Warnings and disclaimer on first page of story.
Pain and nausea were the first sensations Heero experienced as he struggled within the morass of troubled dreams and darkness. The simple act of opening his eyes suddenly seemed like one of the hardest things he’d ever done. When he had a lucid thought, he realized he was caught drifting between dreaming and struggling to wake up. He’d been trying to escape an especially disturbing dream, a nightmare, really, that began with a gut-wrenching scream that he instinctively knew had come from his lover. In this dream, he forced himself from a strangely deep somnolent state in response to that desperate call only to find his body and mind were stuck in a quagmire of lassitude. His instincts screamed at him to get up and move because Duo was in trouble. Opening his eyes, he dimly realized he was in the guest bedroom in Frank’s home and that there were needles in his arms. Focusing his blurred vision on them for only a moment, he began to clumsily clawed at the taped needle with the weak fingers of his good hand. The other IV he had to pull out with his teeth because of his incapacitating cast, vaguely wondering why the needles were there. Once the offensive things were out, he fought the debilitating weakness in his body and struggled to sit up. Somehow, he managed the unbelievably difficult task but he was then forced to pause a moment until the room stopped spinning. Taking a deep breath, he moved forward and cautiously came to his feet, holding onto the footboard of the bed to steady himself.
With his heart beating loudly in his ears and his stomach threatening to heave up gastric juices, he held onto the furniture and then the walls as he made his way towards the door of the room. Along the way he found a baseball bat leaning against the hidden corner of the desk and grabbed it to use as a cane and for protection if need be.
The bedroom door across from his own had been left open. It was dark inside, but he could hear that something was going on in there. He staggered his way over to the door and peered into the dark space. And even though his eyesight was blurred, he could make out the outline of a man, a large, unknown stranger, and that he was draped on top of someone who had slender and pale legs. With a jolting shock, he realized those legs could only belong to his lover and a terrible rage engulfed him. Then, with all the strength he could muster, he challenged the man. The intruder stood from off the bed, and in the dim shadow of the room, Heero noted that the man was tall and large in build. He appeared to have only one hand, and it was being used to hold his lover down on the mattress.
Duo yelled at him in a voice filled with panic from his position on the bed to get out of there, but he couldn’t. He’d given his word. He’d sworn to his lover that no one would ever hurt him again, that he would always be there to protect him. Without a second thought, Heero knew he would give all he had to make sure that promise remained true. Seeing Duo pulled up off the bed by his hair and held up against his attacker’s chest shot a surge of strong emotions though his weak body, the foremost of which was rage, and that tsunami of feelings almost proved to be his undoing. His body reacted badly, his knees weakened and he swayed, threatening to collapse. His heart beat frantically in his chest, pumping with a desperate need to rescue his lover. His eyes scanned the familiar form held up as a shield before the larger man. Duo was naked, wearing only torn bits of cloth that dangled from the elastic cuff around his wrists and a small strip of fabric that hung limply from what had once been the neck of the shirt. To his bleary eyes, Duo looked beaten and dazed, his eyes, though barely visible in the dim room, were wide and filled with terror. Without a doubt, Heero knew his lover was suffering from his memories of his past as well as the horror of the present.
Duo suddenly dropped to his knees, and the man behind him laughed before he swung his one fist at his lover’s head. There was a sickening sound of flesh meeting flesh and Duo collapsed like a rag doll onto the carpet. The one-armed man then turned to face him, his smile looked smug and dangerous. With his mind sluggish and his limbs weaker than he could ever remember them being, he prepared to take on the fight of his life. As the man lunged towards him, he swung the bat with all his strength but missed the head he was aiming for, hitting the biceps of the amputated arm instead. After that, everything became blurry. He dimly remembered the bat jerked out of his hand and receiving a excruciating blow to his stomach. After several jarring hits to his head and ribs he found himself curled up on the floor, his body throbbing with pain. His last thought as he slipped into unconsciousness was that he’d failed Duo, that his efforts to help his lover hadn’t been enough.
