Tangled in the Web
Once again Duo was surprised to find that he slept soundly, without dreams or the restlessness he usually experienced while sleeping. And in a repeat of the day before, Sinjin was gone from his room. He rose a bit sluggishly from the bed and shuffled his way to the door and exited the room. From the hallway he could hear the television downstairs and noticed the bathroom door was open. He decided to make use of it since it wasn’t in demand. He made a quick detour to Heero’s room first, opening the door and slipping silently into the room, then closing it noiselessly behind him. He was surprised to find his lover still sound asleep as he crossed the room to stand by the bed. After gazing at the peaceful expression of his slumbering lover, he sat on the edge and frowned with worry when Heero didn’t stir. The normally light sleeper always woke at the slightest sound, a habit from his early training, yet here he was still sawing logs. Leaning over, he grazed his lips over Heero’s, giving him a soft kiss and was relieved to see the dark-lashed eyelids flutter in an effort to open.
“Morning,” he greeted the sleepy-eyed man with a saucy grin. “How ya feelin’?”
Heero licked his dry lips and scrunched up his nose with distaste. “Damn. I feel like I’ve been drugged or something,” he said in a gravelly voice.
“I think the last two days have finally caught up to you,” Duo stated. “And you’ve been taking pain pills you’re not used to ingesting.” He combed his fingers through the messy dark brown hair, brushing it away from his lover’s forehead. He then maneuvered himself to lay down and alongside his lover, resting on his side and pressed against Heero’s body. “This is cozy,” he said with a grin and wiggled closer until his lips were pressed against the tanned neck.
Heero merely hummed his agreement as his eyes shut once again. “I just need to sleep a little more,” he said, his voice fading. After a few moments, his breathing evened out, telling Duo that he had indeed fallen back to sleep. Easing himself away from the sleeping man, the braided man’s eyes lingered on his lover for a few moments before he turned to leave the room, intent on having a shower.
A half hour later he was showered, shaved and dressed. With his towel-dried hair braided for the day, he headed down the stairs aiming for the kitchen. There he found Frank sitting at the table with his daily newspaper in hand, the radio on the kitchen counter was tuned into a news station.
“Morning,” he said, announcing his presence.
The paper collapsed to reveal the older man’s smiling face. “Morning, Duo. Come have a seat and I’ll get you some breakfast.” Before Duo could say anything, Frank was out of his chair and moving towards the stove. He followed his host’s instructions and sat at the kitchen table, his eyes glancing at the kitchen clock. He was shocked to see it was nine fifty-five. Heero almost never slept in that late, unless the two of them had kept each other up most of the night and a morning’s snuggle under the covers was deemed appropriate. He worried his lower lip between his teeth wondering what was wrong with his lover. Was it the concussion that was affecting him or something else that they should go back to the hospital for?
“I’ve got waffles for you this morning,” Frank announced, opening the oven and pulling out a foil-wrapped package with oven mitts. He unwrapped the plate stacked with several waffles and put two on another plate. “Would you like milk, coffee or juice with this?” he asked with a glance over his shoulder.
“Milk,” Duo replied, then watched as the man went to the refrigerator. “Frank?” The older man paused to turn in his direction. “Seeing you’re a doctor and all, could you check out Heero’s condition when he wakes up? He never sleeps this much and I’m worried about him.”
“Of course,” the retired doctor answered, pulling out the milk container and then closing the refrigerator door. Grabbing a glass he tucked it under his arm, grabbed the plate of waffles and went to the table where he set everything down. “But it’s quite normal for his body to shut down a bit more than usual after the kind of trauma he’s been through. It helps the healing process. I wouldn’t worry about him too much.”
Not worry? That would be like telling the sun to stop shining, Duo thought. Heero was his life, of course he was going to worry about him when he acted so uncharacteristically. A bottle of syrup was set on the table and Frank urged Duo to begin eating. After taking a few bites, his bottle of vitamins was set on the table. “How’d you get those?” Duo asked, picking up the bottle to see it was indeed his prescription.
“I saw them on the kitchen floor yesterday morning when I went to get your clothing. I thought you might need them.”
