on the Beach (cont)
At long bloody damn last,
the truck was pulling into the emergency bay at the base hospital with
the sound of screaming tires and a sudden, hard lurch. The gurney Duo
was on was hauled out the back almost before the truck was completely
stopped. Heero clambered down, following behind, blanket falling away
unnoticed. Someone appeared in his line of vision, attempting to draw
him to the side, but he snarled dangerously and that person got the hell
out of the way. He followed the gurney into the depths of the emergency
room, not letting his eyes leave the pale, pale form. Several people made
to touch him, to move him back to the waiting room, but one look into
his icy blue eyes, and they backed off quickly. He stayed carefully out
of the way, and eventually they stopped bothering him.
He watched them cut Duo's clothes away; he watched them start the IV,
finally beginning the transfusion. He saw them working on the gashed wrists,
saw heads shake, saw eyes flicking his way. It finally soaked through
to his muddled brain that they were prepping Duo for surgery.
Panic began to pry its way around the numbness as he realized they wouldn't
let him go with Duo. Suddenly, familiar hands were on his shoulders and
Trowa and Quatre were there.
The heat of Trowa's hands resting reassuringly on his arms seeped into
him, working passed the cocoon his heart was wrapped in and he began to
shiver and he did something he never would have thought he could manage.
He turned around to find his teammates and threw his arms tight around
Trowa's chest, burying his face in the comfort offered him, letting go
to the tremors that attacked his body. Quatre came in behind him, and
the two sheltered him from prying eyes as the attendants wheeled Duo away
to the waiting operating room.
Someone came up to Quatre and spoke to him in low tones, and again Heero
heard that word; 'shock'. There was an exchange between calm, reliant
Quatre and the faceless intern, and Heero felt vaguely that there was
important information being passed, but he couldn't seem to focus enough
to hear more than one word in twenty. Trowa's arms were tight around him,
solid and strong and like an anchor in the fog he seemed lost in. Quatre's
hands were firm and gentle on his back, and between them, they got him
moving, and he went, unresisting, not caring in the slightest where, as
long as it was away from the glaring, unforgiving lights and the sight
of Duo's blood-soaked clothes in a pile on the floor.
They were granted an empty room; it was apparently a slow night, and he
let his teammates take him there. A sink full of warm water was run, and
he realized when they began to clean him up, that he was smeared with
Duo's blood. His arms; his hands; his chest; his face. Quatre gently bathed
him with the stark, white hospital washcloth that quickly turned a sickly
red. The protective wrapping around his aching heart slowly unwound as
the blood was cleaned away. Washed away.
Washed away by the cold ocean waves. Swept away by the cold, dancing wind.
Blood rinsed clean by the grace of the only God Duo could believe in;
Shinigami, the God of Death. In that moment, Heero understood what he
had taken from Duo when he had denied him his dancing on the sand. Absolution.
Shinigami's forgiveness. He danced in the moonlight and threw himself
at Death, and if the God refrained from taking him, then he must be forgiven,
right? 'Guess Shinigami forgave me again, huh?'
"What have I done?" Heero whispered, and his pain came home
to roost in full measure and his knees buckled and the tears came, and
could he have seen the horrified, shocked looks his teammates exchanged,
he wouldn't have cared.
If Duo died, it was all his fault.
They cleaned him, and they dried him, and Trowa took his jacket off and
slipped it on his chilled body, and the still warm garment was a comfort
that finally let him regain some control. He did his best to explain,
but he wasn't sure they understood.
They took him to a waiting room then, hovering over him like two mother
hens; Quatre dealing with the people, deflecting questions and turning
aside the curious, Trowa, an intimidating presence that stayed close and
watchful; protective of his tenuous privacy.
Quatre went and found a blanket, tucking it in around his legs in the
still wet jeans. Disappearing again, only to return with a cup of hot
tea from the Gods only knew where, that he pressed into Heero's trembling
hands. It helped. It all helped. Just their being there helped. His focus
began to come back, and his brain to process.
"Where's Wufei?" He said at last, voice gravelly.
"He's in surgery as well." Trowa told him gently, one hand resting
on Heero's back.
"I'll check." Quatre told him soothingly, and went to speak
in low tones with the nurse at the desk. Heero was surprised to see her
darting almost fearful glances his way, and beside him, Trowa rumbled
a deep-throated chuckle, "You have to stop scaring the hell out of
the hired help, Yuy."
