Moments of Rapture entry (2002)
Warnings: Angst, OOC, language, Duo POV.
Thanks to Christy for beta reading with her usual excellence.
Standard disclaimers apply. We all know I don't own them... why do we keep repeating it? Are we just in denial? 
By Sunhawk

Being There

It was a car accident that finally made me wake up and stop the drinking. Sounds pretty typical, huh? Alcoholic has near-death experience and re-evaluates life? Except the accident wasn't mine... it was Heero's.

Part of it was simply looking into the mirror that was Heero Yuy, suddenly seeing in him all the things that I was going through. Realizing that for his own reasons he was hurting just as badly. That he was just as lost as I was. Maybe more so. But mostly, it was understanding that the perfect fighting machine was not equipped to bring himself back from the black hole we had both wandered into. And somehow... oddly perhaps, where I couldn't seem to bring myself to care for my own sake... I couldn't not care for Heero's.

He had pretty much managed to alienate everyone who might have ever given enough of a damn to be there for him. Relena had tucked tail and run fairly quickly after the war was over, once she had figured out that soldiers aren't romantic... they're just kind of scary. The rest of the guys? Well, we're all still pretty tight. Except for Heero... it's hard to stay close to a spitting, pissing wolverine with an attitude. So I guess you could say that I gave up my own wallow in self-pity because I figured that watching out for Heero was my responsibility, simply because nobody else was going to do it. And yeah; I can see how it sounds kind of stupid when I just out and say it like that. At the time it just sort of boiled down to this single thought: 'he needs me'. There really wasn't much more to it than that.

We were creatures of war. We had been raised for one purpose. Trained for one purpose. Lived for one purpose. Then peace had come, all the goals we had been given were met, and... we didn't know what in the hell we were any more. What is a fighter when there is nothing left to fight? Obsolete. Can you imagine being obsolete before you are technically old enough to vote?

The day that Quatre called me to tell me that Heero was in the hospital because he'd gotten behind the wheel of a car drunk off his ass, I had understood that he had just tried to hit his self-destruct button, and that if somebody didn't do something, he would keep trying until he succeeded. I had gone through my apartment that day, poured out every last drop of booze and hadn't touched the stuff since. Because Heero had not only become a drunk, he'd become a surly drunk and I honestly didn't think there was a person left who was going to do anything about the little mess he had made for himself, unless it was... me.

So yeah, I pulled myself out of my own little tailspin and got my act together so that I could be there to try to help him pull out of his. Despite the fact that he didn't really want my help. Hadn't asked for my help. Was pretty darned bound and determined to take my help and shove it up my ass... sideways.  

~~~*~~~

"Fuck off, Duo," came the rather expected growl. "I can take care of myself."

"That's odd," I grinned at him. "That isn't what the Doctor's orders said... like it or not, you're in that wheelchair for awhile yet."

"I'm going home," he insisted, glaring at me in a manner that was meant to raise blisters on exposed skin.

"Not a problem," I consented amiably. "We can stay at your place if you'd rather. I just thought my place would be easier because I have a spare bedroom."

That bought me an inarticulate little growl of sound before he found his voice enough to tell me, "You are not staying in my apartment!"

I finally turned away from where I had been packing his duffle bag and planted myself beside his hospital bed, putting my hands on my hips and giving him my look that usually tells people not to fuck with me. "Look, Yuy," I growled. "You put yourself in this position, I didn't. Like it or not, you need somebody to stay with you. Sure, you can ignore the Doctor's orders, but you could also screw yourself up bad enough to be in that chair forever. This is an A or B question; your place or mine, make up your damn mind. But you are stuck with me... sorry about your luck."

We stared at each other. I didn't have to remind him that he had managed to drive away every other friend that he'd ever had. I was all he had left. He broke away from the staring match first.

"You're a bastard," he snarled. Heero hates to lose. Always has.

"Well now," I chuckled at him. "That's a pretty safe bet!"

He looked at me oddly for a second, not understanding. Hell, he probably hadn't even heard what he was saying. It took a second for him to get it. I couldn't read him well enough to know if he felt badly for it or not. Probably not. I turned back to packing, managing to finish just as the discharge nurse arrived with the wheelchair. She gave me a bright smile and told me hello, parking the chair next to the bed. She didn't give Heero so much as a glance. He had been a somewhat... unpleasant patient. She handed me the paperwork that he had to sign, letting me present it to him.

"What the hell is that?" he barked.

"What you have to sign in order to get out of here," I told him sweetly, knowing just how badly he wanted that. He jerked the papers and the pen from my hand, scribbling his signature in all the right places and then stuck them out in the direction of the nurse, forcing her to take them from him. She gave me a rather sympathetic smile and left, leaving me to get him in the chair by myself. I think I sighed, but I could hardly blame her.

I positioned the chair and came around to get him, trying to gauge his weight by eye, hoping that I could manage to lift him. I truly thought he was going to kill me when I leaned in to try it.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he snarled.

I stopped, bent over at the waist, and looked him square in the eye. "Look asshole," I told him rather firmly. "I am more than aware that I am not your favorite person in the world. But you have to face up to the fact that I am your best friend right now. I am going to help you and you are going to let me because the more you disobey the doctor's orders, the longer you are going to be stuck with me. You want me out of your hair... you have to heal."

The look he gave me might very well have caused King Kong to turn tail and run. I didn't flinch, I stared him down until his face began to flush, then I slipped my arms under him and transferred him to the chair. It wasn't as difficult as it should have been; during the war I am quite sure he outweighed me. He was obviously to the stage in his drinking that made food a low priority.

I was starting to understand what a monstrous job I had undertaken. Guess it was a good thing I didn't have anything else to do with my time. 

