Guardian Spirits (cont)

‘Duo… love,’ he was suddenly hesitant, almost timid. ‘Did you mean what you said?’

I was confused, thinking back, trying to figure out what he was talking about. ‘When?’

‘About… sleeping with me?’

‘Yes...’ I told him, and it was surprisingly difficult to get it out. ‘I don’t want to be out here by myself. I… want to sleep… next to you.’

Something strangely like fear flickered through his eyes and I was immediately sorry I had brought it up.

‘I’m… I’m so afraid I’ll hurt you,’ he suddenly blurted and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud as relief swept through me. I had to shut my eyes.

‘Duo? What’s wrong?’ His voice sounded distressed.

‘I thought…’ I started to tell him, then realized how it would make him feel and clamped down on it, just shutting up.

‘You thought what?’ he prompted when I left the sentence unfinished.

‘Never mind,’ I smiled and reached to brush my fingers across his cheek. ‘It’s not important now.’

‘It is important,’ he said firmly and I tried to look away, kicking myself for the lapse. He gently put his hands on either side of my face and forced me to look up at him. His eyes searched mine long and hard and I suddenly felt like I was as transparent as a piece of crystal. It was a strange feeling; yesterday I think I could have grown tentacles and turned green and he wouldn’t have noticed. Today I didn’t feel like I could even hide my damn thoughts.

His face crumbled as I blushed beneath his gaze. ‘Oh Gods, Duo. You thought… you thought I didn’t want you.’

The echo of those feelings reverberated through my heart and I started to cry. I couldn’t stop it; the tears just starting coming. I wanted to hide, but he wouldn’t let me even turn my face away. I hate crying. I hate myself for not being able to stop once it gets started. I hate the way it makes me feel. I could see, now that I was climbing out of the dark pit I had been in and looking back, that those feelings were false, hollow things bred of the pain and the drugs and the confusion. But it didn’t diminish how much I had hurt. It didn’t change how lost and alone I had felt. And so… I cried.

His face was so… stricken. It just added to my long list of hurts. I had put that look on his face because I couldn’t fucking keep my emotions in check.

‘Oh… baby, no,’ he breathed, and eased down until he could slip his arms around my shoulders. I wrapped my right arm around his neck and managed to force my left one far enough to at least rest on his waist. So much less than I needed. Almost more than my body could bear.

I sobbed brokenly against his shoulder and did my damnedest to wrestle it down. Where the hell did all the tears keep coming from? Wasn’t there an end to them somewhere? Hadn’t I used my allotment for the whole Gods damned year? The hitching gasp of my breath was sending tearing pains through my torso, compounding my inability to concentrate and control it. All I could do was cling to Heero and ride it out.

For his part, he hung on to me as tight as he dared, his arms carefully high on my shoulders to avoid all the places he couldn’t touch. His hand gently stroking over my hair.

‘I’m sorry, Duo. So damned sorry…’ he murmured close to my ear, his voice a throaty rumble of twisted emotion. ‘I love you so very much… there aren’t words to tell you what you mean to me. Of course I want you. I will always want you… I could sooner live without air than live without you…’

Where did he learn to weave these spells with that magic voice of his? I think sometimes he could read me an unabridged dictionary and calm my heart; just as long as I could hear his voice. He talked me down from it, despite the spiraling pain growing in my chest, and at length I was able to push it aside enough to speak to him again.

‘I… I’m sorry, Heero,’ I was completely mortified, wanted nothing so much as to take back the last ten minutes. ‘The damned drugs do this to me; you know that.’

‘I do know that,’ he agreed softly. ‘And I should have been here for you.’

He eased his embrace and drew back to look me in the eye for a moment before leaning in to kiss me. Like he meant it.

He pulled away after a moment and looked down at me with a concerned frown. ‘You’re trembling.’

I quirked a tired half smile. ‘I apparently have the energy reserves of a piss-ant.’

He stroked my hair out of my eyes and lovingly wiped the tears from my cheeks with his fingers. ‘Rest, little one.’

I did feel like I could sleep some more, though it was starting to make me crazy, this constant dozing. ‘Do you think…’ I ventured, ‘that you could help me with my hair?’

He smiled tenderly. ‘How about you take a nap while I go get a much needed shower. When I get out, we’ll brush and braid your hair and then… go to bed.’

I felt like crowing, but only smiled and nodded. He gave me another kiss and went off to the bathroom. I could tell from the sounds that he left the door open.

I hurt too much to really manage to nap; I just drifted on the edges of sleep, listening to the sound of the running water and thinking about the day.

Heero came back after a little bit, and finding me awake, set to brushing my hair. He pulled the pillow out from under my head, and worked me up so that my hair trailed off the head of the bed. He was able to brush out most of the tangles without my having to endure the strain of sitting up. When he doesn’t need to be sedated, he’s terribly thoughtful.

Once it was brushed, we had no choice but to get me up in order to braid it. There was just no good way to move with that kind of wound and in the end, Heero went and got one of the kitchen chairs for me to sit on while he fixed my hair. It was such a relief to get it out of my face.

