But he didn't wait for me to
articulate my questions, just squatted down in front of me. "You've
always been the survivor, Duo. You just have to hang on a little longer.
Don't give up. Less than twelve hours more, Ok?"
I just looked at him, because I thought he might not leave me until after
I answered him. But his eyes wouldn't let me just sit in silence.
"Trowa... God... I don't know if I can. I just want it to be over...
I just don't care any more."
He looked at me sadly and faded away.
"You know;" I called after him, "the ghosts are better
"Duo?" And it was the voice I had been dreading.
"Heero?" I whispered, caught between joy and pain. My heart,
despite my every effort, soared with just the sound of him. But I didn't
want to hear the curses; couldn't stand him calling me a "damned
baka'. Then I chuckled; this wasn't Heero any more than the rest of them
were real. "Or should I call you Figment?"
He snorted softly. "Heero will do."
"Come to tell me how bad I screwed up?" I wanted to grin at
him but he seemed to be playing a different game than the others; I couldn't
"No," he said gently. "Just wanted to tell you it's going
to be all right."
I blinked into the dark. Well... this was unexpected.
"What?" I said lamely.
I could hear the amusement in his voice. "I... came... to tell you
that you're doing ok. I came to tell you to hang on."
I didn't know what to say and in the silence I heard the faint sound of
Wufei's voice hissing, "Yuy; be careful!"
That didn't make any sense. Great. Now my figments were losing their minds
Heero just seemed to ignore him; I wondered again why he wouldn't come
out where I could see him. "You're tough, Duo. You always have been.
You're going to come through this. I know you will."
I grinned despite myself. "I was wrong," I told him. "You're
not a figment... you're a damn fantasy!"
For a little while I couldn't seem to stop laughing but Heero stayed and
talked to me until I calmed a little. I managed to keep it from turning
into hysteria. I was kind of proud of that, because I was right there
on the edge of it.
"Are you hooked back to the ship?" he asked when I had quieted.
"Yeah... " I confirmed and thought that was odd; Quatre and
Trowa had just looked.
"Can you sleep some more?" he said softly.
"I... think so," I replied and closed my eyes. "Heero?"
"You're a nice figment of my imagination."
"Baka," he murmured and his voice sounded downright tender.
Sister Helen didn't even have to come and whisper me to sleep.
I woke to Quatre's voice calling me again and it was hard to drag myself
back to consciousness.
"Duo!" He sounded near frantic and I wondered how long he'd
been calling me.
"Oh God, Trowa... he can't... " , His voice got muffled then
and I imagined him with his face buried in Trowa's broad chest.
I opened my mouth to speak and ended up coughing. It wasn't what I had
intended to say but it let them know I was still among the living.
"He's alive!" Kurt shouted and I had to grin from the sheer
exuberance in his voice.
"Barely," I managed to croak out.
"Duo, it's time to switch back to the air tank; have you done that
I frowned; we'd talked about this already.
"Used it, 'member?" I muttered.
"What?" he asked, incredulous and I felt kind of bad. Maybe
I hadn't made the right decision after all if Quatre was this upset about
"Hands are numb... didn't think I could switch twice." My frown
deepened as I tried to think it through, "you said... good idea when
There was a long silence then and I was just as glad; talking was hard.
"What... Duo... " His voice sounded... strange.
"Never mind," Trowa told me calmly and I let the frown fade
away. "It's all right. It was probably for the best."
That eased my mind a little and I closed my eyes again; it didn't matter,
there was nothing to see in the dark anyway.
"How are you doing, Duo?" Trowa asked me gently.
"Fine," I mumbled. "Not even hungry any more."
Nobody said anything and I realized that I'd done something to upset them,
so I tried to make it better. "It's even a little warmer."
Quatre made a funny noise. I didn't think it was a good noise and I sighed
heavily. Maybe I should just shut up; I couldn't figure out why they kept
getting so distressed.
"Gonna sleep now," I told them and was really sorry that I couldn't
seem to stay awake to talk more.
