11-23-2000

Category: Shonen-ai.
Warnings: Teeny weeny bit o' angst, language, clumsy japanese, OOC? you be the judge. Mostly sap, and lots of it.
Archive: Who'd want to? :-) Ummmm..ask me.
Rating: PG
Don't sue me. I don't own anything-just a houseplant and a car that doesn't run. If you sue, that's what you'll get, so why bother? I'm making absolutely no money offa this. Now that that's straightened out:

 

Warming

 

I shoved the couch into the narrow zone of perfect heat in the cabin earlier that morning, and now I'm reclining on it, leafing through old magazines-same place I've been all morning. There's not much in the way of entertainment here, and these old hunting and fishing magazines are almost the entirety of the reading material. I'm bored nearly to tears, but I know better than to whine-at least we've got heat.

The antiquated heater had chugged to death last night, and we both woke up at about two in the morning, freezing cold. Wrapping ourselves in sheets and towels, whatever we could find to keep warm, we ventured outside with a penlight to see if we could get the damn thing working. Now, I'm a fair mechanic, but this thing was seriously old. They probably don't even make parts for it anymore. The repair job was a no-go. Fortuneatly, there's a fireplace inside and a big stack of logs outside, so I banished Heero indoors and got enough firewood inside to last us awhile. The fireplace warms the place very unevenly-close to it, the extreme heat makes it uncomfortable for more than a few minutes, and the far corners are ice-cold.

I look up, and see Heero in the same position he's been for hours-in an easy chair, his leg propped up on a small table. There's a book open on his lap, but his head is lolling slightly to one side and his eyes are closed. Neither one of us are big sleepers, but we've been here for quite awhile with nothing else to do, and we've learned to sleep to pass time.

We're running low on food, and that's worrying me. We'd actually be much worse off if I hadn't gotten sick-my appetite just vanished, couldn't hold anything down, didn't even want to think of food. But I'm definitely on the mend, and my appetite is returning.

"It's Thanksgiving."

"Nani?" I look up. I thought Heero was asleep. Of course, that doesn't mean anything. That boy makes the jump from completely asleep to fully awake and coherent faster than anyone I've ever met.

He's looking over at me, with that unreadable statement. "Thanksgiving, Duo. The holiday. You're American, right?"

"American? Yeah, I guess. I'm a mutt. What about Thanksgiving?"

"It's today." He stretches a little, getting the stiffness out of his arms.

"Oh. Okay." I cough, then roll back over, trying to find a comfortable position, and fail. There's only so much time you can spend on a couch. I sit up and look back over at him.

"You all right?" He asks.

I grin. "I'm doing fine, Yuy. Not quite in tip-top form, but getting there." My stomach growls, revealing my not-quite-truth. "How's your ankle?"

"It'll do."

The ankle in question is sprained, and belongs to him. Our mission was a complete success, until it got to the escape part. After a tripped alarm, stolen car, and plane crash, we're here. The crash was my fault. Heero's been remarkably kind not to rub it in too much. I know better that to not check the fuel tank for leaks in advance. Oh well. He actually calls it an 'unexpected landing'. Hmph. No one gets a badly sprained ankle in anything called a 'landing'.

Anyway, by the time we went down, there wasn't enough fuel to make an explosion or fire, which was bad if you're worried about leaving evidence, but good if you don't want to be noticed, and that was my top priority. We covered the plane as best we could and set off on foot, very slowly. We each had a pack with some rudimentary supplies, and I was supporting most of Heero's weight. I'm honestly not sure what we would have done if we hadn't run into the little house.

The house, as it turned out, was a mini-headquarters for these people who rent hunting cabins. I left Heero and went in by myself, hair wound up and tucked into my cap. I'm sure a hunter is the last thing I looked like, but I had money-enough to get a small, secluded cabin.

Which is where we've been for about two weeks. It's incredibly cold outside, and neither of us has much in the way of clothes. The nearest town is apparently well over a half a days' walk, and neither of us has been up to it so far. Fortuneatly, the cabin had some food, mostly the canned-beef-stew variety. We had some food with us, and we haven't been eating much, but supplies are low. Very low.

