He got that frustrated look
again and his hand made an aborted gesture toward his already tousled
looking hair. I dont understand why you think I would judge
you... harshly, over this. Duo... why cant you see how much I want
to be here for you? I wanted to make this trip together. I thought...
I could help. I dont want to just follow along behind, carrying
the bags while you try to shoulder this alone.
My face heated rather nicely and I felt a shiver of almost anger ripple
through my gut. Why cant you guys understand how utterly humiliating
this is for me? This... fear is totally irrational. Its nothing
but a damn... psychological roadblock in my head! Its driving me
crazy that I cant control this! That I cant get the fuck over
He looked at me, finally reaching out and curling his hands gently around
my upper arms. Youve never let it control you. Why cant
you understand how proud of you we all are?
For what? I jeered, pulling back from him. Not actually
throwing up in the pilots seat? This whole conversation had
gotten just a touch past the uncomfortable stage.
I thought he would growl at me for a second, but then the almost angry
look on his face kind of smoothed over and I could see him backing off
and trying another tack. When I was first in the hospital, and I
couldnt even roll over without your help... did you think any less
I resisted, just barely, the urge to roll my eyes. Dont be
an ass, Yuy... youd been shot! Of course I didnt!
Duo, he persisted, ever so gently. Youve been
a whole hell of a lot more than shot.
We did that dork-ass thing where we just stood and stared at each other
for a long moment. I didnt know what he wanted from me. I really
I need to not talk about this anymore, I finally told him,
and thought for two damn seconds that he was going to shake me until my
teeth rattled. Instead, he let go and stormed out of the room.
I opted to get my jacket and go for a walk. Id been meaning to take
a look around the neighborhood anyway.
Ill spare you the internal monologue. Youve pretty much heard
it all already. It was just a couple of hours of more of the same; my
overflowing brain running itself ragged in the same circular pattern,
with a little bit of anxiety thrown in over Heero and his frustrating
Its a wonder I didnt have poor little thought hamsters keeling
over from exhaustion.
When I got back to the house, Im not even sure Heero had realized
Id been gone. He had retreated to my studio when hed fled
the kitchen and I found him there still, standing in front of the new
mural and just staring.
The room had been yard in its former life. You could tell if you looked
at it really close that it wasnt part of the original house. The
lady who used to live in our home, had been something of a gardener from
what I could tell, and I imagined sometimes her badgering her husband
into having the addition built. Im positive good old Lester hadnt
done the work himself, I was coming to understand as we ran across things,
that the guy had not been the greatest handyman in the world.
The wall that once upon a time would have been the outside of the house
had been finished oddly; sectioned off for some unknown reason, and that
was where Heeros Christmas present was painted, in the first section
next to the corner. As I stood and watched Heero study the mural with
an oddly wistful look on his face, I found myself wondering if there would
be other portraits, and just what they would be.
I knew he felt my presence; you dont sneak up on Heero Yuy, and
Im not crazy enough to try. But he ignored me for a moment and I
got to watch him look.
Hes an incredible looking man; and sometimes I have a little trouble
getting my head around the fact that I have any claim on him. I wondered
what it was that attracted him to me way back when. I wonder why he puts
up with all my shit.
He was leaning against the side-wall, arms crossed over his chest and
his head cocked slightly as he studied what was in front of him.
While walking, I had decided to call off the trip. Then decided that it
wasnt something I could run from, and called it back on. But then
I had started thinking about how unfair it was to put Heero through this,
and decided that I should just gird the old loins and do it alone. And
of course, had realized pretty quickly how that would go over.
He turned his head and looked at me with a faintly sad look in his eyes
and I told the room at large, I dont know what to do.
He sighed so softly I couldnt hear it, could only just see the rise
and fall of his chest. He unfolded himself and gave me the hint of a shake
of his head. I dont either, was all he said.
We met half way across the room and when I said, Hold me?
I didnt have to ask twice. Once I was safe in his arms again, I
dared, Do you want to call this off?
Not unless you do, he replied.
Do you want to... wait here for me? I ventured and expected
his irritation to flare.
No, was all he said.
If were doing this, I said then, its time
I know, he said gently and kissed me. I wondered what hed
found, out among the painted stars.
Then we packed the car, locked the house and took off for the shuttle
Heero played the radio for me, so the ride wasnt made in total silence,
because I just wasnt up to conversation much. Too busy lying through
my mental teeth to the voices in my head who were starting to politely
inquire where we were going.
