by Sunhawk

Dark Silences (cont)

"I hurt for you too," I responded tentatively, hoping he understood.

I think that he did, for his arm tightened around me and he gruffly rubbed his cheek against the top of my head. "What's really bothering you?" he murmured after a moment of holding us tight together.

"I'm scared," I breathed before I could stop it. This conversation had left me feeling stripped down to raw emotion and things were popping out of my mouth without official permission from my brain. "They hurt him so badly... I'm scared of losing him. I... have this awful feeling... this horrible foreboding. I... I..." I didn't know how to articulate the gut-wrenching fear that there was something wrong, something we didn't know about... something that would slowly kill him while we sat and watched, not knowing what to do.

"Hush," Heero sighed, stroking a hand over my hair. "I know... I know... you don't have to tell me. I know."

"I want a Doctor, Heero," I blurted, raising my head to look at him intently. "I don't care how... I want a Doctor. I need to have someone tell me he's all right inside. I need someone to look at that incision and tell me they did a good job. I need someone to look at his leg. I need..."

I realized that my voice was rising when Heero caught me in a rather painful embrace and pressed my face into his neck. "Stop," he commanded gently. "I told you... I know. We'll think of something. We won't let anything take him away from us."

"We've not even properly told him what he means to us," I whispered, surprised and no little embarrassed to find that my hand was fisted in Heero's shirt.

There was an odd little silence and then Heero softly said, "I think we just did."

I blinked up at him, only to find him looking the other way. I followed his gaze and found a pair of very wide, blue-violet eyes staring at us.

Flustered, Heero and I separated and I assumed that my face was every bit as red as his was. Duo, meanwhile, was doing his deer-in-headlights impression; though he looked a little bit more like a raccoon than a deer, with the dark bruising on his face.

Heero recovered first and went back to sit on the chair beside the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently and reached to take Duo's hand almost automatically. I think he did it without any real conscious effort.

Duo nodded in a manner that meant, 'ok' and I saw Heero frown slightly, concerned with Duo's continued silence.

"Can we get you anything?" I interjected before it had a chance to go farther than that. Duo shook his head, but moved to sit up. I'm sure he felt uncomfortable lying flat on his back with us hovering over him. Heero and I both quickly moved to help him. Duo managed to look... alarmed. I met Heero's eyes and we couldn't help laughing at each other.

"I'll get the extra pillows," Heero smirked at me and left Duo's side.

Duo seemed relieved to be out from under our scrutiny for the minute it took Heero to fetch the pillows from the other bed. I helped him sit up while Heero arranged the pillows behind him and we settled him as comfortably as we could.

"Do you need something for the pain?" Heero asked him, watching carefully for signs of distress.

Duo raised a quizzical eyebrow and touched his wrist where his watch would have been if we hadn't taken it off.

"Heero," I scolded lightly, "its too soon. He can't have anything for another couple of hours."

Heero looked mildly embarrassed, but forged ahead anyway. "Are you hungry? Do you need to..."

But suddenly, Duo's eyes weren't on Heero any more and we turned as one to follow his gaze to the doorway.

Winner and Barton stood framed there, Barton with a hand lightly on his partner's back, as though offering some kind of encouragement. I idly wondered if they'd been standing out in the hall waiting. That thought left me feeling rather... uncomfortable.

"Duo?" Winner fairly breathed and I glanced back to catch Duo's reaction and found the most shocking expression of disbelief on his face. I heard a tiny little intake of air and then Duo threw his arms open wide. Winner all but ran to fling himself into them.

"Ki o tsukete!" Heero exclaimed, his reversion to Japanese showing me his extreme agitation.

I found my own hands frantically trying to stop Winner's headlong flight, but Duo's arms were reaching past me and before I could stop it, they were wrapped around each other and Heero and I couldn't find purchase to separate them without further harming Duo.

"Winner!" I snapped angrily. "He's hurt... watch out, damn it!"

I might as well have been calling to them from the moon.

