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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 46
Respite

The masks Duo had made--with some help from Heero-- were perfect, both as art pieces and as compliments to the costumes Quatre had created. Each one had taken on a vivid life of its own between sketch and completion. The ones for "Meld", made to look like two halves of the same face, with the other half painted black, were amazing. When he and Trowa put them on, they really did look like they were exactly that; a divided soul seeking it's other half. Looking at their reflections in the workroom mirror, Quatre got goose bumps.

It has been a calculated risk to give him these important pieces. Duo was still new at this and Trowa was incredibly particular and controlling about every aspect of this risky new form or circus he was creating. But it had been Trowa's idea to ask him. Duo's earliest efforts as an apprentice mask maker had been impressive, and the designs he'd come up with were imaginative and often on the dark side.

"Dark" defined Trowa's vision for Circus della Notte. Quatre had a free hand in costume design and the musical scores, just as Duo did with the masks, but Trowa had final say on everything, right down to the color of the rope wranglers' shoes. Catherine's daytime performances were for the families, with lots of flash and glitter and innocent fun. Their show would be dark, erotic, surreal, a true circus of the night.

Having to plan their own show while still active performers in Catherine's company would have been stressful at the best of times. With all the emotional strain over Heero, on top of Trowa's lingering PTS quirks and nightmares, all of which he'd stubbornly refused to acknowledge or address, Quatre had been scared to let him near the high trapeze.

This small respite on the Cape, and the success of Heero's unusual "therapy" had caused a minor miracle. Trowa was still conflicted, but for now he was happier and functional, and his mind was clear. A few days free from the chaos of the show preparations, the best sex they'd had in months, and lots of warm fuzzy contact with their friends had made a new man of his husband and Quatre, too. Only after things improved did he fully appreciate the kind of strain he'd been under. It healed a few gaping wounds in Quatre's heart to see Trowa stop hating himself.

It helped that Heero was looking so healthy, after the shock of seeing him in Madrid. And Duo? He was radiant. He was happy and being happy only made him more handsome. His hair was positively magnificent, a fact that Duo blushingly attributed to Heero. He was more of a jokester and smart mouth than he'd been in years, too. When he got too obstreperous Heero was not above calling his attention to it with a smack on the ass, but from the look Duo have him when he did it, it was all some big game between them. Quatre and Trowa had their own version of it, and knew it was just lovers' play; good wholesome G-Boy kink.

+

It took the better part of four days to put the final touches on the masks and get them properly packed, then shut the house down before the cold New England winter set in for real. Yesterday they'd woken find to a light dusting of snow on the beach and heavy gray skies.

They kept the fireplaces stoked in the rooms they used, shut the doors on those they didn't, and gradually moved everything they would be taking with them downstairs. He and Trowa used one of the empty bedrooms there to stay in practice for "Meld" and keep limbered up in general. Trowa insisted on keeping the others away, and ignored all Duo's grumbling complaints. He wanted everything about the new show to be a surprise and a wonder, even for their own mask maker.

Each night the four of them started the night together in the big master bedroom, with Trowa and Quatre withdrawing to the room across the hall for sex. The third night they left both bedroom doors wide open and no one complained. By unspoken agreement, daytime sex was private, with the understanding that there would be no eavesdropping.

So far it was a workable system. In between, there was lots of room for friendly physical contact, something all four of them seemed to crave. Quatre had the impression that the other three were still making up for a lot of years of deprivation in that department. The chilly evenings made bundling up together under shared blankets on the couch to watch TV a logical step. It was nothing new for Duo and the Winner-Bartons. Heero seemed very pleased to find himself included into the longstanding arrangement. It took some strategic planning, figuring out where to put all those hips, legs, and elbows, but they managed various comfortable configurations. Still the smallest, Quatre fit on Heero's lap like a kid, and dozed off there one night, head pillowed in his shoulder, with Heero absently stroking his arm and Duo leaning warm against his back, feet in Trowa's lap.

So far there were no signs of jealousy, but everyone remained alert to each other's signals. Quatre suspected that Trowa would have accepted more sexual contact, given what he'd told them about life among the mercenaries he'd grown up with, but no one else was ready for that step.

