Author: Sunhawk

Broken Rules (cont)

I hesitated with the next question, afraid of upsetting him, and then asked anyway, "Was that before or after they gave you the drug?"

"Before." He answered promptly, voice tinged with anger, "Afterwards, things became more... subtle."

I wanted to go kill something. Slowly, with a great deal of ... subtlety.

A nurse appeared then, to check his vitals and seemed very pleased to see him awake. I stepped away from the side of the bed while she worked. She added a series of questions to the routine of pulse, pupil, and blood pressure checking and went away to report to a Doctor somewhere.

I could not let this happen. I was tired and coming down off a fear-induced high. If I stayed here much longer, I was going to say something I couldn't cover up. When I thought too hard about what each of us had risked in our turn to save the other from captivity, my heart turned over. We were warriors, and this was not allowed. Could not be allowed. I had to get my emotions back into that little black box. Even if I had to club them to death first.

I yawned hugely, not really something I had to fake, and stretched until joints popped.

"I promised Trowa I'd call the house when you woke up." This wasn't a lie either.

"Heero, go home. You look like crap." He suggested, and I felt guilty for the manipulation.

I agreed, making him promise to call me if they released him that afternoon, and I left the hospital. I left him alone. That ate at me too.

I walked back to the Winner estate, it was five miles, but I knew I was going to have bad dreams when I finally lay down to sleep, and I was in no hurry.

As it turned out, because of the odd circumstances with the interrogation drugs, they kept him until the next day. Though he was in a lot of pain, there was really no reason he couldn't come home, there wasn't much that would help now, except time. Things were very awkward, he wasn't supposed to be putting weight on his knee yet, but with his shoulder taped to his chest, crutches weren't really possible. And as if that didn't make him wobbly enough, having one eye swollen shut was throwing his depth perception off. That meant that even though each of us had our own room in this house, Duo really needed to be in with someone. I tried, without being obvious, to arrange it so he was moved into Wufei's room. But somehow, in the end, he wound up in mine.

The Doctors gave him a couple days off before he had to resume therapy, and then we settled into a routine of wrestling him down to the clinic each morning and then bringing him home so exhausted he napped for a bit in the afternoon. I would help him downstairs in the evenings so he could sit outside for awhile when the weather permitted, or in the living room where we usually congregated after dinner. He smiled and he laughed and he teased. He was Duo Maxwell to the hilt. And only I knew what it was costing him. Only I knew he was waking up every night in a cold sweat gasping for breath and biting back screams.

He slept badly enough as it was, between the immobilized shoulder and the knee brace. I could hear him shifting, most of the night, trying to get comfortable, but then, when he did finally drift off, he was awake again within hours, wrapped in whatever horror was over taking him, and struggling to stay quiet, so he didn't wake me. It was wearing him down. It was wearing me down.

He didn't know he was waking me; because I just lay there and feigned sleep and listened to him slowly get his breathing under control. I didn't dare go to him. I wanted to, with every fiber of my being, I wanted to. But I was terrified of what I would do, what I might say. I could not let this happen.

I took him to most of his therapy sessions, and early on, Duo's therapist had drafted me to help him at home. One of the things that had become my job was to massage his left hand, the one they had operated on, to help keep scar tissue from forming. When I did it, he made these little sounds of pleasure, tiny little moans and sighs, that set me on fire. This was getting entirely out of hand. I had to shut this down, get myself back under control.

He was sinking into a depression that the others didn't see. He stopped asking me to take him downstairs in the evenings, just stayed in our room, sometimes doing his exercises, sometimes just laying and staring at the ceiling. I came and went, trying to seem normal, I brought him meals that he picked at and made sure he took his medicine. I brought him books he didn't read, and tried to entice him into going outside. I knew we only had to get through three or four tough weeks before his therapy progressed enough that they would let him walk on the knee and the tape would come off the shoulder. But he was lost in this time warp where he couldn't see an end to it. I didn't know how to help him, I hovered, I guess, and that just seemed to make things worse. I think the nightmares were intensifying.

I got solid confirmation of that somewhere early in the second week. It had been a difficult day at best. The therapy seemed to have stalled, nothing had changed in several sessions, and I think Duo was pushing himself too hard, trying to force results. He and his therapist had words; she was calm and gentle as always, but I'm pretty sure she must have reprimanded him somewhat. I didn't hear, and the trip home was full of sullen silence that I didn't dare break to ask.