With the vision of that dreadful nightmare still in his head, he was startled into consciousness, and despite the splitting headache and the pain the rest of his body was reporting, he tried blinking several times in an effort to open his eyes.
“Heero?” It was Trowa’s voice that called out his name. His eyes slowly focused on the face hovering close to his own. “How are you feeling?” He could tell by the antiseptic smell of the cool air around him and the vague images he would make out with his blurred vision that he was in a hospital.
“Duo?” He managed to get his lover’s name out of his mouth despite the fact that it was dry of all moisture and his tongue felt too big for his mouth and didn’t seem to want to work right.
“He’s here in the hospital and we’re with him. He’s going to be alright,” Trowa answered, his voice calm, but something in his tone told Heero that there was more going on than his friend was saying.
“What happened?” he managed to say, his eyes closing again for a moment as his head was pounding, feeling as if it were splitting apart.
“I was hoping you could tell me.”
Heero’s mind was too muddled to make out what was going on. His chief concerns were Duo and the pain that seemed to radiate from every point on his body, especially his head.
“Take me to him.”
“Not just yet, Heero. He’s sleeping. The doctor gave him a sedative, despite his concussion. He’s understandably upset.”
One blue eye opened a fraction and looked at his friend standing at his bedside. “What happened?” he asked again, and then it was as if the question triggered a switch in his mind. Suddenly, he knew the nightmare he’d had just before waking had actually transpired. The sounds and images of those dark few moments before he became conscious came back in full detail, as if a movie was being played in his mind. Both of his eyes opened fully and widened further with horror. He began the difficult struggle of trying to sit up. “I’ve got to get to Duo. That man was trying to rape him. Who was he? Dammit, Trowa. Please, tell me he didn’t succeed.”
Trowa’s hands went to Heero’s hospital-gown covered shoulders and pushed him back down to the mattress. He then held the struggling man down. Heero’s weakness and inability to fight the hold was evidence of his injuries and condition. “Stay there.” Trowa emphasized his point by pressing his hands even more firmly against the pinned shoulders. “Duo’s been hurt and he’s traumatized, but the man who attacked the both of you didn’t succeed in violating him,” Trowa assured the anguished man on the bed. “You need to stay calm and not exert yourself until you’re a bit better. Duo’s going to need you.”
“Where is that bastard?” Heero growled, though his struggling had ceased.
“Dead. I killed him.”
The sharp tone that accompanied that order told Trowa that Heero was reverting back to his soldier mode. For when overwhelming problems or difficulties arose, the former perfect soldier dealt with them best if they were listed, analyzed and tackled in a logical, systematic way. With Heero more or less in control of himself, Trowa removed his hands from off him and set out to tell him of Duo’s injuries, knowing that was more important to Heero at the moment than his own physical ailments. “Duo received several severe blows to the head and has a concussion, as do you. He has an abrasion on the front of his neck from where the man ripped his shirt from off his back, and he’s bruised from a beating and he’s sustained some damage to his scalp where his hair was ripped out. Harley Stubben was the name of your attacker - a convict from the same penal colony that Duo had been assigned to. He evidently had a grudge against Duo. Stubbens told me that Duo was responsible for him losing his arm. He also killed Frank McAdams.”
Heero groaned and brought his hand up to cover his aching eyes. “Duo was afraid of someone finding him. It seems his fears were justified and I dismissed them as unfounded paranoia. I was stupid not to trust his instincts,” he said, dismayed. “And now another innocent person is dead.”
Trowa waited for several moments for Heero to compose himself before he continued his status report. “You’ve also sustained injuries from the man’s beating and you have a couple of cracked ribs from being hit with a blunt object.”
“A bat,” Heero supplied the name of the weapon in a tone of voice Trowa associated with his personality during the war: clipped, precise, but not quite as unemotional as he’d been before Duo had managed to get under his tough shell and training. “I found it in the bedroom when I got out of bed.”
“Can you tell me what you remember from the moment you woke up?” Trowa asked.