I insisted I be allowed to use the bathroom since we were up and moving anyway, instead of having to use the damned bedpan again. Heero seemed a little relieved, and I almost chuckled at him.

Then it was time for bed and I found myself feeling hesitant about it.

‘Heero… are you sure this is all right with you?’

He frowned at me even as he was easing me down on the side of the bed. ‘Duo, you do not need my permission to sleep in your own bed.’

I stopped him with a look. ‘Yes. I do.’

He blinked at me, caught between surprise and… pain. I was sorry for that, but this was important to me. Somehow over the last three days this had become… Heero’s bed. It didn’t feel like our bed anymore.

He knelt in front of me and took my hands. ‘I have wanted you back with me since that moment you first didn’t answer your damned cell phone. Had it been physically possible you would have slept on my chest from that first night in the hospital. I want you here. Have always wanted you here. Always will want you here. I just do not, above all things, want to hurt you. You’ve hurt enough.’

It was my turn to blink. Then I smiled softly. ‘Let’s go to bed.’

He just grunted and helped me get undressed, easing me down and tucking the quilts in around me.

It felt wonderful. Our bed, under our quilt, with Heero about to stretch out beside me, warm and within reach. Perfect…except for one little thing.

‘Heero…’ I felt utterly ridiculous asking, after the fuss I had made about it, but I hurt way too bad to ever get to sleep without it. ‘I… need my pain medicine.’

I had caught him by surprise again, and he looked at me hard, understanding how bad things had to be to force me to ask. ‘Of course, love.’ And he had the pills and a glass of water in my hands in a matter of minutes.

He put the bottle of pills and the water close by on my bedside table, turned out the lights and slid cautiously in beside me.

I normally go to sleep with my head pillowed in the hollow of his shoulder, my arm around his waist, my leg twined with his. You can’t sleep like that all night, or at least we can’t, and we’ll roll apart after we’ve fallen asleep. But it’s become such a habit to start out that way, with his arm curled around me warm and protective, that I have trouble going to sleep without it. I think he does too. It was worse this way; so close to normal but so impossible to achieve that comforting position.

After an awkward moment, he turned toward me, wrapping his arm around my head and pulling his legs up so I could lay my arm in the curl of his body. His fingers gently stroked up and down my shoulder.

‘Duo… how bad is it, love?’ His voice was tinged with disquiet.

‘Heero… don’t,’ I sighed and turned my head, resting our foreheads together.

I couldn’t tell him how much it bothered me, my giving in to the pain like this. Whenever I had to deal with injuries, I couldn’t help compare myself with Heero. I would always remember the sight of him setting his own broken leg after that disastrous brush with captivity way back when we had first met. If someone had told me that day that I would end up falling in love with Heero Yuy, I would have laughed out loud. Hell, let’s be honest; he had scared the crap out of me. I had been in awe, and was left feeling more than a little freaked out by our encounter. And more than a little inadequate.

‘Stop it,’ he said into the silence that followed. ‘We are not in the middle of a damned war. We are not hiding out in fear for our lives. We do not have to make do and scrape by.’

I flushed and looked away. Was he a bloody mind reader tonight? ‘But you don’t need to torture yourself with things you can’t do anything about, either.’

He gave me a soft growl. ‘Damnit, Duo! You’re still doing it. Let me in… you’re still hiding things from me.’

I turned back and raised an eyebrow. ‘Me? What about you? I haven’t heard word one from you about nightmares or sleeping or anything else.’

That stopped him cold and it was his turn to look away and flush.

‘Touché pushé cat.’ I intoned in my best French accent. I could tell he didn’t get it; he never gets my cartoon imitations. I watched him squirm a little bit, and then decided I might be able to draw him out a little if I gave in first.

‘Yes, it hurts, Heero.’ I turned my head to look up at the ceiling and I felt him turn back to watch me. ‘It hurts like flaming hell. The leg aches constantly; the cast is hot and it itches. It hurts to breath. It hurts to do anything that uses my back muscles or my chest muscles. My back is on fire most of the time; those damned puncture wounds burn.’ I looked back at him. ‘But there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just going to take time to heal.’

He sat up and pushed the covers back, ‘We need to get you over on your stomach,’ he said gently and I just sighed and let him help me roll over. When I was settled, he pulled the quilt up to my waist again, but then instead of lying back down I felt him fold his legs and sit beside me.

‘Stop me if it hurts,’ he said softly and began to gently massage my shoulders. The relief was almost instantaneous and it shocked a low moan out of me. Heero chuckled softly. ‘Nothing I can do, huh?’

There wasn’t a lot he could touch, really; my shoulders, my hips and a place in the center of the small of my back. It didn’t matter; he reduced me to a whimpering puddle of goo in a matter of minutes. His hands are strong and firm and he exerts just the right amount of pressure in just the right places. Between his gentle ministrations and the pain pills, I was floating on the fuzzy edge of sleep before I could believe it. I was too far gone to care by the time I realized he had never gotten around to telling me about the bad dreams. The last thing I remember was the feel of him pulling the quilt up, kissing my temple, and whispering, ‘good night, my heart.’

