By : Sunhawk

Conversations (cont)

"You going to live?" Trowa asked with a bit of amusement in his voice.

"Why?" I responded, somewhat guardedly.

He chuckled. "That's the third time you've sighed in less than a minute."

I sighed again, heard what I'd done and laughed. Trowa laughed along with me, but it was short lived. "He's just so... overwhelming when he gets like this."

"I know," he commiserated. "Not too many people will get in the way of Heero Yuy in 'protect mode'."

I almost sighed again, but cut it off. I caught a grin on Trowa's face and realized he'd noticed. "I just don't want to go to the damn hospital, ok? I don't need to go."

"No you don't," he agreed. "I know that."

"Then why didn't you say something back at the house?" I blurted before I had a chance to think about it.

He chuckled, but I noticed the blood rise to his cheeks. "Because I had no desire to get castrated?" he ventured. "Like I said... Heero Yuy in full defense mode is a damn daunting thing."

I only glared at him.

"So... you want me to come up with you?" he said when I didn't respond. We were damn near there and I was starting to feel like I was going to throw up.

"Will I look like a sniveling weenie who's afraid of his own... roommate, if I say yes?" I chuckled.

"No," he grinned in return. "You'll look like a man with a level head on his shoulders."

And then we were there. Joy.

Trowa pulled in and parked, giving me an encouraging look before we climbed out of the car. I had to resist the urge to move in close to him as we walked across the lot. I could only thank God our apartment windows were on the other side of the building, though I still felt like there were eyes on me the entire way.

I hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, looking up and feeling that wobble again. Damn but I hated living on the third floor.

There was a hand under my elbow quite suddenly, and I looked up into amused green eyes. "If you don't think you can make it, I can go get Heero. I'll bet he'd come down and carry you."

I rolled my eyes. "The entire damn three flights? No thank you." But it served to poke me into movement.

"You feel shaky," he observed as though he were commenting on the weather. "You all right?"

"Yeah," I told him, holding my hands up to look at them as we climbed. "I may not be able to feel it, but... something happens. Like my body knows there's been a trauma somehow, even without the nerve pathways to tell my brain."

He grunted, concern crossing his face, but he held his tongue, for which I was grateful. I had the strangest sense of déjà vu and remembered the last time I'd made this climb with Trowa at my side. I chuckled and he looked at me oddly. "So, what exactly, are your bodyguard rates? I'm thinking it might just be cheaper for me to keep you on retainer instead of paying hourly."

He broke out in a wide grin and shook his head. "You're family... I can get you the special discount. Don't worry about it."

I was going to try for the flippant answer, but there was suddenly a weird little warm place in my chest and when I opened my mouth to speak, it seemed to clog my throat. We were almost at the top of the stairs before I managed, "Thanks, man... sometimes it seems like you're the only rational one in the bunch of us."

"I'm not sure that says a lot," he quipped and we laughed a little bit, around the strain of almost being there. I was trying to fumble my apartment key out of my pocket with my bandaged hands when the door flew open in our faces.

Heero has this habit of running his hands through his hair when he's really upset. He kind of looked like he'd been doing nothing else for about the last three hours. If it wouldn't have gotten me decked, I'd have laughed out loud.

"Uh... hi honey, I'm home?" I struggled valiantly for light and teasing, but it kind of came out uncertain and... wobbly. My new favorite word; wobbly. It just seemed to sum me up today.

He stood there, doorknob clutched in one hand, looking first at one of us and then at the other. I thought for about three seconds that he might just be having a stroke or something. I didn't know what else to say, it was kind of in his court and he didn't seem to have a damn clue.

"Heero," Trowa said calmly. "Breathe."

It served to make Heero blush and he finally stepped back so that we could at least come into the apartment. It was Trowa who thought to close the damn door. I couldn't read Heero's mood, beyond the 'upset' part. He didn't seem to know what to do, what to say. So we just stood there, staring at each other.

Trowa was starting to seem amused as hell with the whole thing, and walking around behind Heero, said something low in his ear. Heero looked at him sharply, blinking rapidly, and Trowa grinned. "Those are pretty much your only three choices... pick one; I have to use your bathroom." Then he left us alone. I resisted the urge to throw something at him for running out on me.

Heero was looking at me funny, his head cocked off to the side. "He said... I should hit you, hug you, or help you pack your bags. I'm not hitting you... do you... you don't want to... pack... do you?"

All I could manage was a vehement shake of my head, but that was all it took to make him close the distance and sweep me into his arms.

"Damnit, Duo," he whispered, low and husky, "You have to stop doing this to me."

