by: Sunhawk

Guidance (cont)

"Heero... I'm sorry... " I began, not sure how to make this easier for him.

"Will you stop trying so damn hard to be all right for me?" He growled, voice sounding thick.

"I'm trying to be all right for me, love." I explained and finding the hand that held my elbow, I traced my way up his arm until my fingers found his face. He tensed as I stroked over the line of his jaw, the curve of his lips.

"I... I never even got to see you." I breathed softly, letting him have a tiny shard of what he wanted.

"Duo... " He sighed, so very close to me, I could feel the tremor in his voice.

"Heero, I'm still making that descent... I'm still in that pilot's seat." I wanted so badly for him to understand, "I have to stay in control; I have to maintain the course Wufei set me on... I can't pull up... no matter how much my gut is telling me to."

He hesitated, something on his mind that needed saying. His fingers moved to brush over my face as well, tracing the edge of my bandages.

"Why... why can't you let yourself believe... " He stopped, unable to finish and I imagined his eyes searching my face.

I shivered, "I can't. That hope brings... the fear. The fear that when these come off... " I brought my fingers up to the gauze around my eyes, "The darkness will still be there. It's easier... if... "

I stopped, his pained moan told me he understood.

"It... it feels like you're shutting me out." He whispered and I wondered what it was about the darkness only I could see, that made us all want to speak in sighs.

"Never." I told him firmly, reaching carefully for his face again, "You're in here;" I touched the center of my chest, "Forever."

He took my hands in his and eased us down on the couch, settling himself and bringing me down to lie with my head pillowed on his stomach, my arms around his waist.

"Rest." He told me and I wanted to sigh with exasperation; we hadn't been out of bed for more than a couple of hours. But this wasn't about me right now. Heero was still coming to grips with... it... with me. I slowly relaxed into his embrace, put all my concentration into regulating my breathing and let him think I slept. What the hell; it wasn't as though I'd had plans. And if this made it easier for him... then so be it.

Eventually, I did doze off, whether from any real need of sleep or from simple boredom, I'll never know.

But I woke sometime later to a whispered but somewhat heated discussion between Heero and Trowa.

"... not now; damn it! I can't!" This from Heero and I could feel his body coiled like a steel spring underneath me.

"Heero... " Trowa's tone held a hint of frustration, a touch of warning, "I would go if I could... "

"I can't just leave him like this!" There was such anguish in his voice; my heart ached in my chest just hearing it.

"I'll be here." Trowa said softly and there was reprimand in it.

There was nothing from Heero then and I listened to his heart pound against my cheek for a moment before I raised my head.

"If you have an assignment," I told him levelly, "you are going and that's final."

There was a relieved sigh from Trowa and he patted my shoulder encouragingly, just before he stood up to leave the room. I tried to give him a rueful smirk, just to let him know how much I appreciated him running out and leaving me holding the bag but who knows if he saw it.

Heero maintained his silence and I knew him well enough to know that he had already made the decision to take the assignment. The day Heero Yuy turned down a mission was the day that Hell redecorated in pink and white.

I crawled my way up his body until my fingers told me we were almost nose-to-nose, "Don't make me have to smack some sense into you." I growled, shoving my own fears and apprehensions down so hard I thought I heard something snap.

"I don't want... " He began and his mouth bit down on that before it got any further.

"It's never been about wants; Heero." I told him, "We're soldiers." And I tangled my fingers in his hair, pulling him down toward me until he gave in and kissed me. It was desperate and hungry and full of all the things we couldn't say.

All I could think about was how I had denied him the night before. I wished with all my being that I could go back and undo that.

He broke the kiss, pulling back only enough for him to tell me, "I love you." Moving in again to stop whatever reply I might have made, "I love you." He said again, punctuating each declaration with a breath-taking kiss, as though he could drink me in and keep me safe inside. Then finally, when I thought he might break me with this alone, "I have to go."

"So soon?" I moaned and wanted to laugh with the sudden reversal of our positions in the argument.

He sighed his affirmative, his fingers ghosting over my face, touching the gauze directly over my eyes for the first time.

"Gods," He groaned, "I wish I could see your eyes... your beautiful eyes. They tell me the things that you can't."

