Finding Common Ground
(Part 5 of the Road trip Arc)
The mission was over; the munitions dump was completely eliminated.
The base was destroyed beyond rebuilding. The initial assault had generated
a desperate defense that had crumbled rather quickly to our superior firepower.
The enemy had retreated in total, abandoning everything to our mercy. We
had shown none. Now we were on the long trip back to base. Wing was unscathed,
though Trowa’s Heavyarms had taken some slight damage to its hydraulics
on the left side and was unable to move that ‘arm’. We flew
close; I stayed on his left, guarding the weak side. But there was nothing
out here with us, hadn’t been for a day. Barring any complications,
we would make touchdown tomorrow at eighteen hundred hours. I could not
wait. I don’t think either of us could. It was a very odd feeling.
It had never mattered to me before; the long treks through space used to
be something I treasured, the solitude and time without fighting, without
killing. But I had never had something to go back to before. I wanted to
see Duo. I wanted to touch him, to know he was all right. The timing of
the mission had been horrendous, following right on the heels of Duos attack.
When I closed my eyes, I still saw him hanging limply in Wufeis grasp, blood
smeared across his lips I needed to see him as much as I needed to breathe.
I had managed, with the help of Wufeis oath to me, to block
all the worry out of my mind for the time it had taken to get through the
mission. But once it was done and over with and we had begun the long, quiet
flight back, all my concerns had come rushing back and now, a day and a
half later, my gut was in knots thinking of all the possibilities. Wondering
where he was, what he was doing. Was Wufei with him? Had he figured out
I had changed his access code to Deathscythe again? How mad was he? Was
he doing his exercises? Was he eating? Sometimes he forgot to eat. I hoped
the others were keeping him company, he needed people; needed contact. He
What in the hell was the matter with me? I was starting to
make myself nauseous. The tight band comm crackled to life, and I jumped
in my harness like a kid that had been caught with their hand in the cookie
‘Yuy?’ Came Trowa’s voice, calm and amused.
‘Yes?’ I managed.
‘If you get any closer, you’re going to set off
the proximity alarms.’
I was thankful the vids weren’t up and he couldn’t
see my utter consternation. I had not even realized. I eased back, pulling
Wing to a more reasonable distance and muttered an apology. Thinking about
Trowa’s damaged Gundam and worrying about Duo had gotten all muddled
together in my tired brain and I had unconsciously been moving protectively
closer. I imagined Trowa laughing uproariously at me.
After a bit, he spoke again. ‘It gets easier, if that’s
any help.’ His voice was gentle behind the amusement.
I grunted in surprise. Here was somebody, out of only a tiny
handful of people in the universe, who could possibly understand what I
was going through. I wanted to kick myself for not having realized sooner;
for having wasted all this time.
‘Gods, I hope so.’ I muttered, ‘Because
it sure as hell can’t get any harder.’
He laughed, delighted, and I glowered. They were all enjoying
my wrestling for the first time with all these emotions and it was getting
a little irritating.
‘Yes,’ he sounded a little melancholy, ‘It
is a bitter sweet thing, isn’t it?’
Gods, he did understand.
‘Do you…worry?’ I asked, it made it easier,
not having to see each other. I was able to bring myself to speak of things
I might not have been able to, had we been sitting across a table from one
‘Constantly.’ He sighed.
‘How do you…how can you function on a mission?’
He chuckled, ‘It’s not always easy.’ There
was a moment of silence, utter and complete out here between the stars,
‘I can’t tell you how to put it aside for yourself, Heero. I
only know what works for me.’
Maybe he needed to talk a little too.
There was a hesitation, ‘I make myself believe that
Quatre’s life depends on every single mission.’
I grunted. Damn. I turned that over in my mind for a minute
thinking about it; don’t deny the feelings, embrace them. Twist them
to your own ends; make them work for you instead of against you.
‘Damn, Trowa, it’s a wonder you don’t have
He chuckled wryly and then sobered after a bit. ‘Heero,
have you thought about the other half of the coin? What it’s like
when they’re the ones going out and you’re the one staying behind?’
I sighed, ‘I’m trying very hard not to.’
‘Sooner or later, it will happen.’ And I felt
the weight of personal experience behind his words.
‘I know. Gods...I know.’
There was another long silence, and for a while I thought
the conversation was over.
‘Heero. You have to trust him. Don’t make the
same mistake I almost made. I tried so hard to protect Quatre, and he wound
up thinking that I doubted him. It almost destroyed us.’
It shocked me to hear this much private information coming
from Trowa; he did not speak of these kinds of things any easier than I
did. I remembered several occasions, looking back over the last several
months, when I had thought he wanted to say something to me but then left
it unvoiced. Maybe this odd, blind, conversation was making things easier
for him as well. I realized what a gift he was trying to hand to me, what
a sacrifice he was making to speak so plainly to me, and I could do nothing
but speak plainly in return.
‘I am being over protective, aren’t I?’
I finally admitted.
He actually laughed out loud and I was glad he couldn’t
see my face burning. ‘Heero, one would think he were made of spun
sugar and air.’
I sighed, ‘I just came so near to losing him, before
I’d even properly found him…’
All trace of amusement left his voice, ‘I know. Gods,
what he came through…’ there was the gust of a sigh, ‘I
still can’t quite believe he came back alive.’
I shuddered, suddenly cold. ‘Tell me about…that
‘When he came back?’
I grunted an affirmative, ‘I got it from Wufei, and
he…tends to puts things in their best light.’
There came an understanding chuckle and there was a pause,
maybe he was considering his words, maybe he was collecting his thoughts,
or maybe he was thinking that he shouldn’t tell me. I waited, and
eventually he did speak again.
‘Wufei and I both thought he had died in the accident,
but I couldn’t convince Quatre to give it up. He spent every waking
hour on that damned radio, monitoring the emergency frequency. We were all
up in the radio room at the safe house that night. I was trying to talk
Quatre into shutting it down and going to bed. He was so tired…between
Duo and you…’
He stopped for a minute, but I didn’t speak. I wanted
to hear this, and I literally had days. I could let him tell it in his own
‘Wufei was with us. I think we all just wanted to be
together. Everybody was…hurting.’
Mourning Duo, watching me fade. We wouldn’t discuss
‘Then we heard this little sound in the hall. We never
heard him come in the house. I don’t know how he got up the stairs;
hell, I don’t know how he did any of it.’
Had we been sitting at a table together, he would have leaned
forward and met my eyes.
‘I’ve never seen a living human being look like
that. I don’t know how he was on his feet.’ His voice was getting
intense, ‘We couldn’t go near him. Quatre tried to help him…but…’
there was another pause, ‘Heero, he scared me.’
He stopped again, lost in memory, or searching for words,
I’m not sure which. I had to reach to turn the heat up in my cockpit;
I had started to shiver.
‘It was like he was on autopilot. His face…I can’t
imagine the fall that did that to his face…but the look in his eyes;
this desperation…this need…’
I was hanging on his every word, I could see Duo in my mind;
the picture wasn’t too hard to paint, I had seen him in the hospital
He seemed to want to get the next part told, and his voice
became almost clinical, ‘He was just standing there in the hall when
we got out there. His left hand was limp and black, just hanging there.
You could tell there was something wrong with his knee even through the
pants, it was swollen that bad. We didn’t know about the broken ribs
at the time, but he was all hunched in on himself, holding his ribs with
his good arm. He was covered with these horrible abrasions, and his throat…when
he tried to talk…it didn’t even sound like Duo.’
I winced. I had done that to his throat, he had surprised
me in my sleep and I had…tried to strangle him.
Trowa let the minutes tick by while he considered his next
words; I could hear tiny sounds over the open comm.
‘He could barely speak, and when he did, all he wanted
was to know if you were all right.’
‘Gods.’ I murmured, the first I had spoken through
‘Heero…I think, maybe, you’re all that brought
him back to us.’
I glanced at the chronometer, I wanted it to say eighteen
hundred, I wanted it to be tomorrow, but there were still hours to go.
‘He’s strong, Heero. He’s come through more
than the rest of us combined. He’ll come through this too, you need
to believe in him.’
I put my face in my hands and rubbed at my tired eyes, ‘I
know. I know. If you could have seen him, that trip…I’d never
seen that side of him before. Gods he’s gotten under my skin.’
There was the sound of a faint chuckle, ‘In case you
haven’t noticed, he’s gotten under all our skins.’
‘I think Wufei would argue that.’
‘Don’t let Wufei fool you; he’d wade into
the pits of hell for Duo.’
I grinned, ‘Calling him a fool the entire time.’
The silence stretched, and I realized that the conversation
was done for now. We had both reached a point where we didn’t want
to talk any more.
‘Thank you, Trowa.’ too little to convey my emotion,
but all I had.
‘You are welcome.’ And his comm snapped off with
a certain finality.
I reached up and turned mine off as well, and we finished
the flight in silence. I had enough thoughts swirling in my head to occupy
The first thing I noticed after we landed, shutdown, and disembarked,
was the hatch on Deathscythe standing pointedly open. As if to say, very
loudly, ‘Fuck you, Heero Yuy’. I sighed. I guess, somewhere
deep inside, I had hoped that he hadn’t tried to get into his Gundam
in the last week, and didn’t know what I had done. So much for that
Quatre was in the hanger, waiting for us, and I made an effort
to not look his way, trying to allow the two of them a moment of privacy
for their reunion. But it wasn’t Trowa he was looking at, it was me.
I felt my heart convulse in my chest.
Quatre is a good pilot, he’s organized, and thorough,
and could be counted on in a pinch, but he is not a good poker player. Whatever
he was thinking was written across his face in flaming letters. I knew something
had gone wrong the moment I laid eyes on him.
‘Duo…?’ I could hardly breathe waiting for
‘He’s Ok. Everything’s all right.’
Quatre’s eyes were wide; ‘I just need to talk to you before
you go up to the house.’
I thought I would scream and had to take a calming breath,
waiting for him to spit it out.
Trowa went over and put his arm around Quatre’s shoulders,
and I realized I was probably doing that frightening thing I do with my
expression, and I tried hard to stop.
‘What happened?’ Trowa asked him gently.
‘He ran into a couple of those guys from the park.’
Quatre was able to tell Trowa, not looking at me, ‘There was a fight.
They hurt his knee and the doctor ordered him to stay off it for a couple
That was enough to turn my stomach over, but there was more,
I could tell. I bit my tongue and let Trowa pull it out of him.
‘What else?’ he prompted, and Quatre looked away
from both of us.
