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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 91
Honesty

Duo slept deeper than he had in ages, glued naked to Heero with all their various love juices and his hair tangled everywhere. Wonderfully comforted by Heero's warmth and their mingled sex smells, he managed to stay mostly asleep even when a sharp finger prodded him in the shoulder, and an equally sharp voice in his ear hissed, "Not allow!"

"Whazzat?" Duo mumbled. The sheets had slipped down around their knees sometime in the night. Chilly, he cuddled closer to Heero's back and wished his hair was long enough to keep his ass warm. "Shuddup, Wu. Gonna wake 'ro."

"Maxwell-sama, not allow!" the angry voice insisted. It didn't really sound like Wufei. The outrage level was right, but his grammar was better than that. And he'd never call Duo a "sama", that was for fucking certain . . .

Something cold fell heavily across his body, jolting him awake again. Peeling himself off Heero, Duo flopped over and opened his eyes, then cringed as he realized that it was Nurse Catheter--that older head nurse with the so-so English who he hadn't yet managed to charm--she was standing over their bed glaring down at them in all their naked glory, her prune face even prunier with disapproval. The cold thing was his silk robe, which unfortunately currently covered only the upper part of his chest and nothing else. He hastily pulled it down to more needy areas, which included the telltale streaks of dried cum on his belly and pubes, and a perky morning woody that evidently loved Heero a lot more than it feared her.

"No sex in room, Maxwell-sama. Against rules!" she told him sternly.

Even in the midst of his considerable embarrassment, Duo was worried that Heero hadn't moved. He was usually on a hair-trigger. "Really? We were just, you know, feeling a little better and, well, you know?" Duo gave her his best I'm-so-damn-sweet-and-adorable-you-just-gotta-love-me smile, guaranteed to melt anything with a pulse into a puddle of Maxwell-loving goo.

It had absolutely no effect. Zero. Nada. Nurse Catheter shook her finger at him, giving him a look he hadn't seen since the war. "Very bad! You get dressed now!"
With a final outraged glare she headed for the door, where several of Duo's admirers among the staff were peering in wide-eyed, hands over their mouths.

Jesus, it was Madrid all over again.

"Hey, could you send in some coffee?" Duo called after her, grinning for the benefit of his audience.

Nurse Catheter scattered the gawkers with a scathing look and slammed the door.

"I don't think you're going to get your coffee," Heero whispered, scratching at a patch of dried cum on his backside.

"You faker!"

Heero rolled over and gave Duo an apologetic kiss. "I'm scared of her. Thanks for taking the hit."

Duo kissed him back. "No problem. How you doing?"

Heero lay back and rubbed his eyes, then shrugged. "Last night was really good, but--well--"

"It's OK, buddy. I know. Sex doesn't fix clinical depression. But I'm glad it made you feel better for a while." He pulled the blankets up and snuggled with Heero for a little longer. He knew you couldn't love this kind of thing away, but that wouldn't stop him from trying.

It was just after eight when they emerged from a shared shower. Nurse Catheter wouldn't have had anything to complain about if she'd caught them. Duo's erection had lost interest while Heero was using to the bathroom earlier and Heero was low again and not in the mood for anything beyond washing.

Sick of pajamas, they both put on jeans and sweaters that Trowa had brought over and went upstairs to have breakfast with Wu and Zechs.

Wufei was still in bed and looked tired. Zechs was dressed, though, and looked as dashing and dapper as ever in jeans and a black cotton shirt.

"Hiding out, are we?" asked Zechs, grinning at them over his coffee.

Apparently word traveled fast between floors.

"It's this weird power Heero and I have," Duo explained, covering for Heero's blushing deer-in-the-headlights act. "We're such sexy stud muffin hotties in bed that people just come running to see. Right, Wuffie?"

"It was an inadvertent intrusion on my part, and you know it," Wufei retorted, right on cue. But then he got that new, wicked little grin he'd picked up hanging around with sexy Zechsy as he added, "But I must admit, you're both very hot 'stud muffins.' Will there be a matinee?"

Duo laughed. He liked this new Wufei. "Who the hell are you and what have you done with--"

He broke off as Heero quietly set his coffee cup down and strode from the room. He wasn't laughing.

A stricken look replaced Wufei's smile. "I didn't mean to insult him. I should have known better."

"Not your fault," Duo said quickly and hurried after Heero.

He wasn't at the elevator. Duo spotted the stairway exit and took a chance on Heero heading back to their room. He guessed right and caught Heero two flights down.

"Hold up!" he begged, clutching the railing and trying to get his breath, wishing he healed as fast as Heero.

