Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 11

"You asked him about that?" Duo shouted at Batoosingh, mortified and livid with anger. Dr. Santos had given over her office for the confrontation, but Duo would have just as happily have had it out in the corridor if Trowa hadn't helped steer him aside. The taller boy slipped silently out, but not before giving Duo a warning look.

"What? It's not like I'm the bad guy here!" Duo snarled, but Trowa had just shut the door. Duo rounded on Batoosingh. The doctor stood by the window, polishing his glasses on his necktie. "I can't even talk about--that--to you after all our sessions and you hit him with it the first fucking day? You know he's in his room now? Alone? He doesn't want to talk to anyone!"

Batoosingh sighed and shook his head. "Again, Duo, I apologize for any discomfort this is causing. If either or both of you wish to find another doctor, that is your right. However, I suggest that this is a core issue for you both, whatever it is. The fact that you both react so strongly around it after how long? Two years? Three? Yet you cannot even discuss it between yourselves--"

Duo realized it was a question of walking away or punching the good doctor in the face. He knew he owed the man more than that. He walked away.

"You're going to have to deal with whatever it is with him, Duo," Batoosingh called after him.

Duo flipped him off and slammed the door. Trowa was leaning against the opposite wall, waiting for him. The jeans, baggy dark green sweater and hair hanging in his face made him look like a skinny, rather sullen teen, but Duo caught the sharp look in those green eyes as he came out. Trowa had been through too many "Duo meltdowns" before; he was on alert.

"Thanks! That went well," Duo growled, stalking past him.

"Maxwell!" Trowa caught him by the arm and yanked him back sharply enough to whip Duo's braid against his arm. Sometimes Duo foolishly forgot just how strong the young acrobat ex-warrior really was. 'Silly me, after the ass blisterings he's given me.' Those long fingers clamped around his wrist like a vise. He wasn't going anywhere without dragging Trowa with him.

"You can't just go storming out of here," Trowa said. "The more commotion you stir up, the sooner the press is going to find us. Is that what you want? Are you going to throw one of your famous tantrums, or run around hurting yourself, with him lying in there needing you to be the strong one for once?" Before Duo could open his mouth, Trowa gave him a hard shake, glaring at him. "The answer better be 'No, Trowa. I'm sorry, Trowa. You're absolutely right, Trowa. Heero's well-being comes first, Trowa,' or I'm going to be very, very upset with you."

Blushing, Duo quickly rattled off, "I'm sorry, Trowa. You're absolutely right, Trowa. Heero's well-being comes first. Seriously. This isn't one of my tantrums or a breakdown." He jerked his thumb back at the office. "That in there? The doc stepped in something really personal between me and Heero. Something I've got to fix. Me. This just is sooner than I'd expected. I was hoping Heero would get a little stronger before--"

Trowa's iron grip softened a little. "Before what, Duo? Is this about something that happened with you two during the war?"

Duo looked up sharply, but Trowa only shrugged. "You haven't seen him in two years, right?"

"Yeah. Look, let me handle this. If I need backup, you and Quatre will be the first to know. OK?"

"OK, but deal with it." Trowa slid his hands into his pockets and sauntered away.

Duo yanked at the end of his braid, scowling. This was a setback for all of them. No one wanted to leave Madrid until Heero could go with them, and no one wanted him leaving the hospital until the doctors had had a good look at him. That left the other four cooped up in the cramped guest hostel across the street, sneaking around like they had in their terrorist days to avoid undue attention. Having Heero collapse during his first therapy session was not an encouraging sign.

He paused at Heero's door and was glad to see it unlocked, on the outside, at least. Two days of observation and the docs had already figured out that Heero was no threat to anyone, except possibly himself. Hesitating, hand on the knob, he peered in through the port.

Heero lay curled on his side under the blankets, facing away from the door. The black sweater he'd borrowed from Duo was thrown over the end of the bed, along with the jeans. Duo looked down at his own clothing. He'd dressed up today: tan jeans and a dark blue velvet shirt Quatre had talked him into during a moment of shopping weakness. He looked good in it, for sure, but he wasn't quite sure why he'd grabbed it in his hasty packing frenzy the other day. He remembered vaguely thinking it might be chilly on Earth this time of year and grabbed whatever looked warm. Actually, he'd been right about that. It was cold, and rainy since yesterday. Autumn was coming early in Spain.

He turned the knob and stepped quietly inside, not wanting to wake Heero if he was asleep. He slept a lot, and was starting to put on a little weight.

"I don't want to talk right now, Duo."

"It's OK, Heero. I'm just sorry he brought--"

"Duo, please!" Still soft, but the tone left no room for argument.

"All right. No problem. Need anything, buddy?"

"Just-- No, thank you. I want to sleep."

Duo was tempted to override Heero and sit with him anyway. This sudden mood change was scaring him. Heero had been mostly happy since Duo and the others had shown up. It was a little freaky, seeing Heero "Death Glare" Yuy smile so much, but Duo had been all too eager to take that as a good sign. Now he wasn't so sure, being the resident expert on mood disorders and all.