I think he slept a little longer than he had been. My doing? Maybe. I like to think so; that my presence could soothe him the way his reassured me. I don’t know.

I woke with a start, not sure why, but with a sudden sense that something was wrong. The clock is on Heero’s side of the bed, and I actually turned that way to check it. I forgot about the time when my eyes found Heero sitting up in the middle of the bed, his hands clamped over his own mouth. As I focused on him, I became aware of the vibration I could feel through the mattress, caused by his shaking.

‘Heero,’ I called him softly, just letting him know I was there, letting him know there wasn’t any point in trying to hide from me, that I was awake. He didn’t move, and I forced my body over, ignoring the pain that shot up my leg. I knew when he didn’t react to my movements that he was in bad shape. On my back, it put him on my stronger right side and I was able to take hold of his arm and pull him towards me. He wouldn’t fight me for fear of hurting, and he let me draw him down. I was able to get his head pillowed on my shoulder without too much pain and just held him as best I could with one arm.

‘I’m here, love. I’m all right. You got me through… it’s over now… it’s all over and done. I’m all right…’

He was shaking and his skin felt cold and slick. But he didn’t speak, didn’t take his hands away from his face. His muscles felt like braided steel under my hand.

‘Heero. Come on, Heero. It’s all ok now… I’m right here with you… I’m not going anywhere…’

Still he didn’t respond, lying silent and tense in the curl of my arm. I forced my left hand across my chest and managed to catch hold of one of his hands. Linked, our hands fell back against my abdomen; I didn’t have the strength in that arm to hold it up. I tried to put myself in his place, tried to think what it had been like over the last few weeks, tried to imagine what he had gone through.

‘Heero, you couldn’t have gotten down those stairs. Quatre almost didn’t make it. You did the right thing letting Roger and his men do their jobs.’ There was a subtle change in the air, a something that told me I was on the right track. ‘I know it was hard. I know you wanted to come and get me. But, damnit; I knew you were there. I heard your voice calling me, you came for me; it made all the difference in the world.’

I didn’t know I’d finally broken through until the first of the silent tears began to cool on my shoulder.

‘You have to know that you’re all that got me through, right? You didn’t fail me. You were there for me every step of the way. And I know that.’

‘I almost lost you…’ he whispered, so softly I almost didn’t hear it. ‘Through the war… through everything we’ve gone through… I’ve never come so close…’

‘Shhhhh… It doesn’t matter now. Everything’s all right.’

His shaking was getting worse, and I held on tight, wishing I had the strength to rock him.

‘I couldn’t get to you. You needed me and I couldn’t get to you. I’ve never felt so damned helpless…’ His voice was unsteady and choked. I had trouble making out what he was saying.

‘You were there, Heero,’ I told him firmly. ‘You were right there with me the whole damn time.’

‘You… you were… dying… I could see it…. I…’ A sob bubbled up and he stopped talking.

‘But you called me back.’ I didn’t bother denying the truth of it. ‘When I didn’t have the strength to hold on anymore, you gave me yours.’

‘I wasn’t able to do a Gods damned thing!’ he wailed. ‘I couldn’t help you, I couldn’t get to you… I couldn’t…’ He finally broke completely and began to sob into my shoulder.

‘Fucking hell!’ I barked at him. ‘I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you! You gave me an anchor; you gave me something to hold on for! Damnit, Heero, your voice was all that kept me from giving up! I couldn’t answer you; but by the Gods I heard you… every step of the way… you were right there with me. You wouldn’t let me quit.’

We were passed words then, he cried it out… at long last and I just held on to him. I could only hope that this would help him; would purge some of the guilt from his system and let him move on. Before long, I was trembling right along with him and that, I think, was what finally brought him back to himself.

He doesn’t break down like this very often. I think I could count the times on the fingers of one hand. I also think that every single time could be directly attributed to something happening to me. He gets through what has to be gotten through, and then later when all is said and done, it’ll overtake him. It’s harsh and swift, hits him like a striking falcon. Takes him to his knees and just as quickly as it comes…it’s over.

That’s how it was this time. He let me hold him while he wept through his pain and then he was pushing it aside, suddenly worried that he was hurting me. He wouldn’t speak of it…would act as though it had never happened. I wish I knew how he did it.

I let him fuss over me, let him give me another dose of medicine because it had been long enough, and I was hurting pretty badly by then. Let him ease me back over, to get off the wounds. Let him tuck the quilts back around me. But then he surprised me, stretching out beside me and easing in for a kiss. And not one of those gentle, feather soft kisses that I had been getting. This one involved teeth and tongue and tasted of the salt of tears. It left me aching and panting.

He groaned softly next to my ear, ‘It’s going to be a long damned six weeks.’

Sex. The memory of it was… sweet. The thought of trying it was… horrifying. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I must have done my deer in headlights imitation again, because he laughed at me.

‘Idiot.’ he told me fondly. ‘Go to sleep.’

‘I will, if you will,’ I murmured back.

His smile turned warm. ‘I… I think I… just might be able to.’

We fell back asleep with our fingers entwined.


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