Guardian Spirits (cont)

+

He slept for a long time; I was a little surprised how much the simple act of coming home had taken out of him. Gods; he had such a long road ahead of him. I wanted to ease his way down it as best I could, but I truly wasn’t sure how. He was hurting in a way I didn’t understand, on some level I couldn’t seem to reach. That cast wasn’t coming off for some time yet, and even after it did, there was going to be therapy. I knew he was worried about missing work, knew he was worried about me missing work. I could not have cared less. He was my first and only priority right now. He needed me and I meant to be there for him every step of the way. But… somewhere along the lines in the last week, something had risen up between us; some strange barrier that made some of the silences less of a companionable thing and more of a…tension.

All I could do was go on taking care of him the best that I knew how and just hope that things worked themselves out when it was all over.

I was so tired; achingly tired. Sleep was something that seemed to be denied me right now. But it was important that I keep things focused on Duo. I could rest when Duo was better. Right now, he needed me… needed me to be strong. Succumbing to these nightmares was not being strong. They didn’t fit the mission parameters, so I would just have to ignore them. Work around them. They were of no importance. When he finally woke, I went and heated up one of Quatre’s dinners and we ate. We made small talk. We hovered around each other like two strangers. I didn’t know what to do. And still ahead of me was bedtime and the gnawing fear that I would have another of those screaming nightmares and Duo would find out. The last thing in the world he needed was to start worrying about me. He had more than enough on his plate without adding that.

I left him the remote to the television, and went to do up the dishes. When I came back, he was laying there staring up at the ceiling, the control still lying unused in his slack fingers. I sighed, wishing, not for the first time, that I could read his mind.

‘What’s wrong, Duo?’ I went and perched carefully on the side of his bed and took his hand.

His eyes left the ceiling and met mine. ‘I might ask the same question of you, love,’ he said softly and I shivered.

‘I’m fine,’ I reassured him, gently rubbing my thumb across those ages old surgery scars. ‘Just worried about you is all.’

There was that odd pain flitting through his eyes again, and I stopped rubbing, afraid I had hurt him somehow.

‘Heero…’ he began, and for a moment I saw something in his face that spoke of some deep, unanswered need. It was gone in a moment, before I could fully understand it.

‘Duo… love,’ I reached for that need with trembling words. ‘Tell me what you want?’ But it wasn’t enough; the barrier was there again.

‘I’m… fine, Heero,’ he echoed back to me, and I was left floundering, falling back on familiar ritual. I helped him use the urinal and took it to the bathroom to empty and rinse it out. Got a glass of water and watched to make sure he took his pain medicine. Found an extra blanket to tuck in around him. All too soon we were left staring at each other, and I had no idea in the world what in the hell to say. Words were so difficult; my thoughts flitted around in my head like tiny, drunken grasshoppers.

He reached out tentatively and tugged on my sleeve, a sad little smile playing about his lips. ‘I love you?’ he said softly and it shocked me to hear the question in it. I sat back down with him.

‘Of course. I love you too,’ I told him gently and stroked my fingers along his jaw to bring his face up to mine. I kissed him lovingly, chastely. The last damned thing he needed to deal with right now was my desire for him. I would not have him feeling guilty for not being able to answer my cravings. I felt like such an absolute jerk for even thinking about it. What kind of a sick son of a bitch was I, that I could sit here on the edge of his damned hospital bed not two weeks after he had almost fucking died and feel desire for him? I shivered. I would not, for all the heavens and earth, bring that kind of pressure to bear on him.

I tried again to reach out to whatever it was he was hiding from me. ‘Duo, please tell me what’s wrong? I want to help.’

He smiled sadly at me. ‘I’m ok, Heero,’ he reassured. ‘The drugs are just making me feel… weird.’

So we lied to each other a few more times. I told him nothing was wrong. He told me nothing was bothering him. I’m pretty sure that neither of us believed the other one, but we somehow couldn’t seem to get passed it. Neither of us willing to give in and admit the things we weren’t talking about. At length, we said our goodnights, and I went off to bed.

+

After Heero went to bed that first night, I just lay there and felt sorry for myself for a while. I felt utterly and completely abandoned; totally alone. I might as well have still been at the bottom of those blasted stairs. So far, the only really good thing I could say about coming home was being able to turn the damn lights off at night.

I had feigned drowsiness there at the end, to get him to go on to bed so we could stop staring at each other. He was keeping something from me, and I had the feeling it was something important. But I couldn’t get passed that guarded expression to even begin to figure out what was going on in his head. He seemed so distant… almost apathetic.

