by Sunhawk

Dark Silences (cont)

"So when did he become Duo?" Yuy asked, breaking my train of thought, his voice holding an odd hint of amusement.

"What?" I frowned, completely lost.

"You always used to call him Maxwell," he said, his lips trying not to quirk into a grin. "You came back from this mission calling him Duo."

I blinked at him. I honestly hadn't noticed. I found myself blushing again and it irritated me. I thought about it and couldn't really recall the exact moment, but he was right; Maxwell wasn't just Maxwell any more.

"I guess he just responded to me more when I called him Duo," I temporized.

Yuy looked down, the tenderness plain on his face and brushed a strand of hair from Duo's eyes. "Gets under your skin, doesn't he?"

I stared at him, where he sat beside the bed, but he didn't raise his eyes from Duo to look at me.

"What's that supposed to mean?" I grumbled and felt myself getting defensive.

He snorted softly, "I guess I just recognize the look in your eyes from seeing it in my own so often. I know how you feel." He gave a tiny little, almost self-deprecating shrug.

I stared at him in no little surprise, hearing the echo of my own thoughts. "You aren't angry with me," I said, more a statement than a question, because I could see the truth of it in his demeanor.

He treated it like a question anyway. "Why should I be? I don't own Duo... I wouldn't want to. I've never told him how I feel... I have no more claim on him than you do."

Now that was a question. Cloaked in a statement. He was unsure of what had passed between Duo and myself on this mission. He was a little nervous that the territory might have been claimed. I shook my head at the way my own thoughts were turning. Territory. What the hell was that kind of thinking all about?

"No..." I assured him. "No more claim than I do."

I might have imagined the slight release of tension across his shoulders.

There was a sudden tightening in my stomach, an upwelling of emotion, the wolf of my earlier thoughts telling me quite suddenly that this was what I wanted. I wanted Duo, in my heart, in my life, in my damned arms. Heero was forcing me, perhaps unintentionally, to look into the mirror of his eyes. I could see as plain as the written word that Heero Yuy was in love with Duo Maxwell. And if logic was followed, if I admitted that I could see all the signs in myself that I saw in him... then it naturally stood to reason that Chang Wufei was in love with Duo Maxwell. Damn. When in the hell had that happened? When had simple attraction turned into so much more? But it was there as plain as day, right in front of me when I let myself think about it. Every primal instinct I owned wanted me to snap and snarl and drive away this rival for what I suddenly realized I wanted as much as I wanted to breathe. I shivered. Hard.

And looked up to find sad, understanding eyes on me. Heero had already worked this all through. I'm not sure when, but he'd already come to this place I was suddenly standing in.

"Now is not the damn time for this," I blurted, before I had a chance to think about it.

"No," he said softly. "It is not."

I was astounded by this Heero who sat in front of me and brushed fingers as gentle as a mother's over Duo's sweat stiffened hair. You cannot hate a person if you can truly understand them. Understand what motivates them, understand what they want. In that moment of crystal clarity, I understood Heero Yuy as well as I understood myself.

The wolf, confused, slunk away. My heart was strangely divided. As much as I wanted to be able to say that Duo was mine, my heart, my love... I didn't want to see Heero hurt.

I looked up to find his eyes on me again and I was a little shocked at the depth of understanding that greeted me there. I hadn't really understood before how it was that Duo had gotten along so well with the hardened, stoic pilot of Wing Zero, but perhaps this was a side of Heero that Duo was more familiar with.

I snorted as I realized that he had arrived ahead of me once again. "You're starting to make me feel slow." I muttered and heard him chuckle softly.

"You're just tired," he soothed, his voice that amused one again.

"Well, how about saving me the effort," I quipped. "Anything else I haven't figured out yet?"

"It isn't about us," he whispered, eyes dropping back to look at Duo's sleeping form. "It's what he wants."

It was the next logical step, and I almost laughed thinking what Duo would say if he heard me thinking about 'love' in terms of logic. But I didn't know another way to express it. It was just... reasonable. It made sense. I loved Duo - I shivered again, letting myself think that - and, therefore, his happiness was more important than mine. It was an odd feeling. A very odd feeling. I looked at Heero, unsure how important his happiness was to me, in the scale of things, but feeling somehow... that it was.

How very odd. This wasn't at all how I thought things like this were supposed to be. Weren't he and I supposed to be at each other's throats now? Posturing and threatening and raising our hackles? I almost laughed at the mental picture that conjured.

"What?" he inquired, asking to be let in on the joke.