"No, Duo," Quatre told me, his voice tinged with concern. "Try
to stay awake... they're almost there. Just a little longer."
But I just couldn't, no matter how hard I tried.
"I... I'm... sorry... "
The last thing I remembered hearing was Kurt yelling at me but even that
wasn't enough to bring me back.
After that, it got very strange. Light woke me; light and voices.
Heero and Wufei; only this time I could see Heero but not Wufei.
"Duo... Duo... can you hear me?" Heero's voice was patient and
calm and I opened my eyes to find him right on top of me, working with
my air connections.
"Hello again, Figment," I muttered, blinking my eyes open, then
had to shut them again. I'd been so long in the dark; the light from his
flash was piercingly bright.
"Hello, Duo," Figment Heero said softly.
"Was that... ?" Wufei's disembodied voice asked.
"Yes," Heero confirmed, "he's alive."
"Thank God," Wufei sighed and I almost blinked my eyes open
"Damn," I coughed, "mus' really be on death's door for
you not to be yellin'."
Suddenly, fresh air was rushing into my suit and I couldn't help but gasp
for it, sucking in what I could.
"Steady,"Heero was telling me, "don't pant... slow and
For a brief moment, everything came into sharp focus and I was awake and
alert and dazedly aware that these were not figments of my imagination.
"What the hell?" I muttered, trying to reach up and finding
that even in zero-g, my muscles wouldn't obey me.
Heero chuckled softly, "Not hell," he told me firmly. "Not
But there was more wrong with me than could be fixed with just a tank
of clean air, and I found myself slipping away again.
My next near coherent memory was suddenly finding myself with water running
over me. I came awake in a panic and tried to fight my way clear but there
were strong arms around me, holding me up, because gravity existed again.
Not full Earth gravity, shipboard showers won't work in zero-g, but much
more than I had been drifting in for the last week. I could barely move.
"You're all right," a soothing voice told me and I was vaguely
aware after a moment that Wufei was holding me and Heero was washing me.
"Don't fight us," Heero told me gently and I gave it up and
just sank into Wufei's arms, drifting on the edges of consciousness. Wufei's
chest felt fever hot against my skin. There were places all over my body
that stung under the spray of the water.
"He's nothing but skin and bones," Wufei said softly to Heero
"Careful how you hold him;" he admonished, "He's lost a
lot of bone density... "
I felt like a toy doll in their hands. That was my last articulate thought
before I faded away again.
I roused next to find myself sandwiched between two warm bodies and for
the first time I was aware that I was aboard my own ship. When I opened
my eyes, I could see 'Demon's' black ceiling with the constellations painted
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. I was vaguely aware of
a stinging, pulling sensation on my right arm and I tried to shift my
left hand to rub at it. Fingers closed over mine.
"Leave it alone," Heero said quietly from where he was curled
at my back. "It's your IV."
The back that my cheek was resting against rumbled under my ear. "He's
"I'm not sure," Heero responded and it slowly seeped down into
my brain just what position I was in. I flushed and struggled to pull
Hands were on me, holding me down. "Hush," Heero said. "You
were near hypothermic; we need to get you warmed back up."
I became aware that every blanket I owned was spread across us and both
Heero and Wufei were slightly damp with sweat. I, on the other hand, still
felt like I could break out in shivers.
I tried to speak again but he only hushed me, "Shhhh... go back to
sleep. Just rest."
I let my eyes drift shut.
"Yuy; we need to get some food in him."
"Fluids are more important right now," Heero said, his voice
lowering as he thought I had gone back to sleep. "I'm afraid solid
food will make him sick. He doesn't have the strength for that."
Wufei grumbled. "Wish to God we'd known he didn't stock the galley
with anything but damn military issue rations."
Heero just grunted. They grew quiet and I drifted away.