And now, to add insult to injury, my damned, personal, internal imp was trying to convince me that Heero was repulsed by my body. He had been rubbing my hand earlier, massaging those old scars the way he used to. Habit was making his fingers rub firmly, a little more like his normal touch instead of those ridiculous feather brushes of his fingertips. But all of a sudden, he had shivered and pulled away from me. Maybe… maybe I had finally done more to myself than he could deal with? When you thought about it, I was nothing but a mass of scar tissue; was it so bad now that he found me… repellent? Was that what this was all about? Why I wasn’t in our bed, but abandoned out here to the living room? Because he didn’t want me there?

I knew Heero better than that. I knew it was just to make things easier in the short term and that eventually I would be well enough that things would return to normal. But at three in the morning, alone in the dark, with nothing to hold onto but a stupid little plushy… the voice of that little imp could be damned persuasive. I reached for my cell phone three different times.

I thought I heard something from the bedroom in there somewhere, and waited, hoping that Heero was going to come out, but it just got quiet again and eventually I fell back asleep.

+

I had been right to fear that the nightmares weren’t gone. I might have known that just his being here wasn’t going to be enough to drive them away. Especially with him out there in the Gods damned living room.

I was at least able to keep from screaming. Having the damned thing every night, night after night, had given me that much. I woke, shaking and panting, sitting up in bed. I froze in fear, and it seemed I could hear Duo shifting restlessly in the other room. I wanted to go out and check on him, but I wouldn’t have been able to hide the trembling. I’m pretty sure I would have pulled him into my arms without much thought to his injuries if I had gotten within three feet of him anyway. Best I just stay where I was. So I lay back down and tried to slow the terrified pounding of my heart, laying awake the rest of the night. Again.

+

You thought I was a wimp the first night? Should have been there the second night when Heero went to bed and… shut the bedroom door.

Some of it was the drugs, ok? Laugh if you want to…but I really do not react well to painkillers and anesthesia. And a large part was just the fact that I was pretty much stuck in bed twenty-four hours a day and had nothing to do but think. I have a very vivid, over-active imagination, understand? Besides that, anybody who has ever been hurt/injured/majorly sick will tell you that the small hours of the morning are the absolute worst. Things that would not give you a second thought in the bright light of day can bring you to your knees at two or three in the morning.

The sound of that door quietly clicking shut brought me to me knees, ok? Crashing to my knees. I was absolutely confused and hurt beyond words. The voice of that imp was louder than ever and starting to make perfect sense. I am totally and completely ashamed to have to admit that not only did I pick that stupid cell phone up a half dozen times, but I actually went through with dialing Wufei’s number. I cut it off before it had a chance to ring though, and ended up clutching my little panther to my face and sobbing into its fur for the better part of the night. Managing to only doze fitfully in those ghostly hours right before dawn.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was the feel of strong arms tight around me, strangely not hurting at all, though they should have. I turned almost feverishly to return the embrace, desperate just for human contact, needing some reassurance. Expecting to find Heero in my bed.

‘It’s all right, Duo,’ Wufei’s voice was soft and low. ‘I told you I’d be here if you needed me.’

‘Fei?’ My voice was unsteady even in my own ears, and though he had surprised me, I suddenly just didn’t care. I brought my arms up to return the hug, amazed that my left arm went up around his neck. ‘What have I done, ‘Fei? What have I done wrong?’

He pulled me against his shoulder and stroked my loose hair; I didn’t even remember it coming down. ‘You’ve done nothing, little spirit. It’s not your fault.’

‘Gods; am I so repulsive? Am I that awful?’ I was crying again, but he took it in stride and if anything pulled me closer.

‘Never,’ he said fiercely, his fingers stroking through my hair. ‘You are as bright and beautiful as you have ever been. Yuy is just being an ass.’

‘Then why the hell won’t he touch me?’ I wailed, utterly shocked that I had actually said that out loud to Chang Wufei of all people. ‘Why won’t he let me back into my own damn bed?’ I sounded pathetic and unreasonable even to myself, but now that he had gotten me started, I couldn’t seem to get stopped. ‘He shut me out, ‘Fei. He…’

‘Shhh… it doesn’t matter,’ he soothed, his fingers caressing my cheek, wiping away the tears. ‘I’m here now, my bright little spirit, and I will touch you. I will give you everything you need.’

