* * * * * * * * * * *
The alarm came in around midnight, and as soon as Heero heard it he had a
strange feeling. Something was going to happen tonight. Something important.
The fire was in an aging apartment building, long considered by most of the
local firefighters as a blaze waiting to happen.
The team swung into action, easy camaraderie easing the adrenaline rush to an
efficient bustle. Heero rode in the back, ready to leap off and do his job as
soon as they arrived.
Heero was the youngest firefighter ever to work in the city. He had always
known he wanted to be a fireman, ever since he had saved his entire family at
the age of 5 by smelling smoke and waking everyone. He had been heralded by
the press as a hero, and much was made of his name. As soon as he was able,
he studied all aspects of firefighting science. He had pestered the local
fire station into accepting him as a sort of volunteer in his early teens,
and as soon as he had graduated from high school a year early, he had
enrolled in the firefighters academy. He had flown through the program, and
had done so well on the physical tests that he was always the man assigned to
climb into buildings and rescue people. His strength was incredible, and his
small frame made it easier to get in and out of tight situations. He was able
to easily carry people twice his size to safety. Heero lived alone at age 18,
not lonely, but content to quietly save lives. The publicity he got brought
many offers from women, but he always politely declined, and walked away.
Everyone thought he was just shy and dedicated. Heero always felt like he was
waiting for something, or someone, and he would know when he found it.
The fire truck screamed up and the firefighters jumped into action. There was
a large group of people outside the building in pajamas; it appeared that
most of the occupants had already been evacuated. Heero's job was to
determine if anyone was missing, so he questioned all the people. Everyone
seemed to be accounted for, until a girl suddenly screamed, "Duo!"
Heero made his way over to her. When she saw him she rushed over and cried,
"Duo's still in there!"
Heero tried to get her to calm down, and she explained that her neighbors
were on vacation and Duo was housesitting for them, and that she didn't see
Duo around anywhere. Heero quickly found out which apartment, then assured
the woman that he would find this person. Then he went to work.
Deciding that there was no other way in, Heero got the ladder positioned and
climbed up it to the second floor window of the designated apartment. Peering
in the window, he could only see smoke. He tried calling out, but there was
no answer. He broke the window and climbed inside. There was no one visible.
He looked around the apartment. There was smoke, but no obvious flames; but
Heero knew the apartment just down the hall was almost engulfed, and this one
wasn't far behind.
Checking the living room and kitchen, there was only one other alternative:
the bedroom. He tried the door, but it was locked. He called out, and
thought he could hear what sounded like sobbing inside. Seeing no other
alternative, he backed up, braced himself, and kicked the door down. It
splintered easily, and as he stepped through the ruined doorframe, he scanned
the room quickly. Time was running out.
Heero almost gave up; the room seemed empty. Then, he realized that what he
had taken to be a pile of bedding was actually a person. The person moved,
and what seemed like yards of chestnut hair spilled out.
"Hello," Heero called out; the person was obviously scared to death. He
almost assumed it was a girl; the hair and size of the person seemed to
confirm it. "Are you hurt?"
The person started, and huge violet eyes peered out. Heero still couldn't be
sure of the person's gender. Then the person tried to bury himself or herself
beneath the blanket once again, sobbing.
Heero approached; he needed to get them out of there. Then he remembered what
the girl had said the person's name was. "Duo?" he called out gently.
Duo peeked out again. Heero took another step closer. "Can you get up, Duo?"
Heero had seen this type of thing before; people trapped in fires sometimes
became too frightened to even help themselves. Huge luminous eyes stared back
at him. Then the head shook; a negative. "Will you let me carry you, then? We
have to get out." Duo nodded uncertainly, and more of the face appeared,
revealing a heart-shaped face and sensuous lips. Heero shook his head; why
were his thoughts straying like that? He stepped forward and bent down. Heero
said, "I'm going to pick you up now, ok, Duo?" Duo nodded again, and Heero
bent forward and scooped up Duo as best he could, hampered by the blankets.
He pulled the blankets away; Duo was even smaller than he had thought, clad
in a loose t-shirt and boxers. Heero stood up with Duo in his arms; Duo
barely weighed anything. Duo's hair flowed out, threatening to trip Heero.
Heero stopped and tried to gather Duo's hair; it felt like spun silk between
his fingers. Duo realized the problem and helped gather the hair.
Finally, Heero was satisfied that he could carry Duo, and he walked toward
the window. Since Duo was so light, it was no problem for Heero to climb down
the ladder. Spotlights hit Heero as he climbed down, lighting his way. A
cheer went up from the crowd as Heero emerged safely with his bundle. Heero
could feel Duo snuggle against him and make a contented sound as they went
further away from the fire. Inexplicably, his heart started pounding at the
feeling of Duo against him. Even more concerning was the fact that he felt
himself becoming aroused at the sounds Duo was making. What was wrong with
him? No one had ever made him feel like this before. He wasn't even sure if
the person he was carrying was male or female. He had just finished rescuing
Duo from a dangerous fire, and here he was, what? Lusting after a stranger?