Heero stopped on the landing, leaning on the gray concrete wall, head down, arms locked across his chest. All Duo could see as he came down the last few stairs was Heero's mouth. The lips were thin and tightly pressed together and the corners were turned down. Way down.

"Heero?" Duo approached slowly but steadily and Heero let him put an arm around him and gather him in. He allowed Duo to pull his head down on his shoulder, but his arms hung limply at his sides and his body was tense and stiff.

"Why were they making fun of me?" Heero whispered against Duo's sweater, on the verge of tears.

"They weren't, baby," Duo said, hugging him. "We were all just laughing it off. You heard me joking, right? I wasn't making fun of you, was I?"

"No. But Wufei--He said--"

"I think you're having another mood swing," Duo soothed. "I know how that can seem, everything coming at you through some weird filter. Think back, Heero. Remember that day Wufei walked in on us when I was going down on you for the first time? You hardly blinked. You just asked him to close the door, remember? You were totally cool. Same thing with Relena at the embassy that morning. I was way more embarassed than you!"

Heero brought his arms around Duo's waist and held on. "Yeah, I guess. It just sounded like he was--"

Duo held him closer, rocking him in his arms. God, he could remember times when no one, not even Quatre, could talk to him without Duo hearing ridicule and anger behind every innocent word. What had helped? Meds, sure, but he remembered Trowa's voice and presence, too. He tried to remember what Trowa had said at times like this. "Do you really think Wufei would be mean to you?" he asked gently. "Think about it, baby. Does it make any sense? Especially with me sitting right there?"

There was a long pause and Duo felt hot tears soaking into the shoulder of his sweater. "No," Heero admitted at last.

"That's right. We were all just fooling around, but I'm sorry we hurt your feelings. Wu feels really bad, too. He told me, right before I came to find you. You know he admires you too much to ever be mean to you."

"Admired," Heero said in a soft, flat voice.

"Still does, trust me. You saw him at his low point, remember? And you didn't stop respecting him for that, did you?"

Heero shook his head and slowly straightened up. Duo fished out some tissues and handed them to him. He kept a ready supply on hand these days.

"So, time for meds. And time to see Batoosingh and try out his new toys. And you need to eat something, too. Gotta keep that blood sugar up."

Heero rubbed at his reddened eyes with fresh tissue. "You fuss over me."

"Guess I do," Duo said, taking his hand as they headed downstairs. "You gonna fight me about that?"

Head down, bangs hiding his eyes again, Heero shook his head and squeezed Duo's hand. "No. I appreciate it."

+

Heero kept his head down as they passed the nurse's station, trying hard to ignore the giggles and whispers he thought he heard. One of the nice young male nurses brought them their medication and breakfast. Heero was too depressed and tense to eat, but Duo patiently insisted that he clean his plate and hovered over him until he did.

He was ashamed to admit it even to Duo, but he was scared about this new therapy Dr. Batoosingh wanted to try. It sounded too much like the 'conditioning' Dr. J had used on him during the war. Duo didn't know about that. No one did, except Quatre. He'd been there once, when they'd done it to Heero, seen how it had hurt as it stripped the humanity out of Heero's brain. In his current unstable state, he couldn't stop thinking about that. He was certain this was going to be more of the same and he didn't know if he could do it again, even for Duo.

By the time the attendant came to escort them to the therapy room, he was afraid he was going to lose his breakfast. Duo slipped a comforting arm around his waist and gave him a reassuring look. What did Duo know?

At first glance, Heero thought he was right. The room was decorated nicely, like any shrink's office, but right there in the middle was a padded recliner, like a dentist's chair, with an array of equipment on a table beside it. There were wires and electrodes.

Dr. Batoosingh and Dr. Kano were both waiting for them. Dr. Batoosingh came over and took Heero's hand. "This is not the sort of equipment Dr. J used," he said.

Heero gaped at him, wondering if he'd been that obvious.

"I'm sorry, Heero. I should have anticipated that someone as intelligent as you, with your background in cerebral conditioning, would have certain preconceived notions. The look on your face just now tells me I was right."

He patted Heero's shoulder and led him to a small sofa near the window. Outside Heero could see a courtyard below, laid out as a formal Japanese garden. It looked peaceful. There was no one there. He wished he was down there right now, instead of here.

Duo sat down close beside him, watching with obvious concern. "This is like that stuff J did him?"

"No. Well, yes and no. Both procedures affect the brain's limbic system, but there is absolutely no pain associated with what we are about to do, no negative reinforcement of any kind. I promise you, Heero, it will be very soothing and relaxing. There won't even be any conscious imaging, just lights and sounds. You may even fall asleep, and that's fine. This won't change anything about your personality or memory. It's simply a relatively natural way of bringing your brain chemicals into balance at acceptable, functional levels."

