Author: Sunhawk

Finding Common Ground

The mission was over; the munitions dump was completely eliminated. The base was destroyed beyond rebuilding. The initial assault had generated a desperate defense that had crumbled rather quickly to our superior firepower. The enemy had retreated in total, abandoning everything to our mercy. We had shown none. Now we were on the long trip back to base. Wing was unscathed, though Trowa's Heavyarms had taken some slight damage to its hydraulics on the left side and was unable to move that 'arm'. We flew close; I stayed on his left, guarding the weak side. But there was nothing out here with us, hadn't been for a day. Barring any complications, we would make touchdown tomorrow at eighteen hundred hours. I could not wait. I don't think either of us could. It was a very odd feeling. It had never mattered to me before; the long treks through space used to be something I treasured, the solitude and time without fighting, without killing. But I had never had something to go back to before. I wanted to see Duo. I wanted to touch him, to know he was all right. The timing of the mission had been horrendous, following right on the heels of Duo's attack. When I closed my eyes, I still saw him hanging limply in Wufei's grasp, blood smeared across his lips I needed to see him as much as I needed to breathe.

I had managed, with the help of Wufei's oath to me, to block all the worry out of my mind for the time it had taken to get through the mission. But once it was done and over with and we had begun the long, quiet flight back, all my concerns had come rushing back and now, a day and a half later, my gut was in knots thinking of all the possibilities. Wondering where he was, what he was doing. Was Wufei with him? Had he figured out I had changed his access code to Deathscythe again? How mad was he? Was he doing his exercises? Was he eating? Sometimes he forgot to eat. I hoped the others were keeping him company, he needed people; needed contact. He got lonely.

What in the hell was the matter with me? I was starting to make myself nauseous. The tight band comm crackled to life, and I jumped in my harness like a kid that had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

"Yuy?" Came Trowa's voice, calm and amused.

"Yes?" I managed.

"If you get any closer, you're going to set off the proximity alarms."

I was thankful the vids weren't up and he couldn't see my utter consternation. I had not even realized. I eased back, pulling Wing to a more reasonable distance and muttered an apology. Thinking about Trowa's damaged Gundam and worrying about Duo had gotten all muddled together in my tired brain and I had unconsciously been moving protectively closer. I imagined Trowa laughing uproariously at me.

After a bit, he spoke again. "It gets easier, if that's any help." His voice was gentle behind the amusement.

I grunted in surprise. Here was somebody, out of only a tiny handful of people in the universe, who could possibly understand what I was going through. I wanted to kick myself for not having realized sooner; for having wasted all this time.

"Gods, I hope so." I muttered, "Because it sure as hell can't get any harder."

He laughed, delighted, and I glowered. They were all enjoying my wrestling for the first time with all these emotions and it was getting a little irritating.

"Yes," he sounded a little melancholy, "It is a bitter sweet thing, isn't it?"

Gods, he did understand.

"Do you... worry?" I asked, it made it easier, not having to see each other. I was able to bring myself to speak of things I might not have been able to, had we been sitting across a table from one another.

"Constantly." He sighed.

"How do you... how can you function on a mission?"

He chuckled, "It's not always easy." There was a moment of silence, utter and complete out here between the stars, "I can't tell you how to put it aside for yourself, Heero. I only know what works for me."

Maybe he needed to talk a little too.

"What?"

There was a hesitation, "I make myself believe that Quatre's life depends on every single mission."

I grunted. Damn. I turned that over in my mind for a minute thinking about it; don't deny the feelings, embrace them. Twist them to your own ends; make them work for you instead of against you.

"Damn, Trowa, it's a wonder you don't have an ulcer."

He chuckled wryly and then sobered after a bit. "Heero, have you thought about the other half of the coin? What it's like when they're the ones going out and you're the one staying behind?"

I sighed, "I'm trying very hard not to."

"Sooner or later, it will happen." And I felt the weight of personal experience behind his words.

"I know. Gods...I know."

There was another long silence, and for a while I thought the conversation was over.