Heero forcibly suppressed those feelings as he stepped off of the ladder and
carried Duo toward the waiting ambulance. Duo hadn't spoken, and standard
procedure in these cases was to hospitalize the person for observation if
nothing else. There could be smoke inhalation or other effects.
Heero further confused himself by feeling reluctant to release Duo to the
paramedics. He had an irrational urge to take care of Duo himself, as if no
one else could be trusted. But he knew what was necessary, and he gently laid
Duo down on the waiting stretcher. Duo looked even smaller then; the
stretcher was much too big. He hovered around nervously, watching as they
checked Duo over. Heero was asking what hospital they were taking Duo to,
when out of the corner of his eye he saw them cut off Duo's shirt. It was
then that he realized that Duo was male. He found himself staring at the
boy's smoothly muscled chest, and he wondered how he could ever have been
unsure of Duo's gender. Duo was beautiful, but in a definitely masculine way.
Strangely, it didn't bother him; he was even more attracted to him now. He
almost asked if he could ride in the ambulance with Duo, but he had mop-up
operations to finish. He decided to go by the hospital as soon as he went off
The rest of the operation went fairly smoothly, but the building was a total
loss. No one would be living there again. Heero didn't want to wait to go by
his apartment after work; he was anxious to check on Duo. So he cleaned up as
best he could at the fire station, then drove to the hospital.
* * * * * * * * * *
Duo was in and out of consciousness for most of the ride to the hospital. The
only clear thought he had was of an angel, a handsome angel dressed in a
fireman's uniform. He remembered falling asleep in his friend's apartment. He
was staying there because he had no other place to go. He had lost his last
job because he had rebuked his boss's advances, and he hadn't found another
one yet. So he had had to give up his apartment, and since his friends were
going to be gone for a month, he had moved in to keep an eye on things. It
had given him a chance to rest, take a break from the rat race he had been
running for the past four years, since his foster parents had died and he had
run away from the orphanage. He had held various jobs, just getting by while
he studied on his own. He worked hard and finally got his diploma. He was 18,
and still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He remembered falling asleep, then the nightmares had begun as usual;
nightmares that had plagued him for as long as he could remember. The dream
was always the same: fire. When Duo was five years old, all of his family--
mother, father, sister-were killed in a house fire. Duo was the only one to
escape. He had been shuffled around from relative to relative, until finally
being put up for adoption. Of course, by then he was too old to be adopted
easily, and he was placed in a succession of foster homes alternating with
the local orphanage.
Duo escaped from the fire nearly unscathed; his only injury was the fact that
nearly all his hair was burned off in the fire. Duo, unlike most little boys,
had loved for his mother to brush his hair; it was one of his few clear
memories. They had had to shave off the rest of his singed hair, and Duo
hated being bald; he vowed then and there to never cut his hair again. It was
the one thing he held onto over the years. That, and the nightmares. They
began about a year after the fire, and got progressively more detailed over
the years. They didn't happen every night, but often enough so he dreaded
going to sleep. Duo was also scared to death of open flames of any kind.
Duo had been awakened from his nightmare by the smell of smoke. At first he
thought the dream was just more realistic than usual; then, he realized the
smoke was real. He was panic-stricken; though he couldn't see any flames, he
imagined he could feel them, creeping toward him, searching for him, coming
to take back what they had missed the first time.
Duo knew he should run, escape; but he couldn't move. He just slumped to the
floor next to the bed, and gathered the covers around him as if they would
protect him. He hid his head; if he couldn't see the flames, they wouldn't
hurt him. It was getting harder to breathe. The smoke grew thicker, and Duo
withdrew; burying himself deep inside the blankets and deep inside his mind.
Until he heard the crash. And the angel came; the angel who knew his name.
Peering out of the blankets, a vision appeared out of the smoke; a vision
with cobalt blue eyes and a beautiful face. Duo's mind, already half gone,
knew this was an angel. No one could be that beautiful, and he was destined
to die in the fire. Duo decided that if he was supposed to die, he might as
well go with the pretty angel. The angel spoke in a soothing voice, and
carried him away.
The angel was surprisingly warm and felt real. Duo could feel muscles
rippling just beneath the uniform. Oddly, the angel was wearing a
firefighter's uniform. Duo's subconscious accepted this, though. The angel
held him tight, and Duo had never felt safer in his life. Duo snuggled close
to the angel, happy that at last it was all over. The angel would keep him
safe. Maybe the angel would stay with him. Duo liked being in the angel's
arms. He liked it so much, he was embarrassed to find he was getting hard.
Duo felt he shouldn't be aroused by an angel, but he was so pretty and
Duo felt the angel carrying him away from the fire, away from the heat,
toward safety. Closer he snuggled, and drifted off to sleep.
Continued in part 2