by: Kracken
Disclaimer:Don't own them and don't make any money off of this.
Warnings:Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence

Crossing Paths + Part 23

"Get a damned doctor!"

Heero's voice shouting near his ear was the first thing Duo was aware of. He felt softness hit his back. His bed? Hands pulled at his clothes. He heard cloth rip before he was weakly grabbing hands and holding them still. Blinking to clear his eyes, Duo finally focused on Heero leaning over him. There was stark fear on the man's face.

"S'okay," Duo croaked. Heero froze, staring. "It's Okay," Duo repeated more clearly.

"You had a hemorrhage of some sort," Heero argued. "I'm sending Zechs for a doctor."

Duo squeezed Heero's hands. "No! Don't do that. I don't need one."

In space, nose bleeds were common. Duo knew the feel of them, blood vessels stressed and breaking when environmental controls faltered or false gravity suddenly increased. Duo knew that he had exercised too much, pushed himself past a limit where his labored breathing had raked his sinuses one too many times. Coupled with a fainting fit, probably brought on by the same stress and his exhausted condition, and it was clear to Duo that panic and a doctor weren't necessary.

Without looking around, Heero snarled, to Milliardo probably, "Get out, now!"

Duo heard a door close and then Heero was settling on the bed beside him, still extremely worried. He reached out a hand and wiped Duo's sweaty bangs out of his eyes. Duo could see that Heero's eyes were wet. His voice trembled along with his hand as he said softly, "You looked like death.... still do."

Duo gave him a cocky, sickly grin, "Hey! That's who I am, right? Shinigami. I'm okay, Heero! Stop looking like that."

Heero wiped at his eyes and then said uncertainly, "This wasn't the way I thought it would happen... seeing you again."

Duo laughed. It came out hoarse and gasping. "Neither did I." Then more seriously, "I wonder why? We're the kind of people this always happens to. We just have violent lives and we should expect everything to get fucked up and turn out violent."

Heero frowned. "I don't want to expect that. I don't want to be that cynical."

Duo rubbed at his aching head. "Water," he pleaded.

Heero fetched him a cool glass of it and propped Duo up against his chest to drink it. Duo wanted to enjoy that contact, the feel of Heero's strong arms around him, but he remembered that he was angry with the man.

"I want to get some things straight with you," Duo said and he felt the muscles of Heero's chest tremble in trepidation. "Contrary to everything you might have heard, Duo Maxwell does not roll around in the dirt with people and have sex with them like a slut."

"Duo, I-" Heero began, but Duo cut him off.

"You did think that! Don't give me shit otherwise!" Duo snapped.

"Forgive me."

"As long as you don't think it again," Duo snapped back. "I especially don't want you to think that there's something between me and Zechs... or anyone else. I thought I was pretty clear that I 'couldn't' have an interest." Duo was scalded by a blush of sick embarrassment, but he was thinking also that, If he ever did develop an interest in sex, he wanted Heero to be a part of it. He couldn't bring himself to say it, though. Heero didn't deserve that kind of revelation just then.

Heero shifted and Duo found himself back against the bed with Heero leaning over him very closely. The man searched his face, trying to determine Duo's mood. "I think that I still have things to learn about relationships," he admitted. He faltered and then said, "David told me that trust was very important."

"Absolutely necessary," Duo agreed.

It was like falling into twin magnets of blue, staring into Heero's eyes. Duo felt something reach him all the way down to his soul. When Heero's lips softly touched his own, he didn't protest, only closed his eyes and savored the taste of Heero Yuy. He suddenly didn't care that he wasn't good enough for Heero, that he was sickly stick figure without a libido, and that he was angry at Heero. He wanted the kiss to last forever.

It was Heero who broke it. He backed away, saying with a breathless voice, "You need to eat... bathe. I'll help you... if you want me too." He was asking for forgiveness for doubting Duo, for thinking the worst of him.

