I dont know, man,
I said instead. Havent really slowed down enough to analysis
There was a grunt from his direction, but I didnt take my eyes off
my drink to see the expression that went along with it, so Im not
real sure if it was an irritated grunt or an amused one. And just
when are you planning on taking the time to feel? he asked softly.
I sighed. I turned the cup between my fingers eighty degrees to the right
and then back to the left. I sighed again. Its not exactly
in the schedule, I finally confessed.
His own sigh was rather explosive, and I could feel him trying to will
me to look up at him. Duo... he began in that gentle as all
hell voice, but stopped when he saw the little frown creep across my face.
Please dont talk to me like Im some kind of wild animal
about to bolt, I asked him, probably a little tersely. I really
He was quiet for so long that I finally did look up at him. He seemed
to be working with an uncomfortable, kind of sheepish look. Im
sorry, he murmured and I could tell he really hadnt realized.
Sok, I told him. You dont do it near as
much as the other guys do.
His expression cleared and he leaned forward a little further, putting
us more on an eye level. He seemed to pick over his next words very carefully.
Duo... you have to realize that your somewhat... unique way of dealing
with... stressful situations is what is giving Heero gray hairs?
I didnt throw my hands in the air, ok? I thought about it real hard,
but I didnt do it. I dont know what he wants, Tro!
I grumbled, having to make an effort to keep my voice down. He says
he doesnt want me all... uptight about it, but every time I manage
to go five minutes without thinking about the whole damn thing, he starts
in wanting me to fucking talk about it!
Trowa gave me a somewhat sympathetic smile but just shook his head slightly.
He just wants you to deal with your fears.
I felt my face warming again and dropped my gaze back to the cup in my
hands. The one with the large dent in the side. Wonder where that had
come from? I realized that I had straightened and didnt even remember
doing it. Im going, arent I? I growled. Isnt
that dealing with it?
That didnt work so well last time, Duo, he said quietly.
I gaped at him, torn between suicide by blush and just storming out of
the café. There were extenuating circumstances last time,
I told him flatly, hoping my tone of voice conveyed the fact that I would
not welcome him questioning me any further down that avenue.
Our eyes were locked and there seemed to be a tiny little battle going
on that I didnt half understand. He looked down first, but I couldnt
say which one of us won.
I just... he began, hesitating and trying again. I dont
know... but broke off a second time, looking frustrated.
Spit it out Trowa, I prodded. My lunch hours almost
He looked up at me, almost imploringly. Its no damn wonder
you drive Heero to distraction, he quipped, trying on a smile but
quickly losing it. When he finally spoke again, his voice was low and
serious as a funeral. It just took me a lot of sessions with Dr.
Webster, before I could even think about putting on a vacuum suit
without almost wetting myself. He was the one blushing furiously
now, but he refused to drop his gaze. It took awhile, after that...
accident for all my memories to come back, but once they did, it was months
before I got through a night without waking up in a cold sweat. Dont
fault me for worrying about my baby brother. Dont blame me... us
Out of the corner of my eye I saw George and Francis hiding behind the
salt and pepper shakers, quietly taking odds on which of the two of us
was going to spontaneously combust first. My money was on me; absolutely
My mind chose to home in on the fact that my therapist and Trowas
were the same person. I had not known that. It made sense, I suppose,
when I thought about it... Heero had to have gotten a reference from somewhere.
It wouldnt be like him to just pick the first shrink he found in
the phone book. I wanted to keep thinking about that, and ignore the rest
of it, but the look on his face wouldnt let me.
Im not blaming anybody, I reassured him. Im
just trying to do this the only way I know how.
Denial? he asked almost affectionately.
I prefer to think of it as a time management issue, I grinned.
I have my nervous breakdown penciled in for approximately one oclock
It was, perhaps, not the joke to have made.
He looked... pained, and he was chewing on something he couldnt
quite get spit out. I cut in while he was still working at it. Dont,
man; just let it be. What good does it do me to dwell on it for days on
end? If I can put it out of my mind and just go on... why not? Its
not going to be a cakewalk; I know that. But why talk about it, and think
about it, and just get all worked up now?
Because, he said earnestly, you may think youve
put it aside, but its still in there... eating away at you. The
fact that your nightmares are back again should tell you that.
