Author: The Manwell
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers

Shinigami Sleeps + Chapter 18
Living the Dream

"Duo?" I whisper, but my voice seems to echo loudly in the small room. I'm in an old farmhouse I've never seen before but somehow still recognize. And I'm in a room that is inexplicably familiar as well. But what is truly disturbing is that I'm not remotely surprised by the sight before me.

It's Duo.

And he's...

I approach the rickety cot and reach out to touch the torn and stained black cloth that had once been a priest's tunic. Duo does not stir. He's...



I say his name again, feeling some strange urgency to wake him, to know that he's all right, that he's just sleeping. But I start to panic. I grasp his hand but his skin is cold. Is he even breathing?

I lean over him to check his pulse but a hand on my shoulder stops me. Although I hadn't realized I wasn't alone with Duo, I'm not startled. The warmth from that hand seeps into me, calming me, and I turn toward him. Somehow, I know who it is even before I see his face.

"What's wrong with him, Trowa?" I ask.

But Trowa just smiles kindly at me and gently inserts his body between mine and Duo's. I take a step back. Trowa will know what to do. I'm sure of it.

I watch as he gently unbuttons Duo's black overshirt before smoothing his hands down Duo's arms to tangle their fingers together. I stare as Trowa gently pulls Duo up from the bed by his hands. Seeing this, it looks as if Duo must weigh almost nothing as Trowa guides him to his feet. I marvel at this for a moment before I realize I'm marveling at Duo's nude form.

With his eyes open and his hair down, he's almost unrecognizable. There's a peace about him I'd never really seen before. And the way he looks into Trowa's eyes...

I have to glance away, to give them a moment. I feel as if I'm intruding on something very intimate.

The only other thing in the room is the cot and I turn to study it with great interest. And I gasp when I see it.

For Duo is still there, still sleeping, still clothed in his battle-worn black. The corner of his priest's collar is smudged with something that must be blood and his hair is still pulled back into its braid. For a moment, I don't understand.

I glance at Trowa and Duo, standing together, then return my gaze to the fallen soldier lying so still on the dusty mattress.

But then a gentle touch draws my attention away. Duo is smiling before me, his other hand still joined with Trowa's. It's an invitation I see in his eyes, in both his and Trowa's, but I'm not sure what it is they'll do.

I'm strangely not embarrassed as Duo removes Trowa's long-sleeved shirt and worn jeans. Neither Duo nor Trowa pay me any attention as they stand before each other, perfectly nude. And I find myself transfixed by the immeasurable trust they have for one another.

And then, Duo leans forward and runs his hand over one of the many scars in Trowa's flesh. His palm and then his fingers trail over the damaged skin, easing it, erasing it until the scar has vanished.

That's when I think I understand. I look from Trowa's now smooth skin to Duo's calm _expression and finally to the black-clothed figure still motionless on the bed.

"Yes," I tell them both. "I see."

Trowa smiles softly and Duo nods once to me before they turn back to each other and Duo touches his lips to his soul mate's.



Coming back to himself with a small start, Quatre looks up and sees a silent expectation expressed in Heero Yuy's eyes. "Sorry, Heero. What did you say?"

Heero reaches for the chair next to Quatre's and pulls it away from the small patio table before taking a seat. "Nothing," he tells Quatre. "You looked... far away, is all."

"I was remembering a dream I had," he explains with a sheepish grin.

Heero arcs a brow, intending to inquire about it when the terrace doors open, admitting a young man bundled up in a pair of mittens, a down coat, and a thick scarf.

"Hey, guys," he greets.

Quatre smiles. "Hey, Duo. What are you up to?"

A grin of near-devilish glee curves his lips. "Quatre, just look at all that virgin snow, untouched by man or beast," he says with a sweeping gesture to indicate the perfect whiteness beyond the edge of the terrace.

"Yeah, I see it," Quatre assures him.

"Are you going to answer the question?" Heero intones.

Duo smirks down at the dark-haired young man. "Now why would I do a thing like that?" he replies before turning on his heel and approaching the edge of the sheltered patio.

Quatre opens his mouth to attempt to cajole Duo into sharing his plans when Trowa and Wufei wander out of the house.

"Duo?" Trowa's quiet voice inquires.

Turning around completely, Duo drawls, "Ye~es?"

"What are you doing?"

"You'll see," is the cryptic reply.

Trowa glances at Quatre and Heero momentarily and ascertains that they haven't been made privy to Duo's thoughts, either. He turns back to his lover just in time to watch Duo open his arms and fall backwards into the sea of snow.

"Duo!" Wufei shouts, running to the edge of the veranda in an attempt to prevent the stunt. He arrives too late however and all four young men watch as Duo falls backward and down... and down... disappearing beneath the surface of the snow altogether.

Trowa quickly joins Wufei at the edge of the terrace and looks down into the hole Duo had just made. For a moment, all is silent. And then:

"Maxwell? Are you still alive?"