My next awakening found Wufei gone but Heero still in my bed, still wrapped
around me. I didn't feel like I was going to tremble myself apart from
the cold anymore. There was, in fact, a light feel of sweat on my own
body and a few of the blankets had been thrown back. I just lay for a
bit and listened to Heero's soft breathing, staring at my star-spattered
wall and trying to think.
This was real. These weren't just the voices in my head. These weren't
figments of my imagination. These weren't ghosts. Quatre hadn't been lying
What the flaming hell? Of all the people in the known universe, these
two were the last ones I would ever have expected to be on that rescue
ship. We had gone through a war together; fought side by side and neither
of them had rarely had a word to spare me that wasn't laced with annoyance.
I had driven them to raging distraction. They had found me to be 'unprofessional'
and a liability to our cover with my big mouth and what they termed my
'antics'. I had never been able to get across to either one of them that
they were the ones who drew the attention. They had never learned
the art of blending in. I may have been loud and somewhat obnoxious; but
that's what people expected out of guys our age back then. Nobody gave
me a second look. They were the ones who got stared at,
with their sullen glares and refusal to go with the flow of whatever was
going on. Always having to show people up.
Maybe I'd pushed a little too hard because of it; trying to make them
see how people accepted me, how they didn't give good ol' 'Duo the idiot'
a second thought. Things had just never gotten any better between us.
And it sure as hell didn't help that somewhere in there, I had fallen
head over heels, break your heart in love with Heero Yuy. I loved him
with every shard of my black and broken soul. I always had. I think I
Waking up in my own bed, with his warm, muscular chest pressed against
my back, his arm thrown carelessly across my hip was every God damn wet
dream I had ever had rolled into a reality that threatened to send me
screaming back into the dark.
This I could not do. This was so fucking unfair I damn near broke down
and cried where I lay. He was offering me this comfort because of what
I'd been through, not because of any damn feelings he had for me. I couldn't
even fathom that he had bloody well come out here after me. I could not,
could fucking not, allow myself to start thinking that there was
more to it than that.
The arm on my hip slid on around me and pulled me close. "You're
all right now," a sleepy voice murmured. "You're safe now...
it's all over."
I realized that he had reacted to my body tensing and tried to relax but
I was just too near the ragged edge of... something... .and found myself
desperate to get out of his arms before I did something extremely stupid.
He came fully awake then and his hands were gentle but firm and he resisted
my efforts to get away.
"Duo," he called to me, "it's all right; it's just me...
it's Heero. You're Ok now. Everything's all right."
I didn't have the strength to stinking raise my arms, much less struggle
out of his grasp. I felt like I'd been turned wrong side out, scraped
empty, then turned back. Hollow. Newborn kittens had more muscle tone
than I did. It was all I could do to turn my head and try to look at him.
He raised himself up on one elbow to bring his face where I could see
"You really awake this time?" he asked, his lips playing with
a tiny smile.
I should not have looked. It was like getting kicked in the gut... really
hard. He is... still... drop-dead gorgeous. The typical tall, dark and
handsome - only without the tall. Thick dark hair, eyes so damn blue you
could lose your mind staring into them. God made nothing else in the universe
that particular shade of blue; that color is Heero's and Heero's alone.
I think I might have gained an inch on him in the last couple of years
but it was a little hard to tell lying down. But he'd gotten... lean.
He was all angles and planes and I finally had to close my eyes to keep
them from roving all over him. God; I'd missed him. Had thought I was
getting over him.
"Duo?" he questioned gently, voice sounding concerned. "Are
you all right?"
I shivered. I hadn't been getting over shit. I'd only buried the heartache
under all the work, hidden behind the job so that I didn't see what I
didn't know how to handle.
"I... " I croaked, throat still feeling like it was full of
cotton balls, "I'm ok."
He chuckled at me. "Oh... you're just fine."
The sound surprised me into opening my eyes; he was leaning over me, smiling
warmly down. Maybe I was wrong... maybe this was still Figment-Heero.
This couldn't be real.