He refused lunch, argued about his medicine, and stayed in bed most of the afternoon. At dinnertime, he begged off going downstairs, so I went to make him a tray.

"Is everything all right?" Quatre questioned me as he helped make up a plate for me to take upstairs.

"I don't know." I had to admit with a sigh, "He seems... tired."

Quatre patted my arm and smiled slightly, "You seem tired too, Heero." And he turned away to get a soda out of the refrigerator.

That small touch brought it all in to focus for me. Trying to shut down my rising feelings for Duo, I had shut down everything. People touch. That's what they do. I didn't touch him at all anymore. Trying to harness my own desires, I had shut him out completely. I was failing him again.

Quatre sat the soda on the tray, a small bribe; Duo loved soda, and we hadn't been letting him have a lot.

"Thank you, Quatre." I said and turned to go back upstairs.

I heard a confused, "You're... welcome." And I smiled, out of his line of sight.

I almost dropped the tray when I got back upstairs and pushed the door to our room open, only to find Duo sitting on the side of his bed, savagely slicing the bindings off his shoulder.

"What the hell are you doing?" I yelled at him, dumped his dinner tray on the desk, and took the knife away from him almost before he knew I was back in the room.

He was instantly angry, and made a grab for it, but I had already closed the blade and stuffed it in my pocket. I dropped to my knees in front of him and realized that the bandages were a total loss. I put a lid on my irritation and began to gently unwind what was left of the binding, checking to make sure he hadn't cut himself. As was the norm now, he flinched whenever my fingers touched bare skin, though I could see him struggling to control it.

"Duo, what in the world were you thinking?" I asked, as calmly as I could manage.

He just sat for a minute, staring at me as though I had grown a second head, working his jaw, not quite able to say whatever he was thinking.

When he finally forced the words out, they came out sounding totally defeated, "I'm sick to death of being so damn helpless."

"You just have to be patient." I chided, finally removing the last of the shredded bandaging. It was the first I had seen his shoulder since the hospital, the deep bruising had come finally to the surface and was shockingly dark against his pale skin.

"There's no damn end to it!" his eyes dropped from mine, "And I know you guys are sick of waiting on me hand and foot!"

"Never!" I said, maybe a little too harshly. I lightly placed a hand under his chin; he flinched, but let me raise his eyes back to mine. "It will end, and you will heal, and we will never get tired of taking care of you."

I stood up and carefully picked him up, "Come here." I told him firmly, as though he had a choice, and took him across the room and put him on his feet in front of the closet door, steadying him under his good arm to keep his weight off his knee. I pushed the door open until we were standing squarely in front of the closet mirror. He was bare, now, to the waist and wearing the shorts he had to wear with his leg brace.

"Look at yourself, for God's sake." I knew he didn't use mirrors much, just didn't pay any attention to them, and probably hadn't bothered to take a real good look. He looked now. Really looked, almost like he was seeing someone else in the mirror. Most of his chest, stomach and back were covered in slowly fading bruises. He still had healing abrasions from his dive out of a car going fifty miles an hour. The swelling in his face had finally gone down enough that he could see out of his left eye, but he had horrible bruising yet and a still livid scar that the stitches had just come out of four or five days before. His left arm looked weak and thin with the bandages gone, his hand traced with the scars of surgery. And of course, the knee brace, hiding more scars, and stitches that would fall away on their own.

I just let him look for a minute and then murmured, "As someone told me once; cut yourself a little slack."

He actually spared me a tiny smile, and I picked him up, returning him gently to his bed.

What I felt and what I wanted did not matter. What was important was Duo. And Duo was hurting. It was time I did something about it.

I propped him up with pillows, and retrieved his dinner tray. "Quatre's spoiling you, and his feelings will be hurt if you don't eat what he made you." He was being very quiet, and almost docile, so I pressed the advantage. "I'll leave the shoulder unwrapped until you finish dinner."

He looked small and lost, and scared and confused, all of which was not helping my fight to wrestle my desires back into the black box. I wanted to be his protector, his guardian, his partner; I wanted...

I could not let this happen. We were soldiers. This was against all the rules. The rules that kept us alive.