'If this was me, what would Trowa and Kat do?' he asked himself, much more accustomed to being on the receiving end of such care. For mild downturns in the early days, they'd drag him out to do something fun, then make him sleep over at their house, or just dog pile on the couch with him and watch old movies until he cheered up. If it was a bad depression, they'd drag him off to the doctor. 'But only if they saw me and caught it in time,' he thought. In the early days of the peace, they'd been more distant. He rubbed nervously at the scars on his wrists and smiled darkly; at least his near-death experiences had brought them closer. Quite the foundation for a warm and enduring not-sexual-but-almost relationship.

Looking at Heero now, though, he remembered all those other times, days at a stretch sometimes, when he'd just wanted to curl up like a sick dog and shut out the world. Sometimes that had been all he needed. But others . . .

He went to the bed and rested a hand on Heero's shoulder. The dark haired man's eyes were closed and he was rigid with tension. "I'd rather stay," Duo said quietly, trying to rub the tension from the bicep under his hand.

"Not. Now." You could have chipped ice off those words.

Hurt, Duo withdrew his hand. "Fine. I'll check in with you later. By the way, I gave Batoosingh hell."

So he wasn't expecting a hearty 'thank you' right now, but he also wasn't expecting Heero to pull the blanket over his head and try to make himself even smaller in the bed. Duo retreated, managing not to slam the door this time. Why was Heero pissed at him? He hadn't done anything!

Except hint at the events of that long ago night. To an outsider.

Shit, did Heero think he'd spilled the whole pathetic story? And even if he had, what was he so upset about? Heero had been the injured party, after all.

He almost went back in, but changed his mind. Slouching away down the hall, Duo grudgingly decided that Dr. B. was probably right. If Heero not only remembered it, but felt this bad about it, they'd probably better talk about it. Funny thing was, now that he knew that Heero was alive and still around to talk about it, it just didn't seem like that big a deal anymore.

Trowa fell into step beside him and put an arm around his shoulders. "You all right?"

Duo sagged against him. "He needs some quiet time, I guess."

Trowa put a finger under Duo's chin and tilted his face up, looking into his eyes. "Are you all right?"

"I dunno. Heero wouldn't talk to me."

"I'll take that as a no. Anything I can do?"

"I don't think you and Kat can kiss this and make it better, Tro. I've gotta start acting like a grown up and get Heero past whatever it is he's going through."

Ignoring the concerned looks they got as the passed the nurses station, Trowa kept an arm around him as he guided him into the elevator and hit the down button. "I know you can handle it, Duo. You wanted him back so badly. This is like a second chance."

"Yeah. I guess I'm just not used to being the strong one, huh?"

Trowa kissed him on the side of the head. "Shinigami's just got to keep the mission in mind."

"Mission accepted. Fix Heero."

Outside the rain was still falling, turning midday into early dusk. Chestnut trees lined the avenue, and fallen leaves lay like a wet golden carpet underfoot. Duo checked quickly for lurking reporters, then bent to pick up a shiny brown chestnut. It was one of the things he liked most, being Earth-side. There was almost always something interesting laying round, something natural. He had a whole shoebox full of shells and bird feathers from their trip to the Cape. He slipped the chestnut into his pocket. Trowa saw and grinned. Neither of them had had much as a kid; Trowa still didn't hang onto much, except for Quatre. Duo found himself drawn to stupid, simple little things like the nut or some new piece of clothing.

That last thought, together with the fresh gust of rain that pelted them them as they ran across to the old brick hostel, gave Duo an idea. "You and Kat wanna go shopping with me? "he asked as they took the stairs to their second floor rooms. "Heero needs clothes, and I need a decent coat. One a little more stylish and a lot less conspicuous than that stolen Preventer jacket."

"Wufei borrowed them," Trowa said, then laughed. "Didn't he?"

"Whatever. But Heero needs everything, and having something to wear that actually fits and belongs to him might cheer him up, right?"

"Good plan, Shinigami."

They occupied three adjoining rooms along the hallway. It was an old building, pre-Colonial, like most of the city. The floors were tiled with black and white mosaics, and the walls painted a rather musty-looking green, with a few ornate ironwork light fixtures overhead. The doors were dark wood, with frosted glass transoms over them. Light showed through the glass over the second and third doors; Quatre and Wufei were both in. Trowa went to speak with Quatre as Duo knocked at Wufei's door.

The Chinese man answered, looking a little fuddled. Duo could hear some weird bell and horn music playing softly, and smelled the incense 05 always burned when he was meditating. Duo sniffed again, wondering if that was pot smoke he smelled, mixed in with the rest. Not that he'd dare ask, of course. "We're going clothes shopping for Heero. Maybe get some lunch not served on a plastic tray. Wanna come?"

Wufei considered the offer, then frowned slightly as Quatre emerged from his room carrying a studded black biker jacket and dressed in a loose, acid green silk shirt and black leather pants. To be fair, this was one of Kat's more subdued outfits lately--the pants didn't have lace-up sides or embroidery or sheer mesh panels.

"Way not to attract attention, Winner!" Wufei muttered.

"What?" Quatre asked, looking down at himself in surprise. "I'm not even wearing any jewelry or makeup. I feel practically naked."

"Tight as those pants are--?" Wufei pressed his lips together and quickly averted his gaze. "No, thanks, I'll stay here in case Heero needs someone. Do you have your phones?" Everyone held up their cells. "I'll let the hopsital know to call me, and I'll call if there's any change."