“Damn this hurts,” Heero said after a brief nod. He brought his hand back to his head and gently rubbed his temple. “I don’t know exactly what the hell happened, but I heard something horrible. I think it was Duo, but it didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard come out of him before. It woke me up and I forced myself to consciousness only to find that I had needles in my arms.”
He seemed confused by what he was remembering and stopped speaking for a moment to look down at his arms. There, on his forearms, were the two visible puncture marks with slight bruises surrounding them and the gummy residue of the tape that had held the needles in place, proof of what he was remembering. His face became pinched with a frown as he tried to recall precisely what had happened next.
“I felt horrible as I sat up and then found that I could barely stand, so I had to use the bed and then the room’s furniture to get to the door. Along the way I found the bat, as I said, and I thought it would be useful as a crutch of sorts. I... I remember coming into the room and seeing the man on the bed and underneath him were legs I knew were Duo’s. I realized what was going on and told the bastard to get off of him. As the man left Duo to attack me, I swung the bat, hitting him in the arm. But I was too weak and he was able to take it away from me.” Worriedly he looked up to his friend and asked again, “You’re sure Duo’s alright?”
“He’ll recover from his physical injuries fairly quickly,” Trowa answered, withholding the rest of Duo’s condition from the man in the bed until it was absolutely necessary to reveal it.
“Why was I hooked up with IVs?”
“We were hoping you could tell us. There’s some question as to what exactly went on in that house. Do you know how long you were there? We were told you and Duo had left Frank’s house after Mrs. L’s death in order to find a safer location.”
Heero sheltered his eyes from the bright light above with his hand and squinted at his friend. Even though it was clear that he was in physical pain, Trowa could see there was also an emotional pain there as Heero was reminded of the sweet elderly woman’s death. In an soft, emotion-filled voice Heero whispered, “I’m sorry about Mrs. L., Trowa. Duo and I feel it was somehow our fault.”
“Stop,” Trowa whispered, still dealing with the emotional pain of the older woman’s death himself. “It’s not your fault. For all we know she might have fallen down the stairs on her own. That happens a lot with elderly people. You did nothing to bring about her death.” Trowa’s own sadness matched the look of sorrow and regret he seen in Heero’s face. He’d found it easy to set it aside his own grief for Mrs. L. while their friends had been missing. Yet he knew that sooner or later he’d have to deal with it; but now was not the time. He’d hold his grief back a while longer and wait for a time when things settled down. Then he could grieve properly for the elderly woman who had treated him like a grandson.
Because he wasn’t in any condition to argue the point, Heero let his expression show Trowa that he didn’t believe him, that he persisted in the belief that somehow he and Duo were responsible for Mrs. L’s death. Instead, Heero sighed deeply, then winced and gasped as the slight movement caused a horrible pain to shoot up from his fractured ribs.
Trowa waited until he recovered before he began to question him again. “What is the last thing you remember before Mrs. L’s death?”
“We went looking for Sinjin. He went missing that morning and Duo thought he might have run to Mrs. L.’s house because they’d been there the day before. That’s what brought us there. I... I think we both sort of lost it after discovering her body. I hadn’t been feeling well and I only vaguely remember holding onto Duo as we both grieved for her. I... I don’t remember leaving her home,” he said with a puzzled frown. “I guess I must have fallen asleep. I remember... Well, I’m not sure what I remember. It’s kind of a blur. I don’t recall much of anything after that. I know that we went back to Frank’s house and that I couldn’t seem to stay awake. I think Milliardo was there. You say we left Frank’s house?”
Trowa nodded. “Frank told us you’d left a note. When we arrived the next day, he gave it to me to read. It was in Duo’s handwriting.”
“I don’t remember leaving. If we did, why were we there when Stubbens attacked?”
“We don’t know. We were hoping you could shed some light on what transpired in the house and events leading up to Stubben’s attack,” Trowa replied, his face looking grave. “From what we’ve gathered, you were in bed with drugs being pumped into you intravenously to keep you in a coma-like state. It appears that Duo had been held prisoner in a small, contained room in the basement.”
Heero’s expression looked like something between being horrified and absolutely livid. “Was it Stubbens or Frank? Or maybe even both?”