I left him to deal with eating one handed, while I went into the adjoining bathroom for dressings and tape. I took a minute to hunt up scissors and a half empty bottle of lotion. When I returned to the bedroom, he was sitting, hunched up, supporting his left arm in his right, food barely touched.

I took the tray away without comment, and then sat down to begin the job of re-strapping his arm to his chest. The injured shoulder muscles weren't used to bearing the weight of his arm and must be protesting mightily.

His face was lined with pain, his eyes dull with it. All I could do was ease the physical hurts as best I could, but I couldn't seem to reach the other pain that he harbored deep inside. He seemed conquered, somehow. I felt him slipping away from me.

I finished with the binding, and when the weight was off the shoulder, there did seem to be a slight lessening in the stress etched on his face.

"Duo, can't you eat something?" I coaxed, bringing the tray back and setting it on the bedside table.

He sighed, just looking repulsed, "Maybe the bread." He finally conceded when it became apparent I wasn't going to leave it alone.

I tore the slice of bread in half and handed it to him, wishing he had chosen something with a little more food value to it. He managed most of the half slice, but I could tell he was forcing it, and it had to go down in little nibbles. He finally lay down the last of it and sighed,

"No more. I can't." He slumped back into the pillows, eyes closed.

I wasn't happy, and I suppose it showed in my voice, "Duo, I'll go get you anything you want, just tell me what. You need to get some food down. Your body has to have fuel to heal."

"I'm sorry, Heero." He sounded distressed, "Please don't be mad at me. Food just makes me feel nauseous."

"God's, Duo; I'm not mad at you. I'm worried about you." How had we come to misunderstand each other so badly?

His eyes came open, searching my face, desperate for something, but I couldn't say what, or if he found it.

"I'm just tired, is all." He finally murmured, retreating to the darkness behind his closed eyelids.

I couldn't tell him I knew why he was so tired without confessing to something I couldn't explain. So I retreated too, to the safe ground of our nightly routine. I pulled out the lotion bottle, shifted to a position I could better reach his hand, strapped across his chest. I warned him of the coming touch, and began massaging his scars. For his part, his muscles tensed in expectation, and there was the involuntary recoil at the first touch of my fingers, but then he was able to relax and let me work.

He rewarded me, at length, with a soft sigh and I had to chuckle at him. "Want me to do the knee?" I asked softly.

"S'ok. Getting sleepy." He mumbled, burrowing further into the pillows.

"Let's get your pain medicine down first."

I saw the frown start to form, as I knew it would, and cut him off, "I know you don't like it, but you need to get some rest, and it will help you sleep."

He cracked an eyelid and glared at me, "Yes, Mama-Yuy."

I went to get the pills, and handed him the last of his now warm soda to wash it down with.

I took the can away when he was done, and he looked up at me beseechingly, "Could you... just a little more?"

I smiled, "Of course." And reached for his hand, I saw him brace himself, still not quite able to suppress the spasm of his muscles at first contact. But then he relaxed into the rhythm of my kneading and sighed, "Feels good."

I continued until the sound of his breathing told me he had drifted off to sleep. Then I sought my own bed, feeling old and worn.

We managed several hours, at least, before I heard the familiar sounds that told me the nightmares had started. This time, I had determined I wouldn't just lie idly by while he wrestled the demons alone. I was starting up when I realized that things were immeasurably worse than normal; Duo was thrashing against the sheets and low moans were escaping from him. I was half way across the room, when he came gasping awake and started trying to struggle out of bed, I arrived just in time to catch him as he threw himself free and almost fell on the floor. I meant to help him back into the bed, but suddenly, his hand was clamped in that universal gesture across his mouth, and throwing an arm around his waist, I pulled him into the bathroom. The knee was not going to let us get to the toilet, so I hauled him to the sink and supported him while he retched violently into the basin. He threw up until there was nothing left, and then he heaved some more, breath coming in ragged, sobbing moans. All I could do was hold him up and wait it out. When his body finally stopped trying to turn itself wrong side out, I kicked the toilet seat down and sat him on it while I rinsed the sink out, flushing the smell away before it could trigger another attack.

