He didn't seem to pay me any
mind, as though I had never spoken. "It's been a lot of years since
you tried to teach us about the importance of brotherhood and what it
means to be teammates... we learned. But you went away and left us and
didn't get to reap the rewards of the lesson. You have it now... you are
one of us. The prodigal son come home..."
If it was meant to break me the rest of the way down, it almost did. But
then we were through the door and found Heero sitting on the side of his
bed, struggling with the IV and the bed rail. I thought Wufei would freakin'
"I thought I told you to stay where the hell you were!" he snapped
and deposited me in the first chair we came to.
"What the hell was taking so long?" Heero growled back, but
he stopped trying to work the tape off and the tubes out.
"Leave that alone and get your sorry ass back in that bed!"
Wufei warned, advancing menacingly, the gruffness of his commands belied
by the gentleness of his hands as he caught Heero's legs and swung them
back into bed.
I watched as he got Heero tucked back in, listened as they sniped at each
"What is going on?"
"Learn a little patience!"
"You two are damn well going to be the death of me!"
I started to chuckle; they sounded so damn much like some elderly married
couple and I imagined them... eighty years old and with walkers, carping
and jabbing each other with verbal sticks. I tried to squelch it, because
I was pretty sure I knew where it was going to lead... but it was far
too late. The chuckles spiraled up and soon I was laughing uncontrollably
and of course, before long I was sobbing brokenly, my face in my hands,
trying to hide behind the curtain of my hair. Did all my breakdowns have
to involve the hysterical laughing thing?
Guilt-beast just snuck away and crawled under a chair, covering his eyes
with his paws in embarrassment. The hamsters began to whistle and wandered
off, pretending they didn't know me.
"Bring him to me." I heard Heero command in no uncertain terms
and I tried to put a lid on it, but the dam had burst and there was no
stopping it now.
"Heero..." Wufei began, sounding uncertain.
"Bring him to me. Now."
Hands caught at my arms and pulled me to my feet, moving me gently toward
the bed. I balked, scrubbing at my eyes, gulping for air and trying to
regain a toehold on the tear-slick, crumbling edge of my control.
Then it was Heero's hands on me; my soul felt the difference, recognized
my other half, told my heart and I just let it all go. Crouched on the
edge of his hospital bed, huddled in the curl of his arm, I sobbed until
I thought I would just wash away.
"Fei," I heard him whisper softly. "Go away... please?"
There was the strangest disdainful, affectionate snort, a hand stroked
lingeringly over my unbound hair, and then we were alone.
Heero shifted, tried to draw me closer, but I had enough brain left that
I wouldn't risk hurting him. There was a frustrated sigh, "It's all
right... I won't let you hurt me. Don't fight me, love. Please... just
let me be here."
I squirmed and I twisted, as careful as I could be, and managed to get
my head pillowed on his chest. And if it left my legs bent uncomfortably
off the side of the bed, I didn't care. He got his arms around me and
squeezed tight, almost desperate in his need to touch me.
"I'm sorry..." I panted, searching hard for something inside
to fight the damn tears with... and coming up empty.
"Don't you dare apologize to me," he whispered. "This has
been so long in coming... so damn long. Stop fighting it... just let it
out. I'm here, I've got you."
It twisted like a knife in my gut; I was the one who was supposed to be
taking care of him. He was the one who had been shot... he was the one
in the stinking hospital bed. It was his turn to do the leaning, and where
the hell was I? I couldn't fucking support myself. He was hurt. He was
in pain. He had almost... almost...
"You're all I have left in the world, Heero," I told him through
the sobs. "You have to be all right. You have to get better... I
can't lose you too."
He pressed warm lips to my temple and murmured, "Nothing is going
to happen to me. I'm right here. Duo... my sweet Duo; tell me what's going
"That damn accident... it ate me alive," the words found their
own way out around all the defenses I had worked so hard to set up, as
though those defenses didn't exist at all. "I don't have it in me
anymore to... to fly. To pilot. I can't do it. I tried... I tried so hard...
but it all went to hell. It's all over. I've lost it all..."
He was quiet. Afraid, I think, to interrupt the strange flow of words.
I was awash suddenly with a wringing, clenching fear that I would lose
him too... on top of everything else. "Heero... please, Heero...
you still love me, right? You still want me anyway... even if..."
There was the sound of a strangled noise and his arms went tight as a
vise around me. "You are mine. My... heart. My... soul. Forever.
