by: Sunhawk

Guidance (cont)

They were quiet for a while, just letting me drink my soup. Then Trowa said, "You got jerked around pretty good, huh?"

"No shit?" I blurted before I could stop it, flushing and instantly sorry, "Felt like I was plowing the whole north forty." I amended, trying to take back a little of the mocking tone that had been in my voice.

"You know," Trowa told me very hesitantly and I realized that he was doing almost all the talking, "The infirmary sent back some sedatives with us... just something to help you relax. You're... tight as a drum."

I froze, soup half way to my lips, "Please... no." I whispered, suddenly terrified that they had drugged my food. You can hide a lot of after-taste with the acidic bite of tomatoes. I lowered the cup and tried to think feverishly how much I had drunk. Damn. Damn. Damn. I was already so far gone a three-legged, one-eyed baby lamb could have taken me out. Gods; drugged on top of everything else? I would be utterly helpless, completely defenseless. It crossed my mind to hurl the mug across the room.

"Duo!" Heero's voice was sharp, catching at the spiraling alarm that was taking hold of me, "I would never give you drugs against your will. Never."

I wanted to believe him and I think deep down somewhere, I knew it for the truth but in the end it was Trowa who actually eased my mind, not with the fierceness that Heero had used but with a laugh.

His voice was light and amused and he said, "If I was going to slip drugs into your food, I most certainly wouldn't warn you about them."

There was another of those long silences and there was a movement from Heero that I understood to be encouragement for Trowa to talk to me some more. Trowa's hand was suddenly touching my bicep. The movement had probably not been sudden but I'd had no warning and I twitched slightly.

"Duo," His voice was soothing and calm and I felt a little irritated, as though he thought I was one of his circus animals, "You're shaking like a leaf. You need to calm down... "

"Damn it." I growled at them, "I need more control, not less!"

There was that stony silence again. Gods, this sucked.

"Drink your soup." Trowa told me wearily, "I swear to you... it's not drugged."

I didn't want it any more. I really, truly didn't. I hadn't been all that hungry to begin with and no matter how much I believed them, the idea of the drugs had been planted in my head and I knew the soup was going to taste funny now. But they wanted me to eat and were not likely to stop badgering me until I complied. I steeled myself and raised the mug back to my lips, doing my best to get it down in gulps. My stomach rebelled, needling me with mild nausea and I had to stop.

"That's enough." Heero sighed from behind me and Trowa took the cup away. There was fidgeting and finally the sound of pills rattling in a bottle.

"I'll leave the medicine here by the bed." Trowa told us and his voice sounded tired, "Good night."

I felt the bed shift as he got up and somehow was left feeling faintly guilty. My hand lifted from the blankets, almost of its own accord and quested in that direction. Fingers caught mine and squeezed for a second.

"Thank you." I mumbled, trying to turn my face in his direction and knowing I wasn't quite getting it. Thank you for being here, for trying so hard, for not drugging me, for not hating me for being so weak.

"You're welcome," He said and there was a touch of humor in his voice, "you pig-headed idiot."

I snorted and heard his steps heading for the door but the door didn't close immediately and I cocked my head in that direction.

"You know... " He said slowly and there was some more of that electric feel of unspoken communication, "That was some damned impressive piloting. I couldn't have done what you did."

And there was the sound of the door clicking shut. I could hear his footsteps in the hall, going back downstairs. I would have sat and blinked after him... if I could have.

"Damn." I muttered and wasn't sure why.

Heero's arms loosened from around me and moved to slide up and down my arms, kneading gently. I let him, leaning back into his embrace and listened to my own body talk to me. Trowa was right to a certain extent; I was so stressed and tense that my muscles were aching with it. The trembling was part trauma reaction, part fatigue and part fear. I could feel a ghostly impression of my pilot's harness in the aching lines of bruises across my chest and shoulders, along my hipbones.

I understood their wanting me to take those sedatives. I could feel the pulse of my own heart thumping painfully in my chest; had been aware of it for hours. It was like someone had hooked me up to an adrenaline IV; I couldn't settle down, it felt like my nerves were running fire.

"Duo... love," Heero dared to breath next to my cheek, "You're tearing yourself apart... you have to calm down."

"I'm trying... I'm... trying." I sighed, letting my head fall back on his shoulder, drawing in a long breath of his scent. I'd never been so aware of the musky, spicy smell of him before. I could lose myself in that scent.

"Come on," He said after a moment, "Lay down and let me try to help."