It was such a normal thing to say, and Heero appreciating the effort,
quirked a half-hearted grin at him. It faded quickly and his eyes returned
to the doors that led to the surgery arena.
The hand on his back made small circles, "It's good it's taking this
long. He's tough, Heero, he's going to make it." It might have been
more comfort if Trowa hadn't sounded as though he were trying to convince
Quatre rejoined them, "Wufei is out of surgery and in recovery. They
said one of us could go in to see him when he wakes up."
Heero nodded, excepting the news with a great deal of relief, not only
for Wufei's sake, but for Duo's as well.
It was an hour before someone finally came out of those damned doors and
wearily approached them. Heero stood to meet the man, obviously the surgeon,
The man smiled faintly, his face otherwise unreadable, "Your friend
is doing much better." He told them gently.
"When can we see him?" Heero demanded, not waiting for the rest
of the man's prepared speech.
A frown crossed the tired face, "I'm afraid that in the case of self-inflicted
wounds, we have a policy of waiting until the psychologist has had a chance
to evaluate... "
Trowa cut him off smoothly, his voice bland and firm, "I'm afraid
there's been a misunderstanding, Doctor. Our two teammates were on a...
covert mission. All injuries were a result of their capture and subsequent
escape from the enemy."
The man looked somewhat skeptical for a moment, looking first at Trowa,
and then at Quatre, who nodded sadly, backing up his partner's statement.
The Doctor looked angry then and muttered something about damned Oz bastards.
"As soon as he's awake then." He told them gently, seeming only
glad that someone had arrived to take the frightening Heero Yuy in hand,
"He's very weak and will need to rest."Then he turned and went
back the way he had come.
Heero sank back down into his chair, knees feeling like they might fail
him. He granted his two teammates a quirk of a smile, '"You two could
sell swamp land for a living."
The two exchanged mild, innocent smiles; as pleased with Heero returning
to normal, as they were with the success of their deception.
It wasn't long before a nurse came out with the news that Wufei could
have a visitor. Heero wanted to go, but was afraid that Duo might wake
while he was in with their Chinese partner. In the end, after an odd exchange
of wordless glances, Quatre went.
Heero suspected they had made a conscious decision to leave the taller,
more intimidating Trowa with him as a buffer between Heero and the hospital
staff. It embarrassed him. He had not lost control of himself like this
in... well, he wasn't all together sure he had ever lost control like
this before. He couldn't quite believe the depth of his feelings. He had
always been fond of Duo, had harbored a secret attraction even, but he
had found to his shock, in that moment on the beach when he realized what
Duo had done, that he loved the man. Loved him like he had never loved
anything in his entire life. Had it been within his power to take Duo's
wounds onto his own body, he would have done so without a second thought.
He would have died on the beach if it would have meant that Duo would
Whenever he closed his eyes, he still saw the crumpled body lying at the
waters edge, the icy water lapping at his legs, his braid looping across
the sand like some exotic sea snake.
What had he done? Dear Gods; this was all his fault. What had he gone
"You Ok?" Trowa asked him gently, his hand still resting on
"Hmmm? Fine... I'm fine." Heero answered, leaning to rest his
elbows on his knees, dropping his face into his hands and rubbing at tired
"You got quiet again." It was a question, meant to draw him
out, and Heero knew it but couldn't really be irritated.
He sighed heavily, "I was just thinking... trying to figure out how
I should have handled the whole... beach thing."
"Heero," His friend said, lowering his voice for privacy, "You
couldn't have let it go on. Sooner or later... he would have... slipped."
"I didn't understand. I didn't realize what it did for him; how it
helped him cope."
"He has to find another damn way to cope." Trowa's eyes glinted
dangerously, "If you're thinking of letting him... "
Heero looked up at his teammate with a dark scowl that firmly answered
that question, and Trowa didn't bother to finish.
"Of course I'm not."Heero told him, verbally backing up the
look, "I just don't know how to help him."
Trowa looked at him strangely, "Heero... we help him by getting him
out of this hell. We report him unfit for duty and stop this right here."
