5-28-2002

Author - Sayu - mistress_sayu@hotmail.com
Disclaimer: Don't own it...
Warnings: Substance abuse, OOC, shounen ai (anou...DUH! ;) language, think thats it...
(I'm sick... I don't feel like putting the 'other stuff' here...)

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(Duo)

I hate quiet. You may think I'm crazy, but I hate silence with such an abiding passion... I like to turn up my stereo so loud that I can't hear anything anymore, so that I drown out all thought... So I won't have to think about the accusing eyes anymore.

I've been so afraid of the nightmares. Every time I sleep, a new, haunting face adds itself to the shambling collection already running around inside my head. I don't know if you'd understand. The guilt in me is almost a tangible thing. Sometimes, I can almost feel these chains on my shoulders, railing against me...

I took to substance abuse, as they call it, to get rid of the need for sleep, so I wouldn't dream. I know the human body can only take so much before it collapses, but hey, as long as I could function without the guilt and nightmares for a while, I was fine.

Being a very thorough person, I researched all this before I did it... I experimented with several different kinds of drugs; the others never knew. There was enough time when we weren't together for me try a little bit, and get over it. And even if I hadn't gotten over it yet - weren't all Americans lazy? Didn't they always sleep a lot? And if I was a little shakier than usual, what was it to them? I was only the fool, the weakest component in the whole.

Crystal meth became my poison of choice. It would take you up on high that would make you so incredibly productive, active, vital... The only problem was that it would drop you after a while, farther down than you had started from. It took a day or two to recover; but that was fine. I could spare that. Hell, sometimes I even went on missions when I wasn't fully recovered. And no one ever noticed.

Of course, now that I think about it, Quatre probably suspected something was up, but I don't think he actually knew.

Like I said, no one did.

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I was sitting on the edge of my bed, considering whether to take more crystal or not.

Heero was out on a mission, it wasn't likely he'd be back for a week or so. Wufei was out practicing katas, and Quatre and Trowa were snuggling somewhere else.

So it was relatively safe. I considered, slowly and carefully. I hadn't slept already in 3 days, but I was still feeling pretty good. I could use a tiny bit more, though, before I fell off my high.

So I took some more.

Feeling a little dazed with the insane rush of energy to my system, I glanced over at Heero's desk. Huh... A granola bar?

The very thought of food turned my stomach, and I felt like throwing up. I hadn't eaten in 3 days either, but I was far from hungry... You can't eat when you're on crystal, you know? At all... Everything is so disgusting, food tastes like ashes, and it only slows you down.

I was thin, but not enough to make anyone say anything to me.

I felt my lips curve into an enormous smile.

It was time to do some reading. Yeah, it was mundane. But I needed to know the basic physics of a gundam, I needed to know this Calculus, I needed to read all these Greek classics. I doubt you know the feeling; I felt so inspired and awed, like I could absorb the entire world's knowledge with barely any effort, like I could learn anything, hell, I wanted to!

Another thing I forgot to mention: crystal brings out the best in me. I'm sweet, funny, just fun to be around, and I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Bouncing off the bed, I walk over to Heero's stark desk. I glance at the laptop, then turn it on.

Instantly a small screen pops up.

Password? It asks. I grin with familiar ease and type in the six-letter password. Heero thinks I'm so stupid, he never thought to conceal his keyboard while typing his password in...

The small laptop hums contentedly and quickly boots, and I sign on to the internet instantaneously. I need to learn something!

I browse through a listing of sites that showed up on a popular search engine, then immerse myself into an advanced AP Calculus course, offered exclusively online by 'Star Teaching'.

I grin while learning, amused that an Ozzie is paying for this course.

Mid-afternoon fades to evening, and I quickly push the laptop screen down as Quatre gently knocks - I can always tell his knock apart from the others.

"Duo?" He calls out softly, and I grunt an affirmative. He then slowly pushes the door open to find me lounging on the bed, reading a ragged manga.

"Do you want to eat?...I'm making spaghetti!" He called to me, cheerfully, and I had to stifle a disgusted groan. Spaghetti was normally one of my favorite things, but God, not now...

"No thanks, Q." I say, putting the manga down for a moment. "I'm stuffed! I raided the kitchen this afternoon." I lie pretty convincingly, and, anyway, it's only a small lie... A white, litte lie, and it isn't going to hurt anyone but me...

His soft smile falters a bit, and I wonder why, but he moves out into the hallway quickly, calling back happily, "Alright then, more for us!"

I briefly wonder why, then, in a flash, jump back into Sophocles: Antigone.

Such an intriguing story, I muse half-mindedly.