We don't have computer, or a phone, so we haven't been able to secure a line to call the others-dunno what good it'll do, anyway. Trowa and Quatre are scheduled to be on a mission for a few weeks, and out of contact. And Wufei, if he's even there, doesn't seem like the type to come charging to our rescue.

I get up stiffly, grab my roll of toilet paper (we've long since run out of tissue) and cross the room to sit on the table facing Heero. He gives me a disinterested glare.

"C'mon, Heero. Let's see."

"Hn."

"I'll take that as permission." He grunts again and I reach for the the towels that are wrapping his foot, keeping it warm. Gingerly, I undo them and set them aside before unwrapping the stretch bandage. Years as a thief and pickpocket made my fingers nimble, and it's been paying off lately. I know the foot's still hurting him, so I'm as gentle as I can be.

The last of the bandage comes off in my hands and I wince. "Che, Heero, you don't do anything halfway, do you?"

Another grunt.

"Heero, It really shouldn't be so swollen and discolored still. I think maybe there might be something broken, after all. Of course, it could just be that you won't stay off it. I can't believe you, tromping around outside last night."

"Had to see if the heater could be fixed."

"I could have done that on my own."

No answer.

I sigh and sit back, wipe my nose, and then get up. "Let's leave the bandage off for a little while. I'm going to get some ice and see if we can take that swelling down a bit."

"Hn."

"Argh! Heero! I swear, when they make the movie of this, the screenwriter'll have no trouble with you. 'Hn', 'Baka', 'Hn', 'Baka'. Your part won't take much of an actor either."

I notice the sarcastic smile. "And who will play you?"

I assume an air of dignity. "Oh, I don't know. I haven't quite worked it all out yet. Do I go with devastatingly handsome, yet hardboiled and cynical? Or do I go the dreamy teen idol route? So many choices."

I pose for imaginary cameras, knowing full well I'm not much to look at. Sickly winter pale, gaunt from a week without eating, and my hair's a mess. We've only got a bar of soap to wash it with, so it's dull and tangled. My braid is rough and lumpy, not smooth and neat. Still, I'm just going for the comedic factor.

"Well, when they find the actress to play you, let me know so I can console her."

I dart back to the chair and punch Heero in the arm. "Do I hit like
a girl?" He doesn't react or retaliate, just sighs.

"Forget it, Duo. The day they make a movie of this will be the day pigs fly, you say something intelligent, and Trowa uses his and Quatre's safety word."

"YOU know about that, too?"

"Of course. It's not like they're quiet or anything."

I grin evilly. "That's true. and I had thought Rashid's 'Master Quatre' shtick was a bunch of hooey."

I'm rewarded with a small noise that sounds suspiciously like a suppressed chuckle. I grin.

"I'm going to get that ice."

"Hn."

I roll my eyes and head to the kitchenette. Opening the freezer, I take out an ice cube tray and crack it open into a towel.

"So you aren't into Thanksgiving?"

I pause for a second. "What's that, Heero? I never said anything one way or another."

"I know. It just seems like your type of holiday. Food, mostly."

"And family. Food and family, Heero. Neither of which I had much of while I was growing up. On the streets, it just means that the shops are closed for the day and that dumpster diving will get better. And any food handouts you get will be turkey sandwiches."

"Oh."

I take the ice pack back into the room and arrange it around his foot."We were always hungry, and we all coveted a family, whether we admitted it or not. It was just like any other holiday. It just made me jealous-I wished I could have a feast and stuff myself. I wanted to find out what it would be like to eat until you were full. We were always hungry, and that's no fun."

"Ah. I admit to having little experience with being hungry. I don't remember anything before Odin, and of course hunger endurance was part of my training with Doctor J. But I've certainly never been in danger of starving."

"So why are you so hung up on this Thanksgiving thing, anyway, Heero? It's not a Japanese holiday. Not that you seem the type to celebrate those either."