‘One of them had a knife…’
That was all I heard. I couldn’t wait any longer to
hear the rest of it. He had said he had to talk to me before I went up to
the house. That implied that Duo was up at the house. I broke and ran up
the path, my heart in my throat. Damn the waiting, I had been waiting for
days. I wanted to see Duo, and I wanted to see Duo now.
How the hell had he run in to anybody? Wufei had sworn to
me that he would keep him safe. What had gone wrong? A knife? What about
a knife? My emotions were running the gambit from fear to anger and back
again. I wanted to see Duo and I wanted to knock Wufei on his ass.
I slammed through the kitchen door and headed straight for
the stairs. Quatre had said he was supposed to be staying off his knee;
that meant bed. I heard their voices before I was half way up the stairs.
‘Maxwell! You are not getting out of that damn bed!’
‘So stop me, God damn it!’
‘Don’t try me, you idiot!’
‘Will you just freaking leave me alone for five damn
minutes! I can’t take any more of this!’
‘You can’t take anymore?! If I don’t turn
you over to somebody else soon, I am fucking going to kill you!’
‘I am not a damn baby! You don’t have to turn
me over to anybody!
‘I swore a stupid, stinking, idiotic oath, you moron!’
‘I am not a God damned mission!’
I slowed my steps, there was dead silence coming from the
bedroom for several long moments, and then softly,
‘Please, ‘Fei? I need to go down to the hanger.’
There was the sound of Wufei’s frustrated sigh, ‘Duo,
damn it, you’ve pulled the stitches again.’
I was rooted to the spot, not ten feet from the door. Just
the sound of his voice was making the blood sing in my veins. He was all
right, really all right. Wufei wouldn’t be yelling at him like that
if he weren’t all right.
‘Just a little; it’s barely bleeding. Come on,
man, I need this, Ok?’
A defeated, disgusted growl; ‘All right, damn it, but
you’re going to let me help you and you are staying off the knee.’
‘All right, all right.’ There was the sound of
movement, the creak of the bed. I have no idea why I just stood there. The
whole thing was so bizarre, hearing them argue and them not knowing I was
‘Wufei…I’m sorry, man.’ His voice
held a weeks worth of frustration.
But, so did Wufei’s, ‘Maxwell, will you please
They came into view finally, and I thought my heart would
stop in my chest. He looked thin, and tired. Dark circles under his eyes
making him seem like some fragile waif. He was leaning heavily on Wufei,
and his ribs were wrapped in gauze and my eyes sought and found the trace
of blood they had mentioned. Wufei caught sight of me first, and the expression
on his face went from a grim frown to one of sheer relief.
‘Oh, thank the Gods.’ He breathed, and Duo’s
head snapped up and he saw me.
The look I got from him melted me where I stood, and I strode
the last few feet to sweep him into my arms even as he was pulling free
of Wufei and launching himself at me. I knew nothing for a precious few
minutes other than the scent and feel of him crushing himself against me
as if he could merge us into a single being.
‘You’re all right. You’re all right.’
He kept murmuring against my neck, and I knew exactly how he felt; as though
I had not been able to draw a clear breath in the last week.
Over his shoulder, I could see Wufei, face gone gentle and
warm, and I opened my mouth to start the questions that were burning inside.
But he shook his head and held up a hand.
‘Later. Just… be with him, for now. It’s
been…a hard few days.’
And he just walked away, calling over his shoulder at the
last minute, before disappearing down the stairs, ‘And keep him off
the damned knee!’
We were alone, standing in the middle of the hall, wrapped
around each other like Armageddon was coming. I was still in the stinking
flight suit I had lived in for the last week, but he didn’t seem to
care. He’d never held me like this before; hard and desperate, and
all but trembling.
‘Duo, what’s wrong? What the hell happ…’
I began, but he cut me off.
‘Later; we’ll yell and we’ll fight later.
Not now. Just hold me. Let me know it’s all over. Let me know you’re
I didn’t answer; how do you answer something like that?
I stroked his braid and rubbed his back and finally bent and picked him
up in my arms. He’d lost weight, I could feel it. In just a week?
What in the hell had happened while I was gone? The questions wanted to
spill out, but I couldn’t press him. He didn’t argue with my
lifting him, and I carried him gently back to his room. I stopped in the
doorway, what in the world? There were medicine bottles and water glasses
on the night stand, pizza boxes and empty pop cans lying abandoned on the
desk, a pile of dirty clothes a foot high in the corner, and mattresses
all over the floor. I had to bite my tongue.
I took him to the bed, and couldn’t even untangle him
long enough to lay him down. I wound up being drawn down with him, almost
falling on top of him.
‘Duo, love, I don’t want to hurt you…’
‘Don’t give a damn.’ He growled, pulling
me in with him, ‘I need you here. I want you here. I get this, this
one thing. For me. Because this week has sucked. Five fucking minutes, that’s
all I’m asking.’
I would not have denied him in that moment if he had asked
me for my head on a silver platter. I stretched out beside him and he curled
around me, close as he could get.
‘I’m yours, love; you know that. For as long as
you want me, as long as you need me.’ I kissed his forehead, his temple,
the sweet curve of the bridge of his nose, ‘Gods, I missed you.’
I breathed in his ear, and he began to relax against me, making me aware
of just how tense he had been.
I ached to ask him what had happened, what was wrong. What
had happened to his knee? Why were his ribs bandaged? Why did he look so
tired? What was going on? But I kept it all to myself and just held him,
and let him hold me. I let my hand stroke gently up and down his back, feeling
the stress flowing out of him like water, until, suddenly, I realized he
was asleep. Had I not been so consumed with questions, I might have dozed
It probably wasn’t an hour before Wufei peeked quietly
in at the door and smiled gently, ‘I didn’t think it would take
long.’ He said softly, and came to sit on the side of the bed, tenderly
brushing a lock of hair away from Duo’s eyes.
‘Wufei,’ I was forced to speak softly, though
I wanted to grab him and shake him and make screaming demands, ‘What
is going on?’
I expected him to get defensive, I expected him to white wash
things and blow me off. I did not expect him to drop his head into his hands;
elbows braced on knees and tell me,
‘I’ve done a miserable job, and I failed you.’
My mouth worked, and I struggled to hold on to the anger,
but it just washed away at the sight of him slumped beside us, obviously
frustrated and exhausted.
‘You didn’t fail me.’ I found myself saying,
‘Just tell me what happened.’
His head came up, and he met my eyes with a surprised expression.
I raised an eyebrow at him, ‘I’m not going to
The corner of his mouth quirked up in a half-hearted attempt
at a grin, ‘You might want to hold off making that promise until you
hear the whole story.’
I gave him a beseeching look, ‘I just want to hear the
His head dropped back into his hands, ‘You were right.
You were so right about what happened.’
My arms moved to pull Duo closer without my having to command
them. Damn it; I had not wanted to be right.
‘He had another attack the night you left. It was…I…’
He stopped, working at it, and I thought I would scream in frustration.
‘We witnessed him being assaulted.’ It was Quatre’s
voice, soft and low and thick with unshed tears. I looked up to watch him
come into the room and kneel beside Wufei where he could speak to me without
raising his voice. Trowa stood in silence in the doorway, arms folded across
his chest, his eyes meeting mine for a moment before we both turned our
attention to Quatre. This was where I would hear the things I wanted to
hear; Quatre would not attempt to phrase things with an analytical mind,
but would speak to me from the heart. I marveled that Duo was able to sleep
through all this disturbance.
‘We were here, right here with him, and we couldn’t
stop it.’ The tears broke and flowed freely down his face, ‘It
wasn’t a dream. It happened to him, right here. All we could do was
hold on to him and listen to him being…raped.’
My heart constricted at that word, that short, simple word
that held so much meaning, implied so much pain. How could I protect him
from something that had happened so long ago?
Wufei reached out a tentative hand and gently touched Quatre’s
shoulder. Something I had not thought to ever see Chang Wufei do. These
two had been through a siege together in the past few days.
‘It just went on and on. I thought it would never end.
He fought…so hard. It was…brutal. His voice…was so young.’
A frown of pain crossed his pale face and I found myself reaching to touch
his hand. ‘It took the both of us to hold him. Nothing we said or
did got through to him.’
Wufei took up the tale, voice so soft I saw Trowa take a step
into the room to hear, ‘Then he suddenly went limp, and stopped fighting
us, and seemed to come out of it. He seemed all right…at first.’
Quatre choked on a sob that drew Trowa to his side, to lay
a hand protectively on his shoulder. ‘He was comforting us, Heero,
he held me after it was over. He kept…telling us how sorry he was
we had seen it.’
Beside me, Duo stirred restlessly, and both Wufei and Quatre
stiffened, their eyes snapping in his direction and they grew quiet, watching
intently until he settled. That scared me as much as anything they had told
me so far. They were both on such a hair trigger, their internal radar tuned
to Duo’s every breath.
I met Trowa’s eyes, and he nodded, gently pulling Quatre
to his feet and leading him out of the room. I turned my gaze back to Wufei,
who was still watching Duo warily.
‘Don’t discount him.’ He whispered, letting
his gaze shift to look after the departing pair, ‘I couldn’t
have gotten through this without Quatre. He was…very perceptive that
I waited for him to collect his thoughts and take up the story
again; I guess I was learning patience, or maybe I just couldn’t bear
hearing any more.
‘I don’t think I handled it well.’ He finally
sighed, ‘Duo was…feeling pain, as though it had just happened.
He claimed…he said he could see the blood. I…argued with him.’
A look of terrible self-loathing crossed his face. ‘He tried to get
us to leave him alone, and I…refused.’ He was quiet for a moment,
gazing at Duo. ‘I’m not sure I made the right decision.’
My fingers, still lying on the bed where I had touched Quatre’s
hand, reached out and brushed his knee. ‘You did fine.’ I breathed,
brushing my cheek lightly against the top of Duo’s head.
‘I’ve never seen him like that, Heero. He was…strung
so tight I thought he was going to explode. But…I never dreamed he
had such control. You could see him…hanging on…’ he just
shook his head, unable to continue the thought, but I think I understood.
‘He was so exhausted when we put him to bed, he was
in pain, and I gave him some pretty strong pain killers, he could barely
turn over on his own.’ His eyes met mine in a hard look, ‘I
swear, I never dreamed he would get up and sneak out like that.’
‘He what?’ I think we were finally getting to
the part of the story that Wufei was afraid I was going to kill him over.
The need to not raise my voice was driving me crazy.
‘I think I should have listened to him about needing
to be alone.’ He looked pained again, glancing at Duo, ‘He somehow
got out of the room without waking us and took off in one of the cars.’
The story was getting a little faster now that we had gotten
to the part he didn’t want to have to confess to, and I found myself
wishing Quatre were back to fill in some of the details.
