by: Sunhawk

Deceptions (cont)

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 the wall.

"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 accept that.

"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 the floor.

"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 out again.

"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 dream.

"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 completely overloaded.

"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 damn nightmares."

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 air tanks."

I closed my eyes, but only saw drifting corpses, so I blinked them open again.

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 fer yourself.'

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 at him.

"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 him.

'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 softly.

"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 screwed up."

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.

"Yes?"

"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.

~end

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