I wrapped my own arms tight around his neck and just murmured my apologies.

"You've got me on that damn roller coaster ride again," he said softly, trying to tease me, trying to smooth it over, but it was rather put to the lie by the clutching hold he had on me.

"I'm sorry," I sighed next to his ear, eyes squeezed shut and just breathing him in. "I guess I was a little more... on edge than I'd realized. I just couldn't handle anymore..."

He drew back to look at me, loosening his hold just enough to bring a hand up to my face. He looked pained. "I told you on the way over, to tell me if it got to be too much, love... why didn't you..."

That rather served to remind me of what had started the whole damn 'barbecue incident' in the first place, and I pulled back a little bit. "Because things 'got to be too much' kind of all at once, when I ran into Relena and she offered to let Abdul put me on the grill with the rest of the dead meat."

"Nani?" he demanded, and I could see him getting all set to get seriously pissed off at Relena.

"Oh no you don't, big boy," I informed him, a bit of my earlier anger coming back. "This is all your mess! What the hell was the meaning of telling Relena she wasn't allowed to visit you in the hospital?"

He did, thank God, have the decency to look chagrined. I think it was the only thing that kept me from getting really worked up to fuming again, that and the fact that I was just too damn tired.

"I was trying to protect you," he said, his arms tightening unconsciously and then easing off as he realized what he was doing. "You were... like I'd never seen you. I was scared to death about the shape you were in, and there was almost nothing I could do to help. I just thought... you two don't get along very well, and I thought it would be easier if you didn't have to deal with her."

I groaned and dropped my head onto his shoulder in exasperation, lacking the strength to strangle him. "Yuy... you idiot, she was left with the impression that I demanded that she not be allowed near you. She thought that I... threw some kind of jealous fit or something!"

"But," he muttered, confused as hell, "she never said a thing! It's been months!"

"That's because she wasn't mad at you, she was mad at me." I lifted my head and looked him in the eye. "She's had this weird complex, thinking I'm trying to cut her out of your life, ever since the accident."

"I had no idea," he frowned, almost as though he doubted what I was saying. "She was fine with it when I called her from the hospital."

I managed to keep myself from rolling my eyes. "And just how drugged up were you at the time?" I inquired flatly. I was pleased to see the dawning horror on his face.

"But she hasn't said a damn word about it in two months!" He had to go back around and take one more whack at that dead horse, and we finally broke away from each other, mostly because I needed my arms to truly make the annoyed gesture I was working on.

"She's a woman, Yuy! They don't just come out and tell you anything!" I snapped, and would have delved further into that topic if Trowa's boisterous laughter hadn't interrupted me.

"Coming from you, Maxwell... that's kind of priceless," he chortled gleefully.

I whirled around to face him, but couldn't keep the anger alive. "Yeah well, Barton..." I began, then blinked at him for a second before chuckling, "I'm just to damn worn-out to come up with anything witty right now... get back with me on that."

He snorted and shook his head as though disappointed in me. "Listen, can I borrow your car to get home so I don't have to sit around here for a half an hour listening to you two fight and make up?"

"Sure," I told him and gingerly fished the keys out of my coat pocket. The move did two things, reminded me I was still wearing my jacket, and reminded Heero of my hands. After I tossed the keys to Trowa, I started to unzip and slip out of the thing, and Heero was suddenly right there helping me.

"Easy," he murmured, low and soft, trying to keep Trowa from hearing, I'm sure. "Let me."

Trowa has good hearing though; he chuckled maliciously and Heero flushed. But he didn't stop what he was doing, peeling me gently out of my coat and then going to hang it up for me.

"Hey Duo," Trowa suddenly said, in a calm, almost lazy voice, that totally did not match the intense gaze he was giving me. "Could you get me a soda or something for the road?"

"All right," I said uncertainly, trying to read his eyes and failing. But it was obvious he wanted me to leave the room, so I did. Heero started to object, started to tell me to sit down and rest while he went to fetch the drink, but Trowa was already talking to him. I stopped just inside the kitchen door to listen.

"Oh, before I forget again, Heero," Trowa was saying. "Quatre's sister Judith heard you were house-hunting. She's interested in getting into real estate. She found a house listing and wanted us to drop if off."

I felt my eyes widening in shock. What the hell was he doing? There was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that was somewhat reminiscent of the flu. From the other room, I heard them moving, imagined the paper changing hands.

Heero grunted and chuckled lightly. "She's too late... we actually already looked at this one."

