12-8-2002

Dreams of Yellowed Bone
By Keelywolfe (Keelywolfe@aol.com)

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It was so terribly hot, flames licking across skin like parched earth and Trowa struggled against it, had to struggle, had to move, always move because to be still was to be dead, and he wasn't dead, just hot very, very...

Cool wetness licked across his face, and Trowa turned to it eagerly, a rainstorm in the desert, yes, and after a moment it came again, carving a slick path through the flames, the hot sand that was all over him, sand of a thousand colors, so very pretty.

Again, wet and cool, and Trowa turned towards it, licking at it when it slipped over his parched lips, a river, yes, cool blueness in the middle of orange and red, and he whimpered when it deserted him again, soft words of comfort unheeded until it returned. Trowa reached for it this time, determined to hold the river, which was silly because you can't hold water and he knew that, knew it, but this river felt solid, felt like something, and Trowa wanted to open his eyes to see the river that wasn't one, before he realized the coolness was a wet cloth, and there was a hand attached to it, gently wiping his face.

"See, this is why I always get my flu shot." There was a certain grim humor to the words and Trowa opened his eyes, peering blearily into a world that wasn't made of flames after all.

"Duo," he croaked out in surprise, and the other pilot gave him mock salute before gently swiping across Trowa's face again with the damp cloth.

Carefully, Trowa turned his head and found canvas bare centimeters from his nose. A tent, he decided, closing his eyes. Standard survival kit equipment. He dimly remembered a mission, he and Duo hiding out afterward...after that was a bleary mixture of reality and fever dreams.

"Just hold still, would you? You're burning up. I can't believe with all the time and money they put your training that your people didn't even make sure you'd had all your shots," Duo scolded, wetting the cloth again. "Hell, you can even get 'em free at the right clinic. Cheapskates."

Because I wasn't supposed to be the one they sent. Trowa's eyes snapped open and he had a brief flash of concern that he had said it aloud.

Duo never hesitated in his ministrations though, and Trowa relaxed, making a mental note to update all of his shots when he was well again. Illness left him far too vulnerable and he was just lucky that it was Duo he was stuck with instead of OZ prison guards.

Closing his eyes, Trowa sighed quietly and drifted back into sleep. It wasn't in his nature to put so much trust into someone else when he was vulnerable, but in this case it didn't seem like he had much of a choice.

***

The flames were gone, gone gone away, melting into the shimmery heat of the desert, yellow and old, and he watched it from across the riverbed. It had gone dry and all the fish were rotting in the sun, stinking and bloated and they were singing a pretty little song, over and over again.

One of the fish walked up to him on shiny metal legs and looked at him with its clouded dead eyes before it asked him for a cigarette. Trowa reached for his pocket because that was right, a cigarette for the dead, but something was holding his hands, cuffs were welded to his wrist, and the OZ soldiers were there guarding him, wearing their skulls outside their skin and Trowa had to lift his hands, had to feel if his face was where it was supposed to be.

"No, no, hold still..."

Familiar voice, and Trowa relaxed. It was all right he could see that now. The soldiers had given their faces to the alligator on the other side. So very kind of them, the alligator had been hungry, he was still hungry, crying for more food, crying, and the alligator, and so very fucking hot and...

Quatre, he had to warn Quatre about the alligator...

"Quatre..." he moaned, thrashing against his bonds.

"Nope, still Duo." A rush of coolness came again, and he caught Duo's hands, pressing them against his cheeks desperately.

"Shh, it's OK. I won't leave you." So gentle, and surprisingly caring. Like Quatre would have been, but Duo Maxwell was no Quatre, he could handle the alligator, he was safe. Safe from the alligator but Quatre wasn't, Quatre was from the desert, he didn't know the dangers and they were in the desert, weren't they?

"You were alone with Quatre in the desert, weren't you?" Trowa cried, squinting at Duo in the dim light of the tent.

Duo startled, spilling the bowl of water beside him and spraying it on both of them. He swore loudly, trying to mop it up with the rag. "You scared the piss out of me, Trowa!" He gave up the cleaning as a bad job and poured more water out of a canteen into the bowl. "I guess so, if you call being followed around by fifty big hairy guys wearing funny hats alone."

"Did you touch him?"

There was wariness on Duo's face, a faint frown and he turned away abruptly. "I think your fever is getting worse. Maybe I should try to get you to a..."

"Did you?" Trowa demanded, gripping Duo's wrist painfully tight, and he saw the warning in the other's violet eyes, a flash of Duo's quicksilver temper and he lightened his grip. He understood, with the certainty of someone who had once been young and helpless himself and now was neither. Duo looked at Trowa's hand, still holding him though not too tightly, and sighed.

"You want to know if we had sex," Duo asked frankly, and Trowa nodded despite himself. Duo hedged a moment, obviously debating his answer. "No," he said finally, "We played a little touchy feely though."

Touch. Touched. Touched Quatre, sweet Quatre and he didn't know the danger, didn't know about it, wasn't safe, he wasn't. Trowa gripped the arm in his hand tightly, pulling a startled Duo down. He saw the other hand go up, standard defensive action and he caught that one too.

"Trowa, what the fuck are you..."

This was heat, soft with sharpness behind, words smothered beneath pressure, the taste of lips that had tasted Quatre's. Protests were trying to burble out, bubbles in the stream but Trowa wouldn't have it, no, this was his and he wanted it.

He pushed and rolled, heat beneath him now and the words were coming, fast and panicked but easy to ignore, simple to just reach down and touch, and it was easy, easier than a thought. Duo was like an animal, in his way. Fight or flee, those were his instincts, always. Fight or flee, but if you gentled an animal, soothed it, it would do neither. It would purr beneath your fingertips, and arch up, choking off moans.