For a drive.
Oh, look at the pretty cloud.
Dont laugh, it works. Mostly. But only to a point.
I felt my stomach tighten when we hit the access road to the port and
Heero joined the line of cars going through the gates.
Breathing, Heero scolded gently, making me aware of how it
I couldnt really manage any actual breathing exercises sitting there
in the car and just settled for stopping all together.
Smart ass, Heero muttered and I waited while he pulled up
to the gate and got his parking token, before replying.
Theres just no making you happy, I teased, but made
more of an effort to push down the anxiety.
We were quiet while he wound his way through the long-term parking lot,
but when hed found a spot and pulled in, he didnt immediately
let me out of the car.
Love, he asked, face showing me a bit of discomfort. How
do you want to handle... us?
I blinked at him for a second, not sure of his meaning. What?
I said in bafflement.
He sighed, looking a little more uncomfortable before suddenly telling
me, If you need to make this trip sitting in my lap, I dont
damn well care. But I dont want to do anything thats going
to make things worse for you. He was looking at me rather intently.
Whats too much?
I flushed and looked away. I hadnt really thought about that. I
suppose shipping out was so engrained in my memory as a solitary
thing, that I hadnt given a whole lot of thought to how many people
might be aboard the shuttle. I mean, Id thought about it... but
I hadnt really thought about what it was going to mean.
Public displays. Great... another can of worms. I could appreciate his
asking at this stage of the game at the same time I could feel the weight
of just one more thing on my shoulders.
I dont know, I had to tell him, with a slightly frustrated
sigh. I suppose we can just stick with whats normal. Not cross
that line if we can help it. This trip is going to be uncomfortable enough
without having a sh...shuttle full of people staring at us.
We both heard me stutter over the word, and I got out of the car before
he could comment on it.
It took him a moment to come around and help me unload the luggage out
of the trunk. I avoided eye contact and he thankfully took the hint and
let it drop. Though I got a gentle squeeze of my elbow while we were still
relatively hidden by the shelter of the trunk lid.
We shared out the luggage and began the walk to the terminal.
Its funny; the public side looks a hell of a lot different than
the commercial side. Much more crowded for one thing. The parking area
down on the spacers end isnt nearly as large, for another.
Not a lot of ship owners have cars to worry with. Youd have
to have one waiting for you in every port and thats just not feasible.
So walking across that parking lot wasnt as bad as Id thought
it would be. It felt totally different from making ones way down the access
road to the hangers. It almost felt more like going to the mall. Other
than a vague unease and a dry mouth, I didnt feel too bad. I was
actually able to look around a little, and the clots of other people were
helpfully distracting. It was interesting to see some of the oddball packages
people were carting off to some family holiday. The little kid in the
back of my head was actually buying into that whole oh, look at
Until the first shuttle launched since wed pulled onto the grounds
and the kid woke up to his surroundings with a sudden snap to attention.
Im afraid I stopped dead in my tracks right in the middle of the
damn walkway, staring up with a dawning sense of horror. A noise escaped
my mouth that was something like a whimper before I got it snapped shut.
Somebody cursed me for blocking the sidewalk, but I didnt even see
them, I was too busy staring up at that column of blast flare. Too busy
scrambling around trying to come up with a lie to placate the panicked
voice in my head. Too busy adjusting my mental schedule and trying to
decide if I needed to work in another bout of vomiting.
Someone muttered something about damn gawky tourists, and
then somebody else had me by the arm and was steering me off to the side.
Incidentally, blocking the sight of that shuttle from my sight.
I blinked Heero into focus and tried to grin but it didnt even come
close and I knew it. I opened my mouth to tell him I couldnt do
it. To ask him to pretty please take me home. They sure are impressive
goin up, arent they? was what came out.
His eyes held mine and offered whatever I needed, barring absolutely nothing.
Im almost certain if Id told him I needed him to kiss me blind
right there, hed have done it. It made me grin and give him a tight
We rejoined the flow of foot traffic, and when the next launch happened,
I was able to keep my eyes on the ground and not stop. Im sure it
was only the press of other people that caused Heero to shift close enough
to bump shoulders with me.