He looked from Quatre's pants to Duo's blue velvet shirt again and rolled his eyes. "Barton, I hope you have final say on any wardrobe choices for Heero." Judging by the fleeting look of distaste in the staid man's dark eyes he probably thought they'd come back with pink cashmere slacks or one of the black kilts that were currently still in fashion, thanks to Duo's eccentric "G-Boy" wedding attire.

"I think I know what Heero would like," Duo assured him, though as soon as he'd said it, he wondered if that was true. He hadn't really intended to come back with Spandex shorts and tank tops, but who knew what Heero's tastes were these days? The rags he'd been found in looked more like something he'd been given by a charitable agency, rather than a choice. Still, Duo was reasonably certain leather pants, anything pastel, and kilts were out of the question, no matter how fashionable. He'd only worn that one kilt to please Quatre, though he had looked rather hot in it, even if he and most of the fashion industry did say so.

Duo ducked into his room for his jacket. Turning on the light, he found it where he'd left it, crumpled at the foot of the bed. He wasn't the greatest housekeeper. The few clothes he'd brought with him were already scattered to the four corners of the room. The room was simple, just temporary housing maintained by the hospital for the families of patients in crisis: a narrow iron bed with a worn chenille spread, a dresser, and a chair and small desk currently occupied by Duo's laptop, scattered newspapers and hospital forms, empty take out boxes and his Preventer cap. He sat down and turned on the laptop to do a quick search for likely shopping districts. While it powered up he pulled a thin blade from his braid and used it to cut the Preventer insignia from the jacket. Better he should be seen wearing retro surplus than a uniform.

"Duo, come on. I'm starving!" Quatre urged, leaning in his doorway.

"Yeah, yeah!" Duo muttered, fingers flying over the keys now. "Clothing. Men's. Young men's. Bingo. Hey, call a cab, will ya? We're gonna need it. Closest hunting grounds are at least ten blocks away and I'm not getting soaked."

Rummaging in the satchel that doubled as computer case and briefcase, he found a notepad and jotted down a few likely addresses. The satchel slipped off his lap, spilling half its contents, but he left it for later. What was a little more mess, after all?

Thinking of doing something nice for Heero lifted his spirits considerably. The sooner they went, the sooner he could reappear bearing gifts. If Heero didn't cheer up, he'd sic Kat and Trowa on him. He grinned at the thought. Heero would snap out of it just fine. If he was feeling up to it, maybe they could even coax him out somewhere dark and casual for a decent tapas or something. Then, maybe, it would be time to talk.


Considerably more cheerful than he had been half an hour ago, Duo patted himself down for keys and wallet, then bounded for the door, brandishing the addresses. "I'm coming, already! Oi, Trowa, is your wife always such a nag?"

Trowa defended his mate's honor by throwing a headlock on Duo as soon as he closed his door. "How many time do I have to tell you, don't call him--"

"Oh, come off it! He loves it and you know it!" Duo laughed, struggling free. The blond boy was, in fact, grinning. "It's better than 'partner', right, Kat? Makes you two sound like business associates or some shit. Or cowboys!" Slipping an arm around Quatre's slim, silk-clad waist, he bumped hips with him and drawled, "C'mon, pardner, let's mosey them leather pants of yers into ma lil' ol' luuuv corral!"

Trowa swatted Duo on the ass. "I brought my hairbrush, Maxwell!"

Duo yelped and ducked behind Quatre. "And your hand! Ow!"

Wufei let out a strangled growl and closed his door on them. Even over Kat's laughter, they heard the lock snap firmly into place.


Heero slept the afternoon away and woke feeling uneasy. It was nearly dark outside, and rain was beating on the barred window. Fumbling for the light, he sat up and pushed the hair out of his eyes, wondering what time it was. He hated sleeping in the daytime. He always felt disoriented afterwards. He'd done far too much of that lately.

Dressing quickly, he went to the door and was relieved to find it unlocked. Apparently his regrettable outburst with Dr. Batoosingh hadn't changed his status yet. He headed down the corridor toward the nursing station to find out the time and where his friends were. Passing at the open door of Dr. Santos' office, he saw her and Batoosingh there, talking quietly over coffee. He paused, uncertain. They looked up and both smiled.

Heero folded his arms tightly across his chest. "I wish to apologize for what happened earlier, Doctor. You-- Well, you just took me by surprise."

Batoosingh came over and extended a hand. "It's I who owe you an apology for being too hasty and far too insensitive. Your friends are not very happy with me, I'm afraid."

"Why?" Heero asked, baffled.

"For upsetting you, of course. Duo is furious."

"I'll speak to him. Where is he?"

"He and Mr. Barton-Winner went across to the guest house. I believe Capitan Chang and Mr. Winner-Barton are there as well," Dr. Santos told him. "I haven't seen any of them since."

"May I go speak with him there?" Heero asked, then wished he hadn't. He hadn't left the building without an escort of some sort since he'd arrived. The last thing he needed right now was reinforcement that he wasn't trusted on his own.

Dr. Batoosingh didn't immediately forbid it, however. "How are you feeling?"

Heero considered this and shrugged. "Not crazy? Not a danger to myself or others, anyway."

"Doctor Santos?"

The silver-haired woman gave Heero a warm smile. "I have seen nothing in Capitan Yuy's behavior to indicate otherwise. You are free to leave the building, so long as you leave word where we can reach you."