“We don’t know, though the doctor is suspect because he had access to drugs and knew how to start an IV.”
Puzzled and hurt, Heero looked to his friend for the answers to the many questions that were hammering away in his head. “But why? Why would Frank do something like that? He was so... kind to us.”
“I don’t know,” Trowa said as he sighed his frustration.
“What does Duo have to say?”
There must have been something in his face that gave him away to Heero, for the injured man, despite the pain his movement caused, leaned over and grabbed hold of his arm, squeezing it tightly. “What aren’t you telling me? What’s wrong with Duo?”
Trowa knew he couldn’t lie to Heero, not about something this important. At the same time, he dreaded telling him of his lover’s mental state. There was no way to beat around the bush, so he quietly said what needed to be told. “He hasn’t said a word since the attack.”
Heero used his painful grip on his friend’s arm to pull himself up, and he bit back a cry as the movement brought almost unbearable pain to his head and ribs, and all the aches on his body made themselves known. He ignored it all. In a voice strained with emotion and pain, he whispered, “Take me to him.”
“You’re in no condition to be moved, Heero. Lie back down before you hurt yourself further.”
Trowa guessed that stubborn had to be his friend’s real first, middle and last names as he pulled himself up, using Trowa’s arms as if they were ropes. Heero managed to get himself into a sitting position, panting heavily from the pain and effort. He looked up through his ragged fringe of dark hair with pleading eyes. “Help me, dammit, or I’ll crawl there on my hands and knees.”
Trowa swore in several languages under his breath at Heero’s obstinacy. Heero had clearly taken on a mission of being at his lover’s side, and he knew from past experience that nothing this side of a war starting up at that moment would keep him from carrying it out.
“Duo’s sleeping, Heero. If you’ll wait here for a minute and let the doctor check you out, I’ll see to it that you’re moved into a room with him. Alright?”
Heero dropped his head, exhausted by his efforts, but still resolute as he whispered, “Hurry.”
The doctor was anything but happy that Heero was sitting up. Trowa watched the stubborn ass defy the doctor when he was requested to lie back down, but he did answer the questions the physician asked as he did a quick check up on the emergency room patient. “Your ribs are taped,” the doctor told him. “But you need to be careful not to move too much until they’ve had a chance to meld back together. You also have a concussion, added to the one you sustained previously in the car accident. It appears you’ve had some serious rest, but that doesn’t discount the damage to your brain. You can only withstand so many concussions, Mr. Yuy, before they have a permanent affect. Try to avoid getting hit on the head any more.” The man looked from his patient to the chart in his hands. “You have to be in considerable pain. Would you like something for it?”
“I don’t want to sleep any more,” Heero answered quietly, his whole manner subdued, telling Trowa that he was indeed experiencing a lot of pain.
“We have some medication that doesn’t have that side effect. I’ll have the nurse bring it in immediately.”
“I need to be with Duo.”
The doctor looked up at his patient and then to Trowa, who nodded his approval and said, “Their being together will be beneficial to the both of them for their recovery. And as their bodyguards, it will be easier for us to protect them if they’re together.”
“Is there still a potential danger?” The doctor asked, visibly alarmed by the idea.
Trowa looked the man in the eyes. “We’re former gundam pilots, doctor, of course there’s potential. But my friends and I are not going to let anything happen to them again.”
A disdainful snort came from Heero. “We’re not children, Trowa.”
The former Heavyarms pilot noticed the stiffness in Heero’s posture, and realized he was upset with the idea of being watched over. “No, you’re not children, but we are family. And family members look after and protect each other. Right, Doctor?”
The man in the white coat started, surprised to be asked the question. He considered it for a moment and then replied, “Yes, families stick together, rain or shine.”
Heero’s shoulders eased slightly and once again his eyes rose to meet Trowa’s. “Then take me to the heart of our family.”
“I’ll get a wheelchair,” the doctor said, then quickly left the room. He returned several minutes later, the mode of travel provided as promised as well as the nurse with the medication to ease some of Heero’s discomfort.
