by: Sunhawk

Deceptions (cont)

He relaxed his grip and leaned back to gaze up at me, his eyes suspiciously bright. "I was abysmal at this, wasn't I?" he said, trying to make it light but not able to hide the hint of pain in his voice.

I smiled down at him, and settled him back into his pillows. "No, you were not."

"I didn't know any of the right things to do... everything you do for me... I didn't know. I just didn't know." His eyes were searching mine, looking for some hint of reproach perhaps.

"And just how do you think I learned?" I chuckled at him. "If the timing had been reversed, I wouldn't have known either. You'll do better next time."

I knew the joke was the wrong one when he frowned darkly. "Don't say that. I don't want there to ever be a next time."

"Heero," I sighed and stroked my knuckles over his cheek. "Stop worrying so much, you're not helping yourself get better. It's your turn to be taken care of, you were there for me when I needed you... let me be here for you."

"You still need," he blurted, as though getting something said that he'd been thinking about for some time. "You're still recovering... I don't want you putting yourself through this kind of stress..."

I cut him off with a chuckle. "Spending time with you is not stressful, Heero. This is where I want to be."

He frowned again, my good humor seeming to get on his nerves. "Did you go to therapy today?"

It caught me totally flatfooted. I had completely forgotten about it and he saw it in my eyes before I had a chance to even think about covering it up, so I bulled forward and let the shocked expression claim my face. "Shit! I completely forgot about it!"

He made the assumption that I would have gone if I had remembered and I didn't disillusion him. "Duo... love, you have got to take better care of yourself." It was a reprimand, but the affection was plain in his face.

"Yes sir," I grinned at him and dinner arrived then, stopping that line of conversation.

I helped him eat and when LeAnn came back around to collect the tray I asked her for the bath stuff again and the paraphernalia to wash his hair. She left to fetch it with that wistful look in her eyes.

When I glanced back down at Heero he was looking so conflicted, a bastard mix of worry and gratitude, that it made me smile. "Stop worrying so damn much. I like making you feel better."

"It's a lot of work," he grumbled, but his heart wasn't in it. He wanted to be clean, wanted to be shifted off his back for a while, wanted the fresh gown. I'd been where he was and knew just how much you looked forward to being free of that damn smell even if it was just for a little while.

I leaned down and nuzzled his cheek. "It is good for me to make you happy. It released endorphins into my blood stream that lower my blood pressure and extend my life span. If you're in here long enough, getting to wash your sweaty ass every day may actually result in my living to be a hundred years old."

It took a second, but I got the laugh. Then it dawned on us that making a person with an abdominal wound laugh was not the best thing in the world to do. I held his shoulders tight until he managed to control himself again.

"Sorry," I murmured when he settled again, but when I drew back he was smiling up at me, truly smiling.

"I love you," he said simply.

"I love you too," I responded.

LeAnn chose that moment to come back with the bath stuff and I thought she would melt into a puddle on the floor.

Washing his hair was an exercise in patience, involving putting the bed down flat and sliding him up until he was hanging over the edge. I had to support his head and wash at the same time. It took two buckets and a lot of water and LeAnn actually stayed and helped me with that part. It took a lot to keep from soaking the bed. She went away when that was done and I let him rest for a bit before I tackled the bath.

He got his pain pills somewhere in there, and once he was clean and changed, with as full a stomach as he was going to get on his liquid diet, exhaustion began to creep up on him.

I watched his eyes droop, not able to keep the tender smile off my face. He looked so much younger hovering there on the edge of sleep, eyes heavy-lidded and almost innocent.

"Will you... lay with me again today?" he suddenly asked, longing plain in his voice.

What the hell could I say? "Of course, love."

So I crawled up on the side of the bed, knowing enough to position my chair for support first, and settled him in my arms.

"You need... to rest," was the last thing he murmured before drifting off and I almost snorted out loud. The sweet idiot thought I was sleeping with him. Thought that I was lying here all night and resting. I gingerly kissed the top of the head nestled against me and smiled.

"Sleep well, my heart," I whispered and settled in to see what the thought-hamsters would find to entertain me with tonight. I'd only thought the night before had been the longest of my life. I made a mental note to get the hell out of the bed before he woke, this time; I doubted Trowa would help me again.

I suppose it was all his talk, feeling as though he hadn't done enough for me during my own hospital stay that did it, but I spent the majority of the night thinking about those days. Remembering the pain. Remembering the unbearable frustration of being totally dependent. Remembering the sucking black hole of depression. It made me think about the accident again and more than once, I had to stop myself from clutching at Heero's hand where he had it wrapped around mine. Sometimes... if I thought about it too much, it got hard to breathe... felt like there was a great weight sitting on my chest. It was a night like that.