I don't think he had meant to say that. I would have been able to tell if I could have seen his face. I don't think he knew how close he came to pushing me over the edge with that. His kisses had brought me to the brink of that pit of despair and his words almost took me down.

"Listen to me." I told him, giving the imp a backhanded blow and forcing my voice to steady, "I expect you to come back to me; understand? I am going to be fine. Trowa is here and will watch out for me. When you walk out that damn door, I want... I need you to put this out of your mind. You forget me... you forget the crash... you forget everything until the mission is over. Are we clear on that?"

He chuckled at me, a tender note in his voice and pulled me to him until our foreheads were touching, "I know, love. I know."

After he was gone, I drew myself into the corner of the couch, pulled my knees to my chest, wrapped my arms around them and waited for the pain to stop. It pulled at the tightness in my bad knee but I didn't care.

I heard Trowa come into the room after awhile and he said falteringly, "Duo... ?"

"Not now." I told him, not harshly but in a tone that I thought would brook no argument.

There was nothing for long minutes, while I listened to the sound of him not leaving the room. He made me ask again, "Please, Trowa." And then he did go away. I'm sure he didn't go far but he gave me the space I needed to get myself back together again. It took a long while.

When I thought I could talk to him without bursting into tears, I rose and tried for a straight line to the kitchen door. Can't keep following walls everywhere I go. I promptly cracked my shin on the forgotten coffee table and cursed softly. It was only the first in the large set of bruises I was to acquire.

I was a little more cautious after that but managed to walk to the kitchen without resorting to feeling the wall. I even found the doorway on the first try. Trowa was there, as I had suspected, had probably been sitting where he could see me through the doorway. I shivered and decided that for my next breakdown, I would go to my room and shut the door.

"You feel like some lunch?" Trowa asked as soon as I was in the room with him and I'm sure he spoke just to let me know he was there.

"If you're fixing something anyway." I told him, having to resort to that sweeping hands thing to find the table. He let me do it by myself and I was grateful.

So I sat at the table and listened to him heat soup and make grilled cheese sandwiches. I considered going to the stove to see if there was anyway I could figure out for myself how this cooking thing could be done in the dark and decided that it really wasn't worth the effort. It probably wouldn't work the same with a regular stove and I wasn't likely to find myself in the position of cooking over a wood-burning stove again for some time.

I was able to identify the soup from the smell as potato before he brought it to me. Again, in one of those mugs, to save me trying to eat it with a spoon. I smiled up in his direction when he sat the food in front of me and positively beamed when he moved in the direction of the refrigerator and returned with the sound of a bottle of soda hissing open.

We settled into a routine that got us by. Things were actually easier with just Trowa and me. There wasn't that pressure to talk and reassure; I wasn't constantly having to convince him that I was all right. He let me do pretty much as I pleased, staying close but not hovering. He let me do things for myself. Though, admittedly, I spent most of my time huddled in the corner of the couch. But... he let me do that too. He is a surprisingly gentle soul; it's hard to understand sometimes how he can be that calm and steady and kindhearted when you consider his mercenary background. Maybe it's his working with animals so much. Maybe it's... Quatre. There were times during that week, when I felt like some sort of wild thing myself; some almost out of control animal. I'm glad Trowa was the one who was with me. Wufei would have been tense and that makes him irritable. I would have felt weak and pathetic around him and that would have made me tense. We would have yelled... a lot. Quatre would look at me with the most horrendous hurt in his eyes and I wouldn't have had to see it to know it was there. He would have made me feel as much pressure to be 'all right' as Heero did; if not more. I hate to worry him; he can't stand to not be able to make things better. It would have been another tense situation. Things were easy with Trowa; he was content with the silence and didn't force me to try to fill it. I think, somehow, that he understood how I felt more than Heero did. He usually stayed within earshot but didn't hang all over me. I was eternally thankful, only wishing I could find some way to express it to him.

As I said, I spent most of my time curled in, what had become, 'my' corner of the couch, just thinking. Trying to figure out what in the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. I really didn't think there was much future in selling pencils out of a tin cup on the street.