We promised each other forever... remember? Of course I love you. What
you do for a damn living won't ever change that."
I couldn't answer him, just huddled there in his embrace, hating myself
for doing this to him now of all the damn times. What had I been
thinking? This could have waited... the damn ship could have waited. I
had enough money to pay the dock fees for a couple of months yet; I hadn't
had to handle this right now. I had let Neo spook me. I had let his damn
stories panic me.
"I am so very sorry," I told him.
"Hush," he admonished gently. "Nothing in the world to
be sorry for. Nothing at all... none of this is your fault."
"But," I tried for a lighter tone and failed miserably, "my
timing could have been better."
He snorted softly and his hand came to smooth over my hair. "Maybe
it was my timing that sucked."
Then it just came down to the crying and the soft words.
"...my ship... oh God... my ship..."
"...I know... I know..."
"...all gone... washed away..."
"...oh love... no...you didn't..."
"...so quiet...so very quiet..."
"...I'm here...I'm right here..."
"...I'm so scared..."
"...don't be... we'll get through this... together..."
"What am I going to do now?"
"Heal, my love. You're going to take the time to heal."
I would have sold my soul to just be able to curl up there at his side
and go to sleep. I was so tired... so very damn tired. His gentle hands
and quiet voice were a balm on my broken spirit, bringing me some measure
of ease. A somewhat truer calm and not the frozen numbness I had given
"Why aren't you sick of me?" I asked at length.
"I'll never grow sick of you," he chuckled at me, as though
it were the most amusing joke in the world. "You are my light and
my joy. You are... everything."
I looked up to find that fire in his eyes, that light of his love for
me that shines so bright I've never understood why it doesn't consume
"I love you," he told me simply. "We'll get through."
How could I doubt him?
Now that I had quieted, and wasn't making quite the ass of myself, guilt
dared to crawl out and took a nip at my dangling legs. "I... suppose
I should go find Wufei."
Heero smiled softly at me. "No need; he's been guarding the door."
I looked, seeing the back of that dark haired head through the little
glass and I flushed darkly. "Guess I should let him back in,"
I sat up slowly and he seemed reluctant to let me go.
"If..." he told me softly, intently, "I were able, I would
take you home and take you to bed and hold you close all through the night."
"If you were able," I smiled sadly, "I would let you."
I suppose it was a somewhat cruel thing to say. I hadn't meant it to be.
"Promise me," he pleaded. "No more hiding... no more secrets?"
I couldn't refuse in the face of the pain in his voice. "I'll try."
It was a rather cheap shot, actually, because the next thing he did was
to undo the buttons on my cuff and roll the sleeve up. Damn. Had he seen
the bandage? Had one of the guys told him what little they had found out
from me? What the hell could I say on the heels of promising no more secrets?
I sighed rather heavily. "Heero... don't..."
"Hush," he commanded. "Show me."
"You're not going to like it," I grumbled, but he was steadfast,
and I just said the hell with it... he'd see it sooner or later anyway.
I doubt if I could upset him much more than I already had tonight. I pulled
the tape lose and unwound the gauze, holding my arm out for him to see
when it was completely exposed.
"Oh dear God..." he breathed and his eyes were as wide as saucers.
"Told you," I said and it came out sounding... sullen.
His gaze came up to find mine, dropping back to look at the wicked gash
on my arm... right in line with all the others. "Duo... you... did
I felt myself flushing fit to catch fire. "Yes... and no." I
told him with another of those heavy sighs. "I never meant to...
to do... that. But I..." I didn't know how in the hell to
explain that I only meant to cut myself a little bit, but had unfortunately
suffered some sort of nervous break-down and tried to sever my own arm.
Ending up painting on the bulkhead of my ship with my own blood while
I almost bled to death... just so I could wash it off later. There's just
no real nice way to put that.
His face suddenly went pale and I swear to God, Guilt-beast had let go
of my ass and was latched hold of his. "Oh, love,"
he murmured. "I'm so sorry... I didn't know what to do when the date
came around and you didn't... when nothing..." He stopped and swallowed,
looking up at me with pain in his eyes. "I hoped so much that you
didn't need to do that anymore. I... I wasn't sure if you had... stopped,
or if you... somehow, had forgotten..."
I brushed my knuckles over his cheek, understanding a couple of conversations
that had puzzled the hell out of me at the time we'd had them. He had
remembered. Through all those years. The most important anniversary of
my life, and he had remembered while I had forgotten. Guilt just didn't
know which one of us to gnaw on.
