1-19-2003

TITLE: I Love You, But If You Leave Me...
BY: Dev-Aki Basaa
Part Three of the 'I Love You' series

PAIRING: 1x2
RATING: PG
CATEGORY: yaoi, angst
FEEDBACK: oh yes, please! dev_aki_jediknight@yahoo.com
ARCHIVE: DHML, GW Addiction, Shinigami & Wing
WARNING: Even more angst? Some medical icky-ness
DISCLAIMER: Bandai and Sunrise own all. I'm just borrowing the boys and their world. The story, however, is mine.
SUMMARY: Heero finally wakes.
NOTES: Takes place post EW, Duo POV, sequel to 'I Love You, In Sickness and In Health' - the previous parts can be found at either GWA: www.gwaddiction.org or Shinigami & Wing: www.1x2x1.org
AUTHOR NOTES: Thanks to NurseMom for the medical info. Thanks to Sakti for the beta.

This is for Spinfrog, who's waited so patiently ^___^ Thanks, Frog!

~~*~~

He's resting now; the slightest thing wears him out. I finally got to see his eyes. I can't say enough how much I've missed his eyes; the blue of them. The depth of them.

As you might guess, he did wake.

But I'll get to that in a minute.

It's been an interesting last eight days. I've spent every moment at his side, caring for him, crying for him, defending him, and hopefully helping him. And, you know, I'm even more attached to him now than I was before. I didn't think that was possible, but it's true. I feel a sense of protectiveness over him that I never had before. I certainly didn't think there had been limits to my love for him prior to this, but I know I’ve gone beyond that now, into something even deeper than what I thought was bottomless.

And yet...I'm still scared.

Sometimes I think I'm just overreacting. I know my initial fear stemmed from the fact that I'd almost lost him for good and, until he woke, I feared he might never open those beautiful eyes of his again. But I can't be satisfied, can I? I sit here now, gently holding his bandaged hand, realizing there are greater fears to be had.

Do you know what's even scarier than loving someone and losing them? Loving them, losing them and never falling out of love with them. That aching hole in your heart and soul broken wide open by the depth of your love might never fill in and you go on with your life always knowing you're incomplete and longing for something you can never have. I've heard the stories, it can happen.

I'm still scared.

I had asked Sally, a few days after she arrived, if I should be here - if I really had any right. Une's decision haunting me still, I suppose. She assured me that since I loved Heero and Heero loved me, regardless of what had happened between us, that I was right where I was supposed to be. And the thing is, I'm not sure if I believe her. I mean, what if Heero really didn't love me; what if his leaving was all about him not being as in love with me as he'd thought. That's what he did to Relena.

Am I so arrogant to think he couldn’t do that to me?

I always felt like I knew he loved me and there was no doubt in that, but I've found myself questioning it now. I'm not saying he hates me or anything. For example, though I know he didn't love Relena, he cared enough for her to be devastated when she died. That's a kind of love. Heero could have been saying he loves me and meaning something different than I did. See, because what I just can't stop thinking about, what I still can't get my head around is 'why'. Why did he leave? I love him, to the bottom of my soul and no matter what fears I could have had or thoughts that something was wrong, I never would have left him the way that he left me.

Goddammit!

Can't think about this right now...

Right, so I said something about how interesting the last days have been.

The doc - Dr. Rahmel - had told me the morning after my arrival that there was still some dead skin that needed to be removed, thus encouraging healthy skin to grow. Seemed like a good thing, you know? Then he went on about how because of the significant pain involved in the process that they were going to put Heero into a drug-induced coma to do it. Stupid me said I wanted to be there. You don't want to know the look the doc gave me then. Thought I was delusional, I think. But I assured him I'd seen some horrible things in my life. Brought up the wars, you know, came off sounding pretty damn detached. I wanted to be there, for Heero, even if he had no clue I was there. It meant something to me - the doc could see that much, so he acquiesced. He told me if I were completely robed and masked I could stay. However, he warned me again, it wouldn't be pretty.

Dr. Rahmel has the art of understatement down pat.

