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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 90
Try a Little Tenderness

No matter how hard he tried to make himself wake up, Heero couldn't quite make it. For fleeting moments he was aware of his body in the bed, of voices in the room, especially Duo's. Now and then he was aware of Duo lying close to him, his warmth, and the good smell of his hair. But these moments were brief and slippery and the dreams dragged him back again.

Most of the time he was lost in the filthy streets of Kisarazu, cold, dirty, alone, lost. The images were confusing, events of the past week overlaid with half-formed memories of two years ago. People were chasing him. He was always in danger, but he never got caught. Other times he was in that cell, naked and cold and bruised. Sometimes Duo was there too, or he could hear him screaming for him nearby. Other times a dark eyed, solemn boy was with him, trying to tell him that none of this was his fault. He spoke very earnestly but Heero did not believe him.

This seemed to go on for a long time, caught in an endless loop of fear and guilt and panic. But then something changed. In the dream he found his way to the waterfront and began to follow the shoreline. It was night when he began his journey. He encountered obstacle after obstacle-chain link fences, crumbling walls that extended out into the water, rickety wooden storm fencing, piles of stone, reels of barbed wire. Somehow he struggled past each one, though, drawn on by a driving urge to go on. It was exhausting but he couldn't stop.

Slowly the sun came up and he saw that he'd left the city far behind. The sand under his feet was soft, the color of light brown sugar and rose into grassy dunes. He walked on the firm wet sand just above the tide line and the waves swept in around his bare feet. The water was cold, but it felt good, and very familiar. Gulls circled overhead in the pale blue sky.

He couldn't see over the dunes. The beach was empty and the sea was empty. He was all alone and that scared him a little, even though he liked this place better than the city he'd escaped from.

At last, far in the distance, he saw a house in the dunes. It was large, with weathered gray shingles and white trim and a sort of tower on one side. The center of the roof was flat and there was a wrought iron railing around it. As he got closer he could see someone standing up there, waving at him. He was still too far away to see who it was, but they had long shining chestnut hair that rippled in the breeze and shone in the rising sun.

Heero's heart leapt. He waved back and began to run toward the house. The closer he got the more he wanted to be there, with that longhaired person on the roof. Now he was close enough to see that it was a mermaid. It balanced upright on a long, graceful, iridescent peacock blue tail, the fin end of which was wrapped around one of the iron railings. The mermaid was calling to him, calling his name.

"Heero! Heero, can you hear me? Come on, baby. Heero?"

"Yes, I hear you!" Heero called back, or tried to, but his voice didn't seem to be working. He could feel his throat straining, but no sound came out. "I can hear you."

He was still running but now the house was receding, and the mermaid with it.

"No!" he cried. The sand was soft under his feet, slowing his steps, tripping him up. The house was moving away so quickly he could hardly see the mermaid anymore, but the voice was clearer than ever.

"Heero, baby, open your eyes. Can you do that? Heero?"

The house and beach and the clean ocean smell all faded away. Heero felt achy and thirsty. He smelled chemicals and his own unwashed body. Someone was holding his hand, and touching his face.

"Don't thrash around, baby. I'm here. Just open your eyes. I'm here."

Heero finally forced his gritty eyes open and found himself looking up at the beautiful mermaid in his dream.

Duo smiled down at him, still stroking Heero's hair back from his forehead. "Hey, there you are, sleepyhead!"

Heero blinked up at him, then looked around the room. He was still in the hospital. The air was dry and stale and his mouth was so dry he could hardly move his tongue.

"Thirsty," he rasped out.

"I'll bet." Duo stopped touching him and moved out of his line of sight for a moment. Heero felt a little jolt of panic, but then he was back, guiding a straw to Heero's parched lips. He sucked and was rewarded with a mouthful of ice water. When he swallowed he could feel it all the way down his dry throat to his empty stomach. He took another long sip.

"Thank you." His voice was back. His mind was a little clearer now, clear enough to see that it was late afternoon outside the window. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Three days."

Heero blinked up at Duo, wondering if he'd heard right. "Three? Days?"

"Yup. Batoosingh knocked you on your ass with that Unadol stuff. It took your body a while to adjust to the dosage, but you've been trying to come around all afternoon. How you feeling, baby?"

