(kodoku na okami)
COMMENTS: This picks up right after "Disillusionment" and covers several months thereafter.
BGM: "Ship of Fools" from (you guessed it) Sarah Brightman's album "Dive".
WARNINGS: Yaoiness, angsty -- no big deal if you made it this far.
They stayed with the simple things. Homework. Dinner in the room. Both dressed.
At least, they though it would be simple.
Over the preceding four months they had developed a language of touch
and glance and speech. It was easy to fall into that language and the old
patterns it bespoke. Heero caught his foot sliding toward Duo's under the
desk more than once. It wasn't easy for Duo either. He heard Duo start to
say things whose endings he knew too well, or saw him open his mouth to
speak, then stop and close it enough times to convince him that both of
them would be struggling to break those habits for a long time to come.
They knew it was best to break them, though. Otherwise they would fall back into the senseless spiral that had broken *them*. The second time, they would fall past the event horizon.
Heero wasn't sure which of them actually brushed the other's hand as he was flipping through Duo's chemistry book looking for a particular illustration. Duo jumped. "Gomen, Heero. I wasn't trying..." He stopped as Heero found the page he was looking for and pointed to the diagram. "A benzene ring," was all Heero said as he looked at Duo.
Duo nodded. "Thanks." He looked at the picture, eyes squinched up in thought. "Oh! I see. Thanks." He began writing. Heero watched long enough to be sure he did see, then went back to his seat and the pre-calc problem he'd been working.
It slowly became less difficult. Millimeter by millimeter, the old habits were replaced with safer habits carefully chosen by each boy to avoid the memories they'd given up. After six weeks, they had reestablished the boundaries and comfort zones. Occasional accidental touches, though they stirred the thoughts Heero and Duo both wanted to forget, were just that. Occasional and accidental.
During the seventh week of their détente, the thing Heero had
secretly dreaded came. A mission. Not that he was unwilling to fight. Not
even that he had doubts about Duo as a partner-in-arms. They had picked
up the pieces together. He knew Duo would watch his back and he would watch
Duo's. It was--
He heard Duo move behind him, leaning forward slightly to read the screen. Heero knew his hands would be behind his back -- part of the new language. "Looks like my kind of mission."
"Aa," Heero agreed. "Except for setting all the explosives. Two people would be better."
"So it looks like we go together."
Heero had found himself increasingly divided over the past weeks. Now, he was glad Duo wanted his help, but he was still afraid of--
"I think I can get us both in," Duo added. Heero turned to see him plotting. "Got it. When do we leave?"
Heero shook his head. "After I finish the plan."
Duo walked over to his bed and emptied his backpack. "OK. I'll get the C-10 and stuff, you write the plan." He turned toward the door.
"Nani?" Duo paused, hand on the doorknob.
"How are we going to get into the building?" He needed to know before he could begin.
"Oh. Easy. No one ever notices the janitors." He frowned. "You don't mind cleaning a few bathrooms, do you?"
"Nai." It wasn't something he'd choose to do, but this was a mission, and Duo's idea made perfect sense. He'd need to identify places near the bathrooms where they could set the charges.
By the time Duo returned, Heero had everything ready. Locations, timer settings for each bomb, even their path through the building. He knew better than to ask where Duo had come up with a backpack full of C-10, timers and detonators -- or two pairs of janitor's coveralls with Kirei Company logos on them. "Creative acquisition" was Duo's favorite term for it. They were lucky that all Oz's Japan facilities used Kirei. He handed Duo a copy of the charge list and they set about making bombs.
The target was in a town a hundred kilometers away. They could take a train, but smuggling a bag of explosives through the security checkpoints would be a bitch. The obvious answer was the motorcycle.
That was what had Heero so edgy. It was a dangerously intimate mode of transportation for two people who were trying to be friends, not lovers. He'd spent almost as much time debating with himself about who would drive and who would ride as he did planning the mission itself.
In the end, he let Duo drive, trusting his self-control more than Duo's, and not wanting to undermine what they had just begun to build between them. He found it odd that it had taken them less time to deceive themselves into "love" than to reach the point they were at now. He'd always thought love was much further down the road than this tentative friendship.
The ride wasn't easy, but Heero kept his grip on Duo's waist light and his attention firmly away from where his groin touched Duo's butt. Duo helped by driving slower than normal, saving them from the close, body-long embrace required by a sport bike running at high speed.
