By LoneWolf (kodoku na okami)

Soldiers and Fools + Part 10
Discoveries

(Sometimes fools are caught unaware.)

Duo felt much better after eating. The soup had been more broth than anything else, but reading the package he'd seen Heero had chosen it for nutritional content -- protein, electrolytes, vitamins and all the other good stuff that a beaten body needs to get better. And it tasted a Hell of a lot better than what they were feeding me back in that cell.

He was looking for patterns in the ceiling cracks, pretending they were clouds -- for the nine hundredth time -- when he heard footsteps at the door. He looked at the clock. Two and a half hours. It wasn't like Heero to be late. He slid the gun under the sheets and aimed at the door, bracing it against his hip to control the kickback. The cold metal reminded him of Heero's hand.

The door opened.

No one was there.

Duo's eyes narrowed.

A blur of motion, tucking and rolling across the floor. Duo tracked it with the gun, but green and black could only mean one person. "You sure know how to make an entrance Heero."

"Where's the gun?" Damn you, Duo! I gave it to you so you could defend yourself, not just lay there. Whydoyoucare? Idon'tknow?

"On you." Duo waggled the gun under the covers. He was rewarded with... yes, that was approval. "You just love having me point guns at you, huh? Um, next time maybe we should have a secret knock or something so I don't have to almost shoot you." He handed the gun to Heero, who reholstered it and walked back to the door.

Still using that butt holster and still got the butt for it,
Duo thought. I don't think I'm in quite the shape you left me in back on Earth, though.

Heero brought in two bags of stuff and shut the door. He set them on the table beside his laptop computer and started pulling medical supplies out of one. When he'd picked out everything he wanted, he walked over to the bed and laid them out at the foot, bringing the aroma of cordite with him. Gauze, tape, scissors, antibiotic ointments, vials, syringes. Duo winced at the latter and almost missed the words delivered deadpan. "At least you've learned to check your target before you shoot."

"Naaniiii??" Duo blinked. Damn! That was almost a joke. Hell, for Heero that was a joke. He looked at his friend, wondering if Oz had somehow captured and brainwashed him. Nah, not in just two and a half hours.

"You've learned to check your target before you shoot. You always lost on the pistol range because you shot friendlies." Heero looked at him, all business.

Maybe it wasn't a joke.

"I should give you a shower before treating you." He pushed the medical supplies into a more compact arrangement, still neatly laid out. "Can you sit up?"

Duo gave an experimental lift. "Better help me. Sorry."

Heero pulled down the covers, exposing him. "You passed out in the shuttle on the trip back." He slid his arms under Duo's knees and back, raising and pivoting him to sit on the edge of the bed. "You've been unconscious for two days." The movement was so easy, so fluid, Duo wondered just how much weight he'd lost, then he felt the dense muscles, rock hard as Heero's arms supported him, and remembered Heero was a lot stronger than he looked. "I think you were comatose for about fifteen hours." Several minutes passed before Duo's sense of balance stabilized. "Not surprising, though. You took a severe beating."

He's changed, Duo thought as they sat there. "Beatings, " Duo corrected him. When we were at school together, he was so detached I wondered if he really knew I was there. But now...

"Beatings," Heero agreed.

He seems to be actually aware of me.

He almost passed out as Heero helped him stand. He managed to move his legs a bit, hobbling over to the bathroom, deadweight dragging on Heero's shoulders. Heero lowered him onto the toilet, turned on the shower, and stepped out, giving him a moment of semi-privacy. A few minutes later, Heero knocked on the door.
 
Duo peered at the contents of the toilet beneath him. Definitely peeing a little blood, but not much, and it's all dark. Nothing bleeding now. He flushed the toilet. Heero entered. Naked. Duo's mouth dropped. Heero looked at him with a hint of... uncertainty, Duo decided. He had never been entirely sure about Heero's various shades of uncertainty.

"I don't have extra clothes." The usual winter voice, but soft.

You didn't think you'd be coming back from the mission, Duo filled in. Same old Heero.

"I don't want to get them wet while you shower."

Duo decided it was a snow voice. Snow was supposed to be cold and soft and quiet all at once. He debated for a moment before deciding it was worth adding to his catalog, then he nodded, facing the fact that he was uncertain himself. He'd seen Heero naked many times before. Hell, he'd seen lots of people naked doing lots of things a lot more erotic than just standing there. So why did Heero naked just now, perfect though his body was, seem so captivating?