"How will I feel?" asked Heero, still fighting his own ingrained fears. "Will I stop having these fucking mood swings?"

Batoosingh arched an eyebrow at the profanity, but Heero didn't care. "Yes, that is the intended result. I cannot promise you unbroken happiness, of course. No treatment can give you that."

"Don't patronize me!" Heero snapped. "I have been through conditioning before, and I've come through depression before. I understand that you are trying to bring me back into some sort of normal parameter of equilibrium. Let's just get on with it!"

"Certainly. Come lay down in the chair, please. Duo can stay. I'll put a chair next to the chaise if you like but he won't be able to touch you during the treatment."

Heero took a breath, trying to rein in his veering temper. "Then you might as well stay over here where it's comfortable," he told Duo. "A few feet won't make a difference. It's enough to know you're here."

Duo gave him a smile and settled cross-legged in the corner of the couch as they hooked Heero up to wires and an IV.

"What's that?" Heero demanded sharply as a nurse approached to insert the needle.

"We are going to administer saline and a mild sedative," Batoosingh explained. "You'll also be given supplemental oxygen to stimulate blood flow in the brain."

Satisfied but still tense, Heero made himself lie very still and count his own breaths while they finished. Finally they fixed a wide visor over his eyes. It was nothing like the helmet J had used on him, but close enough that he tensed again, not being able to see.

"Relax, Heero," Batoosingh said, and Heero felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. "This is the light unit. You don't have to keep your eyes open. It works just as well though your eyelids and some people find it too bright. As I said, you can take a nap if you like. The nurse is going to put on your headphones now. It's going to sound like very odd music to you, but it is for brain wave stimulation, not dancing. There are subliminal tones, as well, but no hidden suggestions or anything like that. Just tones. This is not hypnosis. Are you ready?"

Heero gave a tense nod. Bright lights came on and began to pulse softly. They weren't harsh, more like late afternoon sunlight, warm and golden. He closed his eyes and the light turned golden red. The doctor had been right. It was soothing. Nothing like the jarring dissonant images J had subjected him to. This was more like lying under a tree, with the play of light through the leaves on his face. The sounds, when they started, were strange, but soothing, too, like whale song and wind and deep low tones. It was very relaxing, after all. He could feel the tension leaving his muscles. It felt like he was floating.

He woke up feeling much better.

"I fell asleep?" he said, a little embarassed to find Duo and the doctors smiling down at him like that. The visor, headphones and IV were gone and someone had covered him with a blanket. It was certainly better than the way he'd woken up this morning.

"Yes. Do you sense any change in your emotional state, Yuy-san?" asked Dr. Kano.

Heero nodded. "I'm more-rested. And I feel less anxiety. You were right, Dr. Batoosingh. It was nothing at all like Dr. J's process."

"I am glad to hear it. I will need some time to fully evaluate the initial readings from this session, and there will be blood sample taken in a few hours, but it would appear that we have found a viable therapy to augment the drugs."

"I don't like the drugs," Heero told him. "They make me tired and don't control the moods."

"They are doing far more than you think," Batoosingh replied. "However, if you are responding to this therapy, you will be able to reduce the dosages much sooner. I have scheduled to for a blood draw at four, but until then, you are a free man. It's a nice day. You should get outside, get some fresh air."

Heero was only too happy to take his advice. They took the elevator to the ground floor and found their way out to the garden Heero had seen from the window. It was clear today, but cold and they had it to themselves.

The garden was small but laid out with sheltering trees to make it an oasis in the midst of the hospital complex. Heero found a stone large enough for two beside the ike pond and sat there with Duo, watching the clouds reflections move across the rippling water.

"That helped?" Duo asked at last.

"Yes. More than the pills."

"Good!" Duo's relief was clear.

"Do you think I'm crazy?" asked Heero.

He laughed and put an arm around Heero. "No, just messed up like me."

Heero kept his gaze on the water as he asked, "Now that you know all that really happened to me, does it bother you? I mean, between us?"

"Does it bother you, that I was a class A leather slutboy?"

Duo didn't move away but Heero was shocked at the sudden bitterness in his lover's voice. "No! I don't even think about that."

"Then why would I hold it against you, what those bastards forced you to do?"

"I'm sorry."

Duo hugged him again. "No, I'm sorry. You needed to hear it. Nothing's changed between us, baby. Those fuckers hurt you and we hurt them back. Hato's dead and I'm glad. None of that was your fault. You're not damaged goods or any stupid thing like that. You shitcan any doubts like that, or I will get mad, copy that?"

Heero sighed. "I copy. I just wanted to hear it again, I guess."

"I love you, Heero. More than anything else in the world. I can't--That is-- I just really love you, baby." Duo seemed to want to say more, but his voice had gone all tight and rough and he just hugged him again.