So there I was, in a paper apron and robe with a mask on, my braid tucked up into a little paper shower-cap, booties on my shoes and latex gloves. They didn't take any risks, never mind that I was standing several feet away. But then, I saw why. With gauze by the piles and these little tweezer-like instruments, they started pulling up pieces of his skin. They were FUCKING stripping his skin!

Why I didn't think it was going to be like that, I don't know!

I... I'd never seen anything so...gruesome in my life. I know it was probably worse to me because it was Heero. Perhaps if it were just some stranger lying there I could have stayed as detached as I'd boasted and watched with a sort of fascination and morbid curiosity.

However, I wasn't detached at all. I was growing more and more horrified and wanted to make them stop! They were pulling skin off Heero! MY Heero! What if he could feel it, even in his drug-induced coma? Thank God he couldn't see it. The dead, black skin, the bright bloody redness of the flesh underneath, the way it was sticky from plasma...

I couldn't... I left the room and ended up in the waiting area, trying not to vomit on the plastic fern.

I half expected a huge 'I told you so' from the doc, but he was very understanding. Just assured me again of Heero's progress and how the skin underneath was healing well and they probably wouldn’t need to do that again. A huge sigh of relief was had by all.

Okay, maybe just me.

I'm amazed by how much the staff is humoring me, to be quite honest. They've all been very encouraging and supportive. Always with a familiar greeting and a smile. I'm not so stupid as to think it's not against hospital policy to have me sleeping at his bedside in the cushy chair I stole from the waiting room down the hall. Nothing has been said about it, though. Not one aide gives me a hard time about being there as they change bandages. They just hand me a mask and shower-cap thingy and go about their business. The doc always waits and makes sure I'm around when he briefs Sally on any changes or updates regarding Heero's condition.

I suspect, of course, that Sally took every last one of them aside and briefed them on Heero and my relationship. But the thing is, they were all pretty damn nice to me from the get-go. Evidenced by the doc even letting me come near that... procedure. I don't think they needed to be briefed. I think they could take one look at me and I know exactly how madly in love with him I am.

Now, while Sally has been very involved, this isn't her only assignment. Hell, can't waste a good agent on only being a go-between. Especially when one of her partners asked for an extension on his leave, without pay if that's what it took. Quitting, if that's really what it took. I know I have my friends to thank for getting the paid extension. Maybe they threatened to leave too, I don't know. They did something, I know that much. If Une wouldn't sign over Heero's living will to me, then I seriously doubt I fall under the 'Family and Medical Leave' policy. According to Preventers, Heero is not my family.

I dare anyone to tell me that to my face, though.

So, anyway, Sally is not here all the time, like me. She's doing some work for the L3 branch office part-time, actually staying at a hotel like a normal person. Going to restaurants and eating food. Nothing like me. She brings me her doggy bags; aides swipe food for me from the cafeteria.

The vending machine in the waiting room has become my new best friend.

Not that I like to be away from him for long. If I didn't have to take a piss periodically and keep my growling stomach tamed, it'd be fine by me.

Which, actually, brings me to the day Heero finally woke after the last coma they put him in.

Sally had just showed up with a little baggie of cold ribs - she's a good eater, that one - and I thought it might be an okay time to slip out, freshen up and prepare my food.

It seemed like a good idea and yet, I hesitated. I just couldn't bring myself to leave, couldn't take my eyes off of him. I think Sally was preparing to lay into me, giving me the token 'you must take care of yourself as well, Duo' speech when the amazing happened - his eyes fluttered.

I wanted to say his name, but I choked on the words when I saw his eyes open. Good God, his beautiful eyes - deep blue, staring up unfocused at the ceiling and blinking - how I'd longed to see them. We'd kept the lights dimmed on purpose, for when he did wake up. We wanted to make it an easier transition than it would have been under those bright hospital lights.

I took his hand again, I didn't even know if he could feel me through all the bandages. But after a few more blinks, he turned his face towards me and I saw the flash of recognition. Then those beautiful eyes began to water.

I shushed him, I don't even know why. It's like a reflex or something. I just keep shushing him as I brushed my free hand across his forehead, feathering his bangs against the white bandage as I so often did while sitting here watching him.

