Author: Arsenic
Rating: NC-17, Slash
Fandom: GW
Pairing: 1x2, reference to 3x4
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters nor the concept.
Thanks: To Cindy, for her excellent beta job which she took time out of her very busy life to do for me.
Summary: Duo and Quatre go to visit Heero over spring break.

Quote Normal

I wake up not having any clue where I am until the window slides into focus, and I recognize the blue campus security light shining into it from the ground. I chose the room for that light. It isn't that security could really do anything for me. Hell, I could probably drop most of the guards around. It is just what the blue represents -- safety. I put my hand to my heart and stare at the light, hoping that its somewhat mesmerizing presence will wipe out what remains of the nightmare that has awoken me.

"Duo?" Quatre's voice drifts in from his room, across the common area that adjoins our two rooms. It is accompanied by a slight, female-sounding moan on the part of the person in his bed. I can hear the sheets rustle from where I am and feet padding over the carpeting.

After the debacle with Mariemeia, I was broke and considering my options when Quatre sent all five of us a transmission saying that if we were up for college, he would be more than willing to foot the bill. To hear Quatre speak of it, one would have thought he was pitching a trip to the South Caribbean to hunt buried treasure. Wufei was already safely ensconced in Preventer business; the Ringmaster had offered Trowa a job actually working with the lions instead of just feeding them, and Heero was too shaken up over Relena's kidnapping in the first place to allow anyone else to oversee her security. I, on the other hand, was up to spending four years with people close to my age (at least biologically) and the chance to learn about something other than mechanics. So I took him up on his offer, and we started college a year and a half ago, a few weeks past the date I had at some point designated my birthday. I had just turned seventeen.

It turned out to be the best decision of my life. Quatre's money and family name got us the best in dorm rooms, which translated into the best living space I have ever occupied. There's a lot to do, good coffee available at all hours of the day and night, and I found myself to be extremely good at languages and chemistry. I made friends easily and got to indulge my social side in ways that I never had hopping from mission to mission, talking to my Gundam more than any living being.

College has been good for Quatre too, if in a completely different way. We tell each other everything; it doesn't make much sense for me to hide anything with him having empathic tendencies, and though Quatre might seem open, he is actually very rarely trusting. If he didn't tell me, he'd go insane from keeping it inside. So I was surprised that it took him until the beginning of this year to tell me what I'd known all along -- he missed Trowa. I got the feeling that the endless partners he'd brought home, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes a month, sometimes no more than a day, were just holdovers. As it turns out, Quatre is horrible at being by himself -- evidently empaths experience loneliness on a deeper level than most of us. I don't think he consciously brings home the ones he knows won't work out, but they never stay around for long and he doesn't seem too upset when they leave. Each person seems to build him up, though, rather than diminish. Quatre uses campus life to get involved in everything. He is the poster-boy for every leadership conference ever held. His ability to draw people together is flourishing now that he is allowed to use it for something outside of war.

I nearly run into Quatre in the common room as it is dark, and he is not fully awake. I reach out to steady him and smile. "Go back to sleep, Q, I'm fine."

He shakes his head discouragingly. I have gotten better about not 'donning the mask,' as he so delicately puts it, when I am around him. I am still, however, far from an open book.

"Your nightmares have picked up lately. Three just this week, and it's only Wednesday." His voice stays hushed, not wanting to wake the girl in his room.

"I know, Q. I'm sorry."

"This is worried Quatre, Duo, not mad Quatre." He pulls me down onto the sofa, and we settle without thought into cuddling. We discovered no later than a month into our college foray that we found each other immensely physically comforting. It was around the same time that we found out we did not work as a couple. Still, on the nights when Quatre didn't have someone sharing his space, I was never surprised by his presence in my bed. "Maybe you should go see someone."

