From the Ambassador’s date book
0800 Breakfast with Duo
0730 Breakfast meeting with possible investors in L2 renovation project
1000 Keynote speech, Colonial Employment Summit
1200 Policy briefing with staff (working lunch)
1430 Earth shuttle to Paris
1600 Testify, Earth Sphere Reconciliation Act reauthorization hearings
1840 Return on shuttle
1930 Dinner with Duo
1930 Dinner with Earth Undersecretary of Energy
From Zechs’ journal
I saw Duo today for 23 minutes—not counting the half hour since I got home, because he’s sleeping. I’ve come to measure the success or failure of my days this way, in how much time I spend with him. I wonder, sometimes, if I’ve done him a disservice, dragging him with me on this venture. He says no, that a few minutes a day spent together is better than none at all. And he reminds me that at least we don’t have to sleep alone.
He’s alone right now, looking almost lost in our bed, but I think he knows I’m here even though his eyes are closed. He’s smiling. Did that sound arrogant, that I would think he’d smile in his sleep because of me? Perhaps it is. But it is also true.
It wasn’t always so. In our first weeks together, sleep was no respite for Duo. I, too, have fought and re-fought battles in my sleep, watched comrades and old friends and old enemies die again and again, even some who did not die before. But not like him…darker demons haunted his sleep. I don’t know all of them; there are some things he has never shared, even now. Some I can guess at, about some I don’t even want to try. But whatever they were, they made me glad I had nothing worse to cause my nightmares than blood on my hands.
More than anything else, that is why I couldn’t leave him behind. Don’t mistake me, the joy he gives my waking hours is greater than any I’ve ever known. Even simple things have become ecstasy, like lying in bed on those rare mornings when neither of us has an early appointment, doing nothing more than touching and talking. Or laughing with him over something that’s pricked the sense of irony we share. Dressing him for an evening reception…he complains heartily every time he has to dress up, but he knows how he looks and what he does to me. I can see it in his eyes and in the way he deliberately twitches his braid so that I can’t help staring just where he wants me to. And, of course, he says that the best part of dressing up is knowing that I won’t be able to resist undressing him later. I would sell my soul for those moments. But I would die before I abandoned Duo to the devils in his dreams.
I asked at first what it was that terrified him so, and he tried to tell me. But somehow that was worse, when he struggled to find words to explain the horrors that tore at him and shredded his sleep. So I ceased to ask. It was enough—more than enough—to hear him cry out, like a child who’s been sold to strangers who hid their cruelty under a smiling mask.
I got so that I would wake even before the thrashing and moaning began. I learned what comforted him, and eventually, I could quiet him without ever waking him. That’s when he ceased to be haunted, I think. When even in his dreams he knew that he was not alone.
He used to wait up for me, even when we first came back to space, no matter how late I might be. He never said so, but I know he was afraid that the dreams would begin again. I think, too, that some part of him feared I might not return at all…he has been abandoned so many times before that I don’t know if that wound will ever completely heal. But gradually, as days became weeks and then months, I would find him dozing on the sofa. And then came the night that I arrived late and discovered him already in bed, sleeping.
I know that for some lovers, this would be a sign that the fires had begun to cool. Not so for Duo. It was, instead, one of the greatest gifts he’s ever given me. He trusted me, you see. He trusted that I would come back to him, that I had not left him to the hellfires of his dreams. And his trust is something he gives far less readily than his heart or his body.
Ah…he’s awake, but only barely. Yes, little one, I’m home and yes, I’m coming to bed now. Close your pretty eyes, my love, and dream sweetly.