That served to make me even
more uncomfortable as I started contemplating just what in the hell he
had planned for sleeping arrangements. We had not discussed just what
my sleeping problems were. And I didn't intend to; I had not even gotten
into it with Heero. I wasn't about to sit here with Chang Wufei and explain
all the gory details of my horrible sense of isolation when I was forced
to spend very much time all alone. I didn't have the nightmares or the
near insomnia when Heero was with me, therefore I didn't have a problem
that we had ever needed to discuss.
I got up from the bed and went to put the empty box back on the pile.
"I think I'm done with this for tonight," I told him and was
just getting ready to ask if he wanted me to go turn down Heero's bed
for him, when I heard the most awful intake of breath and I turned to
find him with a different sketchpad in his hands. The one that I'd been
using on that damned trip to L3.
He looked up at me with those dark, fathomless eyes of his full of...
something that made me very uncomfortable. Pain? Remorse? Sympathy? I
don't know. I couldn't quite meet that gaze. He put the pad aside, the
cover still open to reveal that damn self-portrait, rose and came across
the room to me. I would have backed up if I hadn't already been against
"Yuy told me once... a long time ago, that we would never get you
to admit to your pain. He was very right about you, wasn't he?" It
was gently said, but I still couldn't meet his eyes. The floor was suddenly
very damn interesting.
His hand came to touch my face and I jerked in surprise, my eyes coming
up despite my best efforts.
"And I believe I told you that you were never to hide an injury from
us, ever again."
I was helpless to speak and only nodded; an echo of the gesture I had
made all those long, long years ago. And just like the last time, he wouldn't
"Duo... no more hiding," he told me firmly. "Yuy may think
you need time, but I'm tired of waiting. Enough of this... it hurts us
to see you hurting. I'm not Yuy...not Heero, and I know I'm not the one
you want with you right now. But I'm your friend all the same and I'm
not going anywhere."
We just stood and stared at each other for a minute. I was swept back
through all those years and my hands ached in remembrance. I could still
see him, with his head bent over me, working so very carefully on my charred
fingers. My hands curled closed of their own volition.
"I'm just so tired, Wufei," I breathed when it suddenly seemed
that his intense gaze was the only thing holding me up.
"I know you are, my friend," he murmured. "And it's time
we remedied that... let's go to bed."
I was suddenly even too tired to worry about how weird it was making me
feel that he was planning on sleeping with me. I just let him lead me
back to the bed, he moved my art supplies while I stripped to my underwear.
He made sure I was settled before he went around to the other side of
the bed and I heard him undressing as well.
A thought-hamster struggled up the side of the bed, giggling insanely
to present me with a banner with a little picture of Wufei doing his kata...
with his hair down... glistening with sweat. I backhanded the little motherfucker
right off the side of the bed and listened to him scream all the way to
"Maxwell?" Wufei asked, voice sounding concerned.
"Don't ask," I growled and curled up around my pillow. I could
feel him watching me for a moment, but he didn't speak again, just reached
and turned the light off. It was gonna be a long damn night.
That was the last thought I had. I had completely underestimated my total
exhaustion; even the dancing hamsters couldn't keep me awake. I fell into
a black oblivion the likes of which I had not seen in months.
I was running... in zero gravity... somehow not able to comprehend that
fact and so getting absolutely nowhere. My heart was pounding in my ears.
The Derry crew wanted their air back.
I rounded a curve in a corridor that had been straight just a moment before
and come face to non-existent face with the dead Captain. I stopped running
and the rest of the crew caught up with me. I was surrounded. I whimpered
and tried to back away.
"Solo?" I cried, but got no answer. "You son-of-a-bitch!
Get me the hell out of here!" But he didn't come.
Cold, cold hands were closing on my arms, reaching for the air tank...
pulling... wrenching. Pain lanced up my arm from my stitches and I cried
"Heero! Where are you?" But nobody answered.
The air tank was ripped from my grasp and the shambling corpses began
to drift away. They had what they had come for and weren't interested
in me any more. The air was gone; I couldn't breathe. I held my breath
as long as I could before succumbing to the overwhelming urge to try to
inhale... and found nothing there. My heart was pounding so hard I could
hear it... my chest was on fire... my ears were ringing... I was about
to die. Out here in the cold and the dark, alone... all alone. It had
all been a damn dream after all... Heero, the guys... all just a fever
"Duo! Breathe, damn it!" Someone was shouting and my shoulders
where caught in a frantic grasp. "Wake up! Do you hear me? Breathe!"
I sucked for air, suddenly aware of its blessed presence, and it flooded
my burning lungs with a sound that was so frightening I didn't want to
admit it was mine.
Strong arms were dragging me up into a sitting position and I found my
reeling head pressed against a broad chest. I could hear Heero's heart
pounding just as hard as mine was. I clutched at him like a drowning man;
body wracked with tremors...lungs gasping desperately for air... brain
"Oh God, Heero..." I wailed. "I thought I dreamed you!
