Things You Should Know:
Uh, yeah... Well, this is odd. I love Duo. I really do. So why do I feel the need to make him miserable? I don't know. Anyway...
Song is "Everybody Hurts" by REM...
Other than that, there is... hmm... only shonen ai, really, plus a horking load of OOC, in my opinion, but I like it this way. Sort of. The last part is the best, but doesn't make a damn bit of sense without the first two parts. So you must suffer. Oh yeah, and angst, angst, ANGST all over the place. But no death, I promise. Just a very close call.
And without further ado (cuz really, how much ado do you need?), on with the fanfic!
by: Aoe


I step inside the door quietly, carefully not looking at the still form on the bed. Instead I watch Quatre, who puts down his book at the soft sounds I deliberately make to alert him to my presence. He smiles wanly at me, and raises a cautioning finger to his lips, shooting a glance at the bed. I nod, message received, and stand aside to let him slip out the door.

When the portal has been quietly shut behind Quatre, I walk over and drop into the padded chair that has been dragged into the room for all of us to sit in as we watch over Duo.

Once I am settled, I allow myself a moment to stare at him. He is curled on his side, facing away from me. His light blue tee shirt, Quatre won't let him wear black right now, has gotten pulled up to just below his armpits, and a broad expanse of pale slender back is exposed to my view. I can see the knobs of his vertebrae, and I wonder briefly what it would feel like to run my fingers down the length of his spine.

His somewhat disheveled braid lies across the mattress, trailing off the bed just a few inches from my seat. I almost reach out and touch it.

"He's gone," I say instead, keeping my voice flat and even. Familiar. Soothing, I hope. "You can stop pretending to be asleep."

"Thank God," is the muffled reply from the other side of the bed, but it is a few minutes before he rolls onto his back. And even when he does, he doesn't look at me.

One of the possible symptoms of a manic episode is an increased libido, I have been told by a rather embarrassed Wufei. Increased interest in sexual activities, even a sort of 'acting out' in a sexual manner. 'He's never pursued you so blatantly as he did for the past two weeks. It's almost certain that's the cause.'

A few extra chemicals in his brain and he's throwing himself at me. A lack of those chemicals, and he's barely interested.

If I'd needed proof that so-called 'love' was a biochemical hoax...

"Do you hate me, Heero?" he asks softly. He does everything softly now, ever since... My mind shies away from the thought.

It will take some time for the medication to start working. Eventually, his mood will stabilize. He will be the old Duo Maxwell again. The one I understand. The one I know so well, too well... The one I...

Damned chemicals.

"No, I don't hate you," I answer patiently, as I have every time he has asked me that for the past three days. That has been the extent of our conversation. I have never had a gift for babbling, and his depressive state has left him with little energy or enthusiasm for his usual pastime. Today, though, he surprises me. Perhaps he is beginning to recover.

"Why not?" he asks, his voice mildly confused, as though we are discussing the weather and not my feelings for him.

I squirm a bit in my chair, earning an incredulous glance. I do not squirm, but then, he hasn't looked at me since he woke up, so I guess that's a point for both sides. Not that this is a competition.

"Why would I hate you?" I counter, which isn't fair, answering a question with a question. He frowns slightly at me.

"Please, Heero, no amateur psychology, okay? I get enough of that from Wu and Sally," he complains, rolling his head back to stare at the ceiling again. I don't really understand his meaning -- I would be the last person to practice psychology -- but I accept his refusal to let me dodge the question.

"It wasn't your fault," I begin lamely, my voice halting and uncertain for once. This is unfamiliar territory. I am uncomfortable with this topic, and I wish we could just drop it, forget this whole thing ever happened, and go back to being the way we were a few weeks ago.

But of course, we can't. He'll never be quite the same. And I...

I have had to face up to a few things I would rather not have.

I will never be the same either, I guess.

He snorts, lips quirking in a bitter little smile so unlike his usual easy grin that it makes something catch painfully in my chest. "Well, whose fault was it then?" he asks, his tone laced with self-disgust. He lifts his bandaged arm off the bed and raises it over his head, staring at the tightly wrapped gauze. "I seem to recall holding the razor," he concludes grimly.

I am not sure what to say to that, and become even more uncomfortable when silent tears begin to leak from the corners of his eyes. His face tightens slightly in anger. At himself.

"You weren't yourself," I finally manage.

He gives a harsh bark of laughter and lets his arm fall back to the mattress, wincing slightly. The tears continue to flow as he mutters in a slightly choked voice, "No, I wasn't. I'm still not. This isn't me, Heero, I don't act like this! Damn it! Why can't I just stop being so stupid? Why can't I just be the way I'm supposed to be, the way I've always been?" His voice has taken on an almost pleading tone, and I am shocked to hear my own wishes echoed by him. Though I shouldn't be. His memories of the way things used to be are just as clear as mine, and he is even more confused and uncomfortable... and, perhaps, frightened... than I am right now.

"It's not your fault," I repeat, wishing I knew the right words to soothe him, to heal wounds I can't even see.

"That doesn't change anything," he murmurs wearily.

