He let me wrap myself around
him and just think about it for a few minutes. Holding his tongue while
I let myself play the scene through in my head. Guilt sat on the floor
beside us and watched me with cocked head, looking like he wasn’t going
to refrain from biting me in the ass much longer.
That was kind of an odd notion, and I had to wonder just why the damn
critter hadn’t nailed me with his usual enthusiasm. Unless, somehow I
didn’t really feel all that horrid about not taking the fall for Mickey?
I sighed heavily and swear to God guilt beast winked at me.
I felt guilty for not really feeling all that guilty for not saving
the damn, stubborn kid’s legs.
Well, wasn’t that just a kick in the head?
My brain continued to play the scene out, and I watched while I did
throw myself at Mickey. Watched as I went down under that engine block.
Watched as Heero came running into the garage with Wufei. Saw them not
able to get the thing off me. Saw myself die while Heero held my hands
and screamed for help.
I shivered hard while he held me close. ‘You see?’ he whispered softly.
‘You aren’t entirely your own person anymore... what happens to you effects
me as well.’ His voice, tight with emotion, suddenly lightened just a
touch and I could feel the slight curve to his lips as he pressed them
to the side of my neck. ‘I would have been royally pissed off if you’d
gotten yourself squished.’ Though his body belied the teasing tone as
he crushed me close... almost too close for breath.
‘I... I just reacted... I didn’t even think...’ I murmured, still just
a little confused on that count. The part where my conscious mind never
even considered what should have been my first course of action.
‘It’s natural,’ he told me gently, his hand going to smooth over my frazzled
hair. ‘I see it all the time among the agents. See how they change when
they marry or have children. They become less... reckless. Less likely
to take chances. I do it too... now. My safety has a higher price; I have
you to think about.’ I drew back to look at him and he let me.
I tried to think what to say, but couldn’t seem to work it out in my head.
He smiled lovingly at me, raising a hand to brush affectionately through
my bangs. ‘I was a little angry with you... when I saw the footage of
that bus accident.’ He said it with a tiny smile curving his lips, just
a touch self-deprecating, but I could see the hint of hurt in his eyes.
‘I... I’m sorry,’ I told him, suddenly seeing that day through his eyes.
‘I never thought...’
His smile widened and I had that feeling he can give me sometimes, like
I’ve been led down a path of his choosing. ‘Exactly,’ he pounced. ‘And
that’s the difference. That was a child... a helpless child, and you did
what you had to. That’s the higher price. Mickey just didn’t... measure
up.’ He smiled again, and leaned in to kiss me gently. ‘My gut reaction,
when I saw you throw yourself into a burning bus, was anger. That you
could endanger yourself that way, without a second thought. But then I
saw that little girl and knew that I didn’t have the right to be upset
with you... had I been in your place, I’d have done the same thing.’
And he would have. I knew that. That selflessness, or sense of duty, or
whatever the hell it is, was a large part of what made Heero who he was.
When I looked, guilt beast just seemed confused, like he didn’t know if
it was going to be worth his hanging around or not.
‘Enough of this,’ Heero said softly, brushing a kiss across my forehead.
‘How are you feeling this morning?’
‘A little sore,’ I admitted, more than happy to change the subject.
He sighed, frowning a little. ‘I don’t mean that; I mean...’ he struggled
with the wording for a second and I took pity on him.
‘I’m not feeling dizzy at all,’ I soothed. ‘A little tired maybe... that’s
I saw his faint unease at my using the word ‘tired’, but he managed to
push it aside. ‘You are not doing anything today,’ he told me firmly,
tone daring me to argue. ‘Except resting.’
I snorted and shook my head ruefully. ‘Yes, boss.’
It got me a more serious kiss and the offer of breakfast.
‘Heero,’ I told him, getting a little exasperated, ‘you don’t have to...’
He cut me off with a determined, ‘Yes, I do,’ in the voice that I know
there’s just no arguing with.
We were half way through a breakfast of omelets, bacon, toast and orange
juice before I figured out that he wasn’t planning on going to work either.
I don’t know why it bugs me so much when he does stuff like this, just
pokes me rather firmly in that place where I feel ashamed of myself. Makes
me feel... lame. Pathetic. Like some damn little kid that still needs
Mommy to wipe his ass after he goes to the bathroom.
Not that I actually ever remember having a mother wipe my ass, but I digress.
‘Heero,’ I sighed, picking at my carefully prepared and rather perfect
damn omelet, trying to see just what he’d put in the thing. ‘I don’t need
you to stay here all day and stare at me while I sit around doing nothing.’
‘Maybe I just want to stay here...’ he began, smiling at me faintly,
his face angled so he was looking up at me through the fall of his hair.
