(Part 2 of the Road Trip Arc)
I was completely disgusted with myself; lying in a detention
cell, my partners undoubtedly in nearby cells, probably awaiting interrogation.
Was I thinking about escape? Was I studying the cell looking for some way
out of here? No, I was worrying if Duo had gotten to his therapy session
I have to admit that I had already been over the cell from
one end to the other without success in the last day and a half, but still,
my mind should have been on our predicament, not on Duo.
I guess I’d never had a real friend before, and somehow,
despite my best efforts, after the ordeal that Duo liked to call ‘our
road trip to Hell’, that was what he had become. I knew it was a bad
idea, and my present situation was only driving that fact home. Friendship
only offered a soldier one thing; distraction. Something neither of us could
But I had discovered on that trip, that Duo had a strength
I had never expected. Granted, it was a strength I couldn’t quite
understand, fueled by something dark and haunted, but I found he had a will
that rivaled my own. He’d earned my respect. Now, I was being drawn
inexorably to him like a moth to a very bright flame.
But he was safe back on Earth, holed up recovering from the
surgeries to his hand and knee to repair the damage done on that last, ill-fated
mission. And I was here, with Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei, in an equally bad
mess, and I’d better get my mind back on track.
They were certainly leaving us swing in the breeze long enough.
Probably trying to break into the captured Gundams to gain what information
they could before they started asking questions of the human pilots. Good
luck to them. If they weren’t careful, they’d set off the traps
and blow their precious station to kingdom come.
Just as likely, the waiting was simply designed to soften
us up. No contact, no food, no water. Just let us sit and think. A torture
of sorts, I suppose. I was just starting to consider that perhaps the questioning
had started and that they just hadn’t gotten to me yet, when the lights
There were two explosions, almost on top of each other, and
I wondered if the fools actually had blown one of the Gundams. There were
sounds in the corridor, shouting and the sound of running feet, followed
by the sounds of a firefight. It wasn’t a complete power failure,
because I could still feel air stirring through the ducts. I moved quickly
through the blackness to the door, and listened. I could actually hear the
impact of laser fire in the hall. Interior hall then; no one aboard a space
station would be fool enough to wage a blaster battle near an exterior hull.
There was no handle on the inside of the door; entry was with a touch panel
on the outside. The door would swing outward so as not to offer someone
inside something to hide behind. Cautiously, I pushed, and miracle of miracles,
the panel gave.
A trick? To what end? We were already captured. More likely,
one of the others had gotten the opportunity to make a move. It was the
first chance that had afforded itself, and I wasn’t about to let it
pass. I could see the glow of red emergency lights through the crack of
the partially open door. I kicked the door wide, instantly noting the location
of two bodies on the floor. I rolled clear of the doorway, and came up with
a weapon in hand. The sound of fighting came from both directions. I moved
to my left, making for the battle that sounded closest. A soldier practically
backed up into me and I cut him down before he knew I was there.
I had caught a handful of guards retreating from Wufei and
we made short work of them once we had them trapped in our crossfire.
I might have known that Wufei would find a way to escape his
cell. Of all my fellow Gundam pilots, Wufei came as close to my single-minded
attention to the mission as anyone. I could usually count on him to surprise
me in a tight situation. I wanted to ask him how he had managed it, but
there would be time for that later.
‘Trowa and Quatre?’ he queried me, half a second
before I asked it of him.
I shook my head. ‘Where were you?’
He gestured to a door some twenty feet on up the corridor,
I pointed to mine, and we proceeded to blow the touch pads
off every door in between.
They emerged from their separate cells; blinking owlishly
in the odd light, but immediately took in the situation and scooped up rifles
from the fallen.
We fell into a familiar formation and made our way toward
the docks. We passed several signs of battle as we went, and Wufei quirked
me a tight smile. I would have to ask him why he had to forge so far afield
before he came back to free the rest of us.
The corridors were strangely deserted, I expected a unit to
over take us at every turn. Whatever those explosions had been, must be
keeping them pretty busy. We went double time, not wasting the luck.
Bless the designers of space stations, who never deviate from
the same layout; we found the docks in record time, and finally encountered
some opposition. Our Gundams were all four there, still intact, leaving
me to wonder what the explosions had been.
We fanned out, sweeping the dock, the guards seemed disoriented
and fell unexpectedly easily. We took them totally by surprise. I retrieved
a second gun and lay down cover fire for each of the others as they mounted
their Suits, then I boarded my own, while Wufei covered me from his still
We belted down, fired up, and lay waste to the docking bay
as we made our escape. There was token pursuit from a batch of Mobile Dolls.
But nothing like I was expecting. Something was wrong.
‘Guys,’ Quatre’s voice on the comm echoed
my concern, ‘that was entirely too easy.’
‘Could they have tagged us?’ Trowa asked, and
I considered it.
‘Very possibly.’ But why? They had four out of
the five Gundams, could they be so over-confident that they would risk losing
the four birds in hand to get at the one left in the bush? Insane. But nothing
else explained the ease with which we had just escaped what had been a heavily
‘We can’t risk leading them back to the safe house.
Split up, rendezvous at Alpha Delta Pronto and we’ll scan the Suits
for homing devices.’
It would add another half day to our return time, but it couldn’t
be helped. Our current location had a hanger with full repair facility and
was too valuable to be compromised.
A full scan revealed nothing, I almost wished it had. All
we were left with was a puzzle.
We arrived at the hanger well after dark, tired and hungry.
I quickly ran down my shut down checklist, and made a few mental notes for
re-supply before dismounting. It wasn’t until I was standing on the
floor of the hanger that it hit me that the Deathscythe wasn’t there.
Where was Duo’s Gundam? Then I caught sight of Duo’s crutches
leaning against a workbench.
‘Where…?’ I heard Trowa only distantly.
My blood ran like ice in my veins. Oh Gods, what had we done?
I whirled on Wufei, grasping at my last ray of hope. ‘You
got us out of that cell block, didn’t you?’ I demanded.
The look on his face gave me my answer, ‘I thought you…’
It all started to jell in my mind, all the hints that something
wasn’t right. Duo got us out of there, Duo, not even supposed to be
walking on his own yet, had blasted his way into the station and created
the distraction that had gotten us free.
‘And we left him there.’ Breathed Quatre, horrified.
‘We have to go back!’ he wailed, and Trowa had
to grab his arm to keep him from running right then and there to his Gundam.
‘Of course we do.’ Wufei said calmly.
‘But we have to go back prepared.’ I finished
for him, and headed for the supply room. ‘We can’t go back in
blowing the hell out of everything this time; Duo’s on that station
The last mission was not supposed to have gotten us into a
hand-to-hand situation; we had gone in wearing nothing but jeans and t-shirts,
with no real side arms. I handed out blast armor and pulse rifles; this
time would be different.