It isn't of any consequence, I tell myself sternly, as I really get back into the story, Quatre can't possibly know anything.

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Quatre:

I'm worried about Duo. I realize that he's under a lot of stress, too, but I don't know... Outwardly, he seems to be holding up like the rest of us, always joking around and being so... jovial. So happy.

But I'm not sure... I just don't know what to do. How could I possibly confront him about it? 'Uh, Duo, are you alright?' And then he'd reply in his maddeningly happy way, 'Never better, Q!' And he'd muss my hair and I'd be just where I started from. I sigh softly. I don't know if something's wrong with him or not.

As I walk back into the kitchen, it finally strikes me what I found so odd about Duo saying that he's raided the kitchen earlier in the afternoon.

I'd been in the kitchen all day, working on the puzzle on the sideboard with Trowa. There was no way he could've come in without me hearing him.

That, perhaps, was the most disturbing thing of all; and to think that I had thought that the God of Death never lied.

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I was tired; incredibly so. My false high had fallen... I needed sleep, and soon. The most I'd ever gone without was seven days, and that had stretched me almost to the point of breaking. After seven days, you're rendered clinically insane... And I had been, for a while anyway. You also get the symptoms of Parkinson's, your hands start shaking, you can't control your muscles...

I was starting to hear the voices again. Not clearly, but still, it was bad. I was getting paranoid, worse than usual, even.

The voices kept muttering around in the back of my head, resentfully, longing for blood and violence... Only death would satiate them. I shook my head, a quick, violent motion. No. I wouldn't go down that path, ever. If it was that or my life, I would take my own life. No more innocents must suffer.

"Never..." I said quietly in a singsong sort of voice, rocking back and forth a little on my bed. My leg suddenly started to get the shakes and I bit off a curse and beat it a little, till it grudgingly quit trembling.

Damn. I was worse off than I had thought, if I was already shaking.

How long had it been since I'd eaten, I wondered abstractly, tracing the stretched skin over my ribs, pushing up the cloth of my shirt that was hindering my wandering hand. I flinched, a bit, when my hand ran over a long, jagged cut that would probably need stitches. Damn...

I was dressed in my usual bedtime attire, a pair of old, baggy jeans and a loose, black shirt. My hair was still done up in its braid, and I wondered if I would even bother to comb it out tonight.

I held my shaking hands up to my face and considered; no way was I going to attempt to brush my hair with hands like these. I doubted I would even be able to hold on to the brush.

A floorboard creaked, and I was off the bed in a single, catlike motion. I rolled off and landed in a crouch, gun appearing from nowhere, drawn and primed.

"Heero?" Even to my ears, I sounded like shit. I winced.

He appeared stunned, and I wasn't sure if it was how I looked or the fact that baka Maxwell had bothered to move that fast.

I laughed, but it was shaky. Shit, oh shit, he wasn't supposed to come back this early, he really wasn't, oh fuck, oh God what am I going to do?!

Even as my thinking slowed, I reached back into the recesses of memory and pulled out my fake smile, the one I wore to everyone.

It was hard, and my lips trembled with strain, they were so stiff, but I forced it. "Heero!" I greeted warmly, stepping forward to hug him in an attempt to get punched then dismissed from mind, but my arms wouldn't obey. I ended up giving him an awkward pat that he didn't refuse.

"How'd the mission go, buddy?" I asked in a cheerful voice, while internally cursing him for coming back so early.

"The mission was accomplished." He said coolly, staring at me with those chips of ice, so cleverly disguised as eyes.

I stepped aside, struggling internally to control my legs. Sweat popped out on my forehead, and for a second, I wondered how long he'd been there. I hadn't even heard him, I'd been so out of it.

"Come on in...Dude. Yeah." I welcomed him, to the best of my ability, trying not to wince as he stalked past me...The ribs, God not the ribs... Did I mention I was not only messed up, but badly beat as well?

I can't really remember how I got all these cuts and bruises, I just woke up in an alley a couple of nights ago. There's pretty extensive damage all over me, but I bet the other guy got off worse. I can't remember anything, and that scares me, a little, but not too badly. Not remembering is a good thing - for me, anyway...

"Well, Heero, much as I love your company, I'm hitting the sack. See ya tomorrow!" Inwardly I snort. It would be more like the day after tomorrow, or maybe the one after...Maybe in four days, only at the most, though.

I manage to crawl up onto the bed with a sigh of relief, I didn't do too badly, I don't think... I only have time for a single, terrified thought about my nightmares before sleep instantly claims me.

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Heero:

I was so scared when I walked into the room and saw him like that, rocking back and forth, occasionally trembling...