"I'm not. And I don't know."

"Are you getting soft on me, Hee? Or are you delirious? Maybe you've finally caught my bug." I move to feel his forehead, with an air of mock concern.

"Crazy baka. I'm fine." He pushes me away, and we tussle for a moment, without really meaning it. He grabs my wrist and I break free.

"You're a lousy patient, Heero Yuy." That's actually a lie. He's honestly been fine, allowing me to change his bandages and fuss over him without much protest. He's been a great caretaker too-I don't get sick often, and when I do I don't take it well. Really, all around, he's been good company, relatively speaking. From a boy who normally doesn't use more than one syllable at a time, he's talked an amazing amount. You could almost call what we have conversations.

Which is doing nothing for the big fat gigantic crush I have on him. I know I sound like a schoolgirl, but he makes me feel like a schoolgirl. I get that shivery little excited he's-looking-at-me feeling. After we talk I want to giggle and sigh. I feel completely silly, but there it is. I want to forget him-he's surely heterosexual, or asexual or something like that. Even if his door does swing that way, I'm sure I'd be the last person on earth to draw his interest.

*******************************************************************

It's a tiny, tiny cabin. The main room has a couch and a chair and a coffee table and another small table. There are two beds, barely more than cots, against the far wall. A small kitchenette is off to the side, with a little stove and a fridge and sink and a giant chest freezer, and some cabinets, where we found the food. Even smaller is the bathroom, just a toilet and sink and shower.

We'd been in the cabin a couple of days, and I'd been feeling draggy and sore for the whole time. I chalked it up to the crash-both of us were bumped and bruised a fair amount, but nothing worth complaining about, other than Heero's ankle. And he doesn't complain. For the first time I can remember (Other than that disaster with the hospital and the parachute), I'd come out of a mission better off than Heero. Amazing. Not that I was about to gloat. I was feeling seriously guilty. The crash had been completely my fault, and I couldn't stop mentally beating myself up over it.

So I was being pretty quiet. So was Heero. That's not unusual for him, but he's typically the first one to point out my screw-ups, and he'd said nothing, not a thing. I had begun to wish he'd just yell at me, just so I could stop avoiding him. Not that you can really avoid someone here.

We were eating dinner together, and I was having trouble maintaining my interest in the food. We were having pot noodles that I'd made-my culinary expertise is limited, but I can make those without screwing up too badly. No chopsticks, so we were eating it with forks, which I could tell was annoying the hell out of him-he'd wind the long ramen noodles around the tines and then glare at them before pushing them into his mouth. I was hungry, but the food itself looked as unappetizing as anything I'd ever had, and I lived out of trash cans all growing up.

I finally looked up. "Heero, I'm sorry."

"Hm?"

"I'm sorry. For getting us into this mess. And your ankle and all. I'm just sorry, okay? I should have checked. It's my fault. I apologize."

He frowned at me and swallowed his mouthful. "Baka. What are you talking about?"

I was feeling nearly frantic. "This! I'm sorry! I'm trying to apologize! I was stupid, I know, I-"

I was cut off by a sudden wave of nausea. I gagged, trying to keep it down, and then realized that I was going to throw up. Covering my mouth with my hand, I bolted for the bathroom and heaved over the toilet. I didn't think I'd eaten that much lately, but I threw up a surprising amount. I couldn't stop retching. I panicked and continued to dry heave, then I heard someone clear their throat. Struggling to control myself, I looked up and there was Heero, leaning heavily against the doorjamb, a mug in his hand.

"You all right?"

I nodded miserably. He awkwardly knelt down and handed me the cup. Water. I took a tentative sip and swished it around in my mouth before spitting it out. He put his hand on my back, and then on my forehead.

"Liar. You're running a fever. High one, too. Wash your mouth out again."

I obeyed.

"You done here?"

I nodded again, not trusting what would happen if I opened my mouth.

"Okay, now stand up. I can't really help you." I shakily stood up, and walked out. What now? Heero turned to follow me, bracing himself against the wall. "Strip."