"I love you, too." It sounded so lame and inadequate. There was so much more welling up in Heero's heart but he couldn't find any words to express it.

So they sat there in silence, watching a few last leaves fall from the maples over the pond.

+

They played cards with Wufei and Zechs that afternoon, and nothing was said of Heero's behavior earlier. Everyone else seemed to have forgotten all about it, but it ate at Heero, how rude and foolish he'd been. He wanted to say something but the opening never presented itself.

After supper they had a special vidphone call scheduled. In an email earlier in the day, Trowa had told Duo that Quatre was very restless, moody, and low. Tonight's vid call was something of a surprise make-over party for Quatre, and a chance for Wufei and Zechs to share their news face to face.

Trowa and Kat were back at the house now and Trowa was eager to walk them through the repairs with a handheld camera. The new kitchen had been dry walled, with new wiring and plumbing, and the courtyard looked almost as if nothing bad had happened there, except for a few missing trees. Trowa then took them into the parlor where Quatre was waiting for them.

"Before we do anything else, there's something Wufei wants to tell you," Duo told them, pushing their vidphone camera in Wufei's direction.

"Oh yeah?" said Quatre, and Heero suspected that he'd already guessed.

Wufei nodded, and only blushed a little as he said, "Yes. Zechs asked me to marry him and I have accepted. We don't have any details worked out yet. You two are the first we've told, after these two and Relena."

"Relena!" Trowa grimaced. "Hope you did that by phone."

"No, face to face," Zechs told him.

"Brave man."

"Got that right."

Champagne was opened on both sides of the conversation and toasts were drunk.

"OK, so how's the back, Q-ball?" Duo demanded.

Quatre He showed off his back, where the new skin was pink and shiny and excruciatingly sensitive. He could walk around a little with the help of a walking frame but had to spend most of the day in something similar to a massage chair, with the support under his chest rather than his back.

The main event began when Cathy showed up with some of their friends from the show, a workbox, and several bottles of absinthe. The cohort in Japan got to watch as she and the show stylist, Boris, gave Kat a new hairstyle that incorporated the short fine growth coming in on the back of his head. The absinthe flowed as Boris shaved the sides of Quatre's head to match, and left the top long, but chunked it so that it fell in a wild mop around his face and ears. Then, over Heero's desperate protests, they changed the streaks in his hair from blue to sea green, purple and white. When it was all over, Quatre put all his glittering gold ear hoops and jeweled studs, eyebrow rings, and a nose stud in. Trowa came into frame and lovingly buckled on a pair of bondage cuffs and kissed him until Quatre was giggling and moaning, along with everyone else in the room and across the sea in the alcohol-free zone in Japan.

"So this is what they're really like?" Heero heard Zechs whisper to Wufei.

"No," Wufei replied fondly. "They're just playing."

Zechs's understanding nod and smile pleased Heero.

"It's more than that," Duo told them quietly, so that the vid phone mic wouldn't pick up his voice. "This is how we used to party, right after the war. When we needed to forget and escape and be someone else for a little while, we'd get lit and dress each other up for the clubs. And-Well, wait for it. You'll see."

Duo took over next, directing Cathy and Boris to give him an sexy, feral look, with flushed, gold dusted cheeks, carmined lips, peacock colors on his eyelids and thick black liner around his eyes, drawn to give them what Duo called a Persian look. Trowa pulled the camera back to show Quatre looking wild and fey and a little dangerous in tight black leather pants, like a creature from their opening act of the show. He also looked considerably more cheerful. Looking like an exotic bad boy again was a good remedy for looking and feeling like a helpless victim all these days. Nothing had been said about Quatre's family and their machinations, but Heero suspected this was Trowa's way of taking his husband's mind off it for a little while. If it actually came down to going to court, another sort of makeover would probably be a good idea but for now they could play.

Trowa handed the camera off to someone else. Sometime during the makeover, he'd changed into a similar outfit, except that he was wearing red velvet poet's shirt, studded collar and less make-up, though he'd done a sexy job with the eyeliner. He sat down with his husband, and pulled a small black velvet box out of the air in front of Quatre's startled eyes.

"Meli, something precious was taken from you that bad day," he said, and leaned forward to kiss Quatre's left nipple where the wedding piercing had been. The regen unit had healed it completely.

Quatre nodded. "I know. I think the hospital still has it. I'll have to get pierced again."