‘He wound up at the mall. He…he called us, so
we wouldn’t worry; Quatre heard something in the background and guessed
where he was.’ He sighed heavily, looking at me with eyes that I noticed
for the first time were as red and weary looking as Duo’s had been.
‘I drove down there. Heero, I got there before he was
attacked. I could have…I didn’t…’ He dropped his
head back in his hands, not able to meet my eyes anymore, and his shoulders
‘There were three of them, and one of them was injured.
He seemed…I thought…’
‘Spit it out, Wufei.’ I growled, tension coiling
in my gut. In the curve of my arm, Duo moaned and shifted, the hand that
had been lying limp on my chest clutched convulsively at my flight suit.
Wufei jumped like he’d been shot, and his hands reached
instinctively toward Duo, his face was full of dread.
I calmed my breathing and forced myself to relax, ‘Shhhhh,
my little one,’ I breathed softly against the top of Duo’s head,
‘I’m here. No one can hurt you as long as I’m here. It’s
all right; it’s all right now. Go to sleep. Just go back to sleep.
I’ve got you.’ Duo slowly relaxed and sank deeper into slumber.
Wufei looked at me, wide eyed; and for one truly surreal moment,
I thought he was going to burst into tears. Finally, voice thick, he said
firmly, ‘You are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. If
you are called for any missions, I will take them. You are not leaving him
again until…until this is over.’
I caught myself with my mouth hanging open and shut it. ‘Tell
the rest of it, Wufei.’
He took a deep breath and kind of collected himself, ‘It
seemed to me that his spirit was as wounded as his body had been. He was
coming to depend on you, and doubting himself more and more all the time.
When I arrived at the mall, I found the car and was waiting for him. I saw
him come out, he was being pursued by three of the group who had attacked
you in the park.’ He was looking off into the distance, not at me;
and just getting it told. ‘I decided to let him handle it. He hadn’t
seen me yet. It seemed…important.’
My breath hissed between my teeth, and I remembered my earlier
desire to knock him on his ass; it had returned.
He flushed, but continued doggedly, ‘I did not know
they were armed. I never would have waited had I known about the knife.’
I ground my teeth and waited.
‘He was dealing with them very quickly, very…admirably.
But one of them managed a lucky punch to the side of his knee, and when
he went down…the other one pulled a knife.’ His eyes sought
mine again, begging me wordlessly to understand, but I couldn’t help
being angry. ‘I headed in, the minute I saw it, but Duo came up and
…and…he wasn’t Duo.’ He actually shuddered, ‘It
was over, in an instant, he deliberately left an opening, took the slice
to the abdomen in order to draw his opponent in, and then…’
The look on his face became a little awed, ‘Heero, the man was almost
twice Duo’s size, but he just caught his arm and twisted and…splintered
He stopped for a minute, looking down at Duo resting peacefully
on my chest, as though he couldn’t reconcile the image with the one
in his memory.
‘He didn’t know me. He turned on me when he heard
me coming, and I thought for a minute he was going to attack me. It was
like looking into the face of a stranger. He didn’t even know he’d
‘How bad is it?’ I ventured, my fingers still,
almost unconsciously, caressing Duo’s hair.
He sighed another of those frustrated sighs I had been hearing
so many of in the last couple of hours, ‘Probably ten to twelve inches
long, deepest at the entry point; almost a puncture, tapers off. Ended up
taking seven stitches. We tried to tape it the first night and I think it
would have held if he hadn’t had another nightmare. But it all pulled
loose and we couldn’t deal with the bleeding until afterward.’
He slumped forward again, elbows on knees and head just hanging. ‘That
was a bad night. He came out of the nightmare and there really was blood…it
took us a while to get him …anchored.’
I should have stayed behind. I should have stayed with Duo
and let someone else go on the damn mission. Duo had needed me and once
again I had failed to be there. Whatever anger I had been harboring towards
Wufei left me in one of my own miserable sighs, ‘I did not know what
I was asking, when I took your oath to watch over him for me, Chang. I’m
sorry. I should have been here.’
He gave me a weary, thankful look, ‘He was in such good
spirits after the attack, I know that sounds odd, but I truly think I was
a little bit right about him needing to handle it by himself.’ He
smiled softly, eyes lost in memory, ‘He made me stop for pizza on
the way home from the mall. He was so much better when we got back.’
But the smile quickly faded, ‘I think he honestly thought he had faced
the demon and the demon was gone. After that second…nightmare, he
became depressed. He can’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a
time. We’re with him constantly and that’s making him…tense.
He stopped eating.’
That explained the weight loss and the utter fatigue. It explained
‘And…bless Quatre’s heart, but he can’t
say no to him about anything and keeps letting him drink caffeine for Gods
‘How bad’s the knee?’ I finally ventured,
hoping this was the last of the surprises.
‘No permanent damage done, when we had to break down
and take him in to have his ribs stitched up, he finally confessed that
they had hurt his knee as well. The physician did not think that further
surgery would be needed, but wanted him to rest it for a few days, return
to the passive exercises he was doing right after the surgery for a while.
He has an appointment to have it checked in…’ he looked at me
blankly, ‘I’ll…I’ll have to look…I don’t
know what day it is.’
‘Friday.’ I supplied with a grim smile.
He grunted, looking at Duo again, ‘I do not envy you,
Yuy. He is…a hand full.’
I almost laughed, ‘Would you believe me if I told you
it was more than worth it?’
A faintly melancholy expression passed over his features and
he murmured, ‘I might.’
‘Why don’t you go to bed?’ I suggested,
‘You look exhausted.’
He nodded, and rose with a last glance at Duo curled in my
arms, and headed for the door. Then he stopped, looking disgustedly down
at the mattress on the floor and I realized that his bed was in here.
‘Use my room.’ I offered, and he gave me a grateful
smile as he headed that way. Only to return a moment later, face flushed,
frowning in irritation.
‘That,’ he said, pointing to the second mattress,
‘is Quatre and Trowa’s. They thought of your room first.’
And he threw himself down on the mattress on the floor without
another word. If I was any judge, he was asleep within five minutes.
Well. Here we all were. What a mess; I had to get this straightened
out. It wasn’t eight o’clock at night, and the entire household
was in bed. Sleep was what they all needed though; Wufei and Quatre had
looked completely done in. Trowa would see that Quatre was taken care of.
Wufei could rest now that I was here to take over Duo’s guardianship.
They would sort themselves out; all I had to do was get Duo turned around,
back on the road to recovery. We had done it together once before, and we
would do it again. First, he needed rest, and I would see to it that he
managed that. Then he needed food; tomorrow, I would take care of that.
Next, he needed to be free of these nightmares…and that was the part
that defeated me. His body would heal, if he let it, but I didn’t
know how to heal his spirit.
I dozed through the night, worrying at the problem, rousing
when he stirred, to talk him back from the edge of the dark pit of memory.
‘Come back to me, love. Don’t leave me here. I
need you. It’s all right now. I’m here…I’m with
you…No one can get passed me…No one can harm you…’
An endless litany meant to bind him to me, safe and protected.
As the night wore on, he wound himself around me, arms tight
around my waist, legs twined with mine, nuzzling his face into the hollow
under my chin, until my body began to stir and ache with desire. It was
just one more insult on top of an already trying day; I attempted to ignore
it, shifting unhappily, trying to get comfortable, until I finally managed
to sleep. My own dreams were fretful and somewhat erotic. I woke in the
faint light of early dawn on the rising crest of my own completion, too
late to stop the flood of a wringing orgasm. There was a moment of sweet
release, my body finding an outlet of it’s own for pent tensions and
unanswered needs. Followed by the irritating realization that I was trapped
in my own mess in an already stinking flight suit. I drew a shaky breath
and opened blurry eyes to find Duo staring up at me, wide eyed and puzzled.
I realized his leg was thrown across my hips, pressed against my groin and
he was feeling the after-twitches of my climax against his thigh. I flushed
blood red clear to the roots of my hair.
I waited for him to jeer at me, but he just looked openly
‘What…what just happened?’ he finally asked
when all I could do was lie there and stare at him staring at my blushing
I think I choked. I flushed even harder, and Duo frowned,
moving off me.
‘Are you Ok?’ he asked, and I realized that he
wasn’t teasing me.
‘I…I just had a wet dream.’ I finally managed
to sputter out.
He was raised on his elbow now, lying on his side and the
frown cleared from his face.
‘Oh.’ He said, seeming to at least understand
the term, ‘It almost looked like you were in pain.’
‘Oh no. Not pain at all.’ His bizarre innocence
eased my discomfort a little and I stroked a finger down the curve of his
cheek, and smiled lightly, trying very hard to be upfront with it. ‘I’ve
missed you…very much. I fell asleep…thinking about you. That’s
He looked at me for a very long time and finally whispered
softly, ‘What…what’s it feel like?’
I blinked in astonishment, and he flushed a little, but doggedly
waited for me to reply, ‘It’s…it’s like your body
being thirsty for something…really, really hungry for it…and
suddenly getting it, kind of all at once.’
I did not let him see that I wanted desperately to crawl into
a hole and pull it in after me. I schooled my expression into one of calm
openness and waited to see if he had any other questions.
He just grunted and rolled away to the side of the bed. ‘I’m
going to go take a shower.’ It was a measure of my total loss of composure
that I completely forgot that he wasn’t supposed to be walking on
his knee, and let him go. When the bathroom door shut, I let my held breath
out in a gust and buried my burning face in the pillow with a mortified
‘How the hell do you get to be our age and not know
what a wet dream is?’ asked Wufei from his mattress on the floor,
and I thought I would spontaneously combust.
I had totally forgotten he was there, and it took me several
long, shocked moments before I was able to lever myself up on one elbow
and glare down at him.
He was lying with his arms behind his head, tangled in his
sheets, staring up at the ceiling, looking much better than he had the night
But he didn’t look amused; he just looked sad, and I
forgot my own embarrassment for a moment and really thought about the small
exchange. Duo just asked me what an orgasm felt like. He had never felt…never
known…I listened to the sound of the water running in the other room.
No one had ever touched him in pleasure, only in pain.
‘I want,’ Wufei said softly, ‘very much,
to go hurt someone.’
My heart throbbed painfully to the sound of the same drum
he was hearing. I wanted to find the bastards and grind them slowly between
We lay in silence for a bit, listening to the sounds of Duo
in the shower.
I finally ventured, ‘Mind if I go get cleaned up?’
He wrinkled his nose and smiled, ‘I would actually be
grateful if you would go get cleaned up.’