"Drugged," Heero mumbled. That summed it up. He could hardly feel his body and he still felt very tired.

Duo settled on the edge of the bed and helped him take another drink. "I bet. The docs say your hormones and stuff are starting to level out some, though. They're going to try some other things, light therapy and some kind of brain wave thingy. You won't have to be on this kind of chemical load very long."

"Hn. Good." Heero's tongue still felt thick and numb. It was hard work, talking. He gave up and just gazed up at Duo, wishing he had his hair loose. He'd really like to see it blowing in the wind, the way it had in his dream, like a banner against the sky. The memory made him smile. He wanted his sketchbook. He wanted to capture the image before he forgot. But he was too tired. He managed to raise his hand enough to capture the end of the braid as Duo leaned over him. It was warm and silky, his shining lifeline. "So beautiful," he whispered, fingering it.

"You and your hair fetish," Duo said, his voice a low, comforting chuckle. Then, as if reading Heero's mind, he lay down next to him and pulled the hair tie free, spreading his loose, shining hair across Heero's arm and shoulder like a veil. Heero buried his fingers in it and sighed contentedly as sleep closed in on him again.

+

When he woke again morning light was streaming in through the window and Duo wasn't on the bed with him. He was across the room talking quietly into a vid phone on a laptop. He looked up as soon as Heero stirred, though, and carried the computer over to the bed.

"Morning, baby. Wanna say hi to Tro and Kat?"

Heero turned on his side and blinked blearily at the screen as Duo held it down at eye level. Their two friends were smiling back at him from what looked like another hospital bed.

"Trowa?" Heero's brain struggled to catch up. Trowa had been here, in this room last he knew.

"He went home a few days ago," Duo filled in for him.

"Hi, Heero!" Kat said, smiling happily at him. "Guess what? I get to go home tomorrow!"

Beside him, Trowa was smiling, too, in his usual guarded way.

"But the house? The explosion?" Heero cursed the drugs for making him so muddle headed.

"The repairs are coming along quickly," Trowa told him. "We won't have a working kitchen for a few more weeks, but the courtyard is cleaned up and the windows have all been replaced. We have a better security system installed, too. I designed it myself. You can help me with the final modifications when you guys get home."

Home. Tears blurred Heero's vision, and a flash of that house on the beach in his dream; the house on the Cape, he realized now. That was the first place that had ever felt like "home". The only place, really. He didn't tell Trowa that, though. He was just glad they had somewhere to go.

"Heero, are you all right?" Quatre asked, giving him a knowing look of concern.

"Yes, I'm fine," Heero, answered, but suddenly he didn't feel fine. He felt like he was going to cry and he didn't know why. "I--I'm disoriented from the medication. I'll speak with you again when I'm more alert, all right?"

"That's fine, Heero," Quatre said as Heero turned away, trying to turn on his other side and face the wall so they wouldn't see his weakness. His foot tangled in what could only be catheter line and there was an IV stuck in his left hand. He tore out the IV and gingerly rearranged his legs around the other line. He didn't have the energy to deal with that one yet. Behind him he heard Duo whispering something to the others. Then a weight settled on the bed behind him as Duo spooned up against him and wrapped an arm around him. Heero felt warm lips press to the back of his neck and swallowed hard, fighting back tears even harder.

"Still feeling pretty low, aren't you, babe?"

Heero couldn't even muster the energy to cover Duo's hand where it lay against his belly. He just nodded.

That hand moved to stroke his hair and shoulder. "I've been where you are, Heero, plenty of times. It's hard while the meds are still kicking in and you're all disoriented like this. But it's going to get better, I promise. I'm here for you, 'ro. You know that, right?"

"My wingman," Heero whispered as the tears broke loose and trickled off the bridge of his nose to spatter on the pillow.

Duo hugged him, careful of his gunshot wounds, though those hardly hurt at all now. "Yup, and your mermaid, right? Always and forever. I love you so much! You know that, right? You still feel it?"

"Of course. Thank you!" Heero whispered around the painful lump in his throat and the black empty ache in his chest. He found Duo's hand now and squeezed it. "I love you, too. Always and forever!"

