It said a lot about Duo's state of mind that the first thought that came to him as he went tumbling down into the stream bed was, 'an object in motion tends to stay in motion.' Prickly evergreens and skeletal bushes rocks tore at his clothing and unprotected skin, yanking out long strands of hair from his braid. Sharp rocks battered at his already aching body. Sprays of dry, powdery snow blew up around him. Out of instinct, he covered his face with his bruised and battered hands, kicking his heels out and trying to dig in to the rock bank.
He hit the shallow water hard, catapulting forward through into the rocky bottom. A sharp rock tore at his left hand, but better that then his eye. And it was cold, colder than anything he'd ever felt. It, along with the bruising rocks, drove the breath from his body in a burst of frantic bubbles. The shock of it hold him captive for a long moment, locking his muscles in place.
Duo wondered, idly, if this was going to be it for him. On minute, a wanted terrorist. The next, frozen to death - or probably drowned, then frozen - in a nameless stream in the back woods. He wondered if Heero was alright. They'd gone into the snowy woods together, running with all their might from the Oz prison they'd been in, which as far as Duo could tell had been composed entirely of concrete and a liberal helping of barbed wire. Somewhere in there, he and Heero had gotten separated, between the barking of the guard dogs and the mobile suit flying by overhead, raking the trees with a searchlight.
'An object at rest tends to stay at rest.'
A hand grabbed the back of his torn, prison-issue shirt, and jerked him roughly up out of the water. Duo came up sputtering, coughing, and jerkily flailing his arms. Twice, his fists connected with glancing blows, and then he was on his feet and facing Heero. Blood dripped steadily from the other young man's nose.
It took a moment for the frigid air to fully penetrate his soaking clothes. Then Duo's teeth began to chatter violently. His breath came out in strained little puffs of steam. When he spoke, he stuttered. "Heero... glad I found you," he said, attempting his normal cocky grin.
Heero gave him a rather blank look. "Let's go," he said. Instead of splashing to the far side of the stream, like Duo had thought he would, he began forging through the frigid water.
"What are you doing?" Duo asked, clutching his arms tightly around himself. He thought he'd never be warm again.
"They're following us with dogs. If we follow the stream for a while, they may lose us," Heero said. He looked back at Duo, and for a moment, he seemed to have a small, teasing smile on his lips. "Good of you to think of it." Then the smile was gone, probably a trick of the moonlight.
"You know me," Duo said, trying to keep himself steady. "Full of good ideas." He had to stop walking when a particularly hard series of chills hit him, threatening to knock him off the slippery rocks. "Shit. Shit! So cold..."
Heero walked the few steps back to him, grabbing him by the arm. "You have to keep moving," he said. "Because otherwise you will freeze to death, or they'll capture you. It's not too far in to town. Five and a quarter miles at most."
"I think my balls'll drop off before then," Duo said. But he made himself put one foot in front of the other. Dimly, he remembered reading that if someone fell into cold water, it was best to get that person out of their wet clothes. But on the other hand, there was no way in hell he was going to run through snow-covered woods, trying to escape evil men with guns and vicious dogs, all well butt-naked. Not even Heero was that insane.
"It's not as if you're using them for anything," Heero said helpfully.
"Yeah, fuck you, man," Duo said. The lame joke gave him the strength to take another step, and then another. Droplets of frigid water splashed up around his legs. He wondered if they turned to ice before they hit the stream again. "If I die, do me a favor, and cremate my body. Shit."
Heero nodded, acknowledging the game that Duo wanted to play. "Oh? Why?" he asked. His words sounded mechanical, like a recorded response rather than something spontaneous. But all that mattered was the response.
"Because at least then I'll be warm," Duo said.
A few more steps. Now, Duo couldn't think of stopping. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, he reminded himself. Keep going. "Hey Heero."
"What's black and white and read all over?"
"I don't know," Heero said.
"A penguin in a blender." Duo laughed unsteadily at his own stupid joke. The sound waved up and down his range of pitch, thrown back and forth by his shivers. "Hey, Heero."
"What's white and white and white and white?"
"That's a great deal of white," Heero observed.
Duo's muscles went stiff for a moment, and he made a sound halfway between a cough and a whimper. "Just follow the fucking script, Yuy."
Heero snorted. The bloody nose that Duo had given him had long ago healed, so it was a rather odd sound. Dried blood was crusted around his nostrils and streaked down the front of his shirt. "I don't know," he said. "What is it?"
"A polar bear in the middle of a blizzard," Duo said. "Shit."
"I know." He couldn't take a deep breath, so he had to settle for unsteady little gasps. "Hey, Heero."
Duo put one foot in front of the other, one stupid joke after another. Ice crusted his eyelashes. They finally stumbled around the bend of the stream and onto the opposite bank, their feet numb. It felt like it would never end; the cold stinging at his skin, the crunch and squeak of snow, tripping over rocks, the unsteady click of chattering teeth. Heero kept his arm around Duo, though after a while, Duo was no longer certain who was supporting who.
"Hey, Heero." Duo croaked.
"What..." Duo trailed off. "Shit. I'm out of jokes. Shit."
Heero paused for a moment, squinting off into the distance. "Hey, Duo,"
Duo looked at him, trying to rub the ice out of his hair with one hand. He couldn't help but think it was a bad idea that they'd stopped. They might never start walking again. "What?"
"What sparkles in the woods?" Heero asked.
"What are you talking about?" Duo asked. He peered in the direction Heero was looking. For a moment, he thought he was dreaming. But lights flickered, far off, dancing between the trees.
"A town." Heero said. He took a stuttering step forward, dragging Duo with him.
Duo laughed, though it was a painful, dry sound. "They better have hot chocolate."
"Yes," Heero agreed, not really listening.
"And some of those little marshmallows. I'd kill for some of those," Duo said. "No, really. Literally." The crunched through the snow as quickly as they could - half frozen as they were, a run was out of the question. "And I'm naming my fucking frost bite scars after you."
Duo laughed again, sending clouds of steam drifting ahead of them. "Hey, Heero."
"What?" Heero asked. His eyes were still fixed on the town in the distance, but his eyebrows were drawn together with confusion.
"Merry fucking Christmas."
"Is it?" Heero asked.
"I have no idea," Duo said. "But it might as well be."