Author: Sunhawk

Finding Common Ground (cont)

"I... I just had a wet dream." I finally managed to sputter out.

He was raised on his elbow now, lying on his side and the frown cleared from his face.

"Oh." He said, seeming to at least understand the term, "It almost looked like you were in pain."

"Oh no. Not pain at all." His bizarre innocence eased my discomfort a little and I stroked a finger down the curve of his cheek, and smiled lightly, trying very hard to be upfront with it. "I've missed you... very much. I fell asleep... thinking about you. That's all."

He looked at me for a very long time and finally whispered softly, "What... what's it feel like?"

I blinked in astonishment, and he flushed a little, but doggedly waited for me to reply, "It's... it's like your body being thirsty for something... really, really hungry for it... and suddenly getting it, kind of all at once."

I did not let him see that I wanted desperately to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. I schooled my expression into one of calm openness and waited to see if he had any other questions.

He just grunted and rolled away to the side of the bed. "I'm going to go take a shower." It was a measure of my total loss of composure that I completely forgot that he wasn't supposed to be walking on his knee, and let him go. When the bathroom door shut, I let my held breath out in a gust and buried my burning face in the pillow with a mortified groan.

"How the hell do you get to be our age and not know what a wet dream is?" asked Wufei from his mattress on the floor, and I thought I would spontaneously combust.

I had totally forgotten he was there, and it took me several long, shocked moments before I was able to lever myself up on one elbow and glare down at him.

He was lying with his arms behind his head, tangled in his sheets, staring up at the ceiling, looking much better than he had the night before.

But he didn't look amused; he just looked sad, and I forgot my own embarrassment for a moment and really thought about the small exchange. Duo just asked me what an orgasm felt like. He had never felt... never known... I listened to the sound of the water running in the other room. No one had ever touched him in pleasure, only in pain.

"I want," Wufei said softly, "very much, to go hurt someone."

My heart throbbed painfully to the sound of the same drum he was hearing. I wanted to find the bastards and grind them slowly between two stones.

We lay in silence for a bit, listening to the sounds of Duo in the shower.

I finally ventured, "Mind if I go get cleaned up?"

He wrinkled his nose and smiled, "I would actually be grateful if you would go get cleaned up."

"Baka." I growled and climbed out of bed. The door to my own room was still closed, so I went in and used the shower in Wufei's room, borrowing a robe until I had access to my own clean clothes again.

When I finished, Duo was out of the shower, sitting on his bed combing his hair, and Wufei was still sprawled on his mattress, watching him. I walked in just in time to hear Wufei say,

"Quatre is fine, Maxwell. You dreamed he was crying, that's all."

I moved to the bed and settled myself behind Duo, taking the comb away from him and setting to work on the tangles. This, I had gotten rather good at.

"It just seemed so real." Duo frowned, tilting his head as I stroked the comb through the length of his wet hair.

"I suppose, if you want to check," Wufei smirked, "he is in Heero's room with Trowa. You can go ask."

I glanced around Duo's shoulder, answering his smirk, "Like you checked on them last evening?"

I was gratified to see his faint flush; I thought perhaps he had interrupted something last night. He covered it with a grunt and a yawn and told us, "I'm going down to do my kata. I will see you at breakfast." And he rolled to his feet and was gone.

Duo's hair was tangle free, but I spent another few minutes running the comb through it, raising it to my face and inhaling the soft scent of sandalwood. Then I went ahead and tightly plaited it for him.

"Why does he lie to me?" He asked abruptly, surprising me.

"He thinks he is protecting you." I had to answer honestly. "He's afraid of upsetting you."

"Then, why was Quatre crying?" Check and mate; I sighed.

"They came in last night, after you fell asleep to tell me about... everything." I flipped the end of his braid over his shoulder to signal I was finished.

"I slept through all that?" he caught at the braid and glanced back at me.

I chuckled, "Pretty much."

"I slept through the night." His tone was almost accusing.

I brushed a finger down the length of his arm and said softly, "And you will, every night that I'm by your side."

"But that means that you don't sleep." He said forlornly.

"I can sleep a little. We're going to get through this, love." I entwined my fingers with his where they rested on the bed, "Together."