Heero couldn't stop crying, just like that day at the Madrid hostel. It wasn't loud or out of control, but the tears just kept coming and the soft hitching sobs shook him. Duo held him, warm and strong, stroking his hair and his shoulder, kissing him now and then.

"I know, baby, I know. Just let it out. Let it all out." Duo produced a handful of tissues from somewhere and handed them to him.

Heero buried his face in them and cried. And strangely enough, it helped. After some ridiculous amount of time the lump in his throat and the ache in his chest got smaller and hurt less. By the time he was finally out of tears and had used up all the tissues, they were gone, leaving him limp and melancholy and relaxed against Duo's warm body.

Duo finished the clean up for him with more tissues, drying Heero's cheeks and nose. "That's better."

"Sorry," Heero mumbled.

"Hey, crying's great for you. I should know. I've cried oceans."

Heero sighed. The depression was still there, but he wasn't as overwhelmed by as he had been before.

He shifted, wanting to turn over and look at Duo, but got tangled in the catheter line again. "Fucking hell!"

Duo called the nurse and turned his back while she took the hated thing out. With Duo's help, he managed to get out of bed and into one of the armchairs. Duo draped his robe over him and brushed his hair for him. He was dressed only in a wrinkled hospital gown and smelled rank.

"I need a shower," he said, wrinkling his nose at his own odor. The bandages taped to his chest and back itched. He reached down and pulled one off. Underneath the bullet hole had closed up nicely to a circle of shiny pink scar tissue. "I don't need these anymore. Help me get them off."

Duo helped him with the ones on his back. "Looking good, Heero. You still got it!"

Heero looked down at his new collection of scars. He'd patched himself up from worse than this in the field, with no help and no antibiotics.

Duo wouldn't let him in the shower by himself, but instead ran a bath in the small tub and helped Heero in to it. Heero sank back against the cool tile, sighing as the warm water lapped around his body. Even this small effort had tired him out more than he'd expected, and he didn't argue when Duo insisted on taking charge of the washcloth. It felt good as Duo washed his face, then worked his way down his neck, back, chest and beyond. He could muster neither arousal nor embarrassment when Duo soaped his genitals and washed his ass for him. It just felt good to be clean, and he was grateful to Duo for helping him.
When he was clean and dry he brushed his teeth, then Duo helped him into clean sweatpants and his robe and settled him back in the armchair.

Heero lay back with a sigh. "Thanks. That's much better."

Duo called the nurse. A pretty young woman appeared at the door and gave them both a beaming smile.

"Yuy-sama, you're awake! The doctors will be most pleased!"

"Mariko baby, just the girl I was hoping to see," Duo greeted her. "Can we still get breakfast? And I'm talking real food. No gruel. No rice!"

Trays of poached eggs on toast and fresh fruit were brought up and Heero was surprised at how hungry he was. He drank several glasses of juice and water with the meal, as well as the green tea. He could still feel the slightly deadening effects of the medication, but he didn't feel as weak anymore. The three days he'd slept had allowed his body to complete the necessary healing. He could move without pain, while Duo still held himself in a way that Heero could tell his wounds still bothered him.

"It's nothing," he said when Heero asked him about it. "I'll be good as new, just so long as I keep moving, keep things from tightening up. Hey, wanna go see Wuffie? He's on the mend too and he and Zechs have been worried about you. Come on, I need the exercise, even if you don't."

Heero reluctantly followed him down the hall to the elevator. He couldn't put his finger on the problem. It wasn't that he didn't want to see their friends, but somehow dealing with anyone except Duo seemed difficult. Even the vid phone call from Trowa and Quatre had been too much. He leaned on the elevator wall beside Duo, glaring at his blurry image in the brushed stainless steel paneling and telling himself not to be foolish.

Stepping off the elevator, Heero was surprised to see Zechs and Wufei down the corridor of the ICU. Wufei was shuffling along slowly, clinging to the railing mounted along the wall, dressed in his blue and white yukata and sweats. Zechs, in jeans and a tight black polo, hovered at his elbow, evidently ready to catch him if he stumbled. Judging by Wufei's scowl, his lover's concern was not appreciated.