"What?" I croaked.

"Take your clothes off. I won't look. You're sick, and you need to get into bed, and stay there. When that fever breaks, you're going to sweat all over those clothes. We don't have a lot of clothes here, so you might as well not waste the ones you do have by wearing them when you're just going to be in bed. I'll wash them." And with this, he turned to the wall.

I just stood there for a moment, stunned. This was a long speech, by Heero standards. I was almost too queasy to register that Heero was telling me to strip, something he'd said in my daydreams (and night dreams, truth be told) over and over again. I let out a little bubble of laughter, which turned into a cough, which turned into gagging.

"Duo."

"All right" I gasped, and stripped naked, leaving my clothes in a pile on the floor and slipping into bed. I pulled the covers to my chin and lay back on the pillow, prompting another coughing fit. My throat hurt.

Heero limped painfully to his bed, took the pillow off and threw it to me. "Use this one too, and prop yourself up. It'll help the cough. I'm going to go get something to take care of the fever." He hobbled off in the direction of the kitchen. I opened my mouth to protest, but any words I might have said turned into a coughing fit. I lay back on the pillow and closed my eyes. Shit. I really am an idiot. I-

I must have drifted off, because Heero woke me up, kneeling by my bed. "Duo. Wake up for a second. Duo."

I opened my eyes. He held up a cup of water. "Sit up." I struggled into a more vertical position and he reached over and put a tiny white pill in my mouth. I shifted it to my tounge and he held the mug to my lips, cupping his free hand behind my head. I took a sip and swallowed. After a few more swallows, he took the mug away and put a cold, wet cloth on my forehead. I looked over at him.

"It'll help bring the fever down."

"It's cold" I shivered.

"I know." He produced a blanket and unrolled it over the bed, folding it down at the end and pulling it up to tuck around my chin. "Better?" I nodded. "Found a box of tissue. It's down by the side of your bed. So's the mug. Call me if you need anything." And he turned and limped off. I stared after him.

He'd been almost nice. No, he'd been nice. Why was he being nice? I felt drowsy and disjointed. I swallowed, my throat burned. I wanted to call out to him. Yes, I need something. I need you. Come back and put your hand on my forehead. Touch me again. Please. I do need something, I need you, I want you, Heero. I lo- I drifted off into sleep.

The next days were blurred together, sleep wake sleep wake but mostly sleep. The endless cycle of my fever rising, breaking, and rising again. I was hot and cold alternately, sometimes at the same time, and I woke often from terrifying dreams with sheets wet from fever sweat. Heero would wait for me to crawl from bed and sit on the floor, shivering and naked while he changed the bedclothes.

My throat was raw, but I kept on coughing, barely able to breathe. In one of the moments I can recall clearly, I woke to find Heero sitting on the side of my bed, the blankets pulled down to my waist, rubbing some sort of pungent salve on my chest. The odor stung my nose, but it helped clear my breathing. All I could think about, though, was his hands on my chest. Large hands, with rough, calloused palms, and nothing but a businesslike manner, but it was heaven.

*******************************************************************

I'm definitely feeling better-I'm just trying to regain my strength for the inevitable walk into town. Heero can't make it, so I have to, and before too long. It's not a thought I relish, but it's necessary, and at least it's a way to pay him back.

"You're gonna have to go pretty soon."

"Huh? Yeah, I guess I will." I smile at him. My stomach growls again.

"You're hungry?"

"Yeah," I ruefully admit, "I am. I'm used to it, though. Comes with the territory."

He shakes his head. "No good. You're weak enough as is. You need food to get your strength up before you go."

"I'll be fine, Hee." I'm embarrassed. Sure, I've been sick, and I'm not the perfect soldier, but seriously. Sometimes he acts like I can't do anything. What really irks is that he has a point. More days of barely eating isn't going to do much for my strength.

"No. You'll eat most of our food today, and go tomorrow." I look up in surprise. "It'll be a Thanksgiving feast." I almost see a little smile twitch at one corner of his mouth, and I can't help but grin.