By morning I had a screaming headache. I managed to find a position that let me hold and comfort Heero without totally losing the feeling in my legs, though I had to sacrifice my shoulders and back to the cause to do it. I thought the daylight would never come.

But it was worth it; when Heero had roused through the night, I had been there to whisper and soothe, to reassure and comfort. I saw to it that he slept, and slept well.

I tried to ease out of the bed before visiting hours opened up again, before Quatre and Trowa showed up. I suspected that Trowa wouldn't leave it alone if he found me all twisted and in pain again, no matter how much Heero wanted me here.

I barely had my feet on the floor when Heero stirred and reached after me. "Duo... what's wrong?"

"Go back to sleep," I mollified. "I just have to go to the bathroom."

He mumbled something, but let go of my hand. I shook my head and went off to the restroom, my reasoning for staying close beside him all night completely confirmed.

I did some stretches while I was out of sight, as much as I could manage in the tiny bathroom. I washed my face and did my best to smooth my hair. Looking in the mirror, I had to admit that I looked like total shit. My eyes were blood-shot and dark-circled, the bruising on my jaw making my face look pale. This was going to take some light-footed dancing to get the hell out of here without alarming anybody. I wished I had my sunglasses with me, but I suppose wearing them inside the hospital would only arouse suspicion anyway. I sighed and went back out to sit with Heero while I waited for the guys to show up.

He was dozing, but fitfully, and calmed visibly when I sat down in the chair beside the bed and took his hand.

His reaction to my few minutes of absence worried me; what was he doing all day while I was gone? Was he staying awake the whole time? Is that why he slept so much at night, because he was so tired from staying up? Was he just sitting here fretting and agonizing until I came back? Guilt-beast crept out from under the bed and latched onto my ankle, gnawing happily. I vowed to try to get back earlier this evening. I sure as hell wished the guilt-beast and the thought-hamsters were something I could organize and control; I could send them off on errands. If I could teach them to strip paint and do laundry, I'd have it made. I envisioned hamsters in little Maganac outfits, complete with fez. That image left me blinking and I decided I'd totally freaking lost my mind.

I started the damn dancing the minute Quatre and Trowa walked through the door. Laugh and grin... constant movement. It's hard to focus on a moving target. I kept my face turned toward whoever wasn't looking. Found things to do with my hands. Engaged Aaron, the day nurse, in conversation whenever he came into the room... he didn't know me well enough to question how I looked.

When I said my goodbyes to Heero, I playfully brushed his nose with the end of my braid, causing his eyes to flutter closed automatically. Then I kissed him in a manner that ensured his eyes stayed closed for the duration. By the time he was able to focus again, I had danced my way out of his line of sight. I thought of it as the 'evasion waltz', and I personally think I'm rather good at it.

I escaped without a single person stopping me to ask what the hell was wrong. I grinned all the way out to the street.

Today's goals included phase two of ship evacuation, food, a change of clothes and sleep. Not necessarily in that order.

I took the extra couple of minutes to nail down the closest bus stop; cabs were getting too damn expensive. I discovered that there was one right there at the hospital, across the street from the front entrance. I caught the number five just before it pulled out and was able to ride it all the way out to the docks for less than a quarter of what the cab rides had been costing me.

Walking up the ramp into the cargo bay felt... oddly like an invasion. My Demon-girl wasn't happy with me and I could feel it as I made my way into what used to be my safest sanctuary. What used to be my home. Home wasn't very welcoming any more. My Lady knew... maybe Solo told her.

I didn't even have to tug on guilt-beast's leash... he walked at heel now, without being told. My constant companion.

Well, there was nothing to do but get to work. The easiest next step was probably going to be removing the pictures from the cockpit. Not nearly as large an undertaking as stripping the murals from the cargo bay was going to be, nor as... hard to think about, as destroying the ones in the locked cabin. I really wasn't all that keen on thinking about that yet.

So I found a palette knife that would serve as a paint scraper and spent the next three hours in the cockpit with my music blaring while I picked and rubbed, scraped and lost knuckles. But when I was done, all the photographs were gone and all that was left was my dried-blood walls. If the new owner didn't like the color, they could change it.