I sighed, rather heavily, I’m afraid and told him, ‘I’m not a child. I
His fork slammed down on the table so hard that his glass of orange juice
toppled over. He didn’t even reach to catch it, just staring across the
table at me while the juice puddled beside his plate. ‘Maybe it’s not
fucking about what you need!’ he snapped and before I’d gotten
my wide-eyed gaze pulled away from the flood of orange juice, he was out
of the room.
Guilt beast showed none of his early hesitation, teleporting back from
wherever he goes when I haven’t done anything that requires his attention,
and biting me resoundingly in the ass.
Well hell. Made me feel like I’d been pulling the wings off of butterflies
all morning. Little conflicting electrical impulses ran through my brain
while I tried to decide just what I should do. Scream? Run after him?
Sit here and wait for him to come back? Clean up the mess on the table
before it ran off onto the floor? Go the hell back to bed?
When it finally registered in my brain that I had not heard the door of
the apartment slam, I decided I would take a few minutes and clean up
the juice. That stuff is just sticky and gross as hell if you let it dry.
Besides, it would give Heero a chance to cool off. Would give me a chance
I found him standing in that place by the window where I usually ended
up when I needed to think and I went to him, wanting to slip my arms around
him, but unsure of his mood. ‘I’m sorry, Heero,’ I told him simply.
He sighed, a sound that might have escaped Atlas on a bad day, and guilt
beast happily ripped a chunk out of my ass that felt like it was the size
of a small continent. Heero turned his head to look at me over his shoulder,
the pain in his eyes making me open my arms and reach for him. He reached
in return and I couldn’t have told you later if I’d pulled or been pulled.
If I had embraced or been embraced. It didn’t seem to matter.
‘God,’ he choked out, ‘when will I ever get through all these damn defenses
The almost palpable distress in his voice made me want to weep. ‘Just...
don’t give up, ok?’ I heard myself say and it made his arms clutch me
‘Never,’ he breathed against my shoulder, voice little more than a fierce
growl. ‘Forever, remember?
Distantly, I heard Relena’s somewhat irritated voice saying, ‘He just
wants you to...need him a little bit.’
I’d never known how to tell anybody how scared I was of needing him too
much... of leaning so hard he got tired of carrying the burden.
‘Forever,’ I agreed and felt some of the tension go out of him.
We just held each other for the longest time. He seemed to forget about
breakfast, for which I was grateful because I’d already eaten more than
I’d really wanted before we’d had our... discussion.
Then, ‘Where’s your laptop?’ he asked me out of a clear blue sky.
‘In my room,’ I told him; puzzled. ‘It’s in the bag on the closet floor.’
He drew away and smiled at me. ‘Sit down... I’ll be right back.’
I decided to just go with the flow, making a conscious effort not to be
so stubborn, and sat on the couch to wait for him.
He brought it back with him, bag and all, and settled beside me on the
couch. He propped the computer across our legs and we waited in silence
while it booted up. I stole a glance at him when my wallpaper appeared,
noticing the tiny little frown. Heero is not a big fan of Sisyphus. I
made myself a mental reminder to change the background to something else.
I suppose there was no point in rubbing Heero’s nose in how I felt half
the time. My e-mail is set to come up with the system and before I quite
realized it, we were sitting there staring at an in-box with something
like thirty new messages in it. I quickly hit the close button, but Heero
spared me a look.
‘It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to check my messages,’ I muttered
defensively. But the truth was that most of them were from people I just
wasn’t sure how to talk to anymore. People from my old life. People still
on the inside of a thing I’d been ousted from. Toria and Hayden. Howard
and Kurt. Smitty. Dusty. I kept going and looking at my e-mail... and
coming away not knowing where to start.
Heero didn’t comment, though I had no doubt he’d seen the addresses in
the moment before I’d dismissed the thing from the screen. He simply pulled
up an Internet connection and typed in a web site from memory, letting
I couldn’t help the double take when I was confronted with a screen full
of carpet samples. He couldn’t help the grin at my expression.
‘I thought we might do some... planning together today,’ he offered almost
shyly, and it made me feel badly for not seeing that this could be a pleasant
day together... if we both let it.
‘That would be... fine,’ I told him and we settled in to pick out bedroom
Dear God, but there are a lot of stupid choices. I’d thought all we had
to do was decide on a color. Please excuse my naiveté. Grade and
weight. Fiber content and pile. Sculpted or not? Stain guard? It took
us an hour to narrow it down to what we wanted.
Heero shut down my laptop when we were done, turning with a warm smile
and kissing me teasingly on the end of the nose. ‘This was nice,’ he told
me softly, a hint of hesitation in his voice; feeling his way. It made
me feel kind of bad, that he was so cautious around me. Made me feel like
some kind of borderline basket case.