"Wrong. And wrong, mon petit," Trowa purred. "Heero took it on his quest. He was wearing it around his neck when he and the others took his revenge on the men who hurt you. He gave it back to me in Japan and I held onto it for you. But what happened to it made me think. That could just as easily have happened during a show. So I made a few minor changes. I hope you don't mind"

He opened the box and took out a pair of wedding bands. They were wide and masculine, made of brushed platinum, with an inset band of polished gold.
"The gold is our original rings," Trowa explained, opening his shirt to show that his nipple ring was gone, too. "I've been wearing a fake the past few days, while a jeweler friend of mine made these for us. I had them inscribed."

Quatre looked inside the rings and blushed, then kissed Trowa again. Neither of them would say what the engravings were.

"Meli, will you still marry me?" asked Trowa, and slipped one on Quatre's left ring finger as Quatre nodded.

"Will you still marry me, Trowa Barton?" Quatre asked, and slid Trowa's ring on.

"I pronounce you still husband and wife!" Duo chimed in.

Still kissing, Trowa flipped him off but he was grinning.

Heero was happy for them, but felt himself slipping down into a depression again all the same. Looking at the way the others were all laughing and smiling at each other, especially Trowa and Quatre, he felt that same strange, nameless pull he had in the garden. When he and Duo were finally alone again in their bed, with the door safely locked this time, he silently asked for lovemaking again and Duo gave him all he needed. He was more grateful than ever that it didn't matter between them who took top or bottom. For now, having Duo moving so sweetly deep inside him drove the darkness back in a way that nothing else could and let him sleep without bad dreams.

+

Heero had another light and wave treatment the following morning and came out of it with the same relaxed, peaceful feeling. The doctors warned him about expecting too much too soon, but Dr. Kano did admit that there had been a slight noticeable improvement in his blood work.

"I do not wish to raise your hopes too quickly," he cautioned, "but the shift in your endocrine levels and brain activity is significant. You are responding to this treatment. While I must urge you to visualize your recovery in terms of months, rather than days or weeks, you will, I think, improve consistently. Things will get easier for you as you progress toward a maintenance level of care."

Buoyed by this, Heero knew what he wanted to do before the brief initial high of the treatment faded. Duo understood and stayed behind to flirt with the nurses.

He'd hoped to speak with Zechs and Wufei together, but he met the tall blond on his way down the corridor.

"Heero!" Zechs caught him by the arm and steered him into a solarium. "I was on my way to pick up a few things-it doesn't matter. I've been wanting to talk to you in private and this may be the best chance I get."

Zechs pulled a folded, rather dog-eared blue envelop from his hip pocket of his jeans. "Sorry for the condition. I've been carrying this damn thing around for weeks!"

Puzzled, Heero opened it and several sheets of what appeared to be legal documents. He skimmed the first few lines of the first page and then sat down heavily in the nearest chair, feeling a little light headed. It was a letter from Treize Kushreneda's solicitor, explaining that the man had left Heero money in his will. "I--I don't understand."

Zechs directed him to the second page, which was the actual excerpt from the will. "'I also hereby place in trust the sum of two million dollars, to be divided between the Gundam pilots known as Chang Wufei and Heero Yuy, 05 and 01 respectively, should they still be living at the time of my death, and not convicted of crimes against humanity. These funds are to be held in trust for them until they reach the age of eighteen, and forthwith made available to them to live as they see fit, with my blessing. Should one predecease the other, then the survivor shall be the recipient of the entire amount.

Be it known that although we fought on opposite sides, I considered these three the finest warriors I have ever known. Would that we had met in kinder, more civilized times. I pray they will work for peace and find more success than I did.'"

"I didn't know until recently. I told Wufei on his birthday and I was going to tell you the next day, but things spun out of control so fast."

"Yes, I see," Heero mumbled, numbly reading the document again, trying to believe what he was seeing. "But why?"

"He explains it right there, Heero. It's just the kind of man he was. If I hadn't come out of regen as I did, you both might have been s.o.l., but as it is, Wufei and I hoped that this might--well, make things easier for you and Duo."

Heero looked up at him, confused. Zechs was clearly implying something but he couldn't imagine what. "Thank you for your concern, but I'm quite well off anyway. J left a generous trust fund. I have a pension. And--" He paused and allowed himself the ghost of a grin. "I put away a comfortable savings account during the war, courtesy of the Alliance's sloppy financial security codes."

Zechs answered with a knowing wink. "I suppose that shouldn't surprise me. I'll just pretend I didn't hear that last bit. Well, I'm glad you're set. But you can never have too much, right? I'm sure you'll find some use for it. Wufei's investing his, and using it as a college fund."

"Hn." Heero couldn't imagine himself in school but it might have to come to that eventually. "Thank you, for keeping this for me." He folded the papers and put them in his own pocket. "Does it seem strange to you, standing here like this now? After what we were, I mean?"