Then it was back to the apartment where I found I had no clean long-sleeved shirts left; an absolute must if I wanted to avoid the 'what's wrong with your arm' conversation with Heero. I was so fucking far gone that I stood in the middle of the apartment for five full minutes trying to decide whether I could get away with not changing or if I should go ahead and take the time to do some laundry now. Decision-making was become difficult and that told me more than anything else just how sleep-deprived I was getting.

In the end, I delved into Heero's closet and borrowed one of his clean shirts. It was a little roomy across the shoulder, but otherwise should do just fine, and I had the laundry excuse if he questioned it.

I stood in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open, eating what I could find that would answer my bodies needs. Protein and iron, electrolytes and... caffeine. Ok...ok... maybe they weren't all needs.

I sucked down a couple of raw eggs and found a box of raisins. There were protein drinks and the ever-present ration bars. Potassium was a good thing and I ate a couple of bananas that were on the verge of being too soft to be really good. I even dug out the bottle of vitamins that I had been prescribed right after the accident.

Then I was down my list to the sleep issue, and headed out for the movies again. Maybe I'd get lucky and they'd be running a double feature today.

The best I could do was the French-flick again and I settled in my corner feeling like some kind of bizarre vagrant. I was asleep before the lights dimmed. My last conscious thought was wondering if the damn movie was even any good.

I didn't wake when the lights came back up, but instead was mortified when I was roused by the poor usher that had been sent in to wake up the fruitcake in the back row.

I blinked up at him and managed to mutter something inane about it being a damn boring movie, and staggered off to the concession stand for my soda.

I drank it on the cab ride and bought a second one from the vending machine in the lobby of the hospital.

On a sudden inspiration, I stopped in the little pharmacy next to the gift shop in that same lobby and bought a bottle of those eye drops that are supposed to clear bloodshot eyes. I put them in on the elevator ride up. I even made the effort to pat my own cheeks enough that I knew it would bring a little color to my face. Show time.

I waltzed into the room with a bright smile, sipping at my bottle of soda. I was surprised as hell to find Heero asleep, Wufei sitting in a chair beside the bed watching over him.

I slipped in and took the chair on the opposite side of the bed, turning myself slightly sideways so I wasn't looking directly at Wufei.

"Hey," I greeted him softly.

"You're early," he responded in a carefully neutral voice.

"I wasn't sure he was sleeping when I wasn't here," I confessed. "I thought I'd try to get here sooner... just in case."

He sighed heavily. "You... are right, he doesn't normally sleep much during the day."

I glanced across at him, over the form of an obviously sleeping Heero. "Is something wrong then?" I asked worriedly.

"They took the drain tube out today... and let him try to get up and walk a little." I couldn't tell from his tone of voice how that went.

"Everything... go ok?" I ventured when he didn't elaborate and I got a nod.

"He's just tired... and they doped him up pretty well before he went for his walk. The pain medicine helps him sleep... when the idiot will take it."

I jerked my head around and looked at him sharply. "He hasn't been taking his medicine during the day?"

He snorted as though it were a given, but then he glanced away from Heero and caught the look on my face. "He's taking it at night?"

"I don't give him a choice," I told him flatly.

He gave me an odd little grunt and I sighed in consternation, rubbing at eyes that I hoped weren't as red as they had been. What the hell was I going to do about this? I'd have to talk to LeAnn and Pat about the timing of his dosage. If I could work it out so that they gave him some right before I left in the morning, he'd only be missing the dose in the afternoon.

"God," I muttered. "Why does he have to be so damn stubborn?"

Wufei almost choked to death trying not to laugh, he did everything but bite his own knuckles. "Maxwell... that's the funniest thing I've heard all day! You, of all people, complaining about somebody being stubborn!"

I refrained from comment and sipped at my soda.

We sat in silence for a little bit after that, just watching Heero sleep. I should have kept the conversation going, kept him occupied, but my brain was having a little trouble with that multi-tasking thing. Right now I was drinking soda... witty repartee was just out. I caught him looking at me, but didn't have the time to deflect him.

"Duo," he ventured quietly. "Are you all right?"

I repressed a cringe. "I just can't help... worrying about him," I evaded.

He sighed in exasperation. "You two are going to have matching ulcers in another couple of years."

I chuckled. "Think it'll take that long?"

He might have pushed it a little farther, but Aaron came in then to check Heero's blood pressure and temperature. They were still monitoring very closely for infection. I verbally latched onto the poor guy and shamelessly used him to deflect Wufei's attention to other things besides me and my condition.

Wufei left not long after, taking advantage of my early arrival to go on home. I sighed with relief when he was gone.