I left all the tedium of luggage checking and crap to him. I could not
have dealt with it, I dont think. It was mostly unfamiliar to me;
I hadnt shipped out on a commercial flight in years. Heero did it
all the time and moved through the practiced red-tape tango with ease.
I just followed along, going where he directed and moving with the flow.
It was an indeterminate amount of time before I found us seated in a waiting
area. Most of our luggage was gone, given over to the tender mercies of
a gang of baggage handlers, except for the single over-night bag that
Heero took charge of. I wished hed let me carry it so that my hands
would have something to fiddle with, but had to make do with the end of
my braid. A habit I thought Id long ago given up.
It wasnt long at all before I noticed that a ship was coming into
the station right outside the windows of our waiting area, and I realized
that Heero had timed things to get us here at almost the last damn possible
moment so that I wouldnt have to sit and stew in my own juices for
Beside me, Heero stirred, passing the bag over to sit between my feet
instead of his. Be all right for a minute? he asked softly
and I nodded, not at all sure what he meant. Maybe he forgot to go to
the bathroom before we left?
When he rose and walked briskly off, I damn near jumped up and ran after
him. It was understanding how pathetic that was, that kept me sitting
where I was. I latched onto the strap of the overnight bag, twisting it
and turning it in lieu of my hair. I found myself getting anxious that
they would call to board before Heero got back.
God... what was wrong with me? Youd think I couldnt cross
the damn street without help.
It only made matters worse when the gate opened and the current passengers
began to disembark before he returned. My eyes were completely locked
on the spot where hed disappeared and I really hated myself for
the almost physical rush of relief I felt when he came back into view.
I gave him a quizzical look when I saw the bottle of water dangling from
his fingers, but then he sat back down and began rummaging through the
bag and it all began to make sense. Id forgotten about the promise
Id made. It was in my head to argue over it, but I couldnt
quite bring myself to. As much as I didnt want to take the damn
tranquilizers, I didnt want to disappoint Heero more. And it didnt
help my case much, that when I reached to take the bottle of water from
him, my hand wasnt exactly what Id call steady.
He pressed two pills into that hand with a hopeful little smile just as
they called for boarding. It was all I could do to choke the damn things
down. I truly wished Id not agreed to it, but having promised, I
couldnt make myself argue. He was doing enough for me... it would
not kill me to do this one thing for him.
Then he was shouldering our bag and standing up. I tried to follow him,
but the commands I sent to my legs got waylaid somewhere and nothing really
happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him subtly offer his hand
and I took it without hesitation, letting him pull me to my feet. It took
some effort to make myself let go and start walking.
I vaguely remember saying something witty to the flirty little flight
attendant who did something... professional to our tickets, but I couldnt
have told you what it was. It was Heeros hand, touching me gently
in the small of the back that made me walk into the boarding tunnel. There
is a moment of near privacy as you leave the sphere of the ticket lady,
before you enter into the sphere of the welcome aboard lady, and Heero
took it to lean close and whisper softly, Im right here.
It was a stupid ass thing to say and I should probably have been irritated
with him over the implication that I was giving serious thought to turning
tail and running away. Except for the fact that on some level I probably
was thinking about turning tail and running away. So instead of
the annoyed growl I should have given him, I settled on a grateful smile.
Then I had to turn some part of my attention to the welcome aboard lady
while she checked our seating and directed us to the right place. Not
that I was paying the slightest bit of heed to those directions, I trusted
Heero to know where to take us, but it still took some effort to produce
the smile and the nod.
He led me down the aisle, but then hesitated when we got there. Window
or inside seat? he asked me, and I had to think about it. Which
was worse, being able to see out, or being where someone might see me
if I decided to go into some kind of apoplexic fit? I ended up deciding
that I probably couldnt affect my comfort level much one way or
the other with one seat difference, and opted for a little less humiliation
factor. There were three seats and I took the one by the window, as far
from the world as I could get, and Heero sat next to me, settling our
bag into the seat next to the aisle just as though he were positive no
one would be sitting there.
The shuttle was not crowded, thank God. I guess there just isnt
a lot of draw to L2 for the holiday crowd. And I will always wonder if
Heerod done some finagling with the shuttle service computer system.
Or maybe hed just bribed someone, because somehow we had ended up
with a pair of seats near the back of the main cabin with nobody very
close to us at all. It would have taken some neck craning for anybody
on that flight to get a really good, solid look at us. Not for the first
time in the last week, I wished that there werent laws about where
you had to ride-out launch. I would much have preferred to be locked away
in our cabin, no matter how small the thing would turn out to be, rather
than out here with all the other passengers, such as they were.
