by: Sunhawk

Absolution (cont)

I felt myself blushing and looked down at my hands. "He's in the fucking hospital. He doesn't need to be worrying about me at a time like this."

"And what if your evasions are only worrying him more?" Quatre said logically. "What if his imagination is painting in far worse things than the actual reality?"

I sighed and dropped my head into my hands. "It doesn't damn well matter now anyway... he's so pissed off at me..." I let that trail off and had to wonder about those damn thought-hamsters. It was like they lay in wait for me to forget they were there so that they could sneak messages passed my brain to the outside world.

There was movement in the room and I suddenly found Quatre kneeling on the couch next to me. "He's not... mad at you," he soothed gently and opened his arms to me. I don't know where in the hell Trowa disappeared to, but it was all at once just the two of us.

I sighed heavily and just let myself lean into the embrace. Who would ever have pegged this group of hardened soldiers as a bunch of huggers? "You didn't see him tonight. He was wicked pissed. He... he didn't even kiss me goodbye."

I let my cheek rest on his shoulder and stared at Sisyphus on the screen of my laptop where it sat in front of me, quietly mocking.

"He loves you very much, Duo," Quatre told me quietly and I could feel my face burning. "He might get upset with you, but he's never going to get so angry that he doesn't get over it."

He was gently rubbing his cheek against the back of my head and I had to snort bitterly. "I think he's... given up on me, Qat. I think he finally ran out of patience."

"You don't honestly believe that?" he murmured, sounding almost exasperated with me for daring to think it.

I held up the bottle of soda to the light. "What the hell did you do? Drug this stuff?" I accused, marveling at the crap that was slipping passed my defenses.

"I'm just here," he chuckled. "And willing to listen. I think you very much need someone to talk to right now." His hand began to stroke gently over my braid. I wondered what it was that drew them all to touch my hair when they wanted to comfort.

"I just tried to talk to him today... about him treating me like some damn little kid that can't make their own decisions." I suddenly found myself giving in to the urge to dump some of this crap out of my head and was appalled to hear my own voice telling Quatre these things. "He acts like I need protecting all the time... like I'm not capable of taking care of myself."

Quatre laughed. I was rather shocked and stiffened, sitting up to look at him. His _expression could only be described as bemused.

"What do you find so funny about that?" I asked coldly, but if anything his grin only widened.

"I just think it's a darn ironic comment coming from the guy who threw himself into the middle of a squad of Oz soldiers to keep them from finding my hiding place." His grin turned into an almost smirk as he watched my eyes widen and my mouth drop open.

"That... that wasn't the same thing at all!" I blurted, and knew it was pretty damn lame.

"Oh?" he chortled. "You wouldn't have done that for anyone else on the team, big brother. You would have trusted any of the others to get themselves out of there on their own."

"Well... the other guys... I wasn't..." I didn't know what to say. I had leaped out of the underbrush during that mission gone bad, because I had seen the soldiers only minutes away from flushing Quatre out of hiding. I had been captured by those bastards once already and had gotten the crap beat out of me. I had a half a dozen damned scars from that lovely little encounter. I wasn't going to sit by and let them get their damn hands on my baby brother. I had made that mad dash into the midst of the bad guys fully intending to take his lumps for him. It had been a freakin' miracle that I had managed to get the hell away again. I'm still not real sure how in the hell I did it. In all my years on the street, I have never run so far so fast. It had seemed my feet had wings.

I found my fingers rubbing absently at the place on my thigh where I had taken a bullet that night and made myself stop, but not before Quatre noticed and his smile faded.

"I never got to properly thank you," he said quietly.

I gave him a sudden grin. "I rather thought you gave me your thanks when you decked Heero for daring to suggest I'd led Oz back to the hide-out."

He burst out with a sudden laugh and blushed bright red. "I still can't believe I did that!" he whispered as though someone might overhear the confession. "I've never been so mad in all my life!"

"Hell... I was scared and you were defending me!" I chuckled lightly with him.

"I've never quite understood what kept him from killing me," he said wryly, still looking embarrassed.

"Uhmm... I think that would probably have been Trowa standing right behind you with a look on his face that would have made a charging rhino pee his pants."