Wufei glanced up and saw them. He started to call out a greeting, but a coughing fit cut him off and he clutched the rail with one hand, pressing the other to his chest. The yukata gapped a bit as he doubled over and Heero saw a wide bandaged taped over his sternum. Zechs got an arm around Wufei and held him upright even as Wufei coughed out a halting objection and tried to shake him off.

"Wuffie's feeling a lot better," Duo observed, not appearing concerned at all. "He's his regular grumpy self again. He's even biting Zechs's head off."

"I don't . . .like . . . fussed over!" Wufei managed to gasp out, but he was leaning on Zechs's arm now, and sweat was running down his chest and face.

"I think you've done enough for now, love," Zechs said.

Wufei nodded and didn't pull his arm away as Zechs helped him back to a room halfway down the corridor. Zechs helped him back into a bed with the end cranked up while Duo urged Heero into a chair. He didn't argue, either. He was feeling a little lightheaded.

Wufei took a long drink of water and lay back against his pillows, mustering a smile for Heero. "So, there you are. Feeling better, I hope?"

"How are you?" Heero asked, evading the question. He felt numb and tired and low. They didn't need to know that.

"Much improved, thank you. They've finally let me out of bed."

"How long until you can resume training?" Heero asked, and saw Duo and Zechs both roll their eyes.

Wufei, of course, took the question seriously. "I'm told I'm not allowed to do anything more strenuous than walking for at least a month," he said, looking resigned. "I've spoken with the physical therapists, and I should be able to resume some of my gentler Wu-Yi regimes, as well. It will be some time before I'm fully recovered, but I'm looking forward to doing a great deal of reading. I'm preparing to enter university in the fall. Zechs and I both are." He exchanged a fond smile with his lover.

Heero nodded, unsurprised.

"And?" Duo prompted, looking ready to burst with some news. "Come on! If you don't tell him, I will! I've practically had to swallow my tongue since he woke up!"

"And-" Wufei looked more composed than Duo, but Heero saw a bit of color steal into his friends wan golden cheeks. "And Zechs and I are going to get married."

For a moment Heero was speechless. It wasn't that he disapproved, he just hadn't expected it. He wanted to say something encouraging, but he just felt so dead inside. "Oh."

The fleeting look of hurt in Wufei's eyes jolted him a bit from his funk. "That's very good news," he added, trying to force some enthusiasm into his tone. "I'm pleased for you both. When?"

"We haven't set a date yet. Wufei needs to recover his strength and I have to get this fixed." Zechs gave his empty left sleeve an impatient tug.

Heero's heart took a nosedive and darkness seemed to close in around him. This was all his fault. If not for them, they'd both be healthy, able to do whatever they wanted-train, study, marry, with no delays . . . "I'm so sorry," he mumbled, alarmed at the way his voice shook."

"Please, Heero. Don't do this to yourself," Wufei pleaded, sitting forward.

He couldn't reach Heero, but Zechs rose and went to him. Kneeling by Heero's chair, he put a hand on his shoulder as Heero hid his face in his hands. "Heero, don't. No one is angry with you."

"I am!"

Duo was there, too, both arms around him. "Easy, Heero. I think someone's due for some more meds, don't you? Wu, could you call the nurse, please?"

Things were a little confused after that. Heero didn't remember being taken back to his room, but the next thing he knew, he was in his hospital bed again, with Duo snuggled up beside him and it seemed to be nighttime again.

"What happened?" he whispered. His mouth was very dry.

"You fugued out, baby," Duo told him, hugging him.

"Oh fuck. Wufei-Zechs-"

"It's OK. They understand. Zechs was here a little while ago, checking in on you."

"Oh god, Duo!" Heero groaned, pressing his face into the curve of Duo's neck. "What's happening to me? I don't want to be like this! I can't live like this!"

"This won't last, baby. The doctors changed your meds a little this time, so you won't be so knocked out--"

Heero clung to him, only half listening. "I want it to be like it was before!"

"Before what?" asked Duo, stroking his hair and back, and wrapping one long leg over Heero's to pull him in even closer.

"I want to go back to the beach," Heero gasped out as images of his dreams came back.