His use of the words nightmare and again in the
same sentence so much was starting to bug me.
Well Ive sure as hell never known what magic spell to use
to get rid of nightmares, I groused, feeling defensive as hell.
Mind sharing your secret?
Talking it out, he said simply, and too late I saw the road
hed led me down.
I sighed heavily and began clearing up my lunch trash and piling it on
the tray. Talking has never done much for me, I said, not
looking at him. I need more direct action.
What got you through those dreams when Heero was in the hospital?
he asked, seeming to almost pounce on me since Id given him the
I returned that stupid journal to Captain Camdens widow,
I stated emphatically.
Are you sure? he asked. Or was it getting to talk things
through with the woman? I opened my mouth to retort, but then stopped,
unsure. He didnt wait for me to deny or confirm, but pushed ahead.
Im just saying that you may think you understand yourself,
that you may think you understand how your mind works, but sometimes it
helps to... see things through someone elses eyes.
I finished clearing the table and glanced up at him. I need to get
back, I said and got to watch him grin.
Youre impossible, he sighed.
So Ive been told, I replied and rose to go dump the
trash. He waited for me by the door and we walked back out onto the street.
He raised a quizzical eyebrow when I stopped at the soda machine next
to the alley entrance, but didnt comment. I bought my drink and
we started the walk back. He didnt speak until wed crossed
Broadway. Im sorry, he told me, while we were still
side-by-side, before we passed a parked car in the alley and he had to
For what? I asked.
Giving you indigestion for lunch, he teased and I gave him
the smile he was looking for.
Thats ok, I told him. I imagine it wasnt
much of a treat for you either.
He followed me around the car, walking silent as a cat behind me, but
didnt answer me for almost half a block.
Im not going to try and tell you it didnt stir up a
few thoughts Id rather not be thinking, he said softly, totally
dropping the light tone wed achieved. But if anything I said
gets through to you, itll have been more than worth it.
I managed not to stop and look back at him. My mouth tried to come up
with something witty, but failed. I just kept walking.
When we emerged across from the Preventors building, he fell into step
beside me again, and wasnt even trying to hide the strange little
I was just ready to step off the curb when I realized hed started
to slow his steps. When I hesitated, he stopped altogether. Cars
over there, he nodded in the general direction, and I glanced to
see his car parked just down the way. Wed come to our parting of
I cocked my head and looked up at him; his eyes did look a little haunted...
a little troubled. Before I had a chance to think about it too hard, I
blurted, You know when they ask you to do crap like this, its ok
to say no.
There was an awkward moment while he just stood and looked at me, but
then he grinned rather broadly. As well as you know that when we
make offers of support, its ok for you to say yes.
Caught me quite flat-footed, the asshole. I blushed darkly and his grin
turned into a chuckle. He sobered though, and suddenly reached out, wrapping
his hand around the back of my neck, squeezing gently and giving me a
little shake, making sure I met his gaze. Remember your breathing
lessons. Remember your safe place. Dont shut Heero out trying to
be strong. Try to have a good time, at least while youre on L2,
and if theres anything you need at all... all you have to do is
Youre not going to hug me or anything... are you? I
gaped up at him and he let go, snorting softly and giving a rueful little
shake of his head.
Impossible, he murmured, and turned to head for his car.
I stood and watched him go for a second, before thinking to call after
him. Thanks, Trowa... I think.
He tossed me a wave and climbed behind the wheel. I turned and finished
the walk across the street. It took a little bit of Frances patented
repress help to keep from looking up where I knew Heeros
office window was. I was afraid if I saw him standing there Id flip
The first thing I did when I got to my toolbox was use some of that soda
to wash down a couple of aspirin, making a mental note to get a new bottle,
Id almost gone through the one I had. Tension headaches were just
becoming a part of my day. Wonder what Heero had planned for dinner, sushi-bar
with my therapist? Or was he sitting in his office at that very moment
researching foods that were good for stress? The only damn thing I could
think of that was supposed to be good for that was green tea. I sure as
hell hoped that wouldnt end up being the main course.
