Tangled In The Web
He hadn’t thought it possible, but after drinking the cocoa and turning the light off, he’d fallen asleep quickly and didn’t wake up until morning. He felt sluggish and groggy as he turned his head and squinted in order to see the slightly blurred time displayed on the music system. His eyes widened at seeing it was ten-thirty; he’d slept twelve hours. The day before must have taken more out of him than he’d realized.
Easing himself out of bed, he noticed Sinjin was missing and guessed that Frank must have taken the dog out that morning. The idea left him feeling troubled, that the other man had entered his room and he’d slept through it. His hunch was confirmed when he saw a folded pair of jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt that he recognized as his own draped over the back of the chair at the desk. He hazarded a guess that Frank had been over to their house and recovered them for him. Picking them up, he checked the hall to make sure it was clear, then quickly left the safety of his room and went across the hall to the bathroom to take a much needed shower.
While washing his hair, he thought about his host, and reflected on how Frank had been kind and thoughtful to himself and Heero the day before. And again that morning, he’d shown his thoughtfulness by having laid out for his use not only clean towels, a fresh bar of soap, shampoo and conditioner, as well as shaving cream, a disposable razor, a new toothbrush, toothpaste and his hair brush. His heart warmed further towards the elderly man.
Half an hour later he emerged from the bathroom feeling much better but still dreading having to face the disaster next door or even telling Heero about it. He took the staircase down, looking at each of the photos on the wall of people young and old. Of course he didn’t recognize most of the faces, but he did pick out a family portrait of Frank, his wife and young son. He realized by the lack of wrinkles and gray hair on the familiar man in the picture, that it had been taken a long time ago. The boy in the picture looked to be about five years old. He had his mother’s brown hair and large blue eyes, but the mouth and nose were Frank’s. The three people in the portrait were smiling like they hadn’t a worry in the world, and for a moment Duo envied them. That feeling was quickly followed by a sense of sadness. Now, years later, all that remained of the once happy family was a portrait and articles around the home showing that they had once lived there. With his wife and son dead, Frank lived by himself in this house that surely had to carry many memories. But he knew memories could be cold companions, and yet the older man carried on with his life, alone and lonely. A shiver went through the braided man as he wondered if that was the inevitable end for himself, living his life all alone, but decided it would never come to that. If Heero died before he did, by whatever means, accident or by natural causes, he would follow before his lover’s body was placed into the ground. He would not end up like Frank.
He shook the morose thoughts out of his head and continued down the stairs. He decided that he would try harder to be more civil to his neighbor. After all, Frank had gone beyond being the typical neighbor to himself and Heero, and had become a friend. He was a believer that kindness deserved a reward, whether it was a smile, handshake or some other form of gratitude.
“Morning,” he said in greeting as he walked into the kitchen to find the elderly man sitting at the kitchen table, the newspaper held up in front of him as he read.
“Good morning,” Frank replied in a friendly manner. “Hungry?”
“Yeah. If I could trouble you for some cereal and toast, I’ll be glad to reimburse you for it. Where’s Sinjin?”
Frank waved off the last part of his request. “The dog’s out in the back yard,” he answered. “I’ve got some pancake mix already prepared, all I have to do is heat up the pan.” He folded his paper and set it on the table as he stood from his chair. “Have a seat. It’ll be just a few minutes.”
Duo sat as the click of the automatic lighter started the gas stove.
“I took the liberty of calling Mr. Peacecraft to update him on Heero’s accident and the break in,” Frank said as he turned his head to see a horrified look on the young man’s face. “I hope you don’t mind that I called for you,” he added with concern.
“I... I can’t believe I forgot to call,” Duo said, clearly upset. “Heero asked me to do that one simple thing and I forgot.” He buried his face in his hands, wondering what was wrong with him that he couldn’t follow through on such a simple task.
“Now don’t be so hard on yourself,” Franks gently scolded him. “You had a very traumatic day yesterday, not to mention what you came home to last night. I was glad you seemed to be resting so well and decided to let you sleep and make the phone call for you.”
Duo had to admit that he had slept surprisingly well, better than he ever imagined he would considering he’d almost lost everything the day before. “What did Milliardo say?” he asked looking up at the older man.
“He was extremely concerned. He said he’d notify Heero’s director at work, then go to the hospital to check on both his and Mrs. Lunderson’s condition. He hoped to drop by here also to assess the situation at the house and to see how you were doing and what might need to be done. He said he’d let us know when Heero’s to be released after his visit, so we don’t need to call.”