The... the Derry crew came for their damn air again... when in the hell
will they stop hounding me? Why won't they leave me alone?"
He wrapped strong arms around me and rocked me against his shoulder. I
inhaled deeply again, savoring the sweet air, savoring his sweet, anchoring
scent... which was altogether wrong.
My eyes flew open and I jerked upright, blinking owlishly at... "Wufei?"
"I'm sorry," he stammered, looking totally chagrined. "I...
I went to the bathroom. I wasn't gone ten minutes. I'm so sorry... I didn't
realize it was this bad. Duo why in the hell didn't you warn me?"
I rubbed my hands over my eyes and flushed, looking away, trying to find
my balance. "Uhmmm... they never caught me before?" I temporized.
There was the oddest little pained laugh and I glanced at him through
the fingers of the hand I had pressed to my face. He looked really scared.
"I'm sorry, Wufei... I don't know why I can't seem to shake these
He dared to rub a gentle hand up and down my back, sighing heavily. "Only
you... and maybe Quatre... could manage to feel guilty for using abandoned
I closed my eyes, but only saw drifting corpses, so I blinked them open
I took a deep breath... and then another, just because I could, and tried
to calm my heart. "I'm ok now," I told him.
"You're just fine," he snorted. "I, on the other hand,
have just suffered a damn heart attack."
I laughed but had to shut that off pretty quickly; been down the whole
hysterical road before, thank you very much. No thanks... not a fun trip.
He moved away from me and the bedroom light came on. I blinked in the
sudden light while he came back to sit beside me again.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked softly.
I shrugged, easing back to lean against the headboard. "What's to
talk about? I have these stupid nightmares..."
His eyes still looked a little anxious and I briefly considered setting
up a video camera to capture one of my Kodak moments on tape... just to
see what in the hell was so frightening. But, when I thought about it
a little harder, I really didn't want to know.
"I've been partnered with Heero Yuy for a long time, and I thought
he was the single most pig-headed, stubborn damn individual on the face
of the planet... and then you came home with him and I discovered that
the fates just hate my guts."
I flashed him a wide grin. "But we love you, man," I chuckled.
His eyes got serious... very serious. He opened his mouth to say something
but then shut it again. He got up from the bed and went across the room
toward my dresser. I took the moment to shift a little more toward the
head of the bed, sitting up a little straighter, and gathered the faint
comfort of my blanket around me. I glanced at the clock and it was the
God-awful hour of three in the morning. I rubbed at tired eyes and wondered
if I dared go back to sleep again.
Wufei came back from the dresser and tossed one of my sketchpads and my
pencils in my lap, saying only, "I'm going to get a drink... would
you like something?"
"A soda would be really nice," I tried and then sighed, seeing
the look on his face. "Or a protein drink."
He smiled and left the room.
I looked down at the pad in my lap and wondered what in the hell he had
given it to me for. Did he want me to draw something for him? I flipped
it open and found that it was the one from the war. I leafed past the
portraits of the pilots and looked at the ones that Wufei hadn't gotten
to. The portraits of the five Gundams. I guess I've always had a somewhat...
odd imagination. I'd always thought of the huge mecha as having personalities.
I mean... I had fucking talked to my damn Gundam, all right? I'm not nuts.
It never really answered me. No more than Solo ever did... until I'd...
Well, we just didn't need to think about that right now.
I had drawn these odd little portraits of each of the Gundams with...
this spirit thing going on in the background. My 'Scythe had this strange
demon kind of shadow... all dark suggestion and hints of something really
nasty. Wing, on the other hand, had this ethereal light... a hint of something
higher... something cleaner. Nataku had borne the spirit of the whole
Dragon clan, and the portrait of her - I don't know why I thought of that
one Gundam as a her, but I did was all fierceness and fire. I leafed
passed those pictures fairly quickly and found the first blank page staring
back at me. Had Wufei gotten lost on the way to the kitchen? I found my
fingers fiddling with my box of pencils as I waited and finally gave in
to the notion to pull one out.
I was taken with the urge to sketch Wufei, as he had looked right after
he had pulled the tie from his hair and shaken it loose. I closed my eyes
to better see the image in my head, but only saw the dead Captain of the
Londonderry. I shivered and just started to sketch.
Wufei came back after a bit and handed me an open drink. I took it and
sipped without really looking up at him. I was vaguely aware that he stretched
out on the bed beside me and was watching. I was lost in the soothing
flow of pencil over paper, I was totally unfocused and found myself relaxing
into the task. Some part of my brain wondered why Wufei didn't object
to my drawing him, but he just lay beside me, propped up on one elbow
and sipped at his drink, still as some inanimate object. Oddly, his gaze
didn't make me feel uncomfortable. I was pulled into that heart-beat rhythm
of artistic flow that links something in my head directly to the paper
without seeming to involve any part of my conscious mind. It's just line
and form, light and shadow.
When my fingers stilled and I blinked down into my lap, it wasn't Wufei's
face looking back at me... it was Solo's. That ironic, asshole grin intact
on his familiar features. That fall of blond hair spilling over his headband
and ghosting across his eyes. Those blue-gray eyes with their hunter's
gleam... the eyes of our protector.