Trowa generally sat in the room with me, sometimes reading, sometimes plugging his laptop into the only outlet we had. A few days after Heero left, he had been sitting in the big armchair reading something when I realized from the sound of his breathing that he had dozed off. It had been a cold and rainy day; the kind that makes you drowsy despite yourself. I had been feeling a little lethargic myself.

Outside, the rain began to pick up and in the distance I heard the rumble of thunder. I felt a pang; I loved thunderstorms. You don't have real weather in the colonies; nothing like what Mother Nature whips up here on Earth. I had been enthralled the first time I had seen one. Would probably have stood out in it and had my ass struck by lightning if Heero hadn't drug me back in the house. The sheer noise; the raw power... I had been in awe. I love them to this day. Sitting there in my personal darkness, I was overcome with the need to have that feeling back. I was struck with an ache in my heart that I had lost that.

I listened carefully and decided that Trowa was still sound asleep. The thunder was distant, rumbling low over the hills. Not close enough to be of any real danger. I rose silently and eased out of the room. I found my cautious way to the kitchen and opened the door onto the patio where Wufei and I had practiced together. The air coming in was cool and I could feel the mist of the rain blowing on my face. I have no idea why I did what I did but I just suddenly had to be out there; if I couldn't see it... I wanted to feel it. I shucked off my shirt and padded out onto the wet bricks in my bare feet. The rain was cold but not icy. I could feel the grumble of the thunder in my bones. I wished I could see the lightening forking across the sky in endless new patterns. I was soaked in a matter of minutes. I found myself remembering Wufei and our hours out here together. Without thinking about it too hard, I moved my arms through the first pattern and froze. Could I? Heart suddenly thumping in my chest, I moved to pace out the area of the patio. I discovered that the bricks at the edge were a different texture than the rest, when I thought about it; I remembered them being a different color. There was enough difference that I could feel it instantly with my feet. I walked the area, making sure there was nothing in it that I didn't know about, that it was still free of furniture or other obstructions. I counted out the space and found the center.

Hands trembling, I took my stance, imagination painting Wufei at my side. I took the first calming breaths and began the kata. I moved slowly at first, muscles stiff and cold and unused to exercise; the worst of my bruises complaining mildly. I knew I was hesitant and Wufei would have jeered at me for my clumsiness but I managed the first half of the first set before I lost my balance and fell. Climbing to my feet, I had to re-pace the workout area and re-find my center. I started from the beginning, my partial success giving me confidence.

I worked through the first set, falling more than once and hitting the edge bricks a couple of times, having to stop and re-orient myself. It took six tries before I got through it without falling or running myself into the edge. I almost laughed out loud. I stood for a moment, arms spread to the lashing rain, my braid heavy with it, feeling the thunder roll in and fill me. I started again from the beginning and this time it was smoother. I fell into the pattern of it and I swear to the Gods, for a moment, I forgot I was blind. I could almost see the faint bend of Wufei's head. I almost nodded back to my phantom partner.

I swept my leg in an arc and felt for the edge bricks, found them and paced back to the center point. I took my stance yet again and suddenly felt eyes on me. My back stiffened and I turned my head in the direction of the kitchen door.

I heard a faint grunt of surprise and Trowa called softly, "That's enough, Duo. Heero will have my head if I let you catch pneumonia."

I threw my head back and laughed out loud, "Come on out, Trowa... it's glorious!" I shouted to him over another clap of thunder. It was close; right overhead and I felt it vibrate up through the soles of my feet. The rain was sheeting down so hard it stung.

"It's fucking cold, is what it is!" Trowa yelled back, "Now get in here before you get struck by lightning!"

I didn't want to. This was the best I had felt in days and I wanted it to last but I could hear a touch of genuine fear in his voice, so I used that voice to guide myself back to the kitchen door.

"Here." He called a small course correction when I got close.

He took my arm and pulled me to the side so he could get the door shut behind me and then he was wrapping a bath towel around my shoulders. I wondered with a jolt how long he had been watching me. I flushed, embarrassed, thinking about how many times I had fallen. Then almost choked, realizing that he had let me fall and had not interfered. I couldn't help grinning at him like some kind of madman while water ran off me in rivers.