"Okay. A feast, then. But you have to share it with me. I don't know that we have any turkey, though."

I get up to go to the kitchen, and Heero stands. I move to help him and he hitches toward me, allowing me to drape his arm over my shoulder and circle his waist. We slowly go to the kitchen, and he pulls himself onto a counter. I open the cupboards.

"Hmmm, what do we have here? We've got some baked beans. And chili. And a package of ramen."

"Save that, you can eat it dry on your way tomorrow."

"Okay. Beef jerky."

"That too."

"All right. What about creamed corn? And this-" I squint at the faded, dusty label. "Blueberry pie filling. Score!" Something makes a clicking noise, and I turn to see Heero brandishing a can opener in my direction. "Hey, buddy, careful where you point that thing."

"Baka."

I grin and hand over the cans for him to open. There are two dented saucepans and I pour the chili into one and the beans into the other, and set the opened creamed corn can on the stove. I find a can of spray cheese, but no crackers. Oh well.

"There's a can of Vienna sausages in that far cabinet."

"Ew." I make a face, but go get them. He opens the can. They look like pudgy little fingers. "Maybe we can put them in with the beans."

"Sure." He says. I dump them in and give him a spoon to stir with.

"Hey! Let's chill these blueberries in the freezer, and they'll be our dessert."

He grunts in assent, and I deposit the can in the freezer.

"Duo, go look in the side pocket of my pack. All the food I have left is in there."

I check it, and there's not much, just a couple of those gross energy bars he eats. I only have one granola bar and one candy bar left. I take them back for him to inspect.

"Save 'em all. They're easily packable."

"Heero, what are you going to eat while I'm gone?"

"Nothing."

"Nani?! No way, Heero! No fucking way I'm leaving you without anything to eat."

"You will. I can handle it. It's what I was trained for. You need to make it into town to get food and help. I don't need it here."

I scowl at him without replying. Let him think I'll obey. I'll leave some of the stuff here, maybe in the bathroom sink, where he won't find it until I'm gone.

He regards me evenly, and then leans back over the stove to stir the food. "You want to get some plates?"

"Sure." I take two of the thick beige plastic plates out of the cupboard and get a couple of forks and spoons out of the drawer. I go into the main room and clear off space on the coffee table. One plate on one side, one on the other. On impulse, I open one of the magazines, and tear out two pages-placemats. I slide them under the dishes. Suddenly, I've got an idea. I go to the back closet, where I see extension cords and a few tools and candles. I grab one of the candles and put it in my pocket.

I return to the kitchen and grin at Heero, still sitting on the counter, stirring the bubbling pans. I pick carefully through the garbage until I find a glass bottle that had held some rancid salad dressing.

"What're you doing?"

"You'll see. Keep stirring."

"They're almost done."

"Okay, I'll only be a minute." I finish washing out the bottle and take it with me to my bag, where I find my little capsule of matches. Sticking the candle into the mouth of the bottle, I light it and set it on the coffee table between the plates.

"Duo! We're ready!"

"Okay, coming!" I run into the kitchen and switch off the stove. Heero sits on the counter, calmly licking the chili spoon. I wrap a towel around the can of corn and carefully carry it out to the living room. Using the magazines as hotpads, I arrange our feast-corn, chili, beans and vienna sausages, spray cheese, and pie filling on the table. I stand back for a second to admire my handiwork.

A shuffling sound attracts my attention and I glance up to see Heero slowly hitching his way across the room.

"Whoa, buddy! Hold on there!" I run to him with an arm out for support, and the two of us make our way to the table. I help him into the chair and stand back. He stares at the feast, at the candle flickering in the middle of the table and suddenly I feel very silly.

"Um, I just thought it was appropriate. Being Thanksgiving and all. I mean, I figured, since we were having a feast, might as well go whole hog, y'know?" I sit down on the couch and flash him my widest, least nervous grin without meeting his eyes. Then I look back down at my knees and play with my fork. He's right. I am an idiot.

"Duo." I look up sheepishly. "I like it. Were you planning on becoming Quatre's decorator?"