+

Their final day was hectic. With just ten days left before opening night, Trowa and Quatre were flying down to New Orleans. Heero and Duo would follow in the SUV, arriving a day or two later with the fragile masks.

That afternoon Quatre sent Duo and Trowa up to New Provincetown for a few last minute supplies, then headed into the studio with a cup of tea to see what last details remained. Heero was upstairs somewhere, checking storm windows.

Duo had packed away his tools and supplies in their crates and the masks were buried in individual boxes of shredded foam and tissue paper. Quatre looked into the last unsealed box, where the seashell mask Duo had made for Heero lay, awaiting a final wrap. It was heavy and Duo was worried about it cracking in transit. Quatre lifted it out, shaking the moon shell necklaces free. It was beautiful, but rather eerie, too. It obviously had some special significance for the two of them, and Heero clearly treasured it. He laid it back in its wrappings and turned for a final look around the room.

A forgotten sketchbook had been shoved under the studio couch. It fell open as he picked it up and he saw with surprise that it was filled with black and white pencil sketches, rather than Duo's bright colored creations. A second glance told him that this wasn't Duo's work at all.

The first page was blank. The second was a lovingly rendered sketch of Duo asleep on this very couch, sprawled face down, hair loose and cascading down over his shoulder to the floor, one fist curled under his chin like a sleeping child. Well, not really a child, Quatre noted, blushing. Despite the afghan draped across his hips, he was clearly naked and judging by his blissful expression, had just made love. At the bottom, in Heero's small, slanting print, was the title "#2: D. life study. CC house. 09/14/198."

The facing page, titled "#3: D. life study 2. CC house. 09/14/198" must have been done that same day. It was the same setting, but now Duo was asleep on his back, arms draped over the armrest above his head, one foot fallen to the floor, and no blanket. Quatre's blush deepened. Heero's attention to detail was amazing.

A loose page, apparently torn from a different sketchpad, showed Duo fully clothed, wearing a familiar stained canvass apron and sitting on a high stool at a table--that table over there, Quatre realized-- concentrating on something in front of him. He had a set of calipers in one hand and a pencil between his teeth. Quatre had seen him like this dozens of times in their L-4 workshop and smiled, imagining how Duo was always muttering and humming to himself, drumming the fingers of his free hand on the table. This one was "#1: D. at work. CC house. 09/14/198."

Quatre had been formally trained in drawing, and had a good eye. He recognized talent when he saw it. He turned the page, curious to see more. There were dozens and dozens of sketches, and a large proportion of them were portraits of Duo. Many were explicit: there were a number showing him tied naked to the bed upstairs in various ways, his arousal clear in his eyes and the arch of his body, not to mention the rather impressive erection; another showed Duo cavorting in the kitchen in nothing but an oven mitt and a frilly apron. Quatre chuckled, recognizing it. There were more studies of him asleep, and many of him dressed and at work or outside on the beach. The most unusual showed him at the worktable again, but here he was depicted as a beautifully detailed and well-armed merman cleaning a gun. This one was titled "My kind of mermaid!" and dated the day he and Trowa had arrived.

"Mermaid!" Quatre muttered, grinning. Trowa claimed he'd heard Heero call Duo that during sex the other night, but Quatre hadn't believed him. This didn't seem like Heero Yuy at all. Duo had certainly brought out some interesting facets in the guy.

Heero had tried a few self-portraits and one full-length nude study, but if his expression was anything to go by, he hadn't been pleased with the results. Or maybe he was just concentrating. Either way, the eyes that looked out from those pictures held a look that bordered on "Yuy Death Glare." The body, though--Quatre's eyes widened appreciatively. Assuming this was done with the same accuracy as the others, well, he was pretty impressive! He and Duo had both been working out.

He'd also drawn all five Gundam pilots from memory, both as the young men they were now, and attempts to capture how they'd looked a few years ago. The picture of him as 04 made him look embarrassingly young and small, with a pretty baby face. Quatre shook his head sadly; they really had been children then--Trowa looked shy and closed off, Duo cocky but guarded, Wufei like he was sucking on a lemon.