At least Winner had his arms around Duo's neck and not around his ribs, which was small comfort as we sat helplessly and watched Duo tremble and shake trying to hold on. When I let myself calm down and truly looked at them, I realized that Winner actually was being very careful and it was Duo who was doing all the frantic clinging.

Movement made me look past them to Heero, and his expression... was an odd study. I realized with a strange pang that I was seeing the face of the Perfect Soldier again... closed off and emotionless. Except I could see the emotion that was hiding behind the mask, I could see his fear and agitation, and knew that he was getting ready to work his way up to truly angry. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Barton tensing and easing forward. This was about to get extremely ugly.

"Heero," I said softly, and saw his attention leave Winner and focus on me. "It's all right." I told him firmly and watched doubt cloud his eyes. "He's not hurting him."

I could see muscles that had been tensing to drive him up on his feet to deal with this implied threat to our Duo, relax almost of their own volition. I saw him look to me for guidance and my heart gave a funny little thump in my chest at the very implication that he totally trusted my judgment. I saw him look a little closer, as I had, and realize that Winner was actually being very gentle. He settled back in his seat, but still managed to look... irritated. When I looked again, Barton was very close beside him but seemed to relax when Heero did. I sighed inwardly and had to resist the urge to shake my head. The wolf analogy came to mind again.

Winner was murmuring softly to Duo and I saw Duo's hand come up to stroke over the blond head buried in his shoulder. I couldn't hear everything. "... so sorry... thought they'd killed you... lost your knife... sorry... its all right... killed a man... Bellows.... So sorry..."

It just seemed to be tumbling out of Winner's mouth as fast as he could talk, and it was such a strange, strange thing to see Duo Maxwell listening intently and remaining quiet. So damned quiet.

Winner was being very careful not to hurt, but I think Duo was hurting himself trying to sit up straight and hold Winner in his arms, trying to comfort. There was a subtle swaying motion and I realized that Duo was rocking him like a child. Then I saw his face get that distressed, strained look that told me he was trying to speak. It made my heart ache to watch it and I glanced down at the sheet under my curled legs, almost wishing that I had gotten the hell off the back side of the bed before this had gotten started. Duo's head dropped wearily onto Winner's shoulder and I could see him almost panting. Then Winner stiffened and stilled, and I realized that Duo had managed to speak to him.

"No... oh no Duo," Winner murmured, drawing back to look into pained eyes. His fingers stroked over Duo's face, gentle and soothing. "You didn't fail. He never broke you... never. Not for an instant. I'm fine... I'm just fine."

I realized in that moment that Duo had thought that Winner was dead. His memories somehow jumbled enough from the drugs and the pain that he had thought that Bellows had killed him.

Guilt was already welling in my chest as I realized that my decision had kept them apart and left Duo with that misconception, when Barton spoke up from beside the bed.

"Real bright move, Chang," he muttered. "Not letting them see each other."

I was very suddenly, very angry. I turned a dark glare in his direction and snarled, "You've been after a piece of me since I got here. Just what in the hell is your problem?"

He matched my glare with one of his own and snapped, "I want to know just what you did on that damn mission. Seems to me that you're the only one who escaped without a scratch."

I... saw red. Maybe it was too close to the guilt that was eating away at my own gut. I don't know. I just know that between one blink and the next, I was off the bed and had him on the floor. I don't remember moving. I don't remember cocking my fist back to hit him. I don't even remember how we ended up on the damn floor. I blinked and just found myself sitting on his stomach, pinning him to the ground and the only thing that kept me from drilling him with a hard right cross, was Heero.

There was yelling. There were curses. There was enough testosterone in that room to choke an elephant. None of it was really registering with me. I vaguely recall Winner shouting Barton's name. I think I remember Heero yelling at me. But I couldn't seem to make myself care. Barton had poked a stick into the middle of my anthill of frustration and come out with more than he could handle.

But then a voice rose above it all. Not necessarily with its volume... not even with the roughness of disuse, but with the sheer... power of the unexpected.