The wounded man sat straight and stiff in the chair as Trowa dismissed the attendant and pushed the wheelchair the short distance down the hallway to the elevator. Duo, he explained, had earlier been moved to a room on the second floor and Quatre had been sitting with him until he could return. Finding themselves alone in the elevator, Trowa explained to him that Wufei had come to the house at his call and had ridden in the ambulance with him to the hospital while he’d gone along with Duo. He explained the Chinese man’s departure simply by stating that Wufei was following up on something and would get back to them as soon as possible. The elevator door dinged, then opened up to the second floor where they were greeted by another nurse who promptly led them to room number 225-C.
At their entrance, Quatre stood from where he’d been sitting next to Duo’s bedside and rushed to greet them. He loosely embraced Heero, careful of his injuries. “I’m so sorry, Heero.”
“What for?” the dark haired man asked gruffly. “You didn’t cause this mess.”
“We shouldn’t have been away when things started to go bad. We should have been here.”
“I don’t think you could have stopped anything from happening, Quatre. Don’t feel guilty for something you had no control over. How’s Duo?”
Aware of the nurse behind him, Heero motioned with his eyes for Quatre to get rid of her. The perceptive blond nodded that he understood.
“We’ll get him settled into bed,” he told her.
“I think I should help him and make sure he’s made comfortable,” she replied, coolly, obviously not liking her job being usurped.
“He’s really not comfortable with other people touching him,” Trowa explained with a nod to Heero. “It’s a hang-up from the war.” He then lowered his voice to say in a secretive manner. “He tends to lash out at anyone who attempts to touch him uninvited. The last man who tried it was out cold for three days.”
That seemed to win the woman’s cooperation. “Of course,” she said with her eyes wider than they’d been a moment before as she looked to the notably dangerous man in the wheelchair. “Just press the button if you need anything, Mr. Yuy.”
“Thank you,” Heero managed, then waited until the door to the room shut behind her before he tried to stand up. Two sets of hands rushed to his aid. Once he was on his feet, Quatre rushed ahead and pulled down the left guardrail, then gently eased Duo’s body over to make room for Heero. Then depressing the bed’s control button, he lowered it as much as possible while Trowa, still at Heero’s side, helped him walk to the bed. Once there, the injured man struggled to get his weak-muscled body up onto the mattress.
“Careful,” Trowa cautioned, even as Heero winced with pain as he settled on his side and bought his head to rest it against Duo’s shoulder.
“You don’t think this is hurting him, do you?” Heero asked, a bit breathless from the simple but painful exertions.
“His shoulder is uninjured,” Trowa assured him as he raised the bed rail and then used the remote to bring the bed up. Quatre fussed for a short time to make sure Heero was comfortable, but it soon became clear that he had all he needed at the moment with Duo lying at this side.
Trowa came to stand behind his smaller lover, wrapping his long arms around him and resting his cheek alongside of the blond head. Turning his face slightly, he placed a gentle kiss on the pale cheek, slightly stubbled from the lack of a morning shave. He was fairly certain his own face was equally rough. Together they watched their friends, almost feeling as if they were intruding as Heero whispered his assurances into the slumbering man’s ear that everything was going to be alright, that as long as they were together they could overcome anything. Hearing a slight hitching sound in Heero’s voice, the two men silently made their way out of the room, giving their friend a moment of privacy.
Once they stood outside the door, Quatre turned and buried his face into Trowa’s shoulder and wrapped his arms around the slender waist. Trowa returned the embrace and lowered his face into the soft blond hair that smelled of lavender. He was suddenly overtaken by a wave of gratitude that threatened to overwhelm him. After all that had happened during the last two weeks, it appeared that they’d miraculously cheated death once again. And though their friends, their family, were not unscathed, they were definitely alive. He was grateful for the man in his arms, a kind and generous person who loved him beyond all reason and despite his mercenary background. He had the respect and brotherhood of his comrades, and they had his, and together he knew they would get through this nightmare.