Duo nodded. He knew both Frank and Milliardo were acting in his and Heero’s best interest, but their actions made him feel less capable of handling things on his own. But hell, who was he kidding? He hadn’t handled himself or his life well in a long time. It seemed the minute he began to take back his life again, he was slapped down, like a fly under a fly swatter. It was frustrating as all hell.
Frank chatted about articles he’d read in the newspaper and Duo was glad he didn’t ask any questions that might require an answer. Frankly, his mind kept going back to how he was going to gain some control over his life once again.
A large stack of golden pancakes with a large pat of butter melting on top was set before him, bringing him out of his thoughts. His mouth watered at the delicious looking sight and he realized that he was famished.
Frank put a tall glass of milk and a cup of coffee next to his plate as he poured syrup liberally over the top and began his systematic cutting of the tall stack, enjoying every bite.
About two-thirds of the way through his breakfast he pushed his plate back as his stomach complained at the volume he’d consumed. He paused to finish off the last of the milk in his glass. Though his appetite had improved during the last year, he doubted it would ever be like it had been during the war when he could never seem to fill his endless-pit stomach.
“That was great. Thanks,” he told the older man who was watching him with obvious pleasure at seeing his cooking being enjoyed.
“Pancakes were Robbie’s favorite breakfast food too,” the older man replied as he gathered the dishes and took them to the sink. As Duo stood to help with the cleanup, the doorbell rang. Frank immediately dried his hands on a nearby towel before going towards the front door with Duo following a few steps behind. As Frank opened the door, Duo was in a position to see Milliardo Peacecraft standing on the other side of the threshold.
“Mr. McAdams?” the aristocratic man asked.
“Yes, Mr. Peacecraft, please, call me Frank. Won’t you come in?” He stepped back and allowed the recognizable head of the Preventers’ Organization to enter his home.
“Milliardo,” the blond requested, then blue eyes immediately sought out and focused the braided young man. “Duo, how are you?” he asked, concern etched on his face as he took in every aspect of the younger man.
“I’m alright, considering. Have you been to see Heero?” he asked.
A warm smile lit the blond’s face. “Yes, both Heero and Mrs. Lunderson. Though your lady friend is going to stay at the hospital until her family comes to stay with her, Heero was released into my care.”
“Released?” Duo looked surprised.
“He’s out in my car.”
Like a shot, Duo was out the door, leaving Milliardo alone with the older man. “How’s he doing?” the tall blond asked.
“Better this morning,” Frank answered. “He was in a bit of shock yesterday after all that happened with Heero. Finding his home broken into and so heavily damaged pulled the rest of the rug out from under him. I managed to get him back here and at took the liberty of giving him a light sedative to help him sleep.”
“He does look more rested than I’d expected,” Milliardo commented as his eyes moved around the older man’s home, noting its homey decor and comfortable ambiance.
The sound of feet on the porch alerted them of the other two’s imminent arrival. They turned to see, through the windows alining the front door, Duo half carrying Heero up the front porch stairs. The Asian man’s cast-covered arm in a sling, the bandage around his forehead covering the stitches beneath, his prominent limp and his pale and pinched face showed that the Japanese young man had pushed himself too soon to be out of the hospital.
With a frown clouding his handsome face, Duo led Heero to the couch and gingerly set him down and waited to move back until Heero signaled he was as comfortable as possible. The braided man then stood over Heero with his arms folded over his chest, his frown reflecting his being torn between yelling at his lover for leaving the hospital early, or being angry with himself for being the cause of Heero’s questionable actions.
“If you don’t mind,” Milliardo said aside to the older man as he watched Duo fuss over his injured lover. “I’d like to go next door and see the damage for myself. I’ve arranged to meet a local police detective there in...” He paused to look at his watch. “In fifteen minutes.”
“I’ve got a spare key,” Frank said quietly so that he might hide that fact from Duo, as Heero had requested. “Let me get it for you.”
The older man moved into the kitchen just as Heero began to speak to Duo in a low voice, and the braided man sat on the couch next to him in order to have a more private conversation. Frank returned almost instantly and surreptitiously slipped the key to Milliardo, who gave him a grateful smile in return.
“Is it alright if they stay here while I’m gone?” the Preventer asked.
Frank nodded. “They’re both welcomed to stay as long as they want or need to.”
“Thank you,” Milliardo said sincerely. He turned then to the two on the couch and told them of his intentions only to have Heero tiredly wave him away.
