by Sunhawk

Dark Silences (cont)

My heart faltered and I let myself feel how much it had been hurting that I had said those words and no one had said them back.

He found my lips with his own and there was no more room for words or hesitation. He was near frantic in his need, kissing me with a desperation that spoke to me of long, cold nights of loneliness. Echoed back to me my own nights of lying awake and thinking about what might have been. If I had let it go on, we would have ended up making love right there on the floor beside Duo's bed. Heero's hands were already grasping at my hips and I hated myself for pulling away and making him stop.

"Please Heero," I panted out, pulling him to me and ghosting tiny kisses along his jaw to ease the sting of the rejection. "Not without Duo... We can't. It would destroy everything. He's right... about the balance. We have to be so careful or we're going to lose this."

He made a soft sound of distress near my ear and held me crushed against him until he trusted his voice again. "Forgive me," he whispered when he finally could. "I'm so sorry... you're right. I know you're right."

Awkwardness was welling up between us again and I found myself kissing his cheek, his temple, the curve of his jaw... anything to keep us close, to keep that distance from forming again.

"Don't," he breathed. "You're making me want things I can't have."

"I never said you couldn't have them," I was surprised to hear myself say. "I just said the time wasn't right."

He looked at me with eyes so wide, I almost laughed. I think I was shocking him. Hell; I was shocking myself. "I just feel like we're... within sight of the damn Holy Grail. I'm afraid of making a mistake. And I think this would be a mistake," I told him. I found myself looking at the floor, embarrassed by all the damn bad analogies and emotional tripe.

But Heero smiled and raised my head with the touch of his fingers. "Does that make you Sir Lancelot?"

I couldn't help a small chuckle, caught rather by surprise that Heero even knew the legend. "I don't know... would that make you King Arthur?"

He snorted scornfully, then grinned with wicked glee. "Then it would naturally follow that Duo would be..."

I cut him off with a finger to the lips. "Oh... do not go there! He will kill you."

He relented but still couldn't stop the parting shot. "Well... I always thought the legend wouldn't have been so tragic if the three of them had just learned to... get along."

We drew apart, the moment ended, but a little less... uncomfortable with it.

"Would you stay with him while I shower?" I asked and he nodded ready agreement.

"Of course," he told me in a tone that was almost reproving. I could hear the implied, do you have to ask?

I took my shower and when I was done, Heero took one of his own. I dressed while he was out of the room, in borrowed clothes and settled myself on the foot of Duo's bed, leaning against the wall and watching over him. Heero returned, giving me an affectionate smile when he found me wearing his jeans and t-shirt. He dressed as well, and then took his place in the chair by the bed and we simply waited for Duo to wake up.

It crossed my mind, sitting there, that there were things I should be doing. I should be writing up a full mission report. Should be resupplying, since I had no clothes or weapons other than what I had walked out of that cell with. I should be contacting base and requesting my next assignment. But... somehow, none of it seemed as important in that moment, as caring for Duo.

We shouldn't all be here together like this, I remember thinking. It was dangerous placing all of our eggs in one handy little basket, just waiting for Romefeller to come and pick it up. But... I couldn't bring myself to care. I wouldn't leave Duo right now without a damn better reason than vague caution. And I wouldn't ask Heero to abandon him either. I suppose if I were ordered to go, I wouldn't have much choice, but for the time being it wasn't an issue and I wasn't going to make it one.

I watched Heero watch Duo for a while, thinking about how much I had not understood about him. Thinking about how much deeper the man ran underneath the soldier. Understanding how much of a gift I had been given in being allowed inside the armor for a glimpse of what lie there. I realized that Duo had been given this gift some time ago, only I had not understood just what it was that was different between them. I had just noted one day that Duo suddenly seemed to know no fear around our normally somewhat volatile partner. Duo had always been a tactile soul, never failing to toss an arm around a shoulder or playfully punch an arm. Except with Heero. Heero had lived behind a stone wall that had excluded him from that kind of interaction. But apparently Duo had breached the wall when no one was looking. Suddenly Heero had become just as ready a target as the rest of us and had born it with surprisingly stoic grace. I almost grinned at him, thinking about what he must have been holding inside all that time.

Thinking about it, because I was more than familiar with holding feelings inside. Enduring Duo's brotherly hugs with a frown and a put-upon sigh even while I ached to return the embraces with a little more than brotherly affection. Oh yes... I understood Heero Yuy all too well. And it was that understanding that was turning my vague attraction into something much stronger. Much deeper.

A small frown of worry creased the brow of the object of my observations and I shifted my gaze to Duo, to where Heero was looking.

The sheet had worked its way down and Duo was mostly exposed from the waist up. I bit back a heavy sigh, looking at him, and wished again that the bastard that had done this to him were still alive so that I might kill him with my own hands. So many bruises... so much pain. I was worried about internal injuries beyond the broken ribs and the fractured leg. His body was covered with horrendous black bruises and though I remembered what Duo had said about being good at 'rolling with the punches' I just couldn't see how he could have escaped without more damage.

"You're worried," Heero accused in a soft whisper.

"So are you," I rejoined and we looked at each other, neither of us seeing the point in disputing the obvious.

"He took one hell of a beating," Heero said, rather pointlessly.

"He took several damn beatings," I growled. "And not all of them where I could see what happened."

Heero gnawed on his lower lip, a nervous gesture I had not seen him make before. "I wish there were some way to get him some medical attention."

I didn't reply, because I had been thinking the same thing. But how? We could hardly just walk into a hospital and not expect to be identified immediately. Sometimes this business of being out here on the front lines had some severe drawbacks.