‘Baka.’ I growled and climbed out of bed. The
door to my own room was still closed, so I went in and used the shower in
Wufei’s room, borrowing a robe until I had access to my own clean
When I finished, Duo was out of the shower, sitting on his
bed combing his hair, and Wufei was still sprawled on his mattress, watching
him. I walked in just in time to hear Wufei say,
‘Quatre is fine, Maxwell. You dreamed he was crying,
I moved to the bed and settled myself behind Duo, taking the
comb away from him and setting to work on the tangles. This, I had gotten
rather good at.
‘It just seemed so real.’ Duo frowned, tilting
his head as I stroked the comb through the length of his wet hair.
‘I suppose, if you want to check,’ Wufei smirked,
‘he is in Heero’s room with Trowa. You can go ask.’
I glanced around Duo’s shoulder, answering his smirk,
‘Like you checked on them last evening?’
I was gratified to see his faint flush; I thought perhaps
he had interrupted something last night. He covered it with a grunt and
a yawn and told us, ‘I’m going down to do my kata. I will see
you at breakfast.’ And he rolled to his feet and was gone.
Duo’s hair was tangle free, but I spent another few
minutes running the comb through it, raising it to my face and inhaling
the soft scent of sandalwood. Then I went ahead and tightly plaited it for
‘Why does he lie to me?’ He asked abruptly, surprising
‘He thinks he is protecting you.’ I had to answer
honestly. ‘He’s afraid of upsetting you.’
‘Then, why was Quatre crying?’ Check and mate;
‘They came in last night, after you fell asleep to tell
me about…everything.’ I flipped the end of his braid over his
shoulder to signal I was finished.
‘I slept through all that?’ he caught at the braid
and glanced back at me.
I chuckled, ‘Pretty much.’
‘I slept through the night.’ His tone was almost
I brushed a finger down the length of his arm and said softly,
‘And you will, every night that I’m by your side.’
‘But that means that you don’t sleep.’ He
‘I can sleep a little. We’re going to get through
this, love.’ I entwined my fingers with his where they rested on the
I didn’t want to see his face clouded with this intense
sadness. I wanted to bring the smile back to his sweet lips; I wanted to
make him laugh. I wanted to make things all right again. I pulled him back
against my chest, and tilted his face up to meet my kiss, my hand resting
lightly on his vulnerable throat, feeling the pulse thunder there. I kissed
him gently and deeply, not stopping until I brought a gasp from him that
vibrated under my palm.
‘Now, I believe, before I left for my mission, I had
arranged things so that I could baby and coddle you without interruption?’
He groaned, ‘Heero…don’t you dare
start that again.’
I just chuckled evilly and climbed off the bed to sweep him
up in my arms.
‘Thought I forgot you’re supposed to be staying
off the leg, didn’t you?’
He glared at me, around the beginnings of a smile, ‘I
‘A momentary lapse.’ I assured him, ‘Now,
I carried him down to the kitchen and deposited him in a chair
while I hunted through the pantry and came up with a box of pancake mix.
I was going to have to find his crutches, he wasn’t
that much smaller than I was, and carrying him any real distance was not
going to be feasible on a long-term basis. I began mixing the batter, aware
of Duo watching me in amusement. In the front foyer, I could distantly make
out the sounds of Wufei, stamping and panting his way through his morning
ritual; sounded like he was working with a little extra zeal.
I turned the heat on under the pan, and went to set a plate
and fork in front of Duo. He sat with his chin propped on his hand and grinned
at me, ‘You can cook?’
‘Of course I can cook.’ I informed him haughtily,
playing the game of keeping him distracted as I poured batter, ‘Better
than you can.’
‘I never claimed to be an expert chef.’ He huffed,
‘I manage to keep myself from starving.’
Almost, I retorted with something I would have regretted,
looking at his gaunt features, but luckily, the first batch of pancakes
finished about that time, and I dumped them on his plate and said instead,
He made a show of gingerly tasting them, as though expecting
something vile, and then quirked an eyebrow at me.
‘Told you I could cook.’ I smirked.
‘Then why don’t you ever take your turn doing
it?’ asked Wufei as he came into the room, towel tossed around his
shoulders and looking much more relaxed than he had last evening. He sat
down beside Duo, watching him wolf down pancakes with a bemused expression.
The second batch came out of the pan about then, so I plopped
a plate in front of Wufei before turning back to the stove.
Trowa and Quatre wandered in, and I ended up mixing up another
entire batch of batter before finally managing to eat a little breakfast
of my own.
Quatre beamed at me, ‘Heero, these are delicious!’
and inwardly, I groaned; I hated cooking and had managed till now to pretty
much avoid doing it. Somehow, everyone just assumed that I was no good at
it. So much for that charade.
Something had been nagging at me ever since we had arrived
back from the search and destroy; where was the house staff? There was usually
a very competent cook in this well-appointed kitchen.
‘Quatre?’ I asked after dredging the name up,
Quatre and Wufei exchanged a look, but before either of them
could manage to say anything, Duo piped up almost brightly, without ever
looking up from his breakfast,
‘I was scaring the shit out of the entire staff with
my screaming and Quatre had to give them time off with pay.’
Both of his erstwhile keepers looked shocked and sputtered
incoherently, but Duo stopped them again,
‘I may be psychotic, but I am not stupid, nor am I blind.’
Quatre visibly wilted and Duo took pity on him. He finally
put his fork down and looked up at the blond, ‘I’m sorry, Quatre.
‘Well,’ I interjected, attempting to divert the
conversation, ‘it certainly explains why your room looks like a pig
sty and smells worse.’
‘On that subject, Yuy,’ Wufei too, seemed eager
to change the topic, ‘Would you mind helping me put everybody’s
beds back where they belong?’
‘That is the first order of business. Laundry is the
second.’ I informed him.
So after breakfast, we left Quatre and Trowa to do up the
dishes, and Wufei and I helped Duo back upstairs. He refused to be carried.
We parked him back on the bed while we hauled the mattresses back to their
respective rooms. Then Wufei gathered up the empty cans and pizza boxes
while I sorted the pile of dirty laundry into a basket to take downstairs.
I pulled loose change and a candy wrapper out of the pockets of a pair of
shorts, and shook my head; Duo was so unorganized. I found a set of car
keys and a CD in a pair of black jeans I didn’t remember seeing before,
and then my hands closed on material that was stiff, and curious, I pulled
a black t-shirt out of the pile. It was sliced almost in half from side
to side, and the entire front was stiff with dried blood. I froze, realizing
what I was holding in my hands, and suddenly the story that I had been told
last night took on a crystal clarity; became real. My hands quivered and
behind me, I heard Duo softly say,
‘Throw it away, Heero.’
Wufei, catching the tone of Duo’s voice, stopped what
he was doing and looked at me. I couldn’t tear my eyes off the damn
blood soaked thing. No wonder he had seemed so frail; all that blood. Dear
Gods; he’d almost been disemboweled. I’d almost lost him again
and I wouldn’t even have known it for days. I would have finished
that damn mission and come back to be greeted with the news that…that
Duo had…that I was…left behind…alone again.
Wufei came and gently pulled it from my trembling hands, stuffing
it in the bag with the rest of the trash he was collecting. He looked first
at me and then at Duo, and finally said,
‘I think I am done here. I have some…errands to
run. I’ll be back after while.’ He took the trash, and he left.
I barely heard him.
I went across the room and knelt down in front of Duo.
‘I need to see.’ I thought I managed to keep my
voice fairly calm considering the turmoil that was going on inside me.
‘Heero, let it go. It’s nothing.’
‘I know that. But I have to see it for myself, Ok?’
He sighed, and without any real argument, pulled his shirt
off and undid the tape. I helped him unwind the bandages; they were stuck
to him with dried blood. I gently worked it loose and revealed the wound
‘Gods, Duo. You gave him the opening to do this to you?’
He looked at me sharply, ‘Wufei doesn’t miss much,
‘Not a lot.’ I agreed.
Gentle as a feather, I laid my hand over the stitches; I couldn’t
cover the length of it end to end with my entire hand. Compared with wounds
he had endured in the past, it was nothing. But it was twisting my guts
around just looking at it. Maybe because I hadn’t been there. Maybe
because Wufei had let it happen. Maybe because it had happened in such a
mundane way; as soldiers, you expected to get hurt in the line of duty,
in battle. You did not expect to die in a stupid shopping mall.
‘Heero? You’re scaring me. Stop it.’ He
said softly and I looked up into wide eyes, and I knew my face was contorted
I struggled to control it, ‘The stitches have been almost
pulled out…more than once.’
He looked irritated, ‘Damn it Heero. You said they told
you all about…everything. You know how that happened.’
‘I know. I know. The…nightmares.’ I rose
and went in to the bathroom to get gauze and tape. Taking the minute to
get my emotions under tighter rein. When I came out, I was able to gently
clean him up and re-bind the wound and help him get his shirt back on without
my hands shaking.
He lay back on the bed while I finished dumping clothes into
the laundry basket.
‘Heero?’ he asked, voice small, as I pushed the
window open to get some air in the room.
‘I am not made out of glass.’
It stopped me cold.
But he had gotten started, and wasn’t going to let me
‘I am really pissed at you.’ He said calmly, propping
up on an elbow, ‘How could you have changed the access code on Deathscythe…again.’
‘How could you have run away from Wufei and Quatre like
that?’ I countered.
‘You set Wufei on me like I was a damned mission.’
A hint of his anger came past the bizarre calm in his voice.
‘You promised you would be all right until I got back.’
‘I am all right!’
‘You almost…almost…’ the fear nipped
at my heart again, causing my voice to rise.
‘But I didn’t. What if something had happened
here and we had had to run? What then? What if I hadn’t been able
to get into my Gundam during a damn attack?’
He was starting to wind up to being really angry.
‘What if something had gone wrong on my mission? Are
you telling me you wouldn’t have tried to come after us?’ I
barked, taking a step toward the bed.
‘And what if I had? If you had needed me, why would
it have been so bad? I can still fly!’
‘You can’t even walk!’
‘The hell!’ and, of course, he was up off the
bed in an instant, in my face and really mad.
‘How in the hell do you expect to ever get better if
you keep going out and doing stupid shit like that!’ I snapped.
‘I went to the fucking mall! I didn’t do anything
wrong! I really wish people would stop acting like I stuck a stinking gun
to my head. You’re the one who set Wufei on me like a damned guard
dog! It was making me insane! I couldn’t fucking take a dump without
him there asking if I needed help wiping my ass!’
And that was such an absurd mental picture, that I laughed.
All the fear and anger fled in the face of his overwhelming frustration,
and I laughed until tears ran.