I didn't want to see his face clouded with this intense sadness. I wanted to bring the smile back to his sweet lips; I wanted to make him laugh. I wanted to make things all right again. I pulled him back against my chest, and tilted his face up to meet my kiss, my hand resting lightly on his vulnerable throat, feeling the pulse thunder there. I kissed him gently and deeply, not stopping until I brought a gasp from him that vibrated under my palm.

"Now, I believe, before I left for my mission, I had arranged things so that I could baby and coddle you without interruption?"

He groaned, "Heero... don't you dare start that again."

I just chuckled evilly and climbed off the bed to sweep him up in my arms.

"Thought I forgot you're supposed to be staying off the leg, didn't you?"

He glared at me, around the beginnings of a smile, "I had hoped."

"A momentary lapse." I assured him, "Now, for breakfast."

I carried him down to the kitchen and deposited him in a chair while I hunted through the pantry and came up with a box of pancake mix.

I was going to have to find his crutches, he wasn't that much smaller than I was, and carrying him any real distance was not going to be feasible on a long-term basis. I began mixing the batter, aware of Duo watching me in amusement. In the front foyer, I could distantly make out the sounds of Wufei, stamping and panting his way through his morning ritual; sounded like he was working with a little extra zeal.

I turned the heat on under the pan, and went to set a plate and fork in front of Duo. He sat with his chin propped on his hand and grinned at me, "You can cook?"

"Of course I can cook." I informed him haughtily, playing the game of keeping him distracted as I poured batter, "Better than you can."

"I never claimed to be an expert chef." He huffed, "I manage to keep myself from starving."

Almost, I retorted with something I would have regretted, looking at his gaunt features, but luckily, the first batch of pancakes finished about that time, and I dumped them on his plate and said instead, "Eat."

He made a show of gingerly tasting them, as though expecting something vile, and then quirked an eyebrow at me.

"Told you I could cook." I smirked.

"Then why don't you ever take your turn doing it?" asked Wufei as he came into the room, towel tossed around his shoulders and looking much more relaxed than he had last evening. He sat down beside Duo, watching him wolf down pancakes with a bemused expression.

The second batch came out of the pan about then, so I plopped a plate in front of Wufei before turning back to the stove.

Trowa and Quatre wandered in, and I ended up mixing up another entire batch of batter before finally managing to eat a little breakfast of my own.

Quatre beamed at me, "Heero, these are delicious!" and inwardly, I groaned; I hated cooking and had managed till now to pretty much avoid doing it. Somehow, everyone just assumed that I was no good at it. So much for that charade.

Something had been nagging at me ever since we had arrived back from the search and destroy; where was the house staff? There was usually a very competent cook in this well-appointed kitchen.

"Quatre?" I asked after dredging the name up, "Where's Katrine?"

Quatre and Wufei exchanged a look, but before either of them could manage to say anything, Duo piped up almost brightly, without ever looking up from his breakfast,

"I was scaring the shit out of the entire staff with my screaming and Quatre had to give them time off with pay."

Both of his erstwhile keepers looked shocked and sputtered incoherently, but Duo stopped them again,

"I may be psychotic, but I am not stupid, nor am I blind."

Quatre visibly wilted and Duo took pity on him. He finally put his fork down and looked up at the blond, "I'm sorry, Quatre. I understand."

"Well," I interjected, attempting to divert the conversation, "it certainly explains why your room looks like a pig sty and smells worse."

"On that subject, Yuy," Wufei too, seemed eager to change the topic, "Would you mind helping me put everybody's beds back where they belong?"

"That is the first order of business. Laundry is the second." I informed him.

So after breakfast, we left Quatre and Trowa to do up the dishes, and Wufei and I helped Duo back upstairs. He refused to be carried. We parked him back on the bed while we hauled the mattresses back to their respective rooms. Then Wufei gathered up the empty cans and pizza boxes while I sorted the pile of dirty laundry into a basket to take downstairs. I pulled loose change and a candy wrapper out of the pockets of a pair of shorts, and shook my head; Duo was so unorganized. I found a set of car keys and a CD in a pair of black jeans I didn't remember seeing before, and then my hands closed on material that was stiff, and curious, I pulled a black t-shirt out of the pile. It was sliced almost in half from side to side, and the entire front was stiff with dried blood. I froze, realizing what I was holding in my hands, and suddenly the story that I had been told last night took on a crystal clarity; became real. My hands quivered and behind me, I heard Duo softly say,

"Throw it away, Heero."