They hid the bike in an alley and walked to the building they were going to blow up. Heero led them to the service entrance where they paused long enough to pull the coveralls over their clothes. They walked in, Duo acting as if he belonged there, Heero trying to and hoping he didn't blow their cover. He was more comfortable sneaking and attacking than walking around in plain view. Duo casually appropriated a janitor's cart -- trash can, mops, brooms, paper towels, soap refills. Heero dropped the backpack into the trash can and they started their rounds.
Eight hours later -- 21:12, according to the internal clock. The bathrooms were clean and the bombs concealed and set. Duo had convinced him to delay the explosions until midnight. It increased the risk that the bombs might be found, but only marginally. It decreased the casualty rate dramatically. Normally neither of them would care how many enemies died, but this was primarily an office building. Most of the people were only indirectly involved with the war.
They walked back toward the bike, uniforms discarded. Time to--
"Dinner?" Duo asked.
"Nai." He wanted to get the long ride back over and done.
"There's a great teppanyaki place a few blocks away. We can eat, take a little walk in the park, watch the fireworks at midnight..." Duo gave him that conspiratorial look. It did make sense to be sure the mission went as planned.
"Ryoukai." He pulled his wallet out of his jeans pocket and checked the contents as Duo did the same.
"I'll buy," they said together.
Duo laughed. "Dutch, then."
They'd wandered by the building about fifteen minutes after midnight to observe their handiwork, concealed in the crowd. The chaos of police, fire trucks, ambulances and Oz security -- and the heap of rubble where the building had been -- had told them they had been successful. They'd collected the bike and Duo had driven them back to the dorm.
"You go first in the shower, Heero," Duo said. "I always take an hour and use all the hot water."
It made too much sense to argue. When he came out, Duo was standing at the window, back to the room. Heero quickly pulled on loose shorts and a tank top. He'd quit wearing Spandex in the room because he knew it distracted Duo. "Kanryou." Duo got up and went into the bathroom for his usual long shower. Heero lay down on his bed. He turned his face to the wall when Duo came out.
"God, I'm tired," Duo moaned as he crawled into his bed.
Heero took that as a hint it was safe and turned over, looking at him. "You're always tired after a mission."
"Yeah, but I'm still tired."
"Go to sleep, Duo. You aren't making sense." He flipped onto his back and closed his eyes, drifting into dreamless slumber.
Duo laid watching him for long minutes, part of him wishing Heero was beside him. He started to shake his head and sigh, but weariness claimed him before he could finish.
When Heero woke, Duo was gone. He checked the room and found the laundry baskets empty and Duo's pre-calc book and notebook gone. He needed some help with World History and knew Duo would need his help with pre-calc. He gathered his books and headed to the laundry room.
Another two and a half months and four more missions passed and the old habits were all but forgotten. Duo had finished his Japanese homework and lay on his bed reading a doujinshi. He was addicted to them, if the hundreds he kept boxed under his bed were any indication. Heero sat at the computer putting the last sentences on his essay for World History.
"Would you go for a walk on the beach with me?"
Heero finished the essay, saved it and shut down the computer. He turned, looking at Duo, and shrugged. "Ryoukai." He could only remember a few times when he'd seen Duo so happy at the word. Who would have thought that a walk on the beach could be as good as sex? He pushed the thought away and pulled out his beach shoes.
They walked to the ocean, it was only a kilometer from the school, and then walked quiet along the water's edge for an hour, both glad they had worn jeans and windbreakers as autumn whipped along the sand, playing with Duo's braid and Heero's ruff of hair alike. "So how do you like being my friend?" Duo asked.
Heero had wondered what had prompted the walk. "Is this what friends are?" Heero had never really had any friends. He'd always relied on himself and doubted others. Duo had taught him the beginnings of trust -- again.
"I wish we had done this first."
"I'm sorry, Heero. I know I messed--" He froze as Heero grabbed his shoulder and turned him to face him.
"Duo, shut up!" They stared at each other for a moment. "We both messed up. Forget it."
Heero looked at him, disturbed by the assertion, knowing more was coming. A couple of heartbeats' patience proved he was right.
"I mean, now that I've taken time to really get to know you, I... I realize what I missed out on. If I hadn't rushed us..." He sighed and shrugged.
"Let's go back to the room." Heero said, softly. "I need to work on Physics." It was a weak excuse, but Heero was confused. Was Duo hinting that he wanted something more than friendship? Did *he* want more than friendship? It was easy to remember the good times, but the bad memories came too. No. It was past. They couldn't go there again. Could they? He wasn't sure anymore.
