Author: Sunhawk

Memories of Pain

I jogged easily along the gravel path, my eyes shifting watchfully between where I was going and Duo's form, half a length ahead of me. Though it had been months since his leg brace had come off, his right leg was not built back to what it once had been. His therapist had reluctantly released him to these morning jogs just this week, and it still worried me to see him running on it. I was ever vigilant of any sign he might fall.

There weren't any of the other knee patients at the clinic that had progressed at this point in their rehabilitation to running. Most of them, at this stage, were still struggling with walking without a limp and would have choked if you had suggested they try a deep knee bend, much less go jogging. I was inexplicably proud of him at the same time that I was concerned that he was pushing himself too hard. Knee surgery was not something you came back from over night.

The park was pleasant this time of day; still cool, not a lot of people about, and I had come, in just these few days, to relishing this routine we had together. I let Duo set the pace, and we just moved along the path, under the trees at a steady, ground eating pace, that he could usually manage for about a mile. Then we would stop and rest for a bit before walking back.

We were coming to a point in the gravel running path where it rose slightly to the top of a small hill that overlooked the athletic park before coming back down and going out of the trees and entering the main track and field area. We usually stopped at the top of the hill and rested on a bench that had been built under a spreading maple tree before turning back the way we had come. It had a nice view over the valley to the east where the sun was still low in the sky.

Half way up the hill, I saw him falter. I had hold of him instantly, before his knee did more than sag under his weight.

"Damn!" he said, caught by surprise, "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" I asked, holding him up while he tested the knee.

"Know I'm falling before I do?"

I just chuckled. His leg was being uncooperative, and I pulled his arm over my shoulders and helped him walk the rest of the way to the bench at the top of the hill. He sat down with a sigh and I knelt in front of him, checking his knee over. It felt hot and was slightly swollen. We would need to ice it when we got home.

"Watching my ass, again, weren't you?" he teased.

"Well, it does give me something to do." I replied smugly, and shocked a bark of laughter out of him.

His eyes sparkled with mischief, bright and so alive. Not like they had been just a few months ago. He'd come so far since those dark days of recovery. It was so good to see him laughing again, genuinely smiling and happy. And it was still such a bittersweet shock that I was part of his source of happiness. He could tolerate the touch of my hand without flinching as he had for so long after we got him out of that torture chamber on the station. He'd said he loved me. I still pulled that out of it's secret place in my heart and stared at it in disbelief sometimes.

I sat down beside him and we just watched the sun creep up the sky for a while.

Finally, he flexed his leg and grimaced, "We'd better head back; it's starting to get stiff."

I frowned, "Maybe I should carry you... " I began, and he rolled his eyes at me.

"I can stinking well walk, Mama-Yuy!"

"Are you sure?"

He laughed, "You're sweet when you worry."

I felt my face flush and he laughed some more, delighted, and then kissed me lightly.

Neither of us heard the steps on the gravel until it was too late.

"Will you guys look at this? Gross!"

We were instantly on our feet and moving apart, soldier's instincts taking over. I kept myself on Duo's right, his weak side, and made sure the bench was between the new arrivals and us.

There were five of them, hotshot athletes out this early because some coach somewhere was making them. Irritated to be out of bed this early, full of hormones and black coffee. Too stupid to recognize trouble when it glared death at them.

"Look at the hair on that one!" a blond jock with a buzz cut jeered.

I could not believe I had not heard them coming. A tiny voice inside my head whispered, told you this was a bad idea. I quashed the voice even as I had to admit it was right. This was why soldiers shouldn't ever let the walls come down. Caring meant distraction.

"Ahhh, don't they make the cutest couple?" another, muscle-bound moron giggled, as the group of them topped the hill. Dressed pretty much alike, obviously part of some local sports team, here on campus not because of their IQ.

They were continuing towards us, splitting up and coming around the bench from both directions, jeering and laughing. They had us pegged as easy targets, somebody they could take out their frustrations on. There's a word for what they were engaging in, and it's rude. Duo and I automatically shifted back to back.

"We don't put up with that kind of shit around here!" the one I had tagged as the ringleader growled menacingly.

There were two coming for me and the other three were closing on Duo. I couldn't risk his being able to handle them in his condition. I didn't wait while this dance played out. I shot forward, not waiting for them to make the first move. A hard kick to the mid-section of the buzz cut boy doubled him over and I saw to it that his face met harshly with the back of the bench. I simply caught the arm of the second one as he swung at me and snapped it. These weren't fighters; they went down screaming with their injuries and made no effort to get back up. Good.