We suited up and re-fueled, and were back in the air within
the hour. Quatre riding double with Wufei. We had to assume that Duo might
not be able to pilot Deathscythe out. This would have to be hard and fast,
and at lot rode on the hope that they would never dream we would return
this quickly. We all had our instructions, and we split up, each taking
the route laid out in our battle plan. If all went right, we would be back
aboard the station within the hour.
That left me an hour to sail through the dark and brood.
I left him. I abandoned him. For awhile, that’s all
that could run through my mind. After what he had brought me through, I
had forsaken him. What if we were too late? What if he was dead?
I remembered that night, hiding from Oz soldiers in the rocks
on the beach. I remembered regaining consciousness to find myself cradled
on Duo’s chest. I could hear the sound of our pursuit right outside,
Duo was shivering so hard it was hurting my broken arm. At first, I had
thought it was fear, then I realized he was lying in the ice-cold water
of high tide. I could feel his heart hammering in his chest and his skin
felt so cold under me. He was holding me out of the water, guarding me while
I had been unconscious. And I had left him.
I remembered the finish of that same dark journey, we were
both at the end of our endurance, I was sure I was dying, and afraid he
was going to kill himself trying to save me. We were near the pick up point,
faced with a climb neither of us could make. I thought it would end right
there on the side of the road. But suddenly, he found some reserve of strength
and carried me up the hill the last hundred yards. I know for a fact I out
weigh him. I didn’t know until later just how bad his knee had been
injured. But he picked me up like a child and made the climb like a Sunday
afternoon hike. And I left him.
My mind spiraled like that until we made the strike on the
station. Then it snapped into battle mode and I shoved my feelings back
in their box.
Quatre, Wufei and I would go in. Trowa would remain in his
suit and guard our retreat. As hoped, the station was completely unprepared
for our three-point attack. I blew the few Mobile Dolls already working
outside on station repairs and went in hard, side by side with Shinlong.
Duo’s Deathscythe stood in the wreckage of the docking
bay, silent sentinel to my betrayal. We landed and hit the ground running,
the small pocket of resistance here fell to our now superior firepower.
We knew our way well to the detention area. I took point, Wufei brought
up the rear. We ran full out, I carried a pulse rifle hanging from my left
shoulder, and a handgun in my right. Quatre, behind me, couldn’t use
his wide-angle pulse gun, but wielded his handgun with deadly accuracy.
We left little for Wufei to mop up, but he guarded our back trail with grim
We found the detention area deserted and empty. Damn. Damn.
Damn. Where? Where would they have him?
‘Medical?’ Quatre prompted. It made sense; we
had left all the doors down here hanging from their hinges. An about-face
put Wufei in the point position, and I had trouble sticking with formation.
We couldn’t go fast enough to suit me. Somewhere in there, they figured
out what we were doing, and we began to encounter a more organized resistance.
We had to slow down, and pick our route more carefully. At one point, we
abandoned the corridor, and shifted two decks up using a maintenance crawl-way.
A calculated risk; we would have been sitting ducks, had we been caught
there, but we didn’t get caught, and it threw pursuit off for a bit.
We came out practically in the middle of the personnel services
area, and immediately noticed a room with guards. I was on point again,
and they never saw us coming. Quatre keyed the door and ducked in low to
the left, Wufei went high to the right, and I took it straight down the
center. There was no one in the room…except Duo.
I thought at first he was dead. They had him racked. That’s
the only word I can find for it. He was strapped down, spread-eagle; his
back arched painfully, across this metal framework, and beat to hell. Then
he rolled his head towards the sound of our entrance, I saw recognition
on his face and then, grim and cold, voice hoarse, he said, ‘Shoot
My guts turned to water and I forgot everything else except
getting him off that damned torture rack. This is why soldiers should never
Thank Gods, competent, reliable Wufei kept his head and turned
back to the business of guarding our escape route or we would all have been
dead. I heard Quatre whispering something that sounded like a prayer as
Wufei turned him back to the business at hand.
I didn’t know or care what they were doing; my world
had narrowed to Duo.
He could barely see me; his left eye was swollen shut under
a still bleeding gash. His shirt was gone, and what I could see of him was
covered with multi-colored bruises. I felt like I was walking through syrup
as I moved to his side and began to unstrap him. Every brush of my fingers
brought sounds of pain. His hands were almost blue; they had strapped him
so tight. His voice was a bare whisper.
‘Heero…please…make it stop…’
‘I’m going to get you out of here Duo. We’re
going home.’ I just talked; I don’t remember what all I said;
stupid, empty promises, and all the while, he begged me to make the pain
stop. It finally registered that there were drugs involved; I saw syringes
and vials on a table near Duo’s head. I pocketed one of the bottles,
and finished with the straps.
‘Duo? Do you know what they gave you?’ Behind
me, Wufei hissed his impatience; things must be heating up in the hall.
‘…don’t know…attacks nerves…everything
hurts…Heero, I’m on fire…make it stop! Please…please!’
I just stared at him for a moment, and he seemed to focus
on me at last and his voice got harsh.
‘Just fucking shoot me! Please!’
My every attempt to help him was only causing him agony. Just
lying here, he wanted to die. I didn’t want to think what carrying
him out of here was going to do. Seeing him like this was like a knife in
my chest, I wanted to hold him and protect him, but I couldn’t even
touch him. I leaned close, so only he would hear me.
‘Duo,’ I said, very calmly, ‘if I kill you,
I will kill myself right after. Do you hear me?’
He moaned a horrified affirmative.
‘I’m going to get you out of here, and I’m
going to have to carry you. You have to trust me to make it as fast as I
can. I won’t hurt you any more than I can help.’
He stared at me out of his one good eye, and I tried to will
my strength into his broken body. ‘Are you ready?’
He just whimpered, a shattered, defeated sound; but he reached
for me. I had to drape his limp left arm across his chest and he screamed
when I lifted him free of the rack. He caught at my armor with his right
hand and held on. It was the last sound he made until we reached the docking
I turned toward the door, rifle in left hand, pistol in right
and Duo draped across my arms. ‘Let’s go!’ Quatre bolted
and took point, I went out hot on his heels, and Wufei again brought up
the rear. I wasn’t able to handle more than double time with Duo’s
weight, but we went hard and we went fast. Medical was closer to the docking
bay than the cellblock had been, which was a plus, but of course, they knew
without a doubt where we were headed.
Duo was like a coiled steel spring in my arms, tense and hard.
His face was a mask of pain, lips bloody from biting back his screams. I
wouldn’t have wanted to be the one to try to pry his grip off the
front of my blast suit.
‘Hold on.’ I whispered to him, ‘Just hold
We came to an intersection, and pulled up when Quatre signaled
a halt with upraised fist. He eased up slowly on the left, Wufei passed
me to take the right and I had no choice but to turn and cover the rear.
