Can Duo help Trowa and Heero in the aftermath of a mission gone wrong? Post EW.
Finger deep within the borderline
Show me that you love me and that we belong together
Relax, turn around and take my hand
I hate mornings. I especially hate mornings that follow a night of little to no sleep. I force my eyes to open and look at the clock on my nightstand. It's almost noon. I roll onto my back with a groan. I really, really hate mornings that aren't even mornings when you've slept them away without any rest. Is it possible to wake up more tired than you were before you fell asleep? I think I just discovered that yes, it's quite possible.
I somehow manage to talk my body into sitting upright and throwing off the covers. Oh, what new and exciting adventures await me today? Perhaps another ride on the old emotional rollercoaster, hmm? Yes, because we haven't had enough of that in the last forty-eight hours. I wipe a hand over my face. Damn, when did I become such a cynic?
I stand up and stretch my arms over my head, feeling my shoulders and back pop at the strain. It eases some of the tension but not all. My mouth tastes foul and if it's strong enough for me to notice, then my breath could probably peel wallpaper. I grab my cigarettes and lighter off the nightstand and head to the bathroom to do something about it.
I light a cigarette as soon as I close the bathroom door behind me and inhale deeply. There's nothing like the first cigarette of the day. The next best thing is the cigarette after a meal. And even better still, is the cigarette after sex. Trowa would sometimes let me smoke in bed. Granted, it was only if we were in my room, but it was still nice to lay there in post-coital bliss and indulge in one of my vices. I stare at my reflection in the mirror and curve my lips into a wry, little smile. The cigarette dangles precariously out of the corner of my mouth. It's strange. With everything that's happened recently, moments like those seem like they happened in another lifetime. I get the same feeling when I think about the wars sometimes. It's almost like those experiences happened to someone else, not me, but I still have all the memories. Like a vivid dream that stays with you long after you wake up.
I reach up and clasp the cigarette between my index and middle fingers and remove it from my lips. Eyeing the dark stubble on my cheeks, I lean in closer to the mirror. I think the last time I shaved was two days ago, and the hair has grown enough to become noticeable. I could be lazy and let it grow, but my facial hair comes in rather patchy and I look absolutely ridiculous. I bring the cigarette up to my mouth to take another drag. My eyes follow the movement of my right arm in the mirror and I gasp as I take stock of what my arm looks like.
"Holy shit!" I say out loud to no one. Around my bicep is a perfect band of bruised skin. There are four distinct lines from where each of Heero's fingers dug into my flesh. There are identical marks on my left arm. Well, at least I have a matched pair. I know I should be angry with Heero for lashing out at me with physical violence, but I can't, because I know exactly how he feels. Don't get me wrong, I'm pissed that he hurt me, but it's a different kind of anger. Heero has been letting all the frustration and guilt over what happened to Trowa build up inside him and he needed to release some of that tension. Unfortunately, I had to go and provoke him into releasing it on me. I guess in the long run, a couple of bruises are worth it if it helps Heero deal with all this.
I take the last drag from my cigarette and toss the butt into the toilet. The faint, bone-deep pain throbs in my arms as I vigorously brush my teeth. I don't know why I'm always amazed at Heero's strength. I mean, I watched him set his own broken leg, for crying out loud. It's rather amusing that for all Heero's superior physical and mental capabilities, he's practically an infant when it comes to simple human emotion and social interaction. Doctor J was not as thorough in his training as he could have been. But then again, Heero was a weapon, a tool, as we all were. What need would he have for such things? We were all expendable in the end, weren't we? It's a sobering thought, but back then I didn't care if I lived to see the next day. I had nothing to live for, so it didn't matter. It's crazy what a couple of years can do to alter your perspective on things.
I open the medicine cabinet and grab one of my "girly" hairclips, as Trowa likes to call them, to pin my braid up so it won't get wet. He teased me when he first saw me with them. I tried to explain to him that it was hard to find clips that were big enough to hold all my hair that weren't in some god-awful colors. So what if they're purple? I happen to like that color. I turn on the taps in the shower and don't bother to wait for the water to warm up before I step in. I'm counting on the shock of the cold water to jumpstart my body, and it doesn't disappoint. I have to bite down on my tongue to keep from shrieking. I wash myself once the water has reached a tolerable temperature and cast aside my laziness and shave. I keep a small mirror in the shower for such occasions. Trowa and Heero both balked at the idea of shaving while in the shower, but I know for a fact that they have both used my little shaving mirror. Trowa used it in my presence once on one of the rare times we took a shower together. Seems they are both immune to a few of my Maxwellisms, as I like to call them, and besides, it saves a lot of time.
Fifteen minutes later, I'm dressed in the last pair of clean underwear I have, the same jeans I had on yesterday, and a light blue T-shirt I'm pretty sure was clean. I suppose laundry will be my chore for the day. I wearily gaze around the disaster that is known as my room. Okay, laundry and then I'll straighten up in here. My stomach grumbles loudly, so I take the hint and walk downstairs, barefoot. I notice that the door to Trowa's room is still closed as I walk by. I wonder if he has had anything to eat yet. I enter the kitchen and find that it is empty. The coffee maker is still on and there is a fresh pot waiting for me, most likely left there by Heero. I pour myself a mug and load it with milk and sugar. As I sip it carefully, I hear a strange metal clang from somewhere outside. I open the backdoor and spot Heero sitting on the grass just past the steps of the back deck. He's surrounded by all different types of engine parts, from the looks of things. I open the door and step outside to investigate. As I near my fellow housemate, I realize what it is that he's working on. It's the lawnmower.