He tried to hold onto his resentment, clung to it hard, but
in the end, he started to laugh with me, and we came together in a much-needed
embrace, giggling like small children. When it subsided, he whispered in
‘Don’t you ever touch my Deathscythe again.’
‘I swear.’ I promised, ‘Never again.’
‘Heero, you have to…’ he broke off, searching
for the right words.
‘Trust you?’ I supplied, and he nodded.
I grinned sheepishly, ‘I got something of a lecture
about that on the way back from the asteroid belt.’
He snorted softly, ‘I got a little talk from Quatre
about…understanding certain protective tendencies.’
‘Mine?’ I asked, a little embarrassed.
‘And Wufei’s. He was trying to keep me from…dunking
‘Fei’s head in the toilet.’ He managed to look embarrassed
and pleased with himself all at the same time.
I became aware that he was unconsciously letting my embrace
partially hold him up. He was weak, whether he would admit it or not. Lack
of proper sleep being part of it; one decent night was not going to heal
the damage done by days on end without it. Lack of proper nutrition being
another part; one meal was not going to make up for not eating for days
on end. And, I had to admit; blood loss was obviously a large part. We had
a long way to go.
I broke the embrace and drew him over to the bed where I sat
back against the headboard and let him settle down against me.
‘Heero, what Trowa and Quatre have is…wonderful.
It…it used to make me ache to see them together.’
I smiled, behind his head and sighed softly, ‘Made you
want what they had, so bad your heart hurt?’
There was a moment of silence, ‘You too?’
‘Oh yes, love.’ I murmured, and he laid his head
back against my chest. ‘It used to twist me in knots every time I
would catch them holding hands or kissing. I…I didn’t even know
what it was I wanted.’
‘Everybody thought you disapproved.’ He told me,
and it shocked me.
‘Damn. I never realized.’
‘I think we all figured it out.’ He grinned up
at me, and I kissed the end of his nose. ‘But, Heero, it isn’t
going to work that way for us.’
‘I know. We’re both too damn…’
‘Duo, I’ve never…loved anyone before. I
am petrified of something happening to you. I …I don’t know
what I would do.’
‘I know, love.’ He told me, voice soft and far
away, ‘There isn’t any pain in the world worse than losing someone
you care for, and believe me; I am just as scared something is going to
happen to you. But…we can’t let the fear run our lives.’
We were quiet for a long time. He stroked his fingers absently
up and down my shin, and I played with his braid and we thought our own
‘Are we done with the yelling and the fighting now?’
he suddenly asked.
‘Uhmmmm…I think so.’
‘Can we do something?’
‘Anything! I am so bored I could scream.’
I laughed, ‘How’s this; if you promise to use
your crutches, I’ll take you out for lunch.’
There was the sound of a groan, a moment of consideration,
and then a grumpy, ‘Oh, all right.’
Suddenly, he turned over, mindful of the stitches, and wrapping
his arms around my neck pulled me down for a fierce kiss. It caught me totally
off guard; he’d never kissed me so forcefully before, invading my
mouth with his tongue and catching my lower lip gently between his teeth.
Under his hip, my cock stirred to life. At the first throb against him,
he broke the hold he had on me and sat up with a wicked smile and whispered,
‘New-found power.’ Before getting up from the bed and limping
toward the closet, presumably to find the crutches.
Oh. My. Gods. My situation had just taken a decided turn for
the worse. This did not bode well. It had been hard enough, having him right
there in front of me and not being able to…to…consummate things.
But now he knew what he was doing to me. And he was amused. Amused and…bored!
‘Get off the damn knee.’ I managed to croak, voice
He just laughed.
My room was my own again, and I went and dressed, putting
Wufei’s robe back where I had found it in his bathroom. When I came
out, Duo was ready to go, swinging on his crutches in the hall, an eager
glint in his eye.
We borrowed the maroon estate car; the little gray sports
car was gone, and I vaguely remembered Wufei saying he had to go out. Quatre
had eagerly taken the basket of laundry from me and sent us on our way,
seeming delighted to see Duo not only on his crutches, but going out somewhere.
Duo rolled the window down and turned the radio up and I endured
the racket for his sake, he looked so blissfully in the here and now with
the wind whipping loose strands of hair around his face. He rode with his
eyes closed, and I wondered idly where he was. We drove in…well, not
silence, with the radio blaring hard rock music at us, but not talking,
maybe talked out for a while. Once we passed the city limits, I reached
and turned the radio down so I could ask him where he wanted to eat.
He perked up immediately, ‘My choice?’ he asked
eagerly, and I had to chuckle at the same time I was cringing inside; please
don’t make it somewhere…bizarre.
He directed me downtown where, I was assured, there was this
‘great little place’ that I would ‘just love’. I
It turned out to be not such a bad place, downtown near the
college, bustling and busy, a kind of Mom and Pop diner. Simple food, thank
the Gods, and not too dirty. I settled Duo at a table near the front window
and went to place our order. I picked out probably twice what we would ever
eat, but was hoping to entice him with a variety of foods. Though he had
eaten the breakfast I had made for him, seemingly with gusto, I had noticed
that a surprisingly small amount of pancake had actually disappeared from
his plate. Likely his stomach had shrunk in the last several days, and it
would be easier to get him back to a regular eating schedule with lots of
small portions spaced out through the day, than three large meals. Gods;
I sounded like a damned worried parent. I almost snorted out loud.
When I returned to the table, he was gazing out the window,
seemingly absorbed with people-watching. This hadn’t been such a bad
idea after all; he needed some distraction. He looked at the tray of food
when I sat down, with a raised eyebrow.
‘You’re doing it again, Mama-Yuy.’
I shrugged guiltily, ‘Can’t help it.’
He actually ate the majority of a hamburger, and picked at
the fries and onion rings, tasting this and that, as I had hoped, but I
suspected he actually ate more than he wanted just to make me happy. But
through the entire meal, he kept glancing out the window, watching something
until I finally had to ask.
‘What is going on out there that is so fascinating?’
He nodded across the street, ‘Isn’t that the other
car? The one Wufei took?’
I looked, and sure enough, the little gray car was on the
other side of the street with a parking ticket on its windshield.
‘What the heck could Wufei be doing down here that would
take him so long he would get a ticket?’
I grunted, eyes sweeping the street, there was nothing here
that I could see that would attract Wufei. Another restaurant, a couple
of dingy looking bars, two or three trinket shops and a boarded up store
front or two. Nothing that would draw him here at all, much less keep him
for over an hour. Duo had an odd look on his face, and we came to an unspoken,
mutual decision to go looking.
Duo rose and started for the door, leaving his crutches where
they were propped in the corner. I gave out an exasperated, ‘Duo!’
that he completely ignored, so I grabbed the crutches and stowed them in
our car as we went by. I was tired of fighting it.
Duo seemed to have some destination in mind, so I followed
along as he limped his way across the street and down the alley that ran
beside one of the bars. This yielded nothing, and he retraced his steps,
returning to the front of the bar without a word, but looking worried. I
shadowed him close as he headed for the front door, and I was rather surprised
to find that it was open at this time of day.
The interior; dim and smoky, smelled of more than just tobacco,
with only a few patrons scattered around the room. When I glanced at Duo,
his whole attitude had changed. There was a beaming smile plastered across
his face, he exuded charm and charisma like it was a scent, and even his
walk was different. Not the purposefully stride he had used outside, but
an unhurried amble as he wound his way between empty tables on his way to
the bar. I held back, realizing that he was in …Gods, what? Stealth
mode? Infiltration mode? I was only in the way. He sprawled across a stool
and engaged the kid, obviously stoned, behind the bar in conversation. Had
I not come in with him, I would have sworn Duo was higher than a kite as
well, and he soon had the kid giggling uncontrollably. Money went across
the bar, and a beer came back across, which sat untouched, though the bartender
never noticed. After an incredibly short amount of time, Duo came back to
me and led the way back outside.
‘He was here. Ordered a drink and sat around for a long
time not drinking it. He’s stalking somebody.’
Outside, in the light of day, Duo transformed back, all trace
of the grinning idiot gone. ‘Come on.’ He ordered, and headed
back across the street toward the second bar. Again, he led us down the
alley first, and this time, we hit the mother load. We heard a crash, and
a grunt and then voices. A stranger’s voice, high and frightened,
and Wufei’s, low and dangerous. We had apparently arrived not too
long after the…conversation had started.
There was a dark haired kid on the ground, his arm in a cast
and I glanced at Duo for confirmation that this was the one who had stabbed
him. He nodded sharply, eyes narrowed, but Wufei was in absolutely no danger,
so we held back and just watched.
Wufei loomed over the kid, and his voice was harsh, ‘I
told you I would find you.’
There was an unpleasant whining sound from the jock on the
ground. Wufei was wearing a long coat, which I thought was odd for the weather,
until he pulled the katana out from under it. The kid on the ground did
a fine imitation of a bug-eyed fish.
‘What…what’re you gonna do?’ he sputtered,
voice high and rising higher by the minute.
‘I do not take kindly to people hurting my friends.’
Wufei growled, and moved the sword closer to the throat of his quarry.
Said quarry made another noise that might have been a stammered
apology, or might have just been sobbing.
‘I take less kindly to people harming my family.’
The growl had grown to a snarl, and the jock was definitely apologizing
now, shaking in fear and trying to push himself backward through the brick
wall behind him.
Beside me, Duo stiffened, and when I looked at him, his face
was an uncharted sea of swirling emotions. I couldn’t begin to guess
what was going through his head.
‘I will not allow you to harm him again.’ Wufei
was telling the sobbing idiot on the ground, the blade now resting against
his throat, just under the chin. ‘I am giving you this one warning.
If he ever so much as sees you again, I will find you and I will cut off
a finger. If he encounters you twice, I will cut off a hand. If you are
so stupid as to cross his path a third time, I will cut off your head. Do
I make myself clear?’
The moron started to nod vigorously, almost slicing his own
chin on the razor sharp blade before thinking better of it and stammering
a barely audible, ‘Yes.’
‘I did not quite hear that.’
I took Duo’s arm, and with a finger to my lips, drew
him away as Wufei was making the quivering jock repeat it a second and third
time. We made our way silently back to the street and quickly gained the
car, where we sat until I saw Wufei calmly exit the alley, katana gone from
sight, and make his way back to his car. If he noticed us, he gave no outward
sign, but got in the car and drove away as sedately as if he had just finished
‘Let’s…let’s go back now.’ Duo
said softly, and I started the car and headed that way. It was a quiet drive;
Duo didn’t even want the radio on. He just sat, slumped low in the
seat, staring blindly out the passenger window, occasionally rubbing at
his knee. I just drove, stealing glances at him out of the corner of my
eye, and finally ventured, ‘Are you all right?’