~~~*~~~ 

Thankfully, his stay in the hospital had been long enough that I had gotten through the worst of my detox. While I am more than willing to admit that I'm an alcoholic... recovering alcoholic... I had never gotten to the place that Heero had managed. I had never become an obnoxious alcoholic. I am mostly a night drinker. I can't stand the nighttime. I have... nightmares. I have insomnia. I usually do ok during the day, there's enough to do and enough people I can go be around that I can get through. But when the night comes and there's no one there and I have nothing to do but sit and think and remember and imagine and... dream, I can't handle it. I tried sleeping pills for a while, but they only made the nightmares even more macabre, if that were at all possible, and eventually I turned to drinking. It didn't happen over night. I did not come through the war and go 'Gee, I think I'll be a drunk'. It was just something that helped me cope at first, something that helped me sleep. But then it took more drink to shut out the memories and then even more. Eventually I was hopelessly addicted and so damn depressed I just didn't care.

Didn't help watching the other guys as they not only coped, but thrived and got on with the business of making lives for themselves. I don't know why it was so much harder for Heero and me. I think sometimes because neither of us had ever truly believed that we would live through it. I mean, I never gave the future a second thought while I was fighting, because I honestly hadn't thought I had one. What was the point? I figured that one of those times hitting the self-destruct button, the darn thing was actually going to work. I think it was the same for Heero. Its funny, I wonder sometimes if he and I had tried to become friends during those first days if we might have been able to help each other before we ended up where we did. Probably not. I don't think I could have talked to anyone back then. I had felt so... ridiculous having trouble when no one else seemed to be, that I probably wouldn't have been able to talk to Heero either.

The guys. God, I love 'em. They're a great bunch of friends. But they're so... damn normal.

Quatre. Good Lord, but he had blossomed once the fighting was over. The guy is a natural politician, an absolute born leader. He had switched all his focus straight from being a Gundam pilot, to being a peacekeeper and a lobbyist. Never missed a stride. Took over control of his father's business and immersed himself so completely that he never had a chance to think twice. Of course, he'd had a relatively normal childhood. Had a family and friends, had gone to school. The war was an interlude to him... a couple of years out of his life. I think it was easier for him to move on because it was more like going back to a life he'd left, not forging a new one.

Wufei. He's a strange one. I hadn't been sure about him during the war sometimes. He just seemed like he kind of enjoyed the damn fighting. Like he saw something high and noble in it. After it was all over he joined the Preventers almost instantly. Hell, he helped start them up. He, too, had never missed a beat. He kind of surprised me, actually. I had expected him to go to pieces when it was all over and he finally had to stop and deal with the destruction of his entire colony, but somehow... he had come to terms with it. For him too, I suspected that part of it was his normal childhood. Like Quatre, he had something to look back on with some fondness. Something that had existed outside the war.

Trowa. I had always thought that he was more like Heero and me. Raised with the mercenaries, fighting for as long as he could remember. He didn't have that solid foundation like Quatre and Wufei. I thought that he would have as much trouble adjusting as we had. But he had something I didn't; Quatre. Quatre and Catherine. It had done a hell of a lot for him when Catherine had gone behind his back and done the genetic tests and discovered that he really was her brother. I guess it had given him a foundation of sorts... even if he had to live it vicariously through Catherine's stories. Between her, and Quatre's absolute undying devotion, Trowa had come through just fine.

But Heero and me... two dark carrion birds of a feather. We'd known nothing before the war. We had nothing to look back on, nothing to point to and say 'There; that is what I am'. Hell... the war was practically my mother. And I suppose that makes Shinigami my father and Dr. G my damn nanny. What did I know about life? What did I know about normal? What in the flaming hell did I know about what to do with myself? We were seventeen when the war ended and we were obsolete. Where do you go after you've saved the planet?