He just sat and trembled while I cleaned him up, lost in the aftermath of the nightmare. He rinsed his mouth when I handed him the glass of water, and shook his head when I asked if I had hurt him dragging him in here. Nodded when I asked if he was ready to go back to bed. I lifted him, moving slowly and carried him back to the bedroom. His bed was a mess; sheets sweat soaked and half ripped off the mattress. I laid him down on mine while I stripped and remade his with clean sheets. He watched me with heavy-lidded eyes that looked bruised even in the dim light. I came to a decision, and when I was done, instead of moving him back to his bed, I went and carefully lay down beside him on mine.

He jerked like one shot at the touch, but quickly regained control and actually leaned into me.

"Duo," I told him calmly, "you are going to talk to me about the nightmares."

He seemed to shrink in on himself then, and I swear, if he had been able, he would have curled into a fetal position.

He didn't answer.

"You're going to talk to me, or tomorrow I'm going to haul your ass down to the hospital and we're going to talk to your Doctor about therapy."

He made a small choking noise, but other than turning his head away from me, he gave no sign he was going to respond.

"I feel like I did that night in the park." I told him softly, "Listening to you die over that damn radio and not being able to do anything."

A small moan; I knew he felt guilty about that, but still no voice telling me what was wrong. I played my trump card.

"Please, don't leave me... " that phrase that had grown up between us, had become an anchor line when all else failed, I used it unflinchingly, with all the emotion behind it that I dared. Don't leave me. Come back from that dark place you're in. Don't leave me here alone.

I reached him; I felt it when he turned his face back and leaned it against my shoulder. "Not fair, Yuy." He muttered.

"Talk to me." I told him.

He scrubbed at his face with his good hand, "It's stupid. It's just so damn stupid."

I waited in silence, not pushing any harder, just being there, listening, and finally, eyes closed, he began to talk.

"I didn't figure there was any way in hell I was getting back out of there, not the shape I was in." There was no doubt he was talking about his single handed attack on the station.

"I just wanted to give you guys a shot. That's all. Just a chance. I was just supposed to be the decoy; the distraction."

"And it worked." I reassured him.

He grunted, "I couldn't go in fast. So I went in ... obnoxious."

Translation: I set out to royally piss off the whole station, just to get their attention.

"I guess I was hoping I could ... avoid the whole interrogation thing."

Translation: I was hoping to make somebody mad enough to kill me.

"Gods... " I muttered, understanding the tactic, with a soldiers eye, but not able to help the fist that squeezed my heart at the thought of it.

He couldn't have known that all he did was piss them off enough to make somebody think of using him as a guinea pig for a new type of interrogation drug.

"They blindfolded me at first, and injected me with that damn drug. It doesn't hit you all at once, it takes a bit to build up I guess. Then... I swear to God they were burning me with hot steel. Just running it along my arms and across my chest."

He trembled, and stopped for a minute, while my minds eye put him back on that rack. I shivered with him.

"I thought for sure they were searing the meat right off my bones." There was a long silence, while I listened to his breathing get ragged and knew his heart rate was accelerating. His hand came up and rubbed spasmodically across his chest.

"Duo. It's all right, I'm here." I murmured.

He had to get a little angry, to get the words out, "They kept laughing, it was weird. I'd never been ... interrogated quite like that. I mean, that kind always enjoys it, but... "

I had to take a calming breath myself, realizing I was getting mad all over again. I wanted to go back and bring that whole damned station down like a flaming meteorite.

"But this was different, they just kept giggling." Another jarring shudder, and his eyes opened suddenly, to hunt for me, or just to get away from the darkness, I'm not sure which.

"Then they took the blindfold off." His eyes were wide, almost all pupil in the dim light, "They were just... touching me ... caressing... " His voice choked and he stopped, but I could supply the rest. Could see them in my minds eye, stroking and fondling him, every touch to his skin a flaming agony. I could hear his tormented screams and their hysterical laughter, congratulating themselves on their new invention. I felt like I might have to take my turn emptying my stomach in the bathroom. I thought he might cry then, and I wished that release for him, felt he desperately needed it, but he remained still, pushing it down; fighting it off. I'd never seen him cry, besides that one time in the hospital, and then he didn't even know he was doing it. The drugs had allowed him to let it go.

"And now... it's all tangled up in my head with old nightmares. Things from so long ago..."