He eased out from behind me and guided me to stretch out on my stomach. The bed shifted again as he climbed around and straddled my thighs, his hands settling on my shoulders. He started slowly, gently; because I was so stressed and tense that it almost hurt. I'm sure it felt to him like he was massaging a stone. He is extremely good at this; his hands can find the deepest knots and cramps and he almost teases them out. When he chooses to do this for me, he can work tirelessly by the hour, seeming to take pleasure in reducing me to a puddle of bonelessness.

He had his work cut out for him tonight. He kneaded until he began to coerce tiny sounds of pleasure from me and then... things subtly changed. The touch of his hands became... suggestive.

I knew what he intended. He meant to break me down. And he could. Without a doubt. He would use his hands and his lips and that body of his and he would drive away the last of the battered control I had left. He would shatter me; meaning to let me cry it out, meaning to offer me release. I couldn't accept that offer... not tonight. I didn't doubt that I would break; what I doubted was my ability to pull the pieces back together afterward.

"Heero... please don't." I begged him, "I can't... I can't... "

There was a heavy, heart-wrenching sigh, "Duo... please; let me help you. You need to let go."

"I can't let go, Heero." I whispered into the darkness, "I'll come apart... I'll... I'll..." There were no words for what I was afraid of.

He moved to stretch out beside me, his hand continuing to gently stroke over my rigid back muscles, "I don't know what to do." He finally told me.

"Just be here." I turned into him, ignoring the pull of bruised muscles, "Let me hold on to you just a little while longer?"

He enfolded me in his arms, pulling me close and letting me pillow my head on his shoulder, "Forever, my little one." He sighed against the top of my head, "You can hold on to me forever."

The panic in my gut finally crested and my trembling turned to bone jarring shudders. I couldn't get close enough to him; he seemed to understand and clutched me tight. I still needed more contact and ended up crawling on top of him, burying my head against his chest, hearing his heart pound under me. He wrapped arms and legs around me and held me while I rode it out.

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry... just give me a little bit... " I gritted out, wholly and completely ashamed at how low this had brought me. This was a proverbial drop in the bucket of things I had endured through my lifetime, next to nothing compared to hurts and injuries of the past. But I couldn't get around the possibility that I might never see again. It changed the whole definition of my being. Everything I had ever been, all the things that I had ever counted myself skilled at, was turned upside-down by this new bump in the road.

I was still coming down off an adrenalin over-load; that trip back to earth had taken every bit of control I had ever thought about owning. You think that was nothing? You climb your ass up to the top of a fifty story building, get up on the edge, close your eyes and trust somebody else to guide you around a six inch wide ledge. Backwards. In high-heels. In a high wind. When every fiber of your being is telling you that the other person is suddenly going to go... 'Oooops.'

The vision of little ol' Duo sitting in a rocking chair on the sun porch of some soldier's retirement home somewhere was not exactly the one I had cherished in my heart. Death in battle was my preferred method of going out of this war; not sidelined by something this base. Not being left behind by my lover and my friends while they went on to fight without me, until they forgot I had ever existed. Left on the outside again.

At long last, it seemed to flood out of me and I felt muscles begin to give in to the fatigue. I began to unwind and I made to lever myself off poor Heero but to my surprise, he held me tight to his chest and whispered softly,

"Please... do you think you could sleep here... against me?" His voice was so tentative, so desperately needing... something. And it felt good, damnit; I hadn't had his arms around me for a month. I gave in to it and relaxed back against him.

"Let me have tonight." I sighed against his chest, "Just let me have tonight and I'll manage better tomorrow."

There was a small silence and then he said softly, "I'm here to guard you." And I knew he understood. It helped ease me off to sleep at last and his voice and his hands kept me anchored and oriented all through the night. In my dreams, there was light and color and it made it all the harder to wake to the darkness.

"Time?" I would croak whenever I roused, after the initial twinge of panic passed and he would gently tell me. Then his hands would stroke over my hair and back until I dozed again. But he kept me curled on his chest, an intimate thing that made me feel watched over and safe.

When his response to my need to know the time was eight, there didn't seem to be much point in trying to sleep any more. He resisted my easing off him at first but then understood that sleep was beyond me and let me roll away. I kept his hand wrapped in mine but managed not to clutch, found that the trembling was gone from my limbs. I turned my head in his direction and smiled, I felt him shiver.

"Are you all right?" I asked warmly, "You couldn't have gotten much sleep with me sprawled all over you all night."

He chuckled and I felt his hand on my chin, gently turning me to face him. I had been off by more than several inches.

"Oh... " I grinned, "There you are."

I didn't get the laugh.

"How are you feeling?" He asked me, his hand leaving my chin to stroke gently up and down my shoulder.