Neither of us caved immediately. Well... at least I didn't, I'm not real sure about Heero. He might have been hiding it better at first. I don't know, I mean, nobody had ever figured out that I was consuming enough whiskey each night to medicate a good-sized horse there at the end. Like I said; I did most of my drinking at night when I was home alone.

I had actually started out fairly gung-ho. Had been kind of excited about the prospects of peace. I had planned on traveling, seeing the Earth, playing the tourist. Naïve little me; that shit takes money. All your financial needs are met when you have the backing of what amounts to a terrorist organization, and you are fighting in a war. But hey – war's over... sorry about your luck kid; get a job. That had proved... interesting. Not a lot of call out there for hanging by your teeth and setting C4 charges. Not a whole lot of jobs where the job-description requires you to shoot a fly off an orange at fifty paces without damaging the fruit. What I did best, I wasn't allowed to do; seventeen is too young to be a commercial pilot.

However... most jobs did require a whole lot of crap we didn't know a thing about. Balance a checkbook? What the hell is a checkbook? Driver's license? What do I need a license for; I'm a fucking Gundam pilot. We had done things for so long for the results, damn the laws and the rules and polite society, that we didn't know how to deal with all the red tape and paperwork and... the damn tedium. All of it complicated by our notoriety and the stigma attached to our names. Complicated by the fact that a car backfiring in the street would send us diving for cover. Yeah sure; shall I calculate the necessary amount of explosives to remove table number four from the dining room without scorching the floor, and would you like fries with that?

I personally, had tried for almost a year to make it on my own before caving and accepting the bank account Quatre had offered all of us. I never quite had the nerve to ask if any of the other guys had. I liked to pretend that they did, so if I didn't ask... I didn't have to know I was the only fucking loser in the bunch. Though I suspect Heero did too... because I sure as hell never heard about him having a job.

I suppose it's little wonder that we ended up the way we did. It's probably a small miracle that neither of us decided to do the self-destruct routine a little faster and just eat a bullet for breakfast one morning. And ironic as hell that we were both going through the same things at the same time on opposite sides of the same town and never cared enough to notice.

I suppose you could say I owed Heero my sobriety, because I don't know if I could have turned myself around without the self-appointed mission of turning him around.

The day that Quatre had called, with the news of Heero's accident, his voice was full of muted concern. Heero had already driven the wedge between himself and most of the others, and though he was still considered part of the group, I discovered that they all 'tsked' behind his back about the sad state he was in. I was a little appalled that I had never noticed before, so lost had I been in my own private Hell that I had never noticed Heero's adjoining room. Listening to Quatre gossip to me about how 'awful' it all was, about how he couldn't believe the depths to which Heero had sunk, all I could think was... 'You have no freaking idea what it's like on our side of the fence'. But then... he'd had no clue he was talking to somebody who had sunk just as low.

But I found that thing that one needs to pull oneself up by the bootstraps.

God, I'd had no stinking idea what I was undertaking. Who in the hell was I to think that I could single handedly save Heero Yuy's ass? I barely had my own shit together and here I was taking on the care and feeding of a rabid pit bull in a wheelchair. The guy had more issues than I had empty bottles to my credit. And he bit. Hard.

When I brought him into my home from the hospital, I suppose I had expected a certain amount of grudging, Heero style, pissed off gratitude. What I got was more like attitude. He resented everything I did for him most of the time. On his good days, we managed a tentative civility. On his bad days... I thought he would eviscerate me. For a guy with little or no people skills, he had managed to learn where all my mental weak spots were, and when he got severely pissed at me... he didn't hesitate to hit every one of them. I did my best to bear up under it, to not let him see just how well he was hitting his mark. But I went to my room on more than one occasion during that period of time shaking like a leaf. If there had been a bottle in the house on those nights... I'd have drunk it.

I wondered if I could ever manage to teach him just how much words could cut. I wondered if he'd ever been wounded in that way. I wondered if there was anyone in the world that he cared about enough to be able to hurt him like that. Words don't really have any sting if they don't come from someone who matters to you.