"There was just... so much that day," I told him, having a little
trouble meeting his eyes. "I did... forget..." I couldn't say
any more, just sat staring at the floor while he held my arm like it was
made of glass... staring at the God-awful wound with all those tidy little
stitches marching along its length. It had darkened and looked bruised.
"I didn't know what to do," he said, not able to bring his voice
above a whisper. "I was so afraid... when I came home that night
and you'd gone to bed so early. I was sure... so sure... but then the
next evening... I couldn't find anything..."
He kept glancing up at me, I could see him out of the corner of my eye,
but I couldn't face him. I suddenly felt so utterly stupid... I couldn't
even explain what had happened. I didn't really know. Was that going to
sound worse than letting him think I'd done it on purpose?
His fingers hovered over it, wanting to touch and soothe, but afraid of
hurting. "I didn't know whether to say anything or not," he
breathed. "I was so relieved... at first... when you didn't... when
nothing happened. But then I got worried that maybe you had forgotten...
I just didn't know what to do..." He reached up to gently turn my
face towards his. "I made the wrong choice... didn't I?"
I just sat and looked at him, too emotionally overloaded to even look
away. Somewhere deep down inside, I wanted to reassure. Wanted to let
him know that it wasn't his fault. My mind just wouldn't cooperate and
produce any coherent sentences. Where the hell were all those stupid hamsters
when I needed them?
"I... I don't know. I'm just too tired to think about it..."
was the best I could manage.
He took my hand and held it, his eyes looking over my shoulder for a second.
His gaze somehow called Wufei and I heard the door open.
I dropped my eyes and felt myself flushing in shame. I waited for the
teasing to start. Waited, hunched into myself, for the derisive comments.
Instead, strong hands settled on my shoulders and Wufei said, "Ready
for me to take you home?"
"No!" I blurted, aghast at the notion.
"Yes," Heero said gently.
"I'm staying here," I growled, but it came out sounding only
a little... petulant.
"You're going home and getting some rest," I was informed, rather
firmly. I'd bet money that Heero hadn't taken any of his medication after
I left this morning, because he lacked nothing what-so-ever in the way
"There won't be anybody to stay with you," I pointed out, quite
logically, I thought.
"That's what the hospital is full of nurses for," he told me
with the quirk of a smile.
"Duo," Wufei chimed in, "we were only forced to stay with
this idiot twenty-four hours a day while he was trying to run off to L3
after you. He'll be fine on his own over night now."
I couldn't see Wufei, standing behind me, but his hands were calmly kneading
my tight shoulders.
I wasn't sure which one of them to address... which one of them to argue
with. "He isn't sleeping very well at night."
"From the looks of things... neither are you," Wufei chuckled.
I was going to lose this one, I could tell. They were going to tag-team
me and I was just too damn tired to put up much of a fight to begin with.
"Please, Duo," Heero said, reaching to stroke a finger down
my cheek. "Because it will put my mind at ease? Go home and get some
sleep. I need you to take care of yourself for me... because I can't do
it right now."
Ouch. That was rather below the belt, I thought. I sighed. I nodded. I
kissed him goodbye and turned to let Wufei take me out of there. I got
only the sharp intake of his breath as he caught sight of my unwrapped
arm. I flinched and rolled the sleeve down, pointedly not making eye contact
and he let it go.
I figured there wasn't much point in telling them that it really didn't
make any difference; I couldn't sleep alone anyway. I could go back to
the apartment, but I would either lie there staring at the ceiling or,
if I managed to fall asleep, I'd only wake in a couple of hours from one
of those Londonderry vacation nightmares.
The drive was quiet. I just sat staring out the side window feeling like
the world's biggest loser. It was dark. The stars were out... they seemed
to mock me.
'Maxwell's Demon' was gone. The voice of Solo was stilled. I was no longer
the thing I had worked the last three years of my life to become. I had
just failed Heero in one of the few moments that he had ever actually
needed me to be there.
Maybe it was a good thing I couldn't hear Solo's voice... I imagine he'd
have a few choice things to say.
When we arrived, Wufei didn't pull up out front to let me out, but turned
the car into the parking lot.
"What are you doing?" I asked, the first words we'd spoken since
we'd left the hospital.
"Keeping a promise to a friend," he replied blandly.
I frowned, "I don't care what you told Heero you'd do... but I don't
need a damn keeper."
"I'm not talking about Heero," he said as he got out of the
car. "I'm talking about the promise I made to you."