There was fire behind me, and I heard Quatre yell and hit the ground. I
had to put Duo down. I thought he fainted when I did it, I didn’t
even have the time to warn him. I dove through the intersection, throwing
pulse fire dead on down the corridor as I went, rolling into the opposite
hall. Wufei moved into position and we lay down a blanket of fire that quickly
overwhelmed the squad that had brought Quatre down.
I swept the corridor for twenty yards or so and then returned
to the others. Duo had drug himself to Quatre’s side and I found,
to my relief, that Quatre was sitting up, his blast armor having caught
the brunt of the shot. He rubbed ruefully at his chest and quirked a grin
at me as if to say ‘Ooops.’
Wufei got him to his feet, and took point from him. I squatted
‘We’re almost there. Just a little further.’
His eyes tracked to the sound of my voice, but when I looked into his face,
Duo wasn’t looking back at me. I picked him up as gently as I could,
and we resumed our retreat.
There was the sound of battle when we got to the docking bay,
and we ran into the bizarre scene of Heavyarms standing in the middle of
the bay, running soldiers off like ants who were apparently trying to destroy
our Gundams. Trowa was hampered by the necessity of not destroying the docking
bay so badly that we wouldn’t be able to get back to our suits, and
not hitting our suits himself with the fire he was laying down. When we
burst into the mêlée, guns blazing, catching the remaining
squad of soldiers in a cross fire, they suddenly gave it up for lost and
beat a hasty retreat.
‘Quatre! Take Wing, I’ll take Duo on Deathscythe!’
I had honestly intended to turn him over to Quatre or Wufei once we mounted
up, but there was a sudden clinching fear of being separated from him. I
flashed on the night I had lain in the under growth of that park and listened
on the pirated radio to what I thought at the time was his death. I couldn’t
do it. So I took Deathscythe, Duo in my arms, limp as a rag doll.
I belted us in together, as best I could, knowing that every
touch to his skin was pure torture on his drug-ravaged nerves. I kicked
Deathscythe into life, listened to the sounds that were so close to Wings,
and yet so different. We all skimped on the start up routine and hit the
jets that took us out of there.
The g-forces hit us and Duo came back to himself; screaming.
‘I’m sorry,’ I tried to soothe, ‘Just
hang on, I’m here, I’m right here.’ I reduced acceleration
as soon as we were free of the station. I didn’t know what to do for
him, my every instinct told me to hold him and stroke his hair and touch
him, but the slightest brush of anything was burning him like fire.
Then something changed in him, something subtle at first.
His cries took on a different tone, and suddenly he was wrenching the controls
from my hands and Deathscythe was turning back toward the station, great,
glowing scythe unfurled.
Over the comm, I heard Wufei yelling at me, but I didn’t
Duo had told me once, that pain was what he used to push himself
to his limits, to push past his limits. He could turn the pain to rage,
and the rage to strength. ‘Sometimes’ he had said, talking about
his childhood on the streets, ‘pain was all you had, and you learned
to turn it into a hard ball in your gut and suck on it for strength.’
I feared he might well choke to death trying to wrap himself around this
The cry coming from his lips now was a battle cry, and I wouldn’t
deny him his revenge. In fact, I closed my hands around his on the controls
and helped him swing the scythe and shear away a great section of the stations
hull in the command section.
That was all the strength he had left, and he finally, blessedly,
went completely limp in the harness, and I took over the controls again
and got us the hell out of there.
Though his passing out scared me, I was glad he didn’t
have to suffer through re-entry. The ride down was rough, made worse in
Deathscythe by my clumsily trying to pilot around Duo. It wasn’t my
best landing. We were last in, and I was relieved to see Quatre already
on the radio to the main house summoning transport. This safe house was
one of the Winner estates and thus had a number of assistants and house
staff. Well versed, as always, in the care and feeding of soldiers.
I just sat down at the base of Deathscythe and cradled Duo
in my arms, waiting for help to arrive. I saw Trowa notice the blast burns
on Quatre’s armor and frantically strip him out of it to examine the
flesh beneath. He found only bruising, and embraced Quatre in relief, forgetting
for the moment his normal shyness about their relationship.
Wufei came and knelt beside us. ‘What did they do to
him?’ His voice was soft, as though not to disturb Duo’s sleep.
‘Some sort of drug that attacks the nervous system.’
I growled, anger making me want to lash out at something.
He gently turned Duo’s face to look at the left side.
‘Looks like they hit him with a rifle butt.’ He too was angry.
I just grunted, looking at the swelling and bruising all around
the side of Duo’s face. He probably had a concussion.
Wufei surprised me with a hand on my shoulder. ‘He’ll
be all right. He’s tougher than he looks.’
I wanted to yell at him. What the hell did he know about it?
He hadn’t spent two days fading in and out of reality, waking to find
Duo there, always there, pushing on, never stopping, pushing himself past
all sane limits to keep the promise to get me out alive.
And I left him.
I just grunted and Wufei rose to meet the car as it rushed
up to the hanger.
By dawn, I found myself in the painfully familiar position
beside Duo’s hospital bed. I had turned the sample of the drug over
to the Doctors and now, hours later, a prim Dr. Russell was explaining her
findings to us.
‘It’s a nasty little cocktail,’ she frowned
over her narrow reading glasses, ‘primarily an agent that attacks
the nerve pathways. Essentially causing any physical stimuli to translate
into pain. The slightest touch would cause searing agony. There was a stimulant
mixed in with it, probably designed to keep the …subject awake as
long as possible.’
Quatre, caught in the protective curve of Trowa’s arm,
shivered involuntarily, ‘Is there an antidote?’
‘Oh, it will wear off without any permanent damage.
The very fact that he’s still unconscious is actually a good sign,
probably means he’s passed the worst of it.’
Something uncoiled just a little, somewhere deep in my gut.
This was a base hospital, and these people were more used
to dealing with war injuries than the last one had been. I could see this
woman understood the far-reaching ramifications of what we had stumbled
on, and she confirmed it with her next words.
‘The sample of this drug that you brought back is going
to turn out to be far more important than whatever your real mission was.
Rest assured that we’ll be working on a method to guard against it’s
use in the future.’ This drug offended her professionally somehow,
and I envisioned her on a quest until it had been countered.
She stalked out of the room then, her heels clicking angrily
on the tile floor. They left the lights up in this place, and didn’t
walk quietly when they made their rounds. They understood the psychology
of the people in their care. Nobody had even blinked at me when I had burst
into the emergency room, still in my blast armor.
The Doctor suspected a concussion, as I had, and they were
monitoring Duo closely for signs that there was swelling or bleeding in
the brain. X-rays had shown nothing. But X-rays don’t show soft tissue
damage. Through MRI and X-ray, they had cleared him of any other, serious,
life-threatening injuries; his captors had been brutal, but careful.