Yes, I know what I just said. Shut up about it. 

~~~*~~~ 

"What in the hell is that damn thing?" he asked with an irritated tone in his voice. I had to stop and think for a minute what he was talking about. My glass. My little piece of stained glass. I was worrying it in my fingers the way I do. It's such a habit that I do it unconsciously, whenever I'm doing something fairly mindless, like we were doing now. Watching TV, reading, anything that didn't require both my hands. My fingers would go to my pocket and find the little thing and I would rub it and feel it and turn it in my fingers. I stopped fiddling with it and turned my hand over to display it on my palm.

"It's a piece of the stained glass window from the Maxwell church," I told him; not at all sure he would know what I was talking about. "I kept it... after the fire. It's all I was able to take away from there with me... to remember it by."

There was something calculating in his eyes. Something dark. I suppose I had an inkling what was coming, but I didn't try to stop it... I just sat with the thing in my hand and let him do what he felt he had to.

He reached out and took it from me, raising it to look through it at the light and then he calmly snapped it in two. I wasn't able to stop the wince. He dropped the two halves on the floor beside his chair, rolling across them and crushing what was left. Then he turned and looked at me... waiting for my reaction.

I allowed myself a single deep, steadying breath because damnit; that had hurt. Then I rose and stepped in front of him, leaning down to look him square in the eye. I saw a tiny little smirk trying to come out, just a hint of self-righteousness. 'See?' his eyes were saying, 'I'm not a very nice person.'

I reached for his hand, turning it over and his tense _expression told me he was expecting a blow. Was expecting my anger... was ready to welcome it as proof that I had been lying about being his friend. "You didn't cut yourself, did you?" I asked carefully as I looked his fingers over. In my peripheral vision, I saw his face lose a little of its cocky smugness. When I had established that he was unharmed, I dropped his hand and looked him unflinchingly in the eye. "You're more important than an object. You cannot drive me away. You cannot force me to leave. I am your best friend whether you choose to believe it or not... it has very little to do with you."

"I hate you," he told me coldly, though his eyes spoke to me of confusion.

"I am well aware of that," I informed him rather matter-of-factly. Then I went to get the vacuum cleaner. When I came back, he had fled to his room.

I figured he needed a little time to think things over, so I delayed dinner just a little bit. Truth be told, I needed a little time myself. What I had said was true. He was more important than any damn object. But that didn't make the loss of that object any less painful. I hadn't come through from those days with much of anything. That stupid little scrap of broken glass and Sister Helen's cross had been it. I stopped wearing my cross that night. Call me a coward, but I feared for it. If the devil himself had walked up to me and said 'Heero or the cross', I'd have handed over the cross in less than a heartbeat. But... why risk it if it wasn't going to buy Heero's soul? I locked the thing away and hid it in my room. There was nothing to be done for my little piece of Angel's wing though. The glass had been a milky white with odd little veins of clear glass run through it. It had been part of an angel's wing, I was almost sure of that. I had found it after Sister Helen had died and my little kid's mind had told me that she had ascended to Heaven as an Angel... and left a feather behind for me. When I got older, I realized that it was just part of the stained glass window that had shattered into a million pieces from the explosions, but by that time, the thing had become so much a part of me that I had smoothed the edges of it from rubbing and holding it. Sister Helen's feather. To this day I find my fingers searching for it. Heero Yuy has never pulled his punches.

I dithered with dinner for a bit, pondering the pitfalls of mixed messages. I would not reward him for what he had done, but I would not punish him either. So I made sure that dinner was something that was far from his favorite, but nothing he had ever expressed an outright distaste for. He was testing me and I was well aware of that. I was bound and determined that he would not get to me. I would not let him force me to push back. I finally settled on meatloaf; can't get any more neutral than that.

When it was ready to go on the table, I went and tapped on his door. There was, rather predictably, no immediate answer. I tapped again, a little harder and called, "Heero, dinner's ready."

I got the standard, "Go away." I sighed, wondering if we would ever get passed this. I pushed the door open and took a tentative step inside, not moving too far until I could see a little better in the darkness of his room. "Heero, if you ever expect to heal enough to get out of here, you have to take better care of yourself," I told him with just a trace of amusement in my voice.

"I'm fine," he growled sullenly and I couldn't help a grin. I reached out and flicked the damn light on... the hell with this game. He was lying in bed, his back to the door, his wheelchair sitting there right next to the bed. He refused to react to the light. I went closer, now that I could see, and tried again.

"Come on, dinner is going to get cold."

"I'm not hungry," he said and I was glad he wasn't looking at me, because I almost laughed at the petulant sound of his voice. Like an angry little boy. That thought would surely have gotten me shot.

"Look, Heero," I ventured, standing over him but not able to judge much from the back of his head. "I know you're not happy here... I know you don't like me. But you have to see that you're not getting out of here any time soon if you don't give your body the fuel and care it needs to get better."

He finally rolled over and looked up at me. "What the hell do you want from me?" he snapped.

"From you?" I asked softly. "Nothing. What I want for you is for you to understand that you are not alone and that you can't drive me away the way you have everyone else."

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