Heero felt a rush of relief. Perhaps he hadn't damaged his chances of getting out of here so badly as he'd feared. "Thank you for your confidence, Doctors. And please, there's no need to call my by rank. I resigned that some time ago. Just 'Heero' is fine."

Dr. Santos nodded. "Very well, Heero. Go see your friends. If you decide to go out with them, just leave word at the station, and a number where we can reach you. There are some very fine restaurants a few streets over. Let me know if you need a recommendation."

"I will. Dr. Batoosingh, do you think we could try another session tomorrow? I--uh, I don't know if I am ready to discuss certain things, but only because they are very personal and not life threatening to me or anyone else."

Batoosingh consulted a small electronic planner on the desk. "I have some vid phone sessions with my L-2 patients, but I can fit you in at two o'clock."

Heero made a note of the time, the glanced up at the wall clock above Santos. It was nearly five.

It felt good, taking the elevator alone, then walking out through the busy hospital lobby without bracing for orderlies trying to wrestle him back upstairs. Perhaps he really wasn't so crazy anymore, after all.

He pondered that as he crossed the street to the hostel. Aside from the rush of panic, embarrassment, and shock that had overcome him earlier, he continued to feel quite clear-headed and in control. There had been no hallucinations or voices or violent impulses, no panic attacks or sleepwalking. His body was recovering quickly, too, though he had no real strength yet, and probably little endurance. Climbing the stairs to Duo's room left him a winded, but he could sense himself healing. The skin rashes were almost entirely gone and his joints didn't ache the way they had. Right now, in fact, all he really needed was some food and company.

He liked the thought of eating out with the others, like a normal person. They'd done that a few times, right after the truce. It had been nice. He searched his memory, trying to recall what kind of food Duo liked, apart from pizza and coffee.

Light showed through the transom over Duo's door. The other two were dark. He knocked, but there was no answer.


Still no answer. Perhaps he was asleep? As he stood listening, Heero noted with satisfaction that he hadn't immediately assumed that Duo had been murdered or captured. No visions of blood or mayhem, just the logical conclusion that Duo was either asleep or had gone out without turning out the lights. He put his hand to the knob and turned. It was unlocked. That was unwise, but indicated the former supposition was the most likely.

If Duo had fallen asleep with the door unlocked, it would be prudent to secure the room, or at least keep watch until he woke up. Heero opened the door as quietly as he could, not wanting to wake him. It was polite, not to want to startle one's friends, perfectly normal. It was also unwise to startle a former terrorist, even one who'd grown lax enough to leave his door unlocked.

The room was empty. He stepped out into the hall and double-checked the other rooms. No, still dark. Another thought suddenly intruded, brining with it a flash of that nasty emotion called jealousy. Duo slept with Trowa and Quatre sometimes. Maybe he was next door with them? Heero's imagination conjured up the unwelcome image of the three of them together in a bed like the one on front of him. It was a single, narrow for three people unless they lay very close . . .

Heero pushed the thought away and took a careful look around the room, checking for any signs of struggle, though more out of habit than actual concern.

It was hard to tell, actually. The room was a mess. The contents of Duo's green nylon duffle bag appeared to have exploded at some point. There were clothes everywhere, including a lone sock dangling from the dusty overheard light fixture.

Otherwise, the room appeared undisturbed. The computer was open on the desk, the furniture in place. The bed was made, but the spread was rumpled and strewn with newspapers. Heero had roomed with Duo often enough during missions to know Duo Maxwell was a slob by nature. Picking his way across to the desk, he tapped the computer keyboard. The screen sprang to life, showing a tourist map with shopping areas highlighted. That probably explained where everyone was, though not the unlocked door. He settled down to wait.

The newspaper was one he'd already read. Sitting at the desk, he closed the window with the map and called up his bank records. None of the funds had been touched, but someone had accessed his files three days ago, hacking his password to do it.
His lips quirked in a small, knowing smile; he was reasonably certain who'd done it. He changed the password, strengthened the encryption, and transferred two thousand credits to a local bank.

The laptop was outfitted with a retinal scan port. He was halfway through applying for a new driver's license and global ID card when he realized he had no permanent address to give, or any idea of what it was likely to be in the near future. He cleared the form and sat back with a sigh. The time for fake IDs with phony addresses was over. He was finally going to have to establish a real home of some sort, get a job, decide what to do with himself beyond drifting from one day to the next. Looking around the messy room, he wondered if Duo would mind a roommate for a while, until he figured things out.

Actually, what Duo needed was a maid. With nothing else to do, Heero started tidying up. Both Odin Lowe and Dr. J had trained him to keep things orderly. It was a matter of safety, of knowing where things were when you needed them, and not having anything underfoot between you and the nearest exit.

Duo hadn't brought much with him. The clothes had all been worn. Heero gave the various shirts the sniff test and laid two out to air. The Preventer uniform blouse smelled the way Duo's black clerical shirt used to after a few missions. Wrinkling his nose, Heero stuffed that into the duffle, along with the other dirty clothes. Oddly, there didn't seem to be any undershorts. Heero sincerely hoped Duo wasn't still wearing a single pair for a week at a time, the way he used to. Raised in poverty, often on the streets, Duo hadn't been as well grounded in the basics of personal hygiene as the rest of them. He'd seemed clean enough since arriving here, though.