Heero sat up and turned stunned eyes on Trowa, "No." His voice
was low, but firm, "He did this because he felt he'd failed us. If
we pull him off active duty, it will only reinforce the idea that we don't
"Wufei said he froze."
"You've never frozen, Trowa Barton?" Heero glared at him, "Never?
I have. I know Quatre has, I've seen it."
Trowa lowered his eyes and finally had to nod.
"I've never seen Duo falter before. He's never broken like this."
Heero leaned closer to his teammate, partly for privacy, partly from the
intensity of what he had to say, "We never talk about what we feel,
about what we've done. He called us strong; he thinks that none of us
has ever lost our nerve."
Trowa looked up at him again, his eyes admitting that Heero spoke the
truth, "So what are we going to do?'"
Heero sat back again with a defeated sigh, "I don't bloody well know."
There was a long silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts, until
finally Trowa spoke, looking off in the distance at nothing.
"Well... how the hell do you deal with... it?"
Heero didn't answer at once; it was something he had been mulling over
in the back of his mind since he had pieced the whole thing together.
"I don't know... I just lock it down. I don't think about it. I keep
it in terms of objectives and missions and goals."
He sat and stared off in the same middle distance for a while, not really
satisfied with the answer, before glancing sideways, "How do you?"
Heero saw a muscle work in Trowa's jaw, "Quatre... helps me."
He grunted and considered the thought. He wasn't sure what Trowa was saying
and wasn't about to ask for clarification. He thought about the two of
them; the way they acted around each other. They complemented each other,
supported each other, understood each other. He could picture them, working
in the kitchen or repairing a Gundam; working side by side, finishing
each others sentences, passing each other tools without having to ask.
Knowing each others needs without being told.
He wanted that. So suddenly and so badly, his chest hurt.
"I want to... help Duo like that." He breathed, and couldn't
look at his teammate to gage his reaction.
Suddenly he growled low in his throat. "Enough of this. I'm not waiting
He shrugged out from under Trowa's hand, and tossing the blanket aside,
went to find Duo. Trowa, sensing that Heero was completely back in control,
didn't even think of getting in his way.
Heero strode straight through the doors that the Doctor had used earlier
and began a systematic search of the recovery rooms. A nurse started to
approach him, met his eyes and turned abruptly on her heel, pretending
she hadn't seen him. The next nurse who crossed his path visibly quailed,
but approached him anyway.
"Sir, can I help you? I don't think you're supposed to be back here."
"I need to see the wrist laceration patient." He told her, guessing
that she would be better acquainted with the condition than the name of
a newly admitted, unconscious patient. Her eyes flicked involuntarily
to the left, and he brushed passed her.
"Debriefing."He muttered as she started after him, "Covert
That stopped her, and she hesitated in the middle of the hall while he
made his way to the last room on the left.
The lights were glaringly bright, making Duo look all the paler against
the white sheets. Heero's breath hissed as he approached the bed and looked
down. The skin looked almost translucent, and Heero could see the pulse
in his neck beating painfully hard. The heart monitor by the bed beeped
a reassuring counter-point. Both wrists were swathed in stark bandages,
and there were several bags hanging from the IV stand.
Heero just stood looking down for a long moment, watching the shallow
rise and fall of Duo's chest. He wanted to take and hold one of those
limp hands in his own, but was afraid of hurting. He settled, finally,
on resting one hand on Duo's shoulder. He realized after a moment, that
the blanket draped across Duo's body had been heated, and remembered how
cold his partner had been. It swept over him then, just how bloody damned
close he had come to losing this person who had slipped inside his guard
while he had been unaware, and stolen his heart right out from under him.
The Doctor had said he would live. Would recover.
Carefully, gently, he leaned down and softly brushed his lips across Duo's.
They felt parchment dry against him, and he soothingly slid his tongue
out and moistened them, trembling as Duo unconsciously responded.
"That's one, my love." Heero whispered softly to the cherished
face, his fingers stroking the pallid cheek.