"Heero. You have to trust him. Don't make the same mistake I almost made. I tried so hard to protect Quatre, and he wound up thinking that I doubted him. It almost destroyed us."

It shocked me to hear this much private information coming from Trowa; he did not speak of these kinds of things any easier than I did. I remembered several occasions, looking back over the last several months, when I had thought he wanted to say something to me but then left it unvoiced. Maybe this odd, blind, conversation was making things easier for him as well. I realized what a gift he was trying to hand to me, what a sacrifice he was making to speak so plainly to me, and I could do nothing but speak plainly in return.

"I am being over protective, aren't I?" I finally admitted.

He actually laughed out loud and I was glad he couldn't see my face burning. "Heero, one would think he were made of spun sugar and air."

I sighed, "I just came so near to losing him, before I'd even properly found him... "

All trace of amusement left his voice, "I know. Gods, what he came through... " there was the gust of a sigh, "I still can't quite believe he came back alive."

I shuddered, suddenly cold. "Tell me about... that night."

"When he came back?"

I grunted an affirmative, "I got it from Wufei, and he... tends to puts things in their best light."

There came an understanding chuckle and there was a pause, maybe he was considering his words, maybe he was collecting his thoughts, or maybe he was thinking that he shouldn't tell me. I waited, and eventually he did speak again.

"Wufei and I both thought he had died in the accident, but I couldn't convince Quatre to give it up. He spent every waking hour on that damned radio, monitoring the emergency frequency. We were all up in the radio room at the safe house that night. I was trying to talk Quatre into shutting it down and going to bed. He was so tired... between Duo and you... "

He stopped for a minute, but I didn't speak. I wanted to hear this, and I literally had days. I could let him tell it in his own time.

"Wufei was with us. I think we all just wanted to be together. Everybody was... hurting."

Mourning Duo, watching me fade. We wouldn't discuss this part.

"Then we heard this little sound in the hall. We never heard him come in the house. I don't know how he got up the stairs; hell, I don't know how he did any of it."

Had we been sitting at a table together, he would have leaned forward and met my eyes.

"I've never seen a living human being look like that. I don't know how he was on his feet." His voice was getting intense, "We couldn't go near him. Quatre tried to help him... but... " there was another pause, "Heero, he scared me."

He stopped again, lost in memory, or searching for words, I'm not sure which. I had to reach to turn the heat up in my cockpit; I had started to shiver.

"It was like he was on autopilot. His face... I can't imagine the fall that did that to his face... but the look in his eyes; this desperation... this need... "

I was hanging on his every word, I could see Duo in my mind; the picture wasn't too hard to paint, I had seen him in the hospital afterward.

He seemed to want to get the next part told, and his voice became almost clinical, "He was just standing there in the hall when we got out there. His left hand was limp and black, just hanging there. You could tell there was something wrong with his knee even through the pants, it was swollen that bad. We didn't know about the broken ribs at the time, but he was all hunched in on himself, holding his ribs with his good arm. He was covered with these horrible abrasions, and his throat... when he tried to talk... it didn't even sound like Duo."

I winced. I had done that to his throat, he had surprised me in my sleep and I had... tried to strangle him.

Trowa let the minutes tick by while he considered his next words; I could hear tiny sounds over the open comm.

"He could barely speak, and when he did, all he wanted was to know if you were all right."

"Gods." I murmured, the first I had spoken through this story.

"Heero... I think, maybe, you're all that brought him back to us."

I glanced at the chronometer, I wanted it to say eighteen hundred, I wanted it to be tomorrow, but there were still hours to go.

"He's strong, Heero. He's come through more than the rest of us combined. He'll come through this too, you need to believe in him."

I put my face in my hands and rubbed at my tired eyes, "I know. I know. If you could have seen him, that trip... I'd never seen that side of him before. Gods he's gotten under my skin."

There was the sound of a faint chuckle, "In case you haven't noticed, he's gotten under all our skins."

"I think Wufei would argue that."

"Don't let Wufei fool you; he'd wade into the pits of hell for Duo."