"Yeah," Duo interrupted his thoughts as they walked down the beach. "I need to forget it and be glad we're friends again."
Heero knew that was wrong. "We weren't friends before."
Another kilometer and Duo sighed. "You're right. I never realized two people could be lovers and not be friends." He shook his head, the braid twitching on his back. "Baka."
Later, as they turned off the sand and stepped onto the sidewalk, Heero thought, "I wonder if it would have made a difference."
"Probably," Duo said.
Heero stared at him, then knew he must have spoken it aloud.
"I mean, if we'd been friends, we'd still be together, what with my good looks and your winning personality." Duo laughed.
"Duo, omae o korosu."
It took Duo a moment to see it, but the old secret smile was lurking behind the threat. He hadn't seen it in a long time. "You've got Physics to do and I should put in some time on tomorrow's Chem homework -- try to get ahead, y'know." He wanted to say something else, but he didn't want to break his friend's smile.
The rain had been coming down in steady sheets all day. It was the cold
rain of autumn-about-to-be-winter that cut through clothes and skin and
muscle carrying its chill straight to the bone. Duo was glad he was inside.
Heero's plan said he'd be back in less than half an hour. That should be
just enough time to braid his hair and get his books spread out on the desk
-- pretending he'd been studying, not worrying.
The mission had been similar to the one that had precipitated their fall into disaffection and disillusionment. Wing alone was the obvious choice. They had started to argue again. Then Duo had raised a hand and said, "You're right. I just wish I could go with you." Heero had looked at him, thoughtful, then nodded. "Ryoukai. But you can't." They had learned something from the collapse of their relationship -- enough to preserve the firm friendship they had forged from the broken remains.
At least here is warm, he thought as he washed his hands, then dried them, and walked out of the bathroom. He froze. Heero lay in a heap on the floor.
Duo ran the short steps to his side and knelt down beside him, dragging up the bits and pieces of first aid and triage Heero had taught him. Fingers to neck for pulse. Damn, he was soaked through and cold. The pulse was slow and weak, but there. Ear to mouth for breathing. Shallow. Definitely in shock. No obvious bleeding. He'd made it this far, so Duo doubted he had any neck or spine injuries. He reached to lift Heero, then thought better of it. Instead, he went to the desk drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors, returning to cut the cold, wet clothes off of Heero's body.
It had been over three months since he had seen Heero naked. Still the same perfect body. "Dangerous territory, Duo," he whispered to himself as he scooped Heero up, struggling with the weight. He'd forgotten how much dense muscle was crammed into that compact frame.
He laid Heero on his bed and covered him with a blanket, then continued the check. The next step was... pupils. He peeled the eyelids back and used his hand to flash them twice each. They were uneven. A bad concussion. Well, the only thing for that was rest, and Heero was going to be getting a few days of rest, even if Duo had to hold a gun on him to keep him in the bed.
Now came the hardest part. Body check. He pulled back the blanket and moved his hands over Heero's torso, keeping his mind focussed on the task at hand. Ribs were fine. No whimpers when he pushed on the abdomen. No unusual firmness. That was good. He probably wasn't bleeding internally. That would have been a bitch to handle. Down the legs. Everything looked OK. Up to the arms. His left forearm was broken, but it seemed to be a simple break.
He tallied the damage. Concussion, broken arm, shock induced hypothermia, aided and abetted by the icy rain. He could do nothing about the concussion except let him rest. He felt the break in the arm again, assuring himself he knew how the bone should sit, then steeled himself for the next part. He put his left elbow against Heero's shoulder, using the hand to feel the end of the broken bone, then grabbed the forearm below the break with his right hand and pulled, twisted and guided the bone back into place. He suppressed a shudder and the urge to gag. The set was good. Maybe not perfect, but a damn sight better than leaving it like that.
Heero was so cold. If he didn't get his body temperature up the rest might not matter. Duo took the blanket off his own bed and the two spares from the closet, piling them on him.
He went to Heero's special first aid kit and fished out two flat steel bars, each a foot long -- acquired from the local hardware store by himself, no less -- and two rolls of gauze. Juggling the bars while wrapping the arm was tricky at first, but fifteen minutes later he had the splints bound snug. It wasn't pretty, but it would keep Heero's forearm immobile until they could arrange something better.
Damn, he was even colder now. There were no more blankets. He could try to beg a few off some of their neighbors, but trying to explain why he needed them would be difficult. "Oh, my roommate and I are secretly terrorists from the Colonies. He just got back from destroying an Oz base, broke his arm while he was at it. He's in shock and I need to keep him warm." Yeah, that would go over well. They didn't seem to be doinng much good anyway.
