Soldiers and Fools
Part 11 -- Wind of Heaven, Stuff of Earth
(kodoku na okami)
(Sometimes fools are fools.)
Duo woke to find a firm hand pressed over his mouth. He almost opened his mouth to bite it but recognized the cool touch and cordite will'o'th'wisp in his nose a split second before the hand moved away. He lay there, quiet, reminding himself for the umpteenth time that he wasn't in the cell anymore, he was hiding with Heero.
"You were about to shout. It was just a nightmare."
Duo said nothing, but his mind screamed at the memory. /Say it Heero! Say it! Say you have them too!/
"More soup." It wasn't a question.
/Damn you, Heero!/ Duo opened his eyes, forced a smile on his lips and took the soup packet, suddenly afraid. /When did I go from liking him to caring about him? Not love! No one survives Shinigami's love. I can't love Heero. I don't want him to die./
The denials made him feel better. Love was dangerous. Love always ended in pain. Love always ended in death. He had given up on love years ago. Friendship. He could deal with friendship. Friendship was safe. He liked Heero. He cared about Heero. Those things meant he was Heero's friend. And he wanted Heero as a friend, not an enemy and not indifferent. Something else might have been nice once, but now the only other option was dead. It was one of the consequences of being a fallen angel. It was a consequence he had accepted. He was Heero's friend. That was enough.
/It must have happened when we were partnered at that school on Earth. Probably when I decided to try to help him become human./ He shivered, though he wasn't cold. /I'd forgotten there are two ways to read the end of that poem. God! If You're there, please let it be the good ending, not--/ For the first time in his life, he couldn't bring himself to think the word "death".
Duo flinched. "Nani mo nai koto." But it wasn't "nothing" and he didn't want to lie to his friend. "Just a left over bit of nightmare." That made it true enough.
The answer seemed to satisfy Heero. He went into the bathroom and began putting soap and shampoo ... and conditioner in their place.
Duo sucked on the soup packet. Nightmare childhood. Nightmare war. Nightmare life. Being the Angel of Death wasn't all it was cracked up to be. His hand wandered idly to his chest and began playing with his braid. When he was totally honest with himself -- which was rare -- he admitted that he'd much rather be a normal person who'd never heard of Oz or Colonies or Gundams or war. But it was too late for that. He was Duo Maxwell, Shinigami, pilot of Deathscythe, Defender or the Colonies, even if they were to damn stupid to figure out that they needed defending.
He sighed as he swallowed the last of the soup. And who was he to complain? There, not twenty feet away was his friend who'd had a Hell of a lot worse life than he had, cleaning up the bathroom after him as if it were the most important thing in the world right then. He made a mental note to remember Heero whenever he started feeling sorry for himself. There was nothing like remembering that someone else was going through a darker stretch of Hell than you to make you stop wallowing in self-pity.
He realized what his hand was doing. His braid! It was back! It gave him an excuse to push the dark thoughts away and smile. "Hey, Heero, did you do this?"
Heero poked his head out of the bathroom to see Duo waggling the tip of the braid at him. Like Duo's snoring, it annoyed him, but it was a "right" annoyance. The loud-mouthed fool was getting better. "Hai." He went back to arranging the bathroom.
"Not bad considering it was your first time."
Something in Duo's voice told Heero he thought he'd said something funny. Heero finished arranging the bathroom. Turning back to the room, he knew he should say something. He searched memories as he walked back to his chair beside Duo's bed. /Ah. That was it./ "Arigatou."
He'd seen that look on Duo's face once before -- when he'd asked him to help him with the plans before... that mission. Now it lasted longer so he could actually observe it. It reminded him of Duo's look when he understood a homework problem, only more -- as if he'd understood a hundred homework problems in the same instant. If he'd truly known the word "joy", he might have been able to describe it. All he knew was that he wanted to see it again.
/There it was again!/ Duo almost shouted it aloud. /Tiny. If I'd blinked I'd've missed it. But he definitely smiled that time, and his eyes. God, they're even more beautiful when the ice melts./
Silence fell, disturbed only by the hum of the colony outside the postage-stamp apartment. Duo squirmed. Heero shrugged and gave him the gun. "I need to get more food and clothes. I'll be back in an hour." He stopped when he reached the door and tapped once, paused, tapped twice, paused, tapped once. "That's the secret knock."
"I got it."
When he had returned from the supply run, Heero had turned on his laptop and begun typing. Now, fifteen hours later, he was still typing. Duo was tired. He knew Heero was tired too. "Hey, Heero, give it a rest, willya?"
"Hn." He didn't seem to hear.
"Heero. Hey, Heero! OI! Spandex Boy!"
That got his attention. "Hnn!" Blue eyes snapped up, anger flickered briefly then vanished back into the cold, blue depths. "What, Duo?" A faint trace of the anger remained in his voice.