Though I suppose, from what Trowa said, Wufei was as much to blame for
my little lunch conversation as Heero was. But Wufei was... forbidden
ground. Our relationship was just starting to resemble what it once had
been, and while I might get irritated with his rather high-handed interference,
I would not reprimand the man for love nor money. No way in hell was I
going to risk him tucking tail and crawling back into his little guilt
shell. Not even over his attempt to turn Trowa Barton into an impromptu
But seriously; I wish I knew what they thought that whole damn thing was
going to accomplish. Just what in the hell did they want from me? Just
what did they think was going to change with my twisted little phobia-ridden
psyche before... Tuesday?
Maybe it was the simple fact that the conversations ebbing and flowing
around me had dwindled, but try as I might, I couldnt achieve that
state of forgetfulness again. Could not banish thoughts of what I would
be facing tomorrow.
Simple anxiety was a very large part of it. I was a little afraid that
old saying about getting back on the horse was going to turn out to be
very true. Out there in the asteroid belt, the horse had not only thrown
me, it had picked me up, tossed me around, wallowed me flat and shit on
my corpse. On that trip to L3, Id tried to mount up again, and gotten
royally kicked in the head. At that point, Id called it quits and
had not even thought since about stepping aboard so much as a helicopter.
Now here I was, as Id told Trowa, taking the bull by the horns.
Again. I didnt have a clue how I was going to react. Hell... I might
not even be able to make myself walk aboard the damn shuttle, much less
sit through launch.
But as much as anything else, I was terrified of looking like a flaming
idiot in front of Heero. The memory of sitting in the middle of my Demons
bathroom, crying hysterically with my arm gashed to the bone was... painfully
fresh. If Id had anything at all to be thankful for on that trip,
other than not dying, it was not having any witnesses.
Utter humiliation and I dont make good dance partners.
So by the time it rolled around to the end of the shift, I was tied right
back up into a nice little Gordian knot of tension.
The garage had been gradually losing employees all afternoon. The next
day was the beginning of the Christmas break and nobody really cared if
guys were slipping out early or not. So I didnt feel too bad about
cleaning up a little before the hour so that I could walk up and wait
for Heero by the car. He was still bringing the stupid thing down to the
back of the garage to pick me up, and I honestly didnt want him
coming in there. I was a little irritated with him, trying to fight it,
and not sure how successful I was being. I was afraid if he didnt
wait for the privacy of the drive home, to ask how lunch had gone, I just
might kill him.
I was sitting on the hood, doing my best to convince myself that a huge
fight the day before we ended up confined to a dinky little shuttle cabin
together, was probably a bad idea, when I saw him come out of the stairwell
and start toward me.
Several things passed across his face when he saw me sitting there; a
frown of almost annoyance, followed by a look of concern, which quickly
changed to an expression of resigned understanding.
He unlocked the car without speaking and we climbed in. I had opted to
give pleasant a go, and didnt give him the chance to
start talking. I dont really feel like green tea for dinner;
can you swing by the market so I can run in long enough to pick up some
meat? I think Im going to fix steaks if you dont care.
I could see him glancing at me out of the corner of his eye while he started
the car and pulled out, but I just kept going. Maybe just steaks
and a salad. I think theres still some lettuce in the crisper and
some carrots if we didnt eat them all. I suppose while Im
there, I should get some candy...
Duo, he said, voice trying to wedge itself into the middle
of my ramblings. It wasnt all that loud though, and I chose to ignore
... for the kids. I usually bring them candy after all, and whats
Christmas without candy? Octavia isnt all that thrilled...
Duo, he said again, a little louder, a little more
forcefully. Telling me we were going to talk about what I really didnt
want to talk about, and pleasant went right out the window.
What? I barked out, before I realized it was coming
and found myself glaring at him, daring him to start with me, because
I suddenly found that I was rather spoiling for a fight.
Im sorry, was the next thing out of his mouth, which
wasnt going to do much for escalating this into the knockdown, drag-out
argument I was itching for.
Well, you fucking should be, was the best I could manage.
For which damn part?
I should have stopped Wufei when I realized he was planning on calling
Trowa, was the reply, but then he glanced across at me uncertainly.
You are mad at me because of Trowa showing up for lunch?
Damn straight! I growled. What the hell was the idea
of putting him through that?