I hesitated a moment and then got out too, looking at him over the roof
of the car.
"And no," he smiled softly across at me, "you don't need
a keeper... you need your friends."
I opened my mouth to argue, but he just turned and headed for the apartment
door. "You coming?"
What the hell could I do but follow? It wasn't like I had anywhere else
I could go.
We walked up the stairs casting surreptitious glances at each other. I
think he was watching for signs of my faltering. I was watching him for
signs of what was going on inside his head.
He waited patiently for me to unlock the door to the apartment, but once
we were inside, he seemed to take off on his own agenda.
"Were you planning on a shower?" he asked as he dumped his jacket
and switched on the living room light.
"Uhmmm... I suppose that's not a bad idea," I admitted, mostly
because I was starting to realize that he wasn't going anywhere soon and
if I wanted out from under his watchful eyes... the bathroom was probably
the place to be.
"Go ahead while I fix dinner," I was informed. "Will a
half an hour be long enough?"
"O...ok," I said, unable to think of anything else to say in
the face of his sudden efficient... ordering.
He was in the kitchen before I had a chance to do much more than think
about moving toward the bathroom.
I took my shower and washed my hair. I have to admit it did make me feel
a little better to get the yucky residue of the damn tears off my face.
But, you know... with him in the apartment... I couldn't make myself stay
in there for more than that ages old, self-imposed fifteen-minute limit.
Some things will just never completely go away, I guess.
I did take the time to comb my poor tangled hair out and braided it properly
despite its being wet. I pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt,
wasn't any point in hiding my arm from Wufei... he'd already seen it.
All the clean long-sleeved shirts were Heero's after all, and all the
way over in his room. So I just said the hell with it, taking a certain
perverse pleasure in pulling on a shirt emblazoned with 'The voices
in my head don't like you' and going out to see what my lover's partner
had come up with in the way of food.
I padded in on bare feet, and wasn't sure he'd heard me at first, but
he turned and the smile he gave me quirked into a grin when he saw my
shirt. Then the grin faded as he caught sight of my arm again. I flushed,
expecting him to ask me what had happened, but he let it ride.
He was just finishing up a large pan of stir-fry and turned to the table
to ladle it out onto two plates. I sat down, feeling oddly uncomfortable.
He seemed more at home in what was supposed to be my home, than I did.
I watched him dish up supper and turn to dump the pan into the sink before
opening the drawer and pulling out forks for the two of us.
"You," I said on a sudden suspicion, "have cooked here
He sat down, passing me my fork. He took a bite and chewed it slowly,
stalling his answer, I think. "Yes," he finally admitted rather
I sighed and took my own bite. "Fairly often... am I right?"
knowing he wouldn't respond unless it was a direct question.
He sighed in his turn. "Yes, we... all used to come over more frequently."
I felt... frustrated; ill at ease. I'm not sure why I was pursuing the
conversation... I was almost too tired to deal with it. But the implication
was plain; as hard as I had been trying to get Heero to get his life back
in order, he still wasn't doing it. Had only acquiesced on those things
that I had actually found out about and called him on. God only knew how
many habits and routines he had abandoned because of my presence.
"Duo," Wufei said, looking down at his plate and not at me.
"Heero just wanted to give you a little space. We're a... rather
intense group. He thought that you needed a little time to... come back
into the fold."
I snorted softly and we ate in silence for a few minutes while I digested
that. Guilt-beast came scrabbling into the kitchen, delighted to be back
and latched onto my ankle with a happy growl. Fuck. I hadn't missed his
smelly little butt at all.
There was a rather heavy sigh from across the table and I glanced up to
see Wufei with a strange, sardonic smile on his face.
"What?" I grumbled.
"I just thought Winner had the guilt market tied up," he drawled.
"I can see he needs to take lessons from you."
It surprised a bit of a laugh out of me. "Well..." I mumbled.
"We are 'brothers', after all... it must run in the family."
He grinned at me and we finished the meal in silence. When we were done,
he took the dishes and stacked them in the sink with a bit of a smirk.
"I'll cook... but I'm not doing your damn dishes. They can wait until
"Heero would have a cow," I informed him and watched him grin.
"But Heero's not here, now is he?"
He herded me out of the kitchen and I was starting to get a little concerned
about just what in the hell he had in mind next, he obviously wasn't planning
on leaving in the immediate future.
Not that it mattered much. I had figured that I would let him bring me
home and I would just spend the night doing the laundry or something.