"The beach? The house on the Cape, you mean?"

"Yes," Heero mumbled, knowing he was being unreasonable. It was winter. The house was closed up. But he couldn't help it. "It was good there. I felt good there. I want to feel like that again!"

"You will," Duo promised. "Batoosingh is going to start you on some light and wave therapy first thing tomorrow. He says they work really fast on most people, especially ones who don't do so good with drugs, like you. And your levels of serotonin and stuff are coming up. He said so."

"I don't like feeling like this," Heero growled, and found himself running his hand up and down Duo's back, mirroring what Duo was doing to comfort him. That felt good, the warmth and hard muscle of Duo's back through the soft cotton of the tee shirt he was wearing. Heero moved his hand down, curious to see what else Duo had on. Sweats. He'd dressed for bed. Heero was wearing nothing but boxers, he realized. He smoothed a hand over Duo's ass, cupping one firm rounded cheek. That felt good, too, and the way that squeezing that warm handful of muscle made Duo tighten his leg around Heero's. He felt Duo's cock stir to life against his.

A sharp edged spark of need blossomed in Heero's chest. He slipped his hand under the waistband of Duo's pants and gripped bare flesh. Duo didn't protest or tell him he was too sick. He just hugged him closer and rocked his hips a little as his erection grew harder.

Heero gasped, then let go of Duo's ass just long enough to find the hair tie and yank it off. He combed Duo's hair loose with shaking fingers, catching and pulling in the tangled strands, then rolled onto his back, pulling Duo with him to give both hands access to that irresistible ass. Duo kissed him, and then helpfully pulled off shirt and pants, tossing them off the side of the bed.

The bedside lamp was the only light in the room, but it was enough for Heero to see the two bullet scars on Duo's chest. They were still puffy and red and looked sore. Heero traced them gently with his fingers, asking silently with his eyes if Duo was up to this. Duo answered with another kiss, then slipped a hand into Heero's shorts. His cock was sensitive, but limp.

"Sorry," Heero mumbled against Duo's hungry lips.

"Damn drugs," Duo replied with the hint of a smile. "Can I play with it anyway?"

"Yes. God yes!"

Duo shimmied down and hooked off Heero's shorts, then sucked the soft flesh into his mouth with a loud slurp. "Mmmmm. Nice. Cute like this," he chuckled, sending chills all over Heero's body.

He was still depressed, still hovering on the edge of darkness, but he could feel this. Duo's warmth and touch, the weight of his body, the love that radiated from him and the wet heat of his mouth-they all gave Heero something good and familiar to cling to. It filled an empty part of his soul the way that only Duo ever could. Duo was his lifeline, and as he shook his sweet-scented hair out over Heero's chest and belly and took Heero's balls in his mouth, Heero could let go of everything else and just be here now, with him, his beautiful mermaid, and it didn't matter if they were in Japan or the beach house or on the moon. They were together and that's how things were meant to be.

Duo lavished attention on his still limp cock, humming and sighing happily over it until Heero's whole body was floating on pleasure. "Duo, let me-"

Duo shifted so they could sixty-nine and took Heero back into his mouth. Heero groaned and wrapped his lips around Duo's very hard cock, sucking down to the root and burying his nose in the thick, musky curls at the base of it. He cupped Duo's balls and ran a finger back to tickle the sensitive ridge of skin behind them, all the way to the delicate pucker of his opening. He circled a finger there and felt Duo moan and shiver, then return the favor, reaching around Heero's hip to delve between his cheeks. Locked together like two perfectly fitted puzzle pieces, they caressed and sucked and rocked and softly moaned together.

It wasn't enough. It was good, but it wasn't enough.

Heero released Duo's cock with a last long lick. "I need you in me, Duo."

"You sure, baby? You healed up enough?"

"Yes!" But that gave Heero pause. "Are you?"

"Long as we take it slow and easy." Duo was already reaching over to scrabble around in the nightstand drawer. "Where the heck--? Know I saw-"

He let out a triumphant grunt and held up a bottle of hospital brand hand lotion. "Unscented. Hypoallergenic. Good stuff!"