"Did... did I dream Wufei was here?" I finally managed to croak
"No," he told me, making no move what so ever to pull away from
me, lying with his hand resting on my hip as though he did it all the
time. "He's bringing Howard's ship; we're in-bound."
I brightened, forgetting for a moment that he was making my pulse race
and my nerves run fire. "You saved Randy?"
He smiled a little wider. "Yes, we retrieved... Randy. Wufei is piloting
I sighed and had to let my head fall back, even in the low gravity, my
neck muscles were trembling with fatigue just that fast. "Good. She
was Howard's primary ship; I felt really bad when I lost her.'
His hand left my hip and came to touch my forehead in that classic "checking
temperature' gesture. "Well," he told me, "Howard was a
little more concerned with losing you than the damn ship."
I flushed darkly and didn't say anything, just stared at the wall.
"Duo," he said softly then, "do you think you can try to
drink something? We need to get some food in you."
I could see my own arm lying sprawled across the sheets and it looked
like it belonged to somebody else; stick thin and frail looking.
I sighed heavily, "I should try," I told him. "But we'll
need to go into the head. I'll throw up. I always throw up the first time
I eat after I haven't for a couple of days."
There was a strange silence and I suddenly realized how that must have
sounded, like I make a habit of it. I didn't know what to say to make
it better and he didn't say anything either, just threw the rest of the
blankets back and climbed out of the bed. He was wearing nothing but a
pair of the soft 'ships pants' that you typically wore under your vacuum
suit. That was when I realized I wasn't wearing anything at all. I blushed
what was probably a very amusing shade of red and thanked God that my
body was too traumatized and stressed to react to his physical presence
the way it usually did.
He grinned down at me, "You lost so much weight; nothing we found
would stay on you."
I did my best to glare up at him but it lacks something when you can barely
move. "There's some shorts in the bottom drawer that have a draw-string
waist," I grumbled and he went to find them for me. But then he magnified
the indignity when he had to help me put them on. I couldn't believe how
much weight I had lost. I could almost count my own ribs.
I made to slide my hand to the edge of the bed to pull myself out but
he snorted a strange little laugh at me, unhooked the IV bag from its
hook and simply picked me up in his arms. I didn't have the strength to
even hold my head up and had to let it rest on his shoulder.
"Heero... " I tried to complain but he only chuckled at me;
there was obviously nothing else to be done. I couldn't have gotten myself
out of bed if my life had depended on it.
"Stop trying to be so damn tough about it, Duo," he scolded,
his voice calm and soothing. I wanted to ask him just what in the hell
he had done with the real Heero Yuy.
He took me into the head and sat me down before retrieving some water.
This was the one part of the ship where I had spent some money strictly
for luxuries' sake. I lived aboard this vessel both docked and in space,
so the head functioned as a normal 'bathroom' with a normal tub, shower
and toilet, and also in low-gravity with the sealed units. Heero perched
me on the side of the tub and lifted the lid on the toilet before handing
me the water. I looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to leave me
alone, before realizing he had no such plans.
I opened my mouth to object but he cut me off before I could even speak,
"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not going anywhere."
I sighed, decided the hell with it and took a couple of big gulps of water.
He frowned and reached for the bulb. "What are you doing?' he blurted,
"Not so fast... "
I raised a hand to stop him and shook my head. "Better than the dry
Then it was too late and I was spewing the water right back up into the
waiting toilet, only happy that we weren't in zero-g where the crap has
to be vacuumed out of your damn throat. As soon as I finished, I swallowed
some more and it came back up as well. On the third try I managed to keep
down a couple of sips. I used the towel that Heero handed me to wipe my
face and gave him a weak nod.
"A... all done," I managed and passed out cold.
When I came around again it was to find myself back in my bunk, nestled
against Heero's chest, the IV line snaking upward across my line of sight
to the hook over the bed. I had equipped the ship with a lot of little
things like that; I was usually in a position where I had to be able to
care for myself.
"... for a little while. We tried to get a little water down him
but he threw it all back up," Heero was whispering behind me.