‘It was,’ I reassured him. ‘I’m... sorry I don’t always see the... benefits
There was a question burning in his eyes, that I knew he wasn’t going
to ask. He was too afraid of starting the argument back up. Too afraid
of spoiling the moment.
‘Because it... unnerves me to be this out of control,’ I told him, answering
what he couldn’t ask. ‘Because you and the rest of the guys make me feel
so... damn frail, and I hate feeling like I don’t measure up anymore.
It... leaves me feeling off balance, and that just kind of makes me...
There, see? I did learn a thing or two in my therapy sessions.
Dr. Webster had beat some stuff into my head. Of course, understanding
a thing and being able to do something about it, are two entirely different
He looked keenly frustrated for a second, before managing to banish the
look, and then softly told me, ‘I can not fathom how you can feel that
way when you are the damn yardstick we all measure ourselves by.’
You’ve seen my deer in headlights routine before, right? I don’t really
need to describe it again?
Something came out of my mouth then, I had meant to say ‘what?’ but it
might have come out ‘nani?’ or it might have come out ‘fuck?’, I’m not
really sure, and honestly, I don’t know that he even heard me. He suddenly
had that look on his face that told me he was going to tell me something
he thought I should know, but he knew was going to make me squirm. It’s
a rather jaw-clenched, determined look.
‘You are the strongest, most stubborn man I have ever met,’ he told me,
voice kind of rough. ‘That you lived through that accident was a damn
miracle. That you fought your way back to where you are now is nothing
short of awe-inspiring. You are not frail. You are not weak. What you
have managed, has earned you the highest respect from every one of us.
You have nothing to be embarrassed about.’
His eyes were glittering brightly, his gaze boring into mine, willing
me to feel the love and pride he seemed to hold for me. I wondered idly
if he’d be able to get the couch put out when I spontaneously combusted.
‘So...’ I squeaked out. ‘Were we going to... uhmmm... order that carpet
His breath blew out in an explosion of near exasperation and he pulled
me toward him, burying his face in my hair. ‘God, but you’re impossible,’
he chuckled, but I felt him abandoning the discussion.
‘I’ve been told that before,’ I muttered.
‘I’m sure you have, love,’ he whispered in my ear, and it seemed he was
going to leave his aggravation with me behind in favor of amusement. ‘I’m
sure you have.’
‘About the carpet?’ I persisted, wanting safer conversational ground firmly
under my feet.
He drew back to give me a rueful little smile and said, ‘To be honest,
I had planned on trying to sneak out this afternoon to make the arrangements
and surprise you with it.’
I couldn’t help grinning at him; it was such a non-Heero thing to do.
‘And just how were you planning on doing this sneaking?’ I teased.
He looked a little sheepish, and a little expectant all at once. ‘I was
kind of hoping you’d be taking a nap sometime today.’
I snorted and just shook my head. Good God... I hadn’t taken an afternoon
nap in ages.
Eventually we agreed that I would pretend to take a nap, he would pretend
to sneak out, and later I could pretend to be surprised. He left the apartment
chuckling, and though I could see it in his eyes, he managed to keep from
telling me to take it easy while he was gone.
Once I wasn’t able to hear his footsteps on the stairs anymore, I went
and cleaned up the breakfast mess, knowing full-well that he’d be irritated,
but not willing to resort to being a complete slacker. It’s just not in
Then I decided that it was more than time for me to deal with the nightmare
that was my in-box. It was a task I really needed to get to, and sitting
on the couch with my laptop was not something that could possibly be construed
as ‘taxing myself’.
I fetched a bottle of soda with me, just for perversity’s sake, and took
the time to queue up some music despite the total lack of sound quality
on a laptop’s speakers. The two things combined would have been soothing
if not for the sheer daunting factor of the task ahead of me. I made myself
start with the oldest message in the box, slogging forward one at a time,
not allowing myself to skip to the next message until the current one
had been dealt with.
There was a message several weeks old from Toria. Mostly just one of her
not-so-subtle pokes to make sure I was still alive. I knew I had several
more messages from her waiting, so I just deleted it.
The one from Dusty was a query, wondering if I would be coming for Christmas
dinner again this year. I was almost shocked to make myself think about
it, and realize that the darn holiday was actually coming around again.
It wasn’t something I’d ever celebrated myself, but Dusty’s wife hadn’t
liked the idea of me sitting in my ship alone on Christmas day and had
gotten Dusty to ask me over for dinner the last two years. I’d never stayed
for more than the meal, not wanting to intrude on their family traditions,
but I’d always appreciated the gesture. I politely declined, hinting to
Dusty that he could let his wife know that I wasn’t all alone anymore,
but not elaborating more than that. I made a mental note to send something
over to Dusty’s boy for Christmas. I’d never gone to dinner without bringing
the kid something. He was the guy who had hooked me up with my original
co-pilot, after all.
