"You're... you're all I have left, Heero." I blurted, catching
his hand in mine and squeezing again. "I want to take care of you,
too... I just want you safe and well... I..."
Frustration flickered across his face again. "You're keeping something
from me," he said then, voice thick and intense. "I can tell...
even after you promised. I'm just so damn worried..."
I heaved a sigh and sat up straighter, deciding to come clean on the one
point. Perhaps it would ease his mind enough that he would stop digging
for the other points. "If I freakin' tell you, will you not try to
His eyes looked so... hopeful, that guilt-beast just fucking appeared
out of no-where and nailed me in the ass before I even knew he was back.
Heero nodded and then amended it with a tiny little, "I'll try."
I snorted and glanced away from that piercing gaze. "I don't have
a driver's license."
"What?" he murmured, blinking in surprise.
"I never fucking needed one, ok?" I said and knew I sounded
defensive. "I couldn't afford a car and the ship, too. It wasn't
practical, so I never bothered with it."
"So..." he hesitated, confused. "How did you... I mean..."
I sighed, frustration getting the better of me. "I did not drive
the damn car illegally. I took the bus. It is no big deal... or it wouldn't
be if you stopped making it a big deal. There is this lovely thing called
'public transportation' that is just a wonderful invention, maybe you've
never heard of it? Great big vehicles with lots of seats inside? Somebody
else does the driving?"
I shut up and looked away.
"Why didn't you just tell me?" he asked gently.
"Because," I grumbled. "You would have made one of the
guys come all the way down here just to chauffer me around and I'm sick
to death of being a pain in everybody's ass!"
"Duo!" he blurted, sounding shocked. "You are not..."
"I am," I said firmly. "Before that damn accident, I was
a relatively self-sufficient person. Now I'm just this blood-sucking leech..."
Oooops. There went the mouth again. I felt like my thoughts had just made
an end-run around my brain.
"You are not!" he scolded, suddenly looking pained. "Don't
talk like that."
I couldn't meet that pain in his eyes, and looked away. In that instant,
I wished I were free to run away. I wished that I still had a place I
could run to. It hit like a damn blow, suddenly, that I was totally dependent
on him now... I had no home of my own anymore. We'd been living together
for over six months, but I'd always had that bolthole... that place I
could retreat too if I really had to. I felt like I'd made the leap out
of the airplane, and then decided to check my chute.
"Why shouldn't I?" I sighed and let my head drop back down onto
his shoulder so I didn't have to look at him. "It's the God's honest
I wanted to give in and lean. I needed to be strong and support. I wished...
for a damn nap.
His hands stroked over my hair and I felt him sigh. "You are not
a... leech. They're your friends... we are all your friends... we love
you and we just want to help. Let me in..."
"What would you have me do, Heero?" I asked him, and was surprised
when he had a ready answer.
"Stop hiding. Stop lying. Talk to me." He had a lot of ready
answers. "Stop trying to bear everything alone. Tell me what you're
feeling... I can't read your mind, you know."
I couldn't help a dark chuckle. "Never thought I'd hear you admit
to that one."
There was a small silence, and then, "They took my crystal ball with
the rest of my belongings."
He won a snicker and I raised my head to smile for him and suddenly found
my lips covered with his. There was a desperation to the kiss, a voraciousness.
If he had been whole and well, he would have pinned me to the bed and
ravaged my mouth while he ripped the clothes off me. My body was flooded
with heat and I moaned, shifting to deepen the kiss since he couldn't.
We speak better with touch than we do with words. I could feel his love
like a solid thing under my hands and it was something I had needed to
When I drew back I was surprised to find his face swimming before my eyes.
"I. Love. You," he told me forcefully while I sat and blinked
my sight clear.
"Then let me do the things I have to do," I whispered. "I'm...
feeling like the biggest damn loser on the face of the planet right now.
I need this... to not fail you on top of everything else."
"Oh, love..." he breathed and I stilled him with a soft kiss,
nothing like the first one.
"Please?" I said, trying not to let it sound pleading. "The
worst is over... I know my timing wasn't the best, but it had to be done.
And it is done." I tried to quirk him a grin but only ended up blushing
furiously. "I promise; no more hysterical venting."
"I wish you hadn't done that... to your ship," he said softly,
touching my face tenderly. "It was too soon... you should have waited
and not made the decision while you're still recovering."
I heaved a sigh and met his eyes. His were so full of... belief in me.
Full of love and... faith. I'm sure mine just looked bleak.