Duo sighed, angry with himself when he realized that he couldn't look at Heero's anxious face without giving the man everything he wanted. If he hadn't been on the edge of passing out again, Duo thought, he might have gone on kissing him. "K, Heero. That sounds good; a bath and some food. I'll feel better afterwards and you can bring me up to speed on the situation with Quatre and the others."

Heero nodded and began to go into the bathroom to start a bath. Duo called after him and he paused in the doorway, looking back curiously,

"Heero...." Duo swallowed hard and said in a trembling voice. "It's good to see you again."

Heero smiled warmly in reply and went to run the bath. When Heero returned, Duo was prepared to be in control of himself again. He said irritably, when Heero tried to help him up, "I'm not a freakin' invalid Heero! I can take my own bath." He loved seeing that smile on Heero's face, the one that told Duo that Heero was proud of him for trying to be strong.

Looking back on all the complaining and crying he had done over the last few weeks, Duo wished that he could have been as proud of himself. With Milliardo, it had been easy to indulge in feeling sorry for himself. He almost disliked the man, though he wasn't certain why. Milliardo had saved his life, had shown himself loyal, honorable, and willing to go the distance despite Duo's curses and attacks, yet Duo still couldn't find it in himself to give the man anything but grudging gratitude. Perhaps it was the man's cultured bearing, something that he retained even in the face of adversity. It made it hard to get close to Milliardo. Everything about the man seemed hidden beneath a cool and collected exterior.

With Heero it was different, and Duo's attitude had changed as soon as he had seen the man. Duo cared about what Heero thought of him. That Heero should think that he was weak, or unable to endure some hardship, was unacceptable. Duo was determined to show Heero his best, no matter what it cost him.

"You fainted," Hero reminded him skeptically. "A hot bath will make you even more light headed."

"I'll leave the door open, just in case, but I feel all right now, Heero, honest," Duo assured him as he swung legs over the side of the bed. His clothes, ripped at several points, caught his attention. "What were you trying to do, Heero?" he wondered, puzzled.

"I was looking for wounds," Heero replied with a hard look on his face that told Duo he was thinking of the war and the many wounds he had been forced to treat then. "I wasn't certain if you had sustained any fighting Milliardo or if they had been the cause of your fainting spell."

"Do you really think that Zechs would hurt me that badly?" Duo wondered.

Heero's lips pressed into a thin line. His expression grew darker. "I don't trust that man. He proved himself by saving your life, and I didn't have any choice but to leave you in his care, but I never liked having to make that decision."

"I don't trust him either and I don't know why," Duo replied, perplexed. Duo stood up tentatively. He did still feel somewhat dizzy, but not alarmingly so. "I mean," Duo continued as he made his way carefully to the bathroom. "He said that he did all of this because he loved me, but he hasn't made a single pass at me or done anything but criticize you once or twice. Not that I'm any kind of prize," Duo added self deprecatingly, "but you'd think he'd try harder to steal me away from you."

Heero's hand closed on Duo's elbow. Duo looked at him, startled. "Don't say that ever again," Heero told him sternly, blue eyes glowing with a strong passion.

Duo frowned, confused. "What? About Zechs?"

Heero growled impatiently. "About not being any kind of 'prize'."

Duo smiled and shrugged as he pulled away and continued towards the bathroom. "You show me how that's not true and I will stop."

Duo was surprised when Heero grabbed him and spun him completely around to face him. Before he could react, Heero ripped off Duo's tank top. As Duo cursed and tried to jerk away, Heero snapped.

"Look at yourself!"

"If you don't fucking let go of me-" Duo began with a furious snarl.

"Look at yourself!" Heero demanded again. "Tell me what you see! You brag that you never lie, but I think you're telling lies to yourself!"

Duo freed himself. He would have liked to think that it was by his own strength, but he knew better. Heero had released him willingly. Duo went into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. Locking it, he wondered what Heero was thinking, treating him like that. No one, not even someone he loved, was going to push him around!