I sat for a while and regarded my sleeping lover, thinking about the fact that I hadn't been there today for those milestones of his recovery. Had not been there to hold his hand when that drain tube came out. Had not been there for him to lean on as he made his first halting steps down the hall and back. Guilt-beast stopped his gnawing long enough to leer up at me from his place on the floor.

As soon as I get done with what I have to do, I promised the beast. I'll be here for him... nothing is going to stop me. I just have to get finished... not that much longer.

Beast quit his leering and went back to trying to remove my leg with his slathering fangs. The hamsters were delighted with their early time slot and trotted out the floorshow they had arranged for the occasion, waving banners with miniature copies of the murals from the room from hell. Trying to make me think about having to go in that room all alone. Trying to make me think about actually destroying one of those paintings. I'd never really done that, not one of my own. Guess I was gonna find out if it could be done.

Shift change happened and LeAnn stopped by to talk to me a little bit. I brought up the pill issue and she agreed with a rather wicked grin to alter the schedule for me.

He slept until dinner, waking when LeAnn roused him to eat. He was pleased to find me there and managed to stay awake for a couple of hours while I fed and bathed him, and gave him another massage. I kept moving enough that he didn't really seem to be able to focus on me, though he did notice the shirt and I had to laughingly tease him about not getting the laundry done while I was gone. It seemed to please him somehow, to see me wearing his clothes, for which I was grateful, because it further distracted him. It helped immensely that he was on his pain medication tonight as well and just woozy enough that my condition was easily covered with laughter and smiles.

And in the first piece of luck I'd had in days, he fell asleep while I was still massaging his chest and arms, before he had a chance to try to get me to lie down with him. So I was able to settle in the chair by the bed, pulled up close enough that I could hold his hand and keep him calmed, but not in that twisted pretzel position that had been killing me the last couple of nights. I even managed to fall into a light sleep myself, with him there close by, and augmented my paltry three hours. It was probably the most sleep I'd had at a stretch since that night in the clinic on L3. I took it as a sign that I was on the right track and vowed to get straight to work in the morning on the ship. No time like the present and all that shit.

I was caught by surprise by Trowa and Quatre, and they found me asleep with my head resting on the side of the bed, my good arm twined with Heero's. I came to myself when I heard their voices but stayed where I was for a second out of some ages old habit.

"... have been so stupid! I never thought!" I heard Quatre saying as they came into the room.

"Well, he never mentioned it," Trowa responded soothingly and I heard them coming closer.

"That's beside the point," Quatre grumbled. "One of us should have asked."

I wasn't at all sure I wanted to know, but figured I was going to have to enter the conversation sooner or later, so I raised my head and yawned by way of greeting.

Quatre was on me instantly, "Duo... how have you been getting home in the morning?"

I blinked up at him in surprise. Well, of all the things for him to decide to get worried about. "The way I always get around, Qat; cabs and buses. Why?"

He gusted a sigh and glared at me in irritation. "Why didn't you say something? One of us could have driven you."

I chuckled, "It's no big deal, the bus stop is right out front. There's a bus that runs straight from here to the docks in the morning."

Ooops. I saw from the twin looks on their faces that I had just slipped up in a major way, so I just shut up and regrouped, and waited for one of them to say something to see how they had taken that.

"The docks?" Trowa questioned gently. "You aren't going back to the apartment?"

I kept a completely neutral expression on my face and said, "I've been sleeping in my cabin... why?"

They exchanged a look. It was one of those couple's looks. The ones I really hate when other people are using them. Something passed between them that I couldn't read. I cringed inwardly, waiting for the questioning to begin, but Heero chose that moment to wake up.

His fingers tightened on mine convulsively when he didn't find me in bed next to him. I turned away from Trowa and Quatre, moving up out of the chair to the side of the bed. "I'm right here, Sleeping Beauty," I teased and it served to embarrass him enough that he started out on uneven ground. I was hoping that having managed some sleep, even if it was in a straight-backed chair, had improved my appearance somewhat. I didn't dance the evasion waltz quite so hard, relaying mostly on bright smiles and teasing to mask my current location on the border between 'emotional turmoil' and 'physical collapse'.

LeAnn and Pat furthered my efforts of keeping Heero off balance by showing up with his pain medication just before I was ready to leave. I grinned. Heero glared. I smirked. Heero balked.

"I don't want it," he growled at me and I noted the unmistakable signs of Pat giving ground.