“Go on. We’re fine.”
“I’ll be back shortly,” the tall blond said and then disappeared out the front door of Frank’s home.
Heero then turned back to his partner. “So how bad is it?” he asked
Duo’s sad eyes told him the answer wasn’t going to be good. “The living room is completely trashed. The T.V. and stereo were smashed and the furniture was slashed with a knife or something equally sharp. Everything in the kitchen was broken; the whole place a complete mess. I didn’t see the rest of the house.”
Frank overheard the conversation as he sat in the recliner next to them and joined in. “I went over there this morning looking for clothing for Duo and his pills. The upstairs is as badly damaged as the downstairs,” he reported solemnly.
Duo leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. “Talk about things going from bad to worse,” he moaned. “Why us? Why now when the guys aren’t here to help us out?”
Heero reached out awkwardly with his right hand over his body to soothingly stroke his lover’s back. But because Duo sat on his left, his left arm in a cast and sling, his attempt to comfort proved to be clumsy. Lifting his tired eyes, he saw an expression of worry on Frank’s face that he was sure matched his own. Having his brakes go out and then their house ransacked was too much of a coincidence for it not to have been planned. The question was, who would do this to them?
Looking at the back of Duo’s bent head, he knew he’d have to keep his suspicions to himself until something more concrete proved this theory. Duo didn’t need any more stress and insecurities than what he was already dealing with at the moment. He glanced at the older man just as Frank looked like he was going to state his concerns, but a firm shake of his head and a sharp glance at Duo warned him to hold his comments until later. A nod of understanding was returned.
“Are you hungry or thirsty, Heero?” Frank asked, a slight smile on his aging face.
“A drink of water or some tea would be appreciated, thank you,” the dark-haired young man answered, not really needing the refreshment, but wanting a moment alone with Duo.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Frank then rose from his chair and made his way to the kitchen.
“Are you alright?” Heero asked, and was surprised when Duo turned to him with an incredulous expression on his face.
“Me? Forget about me. What about you? Why are you so worried about me when you were almost killed yesterday? If you want to worry, let it be for Mrs. L. or how we’re ever going to feel safe in our home again. Or how about worrying about why someone would hate me enough to try and take away everything I that I cherish.”
Heero let out the breath he’d been holding. He should have known Duo would come up with the same suspicions he had. “It could just be bad luck and someone took advantage of the house being left open,” he said in reply, quickly trying to calm his lover. But a moment after he’d spoken the words, he knew he’d said the wrong thing. Guilt was written all over Duo’s face and he regretted speaking without first thinking about what he’d said. “I’m not blaming you,” he quickly added.
“Like hell you aren’t,” Duo snapped back angrily as he jumped to his feet and began to pace in front of the seven foot-long sofa.
Heero sat back and watched. He’d learned during the last year to not say or do anything when Duo got angry and defensive. Experience had taught him that no matter what he said or did at this point, it would be taken the wrong way and only make matters worse. Once Duo collected himself, they could continue their conversation. Of course, sometimes that took several days, but he was a patient man; he would wait.
Frank came back into the room about ten minutes later, a tray in his hands bearing a tea pot and three cups. He stopped as he noted Duo’s agitated state and looked to Heero for direction.
“It’s okay, Frank,” Heero said and motioned for the older, hesitating man to put the tray on the coffee table.
Duo looked up at Frank and promptly announced that he was going upstairs. He then turned and rapidly disappeared up the stairwell.
“Is he alright?” the older man answered, setting the tray down and then beginning the task of pouring the steeped tea into two of the cups.
“He thinks I blame him for the break in because he left the door unlocked.”
Heero took the cup and saucer and sat it on rather awkwardly on his thighs, pressed together, hoping he wouldn’t spill it. “No, I don’t. But I think his upset is just an excuse for him to blow off some of the anxiousness he’s feeling. He believes someone deliberately caused the accident and wrecked our home because they’ve targeted him.”
“Is that possible?” Frank asked as he sat in his own chair with his cup and saucer in his hands.
“We’ve learned the hard way that anything is possible.”
The older man raised a curious eyebrow at that answer, so Heero continued. “Duo and I have been through a lot over the last couple of years,” he began. “I was blackmailed into leaving him, deserting him really. The he was set up to look guilty of a crime against one of our friends and was wrongfully imprisoned. Then by questionable means, he was then sent to the part of the penal colony that dealt with the worst criminals in the solar system had was left to fend for himself. He became a victim there at the hands of the dominating inmates and has been trying to recover ever since.”