Quatre does not know what the nightmares are actually about. He feels my fear and hurt but gets none of the narrative behind those emotions. I think he assumes that they are all one recurring nightmare. In actuality, I almost never have the same nightmare twice. Sleep preys on every part of my life, all my fears and the causes I have for self-hatred. By the time the war had begun, there was already enough material for a lifetime of restless nights. By the time it was over, I was seriously considering a career dealing speed.

"I'll think about it." He also does not know that I have tried the therapy route. I gave a test run of a month with two sessions a week to four different head doctors, each with different qualifications, over the entirety of last year. I don't like waking him up all the time. The circles under his eyes are partly owed to the fact that he is concertmaster for the school orchestra and co-chair of the Students in Support of Sank Ideology (a.k.a. Absolute Pacifism), as well as interning for one of the economics professors and holding position as a member in good standing for six other organizations. They can also be contributed to his extra-extra curricular activities. Mostly though, they're due to his getting up three to four times a week in the middle of the night to sit up with me -- while I convince myself that sleep is not, in fact, the enemy.

"Like you thought about it last year?" There is an edge to his voice; he hates being underestimated. "Why didn't you tell me that you were seeing people?"

I shrug as much as I can in his arms. "Didn't want you to be disappointed if it didn't work out."

"Why didn't it?"

I am silent for a long time, and I know he thinks that I am ignoring his question. He jumps slightly when I speak again. "Because it's not that I can't talk about it. You know that. I've told you all the things there are to tell, even when it had you and me both sobbing and screaming. I just...it's..."

He waits for me to start again without asking questions. I hate disappointing him, so I find a way to verbalize. "This past year and half have been the greatest of my life, no holds barred. I love it here. I love being with you. I feel oddly...um, unfinished? Like I forgot a part of myself somewheres back and I have to return or something and pick it up in order to move forward. I guess the nightmares are just trying to get me to stop and actively look, ya know?"

His next comment is not what I expected. "Have you talked to Heero lately?"

"Uh..." I have to think. "Well, I mean, we only talk about three times a year really, and it's only been a coupla months, so I guess so. Why?"

"I did my monthlies on Sunday." Quatre gives a call out to each of the pilots every month without fail to check up. "There's been a drastic pick up in his nightmares of late."

"Heero told you that?" I would try to keep the jealousy out of my voice, but he would know anyway. The last time Heero told me something was wrong, it was when he got shot in the thigh protecting Relena. Even then, it was mentioned in passing.

"I guilt tripped him. Made him think it was affecting me."

I can hear the slightly chagrined blush he has in his tone of voice and I grin. Quatre is not without his devious side. Poor Heero probably has no idea that unless he dies or goes into some kind of coma, he has to at least be in the same country as Quatre for the blonde to sense anything, maybe nearer.

"Yeah, well, to say it's unlikely that he'll mention that to me, ever, let alone in the near future is an understatement. Assuming that planets collided, and he did say something, I can't just fucking pack up and go to him. Midterms are in a week; the speaker I've been looking forward to since I found out about him is coming this weekend; the steering committee for Spring Ball would be three people short and the basketball team would be sans a forward. I can't just run to him every time he thinks he can use me." I wish my tone sounded more angry and less weary. Less wistful.

"You're a grade A idiot, sweetie."

"Am I?"

"If Trowa called and asked me to come, there wouldn't be a midterm on the planet that could even make me hesitate." Quatre sighs. "You have plans for spring break already?"

"Don't even suggest I go visit him. It'll be the same as last time. I'll end up on made-for-tourist bus rides while he struggles his hardest to find three minutes in the week so that we can talk. Or, rather, I can talk. He just sits there and looks unimpressed."

"I'll go with you. That way, even if he doesn't spend much time with us, you won't be riding the bus by yourself."