I beam. "Not on your life. Now, are we going to eat, or what?"

He reaches for the beans. "Eat."

I load my plate with corn and chili and beans. The juices all run together, but I couldn't care less. I'm so hungry, anything would taste good.

"Slow down, Duo. You're going to give yourself a stomachache, or choke, if you eat so fast."

Damn my lousy table manners. I swallow. "I'll be fine, Mom." He narrows his eyes at my sarcasm but doesn't say anything, just puts a sausage into his mouth and chews. I stop bolting my food.

Picking up the can of cheese, I shake it and squirt some out on my finger and then stick it into my mouth. Ummmm. Politely, I offer the can. "Cheese?"

Heero pauses, and then reaches across the table, index finger extended. I laugh. "Say 'when', sir." I say in a phony English accent, and deposit a small ruffled mound of cheese on his finger.

"I didn't say 'when'."

I chuckle. "Okay, then, here goes." I add to the pile and it grows until it threatens to topple off his finger.

"When." I stop and he takes the entire pile of gravity-defying cheese food product and stuffs it into his mouth. I can only stare at such a Duo-like gesture as he removes his finger, then licks it.

I laugh out loud, unable to contain myself. "Shimatta, Heero! You're turning into me!"

He tries to look perturbed and dignified around a mouthful of cheese, swallows with some difficulty, and says "Not a chance, Maxwell."

Smirking, I get up to throw another log on the fire. The one under it cracks and splits open in a shower of sparks, revealing a glowing inside.

I return to the table, where Heero has commandeered the easy cheese and is neatly decorating a vienna sausage with it.

"Ew. Heero, that's gross."

"No more so than those peanut butter and banana sandwiches you make at Quatre's."

"Hey! Those rule! You let me make you one someday and you'll see."

"Hn." Into his mouth goes the cheese-covered sausage. I help myself to more chili.

"Going to be a cold walk tomorrow." I shiver at the thought. I just have my trademark black pants and shirt, with the clerical collar underneath. And my cap and boots, of course. I've got a thin leather jacket too, but it doesn't do much to keep out the chill.

"I know. You'll need to keep warm-I'll give you my extra clothes."

"What? you don't have any extra clothes, Heero." All he's got here are those frighteningly tight black shorts, his green tank, a pair of dark blue pants, and a white shirt.

"You can wear my pants on top of yours. And you'll take the green top and the white shirt. You're no good to anyone if you get sick again."

"I know that, but Heero, that only leaves you with your shorts. I can't leave you alone with only that to wear."

"You can and will. I'll be fine. There are blankets here. I shouldn't need to go outside."

I swallow. The idea that I'm going to be taking all of our food, clothes, and money and leaving Heero alone and injured has just hit me. I never thought Heero could seem helpless, but if something happened, what could he really do? Kuso.

"I'll bring in wood tonight and stack it by the fireplace so you won't have to move too much to keep warm." He nods.

We're talking about little things-wood for the fireplace, extra shirts, but not about what I'll do when I'm in town. The thought makes me oddly happy. There've been no words of caution, no stern warnings, nothing like that. He's given me no instructions, which means he must trust me. Why he does, I can't fathom, but a determination not to let him down is overcoming the nervousness in the pit of my stomach.

"Well" I say brightly "Dessert?"

"Sure."

"I'll go get some clean plates."

"There's no need for that. We can just eat it out of the can."

Good lord, he really is turning into me. "Heero, don't you think I might get you sick?" I ask as he dips his spoon.

"You can't. I'm immune."

"Oh. Right." I keep forgetting that he's not human, he's a carefully constructed machine of war. Invulnerable. Well, mostly. I don't know the extent to which he's been enhanced-I don't think I really want to know. Odd to think I'm in love with a weapon.

In love?