I heard, as I was turning, Duo dispatch the leader with a kick to the face that I couldn't believe he even tried. He landed badly and had to tuck and roll to evade a grab from muscle boy. I was on them then, and I'm afraid concern for Duo made me a little rougher than was probably necessary for the situation. If track were truly their sport, most of them would likely be sitting out the season. Once they were down, I knew they weren't getting back up, and I dismissed them.

Duo was up and ready for round two before the last one hit the ground, he quirked a grin at me, hands on hips, "You never let me have any fun any more."

I moved to his side, "They pissed me off." I growled.

"Well, they'll know better than that the next time." He was actually enjoying himself, I swear he was.

"Are you all right?" I looked him over critically.

"Fine." He grinned a feral grin, and deliberately leaned in and kissed me. The Duo equivalent of flipping them off, I suppose. I kissed him back.

"Can you walk back down?"

"Of course." And he demonstrated by leading off back down the path. He was limping rather obviously by the time we got back to the car, one borrowed from the Winner estate, and though he wouldn't ask for help, he didn't deny me when I moved in and wrapped an arm around his waist and shored him up.

There was a bizarre sense of deja vu as I helped him into the car, and he got quiet for a minute, thinking back, I'm sure, to the trip when it was him helping me in and out of cars. He shook it off and grinned at me,

"If you want, I can drive."

I just grunted, sliding into the drivers seat, and he laughed some more. His eyes were bright and his face was flushed and I realized this was the first action of any kind he had seen since the mess on the space station. He missed it. You get addicted to the adrenaline. We are what we are, I guess. I realized that he would probably be returning to active duty soon, and I sighed. I wished it didn't have to happen.

"I'll be all right." He said softly.

I grunted in surprise, it still amazed me how our thoughts circled around each other, and I could tell he wasn't just talking about the swelling in his knee. He knew what I was sighing over.

Then his smile blazed forth again, "After all, you can't keep me a captive sex slave forever!"

This time, the surprised laugh came from me, and I looked over at him, but he was already turned to watch the houses go by out the passenger window.

We hadn't taken that step yet. Not that I didn't want it. For a while, it would have been impossible with his injuries anyway. Then, when he was feeling better, it just never seemed to be the right time. I didn't want to push him. He made these little jokes and I sometimes thought he was just waiting for me to make the first move. But etched in my memory forever, was the image of him in the throes of that damned interrogation drug that translated touch into pain. For months, the merest brush of anyone's hand would make him flinch in reaction. He finally seemed to be over-coming it, and I was not going to let my desires damage the trust that was growing between us.

What we had was enough. We kissed. We touched. On the nights when the nightmares got too much for him, he would come and crawl into my bed and we would hold each other. Across a crowded room, he could meet my eyes and give me a look that made me feel kissed to my very soul. What we had was more than I had ever dreamed of. I would wait until he was ready. And if it never happened, it didn't matter.

I pulled the car right up to the front door of the safe house, and came around to the passenger side just as he was pulling himself out. I didn't ask, I just scooped him up and carried him up the front steps.

"Heero, for cryin' out loud, I can walk!"

"Not if I don't put you down, you can't."

The door flew open and Quatre came charging out to meet us, "What happened?" Is he all right?"

"I'm fine!" Duo was starting to sound irritated, "Damn it Heero, you upset Quatre, put me down!"

"His knee's swelling, I need ice." I commanded as I came through the foyer and carried Duo through toward the formal living room. I would miss this house when we had to move on.

Quatre darted off on his mission, yelling for Trowa and Wufei.

Duo groaned, "Now look what you've gone and done."

Before anyone else arrived in the room, I laid him down on the sofa and taking his face between my hands, kissed him hard. "I like carrying you." I grinned evilly, "And now I have an excuse to coddle and baby you all afternoon."

I released him before the others came pouring into the room, Quatre bringing ice packs and towels and painkillers.

"What happened?" Wufei wanted to know, his eyes checking us both over for injuries.

"We were attacked in the park." I told him tersely. "Bunch of jocks, looking for trouble."

"I take it," Trowa frowned, "they found it?"

"Most definitely." I bent to the task of wrapping Duo's knee in the thin towel and packing it in ice bags. He just glared at me.

"Is Duo OK?" Quatre hovered around me, trying to help.