He forgot about it as Heero lifted him and maneuvered them into the shower, ignoring Duo's yelps as the movements stretched unused muscles, broke scabs, and grated bones in damaged joints. Then Heero stood, supporting Duo, handing him soap and cloth. Washing all the places Duo couldn't reach.

A lot of them. Damn shoulder. Damn ribs.

The soapy cloth and firm hand felt good even though the soap stung the cuts on his back and the cloth pulled loose more of the scabs. He held on and relaxed, enjoying the feeling as Heero washed his back, his legs, his hair, applied conditioner.

Duo opened his mouth but caught himself before he said anything. He remembered seeing the bottles in Heero's hand when he walked into the bathroom, but he'd been so unsettled by Heero naked that he'd forgotten about it before it registered on his consciousness. Heero had bought conditioner. And it smelled like the right kind. He sighed, luxuriating in the feeling of his hair beginning to untangle. He's changed, Duo told himself again. The whole idea felt surreal, but no more so than the idea of Heero buying conditioner for him.

He slipped into half-sleep. The next thing he knew the water was beginning to run cool and Heero was turning it off with his foot. Duo must have protested because Heero said, "Cold will tense your muscles. Bad for your ribs."

You're cold. Duo's thoughts were a haze. But you don't make me tense.

He stayed in that unawake-unasleep state as Heero carried him back to the bed, laid him down and set about applying fresh ointment to his wounds with meticulous precision. Duo regained full consciousness a few minutes later when Heero sat him up and began to wrap his chest. It was a struggle, but he was able to balance on his own this time. "Damn, that's tight, Heero. I can barely breathe."

"I found two more broken ribs."

For a total of five.
 
"Your sternum is cracked too. You're lucky to be alive." He continued wrapping to draw the bones together.

"That's me, lucky Duo Maxwell. Takes a beating and keeps on joking." He tried to laugh, but the tape around his chest limited him to a soft chuckle. It was better than nothing. "Uh, what're you gonna do with that," he asked as he watched Heero load a syringe with the contents of one of the vials.

"Broad spectrum antibiotics." He filled another syringe from a second vial. "Broad spectrum antibiotics." he reached for the third vial, "Pain killers."

"No!" Heero looked at him. Yes, it was definitely uncertainty this time. "Occasionally drunk is one thing, but I hate being drugged out of my mind."

Heero nodded (Approval, Duo saw) and put the vial aside. "On your side." Heero moved to help him lay down.

"Huh?"

"These have to be given intramuscular." Duo looked at him. "Gluteal." A faint twitch of annoyance as Duo still didn't get it. "In the butt, Duo."

"Oh." Duo let him lay him down. Heero's hand spread itself across his buttock, thumb and forefinger pulling skin tight between them. "Are you sure that isn't just an excuse to feel my ass?" He winced at his words just as the first needle hit. The hand moved to the other side and a few seconds later, the second needle followed. "Damn, Heero. Feels like a pair of rocks in my cheeks."

"It'll pass in a day or two."

Duo groaned.

"They're single-dose."

At least I won't have to go through that again, he thought as Heero helped him get arranged in the bed and covered him up. And why do I care if he puts his hand on my ass? He was just giving me a shot. Duo didn't know. Probably he was worn out he wasn't thinking straight and that was making him uncomfortable with simple things.

"Now sleep."

"You hafta brush out my hair. ... No, really. If you don't brush it out it'll tangle again. And, uh, would you mind getting dressed first?"

Heero glanced down at himself. He'd forgotten about that. He'd been too busy tending to Duo to notice. It was getting cool in the room, not that he was likely to catch cold, but he didn't want to argue with Duo right now. The fool needed to use his strength for recovering, not arguing. He dressed and brought over the brush, holding it beside his head like a hammer.

Damn, he even got the right kind of brush. This guy has some memory. A vision of Heero holding a new comb the same way drew a smile. But I bet he doesn't know how to use it. "Hold it like this," Duo showed him. "Uh, try it on your hair first, to get the feel for it." Duo directed him until Heero had it right. "Y'know, a brush is probably better for your hair..."

Cold eyes caught him, warning lurking in their depths.

Still touchy about the hair. "Um, never mind. You've got it now."