“Dear lord,” Frank gasped, his eyes wide with disbelief. “Who would do these things to the both of you?”
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Heero answered, his face displaying his lingering anger over the situation. “Duo came out of that prison a physical and emotional wreck. He’s gone through every kind of therapy you can imagine and has made great progress. But he still has many deeply ingrained fears and paranoia about strangers and larger men. The accident and break in occurring on the same day brings all those feelings back. I wouldn’t be surprised after all that’s happened to find he’s had a set back.”
Frank’s eyes strayed to the staircase where Duo had disappeared. “Poor boy,” he whispered. “He needs to be cared for.”
“We just need to be patient and reassuring,” Heero told the man, silently resenting that the man inferred that Duo wasn’t being cared for. “He’s a strong person and he’ll bounce back. Of that I have no doubt.”
The older man studied Heero, wondering if those words were meant to be reassuring to him or to Heero, himself. The two men sat and sipped at their tea in quiet as the antique-looking wall clock ticked by the seconds and minutes.
Milliardo returned a half hour later. His face was grim as he sat on the end of the sofa opposite Heero. Duo’s absence was silently noted, but not discussed. The head of the Preventers focused his attention on Heero as he spoke. “I can’t be sure, but my gut instincts tell me that this is more than just a simple break in. It’s clearly not a robbery as all your electrical equipment was maliciously broken instead of taken for re-sale. Whoever did this was thorough and evidently very angry. Are you sure Duo didn’t go to your rooms upstairs?”
Heero frowned, concerned by what Milliardo had seen. It was Frank who answered the question. “He only made it as far as the front entry and the kitchen before I brought him home for the night.”
The look of relief was visible on the blond man’s face. “Why?” Heero demanded as trepidation rose within his chest. “What did you find upstairs?”
“The perpetrator went through your photos,” the blond said in a grave manner. “He placed a picture of you and one of Duo on the bed and drove kitchen knives through them. It’s my opinion that this isn’t some random case of vandalism, Heero. I requested a rush on the investigation on the car accident yesterday. The preliminary report states that the brake line had been sliced and the fluid was drained out. You only had enough in the system to leave your driveway. Do you have any idea who might have done these things?”
Heero was torn between being shocked by what he’d been told and livid that someone was fulfilling Duo’s greatest fears. He pushed both emotions aside and forced himself to focus on the question asked, and his mind quickly went over any possibilities. “I can only imagine that someone with a grudge from the war discovered where we live,” he answered. Now that Relena was gone, he couldn’t think of any acquaintance over the last year that would want to harm himself or Duo. It had to be the war coming back to haunt them again.
Milliardo’s frown deepened. “I think it would be wise to re-locate yourself and Duo. Maybe you should go to L-4 and stay with Quatre and Trowa for a while.”
There was a long, drawn-out pause as Heero thought the suggestion over, carefully considering his and Duo’s safety.
“No!” Duo’s adamant sounding voice came from the stairwell. Turning their heads, the other three men watched him come down the stairs. The eyes of the slight and smaller man blazed with a rare display of anger. “I’m not going to run like a dog with its tail between its legs, too scared to stand and defend what’s important to me.”
“Let’s talk about this before making any decision,” Heero said cautiously, watching as Duo approached the sofa.
“What’s to talk about, Heero?” Duo replied indignantly, stopping next to him. “We run or stand and fight, those are our two choices. This is our home we’re talking about. The first real home we’ve had. I’m not willing to give it up just because some sick bastard decided to try and scare us. And who’s to say he won’t follow us where ever we go? Do we spend the rest of our lives running and hiding? I’ve done that for most of my life because I didn’t have anything to stand for, but now I do.“
”Come here,” Heero motioned with his good hand for Duo to come sit next to him. He’d normally get up and go to the other man, but the pain in his ankle, wrist and head told him to stay right where he was for this confrontation.
Almost reluctantly, Duo moved as requested and sat stiffly next to his lover while keeping his eyes to the floor. Heero knew he was uncomfortable with Milliardo sitting next to him on the sofa; the other man’s size intimidated his lover. Since his time in prison, men of large stature had that effect on him.
“You don’t want to leave town then?” Milliardo directed his question to Duo.
“Would you accept an invitation from Lu and I to stay at our home until your own place can be cleaned up and more adequate security measures added?”
Duo paused a moment, then shook his head.
“I have the best security available,” Milliardo persisted, but Duo continued shaking his head.