Before I quite realized what was happening, he was pulling my face up to meet his, and kissing me. It was so different from kissing Heero; his lips were cool at first, probably from just coming in from outside. He was a little more… forceful. He didn’t wait for me to make the offer of parted lips the way Heero did. His tongue darted out to lick and play along my lower lip, asking for entrance. I gave it to him. Hell… I would haven given him just about anything in that moment. I was so tangled up with need and frustration, lost in a dark world of betrayal and pain. He tasted of… almonds? Nutmeg? I couldn’t quite place it.

His hand was teasing its way up under my t-shirt, tracing my ribs and stroking my stomach. I cringed; this should be hurting… why wasn’t this hurting?

My eyes flew open wide and I found myself sitting up in the middle of the bed completely alone, my chest and back screaming at me for the sudden movement.

What the fuck! What in the holy ass seven hells had that been all about?

I fell back, not sure whether to laugh or cry. I did not let myself fall back asleep again that night.

+

I was getting tired. So damned tired. That second night, I shut the bedroom door to make sure I didn’t disturb Duo again. He didn’t seem to be sleeping well either and he didn’t need me interrupting what little rest he could get.

I was eternally grateful to Quatre for all the preparation he had done for me. His precooked meals were an absolute Gods send. I wouldn’t have to do laundry for days yet, and was constantly finding other little things he had thought of. Like a six-pack of Duo’s soda in the bottom of the refrigerator. I guiltily drank one that third day, just to help myself get through. The caffeine gave me a little jolt that got me over the hump and into the afternoon. My focus, my mission, had become just to be here with Duo.

I spent most of the day sitting on the couch, watching him sleep, dozing sometimes myself. I hadn’t had one of those thrice-damned nightmares during the day yet, but the possibility made me uneasy and I didn’t let myself slip into a deep sleep.

He looked… broken. So frail… so battered. In his sleep, he clutched that stupid little stuffed animal to his cheek. I felt like he was slipping away from me somehow. I couldn’t think what to do. It seemed I should be doing something.

+

That third day was a living nightmare. I couldn’t wipe that stupid dream out of my head, and every time I thought about it, I felt like I was going to die of embarrassment. In the light of day, I could rationalize it; I could see that it was just my frustration mixed in with the memory of that night Wufei had held me while I cried in the hospital. But for a few heart-stopping moments… it had seemed damn real. And I cringed thinking about how easily my dream self had given in to the kisses of another. I’ve had some weird dreams in my lifetime; try eating some summer sausage and jalapeno cheese right before bedtime and see what happens. But none of them had ever involved Chang Wufei before.

I spent most of the day either napping, or pretending to nap, running away from the whole damned mess in the only way open to me right at that point. Whenever I opened my eyes, Heero was right there, near at hand, catnapping on the couch. Maybe he was running away too.

I couldn’t bring myself to ask him for anything. It had gone past just the issue of his touch. If I had to ask him to touch me, to hold me, to let me come back to the bedroom… then I would never know if he only did it because I asked. I knew damned well that if I made an issue out of it, he would do whatever I wanted and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to tell if I… truly did repulse him or not.

But beyond that, I suddenly found I couldn’t ask for anything. He dozed off around noon, and I was starving, but I couldn’t force myself to call him. I wanted my hair washed, it felt positively gross, but it was such a monstrous chore I didn’t want to bother him with it. I needed to roll over and get off my back for a while; the puncture wounds were killing me. But if I didn’t have help getting the broken leg turned, the pain about undid me. I was thirsty, but the water in the pitcher by the bed needed to be changed and tasted brackish.

I’m not real sure how I had gotten to the dark place I was in, but by afternoon I had been reduced to hanging on to my soggy little panther and just trying to get quietly through one hour at a time.

The guys showed up around five thirty. They must have come as soon as Wufei got off work. They hadn’t been back since the day I had come home. They had called a couple of times, but I had felt odd about asking them to come over, and Heero had insisted whenever they asked, that things were ‘just fine’.

Heero woke when the knock came on the door, and staggered to it, dragging his fingers through his hair and yawning hugely.

They came into the apartment like a ray of blessed sunshine. But there was no laughter, no jokes; Wufei looked concerned even as the door was opening. Then they stepped in and his eyes widened in some small amount of shock. Gods only knew what he was seeing; I could only guess what I looked like, but I knew how faded and worn Heero looked.

‘What the hell is going on here?’ he blurted almost immediately.

Heero just looked confused; tired and blurry and confused. ‘What…?’ he muttered, but Wufei was already coming passed him toward me.

He had known something was the matter before he ever got through that door, I could tell. He came to stand over me, reaching out to touch my hand, and I couldn’t help myself… I flinched. His eyes narrowed and he drew his hand back.