There was a finality to that, and I decided to stop pushing. Maybe that was enough for now. Maybe telling me about it would be enough to let him sleep. His bandaged shoulder, resting slightly against my chest probably saved me from wrapping my arms around him and clasping him to me. I ached to hold him, but was afraid of hurting him. It stopped me from doing something I would have regretted later. Instead, I got up and tucked my blankets around him and then sat down on the floor beside the bed. I'd get him through the night the way I had gotten him through those first nights in the hospital after his return from the dead.

I lay my head on the side of the bed near his.

"I'm here now. No one can get to you with me here. Rest now, go to sleep. I'll guard you all through the night. No one can hurt you. No more pain. Go to sleep... "

He looked vaguely troubled for a bit, but his exhaustion began to over take him, and as before, the steady murmur of my voice lulled him. I could see his eyes begin to droop closed until finally, he slept. I continued my hypnotic whispering long into the night.

I was able to talk him through the hours of darkness. He started, more than once, to drift toward nightmare, but I would whisper my reassurances and each time, he eased back to a peaceful sleep.

In the morning, as soon as I thought I could slip away, I dressed and went downstairs. I intended a trip to see Duo's Doctor.

Wufei was in the large, front foyer, up early as always, doing his morning kata. I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and waited respectfully for him to come to a stopping point. Had I the time, I might have asked him for a sparing round, I needed a good workout, needed to get rid of some of the tension. But I hadn't the time.

He looked at me expectantly, seeing I was dressed to go out.

"Can you keep an ear open for Duo?" I asked, "I need to go into the city for a few hours.'

"Of course." He came toward me; to pick up the towel he had draped across the banister and wiped the sweat from his face. "Anything I should know about?" he asked, almost casually.

I should have known that last night didn't go completely unnoticed. Especially by Wufei, who typically slept as lightly as I did.

"He's having nightmares. Not sleeping well, and I think his pain medication is making him nauseous."

"Perhaps I'll go sit with him."

I couldn't tell if he knew how much that relieved my mind. "It might be... best."

I borrowed a car from the estate, and made the trip into the hospital, where I had to wait for almost an hour to speak with Dr. Russell. She confirmed my suspicion that the pain medication Duo was on could cause stomach problems. She wrote me prescriptions on the spot for something without Codeine in it, a mild sleeping aide, and something to combat nausea. I was somewhat surprised that it was that simple, and suspected that she had made an assumption about my relationship with Duo that wasn't necessarily so. I also got a little talk about the after effects of anesethia and mood swings. I didn't know the city very well, and it took me some time to find a drug store and get the prescriptions filled. It was afternoon before I made it back to the estate.

When I came in, the house was quiet, and I headed straight up the stairs to check on Duo. I would see if he had eaten lunch yet, and then sit down to talk with him about the new medicine. I would get this turned around. If he started getting a decent nights sleep, he could pull out of this depression and concentrate on healing.

I walked softly into the bedroom, in case he was napping, and stopped dead in my tracks. There was no one there; the room was completely empty. Where the hell? Panic rose up in my chest and totally overwhelmed my senses. A dozen horrid scenarios filled my mind, each one more chilling than the last. I left him again! I failed him again! He needed me and I wasn't there! It was the same sick sensation I had felt that awful night two weeks ago when I had climbed down from my Gundam and turned to see Deathscythe missing.

It only lasted a minute; an eternal, mindless minute before logic kicked in and told me to stop being a fool.

Softly, I closed the door behind me, shutting myself away from prying eyes, and leaned back against it as I started to shake with reaction. My knees felt weak and I found myself sliding to the floor, where I sat with my hand over my mouth, and fought back the tide of unreasoning fear. My head told me he was fine, downstairs or outside and that it was a good thing he had gotten out of bed today. My heart told me I was a bloody failure, I had abandoned him yet again and he would never trust me after this. My gut was still shrieking that he was back in the hands of the enemy, back on that rack, screaming in pain. And somewhere, down below all that was the little voice that whispered to me that I was a soldier and didn't have the right to care for anyone, and no one could ever care for me.

I understood Duo's reaction now, that night he had left me sitting in our stolen car, only to come back to find me gone. At the time, it had seemed such an over reaction, I hadn't understood how he could not realize that I would hide. Now I understood; logic and sense had nothing to do with it.