I swear to God, Heero almost forgot he was driving for a minute, turning
to blink at me in puzzlement, before jerking his head back around and
focusing on the job at hand again. What? he asked, sounding
You guys think its easy for him? I glared, keeping half
an eye on traffic in case his attention should wander again. Just
because he did the damn therapy stint? You think you arent making
him dredge shit up out of his head hed rather not have to think
about? And for what? Because it sure as hell doesnt do anything
There was almost complete silence in that car for the next mile. Heero
looked a little... taken aback. I imagine I just looked like I was working
with a real bad case of constipation.
He stopped at the market without me having to say anything else about
it. He even waited in the car while I made the quick trip in.
I got the steaks and the candy, and then picked up some damn mushrooms
for the stupid salad. I hate the things and would just have to pick them
out later, but Heero liked them. Stop laughing at me. Thats how
you know when love is real. When you do nice things for the other person
even when you feel like ripping their heads off and spitting down their
Its a twisted little reality and you can just bite me if you dont
understand it. I was pissed off at Heero for the hand hed had in
my wonderful lunch hour. But I was also well aware of the fact that I
was feeling just a touch irrational. Stress will do that to you. So I
might be over-reacting a little bit; I wasnt entirely sure. Hence
the mushrooms; a tiny apology without having to actually admit
that I might be... over-reacting.
By the time I got back to the car, hed obviously worked out what
he wanted to say and delivered his lines before I could start in again.
I am very sorry; I should have realized. Wufei felt that Trowa might
be able to offer an understanding ear, I should have known better. I should
have stopped them and I apologize.
When hed said his piece, he shut the hell up and gave me the space
to think about it. Not that I really needed a lot of time. Like I said;
Id figured out somewhere between the soup aisle and produce that
I might need to back off a little.
I dont suppose youre up for going out, getting drunk
and picking a fight with five or six really big guys? I asked as
I settled my sack of groceries on the floor of the car between my feet
and fastened my seat belt.
What? Heero burst out, turning to look at me so sharply
its a wonder he didnt give himself whiplash.
I sighed theatrically. Didnt think so, I muttered.
Please tell me youre kidding, he asked, eyes a little
Mostly, I replied agreeably. But you have to admit its
a great stress reliever.
He had to chew on that the entire time he was starting the car and leaving
the parking lot.
He tried two or three times to say something, before finally simply holding
his hand out. He looked a little relieved when I settled my hand in his,
and he pulled our twined fingers down to lie in his lap.
The quiet then was a little more... companionable.
When we got home he tried to take over the chore of dinner making, until
I glared at him. I need to be doing something, Heero. Just sitting
around only makes it worse.
We compromised by agreeing to do it together. He broiled the steaks while
I made the salad, though he had to come and give me a little kiss when
he saw me slicing the mushrooms. Told you hed get it.
We managed to get through the meal on rather banal pleasantries, hes
become more aware of how easy it is to screw with my appetite, and he
waited until we were doing up the dishes before he tried to bring up my
Will I get yelled at if I ask how things went with Trowa?
he prodded somewhat hesitantly.
I snorted, taking a plate from his hand to dry and put away. I ignored
the question hed asked in favor of the real one. About as
well as would be expected for two guys trying to do self-diagnostic psychotherapy
in the middle of a deli.
He was quiet for a moment and then ventured, So... youre cured?
The God damn son of a bitch got the full-throated laugh he was aiming
for, managing to look slightly flushed, and pleased as hell with himself
all at the same time. Youre such an asshole, I told
him, putting away another plate.
I know, he murmured, and there was a hint of true apology
in it. It made me feel kind of bad.
Guess I am too, I conceded, and he didnt even bother
to dry his hands before pulling me into his arms. It felt damn good. Despite
the slimy feel of dishwater seeping through the back of my shirt.
I love you so much, he whispered near my ear, making me shiver
and tighten the grip I had around his neck.
Im sorry Im such a pain in the ass, I replied
just as softly, and we stood like that for a little bit; just holding
Are you sure about this? he finally said, breaking the quiet
that had enveloped us.
As sure as I can be, I sighed. You sure you know what
youre letting yourself in for?
He turned his head and kissed the side of my neck. I think Im
figuring it out.
Heero... I began, and drew back to look at him. Almost, I
asked him if he would still respect me when it was all over. But that
was making too much of a joke out of something that was eating me alive.