"Just thinking about the whole... alpha male thing," I chuckled softly, unable to keep either the grin or the blush from my face.

He looked squarely at me and said, "Grrrrr."

It surprised a bark of laughter from me that I quickly stifled, with a nervous glance down at Duo. Heero looked pleased with himself and I couldn't help a rueful shake of my head. Heero Yuy had a sense of humor? Who would have thought?

Then Duo stirred and the entire conversation was forgotten.

He didn't stir so much as he jerked. Then he began to writhe, fighting to evade blows that weren't really landing. Struggling to get away from what now lived only in his mind. And I feared it was going to live there for a long time to come. I came very close to getting kicked in the side of the head, saved only by the rapidly tangling blankets. Heero did take a hard shot to the shoulder from a flailing arm. The twisted look of pain that overtook Duo's face, the desperate way his body fought against his unseen attackers... they were horrific things. But the truly blood-chilling aspect was the utter quiet. The total silence in which he fought. His jaws were clamped so tightly, the muscles stood out like ropes beneath the skin.

"Duo!" I called, the first to recover from the sudden attack. "Wake up! It's all right; I'm still here! Open your eyes! We got away... wake up, everything's all right now!"

Heero let me spout my reassurances, remaining quiet until I broke through the nightmare and Duo finally woke to his surroundings.

Violet eyes, rimmed with white, cast about looking for something, and I felt my blood quicken with the realization that he was searching for me.

"I'm here," I told him and watched him zero in on the sound of my voice. "I didn't leave you." I said firmly, feeling strange about saying that in front of Heero... but needing that anchoring phrase that had grown up between us, to bring him back from the dark places.

He was fairly quivering with tension; body strung like a steel spring, and I held his gaze as reality slowly seeped back into his bones. "We got out... we got away. You're safe now. I'm here..." I hesitated, letting my eyes flick towards Heero, guiding his to look that way. "We're both here."

He registered Heero's presence for the first time, and looking back and forth between us, seemed to finally begin to relax. I could see the pain overtake him as the fear ebbed away. Heero instantly had an arm behind his back, easing him down on the bed.

"Take it easy," he told him sternly. "You need to lie still."

Duo's eyes were so full of tangled emotions, that I couldn't begin sort it all out. There was an ocean's worth of pain, laced with confusion and fear, frustration and exhaustion. And something else... some need that was going unanswered. I wasn't sure what to do... what to offer to him.

All of it very much complicated by Heero's presence beside me. I think, if Duo and I had been alone, I might have opened my arms to him and allowed him to shelter there if he was so moved. But I wasn't sure whose place it was to make that offer.

Heero seemed as hesitant as I, hands hovering and brow furrowed, and I suddenly saw him switch over into 'mission' mode. "I'm going to get some pain medication and we need to rewrap those ribs," he said gruffly and got up to head, presumably, for a bathroom somewhere down the hall.

A bit of the odd almost-tension eased when he was out of the room and I was able to smile down at Duo, shifting further up the bed so that I was no longer sitting by his feet. "Hey there, fearless idiot," I grinned at him. "Feeling any better?"

The ghost of one of his grins crossed his face for a moment, but quickly faded. He raised a hand to give me the 'sort of' gesture and I caught it in mine, stilling the uncontrollable shaking.

"You're pretty liberally beat to a pulp," I smiled for him. "But... what's bothering you the most? What can I... we do to help?"

His fingers tightened on mine and he grimaced lightly, his free hand moving to hover over his ribs.

"We'll get them rewrapped as soon as Heero comes back," I soothed. "That will help. I'm sorry we unwrapped them... but I wanted to see what they'd done."

He nodded slightly, then the focus of his eyes told me that Heero was back. He came over and knelt beside the bed, giving Duo the pills with a mock scowl. Duo graced him with a sheepish grin and took them without complaint; medication was something he would usual fuss over taking.

We helped him sit up on the side of the bed and the two of us, working together, wrapped his torso tight with gauze. The support did seem to help; I knew from practical experience the strange feeling that cracked or broken ribs would give you, as though your own guts were going to spill from your body.

When we were done, Duo looked away from both of us, blushing slightly and made that universal, knees-together, hand-near-crotch gesture that told us he had to go to the bathroom. It must have been an awkward thing to convey in a sitting position, but he is nothing if not eloquent... even without his voice.

Heero and I both reached to lift him and take him to the restroom at the same time. I stopped. Heero stopped. Duo blushed crimson. I had a strange impulse to ask Duo which one of us he would prefer take him, but then I suddenly didn't want to know the answer. It was becoming rather... uncomfortable.