"Listen to me, Heero," I told him intently. "Physically,
I will recover... some day." I couldn't contain the discouraged sigh,
wondering just how in the hell long before that happened. "But...
mentally... it's in my damn bones. That... fear has soaked in and it's
not going away. I am not going to get over it. No amount of talking about
it is going to make the panic stop. If we were talking about..."
I wracked my brain, looking for an analogy. "If we were talking about
falling off a horse... yeah; maybe I could cope with it and eventually
go on. But there's no margin for error in what I do. If I freeze or I
panic on the job... somebody dies. Maybe not even me. I won't take that
His fingers tightened on my arms almost painfully. "It... it just...
tears me apart, thinking about you... going in there, all alone. I wish
you had waited for me."
I flashed on the horrendous mental picture of Heero witnessing the insane,
screaming attack I had made on the room from Hell, armed with a paint
stripper and fez-sporting hamsters. I shivered. "I don't want to
talk about it. It's over."
He graced me with a pained
little frown and opened his mouth to speak.
"Damnit," I said. "I came to spend time with you, not to
He relented. Praise God and Allah and little winged Cherubs; he backed
the hell down. Which was a damned good thing because I was about two minutes
from running out of the hospital screaming at the top of my lungs.
I busied myself for a bit, changing his water and straightening around
his area. Someone had pushed his table so far over he couldn't reach it
and I repositioned it. He was out of Kleenex and I found some on a cart
in the hall.
He finally got around to telling me that the last of his external staples
had been removed that morning. He showed me the wounds for the first time
and I found that I had to sit down when my knees felt suddenly weak. I
discovered his hand in mine and had to make myself not crush his fingers.
It had been... a very near thing. A God damned near thing.
"It's all right," he whispered gently.
"I know," I whispered back, and he pulled his gown back down
and let me sit in silence for a minute, holding tight to my hand.
"What you're feeling..." he said, very softly, "is what
I've been feeling for months. Only you don't have any freshly healing
scars to reassure me with."
I tore my gaze away from his abdomen and met the intense glitter of his
steely blue eyes. That had been a cheap shot. One that I hadn't seen coming.
I opened my mouth to speak, not knowing how in the hell to answer that.
He gently stroked his thumb over my lips to stop the words that weren't
"Don't," he told me. "Just... keep it in mind, all right?"
I nodded, the most I could manage.
Dinner came then and I could have kissed LeAnn. I used her mercilessly
to alter the conversation and the mood. Used the meal to head us toward
our nightly routine. He ate his dinner and I gave him his bath, even washing
his hair. Everything I could do for him, I did, in an effort to keep the
conversation from wandering back where I didn't want to go.
Finally, it was time for me to leave and that thought hit me hard. 'Finally';
God, but I didn't want to feel that way.
We said our goodbyes and I was shocked as hell when he let me go without
any admonishments over the whole stupid lack of transportation thing.
I caught the bus back to the apartment, reflecting that sitting with him
through the night had been easier. I was going to have to go straight
to the theatre to get any sleep at all; the showings only ran to eleven
on weeknights. I wouldn't have the matinees to fall back on. I would have
to get my couple of hours in immediately and then go back to the apartment
and... work crossword puzzles for the rest of the night or something.
I had been entertaining the idea of trying to sleep alone before Heero
had informed me of Wufei's 'turning blue' comment. I somehow didn't think
I'd be dozing off by myself anytime soon. I wondered idly how long before
Heero was released from the hospital. That would make my damn life so
much easier. At least I didn't have therapy tomorrow.
The French flick was gone, replaced by some epic historical thing. I bought
my ticket, delighted to find that being a different shift, there was a
different usher. I think the other guy had gotten to the point where he
recognized me. I settled myself in 'my' corner seat and was asleep before
the lights even dimmed. On a weeknight, there weren't a lot of people
in there with me... but there were enough. There was the soft murmur of
voices and the rustling of shifting bodies. It was enough.
I blinked awake when the lights came back up and my subconscious informed
me the movie was over. I sat up and was suddenly aware that someone was
sitting very close to me. Not three seats away. That kicked my defenses
into high gear; it scared the holy shit out of me that some stranger had
gotten that close to me while I was at my most vulnerable. But then the
"Duo," Trowa's soft voice asked. "What in the hell are
Three hours of sleep is not really enough. It is, in fact, just about
enough to let you really sink into a good, deep sleep. So waking up from
a three hour 'nap' kind of leaves your brain going, 'what the hell?' in
a very blurry manner.
"Sleeping," I told him before I had a chance to edit it. Sleep
deprivation is an interrogation method, in case you didn't know that.
"Why?" You gotta love Trowa; he is such a man of few words.