And, of course, implied that he respected me now. Something I hoped
to some benevolent God was true, but wasnt always sure of, and could
not bring myself to ask. I just couldnt find the words, and ended
up staring at him with no idea how to complete the thought. How to articulate
Forever, he reassured, somehow understanding anyway, and kissed
my forehead in a gesture that I always found calming as hell for some
He let me stand there, wrapped around him until I was ready to let go.
Let me be the one to pull away first.
And then it was finishing the dishes and finishing the packing, and all
the things that needed doing to prepare for a couple of days away from
home. All the things that Id let go because it had made it too hard
not to think about what it all meant.
It was late by the time it was all done, Heero showered first and I found
myself wandering around the house checking the latches on the windows
until he came out. Im not sure what he did while I was showering.
When we were both done, we packed the bathroom stuff and somehow that
seemed terribly final to me. I went off to the bedroom to turn down the
covers while Heero sat the last of the luggage by the front door. Anxiety
was making a dull ache in my throat.
I was undressing when Heero came to join me, luggage deposited and lights
turned out in the rest of the house. He flipped off the overhead light
as he came into the room, leaving us with only the warm glow of the bedside
Need some help? he asked, voice a husky purr as he came to
wrap his arms around me from behind, taking over the task of unbuttoning
my polo shirt.
I hummed a quiet affirmative, and raised my arms to facilitate his pulling
it over my head once the buttons were freed. The shirt went Im not
sure where, and then his hands were sliding over my stomach, making my
breath hiss and my muscles tighten. His questing fingers found the button
on my jeans and tugged it free. I could feel his... interest pressed firmly
against me. I let my head fall back against his shoulder as he eased my
zipper down. I was just starting to lean into him, when he suddenly stepped
away and before I half had a chance to react, my pants and underwear were
nothing but a memory.
On the bed... now, he growled, and gave me a playful swat
on the ass as I stepped away to comply.
Watch it, Yuy, I grumbled and sprawled out to watch as he
I got to see where my shirt had gone when his joined it in a pile by the
door, and then he was crawling up to join me on the bed. Roll over,
he commanded, hovering over me. I gave him a raised eyebrow, but he refused
to answer, only waiting, so I complied to that too, and rolled over as
I suppose I shouldnt have been surprised when he merely straddled
my thighs, settling his hands on my shoulders, but I was. I grunted softly.
I thought you were interested in... other things.
He leaned down and brushed his lips between my shoulder blades, whispering
against my skin, Time enough for that when youve relaxed enough
that I dont feel like Im making love to a chunk of steel.
His words made me feel the tension I hadnt really registered in
my own muscles, and I tried to loosen up but couldnt seem to manage
Just let me, he said, dropping another kiss to my back, and
then he set to work.
He started gently, merely stroking his hands over my skin. When he began
to apply a bit of pressure, it was almost painful. I did my best to work
with him, he let me hear his own measured breathing and I tried to match
him, tried to concentrate on that simple job. Tried to block out the other
thoughts. Thoughts of tomorrow. Thoughts of what was to come. Thoughts
of where I was going and what I had to try and make myself do.
Thoughts of what had been.
Breath with me, love, Heero chided gently and brought me back
to our room with him.
Sorry, I murmured, but he didnt say more, just gently
and thoroughly doing his best to reduce me to putty.
It... wasnt an easy task, and there was more than one embarrassed
apology as I forced my thoughts back to what he was doing, away from what
I wasnt supposed to be dwelling on.
When he finally rolled me over, I was probably as relaxed as Id
been all day, but Im not sure that was saying much. He gave me a
sad little smile, leaning down to kiss me softly. Youre so
very good at that, I sighed as he brushed his lips along my jaw-line.
Sometimes Id swear youve had training.
He raised his head to look down at me with a strange little amused look
on his face. I have, he informed me. Dont you
What? I asked, confused. It had been a totally random comment
and I certainly hadnt been serious.
He chuckled at my expression and his eyes went all tender as he reached
to brush my hair from my eyes. When you were first in the hospital.
I took training classes with your therapists.
All I could manage was a wide-eyed, Oh. He only smiled and
dipped his head back to what hed been doing.