There was an odd little snort from the vicinity of the doorway and we looked up to see Trowa standing there. "And you, Duo, standing right beside me... barely on your feet but still looking like somebody's 'mother bear'."

I opened my mouth to retort, but he was coming across the room toward me, holding the cordless phone out. "It's for you," he said with a small smile and was taking Quatre's hand to pull him from the room even while I was still putting the phone to my ear. I hadn't heard the phone ring, which should have told me just who in the hell was on the line, but didn't.

"Hello?" I said hesitantly into the receiver.

"Duo?" It was Heero's voice, of course, sounding concerned.

"What...?" I delivered that old standby line while my brain did the processing. Then I had another one of those clicks. Trowa had called him. "Shit! They didn't wake you up, did they?" I was irritated as hell with the both of them all of a sudden and heartily sick of all the damn butting in.

"No," Heero soothed, sounding a little sad. "I... couldn't sleep anyway. Duo-love... what happened this afternoon?"

I deflated immediately and sighed heavily into the phone, "I don't know... I just don't know."

"You told me not to doubt you, baby," he said softly. "You can't doubt me either."

"I'm sorry," I breathed. "You were so angry... I thought you'd... given up on me."

"Never," he told me fiercely. "Don't you ever think that. I wasn't angry... I was just frustrated and confused. I don't know how we got to where we are and I don't know how to get us back again."

"I got... sick and you got shot," I told him with a dark smile. "That's how we got here. We just have to hang on until you're well. That's all. I'll do better... I promise."

He didn't speak for a minute and the silence on the phone was punctuated with the soft sound of his breathing. I could have curled up around that sound and gone to sleep. "Duo... it isn't about you 'doing better' or 'being stronger'. You are already shouldering more than your fair share. Maybe you're right about my needing to heal... but you have other people now. People who love us, and you need to let them help us. Help you."

"Can you repeat that?" I grinned at nobody in particular.

"What?" he questioned.

"That part about me maybe being right?" I snickered.

It earned me a grunt. "Baka," he said tenderly.

"Asshole," I murmured.

"I can't wait to be home with you," he blurted suddenly. "I miss you so much it hurts."

I found myself lying down, curling around the phone as though it were his hand in mine and not just a damn piece of cold metal and plastic.

"Soon... soon," I soothed. "Maybe tomorrow."

There was an odd little, uncomfortable moment. "Uhmm... don't get your hopes up too much, but I have reason to believe that tomorrow is a good possibility."

I perked up instantly, "Oh? You gonna share your sources?"

"Well, apparently, the phrase 'if I handle solid food ok' means... if afore-mentioned solid food... follows its natural course without incident."

I laughed out right. "You mean you get to go home as soon as you take a dump?"

There was the sound of a soft growl. "Well... if you're going to use the technical term for it; yes."

I snickered some more. "So how's it looking?"

"Mission accomplished," he informed me dryly and I almost fell off the couch laughing.

"I'm so glad to be a source of amusement for you," he snorted and it took me by surprise to hear him using my own line on me. "The mission wasn't that damn easy."

"Ow," I commiserated. "You... all right?"

"I'll live," he mock growled at me. "For all you care."

"I care," I told him, managing to tone the mirth down to just a wide grin.

"Tell me," he suddenly said, voice gone all serious and breathless.

"I love you." I couldn't not respond to the need in his voice.

"Tell me again," he commanded, voice sounding thick.

"I love you more than anything," I told him intently.

"God," he breathed, "tell me again."

"I love you, Heero Yuy, you are my whole world." I chuckled softly. "Are you doubting me?"

"I've missed your laughter," he whispered, his voice so intimate that I could almost close my eyes and imagine him right there beside me.

"You?" I wheedled gently.

"What?" he teased.

"Prick," I groused.

"Oh, my Duo," he murmured, relenting. "You know I love you."

"Don't always," I let slip.

"You should," he whispered. "I'll see to it that you never doubt me again."

Somehow, all the tension of the evening was washing away and I was taken by surprise by a jaw-popping yawn.

He chuckled softly at me, "It's pretty late, love. Getting tired?"