Wufei, catching the tone of Duo's voice, stopped what he was doing and looked at me. I couldn't tear my eyes off the damn blood soaked thing. No wonder he had seemed so frail; all that blood. Dear Gods; he'd almost been disemboweled. I'd almost lost him again and I wouldn't even have known it for days. I would have finished that damn mission and come back to be greeted with the news that... that Duo had... that I was... left behind... alone again.

Wufei came and gently pulled it from my trembling hands, stuffing it in the bag with the rest of the trash he was collecting. He looked first at me and then at Duo, and finally said,

"I think I am done here. I have some... errands to run. I'll be back after while." He took the trash, and he left. I barely heard him.

I went across the room and knelt down in front of Duo.

"I need to see." I thought I managed to keep my voice fairly calm considering the turmoil that was going on inside me.

"Heero, let it go. It's nothing."

"I know that. But I have to see it for myself, Ok?"

He sighed, and without any real argument, pulled his shirt off and undid the tape. I helped him unwind the bandages; they were stuck to him with dried blood. I gently worked it loose and revealed the wound beneath.

"Gods, Duo. You gave him the opening to do this to you?"

He looked at me sharply, "Wufei doesn't miss much, does he?"

"Not a lot." I agreed.

Gentle as a feather, I laid my hand over the stitches; I couldn't cover the length of it end to end with my entire hand. Compared with wounds he had endured in the past, it was nothing. But it was twisting my guts around just looking at it. Maybe because I hadn't been there. Maybe because Wufei had let it happen. Maybe because it had happened in such a mundane way; as soldiers, you expected to get hurt in the line of duty, in battle. You did not expect to die in a stupid shopping mall.

"Heero? You're scaring me. Stop it." He said softly and I looked up into wide eyes, and I knew my face was contorted with fear.

I struggled to control it, "The stitches have been almost pulled out... more than once."

He looked irritated, "Damn it Heero. You said they told you all about... everything. You know how that happened."

"I know. I know. The... nightmares." I rose and went in to the bathroom to get gauze and tape. Taking the minute to get my emotions under tighter rein. When I came out, I was able to gently clean him up and re-bind the wound and help him get his shirt back on without my hands shaking.

He lay back on the bed while I finished dumping clothes into the laundry basket.

"Heero?" he asked, voice small, as I pushed the window open to get some air in the room.

"Hmmm?"

"I am not made out of glass."

It stopped me cold.

"What... "

But he had gotten started, and wasn't going to let me interrupt.

"I am really pissed at you." He said calmly, propping up on an elbow, "How could you have changed the access code on Deathscythe... again."

"How could you have run away from Wufei and Quatre like that?" I countered.

"You set Wufei on me like I was a damned mission." A hint of his anger came past the bizarre calm in his voice.

"You promised you would be all right until I got back."

"I am all right!"

"You almost... almost... " the fear nipped at my heart again, causing my voice to rise.

"But I didn't. What if something had happened here and we had had to run? What then? What if I hadn't been able to get into my Gundam during a damn attack?"

He was starting to wind up to being really angry.

"What if something had gone wrong on my mission? Are you telling me you wouldn't have tried to come after us?" I barked, taking a step toward the bed.

"And what if I had? If you had needed me, why would it have been so bad? I can still fly!"

"You can't even walk!"

"The hell!" and, of course, he was up off the bed in an instant, in my face and really mad.

"How in the hell do you expect to ever get better if you keep going out and doing stupid shit like that!" I snapped.

"I went to the fucking mall! I didn't do anything wrong! I really wish people would stop acting like I stuck a stinking gun to my head. You're the one who set Wufei on me like a damned guard dog! It was making me insane! I couldn't fucking take a dump without him there asking if I needed help wiping my ass!"

And that was such an absurd mental picture, that I laughed. All the fear and anger fled in the face of his overwhelming frustration, and I laughed until tears ran.

He tried to hold onto his resentment, clung to it hard, but in the end, he started to laugh with me, and we came together in a much-needed embrace, giggling like small children. When it subsided, he whispered in my ear,

"Don't you ever touch my Deathscythe again."

"I swear." I promised, "Never again."