I grinned, "Calling him a fool the entire time."

"Absolutely."

The silence stretched, and I realized that the conversation was done for now. We had both reached a point where we didn't want to talk any more.

"Thank you, Trowa." too little to convey my emotion, but all I had.

"You are welcome." And his comm snapped off with a certain finality.

I reached up and turned mine off as well, and we finished the flight in silence. I had enough thoughts swirling in my head to occupy my time.

The first thing I noticed after we landed, shutdown, and disembarked, was the hatch on Deathscythe standing pointedly open. As if to say, very loudly, 'Fuck you, Heero Yuy'. I sighed. I guess, somewhere deep inside, I had hoped that he hadn't tried to get into his Gundam in the last week, and didn't know what I had done. So much for that pipe dream.

Quatre was in the hanger, waiting for us, and I made an effort to not look his way, trying to allow the two of them a moment of privacy for their reunion. But it wasn't Trowa he was looking at, it was me. I felt my heart convulse in my chest.

"What's wrong?"

Quatre is a good pilot, he's organized, and thorough, and could be counted on in a pinch, but he is not a good poker player. Whatever he was thinking was written across his face in flaming letters. I knew something had gone wrong the moment I laid eyes on him.

"Duo... ?" I could hardly breathe waiting for his answer.

"He's Ok. Everything's all right." Quatre's eyes were wide; "I just need to talk to you before you go up to the house."

I thought I would scream and had to take a calming breath, waiting for him to spit it out.

Trowa went over and put his arm around Quatre's shoulders, and I realized I was probably doing that frightening thing I do with my expression, and I tried hard to stop.

"What happened?" Trowa asked him gently.

"He ran into a couple of those guys from the park." Quatre was able to tell Trowa, not looking at me, "There was a fight. They hurt his knee and the doctor ordered him to stay off it for a couple of days."

That was enough to turn my stomach over, but there was more, I could tell. I bit my tongue and let Trowa pull it out of him.

"What else?" he prompted, and Quatre looked away from both of us.

"One of them had a knife... "

That was all I heard. I couldn't wait any longer to hear the rest of it. He had said he had to talk to me before I went up to the house. That implied that Duo was up at the house. I broke and ran up the path, my heart in my throat. Damn the waiting, I had been waiting for days. I wanted to see Duo, and I wanted to see Duo now.

How the hell had he run in to anybody? Wufei had sworn to me that he would keep him safe. What had gone wrong? A knife? What about a knife? My emotions were running the gambit from fear to anger and back again. I wanted to see Duo and I wanted to knock Wufei on his ass.

I slammed through the kitchen door and headed straight for the stairs. Quatre had said he was supposed to be staying off his knee; that meant bed. I heard their voices before I was half way up the stairs.

"Maxwell! You are not getting out of that damn bed!"

"So stop me, God damn it!"

"Don't try me, you idiot!"

"Will you just freaking leave me alone for five damn minutes! I can't take any more of this!"

"You can't take anymore?! If I don't turn you over to somebody else soon, I am fucking going to kill you!"

"I am not a damn baby! You don't have to turn me over to anybody!"

"I swore a stupid, stinking, idiotic oath, you moron!"

"I am not a God damned mission!"

I slowed my steps, there was dead silence coming from the bedroom for several long moments, and then softly,

"Please, 'Fei? I need to go down to the hanger."

There was the sound of Wufei's frustrated sigh, "Duo, damn it, you've pulled the stitches again."

I was rooted to the spot, not ten feet from the door. Just the sound of his voice was making the blood sing in my veins. He was all right, really all right. Wufei wouldn't be yelling at him like that if he weren't all right.

"Just a little; it's barely bleeding. Come on, man, I need this, Ok?"

A defeated, disgusted growl; "All right, damn it, but you're going to let me help you and you are staying off the knee."

"All right, all right." There was the sound of movement, the creak of the bed. I have no idea why I just stood there. The whole thing was so bizarre, hearing them argue and them not knowing I was there.