Heero quirked a sudden grin and looked up at me, almost shyly, through the curtain of that mop of hair of his. "He needs to go to the bathroom and he needs to eat." He stuck his fist out and I snorted derisively, but played the damn round of rock-paper-scissors with him.

"I win," he smirked at me when his rock broke my scissors. "I hate to cook... I'll take him to the bathroom, you go make him something to eat."

I glanced up at Duo and found an odd little grin on his face, some of his embarrassment faded. "Look Yuy," I teased. "We amuse him."

Heero smiled as he bent to slip his arms under Duo, gently lifting him. "Don't let it go to your head, he's easily amused."

I followed them out of the room, feeling a strange ache, watching Duo with his arm around Heero's shoulders. But then they went to the right and I had to go to the left, downstairs to the kitchen.

It took a bit of poking around, but I found some canned soup and eventually a pot to heat it in. I looked in the refrigerator and thought about something more to go with it, but thinking about all the blows Duo had taken, I decided to stick with the soup and see how he handled that first. I could always make him something more later. While I worked, I kept an ear open for Barton and Winner, but heard nothing.

When the soup was hot, I poured a glass of milk, set it with the bowl in the middle of a large platter that I found, put some crackers on the side and headed back upstairs.

I hesitated when I stepped into the bedroom, finding Duo sitting sideways in a desk chair, leaning heavily against the back, while Heero almost reverently braided his hair for him. I felt as though I had caught them... doing something intimate. I was left floundering, standing in the doorway with Duo's dinner in my hands and trying very hard not to stare at them. It was... ludicrous.

Heero seemed to sense some of my discomfort, though Duo was too preoccupied with simply sitting up to notice much of anything.

"Set that down and help me get him back into bed," Heero called to me, wrapping my hair-tie around the end of the finished braid. I felt an absurd rush of warmth at the sight of the silly thing, and quickly turned away to set the platter down.

I brought the pillows from Heero's bed to add to the ones already there and we got him settled in a position that would allow him to eat without putting too much strain on his ribs.

Heero deliberately moved off then, busying himself on the other side of the room, allowing me to sit down by Duo's side with the soup. Almost as though he were taking turns with me... he had gotten to brush Duo's hair for him, he would allow me to help him eat. If what Duo had just gone through had not been... what it had been, it might very well have been funny. I would not have thought Heero capable of this level of... thoughtfulness. Chivalry, apparently, was not entirely dead. A little confused maybe; but not dead. I had always held Heero in the highest regard as a warrior, but had not always thought much of him as a man. He had always seemed so very distant and cold. As emotionless as a fish. Not at all the kind of person I would have expected to end up partnered with Duo Maxwell. But it would seem that Duo was more astute than I had given him credit for; there was indeed more to pilot 01 than met the eye.

Duo's hands were still shaking much too hard for him to manage the soup on his own, so I fed it to him. The look of utter humiliation that came over him was enough to break your heart.

"Stop that," I chided gently. "There's no shame in it... no shame at all. You earned whatever help you get from us. More than earned it."

Heero came at the sound of the reprimand and sat in the chair next to the bed. He gave Duo a small, self-deprecating smile, "Come on... it's not as bad as the month that Trowa spent taking care of me. It's just karma; it's my... our turn to repay the favor."

I looked up from the soup bowl to find him regarding me carefully. I had that weird feeling in my gut again, the one I'd had when I had taken my own hair down in order to spare Duo the small indignity of his being loose. Like something more was passing between us than was immediately apparent. I thought about what he had just said to Duo and felt that same warmth spread through my chest, 'our turn', it sounded... odd."Yes," I agreed. "Just relax and let us take care of you."

Heero gave me a small enigmatic smile and I found my face warming slightly, suddenly not so damn sure about all the undercurrents of this conversation. Duo looked back and forth between us and only seemed to be confused.

"He likes to dunk the crackers," Heero murmured, with another of those unreadable looks, and then got up to go back to whatever the hell he had been doing across the room.

If nothing else, the interchange seemed to distract Duo enough that he forgot about being embarrassed and just ate his soup. He managed about half of it before giving me the 'if I take one more bite, I will burst' sign and I set the bowl aside.

"Sleep?" I queried gently, at the sloe-eyed look on his face and he only nodded. "Heero," I called. "Give me a hand here?"

Heero came at my call and we eased the extra pillows out, getting him back down flat on his back.