A soft noise bubbles up from the bottom of the pit which escalates until Duo's laughter is easily heard by all four friends.

Wufei looks away from the hole and informs Trowa, "He's insane."

Trowa just smiles.

Seeing he'll get no reasonable response from Barton, Wufei starts toward the house muttering, "I'll find a ladder, then."

Quatre and Heero watch Trowa lean over the edge to chuckle at Duo.

"It was supposed to be a snow angel," he tells Trowa loud enough for the others to hear as well. "But I think I'll call this one 'Newbie Skier's Demise.'"

"I like it," Trowa replies.

"But somehow... I think it's missing something, Tro."

Trowa arcs a brow. "And what would that be? A Saint Bernard with a barrel of rum around his neck?"

Quatre chokes back a laugh at Trowa's dry comment.

"Um, no. I was thinking more along the lines of the newbie skier's distraught boyfriend jumping in after him to make sure he's okay."

Trowa crosses his arms over his chest. "You want me to jump down there after you?" He snorts. "You just don't want to be the only one Wufei glares at when he comes back with the ladder."

"Actually," Duo replies in a sober tone, "I'm starting to freeze my ass off down here—as well as other unmentionables—so, the way I see it, it's in your best interest to try and warm me up here."

Trowa releases a martyred sigh and glares down into the hole for an instant before stepping off of the edge of the terrace to join him.

"Barton!" Wufei shouts, coming through the open door with an extension ladder. "What the hell are you doing?! You're going to miss the New Year's fireworks!"

"Somehow I don't think they'll mind," Heero says with no small measure of sarcasm.

Wufei makes a sound in the back of his throat indicating how very much he didn't need to hear that. He carries the ladder over to the hole and glances down. Apparently he also sees something he feels he doesn't need to because he shouts, "Maxwell! Barton! Ladder! Pay attention!"

Heero snorts and Quatre has to bite his own lip to keep from laughing.

Wufei maneuvers the ladder into the hole and jerks it in such a way that both Heero and Quatre know someone just got smacked in the back of the head with a rung.

"Get a room!" Wufei bellows.

"We have a room," Trowa points out calmly.

Wufei elaborates with a dark glare, "One that's not next to mine!"

Quatre can't help it; he laughs. Even Heero is smiling. Grudgingly, Wufei holds the ladder steady while Duo and Trowa ascend. Far from looking frozen, Duo is grinning widely and his eyes are sparkling with mirth.

"You know, Tro. Next year, I think we should bring a date for Wufei."

Wufei glowers.

Trowa grins. "He does look a little... lonely."

On a growl, Wufei informs them in his best Preventer's tone, "You - Barton and Maxwell - are one syllable away from getting dumped back in that hole and left there overnight."

Taking in the feral gleam in Wufei's dark eyes, Duo holds back his laughter with an effort and nods his surrender.

"Duo?" Quatre inquires with an astonished _expression. "You're just going to let Wufei win this round?"

"Yeah," Duo sighs out, eyes still shining with mirth, "I didn't get him a Christmas present, so..."

Before Wufei can do more than roll his eyes, Trowa points out, "Duo, the snow's melting through your jeans."

"I highly doubt that's only snow," Wufei mutters darkly.

Duo and Trowa glance at each other in mild surprise at hearing such a statement from their straight-laced friend. Duo sniggers. "Uh, um, yeah. We weren't down there that long and before you slander our respective endurances need I remind you that we were both Gundam pilots?"

"And?" Wufei looks unimpressed.

Duo opens his mouth to retort but Trowa nudges his shoulder just in time. "Come on, Duo. Let's get changed and then you can rip into him."

"Grr," Duo says, heading for the terrace doors with Trowa in tow. "I hate snow."

As soon as the doors shut behind them, Wufei, Heero, and Quatre burst into laughter. Wiping tears from the corners of his eyes, Wufei lowers himself into a third chair.

"Oh, wow," Quatre mutters, winding down. "I don't think I've ever seen either of them like that before."

"Like what?" Heero deadpans. "Walking hormones?"

Wufei snorts at that before becoming serious. "They have been good for each other."

Quatre agrees. "Trowa smiles now and Duo..." His voice trails off as he tries to articulate the change he's witnessed in Duo over the last two days of their holiday gathering. The table grows silent as all three contemplate this new Duo. "He's different and yet he's not..." Quatre ponders aloud.

He recalls the honest laughter and the good-natured arguing, remembers the warmth in his smile and look in his eyes when he'd caught Trowa's gaze... Quatre's eyes widen. That look...

"It's Duo's Shinigami," he says suddenly, quietly, drawing the attention of his companions. He glances from Wufei to Heero, remembering his dream and the battered soldier lying as still as death. "Shinigami..."

Heero smiles as he picks up the thread of Quatre's unvoiced thought and finishes it. In a voice warmed by affection for the former Deathscythe pilot, he concludes, "Shinigami sleeps."

The End

[chap. 17] [back to The Manwell's fic]