‘Duo,’ he said very calmly. ‘When I checked my phone log this afternoon, I found your number… at three o’clock in the morning.’

Damn. I had gotten the call canceled before it rang, but it still logged the number on his end. ‘It… was an accident,’ I muttered, not able to meet his eyes, and just to make the conversation more interesting, my stomach chose that moment to complain about missing lunch.

‘What in the hell is going on here?’ Wufei repeated.

Neither of us had an answer for him.

+

I was left reeling from the news that Duo had called Wufei at three o’clock in the morning; it was obvious from the look on his face that it had been no accident. He might have aborted the call, but he had put it through in the first place on purpose. Why in the hell would he have called Wufei with me right there in the next room? If he had needed something, why hadn’t he called me?

Then his stomach growled loudly and I was brought face to face with the cold hard fact that I had not even fixed him lunch. I was turning into a freaking zombie; what in the hell was wrong with me?

‘Damn, Duo,’ I blurted. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’

‘You were tired,’ he said, and it came out sounding defensive.

Wufei had picked up the panther to set it off to the side and was looking at it suspiciously. Duo was blushing hotly. My brain just would not process any more and I found myself rooted to the middle of the living room floor, unable to make the concentrated effort to decide what I should do.

But Wufei was taking things in hand, and decision-making was suddenly something I didn’t need to worry about. He started to send Quatre into the kitchen to prepare dinner, but Duo seemed absolutely miserable in Wufei’s presence for some reason and at the last minute he switched roles, leaving Quatre to deal with Duo while he went in to make dinner. I found Trowa pushing me down onto the couch, taking my chin in his hand to tilt my face away from Duo and towards him. He peeled an eyelid back and looked me over critically.

‘You look like shit, Yuy,’ he frowned at me. ‘What the hell’s the matter?’

‘Can’t…’ I almost confessed to what I couldn’t speak of, but bit it off before Duo heard.

Behind us, Quatre had been talked in low tones with Duo, and Trowa suddenly left me to join them. I leaped to my feet again, as I realized that they were getting Duo out of bed, but the venomous look of pure anger I got from Quatre rooted me to the spot. All I could do was watch while they eased him toward the bathroom and it sank in that I hadn’t been doing any of the things he had been counting on me for.

I would have run away if that wouldn’t have required a decision of some sort. I couldn’t believe the shape I was in. When had this crept up on me? All I could do was stand there shaking in every limb, blinking after them stupidly.

+

I was going to get clean. I would have cried with happiness if I hadn’t been afraid it would turn into something else and I wouldn’t be able to get it stopped. With Quatre on one side and Trowa on the other, I made my slow, cautious way to the bathroom. This was the first time I had been out of bed since I had left the hospital. I was trembling and sweating before we got halfway there.

‘You’re doing fine, Duo,’ Quatre soothed and we made it at last. I was surprised to find a whole bunch of stuff in the bathroom that I had never seen before. They sat me on the toilet and Quatre switched on the bathroom heater. While things warmed up, he set up a wide-based, backless stool in the middle of the tub and began slipping a plastic bag over my cast. It seemed made just for the purpose, with several rows of some sort of elastic around the top, and a sticky strip at the edge to seal it to my leg.

They helped me work the t-shirt off, there’s a trick to it when you can’t raise one arm. They blessedly left the shorts on while Trowa had to bodily lift me and sit me on the stool. Then he left me alone with Quatre.

‘You doing ok, Duo?’ he asked me gently and I nodded. ‘All right then, I’m going to get your hair first, ok?’ and I just nodded again.

I had my back to the showerhead, and behind me I heard him rattling something I didn’t recognize.

‘What…?’ I questioned and he chuckled softly.

‘I’ve already had my shower today, thanks. I got a handheld sprayer that goes on over the faucet… Ah! Got it.’

Then the water came on and I moaned with the sweet feel of it washing clean and warm over me.

He soaked my hair top to bottom and then lathered it up, scrubbing hard, as I had been afraid he wouldn’t.

‘Gods, Quatre,’ I told him at length. ‘I can’t tell you how good this feels.’

‘Duo…’ he hesitated. ‘What in the world is going on?’

I almost choked. ‘I… I don’t know. He won’t talk to me… He…’ All the things I had blurted to Wufei in my dream the other night threatened to pour out of my mouth and I bit down hard. ‘I just don’t know.’

He continued to work with my hair; his hands gentle and firm, though I could sense his underlying anger with Heero.

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