"All right?" Heero asked gently and Duo nodded again, blinking heavy eyelids. Then Heero chuckled softly, and jerking his head in my direction, said, "Tell Superman here to get some sleep... he's running on empty but isn't going to lay down until you give him permission."

Duo looked up at me with wide, shocked eyes and I found myself blushing again. What was it with the damned blushing? "I... promised," I mumbled, feeling rather idiotic. There was the flash of something absolutely beautiful in Duo's eyes, but then he frowned at me in mock reprimand and made the two-hands to the side of the head, sleep gesture, stabbing a finger at me for emphasis.

I grinned at him and gave him a snappy little salute. "Yes sir!"

I got a fairly honest grin from him, but then the soup and the pain-pills did their job and it was suddenly just too hard for him to keep his eyes open.

I heaved a sigh, the long hours suddenly catching up to me, and felt it turn into a jaw-popping yawn. Heero chuckled at me.

I raised an eyebrow. "So where's my room, smart-ass?"

He only seemed to smirk harder. "It's a two bedroom house. This is your room."

"Here?" I asked, rather surprised that my voice didn't squeak.

"Unless you'd rather share with Trowa and Quatre," he confirmed. "Bearing in mind there's only one bed in their room."

He was finding my discomfort... amusing, so I tried to squelch it.

"I laid out a pair of shorts for you," he told me, rather matter-of-factly. "Go ahead and change and go to bed, I'll take the dirty dishes down and be right back."

Well... as Duo was fond of saying, didn't this just beat all hell?

I changed quickly and climbed under the covers of Heero's bed, sliding toward the wall to leave room for him. I found myself at a loss as to which way to turn, back to him? Facing him? Neither seemed right, and I tossed back and forth several times before settling flat on my back... an uncomfortable compromise. Heero came back after a very short time, and turned the lights off so that there was only the light from the hall to lend a dim glow to the room. I watched him walk calmly over to the side of the bed and totally unselfconsciously, strip. He donned the second pair of shorts he'd laid out while I stared, wide-eyed in the damn dim light, and then he climbed in next to me. Things were very quiet for a few minutes, while I stared at the ceiling and tried to understand why my blood was pounding in my ears.

"So..." his voice came, very quietly, after a little bit. "When did I become Heero?"

I did everything but sputter. I thanked all the ancestors for the darkness that hid the dark flush of my cheeks and rolled very pointedly over to face the wall. "Good night... Yuy." I managed after a moment.

He chuckled in the most amused damn tone and replied, "Good night... Wufei."

Had I not been so exhausted, the exchange might very well have kept me awake, it rattled me so. Again... I had not noticed, but somehow, in my head, Yuy had stopped being Yuy and become Heero.

But exhausted I was, and it wasn't long despite the thoughts whirling in my head, before I fell asleep. But the dreams those thoughts generated saw to it that the sleep was not altogether... restful.

"You should let your hair down more often," Heero whispered close to my ear. "You look so... severe with your hair pulled back. You have a very exotic... beauty. You shouldn't hide it."

I couldn't answer him, my breath seeming to rush too fast through my suddenly tight throat. He rose above me, looking down with those steely blue eyes of his, dark with passion. I found my hand reaching out to touch that expanse of muscled chest... almost like chiseled stone, but warm... so warm.

He dipped down to bring his lips near my ear. "I could learn to love you too," he whispered, his breath washing hot across my cheek. I shivered convulsively and turned my head to seek his lips. I wanted to kiss him... of a harsh sudden; I wanted him to kiss me. Wanted it like I hadn't wanted anything in a very long time. But when I turned to meet those blue eyes again... they weren't the same shade of blue. And it was Duo leaning over me and he whispered low in his throat. "Touch me 'Fei... why won't you touch me?"

It was Heero's rolling out of bed in a sudden rush that brought me up out of the damn dream. I sat up and blinked stupidly after him, my heart hammering in my chest, and having a very hard time figuring out just what the hell was going on. I realized after a few more befuddled moments, that Heero was calming Duo from the throes of a nightmare.

I heard Heero calling softly, until the silent thrashing slowed and then he was able to ease Duo into a gentle embrace. I could see Duo's uncontrolled shaking from clear across the room. I got up and padded across the floor, sitting on the bed beside them. Duo was clinging to Heero for all he was worth, his body drawn up in a near fetal position, half in and half out of Heero's lap, trembling like a newborn lamb. I reached to stroke a hand over his frazzled braid and joined my calming words with Heero's.

"We're here," I told him. "We didn't leave you."

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