I resisted the urge to answer 'because'.
I realized that my mouth was on autopilot and so just shut up while my
brain had a chance to blink owlishly and stagger around looking for a
gear to be in.
"Duo?" Trowa prompted.
I fell back on that ages old evasion method. "What are you doing
here?" Answering a question with another question.
"I believe that is the question I asked you; what are you doing?"
Guess Trowa knew that game.
I was waking up a little bit and I dared try a different tactic. "It's
been kind of a long day and I thought the movie would help me unwind...
but it was kind of boring,"
There was the ghost of a sigh, a sound I don't think he had meant to let
me hear. "I've been here the whole time. You were asleep before the
movie ever started."
It was my turn to sigh, and I didn't fucking care if he heard me. "Then
what in the hell are you asking me for? You obviously know what I'm doing
He frowned and started to speak again, but there was the sound of someone
clearing their throat and we both looked up to find the usher standing
there. The kid looked God awful uncomfortable.
"The theatre is closing," he mumbled and we didn't have much
choice but to follow him to the exit.
Outside in the cool evening air, I turned my steps toward the apartment
and sighed again when Trowa fell in beside me.
"Trowa," I asked, "why are you following me?"
He glanced at my profile as we walked across the street. "You have
Quatre tied in knots," he said bluntly. "I promised that I would
make sure you were all right. Quatre and Wufei... had a small disagreement
about whether you were ready to stay on your own tonight."
I growled. I gave in to the urge I'd been harboring all evening and I
just freakin' growled. "Do you have any idea what a major pain in
the ass it is to have you guys acting like I'm an escaped lunatic from
the dangerous criminals' asylum?"
He chuckled lightly and I was glad it was too dark for him to see the
blush on my face.
"Yeah," he agreed in a companionable manner. "I can kind
of imagine. But can you tell me why you went to the movies to sleep?"
We had reached the front walk of the apartment complex and started down
"Honest to God, Trowa," I told him. "As much as I like
you guys... it's really nobody's damn business."
We were at the steps leading into the building and I hesitated, wondering
if I could get him to just go away.
"You can't sleep without someone else around, can you?" he asked
I whirled to look up at him. "Is it just fucking tattooed on my damn
forehead, or what?" I blurted, remembering how easily Neo had figured
me out as well.
Trowa chuckled merrily, and his fingers flicked at my bangs as he pretended
to scrutinize my forehead. "Nope. Doesn't appear to be."
I found myself sitting on the steps and after a couple of minutes, Trowa
sat down beside me.
"Duo," he said patiently, "it's not all that surprising
to anyone because it is so understandable." He didn't touch me, but
he was sitting close enough I could feel his body heat and it made me
shiver. He was looking off at the streetlights or the stars or something...
I'm not sure what. "I know you weren't there on that mission when...
when Quatre..." he floundered for a minute and I quietly supplied,
"Zero-system?" When Quatre had almost killed him.
He nodded sharply and we both had to take a second to shove old memories
away. "I was adrift for... hours," he fairly whispered, and
I couldn't help turning to look at him. His eyes were wide, lost in the
past. I found my hand reaching to rest on his arm and he glanced at me
gratefully. "Only a couple of hours..." he repeated and I knew
he was comparing his time with mine. A shiver wracked me and his hand
closed over mine where it rested on his forearm. "All the same...
I couldn't bear it. I completely broke... I didn't even remember who I
was when it was all over. It took me... months before I could even begin
to... to..." He broke off and looked away.
"I know," I told him. "You don't have to tell me any more."
He glanced at me. "Duo, we can't understand how in the hell you've
managed as well as you have." He gave me a rueful smile. "You
have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about."
I withdrew my hand to rub across tired eyes and blew my breath out in
an exasperated sigh. "I just feel like a total moron," I confessed.
"Like some kind of pathetic... helpless idiot."
"You shouldn't," he soothed.
Sitting with him in the near dark was too much like talking to my ghosts
and he was pulling more from me than I had meant to say. "I just
can't fail Heero, Trowa. Everything he's done for me... all the sacrifices
he's made... he needs me now and I'm doing such a bad job of handling
"Don't let what Wufei said, get to you," he grumbled angrily.
"He had no right to say that."
As much as he's given up for you... where the hell were you when he needed
I thought about that, my fingers rising of their own accord and brushing
my still sore jaw. "It was true... what he said. I should have been
He snorted and glanced sidelong at me. "You're going to stop living
your life so that you can be around on the off chance that Heero is going
to do something stupid?"