"Wufei... I'm sorry, man." His voice held a weeks worth of frustration.

But, so did Wufei's, "Maxwell, will you please stop apologizing?"

They came into view finally, and I thought my heart would stop in my chest. He looked thin, and tired. Dark circles under his eyes making him seem like some fragile waif. He was leaning heavily on Wufei, and his ribs were wrapped in gauze and my eyes sought and found the trace of blood they had mentioned. Wufei caught sight of me first, and the expression on his face went from a grim frown to one of sheer relief.

"Oh, thank the Gods." He breathed, and Duo's head snapped up and he saw me.

The look I got from him melted me where I stood, and I strode the last few feet to sweep him into my arms even as he was pulling free of Wufei and launching himself at me. I knew nothing for a precious few minutes other than the scent and feel of him crushing himself against me as if he could merge us into a single being.

"You're all right. You're all right." He kept murmuring against my neck, and I knew exactly how he felt; as though I had not been able to draw a clear breath in the last week.

Over his shoulder, I could see Wufei, face gone gentle and warm, and I opened my mouth to start the questions that were burning inside. But he shook his head and held up a hand.

"Later. Just... be with him, for now. It's been... a hard few days."

And he just walked away, calling over his shoulder at the last minute, before disappearing down the stairs, "And keep him off the damned knee!"

We were alone, standing in the middle of the hall, wrapped around each other like Armageddon was coming. I was still in the stinking flight suit I had lived in for the last week, but he didn't seem to care. He'd never held me like this before; hard and desperate, and all but trembling.

"Duo, what's wrong? What the hell happ... " I began, but he cut me off.

"Later; we'll yell and we'll fight later. Not now. Just hold me. Let me know it's all over. Let me know you're safe."

I didn't answer; how do you answer something like that? I stroked his braid and rubbed his back and finally bent and picked him up in my arms. He'd lost weight, I could feel it. In just a week? What in the hell had happened while I was gone? The questions wanted to spill out, but I couldn't press him. He didn't argue with my lifting him, and I carried him gently back to his room. I stopped in the doorway, what in the world? There were medicine bottles and water glasses on the night stand, pizza boxes and empty pop cans lying abandoned on the desk, a pile of dirty clothes a foot high in the corner, and mattresses all over the floor. I had to bite my tongue.

I took him to the bed, and couldn't even untangle him long enough to lay him down. I wound up being drawn down with him, almost falling on top of him.

"Duo, love, I don't want to hurt you... "

"Don't give a damn." He growled, pulling me in with him, "I need you here. I want you here. I get this, this one thing. For me. Because this week has sucked. Five fucking minutes, that's all I'm asking."

I would not have denied him in that moment if he had asked me for my head on a silver platter. I stretched out beside him and he curled around me, close as he could get.

"I'm yours, love; you know that. For as long as you want me, as long as you need me." I kissed his forehead, his temple, the sweet curve of the bridge of his nose, "Gods, I missed you." I breathed in his ear, and he began to relax against me, making me aware of just how tense he had been.

I ached to ask him what had happened, what was wrong. What had happened to his knee? Why were his ribs bandaged? Why did he look so tired? What was going on? But I kept it all to myself and just held him, and let him hold me. I let my hand stroke gently up and down his back, feeling the stress flowing out of him like water, until, suddenly, I realized he was asleep. Had I not been so consumed with questions, I might have dozed off myself.

It probably wasn't an hour before Wufei peeked quietly in at the door and smiled gently, "I didn't think it would take long." He said softly, and came to sit on the side of the bed, tenderly brushing a lock of hair away from Duo's eyes.

"Wufei," I was forced to speak softly, though I wanted to grab him and shake him and make screaming demands, "What is going on?"

I expected him to get defensive, I expected him to white wash things and blow me off. I did not expect him to drop his head into his hands; elbows braced on knees and tell me,

"I've done a miserable job, and I failed you."

My mouth worked, and I struggled to hold on to the anger, but it just washed away at the sight of him slumped beside us, obviously frustrated and exhausted.