"That was... When did... " He struggled with words as he squeezed the water out of my braid with a second towel and I chuckled at him.

"Wufei got pissed at me for... being bored, so he dragged me out and made me work out with him." I explained, before he choked to death trying to get the questions out.

There was another surprised grunt and then he nudged me in the direction of the living room door, "Go upstairs and take a hot shower; you're practically blue."

And of course, now that I was inside, I was almost shivering with cold I had not felt while I was working. I just grinned at him and headed that way, trying for the straight route again and gaining another bruise for my efforts.

"Little to the right." Trowa called blandly, his voice following me through the living room, "Straight... straight... almost there... Ok, you're at the steps; feel for it."

He made it so easy; no hovering, no depression, no tiptoeing around it. I found the bottom step and put my foot there but took a minute to call back to him.

"You know I... appreciate everything you've done... don't you?"

"I know." His voice came from the kitchen doorway, "You going to need any help up there?"

"I think I can get it." I told him, then thought about it, "Might need some help rebinding my eyes." I hadn't washed my hair in a couple of days and really needed to get it done.

I could almost see that tight little nod he gives, "I'll come up after I hear the water shut off."

I climbed the stairs, shivering in my soggy jeans and towel and felt my way to my room for dry clothes. Then I went to the bathroom for that hot shower. I was very careful, as always, to make sure the room was dark. There was no window in the bathroom and I made sure the light switch was in the off position. I was always afraid I wouldn't be able to force myself to keep my eyes shut once I had the bindings off and just wasn't ready to open them to the darkness when there should be light. This way, if I slipped, I wouldn't know the difference.

The shower felt good and I just stood under the spray for a while, gradually easing the temperature up until it was as hot as I could stand it. The shivering went away, my muscles began to relax and I started to feel the sting of what had to be scrapes from my many falls. I grinned again, remembering the feeling of completing that kata without losing my balance and falling on my ass. It had felt damn good.

I took a little extra time with my hair; I had been rushing my showers lately, having my eyes uncovered made me uncomfortable. But somehow, I felt more at ease with it after the workout. So I took the time to lather it twice and used a little conditioner on the ends. When I got out, I dried and pulled my jeans on quickly, knowing that Trowa would be on his way up. He gave me a good five minutes and I was towel drying my hair when the tap came on the door.

"Just a second." I told him and found one of the small hand towels to fold and cover my eyes with, "Ok." I heard the door open and then an odd grunt.

"I guess you wouldn't need the light on." He said in a surprised voice, then there was a moments chill silence followed by some serious back peddling, "Gods, Duo... I... I'm sorry! I didn't mean... "

I growled at him, "Damn it, Trowa; don't start that. That's been the best part of staying with you... you haven't pussy-footed around me like I was going to explode if somebody accidentally said the word 'blind'."

He sighed and snorted softly; there was a touch of self-deprecation in it, "Sorry." He murmured and then, "Are you all right? Why are you holding a towel over your eyes?"

I felt myself flush, "I... I don't like to have them unwrapped... in the light."

"Ah." He sighed in understanding and I heard a faint click as the door closed, "There." He told me, "You can uncover them."

"Thanks." I told him, lowering the towel but still keeping my eyes tightly shut, "But isn't this going to make it a little hard for you to re-bandage me?"

There was the slightest hesitation and then I could hear the timid grin in his voice, "I guess it'll be like the sight impaired leading the sight impaired."

It shocked a sudden bark of laughter out of me and it was like a little dam broke inside and I laughed until my sides hurt.

"It wasn't that funny." He said after a minute, a little surprised.

"I'm sorry." I gasped when I could, "But I just keep seeing the look on Heero's face if he'd heard you say that!"

It was his turn to laugh abruptly but it cut off rather quickly, "Damn, Duo; that's not funny at all... he would have decked me!"

I felt myself blushing and then remembered the room was dark and I didn't have to care.

"And Wufei would have glared and said 'Barton!' in that tone of voice of his." I won a faint chuckle from him, "And Quatre would have given you that look; the one that makes you feel like you've just killed the Easter bunny."

I got a real chuckle out of him with that one but then I sobered.

"And that's why you've been so great. You make this easier; you're not afraid of it. Not afraid of hurting me. You... let me try things on my own."