I found my hands curled into fists and had to stop myself from hitting
the concrete steps. "I didn't need that last job to tell me I'd lost
my damn nerve!" I burst out. "I had it rather forcibly demonstrated
to me on that stupid trip with Relena! It was just my own Goddamn stubbornness
that wouldn't let me face it. If I'd just been a big boy and sucked it
up the first time, I would have been here. Heero wouldn't have been so
stinking distracted that he let himself get shot!"
I wrapped my arms around my knees and shut up. There were a couple of
minutes of quiet, and then Trowa's hand came to rest on my back. I wondered
about these guys who, during the war, had been so standoffish. When had
they learned to be so open? When had they learned how to be such good
He rubbed gentle circles for a minute before offering, "You wouldn't
be our Duo if you didn't keep throwing yourself at impossible odds."
I couldn't contain a snort of laughter. "Wufei says I'm a tenacious
bastard." I was oddly proud of that.
Trowa chuckled with me. "It's... apt."
"I just... if I can just get by until Heero's out of the hospital,"
I told him in a hushed tone. "Everything will be all right."
His hand stilled, coming to rest on my shoulder. "I don't know that
I turned to look at him, wanting to convince him that I knew what I was
doing. "No... listen, Trowa," I told him vehemently. "Once
Heero's back, I won't have any trouble sleeping. I'm handling everything
else... that's the only sticky point. I just have to get by until then.
It'll fade with time... I'm sure of it. I just have to tough it out a
He didn't look reassured. He only looked troubled. I wanted to scream;
could these guys not listen to anything I said?
He didn't speak immediately, just sat beside me with his arm curled around
my shoulders until I started to feel uncomfortable.
"Sometimes..." he said very softly, when he finally did speak.
"Sometimes it doesn't fade, it just lies in wait for a weak moment."
I didn't ask, and he didn't say more. I probably should have, but I honestly
just didn't want to hear about it right then. It was easier to believe
that I only had to struggle through a couple of tough weeks, not that
it could be a struggle I might not be able to win.
The look on his face told me he was speaking from personal experience
and I felt bad that I couldn't bring myself to ask him about what he meant.
Guilt-beast joined us on the steps and I had to suppress the urge to move
over and make room for him.
Trowa cleared his throat after it became apparent that the conversational
ball had fallen rather flat on my side of the net. "How about we
go upstairs and you pack some things and come home with me?"
I blinked up at him stupidly. "What?" I suppose I should have
seen it coming, but I hadn't.
"Quatre will be thrilled to have you," he smiled. "And
if I'm the one who convinces you to come stay with us, maybe he'll forgive
me for dragging him out of the hospital that first night."
I didn't answer him right away, mulling it over.
"Come on, little brother," he chuckled teasingly. "Quatre
will turn it into a party. You'll make him happy."
I snickered. "Little brother?"
"Well,' he grinned back. "If you're Quatre's 'brother'... that
makes you mine by default."
My grin widened into something a little evil. "Isn't that... incest?"
I took him by surprise and he laughed out loud, quickly cutting it off
with a nervous look around at the dark apartment windows. "Brother-in-law
then," he amended. "Come on... let me take you home."
He meant his home, and I knew that, but I still had to fight the urge
to tell him I didn't have a home anymore... I'd destroyed it with my own
I thought about his offer and saw it for the two-edged sword that it was.
Yes, in a house full of people, I could probably find a place that I could
sleep without the screaming, breath-snatching nightmares. But... it would
be admitting to a weakness and allowing Quatre to throw himself into full-fledged
No-Holds-Barred mother-Hen mode. But I suppose I had seen on a rather
personal basis that this group of guys did not keep a hell of a lot of
secrets from each other. Trowa had already ferreted out my somewhat unorthodox
sleeping arrangements and I was pretty sure the rest of them would know
all about it before morning. I glanced at guilt-beast and turned my head
to hide the smirk.
"Hope Quatre doesn't have a problem with pets," I muttered.
"Nothing," I sighed. "Ok... what the hell; why not?"
He smiled at me as though I were the one doing him the favor. I couldn't
help but roll my eyes, but rose to my feet and led the way up the stairs.
I let us into the apartment and he followed me into the bedroom. "Let
me get my duffle bag and a change of clothes and I'll be ready to go,"
I told him and opened the closet door.
Cold, cold hands were closing on my arms, reaching for the air tank...
"Shit!" I wailed, confronted by a member of the Derry crew in
broad fucking daylight. I staggered backward, trying to get as much space
between me and the closet as I could manage. An inarticulate scream was
forming on my lips. I came up hard against a warm body and I clung to
that realization; a warm body. Not dead. Not a ghost. Not after my air.
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's