He just grunted, and I respected the silence for the rest
of the five-mile drive.
The thoughts were swirling in my own head; I could only imagine
what was going through his. I was almost sorry Wufei hadn’t killed
the son of a bitch right there when he had the chance. I’m not sure
I wouldn’t have. He hurt my Duo. Whenever I thought of it, remembered
the wicked slice on Duo’s skin, the anger threatened to claw it’s
way up out of my belly like a thing alive. Had he been in front of me, had
I held the blade at his throat, would I have been able to stay my hand?
I’m not so sure. It would have been murder. Calculated murder. Not
the same as the lives I had claimed in battle, not the same at all. I couldn’t
answer the question.
I pulled the car in, and we had gotten there first; the gray
car wasn’t in sight yet. I got out and went around to help Duo. He
was pensive, and still quiet; he took my hand and let me pull him up without
comment. I collected the crutches out of the back of the car, and turned
to find Duo sitting on the hood.
‘Heero…I want to wait for Wufei, Ok?’
I frowned, ‘He might not come back right away.’
‘I know. I’ll just wait a little while.’
He hesitated, his head lowered, looking at me through his unruly bangs.
‘I’ll come in if he isn’t back soon.’
I chuckled and went to lean the crutches against the side
of the car within his reach, though Gods only knew what the point was anymore.
‘I’ll leave you alone, then.’
The hesitant look left his face and he grinned at me, snagging
the sleeve of my shirt and pulling me close enough to wrap his arms around
my neck. From his vantage point on the car, he was above me and I had to
turn my face up to meet his this time. He kissed my lips softly, then my
cheek, and then that place behind my jaw that always makes my knees weak.
I closed my eyes in pleasure, feeling the tip of his tongue gently tracing
the outline of my ear. My hands were resting on his waist, and I left them
there, letting him do as he pleased, but always aware of the burden of his
past. I would not, could not, would never, may the Gods strike me dead;
ever cause him pain. His lips traveled back and found mine again and I allowed
just a hint of my rising passion to show through as he kissed me deeply
this time. Then he broke off and I opened my eyes to find him gazing at
me, eyes warm and amused. ‘Thanks for understanding, love.’
I took that as my cue to leave and turned toward the house,
refusing to adjust the tightness in my jeans until I was out from under
his watchful eyes. He was going to kill me at this rate, I was sure of it.
I went into the formal living room and sat in the bay window
where I could watch him, but it would be difficult for him to see me. Not
that it mattered, I’m sure he knew I was there somewhere. Quatre was
beside me in a heartbeat, and I wondered how long he had been observing
us, I felt just a hint of how Duo must have felt the last week, never out
from under someone’s vigilant guard twenty-four hours a day. I felt
‘What’s going on?’ Quatre wanted to know,
coming to stand behind me where he could see out the window as well.
‘Duo is waiting for Wufei.’ I told him, trying
to decide just how much I should say.
‘What for?’ he wanted to know, and I supposed
the last couple of days had entitled him to the full story.
I tilted my head back to look up at him, ‘I took Duo
to lunch downtown, and we saw Wufei there. He was tailing the college kid
who knifed Duo.’
His eyes went round and he made a tiny ‘oh’ sound.
‘Did he…did he hurt him?’
‘Not overly much, from what I could see. Just threatened
the piss out of him.’ I couldn’t keep the smirk off my face.
In the distance, I heard the sound of a car coming up the drive. Outside,
Duo perked up and he slid to the edge of the car hood.
‘I take it,’ Quatre answered my smirk with a faint
one of his own, ‘that Wufei does not know that you…observed
‘Not yet. But I think he is about to.’
Outside, the gray car was pulling in behind the maroon one.
Wufei got out, a concerned look on his face at seeing Duo sitting out there
‘Those two,’ Quatre told me as we watched, ‘about
drove me insane.’
I glanced up in time to catch a sad expression on his face.
‘Wufei is so…reserved. Duo thinks he looks down
on him.’ He let go of a heavy sigh, ‘Duo tries so hard to cover
the pain and all he does is shut Wufei out.’
Wufei was approaching Duo, who had slid to the ground, landing
with his weight carefully off his bad leg. I saw Wufei say something, I
imagined him demanding to know what Duo thought he was doing. I watched
Duo, waiting for the smart-ass remark that I wouldn’t be able to hear,
but instead just saw his jaw working.
‘Wufei has really come to…admire Duo, in his own
way.’ A sad shake of his head. ‘They poke at each other constantly.
I thought they were going to kill each other.’
In the driveway, Wufei was saying something else, and finally
Duo found his voice and said something that brought a shocked expression
to Wufei’s face. Suddenly Duo made the two steps and threw his arms
around Wufei’s neck, hugging him for all he was worth. Behind me,
Quatre made a small, elated sound.
Wufei just stood there for a frozen moment, and then his arms
came up and slowly folded around Duo. I leaned my head against the window
frame and smiled. It was a truce of sorts, the beginning of an understanding
between them. The more anchors Duo had in his life, the better.
‘Heero,’ Quatre’s voice had taken on a serious
tone and I realized the subject had changed, ‘you understand he’s
testing you, don’t you?’
I couldn’t make the mental switch; what was he talking
‘The way he’s teasing you.’
I suddenly realized he had seen Duo kissing me outside, and
‘No, I don’t understand.’ I turned my attention
to him entirely, as Duo and Wufei moved apart and an argument was starting
over the crutches.
‘Think about it Heero.’ He was trying to get this
out while we still had a moment alone, ‘What does Duo fear most in
the world right now, other than losing you?’ He didn’t wait
for me to answer. ‘Physical intimacy. Sex.’
He patted my shoulder as we heard the front door open, ‘Think
He left me sitting there to go help Wufei get Duo in the house.
I heard the faint creak of the crutches and had to smile; Wufei had won
He was testing me. Testing my control. Damn, I couldn’t
believe I had not seen it. He needed to know that I was safe. He knew I
wanted him, knew I wanted our relationship to be…more physical. But
he wasn’t ready and he was trying to give himself the assurance that
I wouldn’t push it. That I wouldn’t try anything until it was
right for him. Just like Duo; he found something in his path that he feared,
and he had to poke a stick at it to see if it would rear up and bite him.
I rose and followed the sounds of their voices, normal levels
of conversation for a change, no yelling, no cursing. It was something of
a relief; Wufei had disappeared, probably to return his katana to its place
in his room before a fuss was raised over it. Quatre was standing at the
bottom of the stairs, watching Duo go slowly up them.
‘Ok,’ Quatre was saying, ‘I don’t
see why not. I’ll bring one up to your room.’ And he turned
toward the kitchen.
Trowa was coming down the stairs; thank all the Gods, because
I was too far away when I saw Duo falter and start to sway. I think some
look on Duo’s face had given Trowa warning, because he made a sudden
dash down the dozen stairs that separated them, reaching his side just as
he went down. Trowa caught him, though the crutches went, with a crash that
brought Quatre and Wufei running from their separate parts of the house.
‘It’s Ok,’ I heard Trowa say, ‘I’ve
By the time I got up the stairs, Duo was trying to regain
his feet, but it was obvious Trowa’s arm around his waist was all
that was holding him up. His face was pale and drawn and beaded with sweat.
I moved in on the opposite side from Trowa; we lifted him in a fireman’s
carry and took him the rest of the way to his room where we put him down
on the bed. I felt his face, checking for fever. Trowa pulled his shirt
up, looking for signs of leaking blood on the binding. Wufei came around
us and bent to pull his shoes off as we tried to make him comfortable. Quatre
hovered near the head of the bed, cold can of soda still clutched in his
‘Is he all right? What…what happened?’
‘Gods.’ Duo moaned darkly, ‘I’ve died
and gone straight to bloody hell.’
I ignored him, ‘I think he just over exerted himself.’
I told Quatre, ‘Judging from the shirt I found this morning, he lost
a lot of blood.’
‘They wanted to give him a transfusion at the hospital,
but he refused.’ Quatre informed me, looking a little guilty at the
betrayal of information, and not meeting Duo’s eyes.
‘They said,’ Duo huffed indignantly, ‘that
it was not necessary.’
‘But they recommended it.’ Wufei supplied.
‘I don’t like needles.’ Duo stated flatly.
‘Get that out of here.’ I commanded Quatre, pointing
at the can of soda, ‘And I need someone to run to the store.’
‘Hey!’ Duo objected, reaching too late for the
‘I want some protein drinks, and some of those sports
drinks.’ I continued.
‘Vitamins,’ Wufei threw in, ‘with iron.’
Quatre and Trowa were nodding as they took it in, like they
were accepting a mission, and heading together for the door. I heard Trowa
tell Quatre as they started down the stairs,
‘Liver’s good for that, isn’t it? We can
make liver and onions for dinner…’
Duo pulled his pillow over his face and screamed.
Wufei smiled somewhat maliciously at me and said, ‘Don’t
worry about him climbing out the bathroom window, we nailed it shut days
ago, but don’t leave him alone in the kitchen, he keeps stealing the
‘Like I need keys.’ Duo’s voice came muffled
through the pillow.
Wufei just laughed and left the room.
I sat down on the side of the bed and eventually, he poked
his head out from under the pillow and looked around, ‘Are they gone?’
I chuckled and stroked my fingers fondly through his bangs,
‘Yes, love. Are you all right?’
He started to work himself up to some flippant remark, but
I brushed my fingers across his lips. ‘No masks between us, my heart;
are you all right?’
He relaxed a little, ‘I think so. Just kind of tired.’
‘You should tell me, when you need to rest,’ I
tapped the end of his nose, ‘before you fall on your face.’
‘Didn’t know I was going to fall on my face until
it happened.’ He grumbled peevishly.
‘You scared me.’ I admonished, trying to look
‘I apparently scared everybody…again.’
I smiled tenderly and brushed his cheek with the back of my
fingers. ‘It was lucky Trowa was close by.’ He’d been
better than half way up the stairs.
He grew quiet and looked up at me with searching eyes, ‘Heero,
what the hell is wrong with me?’
I gently took up his left hand, the one that had seen several
surgeries in the last couple of months, and began to massage it. It never
failed to relax him. ‘Duo, you don’t have any reserves. You’ve
been through hell and back since that last mission, you can’t expect
your body to take that kind of abuse and bounce back instantly.’ He
sighed as my fingers rubbed up and down the length of still livid scars,
and closed his eyes, ‘And…and you’re under siege internally
now as well. These nightmares….’
‘Not really nightmares.’ He murmured, ‘Memories.’
