by Makishef

Tempus Vernum

When I wake, I'm alone. There's this impression of him behind me, the sheets and mattress molded to fit his shape, and it's still warm. I roll over into the warm spot, and my eyes focus on a long strand of hair on the pillow. It's one of the darker ones, so it must come from the underside of his braid, where the sun doesn't hit it and leave it shot with streaks of honey. Lazily, I curl the single hair around my finger, watching the dark brown twist itself around my knuckles, my short, stunted nail, around the dark, calloused skin.

I need to get up.

So I do. Pulling myself from the tangle of soiled sheets, I stagger to my feet, reaching under my pillow to check for the weapon. The gun is there, and still loaded, missing no more bullets than it was last night. Duo says there's no point in checking every morning, but no precaution is unnecessary.

Besides, it's routine; it's reassurance.

I almost lost it yesterday. Almost lost my mission partner, too. It was a choice; save Duo or save my weapon.

When it came right down to it, I didn't save either. Duo got himself free, but, fool that he is, wasted the time to scoop up the gun to make sure it got back to me. He did it all with the same manic smile, and he laughed when he caught up to me, when he saw me hovering over the fresh corpse of the sniper, my hands sticky with the man's blood. It sent cat-claw chills up my spine.

I wanted to hit him, wanted to tell him how stupid and reckless he was, but who am I to tell another Gundam pilot what to do? He survived, and the mission pulled through, and if he almost got himself killed in the process... Well, that's often the case. It's a dangerous job.

But there's something inside me that wrenches when I see him in trouble, when I think about him dying. It feels as though he's yanking at my intestines with some unseen strand of his hair. And so I want to yell at him, beat him for being so foolish. I want to kiss him and steal his breath from him, so maybe everything will be alright, and this coiled worry will go away, because he died at my hands, beneath my lips, instead of getting caught in an explosion or at the business end of some faceless soldier's gun.

I can't remember when I started getting this possessive, and it scares me.

I'm studying the gun again, because there's a smudge on the handle. It's black, and I can't tell if it's blood or oil, but I know it came from his hands. He killed a man with my gun.

I need a shower.

It appears that he's beaten me to it, though, because there's a strip of light under the bathroom door, and the sounds of the water rushing and pipes creaking are faintly heard in the room. I could wait, but I'm restless, and I can at least brush my teeth and drown myself in the sink while he's in there.

I half expect the door to be locked when I grab at the handle, but it's not. It never is; we've had to share the bathroom often enough that neither of us bothers.

Steam billows out as the door swings open, and stepping in is like walking through water. I can feel the hairs at the nape of my neck curling in the dense mist, but I close the door again anyway, and I suffer the heat. I fumble for my toothbrush, feeling light-headed in the corporeal world the steam provides.

While I scrub my teeth, I scrape a hand across the mirror, clearing it enough to see myself. My reflection doesn't surprise me. There are no shadows under my eyes, which suggests how well I slept after he crawled into bed with me. A dark spot decorates the side of my neck, and I touch my fingers to it briefly.

After I rinse my mouth out, I have to wipe the mirror with my hand again. The very ends of my hair are moist, curling just a little in places, and my face looks like that of a morbid doll. My eyes are drawn again to the bruise. There's something disturbing about being marked so, especially by him. It's as if his madness may have touched me when his mouth did; or worse, mine might have seeped into him as he suckled.

It's while I'm examining myself, awash in my awkward vanity, that I hear it. It's a muffled noise, something akin to a strangled sob, and I'm not sure how I hear it over the running water, but it snags my focus, and I can feel him pulling at me again. I try to close my eyes against the onslaught, but there's nothing I can do about it. Another noise, and I don't have any knowledge of moving from the sink to the shower, but I'm suddenly there, pulling back the curtain.

He's got his mouth clamped over the back of his hand, and his knees are drawn up to his chest, a lanky arm wrapped around them. His shoulders are shaking, and there's water streaming down his face, but he's not crying. Duo grieves, mourns, but he doesn't cry. He's too easily overwhelmed, and tears don't do these emotions justice.

It takes him a moment to notice me, and when he does, he stares up at me with dry but red-rimmed eyes. His lips form what must be my name, but the sound never reaches my ears. He looks so frail like this, and the thought takes me by surprise.

He's always been a survivor, strong and smart and utterly, impeccably beautiful. I wonder if he knows I think that. He probably does; he's remarkably perceptive. And it probably scares him as much as it does me.

To see him looking so broken makes me feel something I haven't felt in a long time: despair.

It hurts to see him this way, curled up and defensive on the shower floor. It hurts that he looks so worn out, so tired of all of this.

I'm drawn to him, to this pain that he brings me, like a moth to a flame. I lower myself to a crouch in front of him, wary of the slick tile, and I lean forward to take his wrists into my hands. I've never noticed until now how thin they are, how fragile he can be. His blue eyes are wide, captivated. "Heero," he breathes.

"Shh..." It's murmured against his skin when I press my lips to his wrist, let my tongue slip out to taste his racing pulse. His flesh is sweet and slippery from the water, and I lick at the droplets collecting there, trace the thick, thrumming vein from wrist to elbow.