"I'm not freaking unconscious here!" Duo snapped, "Stop talking about me like I'm not in the room!"

"He'd be better if he hadn't tried executing a flying kick." I intoned. That got them going.

"Maxwell! What were you thinking?" Wufei berated him, hands on hips.

"I was thinking," Duo snapped back, "that three very big thugs were going to break me in half if I didn't do something first!"

"But a flying kick?" he asked, incredulous, "With your knee?"

"It worked!"

"Till you fell on your ass." I tossed in, just to keep things stirred up.

"I rolled!"

"You fell?" Quatre demanded, "Are you sure nothing else is hurt? Is your hand Ok?"

Duo flexed his left hand for Quatre's benefit, the one that had taken several surgeries to put back together. "See? Fine. I wasn't stupid enough to hit anybody with it."

"And Yuy!" Wufei was suddenly in my face. "What were you doing while Duo was fighting these punks off?"

I grunted in surprise, "I had my own set of punks."

"He only had two." Duo muttered petulantly, seeing an opening to turn the tables.

Then things took a decidedly different turn, when Wufei said "And how the hell did a bunch of college kids get the drop on you two to begin with?"

There was a moment of stunned silence while I struggled with plausible explanations, none of which started with; we were necking on the park bench.

Trowa saved me, I don't know if it was deliberate or not. "Well, they're obviously fine; I'm going back to work. When you get a minute, Yuy, we have a mission tomorrow, we need to talk."

He left the room and the banter died. I could see emotions playing across Duo's face for a second before his patented grin settled in place. "Man, you guys have all the fun, what's the mission?"

A few months ago, I would have been irritated at him for his attitude, now I knew him better and realized he was in knots wanting to know where we were going and if we'd be in any serious danger, but he couldn't let that show, not here in front of everybody. But I knew he was worried. I hadn't been on a lot of missions myself in the last couple of months, between my own hospital stay and recovery, and then caring for Duo.

"Guess I'll go find out." And I followed Trowa before Wufei had a chance to start in on me again.

The mission turned out to be a fairly straight forward hit on a munitions dump; intelligence had found evidence of a new site building in the asteroid belt. Nothing major, it wasn't even supposed to have progressed to the point of being heavily defended. There was the potential for a bit of fireworks, but I personally thought two of us on the mission was overkill, it seemed that cut and dried. But it was going to mean several days away from the others.

I spent the afternoon closeted with Trowa, going over reports and calculating time and distances, making our plans and discussing our options. I didn't see Duo again until we broke for dinner. It was a lavish meal that Quatre had made himself, having given the cook and kitchen staff the night off. All the foods were Trowa's favorites, and I realized suddenly that this was a ritual of Quatre's any time Trowa had a mission without him. Quatre seemed to find extra reasons to touch him; they sat side-by-side, exchanging glances and not really speaking out loud, but saying volumes with their eyes. I had to look back in memory to realize this had been going on right in front of me for ages and I'd never looked outside myself to see it. Quatre was obviously apprehensive, and I tried to put myself in his place, tried to imagine that it was Duo going off tomorrow and leaving me behind. My eyes sought Duo's across the table, but he was carefully avoiding looking at me, teasing Wufei, or distractedly stirring his food around. I caught him stealing glances at Trowa and Quatre a couple of times.

Duo left the table first, Trowa and Quatre disappeared not long after, and I found myself cleaning up the mess with Wufei.

"Wash or dry?" he asked.

"Whichever you prefer." I grunted, and wound up washing.

I scrubbed in silence for a while; lasagna is damned messy stuff, looking out the kitchen window at the darkening sky. I should be thinking about the mission, not Duo, and I knew it. Beside me, Wufei maintained an almost respectful silence.

"You'll keep an eye on him?" I ventured into the quiet after a while, not looking at him.

"Of course." There was a hint of something... amusement? In his voice.

I ignored it. "Don't let him run by himself, his knee gives out on him sometimes."

There was only a noncommittal grunt as Wufei dried another plate and put it in the cabinet. He wasn't going to make this easy.

"Listen for him, would you, at night?" My face felt flushed, "He still has nightmares... about the station, sometimes."

I waited, but Wufei didn't comment and I ground my teeth wishing he'd help me a little here. But this was for Duo's sake and it didn't matter how embarrassed I was, I needed to get the information across to somebody.

"Just don't touch him, until he's completely awake. It's ... .bad... if you do."

That drew an odd sigh and I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye. He reached to take a now clean glass from my hand, brow furrowed in a frown.