I hit another one of Toria’s messages, another unrestrained attempt to
force me to reply, threatening to come to Earth to make sure the Heero
didn’t have me held captive somewhere. I passed over that one as well,
knowing I had at least two more.
There was a smattering of idle messages from some of the Sweepers, a couple
simple forwards of jokes and the usual e-mail junk that friends pass among
themselves. It reminded me of a day when I’d probably forwarded just as
much crap around that group as they had forwarded to me. And though I
read every one, replying to the ones that actually had personal messages,
I deleted my way through those pretty quickly.
The one from Smitty took me a moment to decipher; he’d obviously been
pretty excited when he wrote it. Back when I’d first met the Musketeers,
they’d had this silly little garage band thing going on. McMurphy had
even let them play at his place once, though just once, mind you. They
had scraped together the cash to cut a single CD, had managed to sell
a grand total of twenty copies, mostly to their relatives, and called
it quits. And yes, I owned a copy, I couldn’t have told you where the
damn thing was, but I’d done my part and bought one. Hell, I’d even written
some lyrics for them a couple of times. Their playing wasn’t bad... but
the poor guys couldn’t have rhymed the word isolation if their lives had
depended on it. According to Smitty’s message, one of those CDs had somehow
made its way around to some real life musician and the guy wanted to cut
a couple of their songs or something.
I replied and told him I was happy for them and moved on, delighted to
find that I was well over half-way through the pile of messages. If some
of my answers were a little terse, at least they were answers.
There was one from Howard, one of his typical newsy updates. He doesn’t
usually require a reply, but I felt bad about not staying in touch and
so made the effort to update him right back. I knew he’d be pleased.
Then I finally hit the last one from Toria.
Hey there, out-of-touch
asshole-boy. Hope you’re not dead. It would really suck if we missed the
funeral. Course, I don’t really know what else to think since somebody
has totally dropped off the face of the universe and is refusing to respond
to people who used to be his best friends. But then... maybe you just
have the black plague or something. I’ll give you the benefit and all
that, but if you don’t answer this message, we’re coming to Earth and
we’re going to beat the living shit out of that Yuy guy because he’s obviously
got you locked away from all forms of communication somewhere. Why else
would you not reply to us?
We can do that now. Come to Earth. Because we have a ship. I’ve attached
a picture, if you flaming well even care. We named her ‘Buddy’s Gift’
you fucking asshole... though I’m starting to be sorry for that. And you
know... I’m damn well going to change it if you don’t freaking answer
me this time, because in a more sober state of mind, it’s kind of a dorky
sounding name anyway.
I’d ask you to come paint my babies again, but I figure I’ll be doing
good just to get an e-mail from you. Anything would be fine; just a note
that says ‘not dead’ or something, ok?
We love you, buddy-boy. Please let us know you’re all right.
Fuck, I was damn near bawling
by the time I was done with that one, guilt beast wrapped around one ankle
and the screen blurring in front of my eyes. And just to add a certain
poignancy to the moment, my God damn music choose that message to get
around to ‘Wanderlust’ and before I knew it, I was crying, and
fervently wishing I’d left this chore for another day. Maybe another week
‘For the fever’s upon me, my Captain is callin’. I cannot stay with
thee, my destiny’s callin’. I’ll never be free, but I’ll do what I must,
I can’t give up my wanderlust with thee...’ 
And that was the moment that the knock came on the door.
I’m fairly damn certain that somewhere up there in deity land, there is
some cranky little guy whose sole purpose in life is to make sure I have
moments like these.
I ditched the laptop and scrubbed furiously at my eyes, wondering who
in the hell it could be in the middle of the afternoon.
And that was when I realized that it wasn’t afternoon anymore.
I couldn’t believe how many hours dealing with that backlog of e-mail
had taken. Then I wondered what in the hell was taking Heero so long.
I hoped that my face wouldn’t betray me and went to get the door. My heart
fairly leaped up into my throat when I checked the peephole and found
Trowa and Quatre standing there. Heero’s absence, coupled with the memory
of the last time those two had come to find me when Heero hadn’t been
around, and I about had a heart attack. I flung the door open and blurted,
‘What’s wrong?’ before I had a chance to think about it.
It was Trowa’s light chuckle that brought me back to reality. ‘Hello to
you too, Duo,’ he said, eyes laughing at me.
‘Uh...’ I muttered sheepishly. ‘Hi guys... come on in.’
I stepped aside and ducked my head a little. If they’d noticed anything
odd about my face, they didn’t speak of it.
‘I take it Heero’s not home?’ Trowa asked as they stepped into the apartment,
shedding coats as they came, letting me know they were planning on being
there for more than a couple of minutes.
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's