I couldn't help sighing. "Seem to be tired all the damn time any more."

"We just need to get you home, in our own bed. You'll sleep better then," he soothed gently.

"I'll sleep better when you're back where you belong," I grumbled.

"We're almost there, my heart," he told me, voice a gentle caress. "Just a little further. You can make it... I know you can."

"Heero?" I asked hesitantly.

"What is it, love?" he responded, and I thought I could hear weariness in his own voice.

"Tell me too?" I whispered, not as steady as I had meant to be.

"Yes," he breathed. "God yes... more than breath. I love you, my Duo... more than anything."

"Thank you," I murmured sleepily. "Good night, husband-mine."

He snorted affectionately. "Good night, love."

I didn't push the disconnect button until after he'd hung up. I think I could have just drifted off to sleep right there, but Trowa appeared not long after, and I imagined him sitting over the cordless base unit, watching for the active light to go out.

"Come on, Duo," he prodded gently and got me on my feet.

"I gotta clean this mess up," I resisted, reaching for the dirty dishes.

"Leave it," he chuckled. "That's what Quatre has employees for... I got used to it; you can get used to it."

"It do'sn seem right," I complained thickly. "I made th'mess."

"And someone else is getting paid damn good money to clean it up,' he explained patiently and took me by the shoulders and steered me toward the door.

The 'blue room' was just two doors down from the 'green room' I'd used last time. Another bedroom with two twin beds and Quatre already ensconced in it, fussing with turning the comforters back. I reflected, on a sudden bubble of thought, that Trowa was probably just as eager to get my ass out of his house as I was. He'd been doing a lot of sleeping alone since I came to visit.

I did note, with a strange mixture of happiness and guilt, that there were no silk pajamas lying out waiting for me on my bed.

Trowa delivered me up to Quatre's tender mercies, gave his lover a quick kiss good night and then retreated.

"Did you want a shower, Duo?" Quatre asked solicitously and I had to give out with a low chuckle.

"I'd love one... but I'm 'fraid I just might fall sleep in'it," I told him and began losing clothes. "Sorry, Qat."

He just smiled at me. "Nothing to be sorry for... it's been a long day."

I resisted the urge to say 'no shit?', managed to get myself stripped to my shorts and just threw myself on the bed. He looked, from what I could see through blurry eyes, a little disappointed, but only came and pulled the sheets up over me.

"Good night, Duo," he said, voice full of amusement.

"Night," I got out, and it was the last thing I remember.

I'm not sure if it was the morning light or the sound of their soft voices that woke me.

"...hasn't moved a muscle since he laid down," Quatre whispered, his voice laced with concern.

"The whole night?" Trowa responded, confirming my suspicions as to who Quatre was talking to.

I heard nothing from Quatre and had to guess that he only nodded.

"He'll be stiff then," Trowa sighed. "When he wakes."

I could attest to the truth of that statement without even trying to move. What in the hell had I done, pass out?

There was a soft sigh of frustration and a bit of silence. It was rather unnerving, having them sitting behind me somewhere staring at me.

"Why does he fight so hard against us?" Quatre wondered, his voice so soft I almost didn't catch it. "Why can't he let us help him?"

"He's here, isn't he?" Trowa scolded gently.

"You know what I mean," Quatre grumbled. "Why didn't he come to us?"

"You can understand that, if you think about it, my light," Trowa said softly, his voice sounding amused. "He's in that place that we were all in... right after the war."

"Oh Trowa," Quatre breathed. "That's so awful! He was the one who taught all of us what it meant to be a... a family. It's not fair that he went all those years all alone."

There was the softest of snorts from Trowa. "Life isn't fair, my heart, you know that as well as I do."

"I know," Quatre sighed and there was a bit of silence. I was really starting to wish they would go away. This was damn awkward, and I didn't know how to go about 'waking up' without them knowing I'd overheard them. "I just feel like I have so much to make up for. There were times, during the war, that I thought I just couldn't go on... but he really was there for me like a big brother back then. I feel like... I'm failing him somehow."