"Um, you're kinda keeping me awake with your typing. Even perfect soldiers need to sleep now and then, and in this shape I'm far from perfect." He grinned.
Heero watched him for a moment. /He's trying to be helpful. That means he's getting better. Good./ "Fine." He shut down the laptop, turned out the light above it and stretched out in his chair, eyes closed.
"Ah, Heero? Chairs aren't exactly the best rest -- believe me, I know. Get in bed."
One eye slitted open, watching him in the light filtering through the window shade. A colony was never truly dark, even when it was "night".
Duo craned his head around, understanding dawning. "Ah, is this the only bed? I mean, uh, I don't want to put you out of your bed. I, uh, I think we could, ahm, squeeze in together." His voice squeaked.
He didn't mind sleeping in the chair, but after three nights of it his body was feeling the stiffness and strain. The violet eyes were afraid, of... what? /What's wrong, Duo?/ "Are you sure?"
/Ohshit. Damn your mouth, Duo./ But it was too late to stop now. "Ahhh, yeah. Just, uh, do you have a spare pair of shorts I can wear?"
Heero didn't know why it mattered. Duo was acting strangely. He decided to let it lay. He opened a drawer in the small dresser beside the bed and produced a pair of grey cotton boxers.
/Not silk. Oh well, it's better than nothing,/ Duo thought. /Especially now that you've got him sleeping with you in this dinky bed./ Heero pulled the sheet down. /Ohshit. Can't bend./ Duo had to let Heero pull the shorts up his legs, but was able to handle the last few inches himself. /God, I didn't realize it would be this bad. God, why is it so bad? He's just helping. After that shower you'd think this wouldn't matter./ But it did. Maybe because he was more aware now than he had been during the shower. As Heero climbed into bed next to him, Duo realized just how bad it was.
Duo's injuries forced him to lay on his back. Which meant the only way Heero could fit in the bed was to lay on his side directly next to Duo with one arm under the pillow and the other laying across Duo's belly. Which meant his chin was resting on Duo's shoulder, his forehead was against Duo's cheek, and his crotch was against Duo's hand. Which meant Duo had to slip his arm under Heero's armpit so he wouldn't have his hand in Heero's crotch. Which meant he had to hold his arm tight along Heero's back to keep it from dangling off the bed. Which meant his hand was resting against Heero's butt. Which, for some reason, made him almost as uncomfortable as the original position.
As he felt the cold fire of Heero's skin burning a permanent afterimage into his body, Duo knew he had just bought himself his own small piece of Hell, even if he couldn't understand why it was Hell or why he'd done it.
He didn't sleep well that night.
A week passed before, Duo could move around the room by himself for much more than a short, but exhausting trip to the bathroom. By then he was going crazy from sitting around with nothing to do. Heero had brought him some pencils and paper so he could draw. That was great-- really. But there was only so much drawing he could do in a day before his eyes went funny and his head started to hurt. That left him hours with nothing to do but lay or sit in the bed and watch Heero work. He started telling stories to fill the time. Heero diligently ignored him. Whenever he got tired of trying to get Heero to listen -- or pretending Heero was listening -- he laid in bed and looked at the ceiling. He was sure he could draw it from memory now.
As Duo returned to normal, Heero retreated into cold quiet, almost as if he'd been compensating for Duo's silence. Now he spent more and more time working on the laptop, studying blueprints, making plans. That was part of Duo's dissatisfaction. Heero was cutting him out again. He finally decided to do something about it.
"Uh, Heero. So what's our mission?" He leaned his forearms heavily on Heero's shoulders, peering over his head at the screen.
"My mission. You're in no shape for it."
"Oh yeah?" He clenched fists and made little jabbing motions at Heero's jaw. Heero didn't even look at him. His hand snaked up to Duo's shoulder and squeezed. "AAGH!" Duo fell to his knees, eyes watering with pain. "What'd'ya do that for?" he shouted.
"To prove that you're in no shape for a mission right now." Cold, cold blue met Duo's eyes. "I don't want you to become a liability."
/You mean you don't want to have to kill me. ... Wait a minute. Did you just say you don't want to have to kill me? You want me to live?/
Heero was rewarded with another look of joy. There was no answering smile for Duo.
/That's OK, Heero. I guess you're the Perfect Soldier again now./ "How long?"
"Four, maybe five days."
/I should be able to take care of myself by then. He doesn't want to abandon me./ "Can I help?"
It gave him something to do besides lay around and bitch all day.
"Wind of Heaven, Stuff of Earth". The conflict between what we seek to attain and what we deal with every day. That's the simple explanation for the title.
Poor Duo. His mouth always gets him in so much trouble. <g>