Heero checked the bathroom for a hamper or dirty laundry pile, but found nothing but a few toiletries and some strands of long hair in the bottom of the shower. The room smelled good, the way Duo did now. There was no cologne or aftershave in sight, but he found a bottle of shampoo in the shower and a bar of expensive looking soap, both scented with sandelwood.

Heero used the toilet, rinsed his face, and remembered that he hadn't brushed his teeth since he'd woken up. He squeezed some of Duo's mint-flavored toothpaste onto his finger and did a field cleaning. A small zippered bag lay on the side of the sink. As Heero put the toothpaste away he noticed three pill bottles inside, with prescription labels. He checked them quickly. Duo and Quatre had both spoken of Duo's bipolar disorder. Heero put them back and took a quick inventory of the rest of the contents: toothbrush, floss, deodorant, a large tube of depilatory gel, eyeliner--

Eyeliner? Heero blinked in surprise and read the label on the slim pencil: "'Smoky Kohl by ManMade'?" Heero thought of the green toenail polish Duo was wearing under his boots; Duo had blamed that on Quatre. Was this Quatre's doing, too?

Digging deeper in the bag, he found a tube of clear lip gloss, a bottle of hair conditioner, a wide-toothed comb, some familiar-looking hair elastics and, inside an inner pocket of the bag, half dozen "High Performance" condoms in heavy foil wrappers and a tube of EZ Rider Hypoallergenic Personal Lubricant. The seal was broken and some of it was gone. Heero swallowed hard as he quickly replaced the contents of the bag, wishing now that he'd minded his own business.

He hadn't noticed Duo wearing any make up. Who knew if Smoky Kohl was even a suitable color for lavender-blue eyes? That and the lip-gloss could belong to a woman Duo had traveled with, perhaps used the condoms with. Of course, condoms were necessary for safe sex with either gender. Heero felt equally queasy and vaguely offended at either prospect. Whatever the case, it seemed Duo was prepared to have sex with someone. That nasty feeling stirred in Heero's stomach again, along with guilt at having invaded a friend's privacy. He had no claim on Duo. After all, they'd never been lovers.

Disgusted with himself, Heero went back to the bedroom and cleared the empty food containers on the desk into the trashcan, then folded the newspaper and threw it away. There were more papers, books, pens, and notebooks on the floor under the desk, apparently spilled from an overturned satchel. Heero gathered everything up and put it on the bed, intending to put it away in some semblance of order.

There were three books. Curious, he scanned the titles. The first two were worn paperbacks: a motorcycle maintenance manual and a tattered paperback book of poetry by someone named T.S. Elliot. The picture on the cover showed a pale, sad-looking man in thick spectacles and a suit of some odd cut. He reminded Heero of J. He set both books aside and picked up the third. This one was a thin, expensive-looking hardcover bound in blue leather with gold lettering on the spine: Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie. Heero smiled. He knew this one. He'd read it years ago.

Inside the front cover he found a handwritten inscription in Quatre's careful, looping script: "To Duo from Quatre & Trowa 'Second to the right and straight on till morning.' Be well." A gift, then, given during one of Duo's hospital stays.

He thumbed through it, hoping it was an illustrated copy. It was. He found brightly colored plates of red indians, boys dressed as animals, and flying children with swords and teddy bears. This Peter was small and slant-eyed, but didn't look like a girl, the way he did in the book Heero had read. He paused at a picture of Captain Hook. The proud, handsome face and arrogant bearing reminded him of Relena's brother.

The artwork was very nice. Heero paged through again, wondering if there was a picture of the mermaids. Several sheets of lined notebook paper fluttered out from between the pages onto the bedspread. They were folded in half and covered on both sides with Duo's awkward scrawl. As he went to tuck them back into the book, he caught sight of the first line on the top page. It was a letter, undated and began, "Dear Heero . . ." Without thinking, he read the line below it.

'You've been gone--like, really gone--for five months now.'

Heero sank down on the bed, suddenly dizzy. There was no date. Did "gone" mean when he'd left Relena's, or did the "really gone" mean when Duo thought he was dead?

Heero sat there for some moments, holding the letter and warring with himself. It was addressed to him. Technically, it was his to read. Maybe Duo was intending to give it to him? Still, it felt like an invasion of privacy, like finding those condoms.

'Sometimes it seems like forever. Sometimes it seems like I saw you yesterday. I dream about you a lot. I'm living with Tro and Quatre at the circus for now. I sell tickets and paint kid's faces and help Quatre make costumes. I'm pretty good. They're married, if you can believe that. I was the bridesmaid. Wufei was shocked. You probably would have been, too, though you could have been the best man. Tro would have asked you, you know, if you'd been here to ask.'

That helped. Trowa and Quatre had held their ceremony a little over a year ago, before Heero had tried to kill himself.

'This letter was Dr. B's dumb idea, so don't laugh. He claims that answering that holocard you sent might do me some good, even though you've done a better than average job of keeping your address secret. Really outdid yourself this time, you asshole. That sounds kind of angry, doesn't it? But I'm not allowed to erase anything. I promised I'd just keep writing. I don't have to show this to anyone if I don't want to, so I can say anything to you I want. '

'Oh god,' Heero thought, 'Duo wrote this when he thought I was dead.' He shouldn't read this. He should put it back where he found it and dump the satchel back on the floor like he found it and pretend he'd never seen it. But the next words caught his eye, dragging him on a few more lines. 'Just a few,' he promised himself. 'Just a few.'