I sat staring out the window, watching the little slice of the field that
I could see, and wondered if any of the tow trucks I saw out there were
being driven by anybody I knew.
After a moment, I felt Heero curl his fingers around my wrist and I looked
at him, he was frowning faintly and I realized he was taking my pulse.
I didnt need to see the trace of concern in his eyes to know that
it was elevated as hell. The faint buzz in my ears and the dull ache in
my throat told me that my body had spit as much adrenaline into my system
as it could manage, and was struggling valiantly to produce more.
Arent you feeling any effects of the medication yet?
he asked, and I wondered if hed try to give me another dose if I
told him no. I had to stop and think about it, drawing my attention inward
and taking an inventory.
When I thought about it, I did feel a little... odd. Kind of shaky. I
knew if I were to stand back up, my legs would feel rubbery and weak.
Kinda wobbly, I reported back, and his frowned deepened. I
just took the damn things, Heero, I told him, feeling like a damn
lab rat. Give it time.
The doctor said ten to thirty minutes, he informed me, and
I realized he was still holding my wrist.
Its barely been ten, I grumbled and pulled on my hand
when I heard the flight attendant approaching our area.
Ill need you to secure that bag, sir, she told Heero
politely, and accepted his tight nod as compliance, because she didnt
hang around to make him do it, simply gave us the little thanks
for flying with us, well be launching in fifteen minutes speech.
I could see the gears going around in Heeros head and suddenly realized
that he was so concerned over the damn drugs because he was afraid hed
misjudged the optimal time to administer the things. I resisted the urge
to chuckle at him. Hey, I asked him instead. Is the
rest of the bottle of water in the bag?
He fished it out without further prompting, seeming glad to have some
request he could fulfill for me. I took it and damn near drained it before
I realized I was going to. My mouth felt like it had been lined in sand.
I thanked him and handed the empty bottle back for him to stow with the
rest of the gear, you dont want stuff like that lying around loose
during a... while youre... well, you know.
I went back to staring out the window, not sure if I was glad I couldnt
see any more than I could between the wing and the terminal section or
not. On the one hand there was less to see to trigger... thoughts. On
the other, there was less to see to distract me from... thoughts.
We hadnt dressed up for the trip or anything, but I had put on a
button-down shirt instead of a t-shirt and I was rather glad when I felt
myself beginning to sweat and it instantly chilled on my skin in the circulated
air of the cabin. Id had the sleeves rolled up and I reached to
roll them down without looking.
Cold? Heero asked, and I turned to give him a sheepish little
grin, feeling badly for how much I must be ignoring him.
I swallowed, finding it difficult, and wished we had another bottle of
water. Im sorry, I told him and he looked a little confused.
For being cold? he asked wryly and I did snort softly that
For being a silent lump, I explained.
Its all right; I understand, he told me and dared to
reach out and brush his fingers along the side of my face. I found my
eyes closing and I leaned into it, so he let the caress linger a little
longer. I brought your sweatshirt if you need it, he told
me and I had to smile. I didnt have to say anything for him to murmur,
I know how you get.
I opened my eyes again and straightened a little bit, his hand dropped
away and I found I missed the heat of it. Yeah, I said, feeling
the hint of a shiver wanting to take hold of the base of my spine. I let
it run its course while he was turned away digging the thing from the
bag that I was beginning to suspect had been very carefully packed.
I let him help me put it on without thinking about it, liking the touch
of his hands as he tugged it down and straightened the collar.
Better? he asked and I nodded. That made my head feel funny
though, so I quit pretty quickly. He had that look in his eyes that makes
me think of mother tigers and I couldnt help giving him a grin that
was probably a little goofy. It felt a little goofy anyway.
I love you, I blurted and then just sat blinking at him, rather
appalled that Id said that right out loud in a public place like
His expression danced between warmed and surprised; I dont think
he could believe Id said it either. He leaned over and whispered
next to my ear, Forever, love.
I had to put some serious concentration into not letting my head fall
to rest on his shoulder once hed brought it so close.
He straightened, but his fingers were on my wrist again. He didnt
seem overly happy with what he found. Duo, he ventured after
a moment. How are you feeling?