A silent nod and Heero moved the chair to the head of the bed and began working through Duo's hair. "Owww! Not so hard. You hafta be gentle when you find a tangle."

"Hn. It's all a tangle." Maybe I should have gotten another bottle of conditioner. Heero continued brushing. Duo's interruptions became less frequent. Heero paused when he heard the soft snore begin. He couldn't help it if the antibiotics he'd acquired happened to have a mild sedative mixed in. Besides, Duo needed to rest.

Almost alone again, he let loose a small sigh and continued brushing. He still didn't know why he hadn't killed Duo. The soldier hadn't liked it -- still didn't like it. The soldier had been harping about it off and on since the shuttle ride back from the prison. He set the problem aside as something that wouldn't be solved by direct reasoning and told the soldier to shut up and leave him alone. Brushing Duo's hair was not a mission that required the soldier's help.

Brush. Brush. Brush.

Brushing Duo's hair was relaxing. It gave his hands something to do while he dug through his memory, finding all the times he'd seen Duo braiding his hair, carefully assembling the proper steps and sequence. He decided he could learn to like brushing Duo's hair.

Brush. Brush. Brush.

Why had Duo been so nervous about his nakedness? They'd shared a room together for over a month and had seen each other in everything from suits to skin. Duo had never seemed nervous then. In fact, he'd usually worn as little as he could. Heero looked over the headboard at him. Maybe he was ashamed because he was out of shape. The fine form Heero had helped him build back then had faded, but no more than Heero would have expected after the recent captivity and abuse. He'd apparently kept at it after... that mission. Heero didn't like to think about that mission.
 
Brush. Brush. Brush.

He called me a friend. He waited for a moment, then added. I wonder if it's true.

The soldier didn't rise to the bait. It was unlike him to take an order from Heero without argument. Heero suspected he was waiting for a more opportune moment.

Brush. Brush. Brush.

The past few days spent taking care of Duo made perfect sense to him, except for the part about not killing him. Once he'd rescued the loud-mouthed fool, it was only logical that he'd clean him up, treat his wounds, and get him battle-worthy again. He couldn't just dump the body. It would be identified and draw Oz to this place. And Duo had contacts in the colonies. They might be able to get munitions, parts, supplies. Deathscythe was out there somewhere, damaged, but reparable. Duo in Deathscythe had proven himself worthy of the name Shinigami, much as part of Heero hated to admit it. The damned annoying loud-mouthed gaijin could be a valuable ally. The war against Oz wasn't over, regardless of what the colonies might think. And there wouldn't be any new orders for a while with the scientists captives of Oz. There was time for this interlude of peace. The reasons had piled up, convincing him the soldier was wrong about the whole situation.

Brush. Brush. Brush.

Heero wondered if accepting Duo as an ally meant trusting him. He didn't think he really trusted the other Gundam pilots -- anyone but himself, for that matter. But he wasn't sure he would know it if he did. Trust of others was something he understood only in the abstract.

Brush. Brush. Brush.

Right now, Duo was a risk. Heero considered his thoughts carefully. Not an obstacle or a liability, just a risk, and a risk worth taking. If he became a liability...

Heero stopped brushing.

I'll make sure Duo is nothing worse than a risk. He called me a friend. That has to mean something. I think I would have killed him, but how can I know? Maybe he was right about that poem.

Dangerous thoughts,
the soldier whispered. Soldiers don't have time for friends, and certainly not for childish poems.

Heero knew he was right. The war may have paused, but it was not over. Maybe after Oz was defeated he could think those thoughts, but now they could only be obstacles. Heero chose not to eliminate these particular obstacles. Instead, he tied them neatly and put them into a little box in his mind where the memories of a flower, a scrap of fake fur, a red-tipped bullet, three sheets of notebook paper and a masterfully illuminated poem lived. Like those, the thoughts might one day be of use.

Heero looked at Duo's hair. Smooth, shining, chestnut. He'd never really noticed the color before or the sharp scent of cinnamon that always lingered from Duo's conditioner. He carefully divided Duo's hair into three parts and braided it as his plan told him, then laid it on Duo's chest and listened to the snore that was at once annoying and right. He glanced at the door, double-checking the lock. Satisfied, he slid a hand around the gun on his lap, checked the safety, and closed his eyes.

A good risk, he thought. And slept.

[part 09] [part 11] [back to LoneWolf's fic]