There was an awkward silence that he finally broke; "You don't make it easy when you pull stunts like dancing in thunderstorms."

Here came my reprimand. I hung my head and muttered an apology, forgetting for a moment that he couldn't see me either.

"I couldn't find you for a minute." He told me softly and his hands were suddenly on my shoulders, turning me around and he was smoothing my hair out of the way in preparation to bandaging my eyes. I suppressed a shiver at the touch and held still while he worked.

"I'm sorry." I told him again, "I just always loved thunderstorms... " I didn't know how to tell him what was in my head.

"I know." His voice sounded amused and just like that, the scolding was over, "Where's the stuff?"

I found the gauze where I had left it and handed it to him, "Hang on a minute and I'll get the padding in place."

We managed it, between the two of us, fumbling and chuckling. I let him turn the light back on after we had a couple of turns of gauze around my eyes and he finished quickly after that.

"There." He announced, patting my shoulder, "Need help with anything else?"

"I think I can finish on my own." I told him, fingers hunting for the comb on the sink.

"Then I'll go start dinner." I heard him flick the light off when he left and I grinned.

I took to doing the kata again in the mornings; I just didn't do it in the rain any more. Sometimes, I could feel Trowa watching me. It gave me back a tiny measure of control; made me feel a little less helpless and for those couple of hours... I wasn't thinking.

It got easier finding my way around the house; I learned to count things out so that I knew it was six paces from the sink to the table, eight more from the table to the doorway. I found that if I was unsure of my surroundings, I could 'feel' obstacles before I ran into them if I moved slowly enough; big things anyway, like walls. It was like a heat coming off things, I suspect it was my own body heat coming back to me.

I found that there were things I could do to help out; cooking wasn't something I did under normal circumstances anyway but I could set the table and even do the dishes if I went slowly enough. I was even able to help with Gundam repairs if the parts were small and detachable; something Trowa could bring back to the cabin for me. We were all trained to field strip and clean our weapons blindfolded and I found that with Trowa's help getting me started, there was a lot more I could do by feel than I would have thought possible. It made me feel good and bad at the same time. Good, because I felt like I was being useful, wasn't just being a lump sitting on the couch. Bad, because it reminded me that I probably would not ever be working on my own Gundam again. My piloting days were gone with my eyes.

And yes... I heard that word 'probably'. I couldn't seem to squelch the hope completely, no matter how hard I tried.

I was out on the patio some days later, practicing, when I heard something. It was distant but unmistakable; the faint thrum of engines. There was absolutely no doubt what so ever it was headed this way; there was nothing else in the area but our cabin and from the sounds, the vehicles were large. Probably not the pizza delivery guy. I flung myself into the house, screaming for Trowa the whole way. He didn't answer me immediately and I made for the stairs, crashing into the doorway and almost falling. I took the stairs on my hands and knees, still yelling for all I was worth and I finally heard him coming out of the bathroom.

"Duo, what the hell's wrong?" He came to meet me and hauled me to my feet.

"Someone's coming, we have to get out of here!" I pulled him with me toward my room, needing my boots if we were going to be fleeing into the woods.

"I don't understand... " He began and I almost screamed in exasperation.

"Move, damnit!" I yelled at him, "Can't you hear the bloody engines?"

It got very quiet then and I knew he was listening hard. It was faint but I could hear them even inside like this.

"I don't hear anything, Duo." He said softly and I groped out and found his arm.

"Trust me." I told him, low and level, "At least two vehicles; large. Headed this way. I can hear them."

There was no more than a heartbeat and he ran off to his room to get his gear.

I finished with my boots, found my pack and armed myself, strapping my knife sheath on my forearm and my pistol at my waist. It was habit more than anything; I sure as hell didn't know what I was going to do with either one. I fingered the front of my t-shirt, hoping it was a dark one at least and realized that I could feel the print on the front. It was the one with the Japanese lettering; black but the lettering was a rather shiny silver. Not good. I jerked it off and turned it wrong side out before pulling it back over my head.