I had to close my eyes in order to force my attention inward again to
figure it out. I felt... really kind of weird. I think it was safe to
say the damn drugs had kicked in, and in that moment a thread of unease
made its way through my gut and later I would very distinctly remember
thinking that those tranquilizers had been a bad idea.
Weird, I told him, because he was waiting on a status. Kind
of... shaky. A little bit dizzy. My mouth is dry as the damn Sahara. I
dunno, Heero... to be honest, its screwing with my concentration.
I feel kind of... scattered.
And I did. When I really stopped to make myself aware of it, I just didnt
feel so damn good.
When I blinked my eyes back open, it was to find Heero looking at me in
a way that let me know he wasnt entirely pleased with the report.
Then the waitress... no, that wasnt right... the flight attendant
came around again because Heero hadnt stowed our bag yet. He apologized
profusely, muttering something about needing something out of it, and
quickly put it away. This time, she stood over him until shed seen
the job done right. I vaguely remember trying to smile at her pleasantly
but Im not sure I did, because she kept glancing my way with a strange
look on her face.
Then she went away and I was so relieved to have Heero sitting back beside
me, that I reached out and took hold of his hand. He smiled fit to make
the sun come up and squeezed my fingers.
But then that same flight attendants voice was on the loudspeaker
and we were being given the up-right speech. I heard the hatch seal shut
and could feel as the loading ramp kicked free and began to retract. I
think I made a tiny little sound, because the hand wrapped around my own
tightened and a second one joined it.
My tongue worked until it came unglued from the roof of my mouth and I
meant to tell Heero to abort the mission. I meant to tell him not to make
me do this. I opened my mouth intending to say stop, but what came
out was, Well... this time tomorrow well be on L2.
We were at that point in the schedule, after all, where all parties concerned
had to face up to what we were doing and get the hell over it. I glanced
at the back of the seat in front of us to make sure there was a barf bag
within easy reach.
In the back of my somewhat overcrowded head, something uncoiled and the
kid woke up and that damn screaming started.
L2? Shuttle? You tricked
I drew in a deep, shuddering
breath and tried to ignore what were really only my own thoughts anyway.
But then I heard the hideously familiar metal-on-metal sound of a tow
truck attaching to the shuttle and the kid let out with a wail, understanding
that hed got the news too late to do anything about it.
Oh God, came out of my mouth before I could stop it and I
had a mind-bending moment of sheer terror thinking that the voice of the
scared little boy might manage to gain control.
Im right here, Heero whispered low and gentle, just
as we jerked into motion. Some part of my mind got the feel of the hands
driving the tow truck and I knew it wasnt Dusty. I couldnt
make up my mind if that made things better or worse.
I endured the haul out to the launch ramp without managing to rip the
stuffing out of the armrest, or break any of Heeros bones. Though
I have a feeling if it had been anyone but Heero Yuy sitting next to me
theyd have been in some serious pain. I dont think I could
have let go if Id wanted to. Nor could I focus enough attention
to ease the grip; it was taking too much of my concentration to keep the
terror bottled up behind my teeth.
I realized I was trembling like a new-born foal only when Heero began
to whisper to me and I could vaguely hear the strain in his voice. Could
feel his worry. Its ok baby, Im with you all the way.
I wont let go.
My heart was trip-hammering in my chest so hard it hurt. My throat felt
swollen and pained, evidence of bodily systems on overdrive. All my awareness
was simply on not letting that little screaming voice come out of my mouth.
Had to keep it in my head.
No! Please no! I wasnt
bad... Ill be good, please dont make me...
We slowed and stopped and
I knew the tow truck out there was lining us up on the ramp. The driver
gave the truck a little backward kick, to loose the grapples and I knew
in an instant it was Cortaine behind the wheel. It was a weird thought
that gave me pause, throwing me back to a time in my life when I would
have been the one in the pilots seat.
I turned to Heero with a look that Im sure was far, far from reassuring
and told him in a wobbly voice, That line? Im gonna cross
all over it unless you tell me not to.
And you know damn well he didnt tell me not to, just opened his
arms and reached for me. It wasnt possible to do much with us both
buckled into our seats, but I twisted myself around like a pretzel and
buried my face in his shoulder and clung onto him like some damn leach.
The g-forces of launch were not going to be pleasant in that position,
but I was pretty sure without the contact, I was going to be screaming
for them to stop the damn ship any second.