Wu had probably changed the least of any of them. It occurred to Quatre that he still hadn't heard back from 05 about his invitation, despite several emails. Whatever this new secret detail was, it must be keeping him busy. Or maybe he was still upset over Heero and Duo's relationship? Quatre knew it had hit him harder than the others realized, but he'd kept that to himself.

He looked back at the drawings. Their younger selves looked like children, all right, but they all had the eyes of killers, even him. That was a bit disturbing. Had they really looked like that, or is that how Heero had seen them?

There were portraits of some of their former enemies, as well: there were several of Zechs, some in uniform and mask, others as he'd been later, maskless and bitter, a white band tied around the arm of his flight jacket. Lucretzia Noin was there too, smiling, and Treize Kushreneda at ease in an open necked shirt, wine glass in his hand. There were several others of a grim looking, thin-faced man Quatre didn't recognize. These were titled "O.L."

Scattered throughout these others were random studies of hands and feet, furniture, household objects, seashells, beach plants, and a few disturbingly detailed sketches of a dead seal on the beach, its bloated body picked at by crabs. Another showed the skeleton of a seagull, surrounded by a few tattered feathers.

Heero had tried his hand at landscapes, but they lacked the sense of passion and immediacy of his portraits. All of them except one, Quatre amended, coming upon a lovely rendering of the house, with what appeared to be Duo and Heero waving from the widow's walk. This one was dated a few weeks back and titled, "For Quatre, with thanks. Feels like home."

This was followed by a portrait of Quatre and Trowa wrapped around each other, both flipping the artist off and grinning. They were dressed in some of their more outlandish and revealing S&M club gear. They still had those clothes, but hadn't worn them in a year or more. Heero must have seen a picture of them somewhere and done it from memory. This one was titled "For Quatre and Trowa: 'Gundam's Kinkiest Toy Boys!' Tsk tsk." So the Perfect Soldier had a damn near perfect memory, too, at least for some things! Quatre hadn't been stoned enough to wear assless biker chaps with nothing but a G-string underneath since that night. Well, not in public, anyway.

It struck him then that there were no drawings of Gundams, mobile suits, weapons, or anything else to do with space or war. Just people Heero knew and his current surroundings.

The last drawing was dated today, and showed Quatre, Duo and Trowa asleep in the bed upstairs. A bit of space between Duo and Trowa showed where Heero had been. Quatre could even make out a dent in the pillow where his head had rested. The title of this one was simply "Peaceful."

Quatre was about to set the book aside when it slipped and fell open to the back pages. There were more drawings there.

It would have been easy to believe that a different person had drawn these. They were nightmares on paper, dark contorted glimpses of ominous city streets, filthy alleyways, and slums. The pencil work here was harsh and rushed. The lines were much heavier and in places the pencil point had torn the paper. In others things had been erased so forcefully the page was almost worn through. One drawing was nothing but angry eyes and reaching hands, so numerous and so thick on the page that Quatre got a flash of panic, as if he was being attacked. He turned the page hastily. The next picture, by contrast, was the shadowed interior of a Buddhist temple; he recognized an altar, bowls of incense, a statue. A small window in the left foreground was filled with angry eyes and blackness. The next drawing was the statue alone, in greater detail. It was an Asian woman with a sad, gentle face. She wore old-fashioned robes and held a long-necked bottle in one hand, and a flower in the other.

Quatre knew what these must represent, even before he noticed the upraised hand in the foreground of the temple picture, holding a pile of pills and a razor blade. Heero had said something about going into a temple to keep warm, right before he tried to kill himself. Quatre looked at that window full of eyes again and opened himself just a little. Emotions roiled off the page: despair, intense loneliness, failure, confusion, shame. But the fear he felt was his own.

He started badly as a hand closed over his shoulder, then turned and threw his arms around Heero, clinging to him with his eyes squeezed shut, trying to escape those images and the feelings that came with them. Strong arms tightened around him. A hand stroked his hair. "It's all right, Quatre. It's in the past. I'm all right now."