Che, I'm slipping. I don't think 'love'. Not ever. Crushes are one thing, you have them, they dominate your life for awhile, and then they fade. They're easily replaceable. Love's different. Dangerous. I've loved people before, and I don't like it. It doesn't turn out so well. It seems self-centered to say it's me, that I'm incapable of loving someone and keeping them safe. But that's certainly how it seems. Everything I touch is destroyed. Melodramatic and conceited as that may sound, it's true.

"You're not eating."

"What? Oh, sorry." I smile and spoon up some berries. They're even sweeter than I thought they would be. Yum. I lick the spoon absently.

"Heero?"

"Yeah?"

"You think the war's going to end?"

"I don't know. I suppose so. Eventually."

I lean forward. "Do you every think about after the war? What you'll do?"

"No."

"What? Of course you do. What do you think you'll do?"

"No. I don't. I don't know anything but war. I don't have any other skills. War is my mission."

"I'm used to war, too, Heero. But that doesn't mean I can't imagine peace. All this excitement is great, sure, but I can't wait until I can lead a normal life."

He fixes me with a hard stare. "A normal life, Duo? Do you know what a normal life is? What would you do? Go to school? You know everything they have to teach you. Get a job? And what are your skills? Piloting. Demolitions. Counterintelligence. Marksmanship. Guerilla warfare. Where are you going to get a peacetime job with skills like that? What will your credentials be?"

"I'm a scrap dealer, Heero. I can do that."

"A scrap dealer. Fine. What kind of scrap do you deal in? Mobile suit parts? Weaponry? Tanks and battleships? This peace that you're looking forward to, and this disarmament that Relena wants, there's no place there for people like us."

I don't know why, but I'm suddenly angry. Furious. "So what, Heero? So what? So you just say, 'fuck it'? What do you do? Stop hoping for peace just because you don't know what to do with it? Or are you still counting on dying an 'honorable death' on the battlefield?"

He says nothing. His arms are crossed over his chest, his gaze is calm and stony. He is immune. A rock. Impregnable, impenetrable. Impossible. Nothing I could ever say would reach him. How can he maintain this? And how could I ever have the gall to think I could touch him?

I stand up, clenching my fists. "Fine, then. Die. Give up. I just don't know why you're waiting to do it in battle, it's easy enough. You've got guns. You've got knives. Everyone knows you're out to commit suicide, so why camouflage it as an act of heroism? You're not fooling anybody, Heero. You're scared to death, so why not just end it and get it over with. Then it'll be obvious that you're really a stupid little cowardly shit..."

My voice has gotten louder and higher, hurting my throat. I dissolve into a coughing fit and sink back down to the couch. I cough and cough, glad that I can blame the tears stinging my eyes on the cough. I struggle for breath. "...Bastard..."

"You're going to hurt yourself if you keep that up."

I glance up. Same look on his face, a straight line for a mouth; calm, steady eyes. I take some tissue and wipe my eyes and nose, and then cough into it.

He raises one eyebrow. "Is that how you really feel?"

I think I'm going to shivel up and die. Yes, sir. I chopped down the cherry tree, I cannot tell a lie. "No."

He twitches an eyebrow in acknowledgement and I suddenly feel very ashamed.

"Heero?" I croak.

"Hm?"

"I'm sorry."

"Stop saying that."

"I just-"

"Shut up, Duo."

"Okay."

"Baka."

The dinner is quite obviously over. I've killed it. Silently, I stand up and clear the table. Heero hobbles back into the kitchen and I don't offer to help him.

I start to run water for the dishes in the sink, but Heero moves over, pushing me out of the way.

"Go get the wood, Duo. I can do this."

I obey, pulling on my thin jacket and carrying in load after load of wood, stacking it neatly by the stove. By the time I'm done, everything is washed and set out on the counter to dry, and Heero is back in his chair with his foot propped up and his eyes closed. I stand for a second and look at him, noticing with a twinge of alarm that his the corners of his eyes and mouth are pinched with pain. Subtle, but noticeable if you look carefully, for long enough. Remarkable that I'm being allowed to stand here and just look at him-

"Duo." He says without opening his eyes, startling me out of my trance.

"Huh?"

"Go take a shower."