I staked my claim on the chair by the head of the bed, and
none of the others tried to gainsay me. I sat, grim and silent, arms folded
across my chest and just wished everybody else would go away.
Quatre stirred from Trowa’s embrace at the foot of the
bed, and moved slowly up to stand on the left side of the bed. His hand
drifted up as though to brush Duo’s face and I grunted a small warning.
His eyes flicked in my direction, and he murmured, ‘I know.’
He somehow looked slightly amused. His fingers just stroked the end of Duo’s
braid, lying looped across the pillow. He leaned down and I heard him whisper,
‘We’re so sorry, Duo.’ No more than a breath next to Duo’s
ear. I doubt anyone else heard. When he straightened, his eyes glistened,
and I wished I could feel that kind of release.
Instead, I glowered and turned away, only to find Wufei standing
in front of me, regarding me with that damn, I see right down to the bottom
of your soul grin of his.
‘What?’ I challenged.
‘Why don’t you, at least,’ if anything,
his smile twitched wider, ‘get out of that blast armor and let us
take it back to the house?’
I looked down at myself; I had forgotten I was wearing it.
Wufei helped me unbuckle and strip out of it. We discovered in the course
of it, that I had taken a couple of hits myself. There was a bruise appearing
on my bicep that was a match for the one on Quatre’s chest, and Wufei
claimed I had what we termed a ‘rug burn’ from a pulse rifle
shot on my back. I hadn’t even felt the strikes.
They were leaving, and I was relieved, but they were exchanging
odd little glances as they went, and I finally leaned my head into my hands
to hide the blood rushing to my face. Was I so damned transparent?
Could they look at me and see that all I wanted to do was
pull Duo into my arms and rock him and kiss every one of his hurts and stroke
his hair and beg him to wake up and tell me he was all right? Tell me he
didn’t hate me for leaving him on that station? Tell me we could go
on being friends after what I had done? Judging from the looks I had gotten,
This couldn’t happen. I could not let this happen. It
would be the death of both of us.
I sat in the cold not-silence of a hospital room, listening
to the steady beep of the heart monitor and the distant sounds of people
going about their jobs. A nurse came in after a bit, smiled at me, checked
Duo’s pupils and took his temperature, made a note on his chart and
went away again. I was watching the clear medicine drip into the IV, when
there was a soft cough in the doorway and Trowa was coming toward me with
a tray from the cafeteria.
‘We thought you might be hungry.’ He said simply,
and sat the tray with its sandwich and juice down on the side table.
I realized just how empty my stomach was as soon as he did
so and I managed a civil, ‘Thank you.’
‘We’re going back to the house now. Quatre said
to make you promise to call if anything changes, OK?’
I nodded, suddenly very tired, and he just stood and looked
at me for a minute, as though he was going to say something more. But he
didn’t, only a quiet ‘Good night.’ Then he left, closing
the door behind him.
Around me were the sounds of people starting their day. There
must have been a shift change, because on the half hour, it was a different
nurse who came in and checked Duo’s vitals, she too smiled at me,
but didn’t offer conversation, and I didn’t encourage it.
I greedily drank the juice and nibbled at the sandwich, the
morning delimited by the punctual arrival of a nurse every half hour. I
tried to take comfort in the fact they weren’t finding any sign that
the concussion was going to turn into anything of concern, but I just wanted
him to wake up.
The first sign of change was given to me by the heart monitor;
the pulse that had remained a steady, almost mind numbing noise in the back
ground, suddenly began to speed up. When I looked at Duo’s face, he
appeared to be dreaming, I could see his eyes shifting under the bruised
eyelids. At first, I was encouraged by this, the first sign of life I had
seen from him since he had grabbed the controls of Deathscythe. But then,
I began to see all the signs of nightmare.
‘Duo? Can you hear me? Duo, wake up.’ I was afraid
to touch him for fear the drug hadn’t run its course yet. So I just
continued to call softly to him, hoping to break the hold of the nightmare.
He finally came awake, his whole body shuddering, and gasping
for breath. His one good eye searched the room frantically, trying to get
‘Duo!’ I tried to give him an anchor point, ‘It’s
Heero. It’s all right now. You’re safe.’
His attention snapped to my voice, and he finally seemed to
‘Heero?’ his voice was hoarse, I knew, from screaming,
‘You’re OK? The guys are all right?’
How many hours of screaming? How many hours of liquid fire
running through his veins? How many hours of abandonment, of thinking we
had run out on him? Damn. Had to stop that.
‘We’re fine. Everyone’s all right…except
My hands fluttered about of their own accord, wanting to reach
out, but afraid to touch. I felt like I was going to throw up the juice
and sandwich. Thank Gods, he didn’t seem to notice, he was still getting
his orientation, mind groggy between the drugs and the concussion.
‘Duo?’ he looked toward me, seemingly confused
by his inability to see out of his left eye, ‘the drugs they gave
you, the Doctors say they should be wearing off. How do you feel?’
He frowned, I think, as the memories started to come back.
I waited while he forged through them, I saw it all pass across his face,
confusion, fear, anger, and then a strange dawning wonder.
‘You made the pain stop.’ He breathed almost reverently
I reached for his hand then, at that confirmation that the
drug was gone from his system, and he jerked involuntarily away from me.
I stopped, and tentatively, he came back and took my hand, face full of
‘Oh Gods; it’s gone. It’s really gone.’
He struggled briefly in a battle with unshed tears and won.
I could see him coming back into focus like the cross hairs of a gun sight
lining up; almost, almost, and then click it was Duo grinning lop-sidedly
‘Everything worked out, OK, then, uh?’
I had to close my eyes. I brought his hand to my face, wanting
to kiss the bruised knuckles, and contenting myself with just brushing the
back of his hand with my cheek.
‘We didn’t know. I swear to you, I didn’t
know you were on that station.’ I let the words come in a rush, ‘There
was just the explosions and suddenly the doors were open. I thought Wufei
did it. He thought I had. We had no idea. I am so sorry. I never would have
left without you if I had known…’
He chuckled softly and I opened my eyes to see him smiling
at me, ‘I know that.’
His capacity to forgive my failings, never ceases to amaze
A frown crossed his face, and he started to raise his left
hand to his swollen eye, and stopped with a sharp intake of breath.
‘You wanna give me an inventory?’ he muttered
through clinched teeth, and I had to smile.
‘I assume you just found the dislocated shoulder?’
‘No permanent damage there, they were able to reposition
it without surgery, but it’s pretty well immobilized.’
‘It’ll have to stay taped for a couple of weeks.’