"Damn," came Wufei's equally quiet reply over the speaker above
the bed, "You have to get him to eat."
"I know," Heero told him, voice sounding worried. "I wish
we had something milder to feed him; those damned rations aren't exactly
the easiest things to... "
"It's what I eat," I informed them and it came out a little
flat. "My system doesn't have a problem with them."
"Duo?" Wufei's voice rose to a normal level and he sounded...
relieved. "Dogs and starving coyotes have a problem with those damn
I had to chuckle. Heero's hand came to feel my face again, then slid to
pick up my wrist and I realized he was taking my pulse.
"You guys are just spoiled on those huge Preventor's salaries,"
I told Wufei, trying to ignore the feel of Heero's hands ghosting over
Wufei snorted softly. "Maxwell; Hamburger Helper is a step up from
Heero suddenly interrupted the banter. "We'll call you later. I'm
going to try feeding him."
Wufei chuckled at us and signed off.
I sighed again, wishing I had the strength to just push away and go take
care of things myself. This was getting rather embarrassing.
He shifted out of the bed and helped me ease over on my back, sitting
beside me on the edge of the bunk. I could feel the places where the vacuum
suit had worn sores pulling and stinging wherever they came in contact
with the sheet. The troubled look on his face fairly well took away the
flippant comment I had been working on. His hand came to touch my cheek,
almost seeming to move there without his knowledge.
"God... " he sighed, his eyes tracing over me. "You look
The blood rushed to my cheeks and I couldn't meet his eyes.
I hated feeling this out of control and I didn't know what to say to him.
"Do you think you could try to eat something?" he asked me softly
and it was so hard when he spoke in that tone of voice not to let my imagination
paint in more than was there.
"I should be fine now," I informed him, looking over his shoulder
and trying not to meet those piercing blue eyes. "If I'm careful
and take it slow... I usually don't throw up again."
He frowned at me outright and finally got up the nerve to ask me, "What
do you mean? How often... ?"
I stopped him, "Not in years. But as a kid... growing up on the streets."
I left it at that.
He cocked his head to the side. "With Solo?" he asked quietly
and it was my turn to frown; I didn't ever remember telling any of the
guys about Solo.
"Yeah... " I confirmed, "with Solo and the other kids."
I waited for him to question further but he let it go.
I decided to change the subject. "If you're intent on feeding me,"
I said, knowing that it was something that had to be done despite that
fact that I was not the least bit hungry, "here's what you do."
And I told him how to make Spacer's stew. I laughed outright at the disgusted
look on his face, stopping when I felt my lip split again.
"That sounds... vile," he informed me and I grinned at him.
"It's the closest thing to broth we're going to come up with."
So he went to heat the water and shave a ration bar into it, coming back
fairly quickly with a mug of the stuff. I was surprised at how much I
had missed his presence in the five minutes or so he was gone. I realized
when I thought about it, that he had been keeping himself in almost constant
contact. If not touching, then at least within sight.
He sat the mug down on the desk and came to help me prop up with the pillows
and wadded up blankets. I tried to push myself up but he didn't give me
the chance, simply leaned down and bodily lifted me.
"Heero... " I grumbled but he only smiled down at me.
"Hush," he said in mock warning. "You need to save your
"I'd save it, if I had it," I muttered and won a laugh from
He retrieved the mug and I tried to reach for it, but my hands were shaking
"Let me," he said and I had no choice but to allow him to feed
I managed only a few bites and he frowned, obviously upset.
"Heero," I sighed, "it's been over a week. It's going to
be slow or I'm going to throw it all right back up."
He capitulated and started to set the mug aside but then a strange look
came over his face. Cautiously, he raised a spoon-full and tasted it.
"Duo... that is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted,"
he told me with a wry grin and I couldn't help but grin back; though more
mindful of my cracked lips.
"You must not get around much, then," I laughed. "There's
a whole lot worse out there."
He shivered dramatically, then did set the mug aside.
"Don't try to save it," I told him. "It dries as hard as
cement after a couple of hours."