“There’s only one chair in the room.” Quatre’s voice broke through his thoughts, his voice muffled slightly as his face was pressed tightly against Trowa’s shirt and shoulder. “We should ask for another one so we can watch over them together.”
“There’s also an empty bed,” Trowa reminded him.
The blond head turned up until blue-green eyes met his own. “When have I ever been able to share a bed with you and not make full use of it?” Quatre asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “I don’t think the nurses would appreciate our abusing their hospitality.”
It was difficult for Trowa not to kiss the mouth only inches from his own, but he reminded himself that they were in a public building with people milling about. Their relationship was not a secret, but neither of them were willing to share their feelings for each other with the general public. It was too private, too personal to be tarnished by the eyes of curious bystanders. “Then we’ll flip a coin and the winner gets the bed. We’ll take turns resting and standing watch until Wufei comes back.”
Quatre nodded in agreement, then stood back a bit wearing an expression of concern. “Do you think he’s alright? Should we call and check up on him?”
“No,” Trowa answered thoughtfully, pushing the fringe of silky hair from off of his lover’s forehead. “Wufei is capable of handling himself in any situation. I don’t know what he’s up to, but it must be important if he was willing to leave us while things are still up in the air.”
Seeing the dark circles under the green eyes, Quatre brushed his hand over the stubbled cheek above him. “You take the bed and I’ll keep watch. You look tired.”
“I am,” Trowa sighed. “Alright, but don’t let me sleep too long and wake me if anything happens with Heero or Duo.”
“I will,” the blond said, then took his lover’s arm and led him back into the room where they found both men in the bed sound asleep. Sharing a brief but wonderfully thorough kiss, the two parted, with Trowa going to the empty bed and Quatre taking the chair next to the bed once again, his eyes fixed on the rise and fall of Duo’s chest as the silence in the room settled once more.
The nurse came into the room every two hours to check on the status and vitals of the two patients sharing the same bed. At first, the woman, forty-ish and wearing a pink smock covered with yellow ducks, expressed her disapproval. In a hushed voice, Quatre used all his diplomatic charm to assure her it was necessary for the two life-partners to be close to each other in order to be comfortable in the hospital. The blond proved to be his usual charming and persuasive self when the woman reluctantly agreed and let them be. She also informed him that security had been placed outside the door to the room and at the hospital’s entrance because the press had learned of what had happened and that the two former gundam pilots were being treated at this facility. Evidently, the reporters were clamoring for entry into the building in order to get an exclusive interview.
It was three twenty in the morning when Duo began to stir. Heero woke up instantly as his lover gasped and stiffened in his arms, suffering from a nightmare.
“It’s alright, Duo. We’re here and you’re safe,” he whispered into his lover’s ear, then kept a string of reassurances going until he felt a hand come up and caress his face.
“Someone turn on the light that’s over the sink,” Heero requested, knowing the other two sharing the room with them were awake also.
The light went on, showing that it was Quatre who’d been able to reach it first. Heero eyes noted that Trowa, just sitting up, had been resting in the other bed. Three pairs of eyes focused on Duo’s slightly contorted face. The bruises on his cheeks and the black and blue discoloration surrounding his right eye were more pronounced now, and it appeared as if he was still asleep but struggling to regain consciousness.
Trowa and Quatre each moved to opposite sides of the bed and waited to see how Duo would react once he woke up completely.
“Duo.” Heero called his lover’s name again and rubbed his open palm against his l chest.
Suddenly, Duo shot up to a sitting position, his eyes and mouth snapped open as he gasped for air. Trowa was there, wrapping his arms around his friend to give him a sense of security. “It’s alright, Duo. You’re safe now. Do you remember being in the hospital?”