Looking around, he found a chair and snagging it with his foot, drug it
over and sat down, preparing to stay as long as it took for his partner
He didn't for a moment believe that Trowa's way was the answer to this
mess. What Heero had stolen from Duo, all unknowing, was what had allowed
the young man to live with himself and what the war had forced him to
become. It was nothing more than a ritual, and Heero knew damn well that
Duo was well aware of it. How in the hell it had all started, Heero couldn't
even guess, but it had obviously developed over time into some sort of
bizarre answer to Duo's need. Duo was a much more sensitive soul than
Heero felt himself to be, more imaginative, more... aware. He couldn't
just 'lock it down' the way Heero was able to. Couldn't categorize it,
organize it, and dump it into the most detailed mission reports ever written
to purge it from his system. Duo, somehow, needed someone else to tell
him it was all right; someone to let him know that he was forgiven. Even
if it wasn't really true, it apparently was enough to let him go on.
And Heero had taken it away from him. Left him floundering in his guilt
and confusion, lost in that place where the screaming and bloodletting
never stopped. Until he had finally faltered somehow; allowing a teammate
to come to harm, and that was the one thing he couldn't live with.
Heero let his hand cup the smooth cheek, tracing the line of Duo's jaw,
"I'm so sorry, Duo. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't realize."
A soft sigh escaped from his partner's lips, and his eyes struggled open.
Those beautiful amethyst eyes that always startled Heero with their vibrant
color. He blinked slowly, and Heero saw pain flicker across his face,
and confusion, and then a hint of fear.
"I'm here. I'm right here." Heero whispered, and those eyes
turned his way, finding him and he saw the fear fade away.
"Heero?" the voice was hoarse and weak, and he was fighting
to keep his eyes open.
"Yes, I'm with you. Everything's all right now." He soothed,
gently squeezing the shoulder under his fingers.
"What... ?" Heero watched the confusion slowly fade as the memories
came creeping back. "Wufei... Oh, Gods." Pain welled up in those
eyes then, that had nothing to do with the physical world, and Heero heard
the steady rhythm of the heart monitor lurch.
"Shhhh... He's all right." Heero reached to stroke soothing
fingers across Duo's forehead, "Calm down. It's all right. Everything's
Ok. Wufei is fine."
Tears began to seep from the corners of Duo's eyes, washing unheeded down
the side of his face. "Oh Heero, I messed up so bad!"
Heero knew it was partially the drugs that had eroded his loves self control,
knew that Duo would hate this if he were fully aware of his actions. But
it shredded his heart all the same and he couldn't help easing up to sit
on the side of the bed where Duo could see him without having to turn
his head uncomfortably.
"No you didn't." He whispered fiercely, "You made a mistake.
A simple, single damn mistake, that's all."
Duo blinked up at him, wide eyed and looking stunned, "Didn't Wufei
tell you?"He whispered, tears streaming all the harder, "I froze,
Heero. I... I couldn't pull the damn trigger and I got Wufei shot!"
Behind him, Heero could hear the pulse of the monitor escalate again.
"Hush; hush now. Stay calm or they're going to come throw me out
of here." Heero tried to smile reassuringly, stroking his fingers
over Duo's hair.
His partner took a calming breath, letting his eyes fall closed and he
frowned slightly, his concentration on the monitor and it slowly settled
to normal. For a moment, Heero thought he had fallen back asleep.
"You're not hearing what I'm telling you, Heero. I almost got Wufei
killed." His voice was soft and a little ragged. Heero found water
in a pitcher by the bed and fished an ice cube out, gently tracing Duo's
dry lips with it until Duo opened his mouth and took it from his fingers.
Heero found himself reluctant to lose the touch, and let his hands continue
to caress cheek and forehead. Duo was just muzzy enough from the drugs
that he didn't find this at all odd, occasionally turning his face toward
the calloused hands, as though asking for the contact, the warmth.
"Duo... we've all made mistakes. We've all lost our nerve."
"Don't lie to me." The eyes snapped open and the heartbeat lurched.
"I swear to you, I'm not." He leaned down, stilling his hands
and bringing his eyes close to stare straight into Duo's, "We were
just damn lucky that none of us got hurt. Do you remember that mission
when I brought Quatre back in Wing and we had to go back later for Sandrock?"
There was a tiny spark of uncertainty in Duo's eyes, and he nodded, "You
hid Sandrock in the mountains?"
"Yes, that was the time." Heero smiled softly, allowing his
fingers to resume their soothing path over Duo's face, "We had been
out for a week. We were both very tired; hadn't slept in days. In the
middle of a fight, surrounded by mobile dolls, Quatre... forgot how to
Duo looked horrified, eyes going wide, "He... what?"