Scared may seem a cruel word for me to use, as emotionless as I am, but even I'm smart enough to admit that Duo evokes a plethora of different feelings in me, feelings I'd thought were long gone.

I was deciding on whether to announce my presence or not, when he pushed his shirt up, and began to trace random patterns onto his skin.

That wasn't what had concerned me, however. There was an enormous, ragged cut on one of his ribs... And for that matter, he looked dangerously thin.

He abruptly tugged his shirt down, then held his hands up in front of him, and it seemed to me that they were shaking, like a leaf in the wind.

At that moment, I stepped on a particularly cranky floorboard, and it creaked loudly, destroying the silence. Duo's reaction was nothing short of amazing, though. In what seemed like one second, he had gone from lounging on the bed, to crouched on the floor, aiming a gun precisely at my head.

I looked on in utter disbelief.

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I slept; I dreamed. Psychotic hallucinations danced through my mind, and I couldn't stop them. Bloody faces tauntingly danced out of reach, playing scary-movie music, daring me to pull the trigger.

They showed me visions, new ones each time, of my friends mutilated in various ways, yet the endings were all the same; I was crouched in a corner holding a bloody knife.

Father Maxwell and Sister Helen appeared, only to rip the heart out of my still-breathing body, and I appreciated the irony. In a bittersweet moment, Solo came, only to reject me for all the blood collected on me.

I bled forever, red trails screamed and whorled behind my eyes, and I couldn't remember what sunlight looked like. I died a hundred thousand different ways, and each time I died, I died alone, my friends looking on in ridicule and scorn.

That was when I heard it... "Duo! DUO!"

It came from a long way off, and I resisted its call. No telling how much worse that particular hallucination would be.

I felt my body being shaken, and that was when I realized that it wasn't another nightmare, it was reality, and I couldn't get to it. The shaking intensified, and I struggled to wake.

Slowly, I opened my eyes. Sunlight pierced them instantly, and I shut them just as quickly. I hadn't seen who had been shaking me, so I vocalized in a hoarse voice, "Hey..."

I rasped, voice cracking and dry, "Who's there?"

I waited a bit - silence. Still silence. There was nothing there-?

I opened my eyes again, squinting.

Whoever it was, they'd left. My eyes roved around the small room Heero and I shared, and I could've sworn something was different about it, something subtly different, but...

I shrugged painfully, chafing the cuts and bruises accumulated on my upper half.

Crawling out of bed, I felt an intense similarity between myself and a lizard.

The sheets had irritatingly wrapped themselves around me in a deathgrip, so I surrendered after a few steps and quit trying to find some decent clothes.

My mouth felt like a sewer pipe, so I went to the bathroom to cleanse it. After swishing a little water around, I felt better.

Still wrapped in my sheet, I descended the stairs, towards the eating area. I let my toes sink into the soft carpeting, and that made me feel a lot better. I heard the clink of eating utensils, and I hurried forward, laughing silently as I felt the sheet drag the floor.

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He walked into the eating area, and my breath hitched slightly as I discreetly watched him. His hair was frizzy, and it hung in the air all about him. When he glided forward, the sunlight hit it, highlighting it, making it into a serene halo. <Breathe, Yui.> I reminded myself.

His clothes were extremely rumpled - they should be - at least from what I could see. He was partially wrapped in the blue and white patterned sheet from his bed, so I couldn't really tell. I looked back down at my plate and continued eating, pretending I hadn't seen him.

"Ohayo," He greeted with palpable warmth in his voice, glancing over to look at all of us, sitting around the table. He smiled with quiet cheer, and I looked at him sidelong. I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief. For once, his smile appeared to be - real.

He sat down in the one empty chair, once again looking at us all. "Is there something wrong?" He asked, concern apparent in his rich voice.

"No." Wufei answered coldly, and I didn't blame him. We'd all been so worried...

He folded his arms and leaned them onto the tabletop. He gave his best lip quiver, and his eyes actually started watering. In a phrase, he was unmistakably cute, and determined to be pouty.

"Why won't anyone talk to me?" He asked in his best 'I'm-so-lost-and-sad-and-this-is-really-killing-me-PITY-ME-NOW!' voice. My heart nearly broke right there. It's the little things, you know, that can take a feeling you have for someone and make it grow into l...

He's so beautiful, here, right now, acting like he always does, yet... Somehow I can't describe it... Being with him - around him... It feels just like a beam of golden sunshine has poured into my rotting soul, has reached the depths of darkness in me, has illuminated my life... He's so... warm, so caring... It makes me feel...

I shake my head, pulling out of the thoughts. No use dwelling on - any - of it. There was just no way he and I could ever possibly be together. There were so many countless, inumerable obstacles that stood in our path...