Ive got you, Heero told me, his arm around my shoulders
and squeezing tight enough to bruise. Youre not alone... Im
Why do nonsense words comfort so much? I dont know... maybe they
just give you something else to think about. Maybe its just white
noise. All I know is the little boy in my head was hanging on his every
word much like I was hanging onto his shirt. Hands fisted tight on the
thankfully stretchy fabric and eyes squeezed tight shut.
I... cant do this, I told him, utterly appalled at my
He was quiet for a minute and then his hand came to the side of my head,
pressing me firmly against his shoulder. I felt him kiss the top of my
head. Its too late.
And it was. I knew it was, because the final countdown had started and
once you hit the thirty second mark, God couldnt stop a shuttle
launch. The kid screamed so loud and so hard, that a guttural moan escaped
I felt the thrum of the engaging chain and whimpered Heeros name.
On some level wondering how I had thought I could do this without him.
Wondering how I had done it alone the last time.
On another level though, I was aware that things were... different. I
was more scattered and out of control. My concentration was blown to hell
and I just felt confused and off-balance. So damn disoriented. I couldnt
focus on any of the things that might have helped me get my shit together.
And I sure as hell couldnt work up enough anger to bull my way forward
the way I had last time.
It was Heeros gentle, siren voice that got me through that launch.
Holding my scattered psyche together with the sheer power of his nonsense
words. Weaving something solid for me to hang onto when everything else
I reached for failed me.
...going to be fine. Im here with you, Ill always be
right here. You can do this...
When the harsh crush of launch force hit us, the pain of it pressing down
on my twisted body made it impossible to speak. Made it impossible to
scream. I was very glad for that... because I think I might have, otherwise.
Despite my eyes being shut tight, I could feel the play of launch-flare
across my face, taunting me and trying to get me to look. I burrowed harder
into Heero and felt his hand leave my shoulder for a moment. Felt him
fighting the pull of the g-forces, and somehow he managed to reach the
button that closed the window shield. The light stopped dancing across
me and Heeros hand came back to curl around me.
It was a lift-off that felt like it would go on forever. And I suddenly
knew what Hell would be like when I finally got there. There would be
no trotting over to help old Sisyphus with that rock on the hill. No,
Duo Maxwells own private Hell would be the launch that never ended.
For the first time since the very early days of my Gundam training, I
fell into that near-faint that gets the newbies. If it hadnt been
such a fucking relief... I would have been mortified.
I wasnt completely unaware, just somehow removed from the pain and
the stress. I think the kid in my head did faint. Or finally just went
into a catatonic state. Heeros voice got a little scared sounding
when my hands stopped clutching and I went limp, but I couldnt make
myself come back to the unpleasantness of it all. I was just drifting
in a place that was somehow soothing in its... blankness.
I completely missed that moment of leaving the atmosphere.
Im a little ashamed to admit that it took Heeros tone going
from a little scared to almost frantic before
I forced myself to come back from the hazy gray place and tried to reassure
him that I wasnt dead. Or whatever he thought.
It took a bit of blinking to get him to come into watery focus and the
look I found on his face was nothing short of scared shitless.
Duo? he asked me, voice all tight and low. God, Duo...
are you all right?
I just stared at him for a minute, trying to process the paleness of his
face and the wide, shocked look to his eyes. He reached to cup my cheek
when he saw me registering his presence again. When I remembered how speech
worked, I croaked, Cabin? and hoped to God he understood how
important that was.
I needed out of there. I needed a bolt-hole. A place to run to and lick
my wounds. A place I could try and get my head together and figure out
what in the hell was wrong with me.
Ok, baby, Heero whispered and used unsteady hands to smooth
over my face as though cleaning me up. I closed my eyes again and trusted
him to get me the hell out of there.
I heard him unbuckle and stand to retrieve our bag from the compartment
overhead. I felt him undo my own seatbelt and roused enough to try to
stand. Not just yet, hang on a minute, he told me.
Then the unthinkable happened. He left my side. Left my line of sight,
and that rather made it through the cotton batting I seemed to be wrapped
There was some part of my brain that understood I was not alone; I could
hear the murmur of other voices in the cabin, and when I put some effort
into it, I could even pick Heeros out, talking to the flight attendant
in a slightly terse manner.