Studying the bottle, Duo tried to remember if the amount left in the bottle was the same amount he’d had left before the house had been ransacked. “Do you think they’re safe to take? I mean, they could have been tampered with.”
“I found them half buried under broken plates. It didn’t look to me as if they’d been tampered with,” Frank answered, sitting at the table again and taking up his paper once more.
Duo opened the bottle and poured a capsule out into his hand and studied it for a moment, weighing the decision of whether or not to take it. Then with a shrug, he popped it into his mouth and swallowed it down with his milk.
“Eat up before your food gets cold,” Frank urged. “I have more made for when Heero wakes up.”
The injured Asian finally made an appearance around one that afternoon. Frank and Duo kept him company as he ate a fresh batch of waffles as the ones that had been saved for him had gone dry from the long wait. Duo watched him carefully and his worry increased as he noted his lover’s movements seemed sluggish and his speech was slow and halting.
Pushing his plate away, Heero looked up to his partner. “We should call Mrs. L and see how she’s doing,” he said.
“Are you finished?” Duo asked, nodding at the plate still half-filled with food.
“I’m just not hungry,” the dark haired man replied lethargically.
Receiving a pleading glance from Duo, Frank leaned forward. “Are you experiencing any internal pain that you didn’t have yesterday, Heero?” he asked.
“No,” Heero replied. “But that’s not to say my arm and leg don’t hurt or that I’m not sore. That’s normal, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” the older man answered in a comforting tone of voice. “It’s quite a violent jolt your body took when the truck hit your car. Some of that discomfort should disappear in a day or two. I have some strong pain medication on hand, a bit stronger than what you have if you feel you need something more.”
“No.” Heero shook his head. “I’m fine,” he insisted just as the phone rang. Frank moved to answer it. After greeting the caller, he turned back to them. “It’s Mr. Peacecraft.”
Heero got out of his chair and limped cautiously to the counter and leaned heavily on it as he put the phone to his ear. The call was brief and ended with Heero promising to call if they had a need for anything. He turned and sighed. “They’ve gone over the fingerprints from the house, and the results state that those they found belonged to us, our friends and Frank, from a sample he’d given them yesterday.”
“So whoever did this wore gloves?” Frank asked. Heero answered with a nod as he returned to his chair.
Duo leaned his elbows on the table and looked worriedly to Heero. “Which probably means this wasn’t a spur of a moment break-in. It was deliberate and premeditated, as was your accident.”
“They also found no other prints on the car,” Heero said, looking tired and worn. “The brake line was slit with a fine-edged tool and the fluid was drained into something to prevent a spill on the driveway.”
Duo reached across the short distance to grab hold of Heero’s upper arm. “We’ve got to get out of here,” he whispered with a tone of urgency and a look of panic in his eyes. “I know I said yesterday that we should stay here, but that was before we knew this was wasn’t a random thing, that the person who did this obviously sought us out and knows who and where we are. God, Heero, they tried to kill you in order to get me alone. They’ll probably be back to finish the job.”
Heero put his hand over Duo’s death grip on his arm and spoke calmly to his lover’s barely contained hysteria. “Like you said yesterday, Duo, we have a home. A place to call our own now. And as you said, I don’t want some random thug thinking he can terrorize us into leaving the life we’ve built here. Do you?”
Duo leaned forward, almost completely out of his chair and placed his forehead against his lover’s shoulder and in a strained whisper he asked, “What if they’d succeeded in killing you? What if I was home alone when they broke in?”
“We were careless. We’ve gotten lax in our daily living. But we can see this as a warning and we’ll take steps to be more careful now. Our guard is up and if you’ll remember, we’re pretty damn intimidating against our enemies, especially when we’re facing them together.” As Duo’s breathing became more audible and rapid, Heero knew his words hadn’t helped much to ease his lover’s justifiably growing fears. “If any thing else happens, we’ll call the other guys home, alright?”
Duo nodded, not feeling comforted by his lover’s assurances, but knew that Heero was doing his best.
“We should call Mrs. L to see how she’s doing,” Heero mentioned again, hoping to divert Duo’s anxiety. “I’m kind of tired, could you do that?”