He didn’t comment, so I continued, ‘You do have a concussion,
but they’ve been monitoring that for close to six hours now and you
don’t show any sign that there’s a problem. That’s why
you can’t see, it looks like…’
‘Like somebody tried to cave the side of my head in
with a rifle butt?’
‘Hmmm…yeah. Exactly like that.’ I paused,
but he didn’t elaborate, ‘Somehow, you managed to not re-injure
your knee. Other than that, you have some pretty bad bruising just about
He cut me off again, and supplied helpfully, ‘Looks
kinda like somebody pistol whipped and liberally kicked the shit out of
I hesitated with the next question, afraid of upsetting him,
and then asked anyway, ‘Was that before or after they gave you the
‘Before.’ He answered promptly, voice tinged with
anger, ‘Afterwards, things became more…subtle.’
I wanted to go kill something. Slowly, with a great deal of
A nurse appeared then, to check his vitals and seemed very
pleased to see him awake. I stepped away from the side of the bed while
she worked. She added a series of questions to the routine of pulse, pupil,
and blood pressure checking and went away to report to a Doctor somewhere.
I could not let this happen. I was tired and coming down off
a fear-induced high. If I stayed here much longer, I was going to say something
I couldn’t cover up. When I thought too hard about what each of us
had risked in our turn to save the other from captivity, my heart turned
over. We were warriors, and this was not allowed. Could not be allowed.
I had to get my emotions back into that little black box. Even if I had
to club them to death first.
I yawned hugely, not really something I had to fake, and stretched
until joints popped.
‘I promised Trowa I’d call the house when you
woke up.’ This wasn’t a lie either.
‘Heero, go home. You look like crap.’ He suggested,
and I felt guilty for the manipulation.
I agreed, making him promise to call me if they released him
that afternoon, and I left the hospital. I left him alone. That ate at me
I walked back to the Winner estate, it was five miles, but
I knew I was going to have bad dreams when I finally lay down to sleep,
and I was in no hurry.
As it turned out, because of the odd circumstances with the
interrogation drugs, they kept him until the next day. Though he was in
a lot of pain, there was really no reason he couldn’t come home, there
wasn’t much that would help now, except time. Things were very awkward,
he wasn’t supposed to be putting weight on his knee yet, but with
his shoulder taped to his chest, crutches weren’t really possible.
And as if that didn’t make him wobbly enough, having one eye swollen
shut was throwing his depth perception off. That meant that even though
each of us had our own room in this house, Duo really needed to be in with
someone. I tried, without being obvious, to arrange it so he was moved into
Wufei’s room. But somehow, in the end, he wound up in mine.
The Doctors gave him a couple days off before he had to resume
therapy, and then we settled into a routine of wrestling him down to the
clinic each morning and then bringing him home so exhausted he napped for
a bit in the afternoon. I would help him downstairs in the evenings so he
could sit outside for awhile when the weather permitted, or in the living
room where we usually congregated after dinner. He smiled and he laughed
and he teased. He was Duo Maxwell to the hilt. And only I knew what it was
costing him. Only I knew he was waking up every night in a cold sweat gasping
for breath and biting back screams.
He slept badly enough as it was, between the immobilized shoulder
and the knee brace. I could hear him shifting, most of the night, trying
to get comfortable, but then, when he did finally drift off, he was awake
again within hours, wrapped in whatever horror was over taking him, and
struggling to stay quiet, so he didn’t wake me. It was wearing him
down. It was wearing me down.
He didn’t know he was waking me; because I just lay
there and feigned sleep and listened to him slowly get his breathing under
control. I didn’t dare go to him. I wanted to, with every fiber of
my being, I wanted to. But I was terrified of what I would do, what I might
say. I could not let this happen.
I took him to most of his therapy sessions, and early on,
Duo’s therapist had drafted me to help him at home. One of the things
that had become my job was to massage his left hand, the one they had operated
on, to help keep scar tissue from forming. When I did it, he made these
little sounds of pleasure, tiny little moans and sighs, that set me on fire.
This was getting entirely out of hand. I had to shut this down, get myself
back under control.
He was sinking into a depression that the others didn’t
see. He stopped asking me to take him downstairs in the evenings, just stayed
in our room, sometimes doing his exercises, sometimes just laying and staring
at the ceiling. I came and went, trying to seem normal, I brought him meals
that he picked at and made sure he took his medicine. I brought him books
he didn’t read, and tried to entice him into going outside. I knew
we only had to get through three or four tough weeks before his therapy
progressed enough that they would let him walk on the knee and the tape
would come off the shoulder. But he was lost in this time warp where he
couldn’t see an end to it. I didn’t know how to help him, I
hovered, I guess, and that just seemed to make things worse. I think the
nightmares were intensifying.
I got solid confirmation of that somewhere early in the second
week. It had been a difficult day at best. The therapy seemed to have stalled,
nothing had changed in several sessions, and I think Duo was pushing himself
too hard, trying to force results. He and his therapist had words; she was
calm and gentle as always, but I’m pretty sure she must have reprimanded
him somewhat. I didn’t hear, and the trip home was full of sullen
silence that I didn’t dare break to ask.
He refused lunch, argued about his medicine, and stayed in
bed most of the afternoon. At dinnertime, he begged off going downstairs,
so I went to make him a tray.
‘Is everything all right?’ Quatre questioned me
as he helped make up a plate for me to take upstairs.
‘I don’t know.’ I had to admit with a sigh,
Quatre patted my arm and smiled slightly, ‘You seem
tired too, Heero.’ And he turned away to get a soda out of the refrigerator.
That small touch brought it all in to focus for me. Trying
to shut down my rising feelings for Duo, I had shut down everything. People
touch. That’s what they do. I didn’t touch him at all anymore.
Trying to harness my own desires, I had shut him out completely. I was failing
Quatre sat the soda on the tray, a small bribe; Duo loved
soda, and we hadn’t been letting him have a lot.
‘Thank you, Quatre.’ I said and turned to go back
I heard a confused, ‘You’re…welcome.’
And I smiled, out of his line of sight.
I almost dropped the tray when I got back upstairs and pushed
the door to our room open, only to find Duo sitting on the side of his bed,
savagely slicing the bindings off his shoulder.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ I yelled at him,
dumped his dinner tray on the desk, and took the knife away from him almost
before he knew I was back in the room.
He was instantly angry, and made a grab for it, but I had
already closed the blade and stuffed it in my pocket. I dropped to my knees
in front of him and realized that the bandages were a total loss. I put
a lid on my irritation and began to gently unwind what was left of the binding,
checking to make sure he hadn’t cut himself. As was the norm now,
he flinched whenever my fingers touched bare skin, though I could see him
struggling to control it.
‘Duo, what in the world were you thinking?’ I
asked, as calmly as I could manage.
He just sat for a minute, staring at me as though I had grown
a second head, working his jaw, not quite able to say whatever he was thinking.