But there was another part of my brain... the five-year-old part, that
was on the verge of shouting for him; that felt the squeeze of memory
in aching lungs. That was suddenly so very cold that I was visibly shaking
by the time he came back.
I was not so far gone that I didnt see understanding dawn in his
eyes the minute he saw me. That I didnt see the guilt well up in
him. I couldnt stop myself from reaching for him and I decided that
I would be mortified later. After I felt his touch and knew he was real.
He pulled me to my unsteady feet, murmuring soft apologies to me and using
his body to block me from the sight of the other passengers. God only
knows what in the hell hed told the attendant, in that moment he
could have told her I was drunk for all I cared, as long as it got me
where I wanted to go; someplace private. Someplace safe from prying eyes
and listening ears. Someplace where I could finish the job of falling
apart without interruption.
I wobbled and I staggered and I barely managed to keep my feet under me
with the help of Heeros hands on my arms. I let him guide me and
we quickly left behind the sound of the other passengers. So many things
were pulling at me, twisting my perceptions. The thrum of engines. The
hollow, metal sound of boot heels on metal deck plates. The faint recycled
tang of the air.
By the time he got me to the cabin, he was practically carrying me and
I wouldnt have cared if hed pulled me into a broom closet,
as long as we were away from the humiliation of witnesses and he stayed
I realized Id been apologizing in an endless litany when the door
slid shut behind us and he took me by the arms and gave me a little shake.
Stop it, Duo! he commanded, looking intently into my eyes.
Its all right... its my fault. We should have tested
the tranquilizers before now. I should have given you just one, until
we saw how you reacted to them. Its not your fault.
I blinked at him, trying to fathom what he was saying, my brain trying
to piece together something I already knew, but couldnt seem to
keep in the forefront of my mind. This sucks, was the best
I could manage.
He gave me a shaky little laugh, a burst of tension, and then he was hugging
me tight. The pills were too strong. Im sorry... they werent
supposed to do this to you.
I suppose it should have been in me somewhere to be angry with him; Id
never wanted the damn pills in the first place. I wouldnt be this
fucked up if I hadnt taken them. And quite possibly, much later,
I would be angry. Once my head was cleared enough to get past all
the things that were swirling in my mind. Once his solid presence helped
me redefine reality. Its cold, Heero. Its so cold...
I would say that I just gave over to his care and let him take charge,
but it honestly wasnt what you could call a conscious decision.
Hell... my brain had abdicated somewhere around the time the hatch sealed
and there just wasnt much choice about who took the lead here. Left
to my own devices, Im not sure I could have done more than sink
to the ground where I stood.
I could feel the crush of vacuum all around us, pressing on the outside
of the ship like the tightening fist of a very angry God. I could feel
the cold seeping through the walls, creeping inward like a fog of ice-frosted
breath. Could feel the air growing stale even as we stood there. If Id
had a hamster left that wasnt drugged or just plain hiding, they
would have come out to tell me how much trouble we were in when I began
to gasp for breath.
Heero doesnt need hamsters.
Duo-love, he told me, even as he was flinging our bag onto
the bed. You need to calm down. Come on... listen to me; just breathe...
its all right.
I was only vaguely aware of him pressing me down to sit on the bed. It
barely registered as he pulled off my boots and then he wrapped us both
in a cocoon of blankets.
He took me to my safe place.
I dont know when he lost his shirt or his shoes, but when he laid
me down across his chest, it was bare skin he cradled me to.
Listen to my heart, baby, he whispered against my hair. Everythings
going to be all right. Just concentrate on me. Im here and Im
not going anywhere.
I wondered if Trowa had been talking to him. I wondered if Heero had gotten
calm the mad mechanic lessons before we left. But I didnt
wonder for very long because it was taking all of my attention to try
and do as he said; I was having a hell of a hard time remembering where
I was supposed to be.
The airs so stale, I told him, totally at random.
No it isnt, he soothed and stroked his hands over my
hair and my back. Stop panting, were fine. Youre safe
I tried hard to do as he said, tried hard to concentrate on the steady
sound of his heart against my cheek, but kept getting distracted by the
sounds of things I hadnt heard in a very long time. Sounds of a
ship in flight. So familiar, but so very different from the pulse of almost-life
that had been my home for so long. Pain welled up in my chest as I remembered
another heartbeat; the heart of my ship gone silent.