Throwing off the remnants of his ripped shirt, Duo slipped out of his shorts as well. He flipped on the shower, adrenalin pumping through him and taking away the last of his dizziness. He was panting, growling under his breath, and truly angry at Heero for- for... for what? Duo wondered and froze in the act of ducking under the hot spray of water.

There was a plain mirror on the wall above the sink. Bracing himself on the shower stall wall, Duo climbed onto the edge of the tub and then leaned until he could see his upper body in the mirror. He stood there poised and tried very hard not to let his perception of what he saw in the mirror lie to him.

He was thin, so very thin, Duo thought critically, but then blinked as he realized that his muscles had hardened and wrapped around that thin frame tightly. He was hard and wiry, skin bronzed from being outside in the strong sun. It was a shock when he thought about that. When had the sun ceased to be a torment for his eyes and for his skin? When had gravity become less of a burden on his joints? Even now, he could barely feel the stress of it as he continued to balance precariously. A handful of weeks out of fours years had lessened Duo's pain, his suffering, and his weakness in the grip of Earth's influence. Heero and Wu Fei had begun the work, but Milliardo's brutal 'boot camp' had finished the job.

Duo let himself down from the tub and ran his hands over his defined abs and his strongly muscled pecs. He could have continued to be critical. He could have lamented that he was still small and childish looking and therefore ugly or undesirable, but, instead, he firmed against such self indulgence. What would it get him, he thought, to keep thinking like that? If Heero couldn't love his body, then nothing was going to change that, least of all wallowing in hatred for what his enemies had left of him.

"Idiot!" Duo whispered. "Didn't L2 teach you to make due with whatever you had?" He had to make due and accept things that weren't going to change, he thought, and stand up for himself, because it wasn't going to get any better. Just as he had pushed Heero off, and defended himself when the man had ripped his tank top, so too, he had to defend himself and not accept people's disgust for how he looked.

"If Heero and the rest don't like what I have, they can all go to Hell!" Duo muttered as he ducked under the hot water and began to wash. No more self pity, Duo promised himself. Shinigami was back and he was back to stay.

Leaving the bathroom proved to be harder than Duo imagined. He rebraided his hair, brushed his teeth, stared at his thin face in the mirror, and hardened his resolve with each passing moment. Slipping on a robe, he took a deep breath and went out to face Heero.

There was a tray of food on the table; cheese and fruit, thin slices of beef, a broth soup, and a protein drink. Heero had chosen a lush red fruit from the tray. He bit into it and the juice dribbled down his chin. Wiping at it with one hand, he then sucked on a finger dripping with juice.

"You can do that all day long," Duo sighed and then realized that he had said it out loud when Heero turned to him in surprise.

"I would do anything for you, Duo," Heero replied and Duo could tell that he wasn't joking.

"Except put up with my bitching and complaining, right?" Duo asked.

Heero looked guarded as he put down the fruit, but he nodded. "I don't want to make you angry, but you're hurting yourself by thinking that way."

"I know," Duo replied as he sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm not angry any more."

Heero moved to stand beside him. When Duo patted the bed, Heero sat stiffly. Duo sighed, "I'm not going to hurt you Heero, relax."

"You were very angry," Heero pointed out, "I know that I didn't say anything wrong, but perhaps my inexperience caused me to say things badly."

Duo chuckled bitterly, "I don't think there's a good way to tell someone that they're being a whining moron. Let's just forget that any of that ever happened and start again, okay?"

Heero was staring at him, looking him slowly up and down. Duo self consciously pulled the robe tightly closed . "What's wrong?" Duo asked nervously.

"Nothing," Heero replied and then looked up to meet his eyes. They had an intensity that made Duo shiver. "It's just that you look almost like the Duo Maxwell I met at the start of Operation Meteor. I think you're beginning to act like him again, as well."