Heero rolled onto his back again and spread his legs. Duo had him lift his hips and slipped a pillow underneath. "Easier access," he said, giving Heero a warm, happy look. He coated his fingers and carefully prepared Heero, then sat back on his heels between Heero's spread thighs and slicked his cock.

Heero watched with growing anticipation. He needed this; he needed to feel their bodies joined. It wasn't even about sex or pleasure, but a communion of flesh and soul though this most intimate of acts.

He'd lost track of the last time they'd had sex. Days, more than a week, surely. Longer than they'd ever gone since they'd been lovers. He let out a happy groan as the head of Duo's cock pushed against and vanquished the resistance of his entrance, then slowly slid deeper, spreading him, filling him with the perfect blend of pressure and heat and fullness.

+

Duo kept it slow gentle for both of them. His stitches pulled and burned with every thrust, but that was nothing compared to the look on Heero's face as Duo made love to him. He couldn't fix Heero's body, or his past, but he could give him this. The pained, lost look in those dark eyes was gone for now, replaced by that soft, almost surprised look he got when things felt really good.

And Duo needed it, too. The taste of Heero on his lips, the lingering scent of his lover's body on his face and hands, the smooth, hard feel of those thighs against his shoulders, the tight, slick sheath of heat around Duo's cock, and, more than anything, he realized in that moment, the incredibly comforting sense of belonging it always gave him, sharing this with Heero Yuy.

As he rocked in and out of Heero's body, watching the play of pleasure on Heero's features, tasting and smelling and feeling the essence of the man he loved with every fiber of his being, he thought //Marry me!//

It wasn't the first time he'd thought that, and as always, the words didn't make it past his lips, but they came closer this time, and not just because Wuffie and Zechs had stirred things up, either. But the moment wasn't right. He wanted the moment to be just right, romantic, when both of them were healthy and clear headed again. Not like this.

So he just smiled and made gentle love to the most beautiful man in the world. Elevating Heero's hips gave him easy access to that sensitive little prostate of his and with some very skillful encouragement from Duo's cock inside, and Duo's lubed hand outside, Heero's cock finally woke up and came to attention. Duo increased the pace of his thrusts then, but kept them gentle and on the shallow side while he worked his erection with slow, swirling caresses up and down the shaft, palming the swollen, heated head.

"Oh, Duo!" Heero breathed, as those eyes rolled back and fluttered shut. "So good. Love you. Love this. Need this. Fuck me!"

"Love, baby. Making love," Duo whispered back, keeping him focused. "I love you so much. So glad you're safe. Gonna keep you safe. Gonna love you forever and ever, baby. Don't you ever worry. I'll never let you be alone. Love you so much!"

Heero's fingers locked in a bruising grip on Duo's thighs as tears squeezed out from between his closed eyelids.

"Heero, oh baby, no! Don't cry--"

But that's as far as he got before Heero arched under him and hot white cum fountained up over Duo's fist and Heero's belly. Heero's body tightened so hard around Duo's cock that he came just as hard. His vision went white for a moment, it was so intense, and he caught himself on his hands just in time before he did a nosedive into Heero's face.

He braced himself there above him, panting and shaking, drinking in Heero's panting breath as the curtain of his hair trapped their shared heat and scents between their bodies. Tears were still trickling down from the corners of Heero's dark blue eyes and a hint of sadness was back but he was smiling. He flexed his asscheeks, giving Duo's cock a last parting hug as he slipped out.

"Thank you, beautiful," Heero whispered, cupping Duo's face in his hands and kissing him. "I really, really enjoyed that. I needed it."

"Me, too," Duo told him, lowering himself carefully down beside him and cleaning them up a bit with the corner of the sheet. That should give the nurses something to talk about tomorrow. "God, I love you!"

"Love you," Heero replied. More tears. He caught his breath and pulled Duo close again, pressing his hot face to Duo's chest and fisting one hand in his hair. "Love you, love you, love you, love you---"

Duo stroked his back again. "Hang on to that, Heero. Hang on to me. You're going to be better soon, I promise. We're going back to that beach house together, you and me. The bad stuff is all over. Over and done. Clear skies ahead, baby. Nothing but clear skies."

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