“Alright,” Duo answered and slowly pulled himself away from Heero’s warmth. He stood from his chair and went to the phone and dialed the elderly woman’s number. The phone was picked up on the other end by the third ring and an unfamiliar male voice answered. “Um.. is Mrs. Lunderson there?” Duo asked.
“My mother is resting at the moment,” the person on the other end answered. “Can I take a message?”
“Is this Karl?” Duo asked, guessing at the man’s identity.
“She’s told us a lot about you. I’m glad you could come. My name’s Duo. How’s she doing?”
There was a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line, and when Mrs. L’s son responded, it was with unleashed anger. “How dare you put her in danger,” he snapped. “I want you and your friends to stay away from her, do you hear me? Don’t you ever...”
”Karl!” Mrs. L.’s sharp voice stopped her son’s diatribe from going further. “Give me that phone. You have no right,” the elderly woman scolded the grown man.
“I have every right,” Karl argued.
“Just give me my phone. Hello?” Mrs. L’s voice softened as it came over the line, much clearer than a moment before.
“Hey, Mrs. L. How are ya?” Duo replied, a bit uncertain. The words spoken by her son struck at every fear he’d had in getting close to the older woman who had been a grandmother figure for all the former gundam pilots.
“Oh, Duo. I’m alright, dear, and I’m so sorry about Karl’s behavior,” Mrs. L rushed to say after hearing who was on the phone. “My son doesn’t understand and is being overly protective.”
“I know,” Duo said in a subdued voice. “And he has every right to be both angry and worried.”
“Now don’t go blaming yourself over this. It was just an accident,”
“But it wasn’t, Mrs. L.” Duo’s voice was soft but agonized, knowing the woman he’d come to cherish could have been killed along with Heero. “Someone cut the brakes and drained the fluid out of the car while we visited. Then while I was at the hospital, they broke into our house and wrecked everything. I think it might be wise for you to leave town for a while, maybe go visit Karl and his family for a couple of weeks.”
“Someone wrecked your home?” she asked, clearly worried. “Where are you now?”
“We’re at our neighbor’s house. You remember Frank McAdams?”
“Yes, of course. Do you feel safe there?”
Duo paused to think about it. “Kind of. Heero’s here, but he’s not feeling very well today.”
“I’m sure he isn’t. He should have stayed in the hospital for the extra two days the doctor suggested.”
Duo slowly turned to glare at his lover, but the effort was wasted as Heero sat with his right arm resting on the table top, his head leaning heavily on his upraised hand, his eyes were closed and his face was as pale as Duo’s own. He looked bad, the braided man decided. “I’ll see to it that he gets plenty of rest,” he assured the elderly woman. “But are you sure you’re alright?”
“I’m sore just about everywhere,” she replied lightheartedly, as if her pains were of no consequence. “But I feel much better now that I’m home.”
“Do you need any help?”
“Not at the moment,” she answered. “Karl is here with his oldest daughter, Gian. They’re doing all the house work so all I have to do is sit like a queen and be waited upon.”
“I’d offer to come over and help,” Duo said, “but in light of what’s happened, I think it might be safer if we kept our distance for a while. Will you please think about going away? I don’t want you to be in danger because of us.”
“I’ll consider it, but I really don’t like being away from my home anymore.”
“Please,” Duo pleaded with her, concerned for her safety.
She paused, hearing the honest worry in his voice, then answered, “Very well, I’ll think about it.”
“Thanks,” Duo said. “We’d never forgive ourselves if something happened to you because of your association with us. You’re a part of our family, you know.”
“I feel the same way, dear. But I don’t want to hear any negative talk about me dying and you feeling guilty,” Mrs. L. gently scolded. “I’ve lived a good life and when it’s my time, I’ll gladly go. But I’m not quite ready to leave just yet and certainly not when my life has gotten so interesting.”
Duo could hear the humor in her voice and knew she was referring to the five former gundam pilots more or less adopting her as a grandparent figure. The two of them chatted for a few more minutes, reassuring each other again that they were alright before the call ended with Duo giving her Frank’s phone number. He turned around after putting the phone in its cradle only to see Heero sound asleep with his head resting on his arms that were folded on the tabletop.