Trowa chuckled along with him and I could almost see the innocent look on his face. "No kidding? That's funny. What did you think of it, if you don't mind my asking? Judith will want to know how close she came."

I realized I was holding my breath, but couldn't exhale for fear of missing something. I thought I'd die waiting for Heero to speak.

"Oh, it was a beautiful old house, damn near perfect, if a bit large," Heero tossed out carelessly. "But it needs a lot of work. Duo doesn't need that kind of burden right now. I want to be able to give him a home that we can enjoy... not one that's going to take all our time and resources." There was a pause and I imagined the flyer was changing hands again. "But tell Judith thank you for thinking of us. If she can find another place like that one, that isn't so... run down, have her call us."

I just kind of drifted over into the doorway, where I could see them, as though I had to look to verify who had spoken.

Trowa gets large amounts of credit here for not laughing his ass off at me, ok?

"You know, Duo," he called out in a voice that damn near drawled. "On second thought, forget the soda. I'll get your car back to you sometime tomorrow. Good night."

I got a wink as he turned and left, and a broad grin, but he didn't laugh.

"Good night," Heero replied, oblivious to the by-play. "And thanks, Trowa."

For fetching and bandaging his errant boyfriend.

He was almost out the door before I got my tongue unglued from the roof of my mouth. "Yeah, Trowa... thank you." For a hell of a lot of other things.

He waved dismissively and walked out. I just kind of stood and stared after him.

I know what I heard... but I wasn't sure I could trust it. Heero wasn't just being polite? He had really thought the house was 'damn near perfect'? It didn't mesh with what he had said to Miss Montoya. I would not let my hopes start that damn upward climb. Not yet. It hurt too much when they just fell down again.

But now that Trowa was gone, I was left alone with Heero Yuy in full 'nurture and protect' mode. The man should have been a nurse. Or someone's mother.

He couldn't seem to bear to be too far from me, coming over to wrap me in his arms for a lingering hug as soon as the door was closed.

"You're all right?" he asked me gently. "Really all right?"

"Just a little... shaky," I answered, trying out that honesty thing, just for kicks.

He was quiet for a minute, just holding me close against him and I basked in his warmth, starting to relax for the first time in hours. "I..." he began cautiously, "would feel a lot better if you'd let me take you to the hospital."

I sighed, but didn't raise my head from where I had it burrowed against his neck. "I do not need to go to the hospital, Yuy," I said very resolutely. "Forget it. I am fine."

His hand found its way under my braid, his fingers curling lovingly around the back of my neck, stroking lightly. "Baby... those are second-degree burns. They need to be looked at." His voice was so... troubled, bordering on distraught, that I almost caved in. But the idea of spending the next couple of hours in a crowded emergency room for no real reason was enough to stiffen my resolve.

"Listen to me, husband-mine," I told him, keeping my voice as reassuring as I could manage. "I know this is the first time this has happened since we've been living together, but you're going to have to deal with the fact that it's not really a rare occurrence. Not being able to feel things like heat and cold means that I make these little blunders from time to time. I know how to deal with it and I know when I've passed the point of dealing with it on my own." I drew back to look him in the eye, to hopefully add weight to the words. "Trust me... all right?"

He didn't look convinced, sliding his hand away from the back of my neck to brush his fingertips across my cheek. He finally settled his hand on my forehead, continuing to frown at me. "Duo," he said gently, as though he were talking to a child. "I'm afraid you might be in the early stages of shock... your skin is too cool, you admitted you feel shaky... I just want..."

I think he got kind of pissed off when I started to laugh. "I just spent the last couple of hours sitting outside without my coat on! Of course I feel chilled!"

He didn't... see the humor.

The remark got me ensconced on the couch, wrapped in the afghan before you could say 'stupid thing to say'. But at least he seemed to get over the hospital idea. A sweater was fetched from his closet, pillows were brought from the bed, a second afghan was dug out of the bottom of a blanket chest somewhere. All of these excesses were delivered on my person with an almost constant running monologue about the idiocy of sitting around outside in thirty-degree weather without a coat. I just let him go, letting him work off his anxiety, hopefully getting some of this mother-hen crap out of his system. I was just thankful he'd finally forgotten about calling 911.

After a little bit, I found myself alone in the living room while he took himself off to the kitchen to make hot soup for me. I had little doubt that it would be chicken soup if we had any. I kept myself from grinning until he was out of the room. Like I said; he'd make somebody one kick-ass mommy.

I suppose I have to admit I was feeling a little better as I started to warm up, but that really wasn't what was on my mind.