"You didn't fail me." I found myself saying, "Just tell me what happened."

His head came up, and he met my eyes with a surprised expression.

I raised an eyebrow at him, "I'm not going to kill you."

The corner of his mouth quirked up in a half-hearted attempt at a grin, "You might want to hold off making that promise until you hear the whole story."

I gave him a beseeching look, "I just want to hear the story, Ok?"

His head dropped back into his hands, "You were right. You were so right about what happened."

My arms moved to pull Duo closer without my having to command them. Damn it; I had not wanted to be right.

"He had another attack the night you left. It was... I... " He stopped, working at it, and I thought I would scream in frustration.

"We witnessed him being assaulted." It was Quatre's voice, soft and low and thick with unshed tears. I looked up to watch him come into the room and kneel beside Wufei where he could speak to me without raising his voice. Trowa stood in silence in the doorway, arms folded across his chest, his eyes meeting mine for a moment before we both turned our attention to Quatre. This was where I would hear the things I wanted to hear; Quatre would not attempt to phrase things with an analytical mind, but would speak to me from the heart. I marveled that Duo was able to sleep through all this disturbance.

"We were here, right here with him, and we couldn't stop it." The tears broke and flowed freely down his face, "It wasn't a dream. It happened to him, right here. All we could do was hold on to him and listen to him being... raped."

My heart constricted at that word, that short, simple word that held so much meaning, implied so much pain. How could I protect him from something that had happened so long ago?

Wufei reached out a tentative hand and gently touched Quatre's shoulder. Something I had not thought to ever see Chang Wufei do. These two had been through a siege together in the past few days.

"It just went on and on. I thought it would never end. He fought... so hard. It was... brutal. His voice... was so young." A frown of pain crossed his pale face and I found myself reaching to touch his hand. "It took the both of us to hold him. Nothing we said or did got through to him."

Wufei took up the tale, voice so soft I saw Trowa take a step into the room to hear, "Then he suddenly went limp, and stopped fighting us, and seemed to come out of it. He seemed all right... at first."

Quatre choked on a sob that drew Trowa to his side, to lay a hand protectively on his shoulder. "He was comforting us, Heero, he held me after it was over. He kept... telling us how sorry he was we had seen it."

Beside me, Duo stirred restlessly, and both Wufei and Quatre stiffened, their eyes snapping in his direction and they grew quiet, watching intently until he settled. That scared me as much as anything they had told me so far. They were both on such a hair trigger, their internal radar tuned to Duo's every breath.

I met Trowa's eyes, and he nodded, gently pulling Quatre to his feet and leading him out of the room. I turned my gaze back to Wufei, who was still watching Duo warily.

"Don't discount him." He whispered, letting his gaze shift to look after the departing pair, "I couldn't have gotten through this without Quatre. He was... very perceptive that night."

I waited for him to collect his thoughts and take up the story again; I guess I was learning patience, or maybe I just couldn't bear hearing any more.

"I don't think I handled it well." He finally sighed, "Duo was... feeling pain, as though it had just happened. He claimed... he said he could see the blood. I... argued with him." A look of terrible self-loathing crossed his face. "He tried to get us to leave him alone, and I... refused." He was quiet for a moment, gazing at Duo. "I'm not sure I made the right decision."

My fingers, still lying on the bed where I had touched Quatre's hand, reached out and brushed his knee. "You did fine.' I breathed, brushing my cheek lightly against the top of Duo's head.

"I've never seen him like that, Heero. He was... strung so tight I thought he was going to explode. But... I never dreamed he had such control. You could see him... hanging on... " he just shook his head, unable to continue the thought, but I think I understood.

"He was so exhausted when we put him to bed, he was in pain, and I gave him some pretty strong pain killers, he could barely turn over on his own." His eyes met mine in a hard look, "I swear, I never dreamed he would get up and sneak out like that."

"He what?" I think we were finally getting to the part of the story that Wufei was afraid I was going to kill him over. The need to not raise my voice was driving me crazy.