Zechs nodded. "Sometimes, when I make myself think about who we all used to be. But it already seems such a long time ago, almost like those were different people."

"Different people. Yes."

Zechs reached out and took his hand. "The past is the past. We're traveling together into a better future. One that you boys and my sister helped create. One you kept me from destroying, once upon a time. If I let myself dwell on that, I'll go mad again and lose everything I have in the now. I won't let that happen. I have too much to lose, and someone I will not hurt."

Heero managed a smile. "I am glad for you two. I believe you will make each other very happy."

"Thank you, Heero. I wish you the same kind of happiness, you know. Go keep Wufei company for me, won't you? I won't be long." With a last wave and a parting wink, Zechs strode away on whatever errand he'd been off to.

+

Duo paused in Yuki's doorway with Nurse Minako, letting the kid get used to the idea of him being there, then slowly walked over to the bed and sat down. The boy looked a little better today, a little less spooked, but Duo resisted the urge to reach out and touch him. Minako sat down on the side of the bed. The boy didn't seem as scared of women. Small wonder.

"Could you tell him hi, and ask if he knows who I am today?" asked Duo.

Minako translated. The boy nodded. "02."

Duo grinned at that and twirled the end of his braid. That almost got a smile. He pointed at Yuki. "Yuki-chan." He pointed at himself. "Duo-chan."

Yuki gave him a skeptical look, clearly confused to have the great Gundam pilot hero putting them on such a familiar basis. Duo replied in the universal language of friendship; he grinned, puffed out his cheeks, and crossed his eyes.

He uncrossed them just in time to catch the way Yuki rolled his eyes at that.

"Hey, that's progress!" Duo said. "Ask him how he's feeling today."

Minako translated and got a dark look and a long, grumbling reply. She hesitated a moment, then said, "He says 'fine, thank you for asking.'"

"Bullshit," said Duo. The way Yuki's eyebrows shot up suggested that he knew a little street English.

Minako blushed. "What he said was very rude."

"So? Tell me. Word for word."

"He said, "How do you fucking think I feel, you stupid long-haired gaijin asshole. Stop speaking to me like I'm a baby. You can stick your 'chan' talk up your ass.' I'm so sorry, Duo-san!"

"No, that's great," Duo assured her. "Anger's good. Tell him, anger's good. He should be pissed as hell and I'm the only one around right now for him to yell at. Go on, tell him."

Minako squirmed visibly but did as he asked. Yuki listened to her, but he was watching Duo, and Duo recognized the appraising look. This kid wasn't street tough, but he was street. When Minako was done he spat something back.

"He says, 'what the hell do you know about it?'"

Duo let the smile drop and gave Yuki a hard stare. "Tell him I grew up on the streets before I was a pilot. I got raped in the ass as a kid, and during the war, by guys a lot bigger than me. So I know plenty."

Minako looked faint as she passed this on. Yuki looked a little stunned. Duo just folded his arms and met that glare with one of his own, daring him to call him a liar.

Yuki just sat there a moment, breathing a little harder, eyes suspiciously bright, like he was trying not to cry, then said something else.

"What did you do to the men who raped you?" Minako translated.

"I couldn't do anything. They were bigger. They had all the power. I just had to get away and keep living. But tell him that Heero and me and our friends killed the men who fucked him. Tell him it felt good and I'm glad I did it. Tell him he owes me."

"Duo-san! I can't tell a child that!"

"Yeah, you can. This kid, anyway, 'cause it's what he understands and needs to hear," Duo told her. "Please, Minako. The shrinks can smooth him out later, but right now this is what kids like him and me need."

Minako translated. Yuki's eyes went wide. He made her say it again. He thought about it, really thought. Then he looked at Duo again and made him an awkward seated bow. "Arigato, Maxwell-sama. Domo arigato."

Duo stood up and extended a hand. When Yuki shook it he grinned. "You're welcome, buddy. Get some rest now. I just wanted to tell you that, so you'd know they weren't coming after you ever again."

Minako translated that more willingly, then followed Duo to the elevator. She was very quiet as the car started down, but before they reached their floor she blurted out, "What you told me to tell him about you? That--that wasn't true, was it?"

Duo looked down into her shocked, innocent eyes. Jesus, did nurses in Japan lead sheltered lives or what? On the other hand, how many years had he cut himself off from that truth about himself, denying that anything like that had happened? Like it had been his fault. Like it made him someone other than who he was. Like the shame of it belonged to him.

"Yeah, it did happen to me, just like I said," he told her without rancor. The door opened and he strolled out, wondering where Heero was and feeling suddenly good, sort of the way he used to on the streets after he'd eaten something seriously spoiled out of some garbage pail and puked it up again. You were really sick for a while, but as soon as you got the poison out of your belly, you were fine.