"I promise I will watch over him while you are away." He intoned solemnly and I could see him working over something else in his mind. I stayed quiet, waiting for it, but he didn't speak again until we were done. He put the towel away while I drained the dishwater. His reflection in the now dark kitchen window met my eyes.

"Heero, you are not responsible for what happened to Duo. You are letting yourself get distracted. That's a dangerous thing... for both of you. Trust me to take good care of him while you're gone and put it out of your mind before you ever board your Gundam. For both your sakes."

I was so surprised that I just stood with my mouth gaping open while he walked out of the room.

Too close to the things my inner voice kept whispering to me. Damn. He knew. Or suspected. I don't think Duo or I either one was quite ready to bring our strange relationship out in the open. It was too new, too raw, and as jumpy as over-sensitized flesh. It needed to grow into something less fragile before we were able to bring it into the light of day. But Wufei was right; I could not be thinking about Duo while I was piloting Wing into a firefight.

The house was still by the time I made my way to the study to gather my laptop and the stack of mission reports and headed up to my room; everyone else had already retired. I was reading over, one more time, the list of mission objectives as I came down the hall and passed Quatre's door. The sounds issuing from within brought me to a cold stop in the middle of the hall.

Trowa's voice murmured, soft and low, and then Quatre's rose in a deep-throated moan. He gasped out Trowa's name in a near incoherent voice that was so altered by desire I hardly recognized it. The sound of their passion hit me like a physical blow and I just stood there; I didn't mean to eavesdrop, didn't mean to stop frozen there like an idiot, but their sounds washed over me, making my blood run like heated wine through my system, rushing straight to my groin, straight to my cheeks. Oh, they made me ache. I had to close my eyes and struggle against the paralysis that held me rooted to the spot, hearing Quatre begin to groan in rhythmic counterpoint to Trowa's sobbing of his name.

Then some other, older instinct kicked in and told me I was being watched. I felt the familiar prickling on the back of my neck, and my eyes snapped open to see Duo in the doorway of his room at the end of the hall, watching me, I don't know for how long. He stood bare-foot, wearing just a pair of jeans, his hair unbound and a brush hanging limply from one hand, his head leaned against the doorjamb, his face completely unmasked and open to me. He looked so... sad, his eyes bottomless amethyst pools of aching need. Like a thirsty soul on a boundless salty sea. Where had I heard that? Didn't matter; it fit. I started toward him without any conscious effort; I don't think I could have not gone to him at that moment.

The hall suddenly seemed a mile long and all I could see was Duo's sweet face, framed by that silky waterfall of hair. I longed to sift it through my fingers and feel it brushing across my bare skin. To lose my hands in it at the base of his neck... .

I stopped in front of him, and he retreated before me, an open invitation to follow him inside. The room was lit by soft candlelight, and there was the faint scent of sandalwood in the air. He pushed the door closed behind me, shutting out the light from the hall and leaving us enveloped in a soft, golden halo of warm light. I sat the laptop and reports down on the table by the bed and Duo dropped the brush on the floor.

"Duo?" I whispered, almost afraid to break the stillness, and he was suddenly in my arms, pressing himself against me, his mouth seeking insistently for mine. I enveloped him, wrapped myself around him and opened my mouth to his hungry probing.

I groaned, in unconscious imitation of the sounds I had heard moments ago in the hall, a sound that came from deep in my chest and I hardly recognized as my own.

Yes! My body screamed, Finally! Finally! Oh God's yes!

My gut was on autopilot, clenched tight and just feeling, it had no room left for voice.

My heart, it's rhythm sporadic, tried to speak to me, slow down! It said, something's not right, here! But I was too lost in sensation to hear.

The tiny voice that after all this time, still thought this was a hideously bad idea just hunkered down in the back of my head and muttered shitshitshitshit.

Duo's hands were everywhere, tugging at my shirt, jerking at the snap on my jeans and his roughness was arousing me in a way he couldn't know. But it was his utter silence that finally filtered through and let me hear what my heart was telling me.

Where my hand slid up his back, the muscles stood out in steel hard cords. His hands on my shoulders were trembling, shaking so hard he was grabbing at my clothes with clenched fists in an effort to hide it. I drew back and looked into his face, and what I saw there wasn't passion, but fear. His eyes were shut, tight, and I took my hand away from his body to tentatively reach up and touch his cheek. He flinched. Hard. Like before, right after we got him back from the station. His eyes snapped open and met mine, and we both froze.