"He just... went blank. He... froze. If I hadn't been there... "
He left the sentence unfinished.
"You guys never said what happened... why didn't... ?"
"It's not really the kind of thing that you like to talk about."
Heero flushed a little and looked away, sorry now that they hadn't. Wishing
desperately that they had talked about it, brought it out in the open.
Maybe if Duo had heard the story...
"This is different, Heero; Wufei is never going to trust me again."
The pain, the guilt, the shame were palpable things.
"I learned to trust Quatre again. The first thing Wufei asked about
when he regained consciousness at the house was you." Heero told
him with a sad smile, "He was afraid for you, realized before the
rest of us that you were missing and sent me after you."
A strange look crossed Duo's face, a bastard mixture of hope and despair,
"I wish you hadn't found me." He murmured, so faintly, Heero
almost didn't hear.
He felt his own heart stagger in his chest, "Don't say that, love;
please don't say that." His hands came to rest on Duo's shoulders
and he squeezed hard, "We need you... I need you."
Finally, the touches, the endearments, the love in the eyes of the man
sitting beside him, seemed to soak through the drug induced fog cloaking
Duo's brain. He looked up into Heero's face, eyes searching hungrily.
His hand rose slowly off the bed, not without a faint grimace of pain
and came to rest on the back of the hand holding him.
"Heero?"He sighed, his features wearing an aching hurt and the
monitor told Heero what little else he needed to know.
He leaned slowly down, "Calm; heart of my heart, stay calm."
The lips that rose to meet his were trembling and soft and yielded to
him completely. Heero took the invitation, but gently and softly and with
the greatest care, stopping when the keening of the heart monitor told
"I will kiss you hello, my little one."He breathed next to Duo's
ear, "I will kiss you good morning, and I will kiss you good night.
But I will never, ever kiss you good bye."
It all seemed too much for Duo, who just lay still, his hand resting light
and shaking on Heero's, the tears flooding down his face unnoticed, his
eyes never leaving Heero's face.
"Duo... say something." Heero pleaded after a few moments under
"Heero... oh Heero... please... hold me?" The tone was desperate
and hungry, the voice small and lost.
Heero smiled warmly, "I'm not sure how, love." He said with
no little frustration, trying to find a way past the wires and tubes.
Duo squirmed over with some difficulty, the simple act of sliding his
body across the bed three or four inches leaving him panting, but Heero
was able to ease onto the bed beside him and work his arm around him,
and Duo collapsed into him with a sigh, burying his face against his partners
"You're warm." He mumbled, once settled, and Heero drew the
blankets back up around him.
"Rest now, my love. Go back to sleep, I'm here." Heero carefully
straightened the bandaged arms back out on the bed, making certain nothing
was touching the site of the wounds.
There was a very long stretch of silence, while they settled and relaxed
into each other, the heart monitor steadied and slowed, and Heero thought
for a while that Duo had dozed back off, but then his voice came, soft
"Heero... what am I going to do?"
"You're going to go on." Heero told him, having found the answer
when he came into this room, "You're going to go on because I can't
go on without you."
His only answer was a shuddering sigh, so he continued.
"You are going to rest, and you are going to get better." Heero
brought his fingers up to stroke softly along the side of the face pressed
against him, "We're going to get you out of here, and we're going
to go on... together."
"I... I don't know... " Heero could hear the self-doubt in the
anguished voice. I don't know if I can, the voice said. What if I freeze
again? What if someone else gets hurt because of me? What if that someone
is you? I don't think I'm strong enough. I'm tired and I'm cold and I
hurt, and I'm not sure if I haven't reached the end of my rope.
Heero heard all that and more in the simple, aborted syllables that were
whispered and left hanging on the air.
"I'll be there to help." Heero kissed the top of the head that
nuzzled below his chin, "You can dance for me, and I'll wash you
clean... we'll wash each other clean."
Duo raised startled eyes to look into Heero's face long and hard. He saw
true understanding in the gaze that met his unflinchingly. Understanding
and acceptance, and he knew the dancing wouldn't be the wild flirt with
death that it had been, but could feel that Heero held the power of absolution
in his heart.
"I... I would like that... very much." Duo answered him, and
allowed himself to drift back to sleep, safe in Heero's arms.
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