I opened my mouth with the flippant answer and closed it again, thinking that he deserved better than that after getting me through last night. I let the grin fade to a soft smile, "Better. Not as shaky. Just damned... lost." That last came out all on its own; I hadn't meant to say it.

"I know." He squeezed my shoulder and my hand moved to cover his.

"You're always there... to catch me." I sighed, letting myself lay my head on his shoulder again. What could a few more minutes hurt?

I felt him tense under my hands, could almost hear the thoughts whirling around in his head.

"Stop it." I told him gruffly, "You made the right decision... I'm here, aren't I?"

We lay, me in the darkness and him in the early dawn for a bit while I waited for him to sort things out in his head.

"I could see you were coming in just a little too fast... " He murmured, his lips finding my forehead, "Just a bit too steep... and I couldn't do anything."

"It was mine to do." I told him simply.

"Trowa was right; it was an incredible job of flying. I don't know how in the hell you did it... I was... I thought... " His arms tightened around me almost convulsively. I was scared. I thought you were going to die. The words remained unspoken but I heard them all the same and it was my turn to offer the comfort. I shifted up and found him in the dark, drawing his head down to pillow on my chest. I stroked my fingers through his hair, "It's all over now. We made it through another mess. It's all right... "

He wouldn't let himself stay there long but for a few moments, he let go and allowed me to hold him, let me rock him in my arms. It did more to bring me back to the here and now than all the rest; that understanding that, underneath it all, Heero needed me too.

When he drew away, suddenly remembering the bruises from my crash landing, I was ready to greet the new day. My first day of learning to live in the dark. I had figured out, in the wee hours of the morning, that the only way to approach this was to stop hoping it was going to go away. The fear of it being a permanent condition was what was eating me alive. The fear was bred from the hope; therefore I simply had to proceed as though I already knew I was trapped in the dark forever. Had to get on with things and figure out how to deal with it. Sure. No real problem; simple mind games.

"So," I grinned, "Are you color coordinated enough that you can find me some clothes?"

"How hard is it to coordinate with black?" He asked, playing this game with me.

I chuckled, "I'm not sure I trust you; it would be just like you to dress me in pink and green just for laughs." Which, of course, wasn't true but served to make him laugh with me.

"Too easy." He told me and I could hear the strain in his voice, so I stopped playing before I went too far.

Instead, I got out of bed and headed toward where I had last seen my duffle bag. Moving slowly with my hands outstretched, sweeping back and forth in that terribly clichéd, classic Hollywood I-can't-see gesture. There's a nagging fear of stepping off into empty air when you are newly blind. It is hard for the brain to adjust to the lack of input; for some reason it accepts input from the eyes unquestioned but has trouble trusting touch and memory. I kept expecting to kick something. I heard Heero come up off the bed in the instant that I started across the room, I felt him hovering behind me and knew that he was struggling with his need to help me.

It felt like a huge miracle that I found the stupid duffle bag and I pulled it open to feel through my clothes. I was surprised how much I could identify by touch alone. I found the black jeans because I knew the leather tag on the back had come loose on one corner. I felt past the t-shirts, which I could not tell apart and found a button down shirt. The only one of those I owned was a blue denim one. Black and blue; it seemed appropriate. I dug out clean underwear and then stood, hesitant. There was another of those moments and guilt came and gnawed at my underbelly. I took a deep, determined breath and started to get undressed.

There was the sound of a small sigh very close behind me and for a moment I felt heat on the skin of my arm as though he were going to lay his hand there but then it was gone and he firmly told me, "I'm going to go start breakfast. Call me when you're ready."

I felt oddly abandoned and relieved all at the same time. "Thank you." I whispered after the door had snicked closed behind him. I returned to the bed where I could lay the clothes and sit down when I needed to, in order to get dressed. I left the tank top and shorts lie on the bed for future use as pajamas and struggled into my clothes.

Being fully dressed helped a tiny, infinitesimal bit with the exposed feeling and I took a deep breath, girding my proverbial loins for a foray into the outside world. I tried to consciously make up a new mantra; I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. But most of my mantras sort of come to me full-blown and this one wanted to be something closer to; bloody hell. Bloody hell. Bloody hell.

I walked from the bed to where I thought the door was and then had to feel around for it, when I found it, the rattle of the knob told me my hands were shaking again.

Well; wasn't this just enough to make you wanna toss your cookies?

My little, private, stand-up comedian imp wasn't even talking to me anymore, just rolling around on the floor of my brain giggling like a loon.