He nibbled and teased, stroked and suckled, doing all the things that
would normally have me writhing and bucking beneath him. But while I could
feel the evidence of his own arousal pressed against my thigh, it became
painfully obvious fairly quickly that my own was pretty much... non-existent.
I tried to concentrate on the moment, tried to block out all the rest,
but... my body just wouldnt cooperate. Thats not exactly a
thing a guy can hide.
Heero stopped when I started to tense up again, fighting against my own
lack of response. Fighting against a severe case of humiliation. Its
all right, he soothed, lying down beside me and pulling me into
his arms. Just lying with me. I should have realized. Its
Im so sorry, I muttered, feeling my face turn a here-to-fore
unknown shade of red. Somewhere in the back of my head I thought I heard
the faint sound of laughing hamsters.
Nothing to be sorry for, love, he scolded. Its
not important; I guess it was kind of thoughtless of me. I hoped... it
would help you sleep. Would help you relax.
I feel like a moron, I grumbled, doing my best to hide my
face against his shoulder. Im sorry...
Stop apologizing, he commanded, giving me a firm squeeze.
I should have thought about how much stress youre under.
I just... feel like Im teasing you somehow, I managed
to tell him and it sort of came to me that I didnt really need to
let that happen. Didnt really need to participate in order to offer
him some sort of release. Curling my hand closed, I reached to stroke
my knuckles down his side and over his hip. He shivered and sighed softly.
Emboldened, I slid my hand further down his thigh and he turned to kiss
me gently on the forehead.
Dont, love, he said quietly, but there was a ring of
firmness in his voice.
I froze, and his hand reached down to catch mine, bringing our twined
fingers to lie in the middle of his chest. Whats wrong?
Our love-making is just that, he told me, voice so serious
that I dared a peek up at him. He was staring up at the ceiling, not looking
at me, so I watched him as he spoke. Making love between the two
of us. How could I take pleasure from it if I knew there wasnt any
pleasure in it for you? He drew me in close against his side and
his voice got a little fierce. I wont have you... servicing
me like... like... he hesitated and did look at me then, I had
thought to avert my eyes, not really ready to meet that gaze, but I found
I couldnt. He cupped my cheek and smiled lovingly. When youre
in my arms, I always want it to be mutual. I dont ever want what
we have between us reduced to just having sex. I want it to always be
I felt the foot of the bed dip as guilt beast joined us. I sighed and
burrowed deeper into his arms. Im sorry, I said, not
able to stop myself. He snorted softly.
Stop apologizing and go to sleep, he chuckled and drew the
blankets up around us.
I could feel guilt trying to worm his way under the covers, poking his
damn cold nose into our pocket of warmth. I shivered hard and blurted,
I love you, since he didnt want me saying Im
Heero wrapped me up close and told me, Its going to be all
right, in a tone of voice that made it seem like it could be.
It was, of course, a very long time before I dozed off, but I am something
of a master at faking it, and convinced Heero enough that he fell asleep
himself before too terribly long. The trick is not to lie perfectly still.
People dont really sleep like logs; they roll around and shift when
things get uncomfortable. And the breathing. A lot of it is the breathing.
I would have gotten up and gone to find something to do after the first
hour, but I knew Heero was set on a hair trigger and would wake the instant
I tried to leave the bed. So I just counted ivy leaves for awhile until
it dawned on me that I could see those leaves in order to count them because
Heero had left the light on for me. I glanced at it, but it was on his
side of the bed and I couldnt have reached it without waking him.
Half my brain thought it was a sweet gesture, while the other half was
a little embarrassed that he realized the dark bothered me when I was
particularly off balance.
Not that Im freakin afraid of the damn dark, but if its
too deep, too dark, I find a part of my psyche starts doubting where I
am. Starts doubting that Id made it out of the asteroid belt. I
still sometimes woke up expecting to find myself there... still floating.
I wondered how I was going to be in the morning. I wondered if I was going
to be able to sleep at all. I wondered how it would feel to go out to
the space port again. Wondered how Id handle it if I ran into anybody
I knew from the old days. Wondered how it would feel to go through launch
again, especially with someone elses hands on the yoke. Wondered
a million damn things until I think Id counted every ivy leaf in
that room. Until Id knotted myself back up to a state of physical
It took a solid, concentrated effort to get my mind shut off enough to
finally sleep. I managed to get my head to thinking past the trip, and
about the kids. Then I started course calculations, carefully matching
my breathing to Heeros. The last numbers I remember seeing on the
clock were 4:16. It was a very damn long night.