When he finally forced the words out, they came out sounding
totally defeated, ‘I’m sick to death of being so damn helpless.’
‘You just have to be patient.’ I chided, finally
removing the last of the shredded bandaging. It was the first I had seen
his shoulder since the hospital, the deep bruising had come finally to the
surface and was shockingly dark against his pale skin.
‘There’s no damn end to it!’ his eyes dropped
from mine, ‘And I know you guys are sick of waiting on me hand and
‘Never!’ I said, maybe a little too harshly. I
lightly placed a hand under his chin; he flinched, but let me raise his
eyes back to mine. ‘It will end, and you will heal, and we will never
get tired of taking care of you.’
I stood up and carefully picked him up, ‘Come here.’
I told him firmly, as though he had a choice, and took him across the room
and put him on his feet in front of the closet door, steadying him under
his good arm to keep his weight off his knee. I pushed the door open until
we were standing squarely in front of the closet mirror. He was bare, now,
to the waist and wearing the shorts he had to wear with his leg brace.
‘Look at yourself, for God’s sake.’ I knew
he didn’t use mirrors much, just didn’t pay any attention to
them, and probably hadn’t bothered to take a real good look. He looked
now. Really looked, almost like he was seeing someone else in the mirror.
Most of his chest, stomach and back were covered in slowly fading bruises.
He still had healing abrasions from his dive out of a car going fifty miles
an hour. The swelling in his face had finally gone down enough that he could
see out of his left eye, but he had horrible bruising yet and a still livid
scar that the stitches had just come out of four or five days before. His
left arm looked weak and thin with the bandages gone, his hand traced with
the scars of surgery. And of course, the knee brace, hiding more scars,
and stitches that would fall away on their own.
I just let him look for a minute and then murmured, ‘As
someone told me once; cut yourself a little slack.’
He actually spared me a tiny smile, and I picked him up, returning
him gently to his bed.
What I felt and what I wanted did not matter. What was important
was Duo. And Duo was hurting. It was time I did something about it.
I propped him up with pillows, and retrieved his dinner tray.
‘Quatre’s spoiling you, and his feelings will be hurt if you
don’t eat what he made you.’ He was being very quiet, and almost
docile, so I pressed the advantage. ‘I’ll leave the shoulder
unwrapped until you finish dinner.’
He looked small and lost, and scared and confused, all of
which was not helping my fight to wrestle my desires back into the black
box. I wanted to be his protector, his guardian, his partner; I wanted…
I could not let this happen. We were soldiers. This was against
all the rules. The rules that kept us alive.
I left him to deal with eating one handed, while I went into
the adjoining bathroom for dressings and tape. I took a minute to hunt up
scissors and a half empty bottle of lotion. When I returned to the bedroom,
he was sitting, hunched up, supporting his left arm in his right, food barely
I took the tray away without comment, and then sat down to
begin the job of re-strapping his arm to his chest. The injured shoulder
muscles weren’t used to bearing the weight of his arm and must be
His face was lined with pain, his eyes dull with it. All I
could do was ease the physical hurts as best I could, but I couldn’t
seem to reach the other pain that he harbored deep inside. He seemed conquered,
somehow. I felt him slipping away from me.
I finished with the binding, and when the weight was off the
shoulder, there did seem to be a slight lessening in the stress etched on
‘Duo, can’t you eat something?’ I coaxed,
bringing the tray back and setting it on the bedside table.
He sighed, just looking repulsed, ‘Maybe the bread.’
He finally conceded when it became apparent I wasn’t going to leave
I tore the slice of bread in half and handed it to him, wishing
he had chosen something with a little more food value to it. He managed
most of the half slice, but I could tell he was forcing it, and it had to
go down in little nibbles. He finally lay down the last of it and sighed,
‘No more. I can’t.’ He slumped back into
the pillows, eyes closed.
I wasn’t happy, and I suppose it showed in my voice,
‘Duo, I’ll go get you anything you want, just tell me what.
You need to get some food down. Your body has to have fuel to heal.’
‘I’m sorry, Heero.’ He sounded distressed,
‘Please don’t be mad at me. Food just makes me feel nauseous.’
‘God’s, Duo; I’m not mad at you. I’m
worried about you.’ How had we come to misunderstand each other so
His eyes came open, searching my face, desperate for something,
but I couldn’t say what, or if he found it.
‘I’m just tired, is all.’ He finally murmured,
retreating to the darkness behind his closed eyelids.
I couldn’t tell him I knew why he was so tired without
confessing to something I couldn’t explain. So I retreated too, to
the safe ground of our nightly routine. I pulled out the lotion bottle,
shifted to a position I could better reach his hand, strapped across his
chest. I warned him of the coming touch, and began massaging his scars.
For his part, his muscles tensed in expectation, and there was the involuntary
recoil at the first touch of my fingers, but then he was able to relax and
let me work.
He rewarded me, at length, with a soft sigh and I had to chuckle
at him. ‘Want me to do the knee?’ I asked softly.
‘S’ok. Getting sleepy.’ He mumbled, burrowing
further into the pillows.
‘Let’s get your pain medicine down first.’
I saw the frown start to form, as I knew it would, and cut
him off, ‘I know you don’t like it, but you need to get some
rest, and it will help you sleep.’
He cracked an eyelid and glared at me, ‘Yes, Mama-Yuy.’
I went to get the pills, and handed him the last of his now
warm soda to wash it down with.
I took the can away when he was done, and he looked up at
me beseechingly, ‘Could you…just a little more?’
I smiled, ‘Of course.’ And reached for his hand,
I saw him brace himself, still not quite able to suppress the spasm of his
muscles at first contact. But then he relaxed into the rhythm of my kneading
and sighed, ‘Feels good.’
I continued until the sound of his breathing told me he had
drifted off to sleep. Then I sought my own bed, feeling old and worn.
We managed several hours, at least, before I heard the familiar
sounds that told me the nightmares had started. This time, I had determined
I wouldn’t just lie idly by while he wrestled the demons alone. I
was starting up when I realized that things were immeasurably worse than
normal; Duo was thrashing against the sheets and low moans were escaping
from him. I was half way across the room, when he came gasping awake and
started trying to struggle out of bed, I arrived just in time to catch him
as he threw himself free and almost fell on the floor. I meant to help him
back into the bed, but suddenly, his hand was clamped in that universal
gesture across his mouth, and throwing an arm around his waist, I pulled
him into the bathroom. The knee was not going to let us get to the toilet,
so I hauled him to the sink and supported him while he retched violently
into the basin. He threw up until there was nothing left, and then he heaved
some more, breath coming in ragged, sobbing moans. All I could do was hold
him up and wait it out. When his body finally stopped trying to turn itself
wrong side out, I kicked the toilet seat down and sat him on it while I
rinsed the sink out, flushing the smell away before it could trigger another
He just sat and trembled while I cleaned him up, lost in the
aftermath of the nightmare. He rinsed his mouth when I handed him the glass
of water, and shook his head when I asked if I had hurt him dragging him
in here. Nodded when I asked if he was ready to go back to bed. I lifted
him, moving slowly and carried him back to the bedroom. His bed was a mess;
sheets sweat soaked and half ripped off the mattress. I laid him down on
mine while I stripped and remade his with clean sheets. He watched me with
heavy-lidded eyes that looked bruised even in the dim light. I came to a
decision, and when I was done, instead of moving him back to his bed, I
went and carefully lay down beside him on mine.
