would have liked, but G explained that he had not yet come into his full powers, and it would be difficult to do more than basics until the pathways in his mind were fully open. The lunch and afternoon break, on the other hand...
Duo closed his eyes for a second and swallowed dryly before walking up to Heero's door and knocking. This was ridiculous. It was just a friendly get-together for lunch, and here he was more nervous than one would be on a first date. He had just raised his hand to knock again when the door opened.
“Duo?” Heero blinked for a second before raising one arm and looking at his watch. “It's lunch time already? Shall we go then?” He lifted one hand to gesture towards the hallway and was surprised to find it caught in a warm hand that was used to tug him into the hall itself. Heero's voice questioned again, “What? Duo?”
Duo flinched briefly and frowned. “What they were going over today, it said Sentinels like to have body contact, particularly with their guides; so I thought, well, at least we could you know, hold hands. That doesn't bother me too much. Is it not okay?”
Heero's lips turned up in a small smile. “No, its fine. I am happy to be allowed to hold your hand. I was just surprised.”
Duo blushed and looked at the floor. “Well, okay then. That's good . . . I guess.”
Heero reached out to grab Duo's other hand and pulled Duo to face him. “It's great. I am pleased you are trying so hard. Now please, join me for lunch?” He released Duo's left hand and reached up to run the back of his hand down Duo's cheek. “I promise I won't bite: well, at least not you.”
Duo smiled at the small joke and tugged gently on Heero's hand. “Well, if we're going to lunch we'd better go, before our break's up.”
After that lunch had gone fine, and the afternoon break that G said was to acclimate to each other's presence had been spent flopped on the bed in Heero's room, Duo reading a book on Sentinel behavior and Heero doing something (supposedly schoolwork) on his laptop, which had appeared mysteriously out of his luggage.
The days of the next two weeks flowed slowly but surely into one another. Heero and Duo quickly fell into a pattern. The afternoon break and evenings after classes were spent together, doing homework together or separately, acclimating to the silent presence of another. Duo viewed these times with some fondness, as the conversations that sprung up occasionally tended to be interesting, and were a good chance to get to know the man he had already devoted his life to. For Heero however, these times were heaven. The chance to relax in the presence of his Guide, the quiet pleasure as his senses once again set themselves to baseline levels… it was like nothing else he had ever felt. It didn't matter that the time was seldom spent touching, though Duo was allowing more of that too. No, now Heero understood for the first time the effect a compatible Guide had on his senses, and it was amazing. In Duo's presence the headaches soothed, the spikes stopped and the fear of zoning lessened dramatically. He couldn't wait until their bonding, when this marvelous creature would become his for all time. But they still had some work to do.
“Heero?” Duo spoke up from behind his Sentinel medicine textbook.
“Yes Duo?” Heero stopped the report he was doing for his advanced programming course, stretching quietly as he waited for Duo to continue.
“Is it true? That 10% of Sentinel deaths occur by zoning? Is that what would have happened to you?”
Duo thought that the words `If I hadn't woken you up' were better left unsaid.
“Duo, yes it is true, but not the way you are thinking. The zone itself is not deadly, just unpleasant. Deaths by zoning occur when zones happen in bad places, or when someone reacts badly to the chemicals used to pull unbonded Sentinels out of zones. So, if a Sentinel jumps in a pool and zones on the feel of the water, and then drowns, it is considered a death by zoning, even though what really killed them is drowning. In the situation you are referring to the danger was already past, so it is unlikely I would have been shot as well, and I have never reacted badly to chemical awakening. I would have been fine even if you had refused to help. I am, however, glad that you did decide to help. Chemical awakening tends to be abrupt and somewhat less than comfortable.” Heero shook his head and smiled softly, saying quietly, “But it is nice to know that you care.”
Duo smiled shyly, blushing. “I'm glad. I was hoping I wasn't putting you in danger by not being ready to bond right away. I know it can't be easy, but the more I read, the more scared I get, for both of us.”
“There is no need to be scared. Yes, your inexperience is not an ideal situation. It is not however, an insurmountable obstacle. And in some ways it is a good thing, as the strength of a late blooming will well complement my own abilities. With a normal Guide I might never have been able to achieve a stable partnership relation wise, because he or she would be always in the shadow of my greater abilities. But with you I have the chance to form a stable working partnership in all areas of my life.”
“Perhaps. But so many things could have happened to you or could still happen, because I am . . .” `Too weak', he thought, but did not say.
“I have said it before and I'll say it again: I will wait, till the end of time if it is necessary. If you are still not ready by the time G's timetable says we are to bond, we will change it. I will not have you forced.” Heero glared death at the imaginary senior Guide, daring him to oppose him.