"Duo? Duo, stop, please stop." I breathed, not sure whether to let go or draw him in.

He made an anguished, mewling cry and pushed away from me, leaving me feeling cold and empty.

"Heero, I'm sorry... so sorry." His voice was thick and his eyes were lost in another time and place, "I can't... I can't... Gods, I thought I could... "

I reached a hand out, his pain drawing me to him, but he twisted and flinched away. "Gimme a minute... just a minute." He panted out, and retreated, almost staggering, to the bathroom. He shut the door firmly and then I heard water running.

All I could do was stand there in the middle of the room and stare at the closed door. Oh Gods, what had I done? How could I have screwed things up this bad? I felt hollow inside; drained and sick.

I refastened my pants, and tugged my shirt back into place, running a hand through my hair and when the minutes ran on, I let my trembling legs take me over to the side of the bed where I sat down. I concentrated on calming down, running quickly through a couple of control exercises and when he finally emerged from the bathroom, I was able to focus on him completely, putting my own needs and desires behind me. It really wasn't hard; most of my passion had died in the instant he had recoiled from me.

I stood, but found I couldn't rush to him, despite an overwhelming need to hold him, to make it better somehow. We fluttered about each other like a pair of skittish animals, magnetically drawn to each other, but the moment making an impossibility out of intimacy. His eyes looked shadowed and haunted, and somehow, when he glanced at me out of the corners of them, I felt he was seeing something more than just me standing there. I finally couldn't stand it any more.

"Are you all right?" I ventured into the awkward stillness, inadequate words, at best.

He nodded, still not able to meet my eyes. I wanted to hear him say it. I just wanted to hear his voice, to know he didn't hate me.

"Sure?"

He glanced at me, for just a second and snorted softly, "I'm OK, Heero. I'll be all right."

His voice didn't hold any anger, only an immense sadness, and the sound of it made my stomach turn over.

"Can I hold you, love?" I whispered, "I swear to God I won't press you again. I'm so sorry, so very sorry."

He turned wide eyes on me, "Wasn't you. Was my fault. All my fault."

He came into my arms again, not with the mad fire of before, but gently; wrapping his arms around my waist and letting me put my arms protectively around him, nuzzling his face against my shoulder.

"I'm sorry. I thought I could... " he faltered, hesitated, "I wanted to give you...I wanted... "

"You're not ready, my heart." I soothed, and the endearment made him shiver in my arms, "It doesn't matter. I won't lie to you and say I don't want it. But I don't want it that way. Someday, when it's right for both of us... "

He tensed against my shoulder, sighing heavily, "You got yourself one messed up piece of work, Yuy."

I smiled into his hair, "I think we are equally messed up, and that's why we fit together so perfectly."

I felt a tiny smile against my neck and it made me bold.

"I love you, and what I feel when I'm with you is more than I ever thought I would have. It's enough, Duo; more than I deserve."

He pulled back, searching my face, emotions playing naked in his eyes.

"Me? More than you deserve? God's Heero... how can you say that?" his face warred with a half a dozen bitter feelings and finally crumbled into guilt.

"I'm nothing but a ... a damn street rat! You deserve someone better! Someone clean and ... and... "

I cut him off with a gentle kiss, "There is no stain on your hands that does not stain mine as well. Who else could love a cold-hearted soldier but another soldier? Who else would have the strength but you?"

He deflated, laying his head back on my shoulder, "I'm not strong. Not like you."

I sighed against his neck, "Your strength makes a mockery of mine."

He jerked upright again, looking almost angry for a moment, searching my face. Then his eyes widened.

"You mean it, don't you?" he said, awed, "You really mean it."

"I was trained from the time I could walk to do the things I do, love." I traced the line of his jaw, the lines of old scars. "But you... you just do what needs to be done, I don't know how you manage, sometimes. You amaze me."

He just stared at me, cheeks flushed, looking, I think, for some sign I was mocking him. He didn't find it.

The moment ended, it began to feel awkward as we just stood and looked at each other.

"Gods, you're poetic tonight." He finally managed a small smile, sliding out of my embrace.

I smiled in turn, "Maybe it's the atmosphere."

He bent to retrieve the brush and I turned to pick up my laptop, thinking it was time I went back to my own room. My own, dark, empty room. I stopped, with my hand on the doorknob thinking about the mission, thinking about Quatre and Trowa, and the long empty hours before dawn. I thought about nightmares. I turned back.