“We’re at a disadvantage now, Duo,” Heero said softly, hoping to appeal to the other’s common sense. “I can’t protect us in my current physical state. It would make sense for us to take advantage of Milliardo’s offer.”
Duo lifted his head and turned his pleading eyes to Heero, silently begging him to understand that he wouldn’t be comfortable at the Peacecraft household any more than he would be at the Winner mansion on L-4, where whoever framed and sent to prison was still unaccounted for. It wasn’t that Milliardo or Lucretia had harmed him in any way, and there was really no reason for his unwarranted unease with the tall blond, but ever since being attacked in the penal colony, his mistrust of other people, specifically larger men with proportionately large hands, was like a large brick wall in his mind that he just couldn’t seem to scale.
Heero reached out with his good hand and cupped Duo’s cheek. “Alright,” he said softly, never able to refuse his lover anything when his eyes appealed to him in such a heartbreaking manner. “What do you suggest we do? Do you want to call Trowa?”
Duo knew what that question cost Heero. Turning to Trowa had been his first reflex since the moment the former Heavyarms pilot had done something for him that no one else had been able to; he freed him from a living hell. He’d brought him out of that hell-hole of a prison to a warm and safe environment, had taken care of him, protected, sheltered and helped him to heal. Duo had stated often that he’d always feel indebted and grateful for Trowa’s belief in his innocence and that he’d gone to the penal colony and secured his freedom. A unique bond had formed between the two of them during that time and it had been difficult, every now and then, for Quatre and Heero to come to terms with it and accept that their lovers shared such a bond with another.
“I didn’t call them last night,” Duo said quietly. “But I do think we should tell them soon about what’s happened before they hear it from someone else. We should try and figure this out ourselves, like you said, or they’ll be afraid to leave us again.” Pained eyes rose to gaze into the dark-blue orbs that looked so soft and weary. “They deserve to live their own lives and not to be trapped in ours because we have a few problems.”
Heero nodded, silently agreeing with him.
“Can we go stay at Mrs. L.’s house? She’ll need someone to take care of her when she comes home from the hospital. I can do that.” Duo said with confidence. “She helped take care of me when Trowa brought me back to Earth, so I think it’s only right if we do the same for her now.”
The lowering of Heero’s eyebrows and the wrinkles at the center of his forehead displayed his concerns at the suggestion. “If someone is out to get us, we could be putting her in danger if we stay there,” he stated.
“Not if we set up a proper security system and arm ourselves.” The other three men in the room exchanged questioning glances with each other at the mention of carrying a weapon. Duo hadn’t handled a gun in four years.
“You could stay here,” Frank calmly interjected. “It would be convenient for you to be close by to supervise the cleanup of your house and installation of any security systems you might need.”
Heero turned his eyes from Duo to their neighbor. Though Frank seemed calm, there was an earnest look in his eyes that bespoke his desire for them to accept his invitation. He then looked to Duo to judge his reaction to the offer. His lover seemed to be thinking deeply with regards to their options. For several moments, the air of expectancy hung over the room as the three men waited for Duo’s decision.
“We’ll stay here,” he said at last, his voice sounding uncertain. “But what about Mrs. L? Won’t she need some help?”
“You can visit her during the day,” Heero suggested. “And if she needs help at night, we’ll secure a caretaker for her.”
Duo nodded, looking resigned rather than pleased at their decision.
Frank stood with a pleased smile on his face. “I’ll make up the guest room,” he said and quickly climbed the stairs up to the second floor.
Milliardo had remained quiet on his side of the sofa during the conversation, watching the former gundam pilots come to some decisions. He felt that it was an appropriate time for him to take his leave. “I should be going,” he said, and the two heads turned to face him. “I need to check into the office and I’ll let you know the moment the police findings are given to me. I’ll be speaking with Wufei today, do you want me to tell him what’s happened?”
Heero nodded. “Yes, but if he wants to reach us, he’ll have to call here as I left my cell phone at home when I drove Mrs. L home.”
The tall blond took a small, electronic palm pilot out of his jacket pocket and began to put in Frank’s name and then the phone number as Heero recalled it from memory. Milliardo then shut it off and put it in his pocket. “Got it. I’ll pass the information along.”
“Maybe Wufei should tell the other guys,” Duo suggested, a look of worry on his face. “He can kind of break it to them so that they won’t come running back.”
“Good idea,” Heero agreed.
“Consider it done.” Milliardo gave the two a reassuring smile. “Get some rest and I’ll gather up some workers to come and help with the clean up as soon as I can get it organized.”