“Frank?” Duo called out for the retired doctor who’d left the kitchen during his conversation to Mrs. L, giving him some privacy for the phone call. The elderly man returned promptly and Duo pointed to Heero’s slumbering form. “I’m really worried about him. Heero just doesn’t fall asleep like this.” He moved to sit close to his lover, concern and a trace of fear on his face.
“His body is recovering and it’s taxing his strength,” the doctor answered reassuringly. “Let’s take him to his room where he can rest peacefully.”
“Can’t we put him on the sofa in the front room? I can keep an eye on him from there. I’m worried that they might have missed something at the hospital and that he might need some more medical attention.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Frank said in a soft but confident tone. “I do think he’d rest more comfortably in the quiet of his room upstairs, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll put him on the sofa.”
“Thanks. I’ll feel less worried if he’s close. How should we move him?”
“We’ll do it together,” Frank answered. They both moved to Heero’s side and gently eased the slumbering young man into their arms and half carried him together out of the kitchen and settled him onto the living room sofa. Throughout the short move and the fussing Duo made after Heero had been stretched out on the furniture, the dark haired young man remained asleep, and deep within himself, Duo knew something was terribly wrong.
Sitting in one of the side chairs with the television on and Sinjin resting on his lap, the braided man prepared himself to wait all afternoon if he had to for Heero to wake up. Frank puttered around the house, and whatever he was doing was beyond Duo’s interest. After a while, the older man appeared and set a foot-long wooden box, covered with little holes, on the coffee table and a stack of cards joined it.
“Ever play cribbage?” the older man asked.
“Never heard of it,” Duo replied.
“Robbie used to indulge me with a game now and then. Would you like to learn, just to pass the time?”
A glance told him Heero was still asleep, and he had no idea how long he’d remain that way. “Sure,” he shrugged, hoping the activity would help to pass the time in the quiet house. He took a place on the floor in front of the sofa and let Frank have his chair. The older man began explaining the principles of the game as the clock on the wall ticked off the passing moments.
Trowa’s phone call an hour into the game didn’t seem to disturb Heero’s sleep. The half-hour conversation, though costly, helped to assuage some of Duo’s fears. Just listening to Trowa’s soothing voice and reassurances helped him to feel better about the arrangements they’d made. When the conversation came to a close, both young men, separated by a great deal of distance, were able to say goodbye feeling much better than when they’d first begun speaking.
Duo then returned to the living room where Heero remained asleep and Frank had set out drinks and snacks next to the untouched cribbage board and cards turned face down.
“Would you like to continue?” the older man asked.
With Heero still asleep, Duo felt like he had nothing better to do. “Sure,” he answered. ”Whose turn was it?” He resumed his place on the floor, leaning his back against the sofa cushions, inches from Heero’s resting body.
It was dinner time before Heero showed any signs of waking. While Frank put the dog out back and started the evening meal, Duo hovered over his lover, helping him back upstairs to use the bathroom and taking advantage of the few moments of privacy they had to hold and touch him, reassuring himself that the person who meant the world to him was going to be alright.
Heero was even more quiet than usual and his movements were sluggish. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” he said, his voice deep and groggy as he stood at the bathroom sink and washed his face and hands. “I’m not able to think clearly.”
Duo hovered close by in case Heero’s sense of balance was off. “Frank has offered to look you over now that you’re awake. I’m worried that something else is going on. Are you experiencing any internal pain?”
“Where?” Duo studied Heero’s face, taking note of the bandage on his forehead as well as the half-lidded eyes and pale complexion.
“Everywhere, but nothing that didn’t hurt before. I don’t think there’s any internal damage, other than bruising.”
“Want a pill?”
“Maybe after dinner, but I really don’t want to sleep anymore. Maybe I’m feeling this way because I’ve slept too much.”
“Why don’t you lie down until dinner?” Duo said, leading Heero to his bedroom. “I’ll even lock the door.”
Heero gave a disgruntled, side-long glance at his lover. “I’m definitely not up to anything like that, Duo.”
“Che, I know that.” With a wave of his hand, Duo dismissed Heero’s misjudgement of his suggestion. “ I just want to hold you without worrying about Frank walking in on us.”