We're surrounded by the splash of water against the tiles, the smack of it against our bare skin, but the breaths he takes are audible as I mouth the inside crook of his arm. I make a trail of kisses from there to his collar bone, lips pursed and soft and suckling gently against his golden flesh.

When I look up to see his face, it's soft and unresisting, seen through the screen of wet hair that hangs in my eyes. He tugs one hand from my grasp, gently, and just as tenderly pushes my hair out of my face. The smile that he offers is wavering, and the obvious gratitude is painful to me, but it's the first sincere smile I've ever seen on him.

It's almost shocking, this sudden realization that every other smile I've seen on him has been something fake, a wall to keep out the rest of the world. This, though, is real, and it's because of me.

There's none of the mania in it that there is in battle, because that's just bared teeth and flashing eyes that are both maddened and maddening. There's none of the underlying shadow, the nerve-tinged laughter that he gets when he lets us think he's a fool, someone light-hearted and hopeful despite everything.

The honesty of it is mesmerizing.

Then, before I can really grasp what this could mean, he's leaning into me, water dripping from our brows and lashes, from our noses and ears and hair and chins and into our mouths as we kiss. Somehow, our fingers are laced together, and we're in a tangled pile of limbs in a corner of the shower, still assaulted by the spray.

This isn't desperation or some driving, aching need; it's a twist of warm breaths and bruised lips and shared saliva. It's an intent exploration of things we've felt a thousand, thousand times, and it never gets old.

This is me letting him know that he doesn't always have to be the one to comfort me, that it can work both ways. I think, somewhere deep down, he already knows this, but he doesn't consciously acknowledge it.

This is me telling him maybe. Telling him that if we weren't children of this war, if we didn't have to be machines, if the lives of so many others weren't dependent on our success... Maybe this could be different; not just the 'comfort' of brothers-in-arms. Maybe we could have candlelight and flowers and movies and picnics and hours and hours of this, instead of something quick to relieve the tension and the stress that surrounds us day to day. Maybe we could say things to each other that we don't dare to now.

I try to convey all of these things by changing the kiss, throwing myself into it the way he throws himself into a fight -- it's something nearing suicide, something hoping for a glimmer of hope and looking its destruction in the face, laughing and crying and screaming its rage, all in the same instant. My mouth feels bruised, my teeth digging into the backs of my lips with the way our lips clash together, and maybe there's even blood, but I'm sure he understands everything I'm trying to tell him, and that's why our kiss is different now, needier, greedier, and oh, so perfect.

He pushes me back, and I'm hit in the face with the shower water, until he drags me back to him, with both of us staggering to our feet. Then it's my back against the wall, his hands in my hair and on my shoulders and then scraping down my chest to grab at my cock. I open my mouth in a silent groan, and it's invaded by water and then his tongue, spicy and hot and courageous.

His hand feels molten, slick with water and my own fluids on my hard prick. It's all I can do to remember to kiss him back, because this feels so good, so right, and his own thick heat is digging shamelessly into my hip. I know I'm mewling into his mouth when he pulls his hand away, slips it down further. There's a finger inside me then, and he knows better than to tease, because it's sliding all the way in, followed quickly by another, stretching me only enough to accomodate his cock and to scratch knowingly over the flesh inside me that makes me feel like I'm going to die of ecstasy.

Then both are gone and we're shifting, my legs bending, curling around his body to let him slide inside of me. I can feel myself arching, feel blunt teeth at my neck. He's holding me up, my legs tangled around him, keeping him close to me the same way my arms do, and his mouth is all over my neck, my ears, my collar bone.

He's keening softly, the sounds reverberating against my skin, twisting around me and weaving through my bones and blood and all my organs. I'm silent except for the harsh breaths, and my head is thrown back, wet hair in my face and mouth and my head banging painfully against the tiled wall. I can't see a thing, because my eyes have rolled back into my head, but I know what he looks like when he comes; I've seen it plenty of times.

His head falls forward just a little, and his eyes squeeze shut, leaving nothing but a shadow of dark lashes against his cheeks. He grits his teeth and hisses out his breath, before his features relax and his mouth falls open to form a lazy 'o'.

The picture of him like that is in my head when he jerks against me and fills me with lava-hot seed. It's only a few moments more before I join him, his hand wrenching my orgasm from me, only for the cooling water to quickly wipe all traces of it away.

I may cramp up, his legs may give out, the water may turn frigid, but I wouldn't mind staying here forever, enclosing and protecting him in a way he could never do for himself. Instead, he slowly pulls out, lets me lower my feet back to the slick floor, and we turn off the water. He grabs a tie to quickly redo his braid, now soggy, then helps me walk on my shaking legs, sore and aching and physically satisfied, back to his bed, because mine is still soiled from last night.

We curl around each other, and he's soon asleep; he's more worn out than he'll admit. I reach over to the bedside table, make sure the alarm is set to go off in another two hours, then huddle into his thin, warm body. I'm looking over at my bed, where my gun rests on my pillow, lying in the dipping impression of his head.

It's only half a room away, but that seems pretty far when you're used to having it either under your head or on your person. So there lies my reassurance, too many feet away.

But maybe the reassurance of his leg thrown over my thigh, of his breath hot against my neck and ear, of his arm draped over me... Maybe that's more than enough.

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