"I think I should have listened to him about needing to be alone." He looked pained again, glancing at Duo, "He somehow got out of the room without waking us and took off in one of the cars."

The story was getting a little faster now that we had gotten to the part he didn't want to have to confess to, and I found myself wishing Quatre were back to fill in some of the details.

"He wound up at the mall. He... he called us, so we wouldn't worry; Quatre heard something in the background and guessed where he was.' He sighed heavily, looking at me with eyes that I noticed for the first time were as red and weary looking as Duo's had been.

"I drove down there. Heero, I got there before he was attacked. I could have... I didn't... " He dropped his head back in his hands, not able to meet my eyes anymore, and his shoulders slumped.

"There were three of them, and one of them was injured. He seemed... I thought... "

"Spit it out, Wufei." I growled, tension coiling in my gut. In the curve of my arm, Duo moaned and shifted, the hand that had been lying limp on my chest clutched convulsively at my flight suit.

Wufei jumped like he'd been shot, and his hands reached instinctively toward Duo, his face was full of dread.

I calmed my breathing and forced myself to relax, "Shhhhh, my little one," I breathed softly against the top of Duo's head, "I'm here. No one can hurt you as long as I'm here. It's all right; it's all right now. Go to sleep. Just go back to sleep. I've got you." Duo slowly relaxed and sank deeper into slumber.

Wufei looked at me, wide eyed; and for one truly surreal moment, I thought he was going to burst into tears. Finally, voice thick, he said firmly, "You are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. If you are called for any missions, I will take them. You are not leaving him again until... until this is over."

I caught myself with my mouth hanging open and shut it. "Tell the rest of it, Wufei."

He took a deep breath and kind of collected himself, "It seemed to me that his spirit was as wounded as his body had been. He was coming to depend on you, and doubting himself more and more all the time. When I arrived at the mall, I found the car and was waiting for him. I saw him come out, he was being pursued by three of the group who had attacked you in the park." He was looking off into the distance, not at me; and just getting it told. "I decided to let him handle it. He hadn't seen me yet. It seemed... important."

My breath hissed between my teeth, and I remembered my earlier desire to knock him on his ass; it had returned.

He flushed, but continued doggedly, "I did not know they were armed. I never would have waited had I known about the knife."

I ground my teeth and waited.

"He was dealing with them very quickly, very... admirably. But one of them managed a lucky punch to the side of his knee, and when he went down... the other one pulled a knife." His eyes sought mine again, begging me wordlessly to understand, but I couldn't help being angry. "I headed in, the minute I saw it, but Duo came up and ... and... he wasn't Duo." He actually shuddered, "It was over, in an instant, he deliberately left an opening, took the slice to the abdomen in order to draw his opponent in, and then... " The look on his face became a little awed, "Heero, the man was almost twice Duo's size, but he just caught his arm and twisted and... splintered it."

He stopped for a minute, looking down at Duo resting peacefully on my chest, as though he couldn't reconcile the image with the one in his memory.

"He didn't know me. He turned on me when he heard me coming, and I thought for a minute he was going to attack me. It was like looking into the face of a stranger. He didn't even know he'd been cut."

"How bad is it?" I ventured, my fingers still, almost unconsciously, caressing Duo's hair.

He sighed another of those frustrated sighs I had been hearing so many of in the last couple of hours, "Probably ten to twelve inches long, deepest at the entry point; almost a puncture, tapers off. Ended up taking seven stitches. We tried to tape it the first night and I think it would have held if he hadn't had another nightmare. But it all pulled loose and we couldn't deal with the bleeding until afterward." He slumped forward again, elbows on knees and head just hanging. "That was a bad night. He came out of the nightmare and there really was blood... it took us a while to get him ... anchored."

I should have stayed behind. I should have stayed with Duo and let someone else go on the damn mission. Duo had needed me and once again I had failed to be there. Whatever anger I had been harboring towards Wufei left me in one of my own miserable sighs, "I did not know what I was asking, when I took your oath to watch over him for me, Chang. I'm sorry. I should have been here."