Quatre got a hold of himself and let go. It was so stupid! He should be the one comforting Heero, but Heero was calm. "That's all I can remember about that night, so far. It was hard, at first, but drawing it out helped. Duo says I should burn this one, but I'm not ready to quite yet."

Quatre sighed as guilt rushed in. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have looked!"

Heero was still staring down at the book. "I've been having dreams lately. Nightmares. Don't worry; I'm still seeing Dr. Batoosingh online. He says if I draw them, it may help me remember things from that fugue state, if I choose to."

"Do you really want to?" Quatre whispered.

Heero shrugged, then paged back through the book to the lighter drawings. He carefully pulled out the drawing of the house, and the one of Quatre and Trowa. "I did these for you, to thank you for letting us stay here. It's helped a lot. We really love it here."

"Thank you, Heero. These really are very good. I never knew you were an artist."

"Neither did I. Or maybe I forgot, I don't know. Creativity was one of the required traits when they recruited us, right? You, Duo and I all seem to be able to draw quite well, and I think he could be a sculptor if he tried. I don't know about the others."

"Trowa creates with his imagination and his body. You'd have to ask Wufei about his talents. He was more a scholar of the arts, as I recall." He paused, still feeling guilty. "Look, I'm sorry I snooped--the ones of Duo, you know? The nudes?"

But Heero just smiled. "Those are my favorites. I love how he looks, like that. But he might be embarrassed, I guess. I probably shouldn't leave this lying around."

"Yeah. Too bad they're so personal. You've got enough here already for a gallery showing."

"I don't think he'd like strangers looking at him. He wouldn't even take a modeling job and that would have been with clothes on."

"Oh, he told you about Mikos, did he?" Quatre shook his head. "I still don't get that. They were begging him to do it. He'd be so good at it, and it's easy money."

"I thought so, too, but he said he wouldn't enjoy it."

Quatre paged quickly past several nudes to the mermaid picture. "I love this one. What's the story there?"

To his surprise Heero blushed and closed the sketchbook. "That's uh--well, that one's personal."

"Sorry."

Heero hugged him again. "It's all right, 04. Let's finish up here."

They didn't talk as they sealed and stacked a few last boxes and checked the closet for stragglers. After awhile, however, Quatre felt Heero watching him.

"Quatre, I need to ask you a favor."

"Sure, what is it?"

"I'd like to kiss you. On the mouth." It wasn't a passionate declaration. He could have been asking Quatre to pass him the tape. But that was Heero Yuy for you. "According to what Duo has told me, that's acceptable 'messing around between friends'."

"Uh--sure, I guess. Go ahead," Quatre said, expecting a quick peck.

Instead, Heero walked over with a very intent look in those dark blue eyes, took Quatre in his arms, and proceeded to kiss his lights out, tongue and all.

It probably didn't last as long as it seemed to, but by the time Heero let go, Quatre's heart was racing, his knees were wobbly, and things were happening below the belt.

"Thank you, 04. That was very informative."

"Informative?" Was that Heero-speak for "you rocked my world"? But Heero appeared unruffled. "What--that is, why did you suddenly need to do that?"

"Research. I've only ever kissed Duo like that. I wanted to see if it feels different with other people."

"And?"

"It does," Heero replied. "But it was very nice with you, too. I'm going to go make some more tea. Would you like some?"

"No thanks. I'll just, uh--" Go take a cold shower, he thought. "I'll finish up here. Oh, and Heero?"

"Yes?"

"I know you're still new at all this. With messing around? But you probably shouldn't use tongues, OK? Duo wouldn't like it."

"Ah. Thank you. I'll make a note of that."

Quatre watched him go and shook his head. Heero talked openly of sex, didn't blink over nude pictures of himself or Duo, kissed casually like his was proposing marriage, but blushed over the drawing of Duo as a mermaid with a gun? If Heero Yuy was his lover, instead of Duo's, he'd probably have to keep the empathy channel open 24/7 to figure the guy out. He licked his lips, thinking of that kiss, then grinned. Better than Trowa? No, but close. Hot damn, no wonder Duo looked so happy all the time!

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