I close my eyes. He is going to win the argument. I've only ever won one argument with him, and it was over what kind of Ben & Jerry's to purchase. It's hard to fight with someone when you know they're right. Besides which, as much as I hate myself for it, I miss Heero. If three minutes is all I'm going to get, I'll suck it up and smile at him the whole time. I open my eyes. The fear of my nightmare has slid away, and I am falling asleep in his arms. A shape that was not previously in my line of vision is outlined in Quatre's doorway, and I realize that the girl has awoken to the surprise of an empty bed. I nudge Quatre, and I can feel him smiling into my neck. "Whatever, Q, it's your money. You're making the arrangements, though."

The words are abrupt as I disentangle myself from his arms. I am inside my room when I feel the need to apologize. He's just trying to help, after all. I turn around and stick my head out the door. He is standing and has pulled the girl into him; they are kissing. He breaks off, sensing me.

"Q-"

"Go to bed, Maxwell." He sticks his tongue out at me.

I twist my tongue into a knot and stick it out at him. This annoys him because, despite my best efforts at instruction, he cannot master the art of tongue-contortion. I respond with a slight lisp, "Yeth thir."

*

To my surprise, Heero deigns to meet us at the landing pad. Quatre launches himself at our former co-pilot. Heero stumbles backwards, catching himself from falling at the force of Quatre's attack. After a few minutes, an opening is made for me. I give Heero my most patented grin and hold out my hand. Heero takes it, and then, in a move that nearly has me on my ass in shock, pulls me into a hug. Heero was never weak, but the end of the war has meant a time of unprecedented growth spurts for each of us -- with the exception of Trowa. Even at my newly and proudly acquired height of five foot seven inches, Heero is a good three inches taller. We are both still slim, but with the availability of food and no need to scrunch into shoe box-size cockpits, our physiques have contoured and shaped into the musculature of athletic eighteen-year-olds. Our bodies, at least when clothed, no longer tell any of our story. The result of this growth at this precise moment is that I am enfolded in a hug that, if I trusted Heero less, I would assume was an underhanded way of murder. I do trust Heero, though, and find myself disgustingly happy about the fact that I am well on my way to asphyxiation. Now there's a kink I never suspected myself of having...

We get back to the palace, and I am more affected than I want to admit by Heero placing both of us in the rooms on either side of his. I am busy quickly transferring my stuff from bag to closet when I feel him a few feet behind me.

"How's Relena?" He is not shocked by my voice, but then it is hard to catch Heero off guard.

"In love."

I almost trip over my bag. Going past the fact that Heero has just offered me seemingly irrelevant information to the question asked, he opened a conversation that I was quite sure we were going to spend the whole of this week dancing around. From his tone, the fact that he is not urbanely sarcastic, he is not referring to her crush on him.

"Oh?" I am relatively sure that I am speaking in my normal octave.

Heero doesn't respond, instead moves to the bed, where he sits down and watches me move a little too quickly around the room. I finish unpacking with record speed, brush my hands against the side-seams of my jeans and decide that I'm too old to play the silence game. "Why couldn't you have just told me about whatever you were going through, Hee? Q does not exist to play mediator between us." A shrug is his only response.

I am tempted to smack him. "I came all the way out here to see you and help you figure your shit out. You can do better than that."

"If you didn't want to come-"

"Heero." While I claim to be the supreme artist of deceptive cheeriness, I never bothered with deceptive calm.

"You listen to Quatre." He sounds like something inside of him has been broken without any assistance from me and I am immediately repentant.

"I'd listen to you too, Hee, if you'd just speak up every once in awhile." I move to sit down next to him. I am less surprised than I should be when he doesn't move away so that our legs won't touch.

"Thank you for coming."

For once, I am the silent one.

*

He is in my room before I have fallen asleep. I don't know if I expected it or not, but I pull back the covers on the other side of the bed and wait for him to climb in. I enjoy watching him as much or more than I ever have. He settles himself so that he is facing me and goes for a direct hit to my most vulnerable spot.

"Quatre says you're having them too."

"Them?" I will have to talk to Quatre about roommate confidentiality. In the meantime, no way am I making this easy for him.