"Stop it!" Duo wailed and the entire damn room froze.

I forgot about Barton, my hands just letting him go as I turned to look toward the bed. The anger just bled out of me, and Heero finished the job of pulling me off our prone teammate. Later I would be humiliated. Later I would apologize. Later...

Duo was sitting up, alone in the middle of the bed, because Winner had abandoned him the minute that Heero had ripped me off Barton. His hands were clamped over his mouth and his eyes were wide and bordering on terrified. He was trembling so hard I could see it from where we stood. Heero and I seemed frozen, rooted to the floor, the echo of that beloved voice still ringing in our ears. Heero had not relinquished the grip he had on my arm and we just stood and stared like a couple of assholes.

Winner seemed the most unaffected and after seeing to his partner, started to return to Duo.

Duo stopped him with an up-flung hand and he was suddenly gesturing him away, frantically waving him completely out of the room. For a moment, Winner looked hurt, but then seemed to see something in Duo that made his face soften. "Are you sure?" he asked gently and Duo, eyes squeezed shut, one hand still clapped to his mouth nodded vigorously.

"All right," Winner soothed gently. "I... understand." Then, gathering Barton up from the floor, they both left. I spared them very little of my attention. I was too busy trying to figure out if the 'go the hell away' gesture included me.

Heero let go of me and made a tentative move toward the bed. Toward our... heart. I held my breath, waiting to see if he would be accepted there and could have wept when Duo stretched out the same hand that he had used to clear the room, in open entreaty. Heero fairly fell on him to gather him tenderly into his arms.

I hung back, uncertain if I was still welcome after my... pathetic display of childish temper, but Heero growled menacingly, "Get the hell over here." And I didn't have to be prompted twice.

We bracketed him. Surrounded him. Embraced and engulfed him. Wrapped him up in that place between us that seemed to hold the soul of his security.

He tugged at us. Clutched at us. Clung and held on to us. Burrowed into what we offered as though his sanity depended on it.

And when he had himself hidden away in the tangle he had made of us... he began to weep.

Silent scalding tears at first, that seemed to be burning up from somewhere deep inside him. Boiling up out of his pain and grief, born of his frustration, confusion and... yes; fear. Eventually his breath began to hitch and finally he was being wracked with sobs that were devastating to hear... and a joy all at the same time. The blessed sound of his voice was utterly priceless... despite the sounds he was making. All that mattered was the fact that he was making those sounds.

We drew the tears from him with soft caresses and tender kisses, with gentle words of comfort. Until he was spent and exhausted and fell asleep with his hands still holding fast to us, making sure we stayed right where we were.

I felt... humbled. I had never in all the time I'd worked beside the God of Death, seen him break down. Had never seen him unable to dredge up one of those impish grins. Had sure as hell never seen him shed so much as a single tear. That he trusted us enough to let go of all his masks and barriers... was damn daunting. That he had somehow needed us to let himself give in to this release was... bittersweet, somehow. It did something to my gut that I can't even begin to describe.

I met Heero's eyes over the top of the cherished head and saw echoed there the same awe I felt. The same unsettling understanding that the three of us had started down a path that we suddenly realized had no way back. We were utterly committed. I don't know that I would have had it any other way.

"Ours," Heero whispered to me with a feral, protective gleam in his eye and I understood the overwhelming feelings that were churning around in him... churning around in the both of us.

"Ours," I confirmed and I think we both knew a vow when we heard it. A promise that would bind us through the rest of our lives, though we hardly fathomed it then.

He stretched carefully across the few inches that separated us and kissed me, sealing the vow... making the promise. And I kissed him back.

Then we settled down to sleep, because it was an iron clad cinch that neither of us would do anything to disturb our Duo's rest. He wanted us here. Felt safe and protected with us here. I wasn't going anywhere.

In a few hours, when Duo woke, we would worry with medical treatment and missions, reports and orders. For now... more than one kind of barrier had come down and I, for one, was simply going to enjoy the feeling of being part of a greater whole.

End

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