'I love you too, you idiot. I always loved you one way or another. I just didn't think you could love me back. Not that you wouldn't, just that you didn't know how. What's this bullshit then? I love you, Duo. What's that mean, huh? I mean, why would you stay away like that and then tell me that when you were only going to off yourself and go away for good, huh? I swear to god if you were here right now I'd shoot you in the leg again.'
The ink was splotched and smudged here, but he could still make out the words. 'OK, I am angry. Fuck it, I'm fucking furious with you, you prick! Did you think that would make it easier, to finally get those words from you and then have you die? Fuck you, Heero Yuy. Fuck you and your training and your duty and all that perfect soldier shit. '

The sheets fluttered from Heero's fingers, scattering out across the dusty carpet. He covered his face with both hands and tried to get his breath. That last paragraph echoed in his mind in Duo's hurt, angry voice. 'Did you think that would make it easier, to finally get those words from you and then have you die? Fuck you, Heero Yuy. Fuck you and your training . . .'

"What did I do?" he whispered, and felt wetness against his fingers. He took his hands away and stared. Tears. There were tears on his hand, on his cheeks. He was crying. What had he written to Duo, in that final destructive fugue state? Was this the holocard he was supposed to ask him about? 'I love you, Duo.' Apparently he'd written that, at least.

He pulled Duo's emails from his back pocket and unfolded them. Duo sounded so happy to hear from him here, so relieved. 'Love, Duo.' He'd signed them both that way. Heero recalled his confused reaction to those words, associating them with some past sadness of his own. Evidently he'd told Duo he loved him right before he'd tried to die and Duo had known what he was doing. That pain came flooding back now, driving him to his knees beside the bed. This hurt. Why did him loving Duo, admitting it, hurt them both so badly?

He heard the door open, but he couldn't move, just stayed where he was, head bowed, too miserable to care.

"What the hell--?" Duo's low growl.

The sound of a pistol being cocked, the smell of gun oil. Heero didn't care.

"Heero! Shit, what's wrong? Heero?" Duo was kneeling beside him now, unarmed, gripping him by the shoulder and sounding worried.

"I'm sorry!" Heero gasped, hating how weak he sounded. "I--I'm so sorry!"

Strong arms wrapped around him, pulling his face against damp new wool. Heero stiffened and tried to pull back. He didn't deserve such consideration.

"What happened, Heero?" Duo asked. "Please tell me. You're scaring me, buddy." He gently pried Heero's hands free and turned the wrists up. "Thank god!" and then Heero was being held more tightly than ever. "Come on, Heero. Talk to me."

"I didn't mean--to read. I just saw my name and thought--" Heero pointed blindly at the fallen sheets of paper. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Duo. I don't even remember writing. I never want to hurt you, but I do. I hurt you again--" He couldn't go on. He didn't remember ever crying like this, but now that he was, he couldn't make it stop. It hurt.

"Oh, Heero!" Duo was rubbing his back now, not sounding angry at all. "You weren't supposed to see that. That was--it was like therapy, when I thought you were dead. I would never have said most of that to you for real. Did you read the whole thing?"

"Nuh-no," Heero managed. "Just some of the first page."

"Well, if you've seen that much, maybe you should read the rest. Just don't take the angry stuff too seriously, OK? I'm over that. I understand what you were going through now. But I didn't back then and I was pretty scared and sick and miserable myself. Here, go on. I can't read it out loud without totally losing it and one of us has to hold it together, right?"

"Duo?" Quatre hovered in the doorway, with the others just behind him. "Wufei fell asleep. What's going-- Heero?"

"It's all right, Kat. Give us a while, OK?"

Quatre nodded and pulled the door closed.

Heero let out a moan, too mortified for words. Duo pulled something from under the bed. It was a box of facial tissue. Heero wiped his face and blew his nose. Duo gathered the fallen papers and smoothed them against his knee. "Show me where you left off?"

Heero didn't want to. He didn't want to see the pain there, but he did, pointing out the line.

"Yeah, I was getting pretty cranked up, wasn't I?" Duo said with a rueful laugh. "But that's not what the letter is really about, trust me. Please read the rest."

Armed with a handful of fresh tissues, Heero took a deep breath and read on.

'Shit. It wasn't your fault, OK? Any more than it was my fault getting born in the slums. Neither of us chose but what am I supposed to do now, go piss on J's grave? I might just do that some time, if he has one. I'll shit on it like a dog.

'But not yours. I wish I could put flowers on your grave. That's one of the reasons I'm mad and hurt for the way you did it. If you had to go and die on me, then why can't I have somewhere I can go where some part of you is, even if it's just the bones, and lay down and cry until my tears soak down through the dirt to touch you? Didn't I at least rate that much consideration? Great, now I'm crying again and that's your fault too, god damn it!'

Heero had to stop and wipe his eyes. "A grave?"

"Just read," Duo said softly. Wrapping an arm around Heero, he rested his chin on his shoulder, following along with him.

'No one has ever made me cry as much as you, Heero Yuy, so I guess it must be love, right? Of course I love you! Why didn't I grab you and hold you down and tell you that over and over again until you got it? Why did I let you slip away like that? I could have gone to you when you were with Relena but I was so sick and tired from it all and it always seemed like tomorrow was soon enough. I guess I was a little pissed even then that you chose being around her over being with me.'