There was another option. He hoped Heero wouldn't kill him when he woke up, but if he didn't do it, Heero might not wake up.
Duo stripped quickly, keeping his boxers, and slid under the blankets with Heero. He laid Heero's broken arm over his side and let it dangle across his back, bringing them chest to chest. His leg slid between Heero's legs, his thigh against the frigid femoral vessels that carried blood and warmth to half the body. He tried not to think about the other things it touched. An arm across Heero's back pulled them tight against each other. His head curled down against Heero's neck -- warm breath whispering into the hollow. His hair covered Heero's face. A few shuffles and they were completely enveloped in blankets.
He tried to keep the memories at bay, but it had been so long. He held him, wishing once again that they could be what they had been once before, knowing it wasn't possible. He wouldn't fuck up this time. He promised himself that. "I won't fuck us up this time, Heero." He never lied, especially to his friend -- who he loved -- still -- after all the pain they had been through together.
"God, let him be OK. God, let him be OK. God, let him be OK." He whispered the words, repeating them over and over, a mantra of hope as he willed warmth into Heero's freezing body. He caught himself starting to doze and snapped awake for an instant. Heero seemed to be warmer now. Then sleep claimed him.
He opened his eyes to find bottomless wells of blue waiting for him. He smiled. This was how he always wanted to wake up. Then he remembered.
"Ah, gomen, Heero." He tried to pull away, but couldn't. The blankets were tangled around them. "You were so cold and there weren't any more blankets." He tried to unravel the cocoon of blankets and realized Heero's arms were the entanglement. "You need to be careful with that broken arm."
"You still love me, don't you?" It wasn't really a question.
Duo had been expecting a lot of things, but not that. "Yes." He couldn't lie. "I-- I'm sorry. I'll find another room."
"If you can hack into Oz's systems, the school's computers shouldn't be a problem."
Heero frowned. He hadn't thought of that before. Probably because he had been too angry then, and then they had become friends and it hadn't mattered. "I could." Heero didn't move, just laid there looking at Duo.
Duo saw Heero's face coming closer and realized he was leaning toward Heero, moving in for a kiss. He pulled back, tried to break away. He was amazed how well Heero could hold him with that broken arm. "Look, just let me get up, OK? I can't take this anymore. I--"
"Neither can I."
Duo saw Heero's face coming closer again. He tried to stop himself. He wasn't moving. Heero's lips touched his, gentle, soft. He tried to let it pass, but then the things he'd trained himself to forget came rushing back and he found himself responding, kissing Heero back, his lips parting. Heero's tongue advanced tentatively into the opening. Duo met him there and they tasted each other again as if for the first time.
He lay in Heero's arms, breathing heavy. "Anou, Heero, I'm sorry. You know you have a concussion? Maybe that's affecting your thinking. I mean, I don't want you to think I'm--"
"Duo no baka. Shut up." Heero listened to the stunned silence for a moment. "I woke up and at first--" No. There was no need for that first moment of fear. "Then I remembered. I saw you sleeping, knowing why you were in bed with me. Do you have any idea how beautiful you are when you're asleep? Then you woke up and saw me like you did before-- That was even more beautiful. I love watching you wake up beside me."
Duo closed his eyes. This must be a dream. God, I don't want it to be a dream. He opened his eyes. The blue was still there drowning him in its depths. It wasn't a dream. "Are you saying you want to try again?"
Heero nodded. "You said we were lovers but not friends before. You said being friends might have made a difference." He paused to kiss Duo again. " I need to know if it does because I love you. Aishiteru, Duo." He frowned faintly. It was the only word that came close.
Duo smiled understanding. They actually knew each other now. They could actually love each other now. "Aishiteru, Heero," he whispered as he laid his head against Heero's shoulder again, reveling in the feeling of the strong, tender body against his. He had wanted Heero to hold him so many times in the past four months. Now, that emptiness was gone. "It'll take a few weeks for your arm to heal."
Heero snorted. "Like Hell." He rolled onto his back, pulling Duo on top of him.
Duo lifted his head, meeting Heero's gaze. "Hey! That isn't fair." He chuckled.
"Kiss me, Duo-koi?" He smiled as he saw the violet eyes melt. He had hoped it would still work.
"*Hell* yes," Duo whispered as he lowered his mouth to Heero's parted lips and kissed him.