He raised his hand and I let my fingers slide down his arm, stroking lightly as he reached up and rubbed his bandaged together fingers across my cheek. The gauze was surprisingly soft, like a well-worn shirt, but cold against my skin. His body heat didn't seep through the layers. His touch was clumsy, bumping against my nose and ear as he seemed to want to open his palm and cup my jaw - as he once would, like when we'd just woken from a nap on the couch, after watching a movie perhaps. I'd open my eyes, and just be thankful that he was there, even though the way he had his leg draped over mine had sent my foot asleep. But I'd tell him I loved him and he'd get that look on his face, this deepness in his gaze, and he'd cup my jaw and I'd lean into his touch and smile. So, just as I always did, I leaned and I smiled down at him now, biting my tongue to keep from sobbing. I could taste the tang of my blood before long. His lips worked around the tube down his throat and he suddenly seemed agitated. His fingers brushed across my lips and my smile turned to a frown when I saw him struggling with the vent tube. I shushed him again and mumbled something about how it was going to be okay - must be from some pre-programmed trite phrases set into our brain for times like these. Things to say when there's nothing to say. Heero calmed for a moment, but then he seemed agitated again. I didn't know what to do, I was afraid he'd start choking if he got too upset. I about jumped out of my skin when the nurse spoke. I hadn't even known she was there.

"I think he wants you to speak."

She was focused on checking his IV machine and seemed to be intent on what she was doing, but she gave me a little side-glance and a nod of encouragement. I looked back down at Heero and even with that damn tube coming out of his mouth, head wrapped, he had this expectant look on his face.

"It's okay, Heero," I said then. "I'm here; I've been here for over a week." He seemed to sigh then and his bandaged fingers went back to bumping against my nose and ear, still staring up at me.

"Sally's here too," I went on. "She's representing you on Une and Preventers' behalf. Wufei is planning on coming up in a few days to see you and, actually, I expect Trowa any day now. Quatre planned to come the moment he knew you were awake. Guess I’ll have to give him a call, eh?"

I glanced up to see Sally speaking with the nurse. They'd moved away to the threshold of Heero’s room and spoke in hushed tones. I had no idea what they were talking about and, frankly, I didn't care. I looked back down at Heero. Already his lids were beginning to droop, but he almost resolutely held his hand to my face.

"It's okay, lo...Heero." I stopped myself from calling him 'love' and winced internally at the slip - though for stopping myself, or for having almost said it, I don't know. "Go ahead and rest, I'll still be here. I'll be here when you wake again, I promise."

I reached up and took his hand, pressing it against my cheek and I could feel him relax and let me take over the effort of holding up his arm. He closed his eyes then and his arm went even more lax. But I didn't let go. I raised my other hand, supporting his wrist and turned my head to bury my face in his wrapped palm.

His soft white bandages caught my tears.

~~*~~

I knew they were working toward taking Heero off the vent, but since he'd woken, I strayed a bit from the updates on his condition and the talks with the doctors about this that or the other thing. Sally handled it all and I trusted her. I just...I couldn't leave his side anymore. Not for even the briefest thing. The staff worried for me now, I could see it in their eyes. Sally accommodated me, but she wasn't happy about it.

I'd promised him I'd be here ever time he woke and, dammit, I would NOT break that promise. He'd be awake for such brief moments, at random intervals. How could I leave? If I slept, it was with my head resting on his bed so he'd still know that I was there when he woke.

And yes, my back is aching like a son-of-a-bitch!

But I don't care. Sally tried to talk me into going to the ER for it, but it was a rouse, I knew. She wanted to have them prescribe me a sedative, but I had to go through the proper channels to do it. Heero's doctor couldn't prescribe me anything - I wasn't his patient.

But I did sleep and food found its way to me, regardless. The one thing I did have to step away for was to use the bathroom, but as there was one in the room (though, I've been reminded a few times that it's not for ME to use. There's a bathroom down the hall for ME), I just did my business with the door open, Heero leaving my sight only for the brief moment I had my back to him.