"Duo..." Quatre begins, as usual. I snort, inwardly. Whenever we have a 'Duo problem' it's always Quatre who addresses it.

"Hai, Quat-kun?" He asked, sitting up straighter in his chair. I frown briefly. Why is it that he always feels the need to... act... better, when Quatre speaks to him? Or any of us, for that matter, I think, my mind going back over and analyzing hundreds of small conversations held by Duo and the rest of us. ...It's not that we're somehow better than him.

"Well..." Quatre continued, obviously nervous, casting panicked glances for help out to the rest of us, "Well..."

"Duo...Do you know how long you slept?" I ask, taking pity on poor Quatre.

His brow scrunches up in thought, something else briefly flashes across his face, too quick for me to register what, and he replies, "Anou...No."

I pause, for second, unsure of what to do.

Trowa picks it up for me.

"You slept for 3 days, 10 hours, and 22 minutes," He recited monotonously, then looked Duo in the eyes, adding softly in a more concerned voice, "We were all so worried..."

"Awww..." Duo exclaimed, "You were worried about me?"

I stared at him, and he dropped his gaze. ...I still hadn't forgotten the condition I'd found him in, before he'd gone to sleep. Where had he gotten those jagged cuts?

"What happened?" Wufei asked softly, which was, in itself, an indication of how serious he thought the situation was. He usually stuck to his gruff exterior, rebuffing all contact with us... But he was worried, now. The good Lord forgive me, but Wufei can be such a mother hen when he gets worried.

Duo looked up at him. A muttered, "Nani?" Could be heard, and Wufei actually - smiled at him. I frowned briefly, considering. Could it be that Wufei also had... feelings for Duo? I dismissed the thought instantly. He'd already told me about his relationship with... I might not approve, but it was his choice. Besides, we all felt for Duo. He was our sunshine, our laughter, our hopes and our fears... And so much more.

Duo continued, fidgeting nervously. "I had a...bad mission." He said hesitantly, obviously unwilling to discuss it. "I...needed some rest...And...I got it!" He finished brightly, smiling his brilliant 200 watt smile at us.

I didn't buy it. The smile was real, the emotion behind it was genuine, but that meant nothing. Just because he was happy now... I needed to know what was really wrong. Why he had really slept so late; maybe it had been the mission, but if so, I needed to know what exactly had gone wrong...

Wufei looked at him, gauging the smile, then smiled back. "I'm glad you've got your rest," He said with a smile, lightly ruffling Duo's hair. "However...I've got to get to Nataku. I've neglected her for 3 days, 10 hours and 22 minutes..." He finished with another smile for Duo, and a playful wink.

I was startled at this sudden change in Wufei's behavior... He'd always had such a cold exterior... Maybe it was the fact that he was spending more 'quality time' with his lover that was making the difference... Or maybe it was just the affect Duo had on people.

A slight, almost nonexistant smile tugged at the corners of my mouth as I considered the idea: The Duo Affect. See? If I was almost smiling, then it had to be a powerful thing.

"Well, guys," He said with a slight smirk, "I'm gonna go to my room and read some mangas up in my room..." He pushed the chair back from the table and stretched, showing off his muscular body to the fullest extent. It wasn't like he meant to... It was just an unconscious gesture, something purely Duo; like I said... It was the little things, that could make someone else mean so very much to you...

I trooped back up the nicely carpeted stairs, silently thanking Quatre for his choice in the current safehouse. I guess you could say I'm a sucker for soft carpeting... Eh, don't mind that.

I tend to get a little absent minded after taking crystal... I can't help it, you know? It's just one of those quirky little side effects.

I pushed the door open to Heero and I's shared room, humming softly to myself. For a second, I pout, as my bare feet encounter wooden floorboards.

Although, I ponder, it was really very stupid of me to assume that Heero wouldn't come back early... Or that something else wouldn't come up.

Frowning briefly, I plop myself into the overstuffed armchair, ignoring the heaps of clothes - all mine - already occupying it. I wrap myself more securely in the sheet I've dragged up with me.

It's time to face the truth: I'm getting reckless. I tap my foot against the chair, crossing my arms in my traditional 'Duo thinking, leave alone,' pose.

I can't allow that to happen. If any one of my teammates - who, as time goes on, I consider more to be brothers, discovers my little 'habit'... I'm done for. I imagine the look on Heero's face. Ouch. I cringe a bit.

You don't understand; I love them, unconditionally. I love them so much I'd die for them - though that's not saying much... I heard a saying once, and I can't really remember where, but someone once said...'Dying for someone isn't a big deal. Anyone can die. However, it takes a real friend to keep on living, day after day.'