"Duo... do you think... I mean... would you... " there was no way I could ask this on the heels of what had just happened.

But he didn't wait for me to ask, with his back turned, not looking at me, he said,

"Heero, I can't give you what I want to give you. Not yet... maybe not ever. But, would it be too much to ask for you to stay here with me tonight?"

I smiled, "Not too much to ask. I would like it... very much."

Neither of us undressed completely; I kicked off my shoes and we crawled together beneath the covers. There were a few minutes of self-conscious sorting out, until suddenly Duo started to giggle, and we stumbled upon each other in the strange landscape we found ourselves in. I wound up on my back, Duo tucked in under one arm, his head resting on my chest. I realized the sandalwood fragrance I had noticed earlier was coming from his hair, it mixed with the scent that was definingly Duo and encircled my senses, making me feel warm and safe and I began to drift toward sleep.

"Love you." I muttered, feeling myself slipping away.

He shifted, twining around me until it felt like he was everywhere, "All my heart." He murmured, his breath washing warm and sweet across my chest.

Oddly, it was the most restful sleep I had experienced in a long time. It shouldn't have been, Duo is a... restless sleeper; I woke several times to find myself tangled in strands of sleek, chestnut hair, his arms wrapped around me tight and warm. He made me feel a hundred different things but they were all good things, and I slept without dreams. I thought for the longest time, that he might spend a dreamless night as well, but in the earliest hour of pre-dawn, before the birds even began to stir, I awoke to find him coiled beside me, tense and trembling.

And may the Gods forgive me; I lay still as a stone and let the nightmare overtake him.

There was something more in these nightmares that he was keeping from me. Something worse than the bizarre, erotic, drug enhanced torture he had endured on that space station. It ran deeper, older. I needed to know what it was. He needed for me to know what it was, but he wasn't able to tell me. His waking, conscious mind wasn't able to tell me. I couldn't help him if I didn't know what was going on. So I stayed still, and didn't speak when I could still have talked him free of it. I bit my tongue and let it happen, hoping beyond hope that I would get some clue. This had to end.

The trembling turned to shudders and he began to moan softly,

"Solo... help me... help me... where are you?"

His voice was soft and slurred, lost in sleep, lost in nightmare. He didn't sound like Duo at all, but like a child.

"Don't make me go back out... they'll catch me again... please... "

The childish terror tore at my heart. His breath came in hitching gasps while he listened in his mind to the answering voice I couldn't hear.

"Hurts so bad... Solo, why do they do that? Hurts... "

Oh, how I wished I could hear that other voice, all the clues were on the side of the conversation I couldn't be privy too.

"... No, I don't want the little ones to starve... "

At my side, Duo curled in on himself, sheets clutched to his chest, listening intently.

"I'll be brave... I won't let them down... I won't cry... "

Before I realized it, the talking was over, and the nightmare was dragging him deeper and he was thrashing against me, fighting someone, but it was a young Duo, who didn't have the size and training to fight the way my Duo could have, and I easily kept him from hurting either one of us.

"Duo! Duo, wake up! It's Heero. You're all right. You're safe. I've got you."

I was able to break the grip of memory before it carried him too far from me, and he came awake biting back a strangled scream, eyes wild and black in the dim light of the near burned out candles. There was a moment that he didn't know me, a horrifying moment before I saw recognition in his wide eyes and then he was on me, arms so tight around me I feared he might crack ribs. I enfolded him and he began to shake.

I brushed sweaty strands of hair out of his face and stroked his brow. "It's all over. It's all right. I'm here, I'm here... "

I felt like such an asshole. Guilt gnawed at me the whole time I rocked and comforted him. But I had the clues I had sought, and I lie whispering to him while he fought off the darkness and I pieced it together. I hoped he would break down and let go of his control enough to cry and let it out. He was right there on the edge of it, and I wanted that release for him, but he just lay and took great, gasping breaths and fought it off.

His shuddering subsided and he pulled wordlessly away, climbing out of bed and going to stand by the window, arms wrapped around his own bare shoulders. The dim light of pre-dawn lit his face in a pale ghostly light, and the last of the candles glowed warm on his back. My breath caught; he was so beautiful. So ethereal and fey and so much more than I had ever dreamed. I rose and followed him, making sure he knew I was there, and gently rested my hands on his shoulders. I looked past him out the window and the closed in expression on the face reflected in the glass, hardened my resolve.

"Duo, who raped you?"

[cont]