Quatre watched as the American struggled to catch his breath and free himself completely from the nightmare he must have been having. His breathing was too fast, he noted, and the wide, blue-violet eyes blinked rapidly as he tried to focus his vision after waking. Duo quickly scanned the sterile and uninteresting room as he strove to gain his bearings, his eyes taking in his two friends and then lowering them to see Heero laying in bed next to him. He then began to struggle to get away from Trowa’s solid embrace, but the taller man wisely held onto him for a moment longer. In a gentle voice he’d often used with the skittish lions he’d once worked with in the circus during the war, he said calmly, “Easy, Duo. It’s going to be alright but you need to be careful. Heero has a couple of cracked ribs. Do you understand me?” There was a moment’s delay before he felt the nod of the braided man’s head. He let his arms drop and leaned back, yet he remained close enough to help if he were needed.
Turning his body, Duo eased himself back down onto the mattress and curled up on his side, placing his face near the crook of Heero’s neck, his breath exuding warm, rapid puffs on his lover’s skin. Heero managed to get an arm under Duo’s shoulder and he stroked his lover’s back, becoming all too aware of the gaping opening in the back gown his lover wore. He motioned with his cast arm at Trowa, who understood and quickly reached down and pulled the displaced blanket up to cover Duo’s exposed posterior. Though Duo wasn’t aware of his exposure, Heero knew his lover to be body shy and that he wouldn’t want anyone, especially someone stepping unannounced into the room, to see his bare backside.
They lay pressed together in silence for several minutes, just living in the moment where they were both safe and their friends had their backs. Heero kissed the top of Duo’s head, then asked, “Are you alright?”
After a long pause, Duo nodded.
“We don’t exactly know what happened in the house, Duo,” he continued. “Can you tell me what happened?”
Duo shifted, just enough to look over his shoulder to find Trowa. His eyes locked onto his friend’s as the auburn-haired man stood directly behind him, watching. Their gaze held for several moments while a silent exchange passed between them that did not go unnoticed by the other two occupants in the room. Then Duo settled back down and shook his head, indicating that he couldn’t. Now it was Heero’s turn to look in Trowa’s direction, searching for a hint as to what that exchange had been about and for some clue as to what he should do next.
“We should probably get some more rest,” Trowa suggested, rubbing his face with both hands. “The nurse will start coming in every hour once she knows you two are awake. Do you need anything, either of you?”
Duo’s hand came up to a cupping position and then he tilted it towards his mouth. The three recalled how, in the past, Duo had used hand signals to indicate what he needed or wanted, and this particular hand signal easily indicated he was thirsty. Quatre moved out of Trowa’s arms to the side table and poured water from the pink plastic pitcher into the matching cup. Duo sat only half way up, wincing from the aches and bruises that covered his body as he drained the cupful of water. He handed the cup back before he cautiously settled back down on the bed again to rest against Heero.
Trowa motioned for Quatre to come to his side, and then he whispered into the blond’s ear that he should take the second bed, that he’d had enough of a rest to take the watch until morning. With a sigh, the blond complied, his relief at Duo’s waking and his seeming much more calm in Heero’s presence allowed him to relax and, suddenly, he realized how very tired he really was.
The three settled into their beds for the rest of the night while Trowa sat in the chair next to the bed, closest to the braided man. Soon the only sounds in the room were the rhythmic breathing of the two sleeping men. He was aware that Duo, lying still, his head set on Heero’s shoulder and his face turned towards his lover’s neck, was still awake. Then, in the room lit by the small light over the sink, he watched the American’s arm slowly reach back towards him, his hand open.
Standing from his chair, Trowa took the offered hand, careful not to put any strain on the bruised arm. Duo didn’t turn to face him, but pulled him forward as he curled his arm up to his chest, then held the captured hand in place. Readjusting his hand to a more comfortable position, Trowa leaned forward, having gotten the message. “I’m here, Duo. We won’t be leaving you and Heero again.”
Duo’s head of messy hair and mangled braid nodded, and then his eyes closed. Trowa stood in that place until Duo’s breathing slowed and he fell back to sleep. After easing his hand out of Duo’s slack one, he pulled the covers higher, over his and Heero’s bodies, then stroked his hand over Duo’s hair and whispered softly enough that he didn’t disturb the sleep of the three. “I swear to you, Duo, this will never happen again.” Taking the chair again, he sat next to the bed and contemplated just how he was going to make that promise stick.