+

The door of Wufei's room was ajar and Heero knocked softly, then looked in to find Wufei in bed again. He did get up several times a day, but he was still very weak and tired easily. Heero paused in the doorway, thinking he was asleep. He meant to go and come back later, but the sight of Wufei like this held him a moment.

Wufei's gently slanted eyes were closed and his breathing was very deep and even. His expression was very peaceful, and there was the hint of a smile on his lips, one that made Heero suspect Zechs had kissed him good-bye just now. With his hair loose around his face like that, Wufei looked much softer and gentler than usual; quite attractive, really. In fact, he looked almost feminine like this, Heero thought with a smile, like some young Chinese goddess in a painted scroll. No wonder Wufei had always kept his hair pulled back and frowned all the time. He couldn't imagine the Chang Wufei he'd known during the war allowing anyone to see him like this and live.

Heero was about to go when Wufei opened his eyes and caught him staring. "Heero. Please, come sit with me."

Heero sat down in the chair next to the bed, feeling a bit awkward. "I came to apologize for my behavior yesterday."

"No need. We didn't mean to tease." Wufei sounded sleepy, or drugged. He wasn't wearing his yukata; just a soft long sleeved tee that looked like it belonged to Zechs.

"I know that. My moods are not stable and I took everything the wrong way. I know you weren't laughing at me."

Wufei nodded slightly. "As I said, nothing to apologize for. I've been having mood swings of my own. It's the trauma to the body. It does odd things to the mind, as well."

"Are you feeling ill? I should go," Heero said, starting to get up.

"No, please, stay," Wufei said, gesturing weakly for him to remain. "Zechs is off getting measured for his new arm. You can keep me company for a while. I'm sure the nurse would bring us some tea."

The nurses here clearly adored Wufei as much as the ones on their floor loved Duo. Within minutes a girl arrived with a tray holding a real rice china pot and two delicate painted Chinese cups. Heero raised the end of Wufei's bed higher and poured a cup for him. Wufei sipped at it gratefully. It was oolong, very sweet and fragrant. Heero sipped his in silence, watching how Wufei's slender fingers trembled as he cradled the cup.

"You're still physically compromised." He wouldn't use the word 'weak' to Wufei's face, even in the medical sense.

"Yes, but I'm improving quite quickly," Wufei replied calmly. "They're still doing a few hours of regen each day. They say I won't even have any visible scarring." He pulled down the neck of the shirt, showing Heero the top of an already faded pink incision.

"I'm very glad." Heero swallowed hard against the sudden tightness in his throat. "Wufei, I know I've said it before, but I am so sorry-"

Wufei sighed and set his cup down on the tray over his bed. "You have already apologized for the incidents leading to my wounding. I will accept this last one, on the condition that it is the last one, and that you believe me when I tell you that there is nothing left to apologize for. What you and Duo did was rather foolish, I think, but I was not there and I do not know all the details behind your reasoning and decisions. I do know that you were not in your right mind, and therefore cannot be held responsible. So that is past and done. As for this, though?" He touched the scar on his chest. "This was not your fault. It is mine. You were a Preventer, Heero. You know as well as I do how inexcusably stupid it was of me not to take the extra sixty seconds to put on a flak vest. I'd had one on earlier in the day. That was my choice, my mistake. It cost Zechs his arm and nearly cost me my life, but it was my fault, not yours. It is an issue to be resolved between Zechs and myself. Do you understand?"

"I will respect your wishes. We won't speak of this again," Heero replied, giving him a slight bow.

A moment of uncomfortable silence passed. To change the subject, Heero said, "So, you are to marry Zechs. I'm happy for you."

"Are you?"

"Of course! Anyone can see how much you love each other. You should be together."

"Thank you. I wasn't sure, before, of your reaction. Perhaps it shouldn't matter so much, what my friends think, but I find that it does. Having lost my family and my colony-"

"I understand," Heero said quietly, sparing him the necessity of an explanation. "I wanted to ask you, if it's not too personal, who asked who?"

"He asked me, sweeping aside every impediment I'd imagined." Wufei looked down at his folded hands and smiled. "He's very good at that."

"Where will you hold the ceremony?"

"I don't care. He wants the wedding in Sanque. Although he scoffs as it now, I think he values his ties to his homeland very much. And of course, he wants our union officially recognized there for the sake of our children."

Heero choked on his tea. "Ch-children? You are already thinking of adopting?"

Wufei colored a little. "No, there is an in vitro process that will allow us to have children of our own."

Heero listened in amazement as Wufei explained homogametic embryogenesis.

"Of course, that's in the future," he said told him. "We are both too young to be parents, and I need to consider my degree program. And Zechs. He doesn't say it, but I don't think he knows what he wants yet."