He jerked like one shot at the touch, but quickly regained
control and actually leaned into me.
‘Duo,’ I told him calmly, ‘you are going
to talk to me about the nightmares.’
He seemed to shrink in on himself then, and I swear, if he
had been able, he would have curled into a fetal position.
He didn’t answer.
‘You’re going to talk to me, or tomorrow I’m
going to haul your ass down to the hospital and we’re going to talk
to your Doctor about therapy.’
He made a small choking noise, but other than turning his
head away from me, he gave no sign he was going to respond.
‘I feel like I did that night in the park.’ I
told him softly, ‘Listening to you die over that damn radio and not
being able to do anything.’
A small moan; I knew he felt guilty about that, but still
no voice telling me what was wrong. I played my trump card.
‘Please, don’t leave me…’ that phrase
that had grown up between us, had become an anchor line when all else failed,
I used it unflinchingly, with all the emotion behind it that I dared. Don’t
leave me. Come back from that dark place you’re in. Don’t leave
me here alone.
I reached him; I felt it when he turned his face back and
leaned it against my shoulder. ‘Not fair, Yuy.’ He muttered.
‘Talk to me.’ I told him.
He scrubbed at his face with his good hand, ‘It’s
stupid. It’s just so damn stupid.’
I waited in silence, not pushing any harder, just being there,
listening, and finally, eyes closed, he began to talk.
‘I didn’t figure there was any way in hell I was
getting back out of there, not the shape I was in.’ There was no doubt
he was talking about his single handed attack on the station.
‘I just wanted to give you guys a shot. That’s
all. Just a chance. I was just supposed to be the decoy; the distraction.’
‘And it worked.’ I reassured him.
He grunted, ‘I couldn’t go in fast. So I went
in … obnoxious.’
Translation: I set out to royally piss off the whole station,
just to get their attention.
‘I guess I was hoping I could …avoid the whole
Translation: I was hoping to make somebody mad enough to kill
‘Gods…’ I muttered, understanding the tactic,
with a soldiers eye, but not able to help the fist that squeezed my heart
at the thought of it.
He couldn’t have known that all he did was piss them
off enough to make somebody think of using him as a guinea pig for a new
type of interrogation drug.
‘They blindfolded me at first, and injected me with
that damn drug. It doesn’t hit you all at once, it takes a bit to
build up I guess. Then…I swear to God they were burning me with hot
steel. Just running it along my arms and across my chest.’
He trembled, and stopped for a minute, while my minds eye
put him back on that rack. I shivered with him.
‘I thought for sure they were searing the meat right
off my bones.’ There was a long silence, while I listened to his breathing
get ragged and knew his heart rate was accelerating. His hand came up and
rubbed spasmodically across his chest.
‘Duo. It’s all right, I’m here.’ I
He had to get a little angry, to get the words out, ‘They
kept laughing, it was weird. I’d never been …interrogated quite
like that. I mean, that kind always enjoys it, but…’
I had to take a calming breath myself, realizing I was getting
mad all over again. I wanted to go back and bring that whole damned station
down like a flaming meteorite.
‘But this was different, they just kept giggling.’
Another jarring shudder, and his eyes opened suddenly, to hunt for me, or
just to get away from the darkness, I’m not sure which.
‘Then they took the blindfold off.’ His eyes were
wide, almost all pupil in the dim light, ‘They were just…touching
me …caressing…’ His voice choked and he stopped, but I
could supply the rest. Could see them in my minds eye, stroking and fondling
him, every touch to his skin a flaming agony. I could hear his tormented
screams and their hysterical laughter, congratulating themselves on their
new invention. I felt like I might have to take my turn emptying my stomach
in the bathroom. I thought he might cry then, and I wished that release
for him, felt he desperately needed it, but he remained still, pushing it
down; fighting it off. I’d never seen him cry, besides that one time
in the hospital, and then he didn’t even know he was doing it. The
drugs had allowed him to let it go.
‘And now…it’s all tangled up in my head
with old nightmares. Things from so long ago...’
There was a finality to that, and I decided to stop pushing.
Maybe that was enough for now. Maybe telling me about it would be enough
to let him sleep. His bandaged shoulder, resting slightly against my chest
probably saved me from wrapping my arms around him and clasping him to me.
I ached to hold him, but was afraid of hurting him. It stopped me from doing
something I would have regretted later. Instead, I got up and tucked my
blankets around him and then sat down on the floor beside the bed. I’d
get him through the night the way I had gotten him through those first nights
in the hospital after his return from the dead.
I lay my head on the side of the bed near his.
‘I’m here now. No one can get to you with me here.
Rest now, go to sleep. I’ll guard you all through the night. No one
can hurt you. No more pain. Go to sleep…’
He looked vaguely troubled for a bit, but his exhaustion began
to over take him, and as before, the steady murmur of my voice lulled him.
I could see his eyes begin to droop closed until finally, he slept. I continued
my hypnotic whispering long into the night.
I was able to talk him through the hours of darkness. He started,
more than once, to drift toward nightmare, but I would whisper my reassurances
and each time, he eased back to a peaceful sleep.
In the morning, as soon as I thought I could slip away, I
dressed and went downstairs. I intended a trip to see Duo’s Doctor.
Wufei was in the large, front foyer, up early as always, doing
his morning kata. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and waited respectfully
for him to come to a stopping point. Had I the time, I might have asked
him for a sparing round, I needed a good workout, needed to get rid of some
of the tension. But I hadn’t the time.
He looked at me expectantly, seeing I was dressed to go out.
‘Can you keep an ear open for Duo?’ I asked, ‘I
need to go into the city for a few hours.’
‘Of course.’ He came toward me; to pick up the
towel he had draped across the banister and wiped the sweat from his face.
‘Anything I should know about?’ he asked, almost casually.
I should have known that last night didn’t go completely
unnoticed. Especially by Wufei, who typically slept as lightly as I did.
‘He’s having nightmares. Not sleeping well, and
I think his pain medication is making him nauseous.’
‘Perhaps I’ll go sit with him.’
I couldn’t tell if he knew how much that relieved my
mind. ‘It might be…best.’