“What makes you say I am not ready? What if I said it was okay, that I was fine with it. Would you wait then?” Duo set his textbook on the bed, and sat up straight.
Heero looked at him for a moment, then stood and walked over to the bed. He crawled onto the bed and set himself down, straddling Duo's legs. He leaned forward and pressed Duo down onto the bed.
Duo tried to control his trembling, tried to slow his breathing, but Heero was so close and what was he doing! Without thinking, Duo felt his muscles tense.
Heero felt Duo's muscles tighten and he released his Guide, sitting up but still straddling his legs. “You are not ready. I need you to understand what the bonding entails, and I need you to trust me. Until I have these things, the bonding will not proceed.”
Duo nodded yes as he pushed himself upright. “Okay, I get the point. Now could you please get off me?”
Heero smiled and removed himself from Duo's legs, but first he leaned down and scented at the crook of Duo's neck. Smiling, he then crawled to the edge of the bed and sat down. “And now you have questions. Ask.”
“What you were doing? Is that what bonding is like?” Duo's face made an odd contortion, as if he couldn't decide if that would be a good thing or a bad thing.
“Not necessarily. With more established pairs, the bonding tends to become more and more physical; and full body contact, or scans across the whole body with the hands are sometimes initiated. But the bond itself is simply a telepathic or empathic link between the two partners, and bonding is simply a reaffirmation of that link. It gives both partners a chance to re-align, as the Sentinel's senses are set to baseline and the Guide is given a chance to re-build his shields as he relaxes within his Sentinel's shields.”
Duo frowned. “But doesn't my presence set your senses to baseline? That was what the books said.”
“Sort of. With a little focus, when I am around you I can re-set my senses to baseline, and hold them there. But after bonding, the Sentinel's senses sort of, in a way, know where baseline is. This allows them to use their senses and return them to normal rather then having them beyond their control.” Heero looked frustrated. “The closest I can say is that it is like having a broken control knob. Under the right circumstances it may work, but not always. Bonding is like calling a repairman. It will eventually break again, but for a time it works just fine.”
Duo blinked. “Okay. So what you're saying is that you know the theories of control, but can't actually exercise them until we bond. In the meantime, my presence gives you some relief, but it's not total and it only works when we are together.”
“Yes.” Heero stood, walked around to Duo's side of the bed and brushed a hand across his cheek. “If that's all, I really do need to get some work done tonight.”
But time passed as it always has. Then the day came for Quatre and Trowa to be let out of the hospital. They were being placed across the hall, in the Guide's quarters of another paired room. This allowed them to be in shielded quarters while still having someone close, as Wufei would be staying in the Sentinel's quarters of the same suite. Under other conditions Heero would have also been in that room, but he didn't want to leave Duo, and there was no way Duo was ready to sleep in the same room with him, much less the same bed. So for now he would wait.
Duo continued to go to lessons, though he knew that they would be leaving soon. Quatre and Trowa had stayed at the hospital until they were cleared for space flight, at Wufei's insistence. Fortunately the hospital had not been busy, and had agreed to his request.
Quatre glared halfheartedly at Heero and Wufei, twisting as much as he was able to do so, as they wheeled he and Trowa out of the hospital. Having been allowed to use crutches for some days now, it was frustrating that the two of them had insisted he and Trowa would ride out of the hospital as they were instructed, instead of sticking up for their desire to leave on their own two feet. Trowa had been shot in the arm, not the leg, and the cast wasn't throwing his balance of that much. As for Quatre himself - while he admitted the crutches were something of a pain with his hip still braced, it wasn't like it was immobilizing, and getting out of the wheelchair would be more trouble than it was worth. Frowning once more for good measure as they pulled up to the Center limo that had brought them here, he allowed Heero to help him up and into the car. Stupid Trowa was allowed to stand up and get in on his own, which sucked. It was several more minutes while Heero and Wufei returned the wheelchairs before they left for the Center. Once they were on the way however, Quatre began bombarding Heero with questions. After all, he had seen Wufei every day while Heero had only come once or twice, and never in the past week.
“So Heero,” He began, “How is Duo?”
Heero blinked once, then smiled. “Duo is fine.”
“And what have the two of you been doing for the past week?” Quatre inquired. “I haven't seen much of you.”
“Duo had classes to attend, and I have been attempting to keep up with my own work.” Heero looked at him. “I apologize for not visiting, I do not care for hospitals, and Duo was too busy to come with me.”
Quatre frowned, inferring from that statement that Heero had not wanted to come because of his senses. “Shouldn't your senses be getting better now that you are bonded? Is something going wrong that you haven't told me about, Heero?”