Heero slowly hobbled to the guest-room bed and eased himself down onto it, his right ankle throbbing uncomfortably as he lifted his legs while Duo locked the bedroom door. The braided man then came to the bed and carefully stretched out next to his lover and gently snuggled up as close as he dared. “I miss this,” he whispered, then leaned forward to kiss the slightly stubbled cheek.
“Me too,” Heero answered.
Rising up, careful not to put any pressure on Heero’s pained body, Duo leaned over him and placed soft kisses against his lover’s forehead, then each eyelid, temple, cheek, chin and then his lips. The kisses were sweet, undemanding, and brought both of them back to the time when Heero had moved into Mrs. L’s house, shortly after Relena’s assassination. They shared a bed because he’d needed a warm presence next to him in the dark of night, to assure him he wasn’t alone nor deserted in some alley of the penal colony while the other inmates searched him out. Heero had eased into the position of his protector, comforter and caretaker after moving in, taking over the role that Trowa had previously held. Their auburn-haired friend graciously bowed out, which helped to alleviated some of the worries Quatre had harbored after the surprising discovery of finding Trowa holding him in his sleep that first night the blond man had returned to Earth after Duo’s rescue from the penal colony.
The two of them began very slowly to reestablish their relationship, agreeing not to jump into the more intimate aspects of their union. Not only did he have his physical problems to deal with, but he’d also had enough emotional baggage to fill a space resource satellite. Yet Heero patiently waited and observed his slow recovery, encouraging him all the way. Duo knew he was fortunate, and still doubted his worthiness of the love and devotion Heero had for him. When his injured lover felt better, he’s show Heero just how much he meant to him.
After making sure that his injured lover’s face and neck had been adequately covered with his kisses, Duo lay down against him once again, resting his head on his shoulder. “I love you, Heero. There aren’t words to tell you how much.”
“Me too,” Heero answered in a whisper as he took hold of Duo’s braid and held it lovingly in his hand.
Roughly ten minutes later, Duo heard the anticipated footsteps slowly climbing the stairs. He left the warmth of Heero’s body and went to the door, unlocked and opened it before Frank could reach it and knock.
“Dinner’s ready,” the gray-haired man announced. “It’s your favorite, Chicken Cacciatore.”
“I’ll get Heero and we’ll be right down,” Duo replied, wondering if Frank was getting him confused with his son again. He’d never had that chicken dish before.
With Sinjin running around their feet, Duo acted as a human crutch while helping Heero down the stairs and into the kitchen, brightly lit by the late afternoon sun that was setting in the western sky. They both noticed the table had been set and that a bowl of salad and another of bread was sitting in the center. Each plate was sided by a cloth napkin, silverware and had a full glass of milk just above it. All of Frank’s preparations gave the kitchen a homey feel and appearance.
“Smells good!” Duo said, noting that the air was filled with the heady scent of Italian spices.
“Come sit down and I’ll serve dinner up.”
After getting Heero set into his chair comfortably, Duo took the one he usually occupied and the two former gundam pilots watched as the older man placed a platter of hot food on the table.
Heero’s demeanor seemed to perk up as he ate some of the delicious food, and some color returned to his face as he joined in with the conversation at times though Frank seemed to carry most of it.
Milliardo and his wife, Lucretia, dropped by that evening for a short visit, their infant son in the proud mother’s arms. Luce, as Duo mentally referred to her, asked if either of them wanted to hold the sleeping, chubby-cheeked baby with blond hair that barely covered his otherwise pale, bald head. Heero declined, his cast making the proposed task too difficult, but Duo reluctantly allowed the dark-haired woman to set the bundled infant in his arms. Gazing down at the baby, Duo suddenly felt awed by the new life in his arms as he studied the face reflecting pure innocence and beauty. In his heart he hoped that this baby would only know peace and happiness in his life. He looked up to Heero, their eyes locking. “It’s hard to imagine we started out like this, isn’t it? So small and pure. Did we ever really sleep this peacefully, no bad dreams or fears? Were we ever this innocent?”