I borrowed a car from the estate, and made the trip into the
hospital, where I had to wait for almost an hour to speak with Dr. Russell.
She confirmed my suspicion that the pain medication Duo was on could cause
stomach problems. She wrote me prescriptions on the spot for something without
Codeine in it, a mild sleeping aide, and something to combat nausea. I was
somewhat surprised that it was that simple, and suspected that she had made
an assumption about my relationship with Duo that wasn’t necessarily
so. I also got a little talk about the after effects of anesethia and mood
swings. I didn’t know the city very well, and it took me some time
to find a drug store and get the prescriptions filled. It was afternoon
before I made it back to the estate.
When I came in, the house was quiet, and I headed straight
up the stairs to check on Duo. I would see if he had eaten lunch yet, and
then sit down to talk with him about the new medicine. I would get this
turned around. If he started getting a decent nights sleep, he could pull
out of this depression and concentrate on healing.
I walked softly into the bedroom, in case he was napping,
and stopped dead in my tracks. There was no one there; the room was completely
empty. Where the hell? Panic rose up in my chest and totally overwhelmed
my senses. A dozen horrid scenarios filled my mind, each one more chilling
than the last. I left him again! I failed him again! He needed me and I
wasn’t there! It was the same sick sensation I had felt that awful
night two weeks ago when I had climbed down from my Gundam and turned to
see Deathscythe missing.
It only lasted a minute; an eternal, mindless minute before
logic kicked in and told me to stop being a fool.
Softly, I closed the door behind me, shutting myself away
from prying eyes, and leaned back against it as I started to shake with
reaction. My knees felt weak and I found myself sliding to the floor, where
I sat with my hand over my mouth, and fought back the tide of unreasoning
fear. My head told me he was fine, downstairs or outside and that it was
a good thing he had gotten out of bed today. My heart told me I was a bloody
failure, I had abandoned him yet again and he would never trust me after
this. My gut was still shrieking that he was back in the hands of the enemy,
back on that rack, screaming in pain. And somewhere, down below all that
was the little voice that whispered to me that I was a soldier and didn’t
have the right to care for anyone, and no one could ever care for me.
I understood Duo’s reaction now, that night he had left
me sitting in our stolen car, only to come back to find me gone. At the
time, it had seemed such an over reaction, I hadn’t understood how
he could not realize that I would hide. Now I understood; logic and sense
had nothing to do with it.
It came to me then that there was no point in continuing to
fight against my feelings for Duo. I had lost the battle a long time ago.
I could deny it to myself until hell froze over, but my heart was already
committed. The damage was already done. I loved him. He was the other half
of my soul; the bright and shining half. I was nothing without him.
When my breathing slowed to normal and my hands stopped shaking,
I got up and walked calmly downstairs and found Quatre in the kitchen.
‘Where’s Duo?’ I demanded.
He looked at me with wide eyes, confused by my near battle
mode expression. But it was my most comfortable mask and it had fallen automatically
in place when I needed something to hide behind.
‘He asked Wufei to take him down to the hanger.’
He responded meekly, and didn’t dare question me.
I stalked out. The hanger was less than a quarter mile from
the house and once I was out of sight, I jogged there, stopping just before
coming around the corner of the massive building into view of the hanger
doors. Wufei and Trowa were lounging on a bench outside the open doors,
but Duo wasn’t in sight.
‘Where?’ I growled, unreasoningly angry with them.
‘Calm down, Yuy.’ Trowa smiled at me, ‘He’s
fine. Wanted a minute to himself is all.’
‘Well, he’s had it.’ Was all I could manage,
and I strode passed them, out of the bright, afternoon sun into the dim
interior of the hanger. I thought I heard Trowa chuckle, but it was beyond
me to deal with him right now.
Duo was sitting on a work stool at the base of Deathscythe,
staring up, completely dwarfed by the Gundam, his face unreadable. I just
stood for a minute, letting my eyes adjust to the change in light, and watched
him. If I had needed any more confirmation of what was in my heart, I had
it then; all the fear and stress just ebbed away at the sight of him. See?
My head told my gut, he’s fine.
He perched on the edge of the stool, his right leg, cocooned
in his foam and metal brace, stretched out in front of him. He was wearing
those silly jeans we had to cut off so they would pull on over his brace,
and nothing else but bandages. He cradled his left arm with his right and
sat hunched into himself, looking pale and thin. I felt like he was wasting
away before my eyes. How much punishment can the human body take before
it gives out? Before the mind gives up? A new voice in my head told me,
he needs you now like never before.
I deliberately let my steps sound on the concrete floor, to
warn him of my coming, but he didn’t look away from Deathscythe. I
moved around to stand behind him and looked up as well. I was close enough
to feel his body heat.
‘He won’t let me in.’ and it took me a second
to realize he meant the Gundam.
‘Maybe,’ I said softly, ‘He knows it’s
‘I think maybe it’s too late.’ His eyes
never left the Gundam.
‘It can’t be too late.’ I blurted, my heart
quickened, what were we talking about? I was getting lost in the meanings;
maybe hearing things I only wanted to hear.
He was silent then, a long time.
‘I was….afraid.’ I confessed, and left it
I thought about apologizing for locking him out of his own
Gundam, thought about trying to explain how scared I was of him disappearing
in it again. But I wasn’t even sure if we were still talking about
Then, slowly, he leaned back into me, letting me take his
weight against my chest. My arm curled around his waist almost of its own
accord. He held his flinch at the physical contact to a mere tightening
of his muscles, and then he relaxed against me. Inside my head there was
a tiny click as the two halves of my heart came together. Why had I fought
this? I almost didn’t dare breath; I wondered if he could hear my
heart pound. In growing astonishment, I focused on his heartbeat. That’s
where I found the courage.
‘I’ve done something terrible.’
‘I…’ My stomach tightened, ‘I’ve
fallen in love with you.’
He leaned his head back and let it lay on my shoulder. On
his face was the sweetest, softest smile I had ever seen him wear.
‘I know, love.’ He murmured, ‘I know.’
My heart thrummed in my chest, hardly daring to believe, ‘Then….?’
‘With all my heart and soul.’ He breathed.
I turned and brushed his temple with a soft kiss and thought
I would weep from the exquisite pain of it. He reached awkwardly across
with his good right hand and traced the line of my jaw.
‘What have we done?’ he asked in wonder, ‘What
have we gone and done?’
‘Broken all the rules.’
‘I don’t care.’
Somewhere, deep down, the voice inside that wouldn’t
stop trying to tell me what a bad idea this was, said that this couldn’t
end well. But as Duo’s hand slid across my cheek, it was growing fainter
and harder to understand. Drowned out by the new voice that told me this
was right and good.
‘Rules are made to be broken.’
Go to Chapter Three:Memories
Back to Chapter One
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