“Duo and I have not yet bonded.” Heero's statement was flat and curt.
“Not yet bonded? But he has agreed, has he not?” Quatre could not understand what was holding them up. Surely Heero was the most important thing here.
Heero snorted softly. “Yes, he agreed, after G told him the fact that he was my only match. But he is completely untrained. G wanted him to get some background, and for us to be in a safer place before we bond.” Heero tensed slightly, then relaxed and lowered his gaze to the ground.
Quatre looked at his friend silently for a moment, deciding to end his questioning there. There would be plenty of time to observe Heero and Duo together in the future.
Duo frowned and tried once more to shove his last text into the bag. It was already over full, containing all his clothes and toiletries as well as the stack of books he had been given for his classes; or, well, most of the stack of books. As it stood now he was pretty sure the zipper wouldn't close, and the last book just would not fit in the corner over here. It was just . . .
A knock sounded at the door. Salvation, maybe?
“Come in!” Duo called out, welcoming the interruption.
Heero walked into the room carrying a book bag, “Hey, maybe this will help.” The bag was extended in front of Duo's face.
Duo looked up. “Hey, another bag. Great! How did you know I would need that?”
Heero smiled. “I went to boarding school. My first trip home I tried to fit all my homework in the bag I had used to travel there. It just doesn't happen.”
Duo reached up and grabbed the bag, then started shoving all his texts into it. “You're telling me. Thanks.”
Heero stood there a moment more, then: “Are you nervous?”
Duo closed the zipper on his new book bag, then reached over and began zipping up the bag his clothes were in. “Am I nervous about what?”
“We're heading to Ganymede now. You've never been there, and the bonding is scheduled to take place shortly after we arrive. Are you nervous?”
Duo frowned, standing up and wiping his hands off on his shirt. “A little I guess. At least we are taking my ship, so I will have something familiar, and I know you pretty well by now. I understand the bonding much better than I did, so I am not really afraid of that; but the idea that once it happens I will be fully online and irrevocably tied to you is a little daunting.”
Heero rested a hand on Duo's shoulder. “I swear that I will protect you, no matter what happens. I can't make everything perfect, but I will protect you.”
Duo reached up and placed a hand over Heero's. “Thank you.”
In the hallway, Heero and Duo met up with Trowa, Wufei and Quatre.
Heero nodded at them. “Ready to go?”
The others nodded yes in reply, Quatre's voice piping in, “All ready, so let's be on our way, shall we?”
Heero reached over and grabbed one of the three bags lying at Wufei's feet. “J and G will be joining us for the ride over, we are to meet them in the front lobby and continue to the space port from there.”
In the lobby they met up with J and G and from there the seven of them continued out to the limo, waiting just outside. Trowa and Quatre got in first, Trowa sitting facing the others, and Quatre scooting along the seat to sit away from the door. Wufei joined the driver in his role as bodyguard, while Heero and Duo took the seats next to Trowa. J and G sat facing them, next to Quatre.
The trip to the space port was mostly spent in silence. Heero and Duo rested side by side, with Duo laying his head on Heero's shoulder. J and G talked quietly, while Trowa played a game on his phone and Quatre stared out the window. Upon arriving they all filed out of the limo and walked, or hobbled in Quatre's case, into the space port.
Duo smiled at everyone. “I filed for take off today last night, so all we have to do is report in to the front desk and then we can head for the ship.” He picked up his bags and began walking towards the front desk.
Heero smiled and shook his head before turning to the others. “The rest of us don't actually have to go with him. Duo just needs to confirm his flight plan and get the com frequency. Here, the ship is this way.”
When Duo walked up to the front desk by himself he was amazed. He hadn't thought that Heero would let him go by himself, so he hadn't suggested it. Of course, Heero knew that his presence wasn't really required and that Quatre was uncomfortable standing for long periods, so he had probably taken them over by the ship. Finally getting to the front of the line he smiled at the desk attendant. “Duo Maxwell, I filed a flight plan for today?”
She began scrolling through the day's files. “Ah yes, Maxwell, private shuttle, here to L1 XCC0412.” She checked the file that he had come in. “Today's frequency is 1624, your take off slot is anytime in the next hour. Have a good day.”
Duo bobbed his head at her and accepted his receipt. Turning, he walked over to his shuttle. As he expected, the other six were waiting in front of the hatch.
“Alright everybody, here I am. Take off slot is for the next hour, so let's get in and get ready to go.” He walked up to the hatch, placed the key in the slot and keyed in the code.