Trowa's next words were muffled slightly and I imagined him with his lips pressed briefly to his mate's forehead. "We can't force him to trust us, love. All we can do is love him. It'll be enough... just give him time."

I wondered if the blush I felt on my face was traveling anywhere visible to them.

"I just worry about the way he is," Quatre whispered, his voice lowering even further and I had to concentrate to hear him. "In the old days... before... he and I were both so..." he was struggling for words and it made me wonder; eloquent Quatre struggling for the right words? "We were so lonely... we touched all the time. Just a punch on the arm, or... a hug, sometimes. He's closed himself away. He never initiates anything. It's like he's afraid to... reach out."

There was a rather tense silence and I thought about pretending to wake while there was a break in the conversation, but then I heard Quatre sigh rather heavily and grumble, "What is it... you're thinking something."

It took Trowa a second to answer, "Part of that is your own fault."

That was met with an icy silence and it was Trowa's turn to sigh softly. "You... you've made him so aware of his... scars. He's afraid to touch you with his scars."

I almost stopped breathing, but realized that would very quickly give me away. I focused all my concentration on keeping the rise and fall of my back even and steady. I really wished that I could just make myself melt into a puddle and seep away through the damn floorboards. I didn't know how in the hell to get my ass out of what was becoming a God awful uncomfortable situation. They would have a cow if they realized I had overheard them now.

There was another silence, followed by the rustle of material. I imagined that Trowa had just taken Quatre in his arms.

"Oh Trowa," He sighed and I missed part of what he said, with his face most likely buried in Trowa's chest. "... so guilty. He did that to himself to save me. He stayed in a building that was going to blow up any second to search for me. No one had ever... ever..."

"Loved you so unconditionally?" Trowa said gently and there was a sudden sharp noise from Quatre.

I pounced on that noise with a wave of relief. I couldn't lie there and listen to any more of this. I'd be weeping into the pillow in another minute. I let my arm twitch, as though disturbed by the sound, and waited while their voices stilled. After a hand full of seconds ran, I twitched the hand again and then attempted to shift. I didn't have to fake the moan that found it's way out between my lips. Ow. It really did feel like I'd passed out and lain as still as a stone all night.

I spent the next minute acting like a groggy individual rousing from sleep just a little before they were ready. Finally rolling over and 'noticing' my observers for the first time.

I blinked at them, I hoped, not too owlishly and grinned. "Do I do something incredibly interesting in my sleep? I keep waking up with people staring at me." I only hoped that any residual blush would be explained by that admission.

Trowa smirked back at me, already dressed and sitting on the side of Quatre's bed. "Actually we were trying to decide if you'd died and rigor mortis had set in."

Quatre seemed to suddenly need to go into the adjoining bathroom and I pointedly didn't look at him too hard, allowing him the moment to save face and cover his upset. I flopped back on the bed and just looked up at the ceiling. "Feels like it," I told Trowa with a groan. "What the hell hit me? A bus?"

"Just a little emotional stress," Trowa drawled and I felt my face flame.

All I could do was grunt at him.

"Why don't we get out of here, Trowa," Quatre called brightly from near the doorway. "And let Duo shower and get dressed. He has therapy in less than two hours."

I moaned piteously and Trowa laughed at me. Quatre told me to come down to breakfast when I was done and then they were gone.

I heaved a sigh of relief and spent the next couple of minutes trying to convince my poor, stiff body to get the hell out of bed. The lure of the shower finally did it, but when I made my way into the bathroom, I almost fell over laughing. 'Shower' he called it; it was more like a fucking spa. Four separate showerheads, adjustable to everything from a stinging spray to a pulsing massage. I'm afraid that my fifteen-minute rule that I had fallen back on while visiting the Winner household, went right out the damn window. Luxuriate does not half describe what I did in there. I felt almost human by the time I was done. When I finally made my way down to breakfast, I wasn't walking like a zombie any more.

They were in the smaller dining room at least, and not the huge one with the table that would seat six thousand and still have room left over for a large wedding reception. I hated eating in that one; it made me feel like I should be whispering or something. I had to walk around the end of the table to get to the seat that was obviously for me and as I passed behind Quatre, I carefully reached out and tousled his hair.

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