"Heero, you have to... " he broke off, searching for the right words.

"Trust you?" I supplied, and he nodded.

I grinned sheepishly, "I got something of a lecture about that on the way back from the asteroid belt."

He snorted softly, "I got a little talk from Quatre about... understanding certain protective tendencies."

"Mine?" I asked, a little embarrassed.

"And Wufei's. He was trying to keep me from... dunking 'Fei's head in the toilet." He managed to look embarrassed and pleased with himself all at the same time.

I became aware that he was unconsciously letting my embrace partially hold him up. He was weak, whether he would admit it or not. Lack of proper sleep being part of it; one decent night was not going to heal the damage done by days on end without it. Lack of proper nutrition being another part; one meal was not going to make up for not eating for days on end. And, I had to admit; blood loss was obviously a large part. We had a long way to go.

I broke the embrace and drew him over to the bed where I sat back against the headboard and let him settle down against me.

"Heero, what Trowa and Quatre have is... wonderful. It... it used to make me ache to see them together."

I smiled, behind his head and sighed softly, "Made you want what they had, so bad your heart hurt?"

There was a moment of silence, "You too?"

"Oh yes, love." I murmured, and he laid his head back against my chest. "It used to twist me in knots every time I would catch them holding hands or kissing. I... I didn't even know what it was I wanted."

"Everybody thought you disapproved." He told me, and it shocked me.

"Damn. I never realized."

"I think we all figured it out." He grinned up at me, and I kissed the end of his nose. "But, Heero, it isn't going to work that way for us."

"I know. We're both too damn... "

"Stubborn?"

"Aggressive."

He chuckled.

"Duo, I've never... loved anyone before. I am petrified of something happening to you. I ... I don't know what I would do."

"I know, love." He told me, voice soft and far away, "There isn't any pain in the world worse than losing someone you care for, and believe me; I am just as scared something is going to happen to you. But... we can't let the fear run our lives."

We were quiet for a long time. He stroked his fingers absently up and down my shin, and I played with his braid and we thought our own thoughts.

"Are we done with the yelling and the fighting now?" he suddenly asked.

"Uhmmmm... I think so."

"Can we do something?"

"Like what?"

"Anything! I am so bored I could scream."

I laughed, "How's this; if you promise to use your crutches, I'll take you out for lunch."

There was the sound of a groan, a moment of consideration, and then a grumpy, "Oh, all right."

Suddenly, he turned over, mindful of the stitches, and wrapping his arms around my neck pulled me down for a fierce kiss. It caught me totally off guard; he'd never kissed me so forcefully before, invading my mouth with his tongue and catching my lower lip gently between his teeth. Under his hip, my cock stirred to life. At the first throb against him, he broke the hold he had on me and sat up with a wicked smile and whispered, 'New-found power.' Before getting up from the bed and limping toward the closet, presumably to find the crutches.

Oh. My. Gods. My situation had just taken a decided turn for the worse. This did not bode well. It had been hard enough, having him right there in front of me and not being able to... to... consummate things. But now he knew what he was doing to me. And he was amused. Amused and... bored!

"Get off the damn knee." I managed to croak, voice husky.

He just laughed.

My room was my own again, and I went and dressed, putting Wufei's robe back where I had found it in his bathroom. When I came out, Duo was ready to go, swinging on his crutches in the hall, an eager glint in his eye.

We borrowed the maroon estate car; the little gray sports car was gone, and I vaguely remembered Wufei saying he had to go out. Quatre had eagerly taken the basket of laundry from me and sent us on our way, seeming delighted to see Duo not only on his crutches, but going out somewhere.

Duo rolled the window down and turned the radio up and I endured the racket for his sake, he looked so blissfully in the here and now with the wind whipping loose strands of hair around his face. He rode with his eyes closed, and I wondered idly where he was. We drove in... well, not silence, with the radio blaring hard rock music at us, but not talking, maybe talked out for a while. Once we passed the city limits, I reached and turned the radio down so I could ask him where he wanted to eat.

He perked up immediately, "My choice?" he asked eagerly, and I had to chuckle at the same time I was cringing inside; please don't make it somewhere... bizarre.

He directed me downtown where, I was assured, there was this 'great little place' that I would 'just love'. I hoped so.