"...oh, God, Trowa...don't...ah, hell!"

There had been different hands before, much larger, harder bruising hands and hadn't he ever wanted this? It hadn't always been bad, not always and he did want these slim-fingered hands, still callused but gentler. These hands were different. Slender, cool, he liked these hands.

A sigh, a hot wind blowing across his cheeks, and then, "Buddy, you better remember tomorrow that you're the one who started this."

So easy to relax into this, different, better heat and they were all watching, jellied eyes of the fish and the cold damp sockets of the OZ soldiers. Trowa wanted to laugh at them in triumph, he was hot because he wanted to be, not the yellowed bone heat of the desert but of skin, more skin as he parted blackness to find the pale beneath. Sweet, shuddery little noises and he searched further, sweaty, slippery heat there and he wrapped his hands around it, stroking.

"Shit! Shit...god, god, stop!" Gasped, flailing hands batting at his and Trowa relented, rolling back and pulling it with him, smothering himself in the reality of skin and the wet was back only warm this time, slick against his belly and pushing lower, and yes, yes, this was his.

Pain, yes, a little, familiar pain, and he relaxed into it, heat inside him now and he wrapped his arms around it, pushing upward in a jerky little movement.

"Fuck, Trowa, don't...I'm gonna...ah, God!"

Again, heat, molten heat pouring across his stomach and it would melt into him, burn him and the fish were weeping for him, nothing but bones and scales, their metal legs danced without them, their songs lost forever, eaten by the hungry alligator.

"...trowa...are...ok...trowa..."

"Don't let the alligator get him," Trowa mumbled and all was blackness.

 

**

He was dead.

That was the only possible explanation there was for feeling like this. Being dead was even worse than he'd thought. Even his eyelashes hurt, trembling against his cheeks...but maybe dead people didn't have eyelashes? Better open his eyes to check.

Trowa blinked slowly, wincing at the sunlight coming in from the tent window drove tiny ice picks of pain into his eyes. Trowa pressed the knuckles of his forefingers against his eyes, hard, until he saw red blossoming behind his eyelids. The feel of a hand on his shoulder startled him, and Trowa gasped aloud, scrabbling away from the touch.

"Easy, man. It's just me." Duo. Yes, he remembered, he'd been sick and...Trowa winced inwardly, remembering a great deal more than he was happy knowing. Warily, he opened his eyes to look silently at Duo, who was crouched in front of him.

"Hey, sleeping beauty awakens!" Duo said cheerily, reaching out to tousle Trowa's hair before pressing a hand against his forehead thoughtfully. "You're fever's broken too. I figure you'll be up and kicking pretty soon." He chattered on easily, about breakfast and real fake orange juice that he'd mixed up in the extra canteen, so completely normal that Trowa wondered if perhaps it had been a fever dream.

Sitting up disabused him of that hope, a particular soreness that couldn't be dismissed as a side effect of the flu. Not directly, anyway and any remaining doubt vanished as Duo leaned over to snag the strap of his backpack, rifling through it for some drugs that Duo declared would help kick the ass of whatever flu bug had dared infect him. The high priest's collar of his shirt shifted with the movement and out peeked a very colorful suck mark on the side of Duo's neck.

"I'm sorry," Trowa said abruptly, knowing even as he said it how pathetically weak it was. How do you apologize for abusing someone when you yourself had been caught in the throes of dementia?

Duo tensed, going perfectly still so briefly that Trowa might have imagined it. Then he melted back into motion, shrugging slightly.

"No big deal."

It would have been so easy to leave it at that, to accept Duo's lack of concern as his own. "Yes, it is. I forced you..."

"Trowa," Duo interrupted, a kind of weary patience in his voice that was as strange coming from him as everything else in this situation. "I am more than capable of fighting off one sick guy, even a Gundam pilot," he continued, and he shrugged again. "If anything, I should be apologizing to you for taking advantage." He grinned cheekily then, and with it, the world tilted back to something Trowa recognized. "Don't hold your breath though. I don't lie...and I'm not sorry."

Brutally honest, as always, and Trowa nodded in acceptance, the knot in his stomach slowly unclenching. If Duo wasn't sorry then there was no reason he should be, he decided, swallowing his pills and chasing them town with rusty-flavored orange juice.

Duo gave him a serious look. "Tell me something, though? What the hell was up with the alligator? You kept jabbering about how hungry it was, and how it was going to eat the fish legs."

Trowa blinked and felt a flush that had nothing to do with fever rise in his cheeks. "You must think I'm crazy," he murmured and Duo laughed.

"Nope, just fucked up," Duo said cheerfully. "But then again, aren't we all? Speaking of fucked up people," he added, in an oddly nonchalant voice, "We might not want to mention this to Heero Yuy." Trowa looked up at those far too casual words. So it was like that, then. He nodded, unsurprised.

"Well, if you're feeling better, then I am outta here. Heavyarms is parked out front, keys are on the seat. Ta!" Duo waved, gathering his backpack. Trowa watched in bemusement as he paused at the door, turning around and walking back. With one finger he flipped up the brim of his cap, giving Trowa a glimpse of wicked purple eyes before Duo leaned forward to kiss him fiercely, tasting sweet and fresh, better than the orange juice.

"To remember me by, eh?" he said, something painful to see shining in his eyes. Trowa nodded mutely and it was gone, hidden beneath a layer of cheer that was now as transparent as a pane of glass to Trowa. A last wink and Duo was gone.

Trowa sighed and settled back into the blankets for a little more rest. Maybe he'd dream of the desert and strange shimmery heat, and he had time to make a sleepy wish that the fish had managed to escape. After all, being dead was bad enough without getting eaten by a hungry alligator.

-finis-