Once Heero had stopped fussing, or at least stopped fussing in the same room as me, I couldn't help but notice that Trowa had managed to leave the house listing lying on the coffee table. It was right there next to my sketchpad and I leaned over to snag them both, bringing them into my lap. I looked at the tiny picture of that house again and sighed wistfully. God I wish Heero would calm down. I really, really wanted to talk to him about what he'd said, but I was pretty sure he needed to be out of the mood he was in first. I opened the tablet, and being very careful to avoid certain pages, flipped forward to the sketch of Heero in the back room of that house. The sketch of Heero... in my studio. My studio. It kind of made me shiver, thinking about that, and not from the cold. It had been so long since I'd had someplace to call my own, someplace where I could feel free to make changes. When you make a home, you put your mark on it. Even if it's nothing more than choosing the furniture and arranging it. The colors and the placement of things is your choice, it reflects something about you. This apartment reflected only Heero. There was nothing of me here at all. And while it was a perfectly livable, pleasant place... it wasn't mine. Wasn't... ours.

I heard the unmistakable sounds of Heero dishing up the soup, and rose to go to the kitchen before he hauled it all into the living room. I moved quietly and was sitting at the table before he half knew I was there.

"Duo," he said reprovingly. "Go back where it's warm. I'll get a tray and..."

"Get a grip, Yuy." I grinned at him. "I got chilled... I didn't catch pneumonia! And dish some of that soup up for yourself. I know damn good and well you haven't eaten either."

Some of that almost scary, almost maniacal light seemed to finally fade from his eyes and he gave me a little smile. Almost sheepish, but not quite.

We were quiet while he moved around the kitchen, putting a bowl in front of me, setting out some crackers. He got down another bowl and dished up some of the soup for himself. It was, as I had suspected it would be, chicken noodle. I had to hide a grin with my first spoonful.

"Listen..." I began, just as he said,

"Duo..."

We both stopped, and we grinned nervously at each other.

"Go ahead," he offered.

"No," I told him. "I think mine's going to be kind of... long. You go first."

He frowned at that, and I thought I was going to have to argue him into it, but then I think his own need to know the answer to whatever it was he wanted to ask me, got the better of him. He didn't chew on it near as long as I expected him to.

"Duo-love," he said very gently. "Why did you run away?"

Well shit. Maybe his subject matter would take longer than mine. I repressed the urge to renege and tell him that I would go first after all.

"You... kind of scare me when you get like... that," I told him, watching my spoon push noodles into the depths of my soup to drown.

He sat and stared at me for a long minute, his own dinner forgotten. "What?" he fairly breathed. "You're... afraid of me?"

I flushed crimson and tried not to cringe. "Not... like that," I blurted. "You just over-react to anything that happens to me... and the whole damn world follows your lead!"

"Follows my lead?" he parroted, obviously confused as hell.

"Yeah," I said, somewhat bolstered by the fact that he was still talking to me, and we weren't yelling yet. "The other guys knew that whole rushing to the emergency room thing was over the top... but they won't say no to you. I just get... lost in the shuffle."

"I was not over-reacting," he protested, doing his best to keep his voice steady and calm. "Quatre agreed with me..."

I almost laughed, but managed to keep it toned down to a snort. "That's not fair... you know how Quatre reacts to anything to do with my hands!"

He opened his mouth to argue that point, but I raised an eyebrow and he finally shook his head in defeat. "Ok... I have to give you that one. Quatre is just a bit... sensitive on that subject."

I did let myself laugh out loud then. "Now there's an understatement for you!"

He smiled along with me, seeming a little relieved to hear me laughing. "Eat your dinner," he scolded, and took a spoonful of his own.

"Yes sir," I murmured and followed suit.

I thought about his question while we ate for a bit. Thought about what had been running through my head in that moment, trying to find him a truly honest answer. "I don't really know what makes me do it, Heero," I finally sighed. We both knew we were talking about more than today. This wasn't the first time I'd headed for the hills when I'd started feeling pressured. "Damn it... it was just so humiliating, having all those people staring at me." I shuddered theatrically and he looked like he wanted to argue with that statement, but I didn't let him. "I was already a little irritated with Sally..."

"Sally?" he questioned, his voice going a little cold. A little predatory.

I let out a little frustrated growl and started to run my hand through my bangs, stopping when the stark, white gauze caught my eye. "She's bound and determined to 'fix' things between Wufei and me. And much as I would like for things to go back to normal... the middle of one of Quatre's parties wasn't the place to try it."

"I'll speak to her," he told me, and there was a hint of irritation in his voice.

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