It turned out to be not such a bad place, downtown near the college, bustling and busy, a kind of Mom and Pop diner. Simple food, thank the Gods, and not too dirty. I settled Duo at a table near the front window and went to place our order. I picked out probably twice what we would ever eat, but was hoping to entice him with a variety of foods. Though he had eaten the breakfast I had made for him, seemingly with gusto, I had noticed that a surprisingly small amount of pancake had actually disappeared from his plate. Likely his stomach had shrunk in the last several days, and it would be easier to get him back to a regular eating schedule with lots of small portions spaced out through the day, than three large meals. Gods; I sounded like a damned worried parent. I almost snorted out loud.

When I returned to the table, he was gazing out the window, seemingly absorbed with people-watching. This hadn't been such a bad idea after all; he needed some distraction. He looked at the tray of food when I sat down, with a raised eyebrow.

"You're doing it again, Mama-Yuy."

I shrugged guiltily, "Can't help it."

He actually ate the majority of a hamburger, and picked at the fries and onion rings, tasting this and that, as I had hoped, but I suspected he actually ate more than he wanted just to make me happy. But through the entire meal, he kept glancing out the window, watching something until I finally had to ask.

"What is going on out there that is so fascinating?"

He nodded across the street, "Isn't that the other car? The one Wufei took?"

I looked, and sure enough, the little gray car was on the other side of the street with a parking ticket on its windshield.

"What the heck could Wufei be doing down here that would take him so long he would get a ticket?"

I grunted, eyes sweeping the street, there was nothing here that I could see that would attract Wufei. Another restaurant, a couple of dingy looking bars, two or three trinket shops and a boarded up store front or two. Nothing that would draw him here at all, much less keep him for over an hour. Duo had an odd look on his face, and we came to an unspoken, mutual decision to go looking.

Duo rose and started for the door, leaving his crutches where they were propped in the corner. I gave out an exasperated, "Duo!" that he completely ignored, so I grabbed the crutches and stowed them in our car as we went by. I was tired of fighting it.

Duo seemed to have some destination in mind, so I followed along as he limped his way across the street and down the alley that ran beside one of the bars. This yielded nothing, and he retraced his steps, returning to the front of the bar without a word, but looking worried. I shadowed him close as he headed for the front door, and I was rather surprised to find that it was open at this time of day.

The interior; dim and smoky, smelled of more than just tobacco, with only a few patrons scattered around the room. When I glanced at Duo, his whole attitude had changed. There was a beaming smile plastered across his face, he exuded charm and charisma like it was a scent, and even his walk was different. Not the purposefully stride he had used outside, but an unhurried amble as he wound his way between empty tables on his way to the bar. I held back, realizing that he was in ... Gods, what? Stealth mode? Infiltration mode? I was only in the way. He sprawled across a stool and engaged the kid, obviously stoned, behind the bar in conversation. Had I not come in with him, I would have sworn Duo was higher than a kite as well, and he soon had the kid giggling uncontrollably. Money went across the bar, and a beer came back across, which sat untouched, though the bartender never noticed. After an incredibly short amount of time, Duo came back to me and led the way back outside.

"He was here. Ordered a drink and sat around for a long time not drinking it. He's stalking somebody."

Outside, in the light of day, Duo transformed back, all trace of the grinning idiot gone. "Come on." He ordered, and headed back across the street toward the second bar. Again, he led us down the alley first, and this time, we hit the mother load. We heard a crash, and a grunt and then voices. A stranger's voice, high and frightened, and Wufei's, low and dangerous. We had apparently arrived not too long after the... conversation had started.

There was a dark haired kid on the ground, his arm in a cast and I glanced at Duo for confirmation that this was the one who had stabbed him. He nodded sharply, eyes narrowed, but Wufei was in absolutely no danger, so we held back and just watched.

Wufei loomed over the kid, and his voice was harsh, "I told you I would find you."

There was an unpleasant whining sound from the jock on the ground. Wufei was wearing a long coat, which I thought was odd for the weather, until he pulled the katana out from under it. The kid on the ground did a fine imitation of a bug-eyed fish.

"What... what're you gonna do?" he sputtered, voice high and rising higher by the minute.

"I do not take kindly to people hurting my friends." Wufei growled, and moved the sword closer to the throat of his quarry.

Said quarry made another noise that might have been a stammered apology, or might have just been sobbing.