“Thank you,” Heero said sincerely, but definitely showing signs of becoming overly tired. “Duo and I appreciate your help.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Duo added, ducking his head slightly.
“Call if you need anything,” the blond said as he made his way to the door. With a wave of his hand, he left them.
The house stilled around them, and Duo took advantage of their moment together and put his head on Heero’s shoulder while holding onto his upper arm with both hands. Heero could hardly hear his voice in his ear when at last Duo stated. “I am not sleeping is a separate bedroom.”
Now that was something Heero hadn’t anticipated. They were guests in Frank’s home, and if the man had any objection to the two of them being in the same bed at night, there might be yet another problem he hadn’t considered. Damn he was tired. It wasn’t even mid-day and he felt as if he’d been up for an entire week. “We’re guests in his home, Duo. If nothing else, you can sneak into my room after he goes to bed.”
“Sounds good,” Duo mumbled.
They remained on the sofa, comfortably close to each other until the sound of Frank’s footfalls were heard coming down the stairs behind them.
“All set,” the older man announced as he came into the sitting area and sat in the chair he occupied earlier. Heero noted an odd look in the older man’s eyes as he realized just how close in proximity the two of them were sitting. He then appeared to mentally shake himself and his eyes returned to gaze at the both of them. “It’s plain to see that the both of you are tired. Would you like to go upstairs and lie down?”
“We’re fine here for a while,” Heero answered, noticing Duo’s body was leaning heavily against his own, a sign that he was also feeling the strain of the last two days. “Would you mind if we watch a little television?”
“Not at all,” Frank answered as he stood once again and reached for the remote control and handed it to the Asian young man. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Just call if you need anything.”
Heero was relieved to see their host leave the room. While he appreciated everything their neighbor was doing for them, he just wasn’t up to carrying on a conversation.
With some difficulty he managed to adjust his position so that he could angle himself a bit better onto the couch and ease himself and Duo’s lax body down into a reclined position. In the end, his slighter lover lay stretched out behind and along side of him. Switching on the television, he turned the channel to the Arts and Entertainment Channel and promptly fell asleep.
A soft touch woke both young men sleeping soundly on the sofa. Duo shot up with a gasp, his eyes wide with apprehension as his head spun from side to side to take in their surroundings. “We’re safe,” Heero told him in a groggy voice, thick from sleep.
Frank stood next to the couch. “I’m sorry I startled you,” he said apologetically. “But I have lunch prepared.”
Duo swallowed hard and blinked his eyes, recovering from the abrupt waking. With his hand on Heero’s hip, he quickly grounded himself to reality and out of the nightmare he’d been having. Looking at the coffee table, he saw a tray laden with two bowls of soup, sliced, buttered bread and two tall glasses of milk. It was so similar to what Mrs. L. used to feed them that it brought an instant smile of gratitude to his face. Both young men sat up from their reclining positions on sofa and moved to sit on the floor, the short table in front of them. The television was turned to a news station and they caught up on the current events of the day while they enjoyed the homemade soup.
The afternoon continued on in a quiet manner with Frank coming in and going out of the room frequently as he straightened the house, took care of them and Sinjin. The phone rang just before three that afternoon and, after answering it, Frank promptly handed it to Duo. From the other end of the call Wufei demanded to know, “What in the hell is going on down there?” Even though he’d been given a full account of the previous day by Milliardo Peacecraft, he wanted a first-hand report from both Heero and Duo. Over the speaker phone, they could hear him frowning unhappily just by the tone in his voice.
“Do you need me to come home, Duo?” their Chinese friend asked, sounding extremely agitated over the situation.
“No,” Duo sighed. “Your job is important and we’re alright, really. We’ll wait a day or so before we begin cleaning up the mess, and we don’t need you around for that.”
“I’m concerned for your safety,” Wufei stated. “I know you’re not comfortable with Peacecraft, but trust him, Duo. You can’t do this all by yourself and Heero isn’t going to be able to do much for a while. If Milliardo is willing to help, let him.”
Duo knew his friend was right, but trusting never had come easy for him. There were truly only a handful of people he felt he could trust, and most of them were too far away to help. “I’ll try, alright?”
“My second line just flashed Quatre’s number,” Wufei announced. “I left a message for them to call as soon as they got in, so I better go and break the news to them.”
“Tell them we’re fine and not to worry.”
“I will, even though I know that’s impossible. Call me if you need anything.”