I didnt mean to kill my Demon-girl, Heero, I confessed,
and tried to look up at him, but things were all watery and hard to see
I know, was all he said, arms going tighter around me. I
know... its all right.
Somewhere behind the panic that was trying so hard to run away with my
head, I felt badly that I was obviously scaring him so much. Felt bad
that I couldnt seem to get my wits about me, or shut my damn mouth
Im so sorry Im such an asshole, I told him, feeling
my voice wobble dangerously and Heero made a tiny little sound of distress.
Shhh... Youre not an asshole, he said, kissing my forehead
and stroking my cheek.
Something... the fear of what was out there coming for me, maybe... was
winding up tight in my gut, making it hard for me to remember where I
was and why. I clutched at Heeros arms and listened, utterly appalled,
as the kid got control enough to beg, You wont leave me, will
you? Please... dont leave me alone again.
Im right here, He told me, voice sounding terribly strained.
Shhhh... please dont cry. I wont leave you, not for
a second. Hush... its all right...
I was very confused and raised my head to look at him, suddenly afraid
of slipping into that place I didnt want to be. I... made
it out, right Heero? Im not... there, am I?
God no, he breathed, voice fierce and firm. Youre
with me, we got you out. Everything is fine. Ive got you... Ive
got you now, and everything is all right.
While he talked, his hands were doing something, I heard things rustling
and crackling and then his fingers were worming their way under the neck
of my sweatshirt. He smoothed his fingertips over the back of my neck
in an odd manner, murmuring soft apologies. I couldnt figure it
out, but settled my head back on his chest, seeking the sound of him again.
Tell me? I heard myself ask, needing to have that anchor,
needing something to hang onto because it seemed I could hear the whispering
movement of the Londonderry dead very close at hand.
I love you, he said, drawing me close and raining kisses down
on the top of my head. Always. Im here with you and youre
safe with me. Forever.
And suddenly I just couldnt seem to keep my eyes open. Just couldnt
seem to focus at all. I remember being vaguely confused about how that
could happen. I remember wondering if Heero had done something. Then I
dont remember much of anything at all.
As disjointed and weird as my memories are of the launch and the time
right after, whats in my head concerning the rest of that day and
our night aboard ship is just a strange conglomeration of very few and
far between flashes of awareness. Strung out as though they had no relationship
with each other at all.
I remember coughing myself into semi-wakefulness and asking for water.
And I remember some liquid being trickled into my mouth, but the two things
dont seem to be related.
I remember waking to the feel of Heero shifting and having a full-fledged
panic attack that he was going to leave me alone in that helpless state.
I seem to recall a lot of murmured reassurances after that.
I very distinctly remember opening my eyes to see Heero looking at me
with an almost alarmed air and saying, You have never been a burden
to me, Duo. Never.
I remember hearing my night music.
I remember hearing Heero talking softly and realizing he was reading to
Later, I would figure out that hed drugged me. Heero Yuy is nothing
if not thorough, and he always has a plan two. Apparently, hed gotten
more than just a bottle of tranquilizers from the clinic. Hed gotten
some knock a horse on its ass sedative patches too. Though
I dont think his original strategy had been for plan two to be a
remedy for plan one.
I should probably have been pretty furious, but under the circumstances,
some part of me had to admit it was probably for the best. With all of
my defenses stripped away by the damn tranqs, I would quite possibly have
just had a heart attack and freakin died if Id had to suffer
through the whole damn trip in the state Id been in. Or something.
This understanding didnt make the whole thing any less humiliating.
And while Im not going to say I was jumping-for-joy happy with how
it all came out, I cant really say I woke up blaming Heero for the
mess. He hadnt slipped me the pills; hed asked me. I had agreed
against my better judgment. I guess there had been a couple of bad decisions
When I did finally come out from under the influence of all the crap in
my system, I was still curled like a catatonic puppy all over Heeros
chest, still listening to the steady sound of his heartbeat. Feeling the
reassuring presence of his hands stroking over my back and my arms. Still
bundled up in sweatshirt and jeans, in every blanket the cabin had to
Waking was one of those pasty, groggy, stiff and confusing affairs. I
was first aware that something not very good had happened to me. Then
I was aware that the body I was resting on was uncomfortably hot and slick
with sweat. Thirst came next, and finally an overwhelming sense of how
utterly pathetic a human being I am.
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