"I take less kindly to people harming my family." The growl had grown to a snarl, and the jock was definitely apologizing now, shaking in fear and trying to push himself backward through the brick wall behind him.

Beside me, Duo stiffened, and when I looked at him, his face was an uncharted sea of swirling emotions. I couldn't begin to guess what was going through his head.

"I will not allow you to harm him again." Wufei was telling the sobbing idiot on the ground, the blade now resting against his throat, just under the chin. "I am giving you this one warning. If he ever so much as sees you again, I will find you and I will cut off a finger. If he encounters you twice, I will cut off a hand. If you are so stupid as to cross his path a third time, I will cut off your head. Do I make myself clear?"

The moron started to nod vigorously, almost slicing his own chin on the razor sharp blade before thinking better of it and stammering a barely audible, "Yes."

"I did not quite hear that."

I took Duo's arm, and with a finger to my lips, drew him away as Wufei was making the quivering jock repeat it a second and third time. We made our way silently back to the street and quickly gained the car, where we sat until I saw Wufei calmly exit the alley, katana gone from sight, and make his way back to his car. If he noticed us, he gave no outward sign, but got in the car and drove away as sedately as if he had just finished lunch.

"Let's... let's go back now." Duo said softly, and I started the car and headed that way. It was a quiet drive; Duo didn't even want the radio on. He just sat, slumped low in the seat, staring blindly out the passenger window, occasionally rubbing at his knee. I just drove, stealing glances at him out of the corner of my eye, and finally ventured, "Are you all right?"

He just grunted, and I respected the silence for the rest of the five-mile drive.

The thoughts were swirling in my own head; I could only imagine what was going through his. I was almost sorry Wufei hadn't killed the son of a bitch right there when he had the chance. I'm not sure I wouldn't have. He hurt my Duo. Whenever I thought of it, remembered the wicked slice on Duo's skin, the anger threatened to claw it's way up out of my belly like a thing alive. Had he been in front of me, had I held the blade at his throat, would I have been able to stay my hand? I'm not so sure. It would have been murder. Calculated murder. Not the same as the lives I had claimed in battle, not the same at all. I couldn't answer the question.

I pulled the car in, and we had gotten there first; the gray car wasn't in sight yet. I got out and went around to help Duo. He was pensive, and still quiet; he took my hand and let me pull him up without comment. I collected the crutches out of the back of the car, and turned to find Duo sitting on the hood.

"Heero... I want to wait for Wufei, Ok?"

I frowned, "He might not come back right away."

"I know. I'll just wait a little while." He hesitated, his head lowered, looking at me through his unruly bangs. "I'll come in if he isn't back soon."

I chuckled and went to lean the crutches against the side of the car within his reach, though Gods only knew what the point was anymore. "I'll leave you alone, then."

The hesitant look left his face and he grinned at me, snagging the sleeve of my shirt and pulling me close enough to wrap his arms around my neck. From his vantage point on the car, he was above me and I had to turn my face up to meet his this time. He kissed my lips softly, then my cheek, and then that place behind my jaw that always makes my knees weak. I closed my eyes in pleasure, feeling the tip of his tongue gently tracing the outline of my ear. My hands were resting on his waist, and I left them there, letting him do as he pleased, but always aware of the burden of his past. I would not, could not, would never, may the Gods strike me dead; ever cause him pain. His lips traveled back and found mine again and I allowed just a hint of my rising passion to show through as he kissed me deeply this time. Then he broke off and I opened my eyes to find him gazing at me, eyes warm and amused. "Thanks for understanding, love."

I took that as my cue to leave and turned toward the house, refusing to adjust the tightness in my jeans until I was out from under his watchful eyes. He was going to kill me at this rate, I was sure of it.

I went into the formal living room and sat in the bay window where I could watch him, but it would be difficult for him to see me. Not that it mattered, I'm sure he knew I was there somewhere. Quatre was beside me in a heartbeat, and I wondered how long he had been observing us, I felt just a hint of how Duo must have felt the last week, never out from under someone's vigilant guard twenty-four hours a day. I felt vaguely guilty.

"What's going on?" Quatre wanted to know, coming to stand behind me where he could see out the window as well.

"Duo is waiting for Wufei." I told him, trying to decide just how much I should say.

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