Heero’s gaze shifted from his lover down to the baby and studied it for a moment before he reached over and touched the tiny hand closest to him and let his fingers trace each digit. The skin seemed impossibly soft, smooth and warm. “You have a similar expression on your face when you sleep, and it’s both peaceful and beautiful.”
Duo had been watching Heero touching the baby, then looked up at his lover in hearing his quiet statement, surprised that he would express such a personal sentiment in front of three other people. He quickly saw that Heero hadn’t meant it in any romantic way, but was just stating the truth as he saw it. He gave his lover a small smile and hoped his eyes, staring into Heero’s, told the other man just how much he was loved.
Wufei called in the middle of their visit and Duo volunteered to take it. He handed the baby back to its mother and took the call in the kitchen for a bit more privacy. When he returned to the living room a good while later, their guests had gone.
“Mill and Lu said to tell you goodbye,” Heero told him as the braided man resumed his seat on the couch.
“And Wufei sends his best regards.”
When the conversation lulled, Frank asked what, if anything, they’d like to do to pass the rest of the evening. He offered several board games, a movie or television. They settled on a simple board game and played for an hour or so before Frank took a break to bring out some cookies and cocoa. Placing the tray of goodies on the table and a mug in front of both of them, the game commenced once again.
“I’m tired,” Heero announced a half hour later with an accompanying yawn. Duo looked up, surprised by the statement. Heero had only been up for a couple of hours. He turned to give the older man a questioning look. “Is it normal for him to be tired already? He slept all night and day.”
“As I said before,” Frank answered patiently. “He’s had a severe head injury. It’s quite natural for his mind and body to require more rest than usual. Has he ever suffered head trauma before?”
Duo’s mind went back in time to count the many injuries he knew Heero’d sustained, including his falling off of the fired torpedoes into the water below on the first day they’d met, and the self-destruction of Wing on the battlefield when his body went flying through the air as his gundam blew apart. “Yeah, he’s had several. One time the blow to his head had him unconscious for a couple of hours, and another time for two weeks.” Duo looked from the doctor to Heero who rested heavily against the couch cushions with his eyes closed.
Frank frowned at the news. “Several? Well that might explain it. With each incident of concussion, the brain tissue is damaged further. The trauma to his head from his recent accident might possibly have compounded the damage already there and led to more permanent damage that could affect his day-to-day living. We’ll have to make an appointment with a neurologist in a couple of weeks to undergo a complete neurological exam. In the mean time, he needs complete bed rest. Why don’t we try to wake him up and get him into his bed before we end up having to carry him there.”
Duo nodded, then roused Heero just enough to get him moving up the stairs, make a quick trip to the bathroom, then got him into his room and stripped him down to his boxers and t-shirt in preparation for bed.
Frank turned down the covers, making it easier to put the injured man to bed, then discretely left the room saying he’d put Sinjin out before retiring for the night.
Duo sat on the edge of the twin bed and brushed the dark coarse hair away from Heero’s forehead. He planted a gentle kiss there, hating the idea of their being separated from him for yet another night. Heero was out of it and still in pain, he told himself, and it was likely that he’d have to sleep with only Sinjin as company until they were back in their own home again. With a resigned sigh, he stood and tucked the covers around his sleeping lover. Turning out the light by the bed, he left the room and closed the door behind him, then went to the bathroom to prepare for bed.
Sinjin was waiting in the bedroom for him as were two chocolate truffles on a napkin on the bedside table. He eyed the tempting treats, debating whether or not he should eat them as he undressed or save them for in the morning. But given that he’d never been able to resist such a tempting treat, he wound up eating them both, savoring each bite as the smooth rich chocolate melted in his mouth. He made one last dash to the bathroom to brush his teeth once again, then returned to the bedroom and quickly climbed into the bed. Using the remote, he turned on the television and listened to the news for a while as he absently pet his dog, resting comfortably on his lap.
A light tap on his door announced that Frank was back and the older man stuck his head in and smiled. “All set for the night?”
“Yeah, thanks again, Frank,” Duo replied. “Sorry we’re so much trouble.”