A shock ran up my spine. Was he finally going to talk to me
about it? I was afraid of breaking the spell, and continued my massage without
‘It’s there now, all the time. I can hold it off
during the day, with distractions. But at night…’
I didn’t let my hands stop their gentle stroking and
waited for him to continue, almost holding my breath.
‘When I finally can’t stay awake anymore…it’s
I was staring at his face, he seemed so passive, as though
he were floating above it, describing it from a great distance; safe.
‘It’s like I live through it…again.’
His voice lost some of it’s detachment, ‘…and again…’
I had stopped massaging without realizing it, and he opened
pain filled eyes to gaze at me.
‘I thought once I faced it, it would be…over.’
He pulled his hands away from me and began to rub the right palm. His face
clouded and his voice dropped to a mere breath, ‘Heero, it hurts so
I thought my heart would shatter and I gently gathered him
to my chest and rocked him in my arms.
‘They were huge men,’ he whispered against my
shoulder, ‘they could have crushed me with one hand. Soldiers. Drunk.’
My vision wavered as my eyes filled with tears, I pulled him
closer, wrapping my arms around him and stroked his hair.
‘I wasn’t fast enough; I almost made it…almost
got over the fence. Another second…just another second.’
His voice sounded so weak and distant. The tears spilled from
my eyes and began to track down my face. I made no effort to stop them.
‘I couldn’t fight them. They were just too big.
He grabbed me by one ankle and just hung me there…like…like
a damned animal.’
His voice was starting to sound strained, the emotion finding
it’s way through the artificial calm.
‘He had this huge knife and just…just cut the
clothes off me. I felt so…exposed, so… vulnerable.’
I rocked him, and cried; not letting a sound escape that might
break the spell that was letting him unburden himself of this…atrocity.
‘He…did it…from behind…I couldn’t
see.’ His eyes were wide and staring, not seeing me, not seeing the
room we were in. If he heard my heart, with his head pressed against my
chest, it must have been a thundering sound.
‘I didn’t know…I thought they were going
to kill me…I had no idea…’
Of course not. Gods in heaven, you were just a child. How
could you know what evil men were capable of?
‘Then…then…I thought he had killed me.’
Almost, I broke down and began to sob, but I didn’t
want him to stop, I wanted it all out, and so I took deep breaths and rode
His voice got very quiet, I almost couldn’t hear him,
‘Then…the first one said…I’ll hear it…in my
head…until the day I die…‘You were pretty good, kid. Maybe
we’ll look you up again some time.’
One of us shivered, I’m not sure which.
‘I think Solo was close by. I think he must have been
there…waiting for them to finish. He came for me too fast…after.’
My eyes burned and I pulled my legs up, wrapping myself around
him, sheltering him as much as I could.
‘I…I couldn’t ever forgive him for that.’
His voice was full of pain now, ‘I knew he couldn’t have stopped
them. I knew they’d have only hurt him too…but I…but I
screamed for him…and…and…he didn’t come.’
Too close to home. I failed him. This…Solo failed him.
How many times had I not been there for him? When he needed me, how often
had I not come through? The sobs broke past my control and I crushed him
to me, burying my face in his hair.
He pulled back, looking up at me in wonder, his eyes as dry
as bone. With a tentative finger, he brushed tears from my cheek and touched
them to his lips. Then he began to softly kiss the corners of my eyes, drinking
the tears; gently at first and then with more urgency, kissing the salty
taste from my lips, smearing the tears across his own cheeks, as though
I could shed them for the both of us.
I had not cried like this in memory, and now I could not seem
to get stopped. I rocked him and held him and I’m not sure which of
us needed the comfort more. After a bit, I became aware that he was doing
the rocking as much as I, and was murmuring softly to me, ‘It’s
all right, love. It’s all right now.’
It almost finished the job of breaking my heart in my chest,
and I understood completely the tears Quatre had shed the night before.
The absolute awe, that Duo was capable of granting such comfort in the face
of his own pain.
It was like a shock of cold water in the face, and I was finally
able to pull myself together and draw back to look at him, ‘You are
so much more than I deserve.’ I told him huskily.
He didn’t speak, just looked at me, stroking my tear
stained face with gentle fingertips. He was leaning against my knees, reclining
in the curl of my body and he felt right and good in my arms.
‘Duo, listen to me.’ I told him earnestly, looking
deep into his amethyst eyes, trying to throw off all the layers of masks,
letting him see me. Letting him see the truth behind my words. ‘I
want you to know that I will never lay a hand on you if you don’t
want it. I will never force you. I will never touch you in any way that
you don’t want. I love you more than breath and I would sooner die
than ever cause you pain.’
He blinked at me, looking deep and I could almost see something…some
fear? Fade from his eyes. But it was replaced with a haunting sadness and
he softly said, ‘I don’t know what I want. Sometimes…I
almost think…I almost want…’
‘Shhhhh, it can’t be in fear, love.’ I drew
him back against my chest and stroked his back.
‘I’m so sorry, Heero.’ He whispered after
‘For…everything. For being so damned screwed up.
For…teasing you. For not being able to…to love you.’
‘Stop that.’ I commanded, ‘You love me with
every beat of your heart. I feel it in your touch; I see it in your eyes.
What you can’t do is have sex with me, and that is an entirely different
thing. And it doesn’t matter.’
‘But it would be…’he quirked a tired grin
up at me, ‘a bonus?’
I chuckled lightly for him because he wanted me to, ‘Oh
love; someday I hope I can show you how it was meant to feel. I want to
be able to erase the pain with pleasure. But as long as the hurt is so…sharp
in memory, as long as the fear is so twisted up in it, I’m afraid
no matter how careful I am…I would hurt you.’
There flashed in his eyes for a brief moment, a naked longing,
but it was quickly gone.
‘I love you, Heero; so damned much.’
He fit himself against me with his head tucked in under my
chin and one hand idly seeking the chain around his neck, fingers finding
the ever-present gold cross and stroking it, other hand locked tight around
me. I continued to rock him and at length, I felt the tell tale signs of
I turned him in my arms and lay him back on the bed.
‘You are taking a nap before dinner.’ I informed
him with mock severity, moving to draw the curtains.
I thought he would argue, but he just settled himself, leaving
ample room for me, I noticed; an unspoken plea for me to stay with him,
and said, ‘Can you put some music on? I have trouble falling asleep
in the middle of the day.’
There was a CD in the player and I punched the button, expecting
some horrific rock music to come blaring out, but instead, there was the
gentle sound of harps and flutes. I grunted in surprise and kicked off my
shoes and went to join him in bed. He was already dozing and muttered, ‘S’cold.’
So I pulled the quilt out from under him and tucked him in. Another sign
of the blood loss, because the room was more than comfortably warm. He was
asleep almost before I could get him tucked in under my arm and his head
pillowed in the hollow of my shoulder. I chuckled; trouble falling asleep
during the day, my ass. From the CD player, a rich, female voice with a
faintly Gaelic accent began to sing and I grunted in surprise again; not
Duo’s normal choice of music. She sang me softly to sleep as well.
There were no interruptions, no dreams good or bad; I awoke
again with the feel of another presence in the room, fighting the disoriented
feeling you have when you sleep when your mind knows you shouldn’t
have. Wufei was standing in the doorway, looking torn, and I gathered from
the smells of hot food, that he had come to wake us for dinner. He looked
relieved to see my eyes come open, the decision to wake Duo, now in my hands.
The quality of the light told me they had waited late to fix the meal, I
nodded to Wufei who nodded in turn and left.
‘Duo, love, it’s time to wake up.’ I whispered
softly, kissing his brow. He stirred, slowly coming up out of sleep, struggling
against it and almost failing. I regretted my decision to wake him; I’d
never seen him this deeply asleep before. But it was too late; he was stirring
beside me, wrestling with consciousness.
‘Do you want me to go down and bring your dinner up
to you?’ I asked, sitting up and chuckling at him.
‘No.’ he muttered thickly, ‘Gotta go down,
let the guys see I’m Ok.’
I frowned; always covering up. Always wearing the mask. Where
did he find the strength?
On the bed, he stretched, arms over his head, cat-like in
his abandon, until the stitches pulled sharply and he was wide awake and
curling in on himself.
‘Ouch.’ He muttered, glaring at me as though I
had done it somehow, ‘I’m awake already.’
I lightly smacked his hip and chuckled at him again, ‘You
forgot, I didn’t.’
He gave me a wounded look while I hunted up my shoes. I noticed
the crutches leaning just inside the door and was sure I had Wufei to thank
for their presence.
Duo was sitting on the side of the bed, yawning hugely.
‘Shoes on or socks off.’ I told him, ‘I
don’t want you going down that hardwood stair in your stocking-feet.’
He gave me an annoyed roll of the eyes, ‘Yes, Mama-Yuy.’
Then he started to stand up and promptly sat right back down,
eyes just a little wide.
I sighed heavily, ‘Over did it this afternoon, didn’t
He nodded, had the grace to look sheepish, and gave in to
the urge to rub at the offending leg.
‘You can’t ever listen to anybody, can you?’
I muttered, stooping in front of him to feel the knee.
‘That…has pretty much been one of my major character
flaws my entire life.’ He grimaced as I prodded and probed, finding
the knee swollen and obviously tender.
‘We’re discussing Maxwell’s character flaws?’
Trowa’s voice came from behind me, sounding amused.
‘No,’ I informed him, ‘that would take way
too long. We’re getting ready to explain to him that we are carrying
him down to dinner. You arrived just in time.’
Trowa obligingly moved in on Duo’s other side and before
we could get any argument out of him, scooped Duo up in the fireman’s
carry we had used to get him up here.
‘Guys…’ he complained peevishly, ‘I’m
not a damn invalid.’
‘No, you are not.’ Trowa agreed with him, ‘And
we are trying to assure you do not become one.’
Duo thought better of responding, and instead asked guardedly
as we started down the stairs, ‘What the hell is liver and onions?’
‘Vile.’ I informed him, and beside me, Trowa snorted.
‘They are not!’ Quatre defended Trowa’s
cooking from the bottom of the stair, ‘Not if they’re prepared
We made the kitchen without mishap, and Wufei was there to
pull a chair out, and by the time we had Duo settled, he was blushing a
furious shade of pink and not doing a lot of talking.
I turned to get the pain pills from over the kitchen sink
and when I turned back, found Trowa dishing up a huge helping of liver on
Duo’s plate, Quatre proffering a choice of no less than seven different
flavors of protein drinks, and Wufei hovering at his elbow, waiting his
turn to descend with the bottle of vitamins. The look on Duo’s face
was the most incredible mixture of white-faced horror, and over-whelmed
joy, I thought for a moment he would short-circuit.