There was the soft sound of a throat being cleared, and Heero and I both jumped, zeroing in on the doorway. I was put in mind of a pair of over-protective wolves who have had a den full of pups breached by an outsider. A comparison not far from the truth if the oddly startled look on Barton's face was any indication.

"How... is he," he ventured into the tense silence that greeted him.

Heero and I both relaxed when we realized who it was and how we were reacting to the new presence. I was... mildly embarrassed and Heero looked a little... discomfited.

"As well as can be expected," Heero managed, after a moment. "Hurting. Exhausted."

Barton moved a little further into the room, seeming cautious about it. I saw his eyes widen as he got close enough to get a good look at Duo. Those eyes immediately narrowed and he muttered something that sounded vaguely French. After a moment, he seemed to shake off his shock and he turned on me with an expression that was almost sullen. As though he were expecting some argument from me over whatever was on his mind. "Quatre needs to see Duo," he told me flatly, daring me to gainsay him.

"Of course," I responded carefully. "If you think its best."

He looked at me narrowly and I wondered what in the hell he was so angry with me for.

"When Duo wakes up," Heero interjected gently, but in a tone of voice that would brook no argument.

Barton only nodded sharply, and with another lingering glance at Duo's battered torso, left the room.

I exchanged a glance with Heero. "Do you have any idea why he's so..."

"Pissed off?" Heero supplied with a grunt and I had to quirk a rueful grin his way.

"That rather aptly describes it.'

He sighed, running his fingers through his hair again and looked down at Duo rather than at me. "I... think he feels that... you should have been the point man on the way out of that base. So that..."

"So that Winner didn't have to do the killing." I finished for him and got a tight little nod.

I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, feeling a little bit irritated... feeling a little bit guilty... feeling a little bit mournful for the loss of that part of Winner's... innocence. I suppose if I were in Barton's shoes, I would be... pissed off too. And thinking back... I'm not all together sure why things had fallen out the way they had.

I dropped my forehead down on my raised knees and sighed heavily. "It probably was the biggest cluster fuck I have ever been involved in." I blurted and felt my face flame when I heard Heero snort softly. It didn't matter; he couldn't really see me anyway.

"You brought them out alive," Heero told me sternly.

I almost laughed out loud. "Duo brought us out alive. I wasn't much more than a damn pack mule there at the last."

I heard the creak of the chair and then his weight settled next to me on the bed, carefully away from Duo's legs. I didn't acknowledge him immediately, not at all sure what he expected of me. After a moment, a finger came and poked at my shin.

"Hey..." he said softly, his voice this odd combination of fearful and amused. "Isn't this where you're supposed to reap the benefits of... being in a... relationship?"

I couldn't help but raise my head to look at him. "We're... in a relationship?"

He quirked that sardonic little grin that I was coming to understand was something special that only Duo and I had probably ever seen. "Albeit a somewhat twisted, unique, damn complicated one... but, yeah... I think so."

I smiled, shaking my head and he reached to take my hand, giving it a tug until I unwound myself and turned to sit next to him with my back to the footboard of the bed. We just sat with our shoulders touching and... it truly was something of a comforting feeling.

"Talk to me?" he whispered softly. "I don't think I can take both of you going all silent on me."

I sighed and found my head wanting to rest on his shoulder. I fought against it for a little bit and then let it fall. What the hell? I knew he wouldn't care.

"I thought Bellows was down for the count," I told him, feeling like I was in some sort of strange confessional. I had to repress the urge to say, bless me Father, for I have sinned. Or whatever the hell it was. "I shouldn't have just left them alone with the man while I went to get the keys. I should have... hauled Bellows out or... cuffed him or something. I left the cell while Duo was completely helpless and Winner was still handcuffed to the damn wall."

I felt Heero reach out and entwine our fingers together. I had to fight the urge to pull away, it felt... strange.

"You made a split second decision in a tense situation," he told me softly.

"And it was the wrong one," I growled.

His fingers squeezed mine gently. "But you didn't know... you did your best."

I closed my eyes and saw that mental image again, of Bellows with his hands wrapped around Duo's throat, no real sanity left in his eyes. And Winner... his face lit with something damn close to the murderous rage that was consuming Bellows, stretched to the limits of his chains, pressing that infernal shock rod to Bellows head. I shivered convulsively and Heero shifted to slip an arm around my shoulders.

"I know a thing or two about guilt," he told me in a voice laced with pain. "I know a little something about bad decisions. You can't tear yourself apart over it. You all came out of it alive... that's what matters."

"I know," I soothed, not wanting him dwelling on the things I knew he was remembering. "I know... I just keep replaying it in my head, trying to figure out what I could have done differently."

"A million things," he said in a voice that was a little husky. "A million damn things... but none of them happened, and you can't go back. You have to let it go."

New Edwards. I knew that's what he was thinking about, knew he was picking at that scab with a vengeance.

He had released my hand when he had slid his arm around me and I reached up to catch his fingers in mine, griping firmly. "All right... that's enough," I chided. "Stop thinking about it... it was not your fault."

He snorted disdainfully at me. "You can wallow in guilt and I can't? That's hardly fair."

"I screwed up," I snapped before I had a chance to think better of it.

"And I didn't?" he questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh... just shut up," I growled and gave his fingers a sharp squeeze.

"Check mate," he whispered softly and kissed the top of my head where it still rested against him. I blinked in surprise, but made myself sit still. "As you told me..." he fairly breathed against my hair, "I hurt when you hurt."

That one got me. Blindsided me and took me down. I love you, he had just said to me. Voluntarily and unprompted and it ran through me more sharply than it had when he had actually said it.

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