I insisted he take the bed that night and while he’d
protested, I’d exploited his odd cautiousness, knowing he wouldn’t
really push me about anything. I really must have scared him with that whole
maniacal ax thing.
I had eaten until I thought I would bust something, but Heero
still seemed disturbed by the amount I put away. I hadn’t really thought
before about how my habits had changed, but sitting down at table with him
again just sort of brought it into focus. I hadn’t been able to eat
half what I once would have, but I was still paying for it with a stomach
that felt cramped. It promised a long night… not that it hadn’t
promised to be that without the additional discomfort.
I was still reeling from shock. Could the guy just stop hitting
me with mind bending tidbits of information? I was starting to feel like
the world’s biggest God damn fool. Heero and Wufei were, apparently,
not together. And from the way Heero acted… never had been. All those
months of feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel, and… I hadn’t
been the only one in the group not paired off.
Lying there on the couch, staring off into the dark at nothing,
wrapped in a blanket that wasn’t really doing much to keep the cold
at bay, with the cats doing their best to glue themselves to what little
body heat I had… I really didn’t know whether I should be laughing
How the hell much else had I misinterpreted? How many other
of my intentions had gone wrong? Had I made a single right decision in the
last damn year?
And just to add crazy to the mix… I was having the strangest
damn urge to get up off that lumpy damn couch, go crawl into my bed with
Heero, and try to figure out if the signals I thought I was getting from
him were anything at all like they seemed.
It was… a very long night. And if I slept through any
part of it, I missed it.
I got up the next morning with the sun, not so much by choice,
but because staring at a ceiling you couldn’t see all night was really
kind of boring. The cats were more than happy to let me wrap the blanket
around them and leave them where they were. I’d spent the night in
my clothes for the added warmth and had only to pull on my boots to begin
the day. I stirred up the fire for the morning, doing my best not to wake
Heero, and then slipped out the back to take care of the boys.
Reason was waiting for me and had to sniff me all over, like
he hadn’t been completely happy with Heero being there. Nash and Bo
could have cared less, only wanting ear scratches and food. I went about
the morning routine, feeding, petting, cleaning up, and even took a few
minutes to toss the ball for Nash after he’d finished breakfast. Watching
the big lug ferret the ball out of the scrub grass, I idly wondered if I
couldn’t find him a home through Sheriff Tom… dog would probably
make a decent candidate for search and rescue training.
There were a lot of things I probably should have been doing.
There was a load of lumber behind the barn that I’d traded old man
Sutton for, that I had intended to do some repairs with. Buckshot needed
to be taken out for some exercise; walking around the paddock just didn’t
cut it. And from the smells of things, Bo had been wallowing in something…
unpleasant, and was going to need a bath. But I just couldn’t seem
to work up the energy after the night I’d had. I just couldn’t
seem to stop thinking. Couldn’t seem to stop the what-ifs and the
wondering and… there were a whole lot of questions I was starting
to understand I should maybe have asked a long time ago.
It made me think of my fence post calendar and I went to make
the day’s mark. My eyes trailed up and down the rows of neat little
gouges even as my hands worked the next one in line and I was moved to actually
count the damn things.
Some part of me knew. I mean… I knew how old Reason
was. My mind could make that association, could add it all together, but
somehow counting the actual marks made me feel it. Made me feel the utter
emptiness of those days. Made me understand that each of those gashes was
another notch in a tally of self-sacrifice, marked with a certain amount
of… pride? But now, in light of the things Heero had told me, it all
seemed so utterly pointless. So damn… stupid. I raised my hand to
run over those endless rows and I felt vaguely sick.
‘Dear God,’ I muttered. ‘Where am I?’
Reason didn’t have an answer, but he whined at the tone
of my voice and nosed at my elbow.
But then there was a hand sliding down my arm and I jumped,
not resisting when the knife was taken from my hand. Heero was standing
right behind me, almost pressed to my back, and I wondered where he’d
come from and why in the hell the dogs hadn’t told me he was there.
He used the knife to make a long cut clear across the post, underneath all
my rows, and when he spoke, it was right next to my ear. I have no idea
how he even knew what he was looking at.
‘It ends here, Duo,’ he said as the blade bit
into the wood, the muscles in his arm cording tight. ‘No more hiding…
no more running. Come home… please?’
There they were again… those signals that were just
about to short-circuit my brain. I was still adjusting to the idea that
Heero wasn’t… ‘taken’. Still trying to get my head
around the idea that the off limits sign I’d tagged him with all those
months ago, wasn’t there. I didn’t know if what I thought I
was hearing from him was him… or just me hearing what I wanted to
Hell… with him standing that close, I couldn’t
even think. I just wanted his embrace again. Wanted that moment back that
we’d shared the night before. I wanted the chance to feel that again
without the image of Wufei rising between us.
I just didn’t know what to think… what to do.
It had been too damn long since I’d let myself feel. It was like the
world was suddenly out to overload my senses and I just wanted the nice,
comfortable numbness back. But Heero’s words… about hiding,
made it impossible not to see that’s exactly what I’d been doing.
For eight God damn months of my life.
Reason tried to sit on my feet, looking up at me like he had
when he was a pup and the thunderstorms came through. I felt a raindrop
and wondered when it had clouded over. I listened to Reason whine and wondered
why he seemed to be afraid.
Or maybe I was the one who was afraid.
Go to Chapter ten:
back to chapter eight
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