‘Gentlemen.’ I said in that voice I have that
carries weight, ‘a little space, please.’
There was a moment of frozen silence, during which Duo shot
me a grateful glance, and everybody else managed to look vaguely guilty.
I took the vitamin bottle from Wufei and sat it down beside Duo’s
plate along with the bottle of pain meds and ordered, ‘One of each
before the meal is done.’ He nodded meekly, eyes tracking my every
move like a drowning man watching the shore. A look that said, ‘Don’t
leave me alone with these lunatics!’
I scooped about half the liver and onions back off his plate
until there was a reasonable sized portion in front of him, and selected
one of the bottles in Quatre’s hands at random, opening it and setting
it down next to the pill bottles. Everybody took his seat when I took mine
and we commenced a more normal meal.
As it turned out, Duo loved liver and onions, eating with
apparent relish, though I noticed that the actual amount of food he managed
to consume wasn’t what it first appeared to be. He was a master of
artful stirring and empty forked maneuvers that left you with the impression
that he had just stuffed himself silly. But he ate, and took the pills,
and even decided that the protein drink wasn’t all that bad, so I
let it go, content with what he did manage.
We had slept for hours; it was early evening, and I wondered
how we would ever get back to sleep tonight. I felt wide awake. After the
meal, Quatre shooed us out of the kitchen while he and Trowa cleaned up.
I carried Duo the short distance into the more informal living room, the
one with the overstuffed, comfortable furniture and made him a nest of pillows
on one end of the couch. I pulled a book out of the bookcase in the corner,
and sat down at his feet.
‘I think I ate too much.’ He moaned after a bit,
and snuggled down in the pillows to watch the news. When I glanced up twenty
minutes later, surprised that he was watching the sports news instead of
switching channels as he usually did, I found him sound asleep.
Wufei wandered in and came to stand over him for a minute,
slipping the remote control deftly out of his slack fingers.
‘He looks so damned…innocent when he’s asleep.’
He whispered to me with a shake of his head. He turned the remote toward
the television as if to turn it off, but froze when the top story in the
local sports news came on.
Seems the basketball team from the college, the local pride
and joy, had suffered a series of bizarre, unfortunate accidents. The team
was left so short handed, they had canceled the season. The team high-scorer,
a popular pretty boy, whose image was flashed on the screen, had actually
dropped out and transferred to another school, in another state.
The story ended, and Wufei turned the set off, staring at
the blank screen for a moment.
‘Thank you.’ I said softly, ‘It…meant
a lot to him.’
He looked at me sharply; face flushing slightly, and finally
grunted in dismissal, ‘You do not trifle with what comes under my
protection.’ Then he tossed me the remote and turned and left the
I smiled fondly after him, and shook my head. Trowa had been
right; he would wade into the pits of hell for Duo…calling him a damn
baka every step of the way, and insisting he had gone there for some other
They all loved him, in their own way, Quatre in his pure,
shining, forgive-everything way. Trowa with his impassive, solid, reliable
grounding. Wufei with his carefully shielded, fierce as fire concern. I’m
not sure what I brought to the mix that was any more or any better than
what they offered. What was it that made Duo love me so much that the sound
of my voice could pull him back to reality when the nightmares came hunting?
That my presence was enough to stop him trying stunts like stealing a car
and running away from home? That the touch of my hand could ease his fears
and let him sleep in peace?
We had been forged in the fire of war, into a whole, of which
we were each an integral part; if Trowa was our strong frame, Quatre was
our heart. If Wufei was our iron nerve, Duo was our shining spirit. But
what was I? Perhaps you can’t name your own part in the bigger whole.
I didn’t know.
I watched him sleep, never tiring of studying his peaceful
features, watching the gentle rise and fall of his chest. I wanted to memorize
every line and plane of his face, every strand of his beautiful hair, every
scar, every perfect part of him.
Around us, the rest of the house went about its business,
leaving us in an oasis of quiet. I heard the dishes get done; I heard the
distant murmur of voices in the laundry room. I heard someone go up the
stairs and someone else come down. A door opened and I heard footsteps overhead.
Life meandered on. It was hard sometimes to remember that there was a war
on. It was hard to remember that several days ago, men had died at my hand.
I would sorely miss this house when we had to move on. We had stayed here
longer than any of the other safe houses we had lodged in, and I suspected
that Quatre was pulling strings to keep us here where Duo had access to
so many things that were making his recovery easier.
Duo finally stirred somewhere around midnight, opening blurry
eyes to find me there, still watching. It was important to me, for him to
know that I was there. He smiled softly and said, ‘What the hell time
‘Just after midnight.’ I said, putting aside the
book I hadn’t looked at in hours. ‘What woke you?’
He grinned sheepishly, ‘Uhmmm…gotta pee.’
I rose and bent to pick him up and was shocked when all he
did was raise his arms to aid in the process, wrapping them around my neck,
and resting his head on my shoulder.
‘This is a new twist.’ I grinned.
‘It’s midnight.’ He informed me, ‘I’m
turning over a new leaf. I am going to get through one whole day without
somebody yelling at me.’
I chuckled and kissed the top of his head, carefully starting
the climb up the stairs.
‘An entire twenty-four hours, my love? Such ambition.’
‘You don’t think I can do it?’
‘I didn’t say that…maybe if Wufei leaves
He chuckled, ‘You yell as much…well; almost as
much as he does.’
‘I do not.’
Just as I reached the top of the stair, he tilted his head
back and flicked his tongue out to catch my earlobe and suck it gently into
his mouth. I almost dropped him.
‘Duo!’ I snapped, ‘What are you trying to
do? Kill us both?’
I looked done to catch a wicked gleam in his eyes as he said,
‘Ok, new leaf starting now.’
I took him to the bathroom and left him with his crutches
to do his business, and miracle of miracles; he came out using them.
We climbed into bed together, as a matter of course, neither
of us even thinking that it would be otherwise. I wrapped him in his quilts
and he curled against my warmth with a sigh. I thought he would lie awake
for hours, but he drifted right back off, and I quickly followed him. Dawn
found him sprawled bonelessly across my chest, braid wrapped around my arm,
my fingers laced with his. No nightmares, no…memories. No relived
pain. Had we finally cleared some hurdle? I had not roused once to the signs
of his distress. I lay trapped beneath him, not willing to disturb his sleep
even were the house on fire.
He finally woke, maybe an hour later and I delighted in watching
him wake in slow degrees, first snuggling against me, then waking enough
to realize he was almost on top of me, pulling back and almost falling off
the bed. I choked on a laugh, catching him before he went over the edge.
Then he looked at me wide-eyed and unbelieving, ‘Did…did
‘Not once, my love.’ I told him warmly, ‘Clear
through the night without so much as a whimper.’
We curled together for a bit, basking in the feeling that
maybe…just maybe the worst was finally behind us.
He did indeed manage to get through the day without anyone
yelling; the absolute picture of meek obedience. Doing whatever anyone asked
of him without complaint. It was almost…frightening.
Our days became strictly regimented as I steered him toward
physical recovery. Regular meals, nights of uninterrupted sleep, exercises;
we could do this, I knew we could.
On Tuesday he had his check up, and the physician released
him from use of the crutches and allowed the return to slightly more rigorous
exercises, but not yet to running. His stitches came out, his color was
returning, the limp faded, and he didn’t tire as easily. We began
to leave him alone now and again, and he truly seemed to blossom, his spirit
returning, as the nightmares seemed to be leaving him in peace.
Trowa and Quatre were assigned to escort a supply convoy,
and were gone over night near midweek. Wufei and I tinkered with Gundam
repairs and began to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon sparing with
each other from boredom as much as anything. Duo would watch us sometimes.
Things seemed to have returned to as much of the relative normalcy that
our lives could manage. A week passed.
Saturday, I spent most of the morning in the hanger. Quatre
was away in town, attending to some Winner business, Trowa in tow. Wufei
had taken on the weekly task of grocery shopping, since we had not gotten
around to recalling the estate staff. I think all of us were more comfortable
without them around. Duo was in the gym getting his workout finished so
that we could go into town after I completed repairs.
I realized that the lunch hour had come and gone without Duo
coming to nag at me about eating, so I chucked my wrench into the tool box,
stretched an aching back and made the walk back to the house. Wufei was
in the middle of putting the groceries away when I walked into the kitchen.
‘Now you show up.’ He grunted at me, ‘After
all the work is done.’
‘Where’s Duo?’ I was surprised that he hadn’t
come up to help when he heard Wufei come in.
‘Maybe he went upstairs to lie down.’ Wufei suggested,
putting the fruit in the bowl on the table.
I frowned; something was making the hair on the back of my
neck prickle. I headed for the stairs without a word, taking them two at
a time. I looked first in Duo’s room, and then, almost on a whim,
in mine. I almost missed the betraying fact that my laptop was open and
booted up on the desk.
For a moment, I stood frozen in the doorway staring at it.
A screaming foreboding was flooding through my veins, my thudding heart
driving it like ice through my system. Distantly, I heard Wufei come up
the stairs, heading for his own room. He paused to give me a puzzled look
before disappearing through his own door.
Slowly, I moved toward the laptop, and my eyes found the file
on the center of my desktop that hadn’t been there before. I forced
my hand to move to the touch pad and open it. Duo’s voice came small
and tinny from the speakers,
‘Heero…I’m so sorry. I…I meant to
tell you, but the time was never right. I…I returned myself to active
duty the night after the fight at the mall. I…God, love, I’m
so sorry…I have to do this. I got an assignment this morning. I knew
you’d try to stop me. But, please try to understand…if I let
someone else go in my place…and something went wrong…I can’t…I
couldn’t handle that. Ok? Please don’t be mad. It’s an
easy mission, I swear. I’ll be careful. Shouldn’t take two or
three days. Heero…I love you. With all my heart and soul. I’m
coming back, love. I promise…I’m coming back.’
The file stopped playing, and the silence in the room was
horrendous. I think I moaned. I reached up to close the lid on the laptop
and my hands were shaking. An arm came around me from behind, squeezing
tight and offering an anchor. Wufei’s voice came soft from above me,
‘It’s going to be all right. You have to believe in him, Yuy.
You have to believe that it’s going to be all right.’
But there wasn’t any room in me for faith; I was too
full of panic. My hands moved to clutch at Wufei’s arm, and I’m
sure I hurt him, but he never wavered.
‘I can’t lose him. I can’t.’ I whispered,
to him, to the Gods, to whoever would listen, ‘I can’t.’
Go to Chapter Six:Death
Takes A Mission
Back to Chapter Four
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