I start to protest, and then realize that's what I want to do anyway. I stand under the blistering hot water, scrubbing at my mess of hair with the bar of soap, and rinsing quickly when the hot water abruptly runs out.

I dry myself and rub my teeth clean with the corner of a washcloth. Using the bar of soap, my socks get a wash in the sink, then I put on my pants and shrug on the black shirt. I leave the shirt open, abandon the clerical collar by the sink and exit the bathroom in a cloud of steam. I spread my socks to dry by the fire and take up my comb. Sitting back down on the couch, I attack the mass of tangles, combing as carefully as I can from the bottom up.

Heero is still in the chair, still with his eyes closed, but I know he's not asleep. It takes a long time before I can run the comb all the way through my hair without getting caught in a knot. When I'm though, I sigh and pull the hair out of my comb. I walk to the kitchen and throw the ball of hair away and then get some ice from the freezer and put it in a towel.

Heero's eyes are open, but neither of us speaks as I come in and unwrap his foot. It still looks bad. I put the ice around it, and then sit down on the floor by his chair, suddenly very tired. I close my eyes and lean back against the arm, relaxing for just a minute.

I drift off into sleep, wandering in and out of dreams that make varying amounts of sense. I crawl back towards wakefulness slowly, realizing that if I fell asleep for long in this position, I'd have a sore neck. I'm about to open my eyes when I become aware that the top of my head is warm. I freeze. Heero's hand. I force myself to breathe deeply, regularly. Calm, now, Duo.

Heero is stroking my hair.

Very lightly, very gently. My scalp feels electric wherever he touches. I can't believe this is happening. I am as still as I can manage, but my heart is beating wildly. I can hear it-surely he can too. How to make this last longer? KEEP STILL. I think I must be imagining it, but no, I can feel his fingers again, and now the flat of his palm and now he's cupping the side of my head.

Without warning, my throat tickles and I react involuntarily with an explosive cough. I feel his hand jerk away. Shit. My cough turns into a fit, and I can't feign sleep any more. I double over, hacking and coughing until the fit passes.

"You should go to bed. You'll want an early start tomorrow."

I look up at him, and then stand. "You too, then, Heero." He nods acquiescence and I help him from his chair and to the bathroom, and then from the bathroom to his bed. He strips to his boxers and I do the same. He awkwardly maneuvers his leg between the sheets as he sinks into bed, and I slide in under my own covers.

"I'll wake you up in the morning, Duo."

"Okay. Um, Heero?"

"What?"

"Thanks for the Thanksgiving feast."

"I don't see why you're thanking me. I didn't provide the food."

"You had the idea."

"Hn."

"No, really. It was great. Best Thanksgiving ever. I mean it."

"Duo?"

"Yes, Heero?"

"You sound like a greeting card. Shut up." And then a muffled word that sounds suspiciously like 'baka'. I don't mind, though.

I reach up and feel my hair where he touched it. I try to recreate the feeling, but I can't and I give up with a sigh.

There's so much I want to say to him, so much I'll never say to him. I'll get up tomorrow, put my clothes (and his!) on, button my jacket, and walk off, and everything will still be unsaid.

Don't give up, Heero. Please don't ever give up. You're not a coward, I don't ever want you to die. I didn't mean any of that.

Thank you. I've had a wonderful time with you here, and I think I saw a different side of you. Did I? Was it just an anomaly? Were you showing me something you don't show anyone else? If so, why?

Oh, and thanks also for taking care of me. I still dream of your cool, dry hand on my forehead, of your watchful eyes. I want you to be there when I wake up, always.

I think I'm in love with you. This isn't such good news for you, Heero, but it's the truth. I don't really care what happens in the world, as long as you're all right and with me. I'm selfish, but that's the way it is. You don't understand, but you're the most important person in the world, you crazy intense beautiful boy.

Sleep creeps up on me and as I lose consciousness, I can almost feel Heero's hand in my hair.

***

That was a lot longer than I thought. *sigh* The more I read it, the less I like it. Am I completely OOC? C&C and tell me!