Ok, goal number one; bathroom. Just like Wufei would tell me; one thing at a time, Maxwell. I could almost hear his voice. I stayed where I could run my fingers along the right-hand wall and counted doorways until I found the bathroom. The door was blessedly open but I still hesitated, giving anyone who might be inside a chance to speak up and object to my going in. Nothing was said so I went ahead, closing the door behind me and without thinking, my fingers automatically reached for the light switch.

The imp roared; laughed so damn hard he choked.

"Shut up, asshole." I growled, fighting against the hysterical giggle that wanted to push passed my own lips. Best not let that get started.

I did the sit down to pee thing again and then went to the sink to find my things. Brushing my hair was difficult with the bandages around my head but I knew if I took them loose to do it, I wouldn't be able to keep from opening my eyes. If there was the slightest chance that they might heal, I wasn't going to screw it up by doing something stupid. That notion told me that I had not managed to squelch the hope as much as I had thought I had. Guess it was going to take a little more work.

My hair, thank the Gods; I can do with my eyes closed, so I managed to brush and rebraid it without a lot of trouble. I had more of a dilemma with brushing my teeth, as I wasn't sure which tube was the toothpaste. I finally had to open a couple and smell them. I could only hope I had the right toothbrush. I figured Heero wouldn't mind if I got it wrong but Trowa might be a little pissed.

Step two; kitchen. I left the bathroom and traced the left-hand wall until I thought I was fairly close to the stairs. That gut-clenching fear of stepping off into thin air was back as I felt my way slowly ahead, just sure that I was right on top of them. We trust our eyes so much. There are so many things we don't bother to truly register, because we know we'll see it the next time we need the information. I could not, for instance, for the life of me, remember what color the wall was I was running my fingers along. Don't ask me what made me suddenly realize that, or why it bothered me. I'd been in this cabin for a full week; but I could not tell you what color half of it was.

My sliding foot finally found empty air and I felt a thrill of something between victory and fear. I groped out until I got my hands on the rail and started down. When going down stairs, there is a reverse to the fear of stepping off into nothing; the apprehension that you will get to the bottom and step down only to encounter floor before you are expecting it. I had not known that. I vowed on my next trip to count the treads to help eliminate some surprises.

I was jerked to a stop by the sound of Heero's voice, so laced with apprehension that I feared I might be about to step on something somebody had left sit on the stairs.

"Duo!" Was all he really said and then I heard the sound of him practically running across the living room floor. I counted his steps coming up to me, trying to judge how close I was to the bottom and then discarded the information, realizing he probably took the stairs two at a time. His hand closed on my elbow and I had to smile.

"Heero;" I told him with a hint of humor, "I'm not on crutches."

He has a thing about me on stairs when I've been injured. I find it a little exasperating. It's not like I actually fell that time; Trowa caught me.

He helped me the rest of the way down, warning me when I got to the last step so I didn't look like an idiot trying to step down on a flat surface.

He led me to the kitchen and eased me into one of the straight back chairs, taking my hand and putting a glass of something in it. A tentative taste told me it was orange juice. I was surprised; Wufei and I hadn't had any, someone had been to the store and the nearest town was five miles away. Had to have been Trowa, of course, because Heero had been with me except for the last twenty minutes or so. It's a very small town with only one little general store. He had to have been camped on their doorstep when they opened at eight o'clock this morning to have gotten back so soon.

There was the familiar smell of cooking oatmeal and I had to grin; Heero had found one of my very few comfort foods and plied me with it whenever he felt I was in the need. I would have preferred something I could have eaten with my hands but I supposed I was going to have to figure out the secrets of eating without getting it all over myself sooner or later.

That thought, of course, hadn't taken Heero into consideration. I realized suddenly as he pulled a chair up next to me, so close that our knees were touching, that he meant to feed me.

"Heero... " I warned, getting truly irritated, "Don't be ridiculous; I have to learn to fucking feed myself."

There was dead silence from beside me but behind me, Trowa's sudden chuckle made me jump.

"Sorry Duo." He told me, noticing the flinch but his voice still sounded amused, "Heero, don't be an idiot."

"Give me the spoon and eat your own damn breakfast." I told him, trying to keep my tone from letting him hear how humiliated I was.

There was a grunt and the spoon was finally in my fingers and Heero shifted a little distance away. I felt vaguely bad.

"It's not that hard." Trowa informed him, "I tried it a little last night. Liquid foods are awkward and I imagine things like peas and corn would be difficult but if we're careful what we fix, he shouldn't have any trouble."