Every time he woke, it was the same. I'd take his hand, press it to my cheek and talk. Endlessly, aimlessly, about nothing.

"Trowa came back earlier, sorry you missed him again. He was telling me that he was thinking about getting a dog but couldn't decide what kind to get. I think he's leaning towards a Great Dane, or maybe a German Sheppard, but I told him he should get a Chihuahua. Isn't that funny? Couldn't you just see Trowa with one of those little dogs yapping at his feet? I don't care how drawn he is to animals, he'd end up stomping that one, don't you think?"

Sometimes I wondered if he could even hear me, he never seemed to react to what I said. He'd just stare at me, straight into the eyes, his own watering a little, and rub my face as best he could. Then his lids would begin to droop and soon I was laying his arm back down at his side.

Sometimes I would rest my head down next to his chest just so I could feel the heat of his body next to mine again. I've missed it so much.

Anyway, as I'd failed to attend the last several updates, I was surprised when Sally came in with a small crew to tell me that they were going to be taking Heero off the vent.

And I'd have to leave the room for them to do it.

I was not amused with this. In fact, it pissed me the hell off! I was there while they pulled off his dead skin! Why couldn't I be there for when they took the tube out of his throat!?

Regulated to the waiting room, I paced back and forth, my jaw aching as I kept grinding my teeth. Sally complained that I was making her dizzy, but I really didn't care. Hell, I barely even registered that she was talking to me - all I could think of was the promise I'd made and how I was breaking it by being forced away from his side. It didn't matter that they threatened to have security escort me off the floor, it didn't matter that Sally claimed she'd drug me if I didn't calm down. All that mattered to me was Heero - and Heero knowing that I wouldn't leave him, ever! I would make up for his mistake...

Christ! Did I just say that!?

Shit.

Anyway, it was not Dr. Rahmel that met us at the waiting room. I wondered if that's why I wasn't allowed to stay - this doctor didn't understand. Didn't know, as good ol' Doc Rahmel did, what Heero meant to me. This doc stood in the threshold of the waiting room door and adjusted his glasses and tugged at his pristine white lab coat before he addressed us.

"Everything went fine," he'd said with a nod. "He's just on oxygen now, but it'll still be a while before he can talk well. However, he is asking for you."

That was all I needed to hear. I shoved passed the doc, grumbling as I went. "Damn straight he is!"

I left Sally in my wake to apologize for my behavior, as I knew she would. I'd have to buy her a dozen roses every week for a year to make up for all the trouble I've put her through just these past couple of weeks. If not roses, then something else. I swear to God that I'll make this up to her.

When I entered his room, Heero's head was turned away, his eyes closed. He looked so normal lying there, for the first time. Just sleeping, lying in bed, as I'd seen him so often before...all of this happened. On the nights he went to bed before me, I would watch him sleep. I'd stand at the edge of the bed and just gaze at him, observe the rise and fall of his chest. I'd watch the way his breaths would flutter the long edges of his bangs. There was a peace about him now that reminded me of those times. But unlike then, this time I whispered his name to wake him. I only had to say it once, softy, and he looked towards me. I couldn't hold back my choked sob when he opened his eyes and mouthed my name.

I moved to his bedside and took his hand, holding it in both of mine. He smiled at me and tried to talk. His voice cracked and he winced in pain. I told him not to worry, that it could wait - no matter how badly I wanted to hear his voice. Only he shook his head and swallowed a few times. Whatever he had to say, he was going to say it now. I grabbed the cup of water I'd kept at his bedside and directed the straw into his mouth. He sipped a little, coughed a bit and then took a few more good swallows.

He turned to look at me directly again, staring straight into my eyes as he had in those brief cognizant moments he had while still on the vent. I knew what he had to say couldn’t wait; I could see the determination in his eyes. And I thought he'd say one of the things I needed to hear him say more than anything else. Something along the lines of 'I'm sorry', 'I missed you', 'I love you.' Any one of them would have been fine.

But that's not what he said.

"Duo," he croaked. "There's something I need to tell you."

 

tbc...