“Alright. Goodbye, Wufei. Thanks for calling.”
The man on the other end of the line seemed reluctant to end the conversation, but after a moment, he said in closing, “Be safe. I’ll call again tomorrow to see how you’re doing.”
The phone then went dead and Duo shut it off, then leaned his head back against the sofa’s back cushions.
“Would you like for me to take that?” Frank asked from close by, his hand out for the phone.
“Nah. I’m expecting another call in a few moments, as soon as our other friends receive the news and your phone number.” Duo’s wan smile looked forced.
Five minutes later Duo’s prediction came true. He answered on the first ring and spoke to Trowa and then to Quatre. After twenty minutes of the both of them assuring their friends they were safe and handling the situation, they managed to forestall the two from hopping on the earliest shuttle and heading back home. The conversation ended like Wufei’s, with a promise to call and to return if they were needed.
Heero spent the rest of what was left of the afternoon dozing on the sofa, waking up in time for the dinner Frank served them, again on the coffee table for Heero’s convenience. Duo helped with cleaning up after the meal and then spent time out in the back yard with his dog while Heero searched the television stations for something interesting to watch. Frank and Duo spent the evening on a jigsaw puzzle while Heero found a documentary on the History Channel regarding the inter-colony skirmishes in the year AC75 that seemed to entertain him until it was time for bed.
When he started to doze off, Duo announced it was time to hit the sack and helped his lover up the stairs, following Frank who led them to the guestroom located across from Frank’s bedroom. The light shone out of the open door and into the hallway, welcoming them and as they entered the prepared room. The two young men got their first glance at the room painted an eggshell color with pictures of ocean shores decorating the walls. A twin bed rested against the right of the room against the wall, with the blue and green plaid comforter invitingly turned down. Duo gave his lover a quick look of dismay then masked it before Frank got a hint of it. All in all, the room looked as comfortable and as cozy as the room the braided man had been given. Frank had produced yet another new toothbrush for Heero to use as well as other toiletries and invited them both to take a shower before bed or in the morning, whatever was their preference.
Heero thanked their benefactor, then dismissed him by simply stating that Duo would help him get ready for bed.
“I’ll put Sinjin out one last time. Don’t hesitate to call out if you need something,” Frank told the both of them, then backed out the door, calling the dog out of the room with him before closing it behind him.
Duo waited all of ten seconds before he carefully pressed his body against his lover’s chest, cautiously wrapping his arms around Heero’s neck and hugging him. He pulled back only far enough to kiss his lover’s mouth. The kiss deepened as Duo tried to silently express his relief at their being reunited and finally being left alone as well as his need for his lover’s touch. The kiss ended and Duo set his head on Heero’s shoulder. “I’ve been waiting all day to do that,” he whispered, not wanting anyone but Heero to hear such endearments.
“Me too,” Heero replied in kind as he let his undamaged arm slip from Duo’s waist to his hips as a deep weariness crept through his body. “Can you help me get ready for bed? The pain pills I took a while ago are making me feel rather lethargic.”
After a quick visit to the bathroom, they returned to the guest room, seeing at a glance to the end of the hall way that the houselights downstairs were still on, signaling to them that Frank was still up. It took some careful maneuvering, but the two managed to take off Heero’s jeans and t-shirt, leaving him in only his boxer briefs. Duo helped his lover into his bed and made sure he was comfortably tucked in. Then standing back, a skeptical look on his face, he said, “It’s been a long time since we shared a twin bed. Do you think it’s still possible?”
“Probably,” Heero replied sleepily, then brought his good hand up to cover his yawn. “But you’ll have to be careful not to bump my arm or ankle.”
Duo frowned. “Should I stay in the other room?” It was clear by his voice and the expression on his face that sleeping in the other room by himself was the last thing he wanted, but the fact was that with the way he slept at night, pressed against Heero, it would be nearly impossible for him not to bump into either wounded injured limb.
With his eyes closed and half asleep, Heero replied, “I think that might be best.”
“Alright.” The braided man’s shoulders slumped with resignation at having to sleep alone for yet another night.
Hearing the worry in Heero’s voice, Duo replied to it. “It’s okay, Heero. Really. I’ll see you in the morning.” He then turned and quickly went to the door, shut off the light and closed it behind him, cutting off whatever his lover was about to say. He didn’t want Heero to relent his decision out of worry for him and ask him try to sleep in the same bed, especially since the consequences could be painful. He paused just outside the door for a moment and heard Heero’s soft and weary exclamation of, “Well, shit,” penetrating the thin door that stood between them.