And then it was Tuesday. No more evasive thinking. No more ignoring it.
The bull was waiting and I could only hope I didnt end up
impaled on those horns.
Heero is a sweetheart. I love him with all my heart. He tries so damn
hard sometimes its almost painful. But of all the things he could
have chosen to do that morning, deciding to get up before me to fry some
bacon for breakfast was not the best choice he has ever made.
I roused jerkily from sleep, feeling vaguely anxious about some dream
that was fading even as I blinked open gritty eyes, and then I was hit
with the sickening smell of sizzling pork fat.
I hit the ground running and barely made it to the bathroom before I was
spewing whatever was left over from the night before into the toilet.
Puking your guts up is not something you can do quietly. No matter how
hard you try. Though, I suppose the running down the hall thing probably
gave me away before the violent heaving thing.
Heero came before I was half-finished, I heard him pounding up the stairs
and then he was there, sweeping my hair out of the way and offering a
supporting hand under my shoulder.
Damn, I muttered, when I could. That wasnt on
the schedule until after the dock-web disconnect.
I dont know when Ill learn which jokes are appropriate and
which ones are going to go over like lead balloons. I really dont.
He helped me to my feet and waited until Id washed my face and rinsed
my mouth before venturing, very carefully, Are you all done?
Should be, I managed, looking down at my feet, not much caring
for the intensity of his gaze. I only got sick once last time. Though...
I have to tell you I dont think Ill be eating much breakfast
He was very quiet for a second, and I figured he was probably pretty pissed
off about my not eating. I opened my mouth to reassure him that I thought
I would be able to take my iron tablets if hed just give my stomach
time to settle, when he spoke.
Last time? he asked in a deceptively calm tone of voice.
Ooops. My mistake. He was, perhaps, not pissed off so much about the food
thing as he was about the inadvertent confession thing. I opted not to
reply, kind of hoping to not confess anything more.
You... launched your ship while you were... he just couldnt
seem to find the words. Or maybe he just couldnt quite manage to
maintain the calm tone.
Actually, I quipped. Ive been thinking that L3
trip should probably be relegated to conversational off-limits
for the next three or four days, you know what I mean?
I thought, for just a second, he was going to blow a gasket. Or an artery,
in his efforts to get his mouth shut on the thirty thousand things trying
to come out of it. He finally managed to pare it down to, Are you
I started to nod, but then thought better of it. Yeah, I mumbled.
I thought Id just get a start on the total humiliation. You
know... kind of get the ball rolling?
He was quiet for a long second, and then blew out a breath that was just
short of a frustrated groan. This is how youre going to deal
with this all damn day, isnt it? he ground out and it brought
my eyes up to look at him. My lover was not a happy camper.
Probably, I had to agree. Its how I cope. Im
really sorry. Mad at me?
He did everything but throw his hands up in the air, but told me in a
tone of voice that kind of didnt match his words. No, but
Im starting to think Im going to need some of those tranquilizers
myself! Then he turned and headed back downstairs.
Well, maybe he could enter into the spirit of the thing after all. Or
maybe he really was pissed off. I honestly wasnt sure. I took my
upset stomach and my bare ass and went to get dressed.
I fussed around the bedroom for a bit, making the bed and picking up the
dirty clothes, giving Heero a chance to calm down. I hate it when I get
so flustered that I let things slip out without thinking about it. I particularly
hate it when those things are things that should not be shared. I found
myself standing in front of my dresser, running my finger along the edge
of the frame on Solos picture. Maybe unconsciously seeking comfort
from a presence that had at one time been the center of my universe.
What a load a crap, the familiar voice muttered, as Solos
likeness pressed his nose to the backside of the glass over his portrait.
I snorted. Youre so sentimental.
Center of my universe, he mocked, coming out of the
picture to stand beside me, where it was easier to poke at me. Yer
gonna make me puke next.
Should have known I wasnt going to get much sympathy from
you, I sighed, trying not to look too close at what I knew would
fade under scrutiny.
He blew a raspberry and planted his hands on his non-existent hips. Since
when am I some great momma figure?