"Nightmares."

"Yeah."

He hesitates, but he asks. "Tell me about them?"

"Fuck you. Why don't you tell me about yours?"

"They vary. Sometimes it's the training -- beatings I took in order to obliterate pain from my consciousness, being locked in tiny dark spaces or held under water for indeterminate amounts of time, being given pets and ultimately forced to kill them. Most of the time they're about the war: the aftermath of land battles with heaps of dead just scattered about, Quatre's eyes after he blew up the colony, the feeling of constantly wanting to self-destruct, the feeling of attempting to self-destruct, Zech's madness...You in that telecast. You when I went to get you out."

I take all this in. Of all the times for Heero to call one of my bluffs, this is the least convenient. If it wasn't for those last few reasons, I would take him in my arms, hold him until he fell asleep and figure I owed him no debts. After all, I hadn't said I would respond with a verbalization of my own horrors. In light of his admissions, though, I find myself talking.

"Some of mine are about the war. You guys, mostly, and the dead. They're angry and sad and a million other things that I can't change for them. I see the church burning and I swear I can hear the screams of everyone, even though I made it back long after they were all dead. Then there's Solo, who's too weak to cough, or dry-heave, or even moan at the amount of pain he's in. There's the male nurse who caught me stealing meds and extracted payment from me over the sterilized counter top; the lady that OZ set on me while I was waiting for you to come and kill me. She could have taught the devil lessons in dealing out pain. The way Q sounds on those rare nights when everything gets to be too much and he wakes up unable to breathe. He sprained his wrist one time when that happened. Fell out of bed trying to get my attention. Scared the living crap out of the freshman he had brought home. Sometimes they're just sensations -- hunger, fear, pain...rejection."

I look directly at him on my last word and barely hold in a smirk. We are now tit for tat. He doesn't speak, but then I don't expect him to. He's said more to me in a day than I think he has said in his whole lifetime. He places himself in the middle of the bed, reaches out and, with barely any effort, pulls me into him. I close my eyes. I can do without words.

*

I wake up looking into blue eyes that are not his. I scream and scramble back to fall off the bed. From the floor, I peer up. "Hi, Relena."

"Duo." She has the grace not to smile, for which I am sickeningly grateful. "How's our erstwhile intellectual?"

"Oh, you must be in the wrong room. He's down the hall. Blond hair, yea high." I motion with my hand way over my head, as I have not yet picked myself up from off of the floor.

This she smiles at. "It's nice to see you."

I stand up. "Is it?"

"Yes. I just had to get past my fag hag stage is all."

She says it so nonchalantly that I almost find myself on the floor again. "That's very, ah, mature of you."

She laughs, and I can't help but join. "Where am I going to find a new bodyguard, Duo?" The words are casual, but I am good at reading people, and she is easier than most I know. I do not enjoy her fear. I deal by denying it, flowing rather unevenly into a new, offensively intrusive conversation.

"Heero says there's someone new for you."

"He didn't say who."

"I didn't ask."

"The name Treize Khushenrada sound familiar?"

I sit down, this conversation is becoming perilous to my health. "Um, okay, not to sound stupid, but is necrophilia a new thing for you, or is this a 'it's been there my whole life and I'm just now admitting it' kind of thing?"

"That would be funny if I wasn't so tempted to vomit. He survived. Evidently some of the colonists on L1 found him dead in space and patched him up. The broadcasts of Mariemeia's little escapade brought him out of his decision to hole up for the rest of his existence. He's really great with her."

I am glad to hear that her tone has muted from the blind obsession that always filled it when she spoke of Heero to contented tenderness. I hold no grudges. If Treize wants to raise a daughter nobody ever knew was his and aid a woman with dreams of peace, more power to him. "Bet Heero was thrilled when he showed back up."

"Don't play dumb, Duo. We've come upon the softer, gentler Heero Yuy of late."