It came to me then that there was no point in continuing to fight against my feelings for Duo. I had lost the battle a long time ago. I could deny it to myself until hell froze over, but my heart was already committed. The damage was already done. I loved him. He was the other half of my soul; the bright and shining half. I was nothing without him.

When my breathing slowed to normal and my hands stopped shaking, I got up and walked calmly downstairs and found Quatre in the kitchen.

"Where's Duo?" I demanded.

He looked at me with wide eyes, confused by my near battle mode expression. But it was my most comfortable mask and it had fallen automatically in place when I needed something to hide behind.

"He asked Wufei to take him down to the hanger." He responded meekly, and didn't dare question me.

I stalked out. The hanger was less than a quarter mile from the house and once I was out of sight, I jogged there, stopping just before coming around the corner of the massive building into view of the hanger doors. Wufei and Trowa were lounging on a bench outside the open doors, but Duo wasn't in sight.

"Where?" I growled, unreasoningly angry with them.

"Calm down, Yuy." Trowa smiled at me, "He's fine. Wanted a minute to himself is all."

"Well, he's had it." Was all I could manage, and I strode passed them, out of the bright, afternoon sun into the dim interior of the hanger. I thought I heard Trowa chuckle, but it was beyond me to deal with him right now.

Duo was sitting on a work stool at the base of Deathscythe, staring up, completely dwarfed by the Gundam, his face unreadable. I just stood for a minute, letting my eyes adjust to the change in light, and watched him. If I had needed any more confirmation of what was in my heart, I had it then; all the fear and stress just ebbed away at the sight of him. See? My head told my gut, he's fine.

He perched on the edge of the stool, his right leg, cocooned in his foam and metal brace, stretched out in front of him. He was wearing those silly jeans we had to cut off so they would pull on over his brace, and nothing else but bandages. He cradled his left arm with his right and sat hunched into himself, looking pale and thin. I felt like he was wasting away before my eyes. How much punishment can the human body take before it gives out? Before the mind gives up? A new voice in my head told me, he needs you now like never before.

I deliberately let my steps sound on the concrete floor, to warn him of my coming, but he didn't look away from Deathscythe. I moved around to stand behind him and looked up as well. I was close enough to feel his body heat.

"Duo?"

"He won't let me in." and it took me a second to realize he meant the Gundam.

"Maybe," I said softly, "He knows it's too soon."

"I think maybe it's too late." His eyes never left the Gundam.

"It can't be too late." I blurted, my heart quickened, what were we talking about? I was getting lost in the meanings; maybe hearing things I only wanted to hear.

He was silent then, a long time.

"Why, Heero?"

"I was... .afraid." I confessed, and left it at that.

I thought about apologizing for locking him out of his own Gundam, thought about trying to explain how scared I was of him disappearing in it again. But I wasn't even sure if we were still talking about Deathscythe.

Then, slowly, he leaned back into me, letting me take his weight against my chest. My arm curled around his waist almost of its own accord. He held his flinch at the physical contact to a mere tightening of his muscles, and then he relaxed against me. Inside my head there was a tiny click as the two halves of my heart came together. Why had I fought this? I almost didn't dare breath; I wondered if he could hear my heart pound. In growing astonishment, I focused on his heartbeat. That's where I found the courage.

"Duo?"

"Hmmmm?"

"I've done something terrible."

"What, Heero?"

"I... " My stomach tightened, "I've fallen in love with you."

He leaned his head back and let it lay on my shoulder. On his face was the sweetest, softest smile I had ever seen him wear.

"I know, love." He murmured, "I know."

My heart thrummed in my chest, hardly daring to believe, "Then... .?"

"With all my heart and soul." He breathed.

I turned and brushed his temple with a soft kiss and thought I would weep from the exquisite pain of it. He reached awkwardly across with his good right hand and traced the line of my jaw.

"What have we done?" he asked in wonder, "What have we gone and done?"

"Broken all the rules."

"I don't care."

Somewhere, deep down, the voice inside that wouldn't stop trying to tell me what a bad idea this was, said that this couldn't end well. But as Duo's hand slid across my cheek, it was growing fainter and harder to understand. Drowned out by the new voice that told me this was right and good.

"Rules are made to be broken."

end

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