'Nice digs, rat-boy,' echoed in my ears. 'Ya done pretty well
I imagine my face did something very strange. I choked down a sob because
I wasn't about to let that fucking get started again. I just stared
"Who is he?" Wufei dared to ask me, in a voice that belonged
in a church somewhere.
"His name... was Solo," I murmured, not looking at him where
he lay so close beside me.
He was keeping still... so very still, as though not to spook me. "Tell
me about him?"
I opened my mouth and then shut it again. It seemed... a base betrayal
to talk to him about something like this. About something that I hadn't
consciously, at least shared with Heero yet. I wondered
about that, wondered if Heero knew Solo at all. Had he touched Solo's
portrait for luck simply because he'd seen me do it, or had I talked about
that whole superstition thing? Talked about the plague, about this; the
brother of my heart whom I had lost so... painfully.
"He died in the L2 plague," I finally, grudgingly, said and
rose from the bed to put the sketchpad back on the dresser. At the last
minute, on a whim, I left the cover flipped open and propped the portrait
up where I could see it.
"Was he... family?" Wufei ventured and I sighed internally,
not letting it come out where he could hear me.
"No," I said, still standing by the dresser with my back to
'Hey!' my ghost objected.
"Yes," I waffled, staring at the portrait and wondered that
somewhere deep down inside, I could forgive myself for the massacre of
my ship... of my home.
"Which is it?" Wufei chuckled at me.
My fingers rose to straighten the pad where it leaned against the wall,
"I suppose... he was the only kind of family a street-rat can have."
'And just what the hell was wrong with the family we had?'
"Nothin'... till you up and died." I told him.
"What?" Wufei asked, his voice tinged with concern.
"Nothing," I muttered and turned back toward the bed. "Are
we going back to sleep?"
He looked at me very oddly for a moment, like he wanted to say something
more, but finally just said, "It is four in the morning."
I crawled back under the covers, turning my back on him. I could feel
him still behind me, just staring for a couple more minutes. Then there
was the sound of a sigh and he shifted around, climbing back under the
blanket and the light went out.
We were quiet for a time, but I knew he wasn't any more asleep than I
was, and I'm sure he knew I was wide-awake as well.
"Duo," he whispered after a bit. "You need to talk to someone
about these things."
"What?" I grumbled, feeling irritated. "The nightmares?
The phobias? What the hell for?"
"Sometimes it just helps..." he began.
I chuckled darkly. "You're as bad as Heero. What is the point? It's
not like I don't know what the problem is... I could probably give you
a clinical diagnosis. 'Talking about it' is not going to make the fear
go away. Talking is not going to change anything." It rather surprised
me how laced with bitter sarcasm my voice was.
I felt him shift and knew that he was propped up on that elbow again,
looking down at me. "Therapy... is not such an awful idea. It's been
known to help."
"You get your head together with Heero?" I asked sourly. "It's
not like there's some huge mystery here. I had an... accident; as a result
I am claustrophobic, isolophobic, and fucking terrified of hard vacuum.
This makes me a bad pilot. That makes the ownership of my own ship a little...
pointless. So I guess you can add depression to my other list of problems.
I don't need a damn shrink to tell me that!" I stopped when I realized
how much my voice had risen.
A hand came and stroked over my hair. "Damn it, Duo, you need to..."
"Need to what?" I snapped, pulling away from that hand that
was trying to offer comfort. "I just need to get through one day
at a damn time. It'll fade... I'll get the hell over it."
There was the sound of a frustrated sigh. "But in the mean time,
you're hurting. If it'll help to talk to someone, where's the harm? It...
it helped me."
I think I forgot to breathe for a second. I blinked into the dark and
waited to see if he would say any more. He was very still back there and
I finally whispered, "What?"
"I... had my own share of nightmares," he said gently. "After
the war was over and I found that... none of the things I had done eased
the... memory of losing my colony... my home."
I was moved to roll over and face him, looking up into the intense glitter
of his eyes in the dim light. I reached to touch his hand and he snorted
"One of these days," he smiled wryly, "I'm going to figure
out how a person like you, who has always been there for his friends,
who is always so quick to try and comfort and support... has never been
able to accept help from anybody."
I gave him a grin. "I thought we'd already established that I'm pretty
He chuckled with me for a minute and then flopped back over on his side
of the bed. I watched him lay there for a minute, captivated by how different
he looked with his hair down. I really was going to have to sketch him
one of these days.
"Wufei?" I ventured after a bit.
"It really helped?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "It did... not right away. But it did."
I gnawed on that for a little bit.
"I'll think about it," I told him.
"It would be... a start," he smiled and there was something
in his voice that spoke of... relief.
'Will you two shut the hell up, so's a guy can get some sleep?'
I chuckled, but remembered not to answer him out loud.
Good night, King-rat.
Maybe I wasn't so damn nuts after all.
[back to Sunhawk's fic]