Oh, shit. See, I told you crystal makes me absent-minded!

Anyway... I don't know if you can understand, what I'm going through here. If they find out...

I sigh, dropping my head into my hands. Eck. Since when did everything get so complicated?

Since you started that obnoxious little habit of yours... An inner voice sing-songily reminded me.

I nearly choked. Why the hell did my inner voice contain an eerie resemblance to Lambchop?!

You don't wanna know, buddy, I thought in defeat.

Crystal meth is such a naughty little habit, you know?

Yeah, well...One of my buds had thought so too... But that hadn't stopped her from doing her own little thing.

I remembered... She'd been one of my few real friends I'd had in this life, I'd met her at my school, she was a senior, two years older than me...The things she'd told me... About her addiction. It wasn't crystal, but close enough. It was one of those new ones, the hallucinagenics? The cops can't test ya for anything, cause it won't show up.

Anyway... She wasn't exactly addicted though, that was the weirdest thing...

She taught me a lot though, all about the different kinds... About her acid trips... She talked about how one of them had 'gone wrong'... I didn't know you could have acid flashbacks... And she'd talk about her awful paranoia, as well...

She'd sit there, telling me, with these big, haunted eyes of hers... About how anything could trigger a flashback, if you'd had a bad trip...

I've seen her, it's eerie. It's hard to explain, but trust me, I know. It sounds mild, but, God, they're not... If her shakes were any indication of how bad it was-...

She told me they're relatively rare, though. The more acid you take, the more chance you have, though it's about a million to one.

Guess she was one of the lucky ones...

I bite my thumbnail, worrying, remembering.

Her reason...? She wasn't really addicted, like I'd said. God... She was so angry at her father. Her father, who gotten angry one night, and screamed at her, beat her, sent her to the hospital, if I remember rightly. He said he was sorry... She was such a good kid! ...She made the best of grades, straight As, all the time, she was involved in about 20 community service clubs, always helping people, she had a full scholarship to Oxford, on Earth, lined up... She was the person you'd least expect.

That was why she did it. She couldn't hurt her father any other way, she told me one night, when she was high, than to destroy his pride. And she was his only child, his only achiever... She was everything to him.

I visited him, at her funeral. He was a broken old man, weeping and sobbing. His wife was a frail little thing, she seemed half dead as well...

Dammit! ...I'd been the only person that knew. The only person. ...And I hadn't told anyone, until it was too late for the knowledge to do any good.

It was my fucking fault. She died, because of my stupidity... And here she'd tell me, looking at me, her small, short figure hunched over, yet radiating with joy at being in my presence, "You know, Duo-babe, that if you keep your habit up, you're going to die in two or three years?"

I can't remember what I'd answered, but she'd replied, "Ach, maybe it's better if I go first..." I thought she was joking. Only joking, right...

She was so small, so beautiful, she nearly glowed with joy and happiness, it was easy to believe she'd never even dream of doing acid.

..."Crystal meth, or speed, Duo-baby, that's the worst of all...Then, maybe, heroin. You know, acid's not really that bad...Not unless something happens to you while you're on it..."

My eyes are full of unshed tears for her, but I shake them off. She doesn't deserve my blubbering for her sake, she's in a better place now...

The door opens, almost silently, and I glance up, ready to be cheerful again. See, that's why I need my crystal-! Without it, I get pretty emotional.

It's better if I'm just relentlessly happy. I can't be feeling sorry for myself or anything, it's stupid. I have to be happy that I'm still here... I still exist, I'm alive! I have my friends - no, brothers - here with me...

"Hey, Heero!" I greet with a big smile on my face, as my eyes meet his stunning ocean ones. ...And I'm serious, his eyes are the exact shade of the ocean... Not to mention, just like it: stormy, intense... I sigh romantically, breaking the moment, for him at least.

His gaze drops, and I return to smiling foolishly at the wall. Actually, that's kinda fun... You should try it...

Eck, rambling. "What's up?" I ask him curiously, but not moved by it enough that I stir.

He glances at me sidelong, and I'm amazed at all the things I can see in his eyes... A pupil, iris, and that white outside part!

Have they named that? I wonder absent-mindedly, while chewing on one of my hangnails.

"Hi," He says noncommittally, striding into the room, then sitting down cross-legged on the floor in front of me. ...I swear, he is so weird sometimes!

He's looking up at me, like I'm the only thing in the world that matters to him. If he keeps that up, I'm going to get all mushy on him...

I smile at him, then lean forward, propping my chin on my hands, almost nose to nose with him.

I don't feel like breaking the beautiful, golden, sunny silence, so I wait for him to say something.