The older man waved off the apology. “Not at all. It gives me something to do.” He walked further into the room and sat on the far end of the bed. “While you were out of the room and on the phone, Mr. Peacecraft mentioned that he’s going to have a couple of his personal household staff come to help with cleaning up your house tomorrow. While Heero’s resting, you can go supervise, if you’d like, and I’ll keep an eye on him.”
Duo thought about it for a moment. He really didn’t want to be around a lot of strangers in his wrecked home, but neither did he want them going through their things without one of them being present. “Maybe for a little while,” he said, receiving a look of approval from the older man.
They talked a while longer and it took a prolonged yawn from the braided man for Frank to get the hint that his guest was tired. The man exited the room, wishing him a good night.
Duo lay down his bed, shifting until he felt comfortable. He reached up and turned off the lap next to the bed, leaving the room lit only by the light of the television screen. With the sound turned down, he figured it would be the perfect nightlight. Then it dawned on him that he was about to spend his third night without Heero sharing his bed. It seemed odd to him that he wasn’t more upset about it as much as he thought he would be. He yawned deeply, feeling extremely tired all of a sudden, and snuggled down under the covers, pulling his dog closer to his side. His last coherent thought that night was that he hoped Heero would feel better when he woke up in the morning.
Duo checked on his lover first thing the next morning and left him to sleep while he took his shower and shaved. He took his brush into the guest bedroom and watched the rise and fall of Heero’s blanketed chest as he brushed out his long hair. Sinjin was gone when he woke up, and he was a bit disconcerted at knowing that yet again he hadn’t woken up when the older man had entered the bedroom. That fact bothered him a great deal. Both he and Heero were light sleepers. The war had trained them to react to the slightest sound, even in their sleep. Yet since their arrival in Frank’s home, they’d both slept the sleep of the dead.
He almost wondered if maybe they were being drugged, but quickly pushed the thought aside. He could find no motive from the older man to do such a thing. Besides, he didn’t have that drug aftertaste in his mouth nor did he feel sluggish, an aftereffect he remembered well from all the times he’d been drugged during and after his surgeries.
The sound of Frank’s footfalls on the stairs alerted him to his imminent arrival. He set his brush on the side table so that when Heero finally awoke he’d know that he’d been there. With a final look at the slumbering man, Duo turned to the door to intercept their host.
After a breakfast of sausage and eggs, Duo rushed next door to meet the newly arrived workers Milliardo Peacecraft had sent. He was immediately relieved to find four women, dressed in casual clothing and carrying brooms and buckets filled with cleaning supplies, standing on the front porch of his and Heero’s home. They each introduced themselves to him and Duo was sure that he’d forget the foreign sounding names before more than a few minutes passed. He unlocked the front door of the house, telling them what to expect once they were inside. The sharp intake of each woman’s breath as they got their first glimpse of the home’s destruction was their immediate reaction. Then the four, under the direction of one dark-skinned, middle-age, stout and hearty Eritrean woman named Dabwatishe, separated into different directions. Two went upstairs, one to the kitchen, and Dab, as she preferred to be called, tackled the living room.
The dark hair and eyed woman glanced at the young man looking a bit lost in all the disorder. “If you’d like to help, Mr. Maxwell, you can carry the ruined furniture out to the front lawn. Mr. Peacecraft will have a truck here at one this afternoon to take whatever is unusable away.”
The trashed remnants of their furniture on the front lawn caught the attention of other neighbors who came over out of curiosity to see what was going on. The result was more helping hands. By the time one thirty rolled around, all the damaged furniture was being efficiently loaded into the back of a commercial truck; its destination was the nearest dump.
Frank came over during the process with a platter filled with sandwiches, apples and lemonade for everyone. His kind gesture was appreciated and Duo was touched once again by the man’s generosity. He was equally amazed at the willingness of their neighbors to help them. Heero had met most of them and described them in great detail. But to Duo, who’d spent most of the year either in the house or the sheltered back yard, they were all strangers. Looking at their expressions of genuine concern and eagerness to help, he felt guilty for being such a recluse for the past year. His fears had kept him housebound, and all that time they’d been surrounded by kind and caring people like Frank.