"That's like the bouncy version of Gundanium." I let her know with my eyes that I am well aware of what she is talking about. Her smile makes her seem small. "Even if you're right, even if he will go with me, we won't just leave you. He may not want you in his bed, but you were the first person ever in his heart. You will always be important to both of us for that reason alone."

She gets up to walk out. She has brushed past me when I feel her turn and grab me from the side. I fall into her and we grip each other in an attempt to find balance for several moments on end. Her voice is as unsteady as her balance, "You can be very kind at times."

"Only when the recipient of that kindness is worth the effort."

*

I find Quatre in the kitchen. "Heero has turned into a mad-talking machine."

Quatre grabs a bowl from one of a multitude of cabinets and I briefly wonder how he knows where to find things. He sets the bowl in front of me and pours some of the cereal he has chosen and about a fourth a gallon of milk into my bowl without asking. I am unbothered. He hands me a spare spoon and looks pointedly at my bowl. "He's missed you."

"Don't start." I scoop up more cereal than the spoon should be able to hold and begin eating noisily.

"You're not the only one Heero talks to, you know."

I threaten him with a vague waving of the spoon in his general direction. "Unless you're gonna spill, don't say another word."

"He said last night was the first time he has slept without nightmares in over two months."

I affect a bad Jamaican accent. "It's da Duo voodoo, man."

"You're impossible. You want something, but then when it's offered on a silver platter, you refuse to take it."

"Q, you're my best friend, but you grew up in a place where silver platters were unlikely to rear to life and bite you in the ass. The silver platters where I come from, they won't stop with your ass, they'll eat all the way up to your head."

"You're afraid because it's too easy?"

"Yes. No. I don't think fear is the issue here, sensibility is more like it."

"Whatever you say."

"Fear will eat you too, if you let it know it has power over you."

"Love is that way as well. Sometimes, the things we view as scary or bad just need to be looked at in a different light. You may have to find a new tag phrase, but at eighteen years old, running and hiding are both counterproductive."

I scrape the last remnants of cereal from the bowl. "What happens if you're wrong? If searching for the new light, if staying where I am, just leaves me empty, torn up?"

"If you have to ask, then you don't value my friendship as highly as I had hoped."

"You cannot be picking up the pieces of Maxwell for the rest of our lives, Q."

"You plan on soaking yourself in nitrogen oxide?" Heero has slipped into the kitchen at some point without either of us noticing. I glare at him. Not that I could detect his approaches when I was at my best -- he was always better -- but he knows there's not a chance in hell that I could now.

I pretend that there is no possibility he has heard more than I wanted him to. "Yes, know where I can get some?"

He steals my bowl and frowns at me as though it is my fault that I have eaten what was poured for me. "We're fresh out. I like you whole."

I tilt my head and try to decide if that comment is meant to pass as sexual innuendo. In the context, however, this is beyond my comprehension, and I put it down to Heero not being one for words.

"Yeah, it makes everything easier, doesn't it?"

I can't help it, mine comes out as a come on. He looks at Quatre in a non-expressive plea for help. Quatre's face contorts as he nobly attempts not to giggle. Heero's expression never changes as he hesitantly asks, "Um, Quatre?"

Quatre allows the laughter out and waits for it to pass before responding. "I'm sorry, it's just, Duo's pretty much all talk, I'm pretty much all action. You're looking at the wrong boy for help on that one."

Heero digests this new information. "I thought you loved Trowa."

I wish Quatre was still laughing. His smile is thin and well-worn. "Yes, well, everything unrequited is such a good time, yeah?"

"Oh."

I want to be mad at Heero for bringing this up. I want to feel the desire to rail at him for that completely inadequate sound of response. Instead I find courage I didn't know anyone had, let alone me, and look up at him. "Yeah, oh."

Something passes over his eyes and his hand twitches at his side as though to move without his permission. I take a deep breath and grab the hand.

He looks down at our enjoined hands. "Oh."

*

[cont]