I'd go down to the theatre early tomorrow afternoon, and try to sleep
through two movies before heading back to the hospital. So, I supposed,
if he wanted to hang around for a while, it didn't really matter. It's
not like I had plans.
"You packed your things and brought them back here?" he asked
me, and it caught me so by surprise that all I could do was nod.
"Would you like me to help you unpack some of them?"
I just stood and stared at him; this seemed rather 'above and beyond'.
"Wufei," I questioned, "what is going on?"
He ducked his head a little and gave me the oddest half smile. "You
haven't figured out that... we're going to be room-mates tonight?"
I did my famous Duo Maxwell fish imitation.
He chuckled at me for a second until I got my mouth snapped shut and started
to formulate an argument. Then he gave out with a somewhat frustrated
sounding sigh. "Duo, listen to me... we're not complete idiots. It
is not beyond us to imagine a little bit how you're feeling right now.
I told you; we are your friends every bit as much as we are Heero's. There
is nothing wrong with letting us help you..."
"I don't need any help," I said, that thing that was starting
to become almost like a mantra with me. "I'm just fine."
He didn't laugh, ok? I have to give him points for that.
"I would... if I were in your place," he said gently.
"Had I been through what you went through, I'd be wrapped around
the nearest warm body and I wouldn't let go."
I think my jaw popped when it fell open. Even guilt-beast stopped his
chewing for a minute to look up at Wufei.
He pressed his advantage while I was so totally off balance, taking me
by the shoulders and turning me toward the bedroom. When we got there,
he didn't give me much choice, just grabbed the first box and set it on
the bed. I stood and watched for a minute as he pulled out my star-field
blanket and turned toward the closet to put it away.
"Can... can we put it on the bed?" I asked softly and he seemed
relieved to hear me speak.
"Of course," he smiled and I helped him strip the bedspread
and blanket off. He let me spread my old, familiar blanket myself.
There wasn't much else in that box and he lifted up another, opening the
lid and finding some of my clothes. He raised an eyebrow in question and
I found an empty dresser drawer, carrying an armload there to put them
away. He found my sketchpads and pencils in the bottom of the box and
glanced up at me with an odd look in his eyes, a little bit like a kid
on Christmas morning.
"May I?" he quirked a grin at me. "All I've seen of your
work is what was in that magazine and what was..." he stopped, the
grin fading as he realized what he'd almost said.
I flushed and shrugged, "I guess so... there's nothing special in
there; just some rough sketches and junk."
He sat down on the end of the bed and almost reverently picked up the
first pad. He gingerly opened the cover and there was a picture of Toria
staring back at him, floating in free-fall with a wrench in her hand.
I watched him carefully leaf through the pages for a few minutes, looking
at portraits of Hayden and Toria and their brood of imaginary children,
before I set the empty box aside and sat down beside him.
He glanced up at me warmly. "These are incredible, Duo."
All I could do was flush and duck my head. The sketchpad was only about
half full; I have a terrible habit of picking up new pads before the old
ones are used up. He set it aside and took up the next one on the stack.
The flush spread down my neck as I realized he'd found one of the older
"Uhmmm," I muttered. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea."
It was sketches from the war. Nothing awful, just studies of... all the
guys. And some odd, weird-ass mystical shit involving the Gundams.
The grin he quirked at me was enough to turn the blush into something
that was starting to feel like a sunburn.
It was bad enough while he leafed through the first couple of pages. Heero
working on his Gundam. Heero cleaning his gun. Heero with that... scowl
I remember so well. A head study of Quatre with his goggles pushed up
on his head. Quatre with his violin. Trowa with one of his lions. But
then he got to the ones of himself. I'd sketched him doing his morning
workout and taken the liberty of imagining what he'd look like with his
hair down. The only times I had ever seen it, it had been dripping wet
and slicked back.
I found my knees drawn up to my chest and I couldn't bring myself to look
up at him. "Sorry..." I muttered.
"For what?" his voice sounded amused. "You did a pretty
good job of capturing it strictly from imagination." When I dared
to glance up at him, he caught my eye and deliberately reached back, pulling
the tie from his hair and giving his head a shake. His hair found a natural
center part, just as I had thought it would and swept down on either side
of his face like raven's wings. It seemed an incredibly intimate thing...
I felt oddly guilty and dropped my eyes from his. He looked... all together
not like Wufei.
"Well... I've seen yours down," he murmured. "It
only seems fair. Besides, I don't sleep with it tied back."
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's