He cocked his head and looked down at me with an unreadable expression.
"Can I get you anything else?"
"I'm fine," I murmured.
A tiny frown flitted across his face but he didn't argue, just reached
over my head and made some adjustment to the IV. "I wish you'd try
some more water."
I nodded and he pulled out a squeeze bulb from somewhere and I was able
to raise my hand to take it but not able to hold it up. His hand wrapped
around mine and held it steady while I sipped.
I caught him looking at my hand. He noticed that I noticed and he dropped
"You... " he said after a second, "had the scars worked
My burn scars. They had made Quatre so upset that he almost cried every
time he had seen them. I had taken to wearing gloves quite a bit toward
the end of the war just to keep him from having to look.
I snorted softly, "I got tired of Quatre looking at me like he'd
done it to me himself. It made him feel better." I glanced up, a
little embarrassed. "He... paid for the surgery."
He looked at me oddly. "You didn't want it done?"
I shrugged, looking down at the hand still lying on the bed. I flexed
the fingers while I tried to think how to explain it.
"It never bothered me what it looked like... it was the nerve
damage... and that can't be repaired."
His face took on that unreadable expression again. "The surgery had
to have been... painful... why... ?"
I grinned up at him and stopped trying to explain. "I never could
say no to Quatre."
He offered me another sip of water and I took it not because I wanted
it but because he wanted me to drink.
I was suddenly exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open. He was right
there, shifting the pillows and pulling the blankets out, sliding me back
down in the bed and preparing to crawl in with me.
"You don't have to stay with me," I told him with a tongue that
was already growing unwieldy with drowsiness.
"Yes I do," he told me simply and I found myself back in the
shelter of his arms, shocked at how quickly I had grown accustomed to
"I'm fine," I mumbled thickly.
"Of course you are," he soothed, "but you just spent a
week in what amounts to a sensory deprivation chamber. You need... human
Ah. It was starting to make a little more sense now. In a way I was relieved
that the world was back on its axis. At the same time, I felt my heart
shatter all over again. Damn. I had let that little bastard 'hope' get
a finger-hold in the back of my head despite myself. I'd known better;
I'd fought against it... but I was just too tired; too worn down. Regardless
of my best efforts, I had started to harbor the hope that he was treating
me like this, was being so attentive and so concerned, because he cared.
I fell asleep wrapped in the warmth of his arms feeling as lonely and
hurt as I have in a lot of years.
I woke up in the dark. The
air was stale and cold again. I couldn't feel my fingers. Shit.
"Hey rat-boy." Solo said, leaning over me. "Thought ya
weren't gonna wake up that time."
"Solo?" I said stupidly, not sure which was the reality and
which was the dream. "I thought I was safe... " I tried to look
around but couldn't move. "Heero came for me... "
Solo laughed derisively. "Heero came for ya? Come on kid, tell me
which is more likely."
I blinked at him and thought about it. "You're right." Heero
come all the way out to the damn asteroid belt to save my ass? Not bloody
likely. "Solo... help me with this damn airline. I've had enough."
"Now you're talkin', kid!" he crowed, then straightened and
looked off into the dark. "But ya waited too long."
"What do you mean?" I looked where he was staring but couldn't
He edged away from me. "Sorry kid," he murmured low, just before
he faded, "the Derry crew wants their air back."
I looked again and saw the suited up corpses coming down the corridor,
arms out-stretched and murmuring unintelligibly, led by their Captain.
The one with no suit and only half a face.
"Solo!" I screamed, "come back here you son of a bitch!
Get me loose from here!"
He didn't answer me or appear again. I started cussing a blue streak,
hoping that Sister Helen might show up to lecture me about my language.
"Duo! Wake up! Come on, Duo... it's all right... I've got you...
I came awake panting, sweating and struggling with Heero's arms holding
He eased his grip when he saw my eyes open. "It's Ok now. You're
safe... it's all over."
to Sunhawk's fic]