The seven of them walked onto the ship. Duo smiled once everyone was in the main cabin. “Alright everyone, welcome aboard the Deathscythe. Heero, you're in the cockpit with me. The trip will take approximately three days to make, so please, no killing each other. Quatre, would you be more comfortable lying down?”
Quatre frowned gently. “Perhaps.”
Duo nodded, “There are cabins in the back. I have three cabins besides my own, bunks in one of them, a single bed in another, and a double in the third.”
G spoke up, “J and I will take the double.”
Quatre smiled, “Then Trowa and I will take the bunks.”
Wufei frowned, “Is the single near the bunks?”
Duo nodded affirmatively, “Right next door.”
“Then I will take the single.”
G looked up and frowned. “Duo, will you be okay sleeping with Heero? I know that is the usual protocol, but you are not used to it. It hardly seems fair to just drop it on you like this.”
Duo smiled. “I'll be okay G. Worst comes to worst Heero and I can sleep in shifts, but we'll try to work it out normally first. Now then, I'll show Quatre to his cabin and help him get strapped in, while the rest of you take your seats and prepare for take off.”
Everyone headed towards their seats. Heero headed into the cockpit and looked over the control panel. `Class C type 5 set up. Very efficient.' He thought.
Within ten minutes everyone was strapped in and Duo was in the cockpit. Tuning the com to the appropriate channel, he announced his readiness for take off.
“This is C class shuttled D5TH, requesting clearance for take off.”
“D5TH, you are cleared for take off in the next queue. Please start your engines and advance to the lift off site.”
“Thank you control, this is D5TH I am in position for take off.”
“D5TH, you are clear for take off.”
Once they were underway Duo programmed the autopilot and leaned back in his seat. “So Heero, we are headed back to your home. How you doing, buddy?”
Heero turned to face Duo and smiled. “I am doing well. I am glad to have you with me.”
Duo smirked, “Thank you very much.” He unbuckled from his seat and turned towards the hatch. “Want to go into the back?”
Heero unfastened his own buckle. “Lead the way.”
The first day passed quickly, especially once Quatre came out and they discovered Duo's stash of video games. That evening, Duo showed everyone to their quarters, and then grabbed Heero by the hand and led the way to his own room. He opened the door and they stepped inside.
Heero looked around. The room was neat and clean, a thing he had not expected of Duo's boisterous personality. Personal effects were fastened neatly to surfaces, and the bed made with covers tucked in. Looking at it for a moment, he shook his head.
“So, what are the sleeping arrangements?” Heero was compelled to ask. “I see there is only one bed, but if you have a sleeping bag or something . . .”
Duo looked around for a moment, before stammering out . . . “I um, hadn't actually thought that far, just figured that uh . . . it would be okay if we shared quarters, and that I, I would rather share with you than anyone else.”
Heero smiled. “Acceptable, but it needs to be thought about now. The choice it up to you. I will abide by your decision.”
Duo looked around nervously, before walking over and sitting on the bed. “Well, I don't exactly have a sleeping bag, or a cot of any sort, so I guess we are sharing the bed . . . maybe, um at least, if that is okay with you.”
Heero walked over to him and placed a hand under Duo's chin, bringing Duo's eyes up to meet his. “It would be fine with me, but you seem uncomfortable, so we don't have to. We can sleep in shifts, or I can sleep out on one of the benches. You come first.”
Duo smiled wanly. “I'll be fine, probably. If I really can't take it we'll use one of your ideas, but I don't really want to turn you out, or mess up anyone's sleep schedule.”
Heero walked over and grabbed the bag he had carried in, and headed towards the door. “Then I'll go get changed in the head, and meet you back here.”
Duo stared at the door for a moment after Heero left. Then, he walked over to the dresser and pulled out a fresh pair of lounge pants and a tank top. Changing quickly, he was ready and sitting on the bed by the time Heero knocked at the door. “Come in.”
Heero walked in wearing a pair of sweat pants and t-shirt. Walking over to the bed he held a hand out to Duo and helped him to his feet. “Time for bed.”
Duo nodded. “Yeah.”
Heero looked at the bed. It was a double, but situated so that three sides were against walls. He pulled the covers out and gestured with his hand. “Go on, get in. I promise I won't bite.”
Duo's lips quirked slightly, and he crawled into the bed, scooting so he was all the way against the wall. Heero crawled in after him, purposefully laying on his back towards the edge o the bed. Duo looked at him for a moment before turning onto his stomach and falling asleep.
Once he was sure Duo was asleep, Heero turned onto his side and placed one hand in the small of Duo's back. “Sleep well,” he murmured before allowing himself to join Duo in sleep.