I dont know, King Rat, I sighed, reaching to touch the
glass of his picture, tracing my fingers along the line of his shoulder.
Sometimes you didnt do so bad in the comfort department. In
your own gruff way.
Gruff? he chuckled, hopping through my arm to sit on
the dresser so he could tower over me. I like it. Hell... Im
not even sure what it means, but I like it.
I miss you, I murmured of a sudden and felt a faint, familiar
prickle in the backs of my eyes.
Ah, hell! he yelped and jumped down to stalk away from me.
Dont start that shit! You know I hate that! Go find yer Heero
if yer lookin for sympathy... you know I aint no good at it!
Yeah, I sighed, looking right at him so the morning light
would make him fade back into memory. But I dont have to be
humiliated in front of you; youre dead. What do you care if Im
a fucking coward?
Stop feeling so damn sorry for yerself! he jeered. You
dont need none a that damn comfort crap, what you need
is a good kick in the ass!
Maybe a kick in the ass is what I do need, I muttered,
running my fingers through my bangs.
His laughter was derisive, but he went away. Have a nice trip,
was his parting shot. Say hi to the old neighborhood fer me.
Ill do that, I whispered. Watch my house while
He didnt answer, and I figured Id better get my ass downstairs
before Heero decided that Id changed my mind about the stupid trip
and had just gone back to bed. I gathered the pile of dirty clothes and
headed down. I was surprised to meet Heero coming up.
He seemed a little flustered, which I guess was an improvement over irritated,
and just stood in the middle of the stairs looking at me. Are you...
Had to make the bed and stuff, I temporized. He gave me a
very odd look but just reached for the wad of clothes in my arms. I sighed
in exasperation. I can get the stupid laundry, Yuy.
I expected him to argue. Expected him to snipe back, but he just backed
down with a quiet little, All right. I wondered what had him
He turned on the stairs, heading back down and I followed, trying to decide
just how bad this day was going to drag out. Would the morning take an
eternity, or be over in a heartbeat?
We went into the kitchen, Heero to the sink while I went through to the
basement stairs. There really werent enough clothes for a load,
so I simply dumped them in the hamper and went back upstairs.
I realized when I got there, what I hadnt noticed on my way down;
that the smell of frying bacon was gone and the room was chilled. I glanced
over and saw he had the kitchen window open and there was no sign that
anything had been cooking in the room at all. It made me feel bad. He
was drying the last of the dishes from his aborted breakfast attempt and
I went to stand behind him, resting my chin on his shoulder and hooking
my fingers in the belt-loops on his khakis. Can I make a blanket
apology now for the pain in the ass Im likely to be for the next
couple of days? I asked him gently and won the ghost of a smile,
I could see it tugging at his lips out of the corner of my eye.
He gave me that little non-committal grunt that I chose to take as acceptance.
Thank you for getting up early to make breakfast for me, I
ventured, and managed to wring a little snort from him.
Youre welcome, he replied, with only a hint of the faded
ghost of sourness in his voice. Too bad you couldnt eat it.
You didnt just... throw it out, did you? I had to ask,
the lacks of my youth making me feel guilty over the waste.
Not all of it, he sighed. I ate some.
I cringed inwardly. Im sorry... I began, but he cut
How about you stop apologizing for everything short of breathing,
he suddenly blurted.
I blinked and tried to catch the expression on his face in the reflection
of the window, but couldnt quite get the angle. Heero?
I ventured, drawing back a little so that he could turn around. It took
him a second before he did. We just stood there, looking at each other.
I dont like that youre closing yourself off from me
over this, he said, voice rather deceptively calm.
Im not closing myself off from you, I tried to tell
him. Its just easier not to think about it until I have to.
That isnt healthy, Duo, he said gently. If youre
upset over this trip... if youre having problems, we need to talk
Why? I had to say. It wont make it any easier
when the time comes. If I sit down here in the middle of the kitchen and
bawl like a little baby, or kick and scream like a toddler throwing a
tantrum... what good does that do?
You need to get it out... he was starting to sound frustrated.
It was my turn to sigh, so I did so. You cant get this
out, Heero. It isnt going to make the feelings go away. Itll
just make me arrive at the shuttle port with a stuffy nose.
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