He returned to the room he’d slept in the night before, unhappy about sleeping alone once again. Removing his jeans and shirt, he grabbed his brush and took it to the bed where he sat cross legged on top of it and pulled the elastic band off the end of his long brown hair, freeing the thick mass.
As he brushed out the rippling waves, his mind ran over the last two days, reflecting at how quickly one’s life could change. He recalled the site of the accident, and knew that the outcome could have been so much worse. He knew without a shadow of a doubt that if Heero had been killed in that accident, he’d have found Heero’s gun among the wreckage of their home that he kept in a lock box under the bed and used it on himself. Knowing his lover hated such self-destructive thoughts, he’d learned not to speak of them out loud, but the fact remained that without Heero, he had no life. He had no desire to continue living if his lover should die or even leave him for any reason, as Duo often felt Heero might.
He’d tried it once, to kill himself after Heero left him for Relena, but Quatre and Trowa had saved him, and at the time, it was the last thing he’d wanted. His two determined friends more or less talked him back into the world of the living, and he’d listened to their gentle lectures, that trying to end his life over one person or event had been foolish. Knowing his aversion for lying, they’d asked him to give his word that he wouldn’t try taking his life again. He’d hesitated at first, so his tenacious caretakers refused to leave him alone until he’d sincerely admitted his mistake and said what they needed to hear, that he would never try to kill himself again. But in his heart, he knew he couldn’t go through the anguished torment of losing Heero again.
He suspected that Heero knew his thoughts on the matter, that if his lover should die unexpectedly or leave him for whatever reason again he’d have no regrets in ending his life. He’d already lost too many and too much in his short lifetime, and he knew he couldn’t again endure the loss of the one person who gave him purpose and a reason to hold on. He shook his head at the dark train of thought he’d been following and wondered if the accident the day before had brought them to the surface again.
As he began to re-braid his hair, he knew he’d keep his morbid thoughts to himself for his friends would no doubt believe him mentally unstable and put him into more intense therapy if they knew his thoughts. He supposed that to anyone other than his friends, including his doctors, they probably already saw him as bordering crazy, with his fears, phobias and insecurities, but if they knew of his thoughts of suicide, he’d no doubt be institutionalized. So he wisely kept them to himself, sparing himself and Heero from the trauma of his being hauled off to the loony bin. As for himself, he fully believed his sanity was safe and would remain so as long as Heero stayed by his side, continuing to be the constant source of strength and stability that he’d proven to be since they’d been reunited.
A knock on his door startled him from his darker thoughts. Scrambling under the covers, he told Frank to enter, knowing it was the older man because Heero would never knock unless he was in the bathroom. The older man came in with a smile and another mug of cocoa for him, with Sinjin scampering around his ankles. He accepted the offered mug, not so much because he wanted the drink, but because Frank had gone to the trouble of fixing it for him. As he sipped from the cup, he watched the other man scan the room, his eyes softening and a bittersweet smile coming to his lips. Frank moved to the shelf filled with trophies and touched of few of them with obvious fondness.
Picking up a picture, Frank gazed down at the face of a teenage boy in a soccer uniform. Duo had studied the picture himself and wondered about the life of the young man with shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes and an engaging smile. He looked like he had been a happy kid and that his life ahead of him was bright.
“He was just out joyriding with some of his new friends from college,” Frank said, his voice soft with a slightly pained edge to it. “He was adamant about not living at home like we’d wanted him. Instead, he rented a flat with three other boys who attended the University here in the city. We asked him not to drink, warned him about the dangers of drugs, and even though we thought he listened, that he understood, he obviously did neither. He smiled at our concerns but told us frankly that he was a man and would choose his own way, that we needed to trust him, and we did. Maybe that was our biggest mistake. We should have done what we believed was right, kept him home until he was able to make better decisions. If he had, he’d be alive today.”
Sinjin jumped up onto the bed and sat next to his young master as a feeling of sadness blanketed the room. Duo felt badly for the older man who seemed so lost and alone now that his family was gone. “I’m sorry, Frank,” he said sincerely.
The older man waved off his apology. “It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to,” he said, still gazing fondly at the picture in his hands for a moment longer. He then set it back down in its original place and gave Duo a small smile. “It’s time for me to turn in.” He made his way to the bedroom door and paused to say softly, “Goodnight, son.” He then left, closing the door behind him, leaving Duo to stare after him, a worried expression on his face.