From a short distance away, Duo watched the group of neighbors surrounding the truck, and he was struck by the fact that his and Heero’s roles seemed to have switched from what they’d been before. He used to be the one to step out to meet new people, had been outgoing, friendly and curious - but that had all changed three years ago. It was as if he and his lover had undergone lobotomies and their brains had been switched somehow, because Heero now took on those personality traits he used to have. It was Heero who went out to meet the neighbors, greeted the mail and delivery workers. His lover had made the appointments, arrangements and did the shopping while he’d become the recluse, frightened of crowds, wary of large men or hands reaching out for him. And now, in seeing the neighbors willingly helping them, probably because of their association with Heero, he could see they were good people and that he’d been wrong to fear them.
As the truck drove away and the neighbors came to him with words of parting, Duo returned to Frank’s house in order to check on Heero again. He found his lover lying on the sofa, his cast-covered arm resting on a pillow that lay on his stomach. The news channel was on and a remote control lay in his lover’s slack right hand. It appeared that he’d been well taken care of in his absence.
Moving silently towards the sofa, Duo knelt in front of his lover to find his eyes were completely closed. He was surprised to see that Heero was sleeping once again and not watching the news as he’d first supposed. He combed his fingers through the dark chocolate colored locks and frowned as Heero remained undisturbed.
“Frank?” he called out, not caring if his voice woke the sleeping man, in fact, he hoped it would.
The older man came out of the kitchen with a smile of welcome on his face that quickly faltered at seeing Duo’s worried expression. “Did you give Heero something? Some kind of drug?” he asked, trying hard not to accuse the other man of any wrong doing despite a nagging tug at his mind that things were not quite right. “He never sleeps this hard.”
“He was experiencing a headache and discomfort after lunch and I gave him one of my pain pills,” Frank answered unflappably. “They’re a rather strong dosage and it seems to have made him sleepy, which is understandable.”
“Next time give him a half dose,” Duo said, looking back at his lover’s face. “I don’t think he should be sleeping this much. If this continues, I’m calling Milliardo to come take him back to the hospital.”
Frank put the towel he was carrying and set it on the kitchen counter before he proceeded to walk to the sofa. Leaning past Duo, he lifted one of Heero’s eyelids and put his finger tips to the pulse on his neck. “I think you’re right,” he said quietly. “We’ll decrease his medication and see if that helps. I’m afraid he’ll be asleep for another couple of hours though. Would you like to play a game? Cribbage?” Duo couldn’t help but see the hopeful look in the older man’s eyes as he waited for his answer.
“Sorry, Frank, but I’ve got to get back over to the house. The workers are doing an amazing job at cleaning things up. I think we’ll finish up today and be able to move back in as soon as we can get the locks changed and some furniture, or at least a bed, bought.”
“There’s no rush,” Frank said with a smile that looked a bit forced. “Heero certainly isn’t in any shape to care for either of you. He’ll probably be more comfortable here until you can get all the furniture and amenities you need, not to mention a security system in place.”
Duo shrugged, mentally acknowledging that Frank was right, Heero was recovering and the man’s home was a comfortable haven at the moment and close to their house. But that didn’t diminish his desire for wanting to get back into their home. He knew the retired doctor was lonely and genuinely appeared to be enjoying their company even though they were a burden to him, but he wanted to be back in their own place, sharing a bed with Heero at night and waking up with him in the morning. He sighed. “I’ll call Milliardo about a security system tonight and at least get the ball rolling in the right direction,” Duo decided. “I don’t know how long it will take for us to buy furniture, considering Heero can’t seem to stay awake for more than and hour or two.”
“Take it a day at a time,” Frank advised.
Duo nodded and stood from his position next to the sofa and Heero’s side. “I better get back over there. Come and get me when he wakes up, all right?”
Frank smiled warmly at him. “Of course, son.”
Duo paused, wondering if he should correct the man and tell him he wasn’t his son, but faltered as the man’s worn and wrinkled face smiled fondly at him before he turned and made his way back to the kitchen.
Once Frank had gone, Duo leaned over and kissed Heero’s lips and felt a ripple of disappoint when he didn’t wake up. Reluctantly, he turned and went out the front door, hearing his dog fussing at the backdoor to get in. He felt badly about not giving Sinjin any attention that day, but vowed to play with him later that afternoon.