"No. No, it doesn't," I admit. Then I frown, and finally reach out and touch him, for the first time since --

water-slick skin smooth under my fingers, vacant violet eyes staring past me, through me, he is too light and the water is dark with blood there's so much blood

I blink the memories away again, tightening my grip on his unbandaged arm. "But it doesn't mean you give up, either," I add grimly.

When the day is long and the night,
the night is yours alone,
when you're sure you've had enough of this life,
well hang on.

He turns his head to look at me again, his eyes red-rimmed from the tears he can't control right now. He will, though, in time. He'll survive this. He's strong, so much stronger than he knows.

So much stronger than me.

Trowa and Wufei both roughly pulling my arms away, prying my fingers from his wet skin, he is limp and light in my arms, Quatre is taking him and I don't want to let go

He turns fully onto his side, facing me now. Apparently, he is ready to talk. I'm not sure I am. He releases me from his gaze, his eyes shifting to the bandages on his left arm.

Blood flow from the heart to the left arm is more immediate than to the right. Numbness or tingling in the left arm is a sign of heart attack. Excellent choice.

Sometimes I am so logical it makes me sick.

"When did you get the other scars?" I ask, marveling at my calm, even voice.

He shrugs with one shoulder. "A couple years ago. Prof. G bandaged me up and shook his head in disgust, kept me restrained for a while until I promised not to do it again and meant it."

"Aa," I acknowledge softly, not sure what to say to that. Was it an earlier episode? Did Professor G realize this problem existed and do nothing to treat it? Or did he just assume Duo was having a bad day?

A bad day.

My own bad days have left far less visible marks.

He is picking absentmindedly at the gauze, his gaze abstracted. I should tell him. Tell him that he's not alone, that everybody has their demons, their pain...

Their bad days.

Don't let yourself go,
everybody cries
and everybody hurts sometimes.

His eyes mist over with tears again and he swears under his breath, scrubbing at them with the back of his hand. After a moment he gives up the effort with an exasperated little noise.

"I think I hate that the most," he mutters, scowling even as the tears continue to soak the pillowcase beneath his head.

"What?" I ask, mildly confused.

"All this crying," he explains, imbuing the word with a tone of disgust usually reserved for far more heinous crimes. His eyes meet mine again, reddened and puffy, but still glowering angrily. "I don't cry like this, Heero. Boys don't cry," he informs me harshly.

I frown slightly, considering this. I remember...

Standing over the body of the first man I ever shot up close and personal. At eight years old, I can only dimly comprehend the enormity of what I have done, but my eyes cloud over in an instinctive reaction that I don't really understand...

Fourteen years old, holding a dead puppy in my arms. I can't find her owner, the little girl who gave me a flower and asked if I were lost, and carefully erected barriers shatter painfully...

Four days ago, Trowa drags me out of the room where Wufei and Sally are tending to Duo's pale, still body with quiet efficiency. We would only be in the way, but I am reluctant to leave and have to be forced down the hall to Trowa and Quatre's room, where he sits me on the bed, and just watches me, as though waiting to see what bizarre thing I will do next. I do not disappoint him when I feel a sharp prickling behind my eyelids and try to blink it away, producing tears for what may be only the third time in my life...

"Everybody cries," I argue in a subdued tone.

He just snorts in denial of my words. "You don't," he mutters.

I could contradict him. I could tell him how much it hurt when I thought... How surprised and frightened I was by the strength of my own feelings, that I had been ignoring for so long...

I could tell him all of these things.

Instead I just sigh slightly and take his damp hand in mine.

Sometimes everything is wrong.
Now it's time to sing along.
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
if you feel like letting go, (hold on)
when you think you've had too much of this life,
well hang on.

"I'm sorry to be causing so much trouble for everyone," he comments after a while. He is staring distractedly at our joined hands, but he hasn't tried to pull away from my touch.

"It's no trouble," I inform him, watching him stare at our hands.

His lips quirk in a derisive grin. "Oh, sure, weeks of psychotic behavior and suicide attempts, just par for the course," he argues mockingly.

"Manic behavior," I correct reflexively. "And there was just the one suicide attempt."

He rolls his eyes at my literal-mindedness. "Well, you could consider my chasing after you like a vixen in heat as one big, long suicide attempt," he comments, self-mockery evident in his tone.

I shrug the comment away, not wanting to deal with the implications. "It doesn't matter, baka. You're our... friend. We put up with your problems like you put up with ours. That's how it works, isn't it?" I demand, a bit more sharply than intended.

He looks up at me, surprise evident in his wide eyes. Then, slowly, so slowly, like the sun rising after the darkest night, a fragile smile lights his face.

Sometimes I almost forget how truly beautiful he is.

"Heero," he says softly, almost as if he is afraid too much sound will shatter the moment, "that's the first time you've ever called me your friend."

I blink at him in surprise. Can that really be true? I reflect briefly on our interactions in the past...

"I'm... sorry," is all I can think of to say. It seems woefully inadequate.

"For what?" he asks curiously.

"For not telling you sooner," I explain lamely.

His eyes slide shut, but his smile remains. He murmurs, "S' okay."