Heero smiled. "He wants you."

Wufei's cheeks pinked again. "Yes."

"What will you study?"

"Sanque University has a very good comparative literature program, with a concentration in classical Chinese poetry. If I pursue my undergraduate degree there, that will give Zechs time in his homeland to figure things out. Then perhaps graduate work in China."

"No more Preventers?" Heero already knew the answer.

"No. No more Preventers. If nothing else, this last mission showed me how wise the rest of you have been to put that life behind you once and for all and move on. But what about you, Heero? What do you want?"

"Duo," Heero replied without the slightest hesitation, then smiled to himself, knowing what Dr. Batoosingh would make of that. "Peace. Friends. Some useful occupation. I can't see myself in school, but who knows? I know I'm not in a frame of mind to make any serious decisions right now but-" He fidgeted with his cup. "When Zechs asked you to marry him, what did he say?"

"It was after my second operation. He said that watching me die all those times, when my heart stopped, had shown him what life would be without me, and that he didn't want that." Wufei looked down, hiding behind the fall of his hair, but his voice was warm with emotion as he said softly, "He said it better than that, of course, but that was the gist of it."

"Hn." Of course Zechs would know how to make a grand gesture. He was good with words.

"You want to ask Duo, don't you?"

It was Heero's turn to blush as he nodded. That's what had been pulling and gnawing at him, yet the thought of trying put it into words scared him. He kept his gaze fixed on the bottom of his teacup as he admitted, "I have for a while, almost since I came back, really. First it seemed too soon, then all this mess came up. Now I need to be certain that I can be stabilized mentally, before I even consider asking him for a commitment like that, but I do want to. I just-When I think of it, I can't think how to say it."

"Are you certain about your feelings for him, Heero? Really certain?"

Heero was a bit surprised that reserved Wufei would ask such a question. Then again, this was the new, in love Wufei. Eyes still fixed on his cup, he nodded again. "More certain than I've been of anything else in my life."

"Perhaps it would help to try and vocalize some of those feelings with me, then," Wufei prompted, sounding like Batoosingh now. "What is it that makes you want to marry Duo?"

Heero shook his head, grasping for words. It was like trying to get his arms around the world. "Everything," he said at last. "He's just-everything. Everything I want or need; it's him." He set the cup down and sank his head in his hands, frustrated at his own crippled verbal abilities when it came to things like this. "He's so beautiful! And not just his looks. He's everything that's beautiful to me." There was that word again. Everything. So damn vague! "He's everything and all that I want. No one else. Just Duo. Damn it, Wufei, you see? I'm no good a this. I know how I feel, I just don't know how to say it."

"Oh yes you do, baby."

Heero spun around in his chair to find Duo smiling at him from the doorway.

Zechs was with him. He gave Wufei a nod and a fond smile. "Nicely done, mei."

Heero was stunned for a moment, but only a moment. Rising, he went to Duo and looked at him carefully, reading the joy in his lover's eyes. "Whatever I just babbled out, it's not enough, and I'm still sick and you don't have to answer and there's no way you should be obligated-- but I meant every word."

Duo answered by embracing him and giving him a deep, gentle kiss right there in front of everyone. When he pulled back at last, the tears had spilled over and his voice was husky, but joy shone even more brightly in those beautiful eyes. "I know you did. It was beautiful, what you said. Perfect. I've been trying to figure out how to say all that to you, too. You just beat me to it, that's all." He shot Wufei a grin. "Of course, you had help. No fair!"

Wufei beamed at them from the bed, looking like a very contented Buddha. "I believe I just returned the great kindness the two of you did Zechs and me. Consider us even."

"You planned this?" Heero exclaimed.

"No. I simply recognized a moment of synchronicity when Duo showed up in the doorway just now, and took advantage of it. Perhaps it was my Gundam training. Improvisation was one of our most important skills, was it not?"

Heero was still holding Duo. Resting his cheek against Duo's, he whispered, "You didn't answer yet."

"Did too!" Duo laughed, kissing him again. "What, do I have to spell it out for you? OK, then. Yes. Yes, I will marry you, Heero Yuy. Anywhere. Anytime. The sooner the better. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Did you get all that? Want me to repeat it?"

"Just the kiss part."

Duo gave it back to him, verbatim.

It wasn't how Heero had wanted to propose to Duo, and he still had misgivings about his own condition, but even the lingering edge of depression could not dull the joy he felt at this moment, holding Duo in his arms. Everything and all he wanted; that was Duo Maxwell, and only Duo Maxwell.

He just hoped Trowa and Quatre could understand.

[chap. 90] [chap. 92] [back to pyrzm's fic]