"Ah, but dearest," I chuckled, taking the pills from her. "You are mistaking me for someone who cares that you don't want it. You need it."

"It makes me groggy," he complained and I almost laughed at the petulant sound of his voice.

"It helps you sleep," I smiled benignly. "Little birds have told me that you aren't sleeping during the day at all." He opened his mouth to argue some more and I leaned down to give him my own little glare. "Pay-back's a bitch... isn't it?"

His mouth snapped shut and he flushed hotly, but he grabbed the pills from me and took them. Then he turned to face me dead on and opened his mouth wide to pointedly demonstrate that he'd swallowed them.

Oddly, I felt like I'd been slapped. I remembered the last time I'd had to push him into taking his medicine and I had kissed him to verify that the pills had indeed been swallowed. It had been a balm on the tiny sting of the little altercation. An apology on my part for forcing the issue, an apology on his part for fighting me. He had just demonstrated that he didn't want that kiss this time. Pain sparked in my chest as the center of my universe figuratively pushed me away. I think it showed on my face for a second, because all the anger washed out of him in the next moment and he was reaching for me.

I leaned down to rest my head against his. "I'm sorry," he murmured.

"It's all right," I whispered in return. "That's the best part about being in the hospital... you're allowed to be grumpy. It's expected, actually."

"Duo..." he sighed softly. "I love you. You know that... don't you?"

I snorted softly and drew back to smile warmly for him. "I didn't think you married me for my money."

He looked... unsure of me. Not sure if he should take the teasing at face value or if I was hiding behind it. I turned the smile up and reached to brush his hair from his eyes. Then I suddenly remembered the room full of people and blushed, turning to look and was surprised to find we were alone. "Well... at least we have discreet friends..." I began and was brought up short by the screaming pain that lanced up my arm.

While my attention had been diverted, he had reached to stroke his hands up and down my arms. I thought I would die. I covered it by suddenly leaning down and burying my head in the hollow of his shoulder, his hands let go and shifted to wrap around my shoulders. I could have wept with relief.

"Duo?" he questioned softly, concern evident in his voice.

"I love you too," I murmured in reply and just let him hold me for a minute. When I drew back, it was all safely covered up and I grinned for him. "I have to be going."

"I know," he sighed, and then caught me rather flat, a position I seemed to be occupying a lot lately. "You won't forget therapy again today, will you?"

"Not now that you've reminded me," I chuckled and kissed him lightly.

I attempted to take my leave then but hadn't counted on Quatre's solicitousness, and found myself with company on the walk out of the hospital. Apparently, Trowa was driving me home.

"So," he ventured into the uncomfortable silence that arose after we were away from Heero and Quatre. "Am I taking you to the apartment, or to your ship?"

I mentally went over my plans for the day. With the bonus of the sleep I had gotten last night, I fully intended to spend the whole day working on my ship. I might stop for a quick theatre catnap, depending on how well I held up to the job of paint stripping, but other than that I was hoping to get a large part of this job behind me.

"The ship, I think," I told him, unable to judge his reaction to the news.

The elevator arrived on the ground floor and we walked across the lobby. "You know..." I glanced up at his rather impressive height. "You really don't have to drive me, the bus stop is right there and the bus to the docks will be here any minute."

He gave me one of those inscrutable glances, all the more piercing out here in the daylight and snorted softly. "If Quatre didn't skin me alive... Heero would."

I chuckled as we made our way across the street to the outdoor parking lot.

"You really should have said something, Duo," he said then. "It's no trouble."

I shrugged, uncomfortable. "I didn't think about it. I don't normally have to go anywhere that's outside walking distance, but when I do I use the bus all the time." I grinned at him, "I really don't see your guy's problem with public transit."

He didn't speak until he had the car doors unlocked and we were inside. "It surprises me that you don't own a car," he quirked me a small grin. "I remember how you were always tinkering with the ones we had for our cover during the war."

I chuckled, remembering some of those old beaters, and flashed him a wide grin. "I just graduated up to something bigger!" Then I thought about that remark a little harder and the grin faded some.

He didn't seem to notice, but laughed at the joke. It got quiet while he pulled the car out on the road. I could see him casting surreptitious glances my way and turned slightly toward the window, just in case my face still looked like shit.

"Duo?" he said softly and I glanced his way. He wasn't looking at my face. "There's blood on your sleeve."

I glanced down and saw the truth of it. "Well hell," I muttered and just stared at it for a minute. It wasn't much, really, but Heero must have pulled the stitches and I hadn't noticed. Thank God he hadn't noticed either.

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