The hand I am still holding squeezes mine, ever so slightly.

Everybody hurts.
Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts.
Don't throw your hand.
Oh, no. Don't throw your hand.

We stay like that for a while, and I begin to wonder if he has fallen asleep. He's still suffering from insomnia, so when he really does fall asleep, we all tend to freeze in whatever position we find ourselves until he stirs again. We've all gotten some interesting muscle cramps the last few days.

But after a moment, his eyes slide open again, a look of nervous speculation in their depths. I raise an eyebrow in question, and watch in astonishment as a soft blush stains his pale cheeks. He drops his gaze to our hands, and squeezes gently again. I squeeze back encouragingly.

"Heero... could you... do something for me?" he asks, so quietly, so hesitantly, that I can hardly believe it's Duo speaking.

"Anything I can," I answer, for once without hesitation to think. Sometimes I think too much.

He bites his lower lip in an incredibly endearing gesture that fascinates me. "Could you... would you...hold me?" he whispers.

I am stunned at this request, and can only stare at him silently for a moment until his shoulders begin to hunch slightly with unhappiness. "Shit, I'm sorry, I shouldn't say stupid things like that," he mutters, pulling his hand from mine to rub angrily at his eyes again.

Without really thinking about it, I rise from the chair and settle my hip on the bed. He freezes in surprise. "Heero?" he murmurs questioningly. In reply, I slide my hands beneath his arms, lifting his upper body easily as I shift myself back against the headboard. He's so light, and almost trembling with tension as I settle his body against my chest in lieu of a pillow. He remains rigid against me, and I slip my arms around him, holding him loosely. After another moment's hesitation, he relaxes and I feel his arm slide around my waist, his head tucked securely under my chin.

And I feel such a rush of pure emotion...

I close my eyes against too recent, painful memories, but that only makes the vision clearer. I fall to my knees beside the bathtub, staring in shock and horror at the rusty red color of the water, the discarded scrap of metal on the edge, white porcelain marred by smears of crimson. Empty violet eyes stare blindly at me, and I am only dimly aware that I am yelling, screaming, as I watch him slipping away from me...

I never knew what to make of him. He made me uncomfortable because he expected more from me than the bare minimum I was accustomed to giving. He's not like Relena. She provides her own fantasy of the Heero she wants, not requiring any particular effort on my part. Duo... Duo wants me to be human.

No. Duo reminds me that I am human.

And for that I have pushed him away and hit him, and been cruel, because it hurts to be human. To be human is to feel, and I don't like it. Odin told me to always follow my emotions, and I passed that advice on to Trowa. Because I couldn't use it. Because I didn't want to.

All my emotions had ever led me to was pain.

But now, here, with Duo alive and warm in my arms...

This is not painful. Or, it is, but... a good pain. A pleasant agony that I want to hold onto and cherish...

My arms tighten around him, and I turn my head, burying my face in his abundant hair. I can feel his heartbeat against my chest, and it doesn't matter if he only wanted me because of a chemical imbalance. I'm not sure I was ready to deal with that anyway. But he does care about me, that's true and real, and I... and I...

I almost lost him. I almost lost this.

I pull my face away from his hair and loosen my grip enough that I can tip his face up to look at mine. He stares at me in amazement.

"You see?" I ask softly, rubbing my thumb gently against his jaw. "Everybody cries."

If you feel like you're alone,
no, no, no, you are not alone
If you're on your own in this life,
the days and nights are long,
when you think you've had too much of this life to hang on.

"Heero... " he murmurs, shock and dawning wonder in his voice. He reaches up to touch my cheek, gently wiping away a tear.

"I need you to get through this," I tell him, my voice hushed and strained. I need him to stay with me, because otherwise I'll never know what this wonderful ache in my chest is all about.

He stares at me silently for a moment, contemplating something I cannot begin to guess at that he seems to see in the depths of my eyes.

"You know... " he says slowly after a while, still staring into my eyes. "It wasn't all just crazy brain chemicals."

I don't know what to say to that, so I just continue to stare at him.

A ghost of his familiar cocky smirk appears, growing slightly stronger as I watch. "I think I'll be okay," he informs me before burrowing his head beneath my chin again.

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
everybody cries.
And everybody hurts sometimes.
And everybody hurts sometimes.

After a few minutes, I feel him relax even further against me, and I can tell from the rhythm of his breathing that he has fallen asleep for real this time.

Trowa pokes his head in the door, and somehow manages not to even flinch in surprise at the sight. I shake my head slightly, trying to let him know Duo has fallen asleep and it would take an act of that God he doesn't believe in to move me right now.

Duo lets out a soft snore.

Trowa shoots me a triumphant smirk, and pulls the door silently shut.

I don't know what he's so smug about.

I rub my cheek gently against Duo's hair, soothed by his presence. I won't allow myself to fall asleep, though.

I will watch over him. I will hold him, and I will never let him go.

I will not let him leave me.

I will stay with him.

So, hold on, hold on.
Hold on, hold on.
Hold on, hold on.
Hold on, hold on...

Everybody hurts.
You are not alone.


[nadir] [back to Aoe's fic]