I wanted to gawk at him. Do you know, you can't really do a decent gawk without use of your eyes? His chuckle told me he got the gist of it, though.

I tried to imagine him sitting in the kitchen with his eyes closed, eating different foods to figure out what I could handle and what I couldn't. When I thought about it, I realized that's what prompted his trip to town this morning. I was so touched, even the imp got quiet.

"Trowa... " I breathed, wishing I knew where he was so I could reach out to him.

"Eat your breakfast." He told me gruffly.

So I did. It wasn't Gods awful hard but it wasn't automatic either. I had to think about what I was doing, had to constantly keep in my mind where things were so I didn't knock over the juice or stick the spoon into the table. The toast was easy; I could pick it up and after losing it a couple of times, I just shifted it to my left hand and didn't set it down between bites any more. I could do this.

Of course it started me thinking about other things and I wondered if it would be possible to learn to cook for myself. How in the hell would you tell when things were done? It must be possible; I knew blind people sometimes lived alone but it was a damned daunting notion. I couldn't imagine it. I suppose you wouldn't have much of an electric bill at least. If you made sure that all your clothes were in the same color group, so that everything mixed and matched, you couldn't screw that up too bad. I knew about Braille but where did you find books for the blind? I'd never seen any in the bookstores; were there special stores for blind people? I had never seen any of those either. How did you get around? How did you find your way from one place to the other? Ok, you could learn a single house, I felt fairly certain that I could get myself anywhere in this cabin that I wanted to go without too much trouble but you couldn't live and never leave the house. What would you do when you needed something? How would you get to the store? You would have to live someplace in a good-sized town, there just wouldn't be much choice; everything would have to be within walking distance. But still... how long would it take to learn your way around? I tried to imagine myself with one of those white canes and felt ill. I suppose I could get a seeing-eye dog...

"Duo... ?" Heero's voice was soft but had an edge to it. When I thought about it, I realized he had called me more than once; I turned my head toward him to let him know that he had my attention.

"Duo, are you all right?" I felt his hand on my forearm and I smiled for him.

I had stopped eating, lost in thought and had just been sitting here... uhmmm... well; staring off into space is not exactly the right term but you get the idea.

"Well," I tried for flippant, upgrading the smile to a cock-eyed grin, "I always wanted a dog."

There was a tiny sound from Heero, an almost moan and then I heard his chair scrape harshly across the floor and the sound of him fleeing the room.

Damn.

I let my shoulders slump and shoved breakfast away, folding my arms on the table and letting my head fall forward on them. I jerked upright almost immediately, sharp pain giving me a pointed reminder of the stitches in my head. My hand bumped the empty orange juice glass and in a sudden explosion of frustration, I grabbed it and cocked my arm back to throw the damned thing across the room. Control kicked in at the last moment and I sat it shakily back on the table with a heavy sigh.

"Go ahead and throw it, if it'll make you feel better." Trowa told me softly from my right and I jumped, having almost forgotten he was there.

"And just how in the hell would I clean it up?" I asked sarcastically, "With my luck, I'd slice myself to ribbons trying to... " My voice was starting to sound ragged and I just shut up.

"I'll clean it up for you." He said and I had to laugh but it hitched a little in my throat and I stopped.

A warm hand came to rest on my back, soothing gently, "I'm serious." He said, "You can throw everything on the damned table if it'll help."

I swallowed the lump in my throat and sighed again, "It won't."

There was a long silence while he continued to rub those gentle, lazy circles on my back. Ever wonder why people rub in circles? Why isn't it ever squares, or triangles or something? Just no bloody imagination, I guess.

"I'm sorry." I said after a little while, "I don't know what keeps coming over me."

His hand on my back stilled for a moment and then slid on around me, his other arm suddenly there across my chest and he pulled me against him in a gentle hug, "Damnit, Duo. You're allowed to give in to it now and again."

His scent filled my head, a faint mixture of the memory of sawdust and something essentially untamed, something primal. His chest and arms are unbelievably strong, muscles hard and supple under the skin. I took a breath and tried to accept a little of what he was offering, a little of the comfort, a little of the support.

"I can't." I told him in a whisper, "I don't dare."

The arms around me tightened for a moment but he didn't say anything more.

I sighed, pushing gently away, "I should go find Heero."

I could hear the smile in his voice, "He won't have gone far. Want some help?"

"I'll manage." I rose and made my way to the nearest wall, tracing a path to the doorway to the living room, where Heero had gone. Behind me, I heard Trowa gathering the dirty dishes.

It didn't take three steps into the living room before Heero was there at my side, taking me by the elbow and leading me to sit on the couch.

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