Heero marked the passage with his finger. "You were with that girl after the war."

"Yeah. That was pretty messed up, right from the get-go."

Heero noted this and read on. 'Did you think I didn't care? That I'd forgotten about that night? I never did. I thought you meant what you said, though, about it being a mistake.'

Heero went cold. He looked up into Duo's eyes, finding only a gentle sadness there. "You were thinking about that? The night in the silo?"

"You thought I'd forget? Keep reading."

Heero did, but his stomach hurt now, and it wasn't jealousy. 'You seemed so shocked, so angry with yourself and you wouldn't listen! I wish I could go back to that night and get my head clear enough to figure out better what I was feeling so I could have helped you. God, I wish you'd gone through with it, young and confused as we both were. I wish you'd just done me, even if it did hurt. Even if we did it wrong and totally messed it up. Just to not be left with nothing but the memory of the guilt in your eyes. Even fear. That's the only time I ever saw you look afraid of anything and it was yourself. Or was it me? Maybe I scared you. I guess it doesn't matter now. We fucked up, huh?'

"Duo, I don't understand. This makes it sound like--like it wasn't--"

"What, Heero?"

"Duo, I almost raped you."

Duo pulled back, eyes wide. "What are you talking about?"

"I hurt you. You had to yell at me to stop. You punched me in the nose! I was going to--"

Duo shook his head. "You're remembering it wrong. We need to talk about that, but I want you to finish the letter first."

'Fuck, I can hardly see to write now but I just can't stop. Damn you, Dr. B, if you read this. Is this supposed to make me feel better? I feel like shit! Fucking shit! Now I have to go have Trowa beat the sadness and fear out of me again and frankly, it's more than a little embarrassing to ask for it, even if he is such a good sport about it. He and Kat both.'

What the hell did that mean? Trowa beat Duo? But there was more.

'They are such good friends. They'd have taken care of you, too, Heero, if it wasn't me you wanted. That would have been OK. OK, maybe that's not really true. But fucking better than this hell, anyway.

'God I wish you'd fucked me that night.'

Heero's heart slammed against his ribs. He read the words again.

'I didn't think you'd ever get around to trying again, but I saved myself for you anyway. I still can't give it up to anyone. How stupid is that? Still waiting for Mr. Right, even though there's only one Mr. Right and now you're gone and you never wanted it anyway. I am such a fool.'

Heero read that whole section again, head spinning. Duo said he remembered that night wrong; Heero thought he had that backwards, but here he was, writing that he'd wanted Heero to have sex him? That he still wanted him? This made no sense.

'And I'm still angry at you and that hurts because all I want is to feel the love I have for you. I can't even take comfort in that because it wasn't enough and I'm angry and thinking about you just brings back all the pain and every dream I have about you is about almost getting to you and not making it or thinking I see you on some city street and following and chasing and going through all sorts of difficulties and shit and then when I finally get to you and you turn around it's not even you. It's some stranger. Those are the worst. Even when I'm awake sometimes it happens. It happened today on the way here to Dr. B's. I actually followed the guy for six or seven blocks before he turned a corner and I saw that he wasn't you. I mean, I knew that it probably wasn't but I couldn't not follow him. But it wasn't and when I saw it wasn't I sat down on some total stranger's stoop and cried, right there in the street. Probably be in the news. Everything else is.'

Heero didn't stop reading as he reached for Duo's hand.

'I can't even get a job except for what Trowa gets me because of the fucking reporters. Not much for "former Gundam boys" with serious mental problems to do. I'm going to be one of those crazy vets with a three-legged dog, collecting shopping carts full of beer cans and old shoes.

'Maybe you had the right idea, Heero. If I thought you'd be waiting for me on the other side, maybe I'd take that leap one more time, for real, no mistakes this time. But last time I didn't see any tunnel or bright light. I didn't see Solo or Sister Helen waiting for me. Maybe I didn't get far enough that time. I don't know but I'm not quite ready to find out. Not today. That's my anti-suicide motto, by the way. Not today. That's it. Pretty simple, huh? I wish you'd given me your address so I could have sent it to you. I wish you'd trusted me enough to give me your fucking address, you shit!'

That hurt because it was true. He thought he'd been protecting Duo and the others. He had! He knew that. But the way he'd chosen to do it had just made everything so much worse for them.

'Sometimes when I'm really down I think maybe you hated me and wanted to stay away because of that.'

"I never hated you, Duo!"

"Yeah, I know that."

'But why did you keep writing? You're not the kind to do it out of cruelty. I mean, those emails didn't say much, but you did always say you hoped I was well. I'd rather you'd have come see for yourself that I'm not. But you didn't do it to be mean. I'm sane enough to know that. I still remember you well enough to know that you didn't operate that way. Killing yourself? There's plenty of precedent for that, but you were never mean. People thought you were cold, emotionless, but I knew it was just you being you. Being Yuy. See, I can still crack a joke. I'm not done with life as long as I can still do that, maybe?

'Well, my hour is almost up with the doc and I've used up all the tissues, yet again. He sees me cry a lot, the doc does. Guess it helps a little. I wish you could have talked to him. He even said he wished he could have helped you. He wouldn't say that lightly, Heero. He's as honest as I am and never bullshits. Why didn't you let someone help you? He says maybe you did. He says for all we know, maybe you had a boyfriend or a wife or some whole other life, but I don't think so. I think you were alone.'