Trowa met me in the hall and threw an arm around my waist to get us down the stairs as fast as possible. He's strong; I'm not sure my feet hit the ground again until we were off the stairs. He started toward the kitchen door, the back way out of the house. His Heavyarms was secured in the woods, in that same rocky cleft that we had hidden Deathscythe and Nataku in before. We could not allow it to get captured. It was going to be a hell of a trip through the woods. I realized suddenly how totally ridiculous this was; that I was only going to slow him down.

"Trowa... listen;" I burst out, pulling him to a stop on the patio, "Let me stay here; I can delay them. They'll waste time... "

He snarled at me. Actually freaking snarled, "We go together or we don't go at all!" He snapped and started pulling me toward the trees.

"Trowa, I'm only going to slow you down." I followed, talking as we went, feeling the bite of his fingers on my upper arm, "We can't let them... "

"Would you leave me?" He suddenly asked and he had me cold; I knew it and he knew I knew it. I gusted a heavy sigh.

"Fine then; lead on."

We were in under the trees before I was quite ready for it; this was the first time I had been off the cabin grounds since the accident. I had grown accustomed to the house and had gained some confidence in my ability to get around. But that had all been level surfaces and well known ground. Out here, every rock and root conspired to get under my feet somehow. I was stumbling and staggering, the only thing keeping me up was Trowa's hand on my upper arm and that was threatening to rip my shoulder out of its socket.

I could hear the engines whine as they hit that last long incline before the road leveled and wound its way to the cabin. I tried to pick up my pace with a muttered curse.

"What?" He questioned.

"They're on the hill." I told him tersely and there was another moments quiet.

"Duo; I still don't... " He began and I heard the sound of shifting gears, the whine increased and finally, Trowa heard it too.

"Damn." He muttered and increased our speed, throwing an arm around my waist to lift me over a fallen log. There was no path up to the place we had hidden the Gundams; this was rough country and all up hill. I was struggling already.

I realized with a small jolt, that Trowa had begun this mad dash up the mountain strictly on my say so. He had not been able to hear the sounds that I had. It came to me then that had I not heard those engines we would most likely have been caught totally by surprise when the trucks pulled into the yard.

I staggered and almost fell for the third time and thought my arm had come completely loose from my body. For a moment I was afraid Trowa was just going to break down and try to carry me.

"Bloody hell, Trowa... lead me; don't drag me." I panted and wrested my arm out of his vise like grip.

"What?" He said in confusion and we stopped for a moment. Below us, at the cabin, I heard the engines shutting down. My hand on his arm to orient myself, I slid around behind him, catching hold of the hem of his shirt and gave him a nudge, "Go. Just warn me if I have to climb over anything."

He grunted and moved off again. With control of both my arms, I was better able to keep my balance. I clung to his shirt, keeping directly behind him, where I could take pretty much the same path he did. I only wished I had something to hang onto that was a little longer; balance would have been a little bit easier if I'd had a little more room.

He gradually increased our speed as he felt me keeping up better and for a bit, I thought we might actually make it out of there unseen.

I heard distant shouting. "They're coming." I panted out, doing my damnedest not to slow us down.

Again, he only grunted, then moments later was warning me away from a rock in our path.

It was taking all my concentration to keep with him, to not drag at him, to try and match my steps with his and not fall. My biggest fear right now was twisting an ankle or a knee, something that would make it even harder for me to run. Even so, I couldn't help but notice that the sound of our pursuit was getting closer.

"Damn it," I muttered, "They're gaining. Trowa... you have to... "

"Shut up." He barked at me, "I'm not leaving you."

So I shut up and did my best to increase my stride. In a way, I felt as I had when I had thrown my life into Wufei's hands on that heart-stopping descent to Earth. I was having to trust Trowa's path far more than my instincts wanted me to. My gut was consumed with that blood-freezing fear of stepping off into nothingness; a fear that I had managed to put aside once I had learned my way around the cabin so well. It had come back a hundred times stronger and it was taking all my will to keep throwing myself forward, trusting Trowa to keep me safe. The few times that I fell, I let go of his shirt so as not to drag him down with me, levering myself up as fast as possible. But for all my effort, it wasn't long before our hunters were close enough that Trowa could hear them as well as I could.

"Trowa... " I gasped, "... Getting too close... We need to find cover."

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