He gave me a weary, thankful look, "He was in such good spirits after the attack, I know that sounds odd, but I truly think I was a little bit right about him needing to handle it by himself." He smiled softly, eyes lost in memory, "He made me stop for pizza on the way home from the mall. He was so much better when we got back." But the smile quickly faded, "I think he honestly thought he had faced the demon and the demon was gone. After that second... nightmare, he became depressed. He can't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. We're with him constantly and that's making him... tense. He stopped eating."

That explained the weight loss and the utter fatigue. It explained a lot.

"And... bless Quatre's heart, but he can't say no to him about anything and keeps letting him drink caffeine for Gods sake!"

"How bad's the knee?" I finally ventured, hoping this was the last of the surprises.

"No permanent damage done, when we had to break down and take him in to have his ribs stitched up, he finally confessed that they had hurt his knee as well. The physician did not think that further surgery would be needed, but wanted him to rest it for a few days, return to the passive exercises he was doing right after the surgery for a while. He has an appointment to have it checked in... ' he looked at me blankly, "I'll... I'll have to look... I don't know what day it is."

"Friday." I supplied with a grim smile.

He grunted, looking at Duo again, "I do not envy you, Yuy. He is... a hand full."

I almost laughed, "Would you believe me if I told you it was more than worth it?"

A faintly melancholy expression passed over his features and he murmured, "I might."

"Why don't you go to bed?" I suggested, "You look exhausted."

He nodded, and rose with a last glance at Duo curled in my arms, and headed for the door. Then he stopped, looking disgustedly down at the mattress on the floor and I realized that his bed was in here.

"Use my room." I offered, and he gave me a grateful smile as he headed that way. Only to return a moment later, face flushed, frowning in irritation.

"That," he said, pointing to the second mattress, "is Quatre and Trowa's. They thought of your room first."

And he threw himself down on the mattress on the floor without another word. If I was any judge, he was asleep within five minutes.

Well. Here we all were. What a mess; I had to get this straightened out. It wasn't eight o'clock at night, and the entire household was in bed. Sleep was what they all needed though; Wufei and Quatre had looked completely done in. Trowa would see that Quatre was taken care of. Wufei could rest now that I was here to take over Duo's guardianship. They would sort themselves out; all I had to do was get Duo turned around, back on the road to recovery. We had done it together once before, and we would do it again. First, he needed rest, and I would see to it that he managed that. Then he needed food; tomorrow, I would take care of that. Next, he needed to be free of these nightmares... and that was the part that defeated me. His body would heal, if he let it, but I didn't know how to heal his spirit.

I dozed through the night, worrying at the problem, rousing when he stirred, to talk him back from the edge of the dark pit of memory.

"Come back to me, love. Don't leave me here. I need you. It's all right now. I'm here... I'm with you... No one can get passed me... No one can harm you... " An endless litany meant to bind him to me, safe and protected.

As the night wore on, he wound himself around me, arms tight around my waist, legs twined with mine, nuzzling his face into the hollow under my chin, until my body began to stir and ache with desire. It was just one more insult on top of an already trying day; I attempted to ignore it, shifting unhappily, trying to get comfortable, until I finally managed to sleep. My own dreams were fretful and somewhat erotic. I woke in the faint light of early dawn on the rising crest of my own completion, too late to stop the flood of a wringing orgasm. There was a moment of sweet release, my body finding an outlet of it's own for pent tensions and unanswered needs. Followed by the irritating realization that I was trapped in my own mess in an already stinking flight suit. I drew a shaky breath and opened blurry eyes to find Duo staring up at me, wide eyed and puzzled. I realized his leg was thrown across my hips, pressed against my groin and he was feeling the after-twitches of my climax against his thigh. I flushed blood red clear to the roots of my hair.

I waited for him to jeer at me, but he just looked openly curious.

"What... what just happened?" he finally asked when all I could do was lie there and stare at him staring at my blushing face.

I think I choked. I flushed even harder, and Duo frowned, moving off me.

"Are you Ok?" he asked, and I realized that he wasn't teasing me.

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