"I was," Heero said softly, as if it was Duo speaking to him directly.

'If you were so happy with someone else you either would have told me because let's face it, you wouldn't have known how to be tactful, or you would have just stopped writing to me. You were alone, more alone than me. At least I've got the guys. You could have been with us. Why weren't you with us?

'Guess I'm still pissed at you, Heero, but I love you and I'll always love you and I fucking wish you were here with me right now, even if it was just for you to give me one of those pissed-off looks of yours. I wish I could tease you about that to your face. I wish you were here. I wish I had somewhere to send this. The empty feeling inside me just seems to get bigger and bigger the more I write so I don't know what good this is doing, except that it makes me feel like you're really there to hear me and it makes it hard to stop. Guess Trowa's arm will be sore before he's done with me tonight. I wonder, if you were here, if you'd want to do things like that. Then again, would I need it? I don't know.

'I love you Heero. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I'll always, always love you. Love forever, Duo'

Heero stared down at the final lines, hardly able to breath. Still leaning on Heero's shoulder, Duo whispered hoarsely, "It's true. Always, always love you, forever. That's all I was trying to say."

Letting the sheets fall, Heero turned and wrapped his arms around Duo, too confused and overwhelmed to do anything but keep crying. It sapped what little strength he had. Duo had on a new coat, long gray wool, and he was going to make a mess of the front of it, with all the tears and his nose running. After a moment he tried to sit up, but Duo wasn't letting him go. Instead, he ended up with his head in Duo's lap, arms around his waist, one hand wrapped in the long braid.

After an embarassingly long time, it seemed, Heero finally got some sort of control back and pushed himself up. He felt like he'd just done hours of training in a high gravity chamber.

"Really takes it out of you, doesn't it?" Duo said. Shrugging out of the coat, he helped Heero up onto the bed, stretched out beside him, and pulled him close again, with Heero's head on his chest.

Heero wrapped an arm around Duo's waist and found the braid again, clutching it like a safety rope. Duo was thin under that shirt, but warm and he smelled good, like his shampoo and soap. The heavy velvet was nice under Heero's hand and cheek. Duo was rubbing a hand up and down Heero's arm and that felt good, too.

"So, questions?"

"I wrote to you?"

"Yup." Duo arched up to reach in a back pocket. He pulled out a holocard in a plastic sleeve and held up it for Heero to read. "I believe this was your suicide note."

Heero read it and cringed. "I don't remember, Duo. I can't even explain it. But it's true. Every word."

Duo sighed. "Thanks, Heero. I really-- I'm glad. Hell, I'm just glad you're here, even if you didn't mean it."

"Did you really mean it, in your letter, that you wished I'd just 'done' you?"

Duo was quiet for a moment. "I don't know how to answer that right now. I did when I wrote it. But you didn't try to rape me, OK? Just let that go. We'll talk about it later when we're in better shape. Anything else?"

"Did you really ask Trowa to beat you?"

"Uh--yeah. About that." Now Duo sounded embarrassed. "Well, ya see, Shinigami's got some kinks."'


"Things I like. Kinda sex things, some of them, that aren't quite, shall we say, text book normal?"

Heero felt that sinking, sick feeling again. "So it's true."

"What's true?"

"That you have sex with Trowa? Quatre, too? The news said--"

"What?" Duo laughed, but still sounded nervous. "No, I don't have sex with them."

Heero sat up and looked at Duo. "But you sleep with them. You said so the other day."

"Well, yeah. Sleep. And . . . Well, yeah, I do lots of stuff with them. I guess you could say we're intimate. But damn it, Heero, I needed someone to be close with, someone who understands me and knows what I've been through. I guess--" He paused, blushing again. "I really wanted that to be you all along, but you weren't there, right? And they were. But not sex. Never. But-- Well, they help me out."

"Define help?"

Duo's face went red. Pushing himself up against the headboard, he pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them. "It's a long story. I've been really weird these past few years. Losing you, crazy from the war, just generally messed up. I've been talking to Dr. B about it, but I don't think we've figured it out so good yet. Sometimes the only thing that makes me feel safe and not so depressed is--well--" His face was scarlet now. "Well, getting the crap beaten out of me by a guy. It's sort of like sex, but without the sex, if you see what I mean?"

Baffled, Heero shook his head.

"Yeah, well." Duo nibbled nervously at the end of his braid. "It sounds really dumb when you try to explain it out loud. Sometimes the pain and being restrained and stuff make me feel better. Only at first I was going to strangers and letting things go too far. Seriously, Heero, I'm totally fucked up and get pretty strange sometimes. You might as well know that right up front. Anyway, I got hurt bad a couple of times and Trowa got mad at me and made me promise that if I had to have that sometimes, then I had to let him do it. He's really careful and doesn't do any real damage. Just--enough to make me feel better."

"The letter said you wondered if I'd want to do that. I can't imagine hurting you, Duo. In fact, I think I may have to speak with Trowa about this."

"Well, just remember that I asked for it, right? He did it out of love, so I'd have a safe outlet. But it's not sex. Really."

"Does that have anything to do with that night in the silo? I hurt you then, and it was sort of sex. You mentioned it a lot in your letter."

"You're not gonna let that go, are you?" Duo sighed, tapping his chin with the end of his braid. "OK, about that night . . ."

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