2-2-2003

Title: #28 Nightmares Arc: Life With Heero
Author: Calic0cat
Genre: Shonen Ai/Yaoi, Angst, Domestic, Friendship
Pairing: None yet
Rated: PG-13
Warnings: AU, OOC, Swearing
Archives: Also at Mediaminer.org under Calic0cat.
Disclaimer: Duo and Heero and the rest of the GW gang aren't mine. This story is. Nuff said.

Notes: The arc begins between one and two years after Endless Waltz. Heero POV in this story.

'Thinking'
"Speaking"
************ Time passing or scene change

Author's Notes: This is part of an arc of stories. I don't know for sure how many stories there will be or how often I'll be posting them. The length of each story in the arc will vary, anywhere from ficlet to multi-part. Warnings will vary from story to story as well, as will the genre. The arc *will* eventually be Shonen ai/Yaoi - but there's only one faintly implied pairing prior to Fic #23. Feedback is appreciated.

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"Are you lost?"

The instant that he heard the little girl's voice, Heero cringed. Not again. Please, not again. Helplessly, he watched as his younger self accepted the flower. And as he once again pressed the detonation switch. Relived again that horrified moment of comprehension as the suit fell into the apartment building. Relived the frantic search that ended with the discovery of the dead puppy and the realization that nothing could have survived...

This was one dream that Heero had never succeeded in voluntarily waking from. And he tried - god, did he try. He was steeling himself against the memories of the retraining that followed - his punishment for mourning the lost lives - when a familiar voice finally broke through.

"Heero, wake *up* dammit! It's okay, the war's over! Wake *UP*!"

With a gasp, Heero opened his eyes and saw Duo's anxious face bending over him. For a moment, he struggled against the urge to cling to his friend, past consequences of emotional displays fresh in his mind. 'No, it's *over*, I don't have to follow those rules anymore...' With that thought, he flung himself against Duo, nearly knocking the two of them right off the bed.

"Whoa, easy buddy, it's okay. The war's over, remember? We don't have to do any of that stuff anymore," Duo murmured reassuringly, rubbing his back firmly.

Heero simply clung to him, soaking up the reassurance of a warm, living, breathing body in close contact. That in itself was a reminder that he no longer had to answer to J and his superiors. Any sort of human contact was strictly forbidden after that training debacle. It made him "too soft" to be an acceptable soldier according to them.

"That was a really bad one, huh Heero? You haven't had *any* full-fledged nightmares in a good couple of months... What set this one off?" Duo asked gently.

Heero shook his head silently. He didn't want to talk about it. The kids today obviously set it off, though he wasn't sure why. Beth didn't really look anything like that little girl.

"Don't wanna talk about it, huh?" Duo was silent for a few moments, though he never paused in his gentle rubbing of Heero's back. Finally, he heaved a deep sigh and said, "You know, the first time I spent more than a few minutes with the kids, I got to relive the plague in my sleep for *days* afterwards. That, and the burning of the church. All those kids who died back then kept visiting my dreams.

"I still get it sometimes, though not near as bad. I avoided Beth and Donnie for a while 'cause I didn't wanna pay for the fun of being with them with another round of nightmares. But I eventually decided that the enjoyment I got out of being with them was worth it. And the nightmares *did* ease up. Eventually."

Duo paused again, obviously waiting for Heero to comment. Heero simply buried his face against Duo's shoulder. He did *not* want to tell Duo. This was one nightmare that he didn't think talking about would help.

Duo sighed again, sounding a bit discouraged. "Beth told you I braided her hair once, right?"

Heero made a soft sound of acknowledgement, "Aa."

"Betcha wondered why I only did it once..."

Actually, Heero hadn't. He'd assumed that probably it had been recently and Duo simply hadn't had the opportunity to do it again.

"Well, I was fine while I was doing it, but that night I discovered I had a *new* nightmare." Duo hesitated, then drew a deep breath and continued, "It's a real doozy. It starts off nice - like one of the few good dreams I sometimes have. I'm just a kid again, sitting on a stool while Sister Helen brushes and braids my hair. But then it changes. The room's still sunny and warm, but suddenly the shadows are reaching out towards me. And Sister's fingers get tangled in my hair. When I reach up to untangle'em, instead of warm, living flesh, I touch bone. Nothing but bone. And when I turn and look up at her, instead of Sister's kind face, I see an empty skull with glowing eyes. Then all of a sudden, it's Beth sittin' on the stool having her hair braided, and I'm the one doin' the braiding, and when she turns to look up at me, her face is just a skull with glowing eyes. I woke up screamin' like a banshee." Duo shivered violently. Heero could certainly understand why.

"For a whole week, I couldn't even braid my *own* hair without gettin' a flashback of that dream. I got over it, though, 'cause I couldn't stand leaving my hair loose - plus it's too dangerous around the yard anyway."

Duo shivered again and Heero tightened his own hold on Duo reassuringly. Duo continued softly, "I can't bring myself to try braiding Beth's hair again. No way.

"But I know the kids trigger some pretty nasty stuff for me, so I'm guessing they probably set you off too. If you still don't wanna talk about it, well, okay, but tellin' somebody else might help..."

Heero hesitated. He really didn't want to talk about this particular set of memories. But Duo had shared his own - maybe it really *would* help. And frankly, it couldn't make the nightmare a whole lot *worse*. Quietly, he began, "It's a memory, really. It happened while I was in training..."

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- tbc -