"Hey," Heero says dryly as I approach. He barely meets my eyes before he turns back to his project. His hands are grimy with grease and dirt and there is a large smudge on his forehead from where he probably wiped his hair out of his eyes. His bottom lip is still slightly swollen and I notice that he keeps running his tongue over it every so often.
"Problem with the lawnmower?" I ask as I take another sip of my coffee.
"Fuel line was clogged," he answers without looking up.
"And that necessitated taking the whole thing apart?" Heero looks up at me as though there was a challenge in that question and his eyes narrow at me from under his long bangs. "I was just curious if anything else was wrong," I say quickly, diffusing the situation with an easy smile. Heero turns back to his work without comment. "Do you know if Trowa ate anything yet?" I ask after a few minutes.
"Earlier... I brought him juice and toast with the orange marmalade he likes so much. I made sure he took his antibiotic as well," Heero answers as he attaches the flywheel to the crankshaft.
"Trowa likes marmalade?" I say into my mug. Heero stops and looks up at me, eyes slightly widened in surprise.
"He loves it. He puts it on everything. You didn't know that?" he asks me as if that was the most important piece of information to know about Trowa.
"Guess I never noticed," I say with a shrug. Heero stares at me for a few seconds, seemingly surprised by my lack of knowledge and then lowers his eyes. I follow his downward glance and notice that it stops briefly on the darkened skin just visible under the short sleeves of my shirt.
"I did that," Heero says softly, jerking his head in my direction. It's not so much a question, more like a statement, or perhaps an admission of guilt. I look to my arm and nod slowly back to him. I can tell that he is trying to gauge my reaction to this in order to see how he should proceed. When I do not say anything, he looks back down to the parts in his lap. "I didn't mean to let my anger get out of control like that. It won't happen again."
"Okay," I answer carefully. I know it's the closest to an apology I will get from Heero, so I take what I can get. I stand there for a few more minutes, silently watching Heero reassemble the carburetor. "Do you want any help?"
"No, I'm almost finished." He doesn't look up at me but I can see that my presence must be upsetting to him in some manner. There is tension in the muscles of his arm and he is tightening the bolts with a little more vehemence than necessary. It doesn't escape my notice that he keeps glancing up at me through his bangs. I guess he's waiting for me to do or say something.
"Well, I'm going to get myself something to eat. Do you want anything?" I say. The only response I get from Heero is a head nod in the negative. I turn to head back into the house, leaving Heero with his project. I know why he decided to dismantle the mower this morning and why I should let him do it in peace. The mower is a tangible thing; he can hold it in his hands. Something was wrong with it and he dissected it, ascertained the problem, and fixed it. If only it was that easy to fix a broken friend. Then perhaps we could all move past this and be done with it.
I'm in the middle of slathering mayonnaise on my turkey sandwich when I hear a soft shuffle behind me. I turn from the kitchen counter to see Trowa standing just inside the doorway. He looks like...well; he looks like what you would expect someone who'd been raped and brutalized and who probably hadn't slept at all last night to look like. The word haggard doesn't quite cover it. Trowa's hair looks dull and hangs over his eyes like a dead animal pelt. His eyes are puffy and bloodshot but his shiner is looking better. It's starting to fade from a blue-purple to a yellowish-green. As he moves around the table, I note his shoulders are slightly hunched over.
"Hey, Tro," I say. He raises his head and gives me a small nod. I don't know if I should inquire if he's feeling okay. He woke up screaming three times last night, and when you have broken ribs, the simple act of breathing takes on a whole new aspect. Ah, screw it. I'll bite the bullet and deal with the consequences. "You feeling okay? Your ribs aren't bothering you are they?" Trowa stops when he reaches the counter and stands next to me.
"They're aching pretty bad today," Trowa says breathlessly.
"Maybe you should sit down and rest for a second then," I say. He shakes his head.
"No, I'm alright. I need to start getting back on my feet. I can't stay in bed forever," He says softly. I reach around Trowa to put the knife in the sink and we lock eyes briefly.
"Tro, I know you don't want to hear it, but you need to give your body a rest and let it recover. You were...hurt pretty bad." Trowa clicks his tongue in disagreement and tosses his hair out of his eyes.
"Tro," I practically whine, "You'll do more damage if you push yourself too soon."
"Duo," Trowa begins calmly. "I think I know my own body and what it's capable of." I open my mouth to interrupt but he cuts me off before I can. "I appreciate your concern, but I can handle this," he adds softly. I exhale loudly in my own passive-aggressive, letting him know that I am not happy about his decision. I stare down at my freshly-made sandwich and I try and curb some of the anger that always boils up whenever I hear Trowa say things like that.
"Just because you can get through this by yourself doesn't mean that you have to," I say without looking at him. I can see his body stiffen out of the corner of my eye. I pick up my plate and the glass of soda I poured for myself and turn to walk to the backdoor. "I'm going outside to eat this and watch Heero attempt yard work. Are you coming?" I say over my shoulder. Trowa doesn't answer but he pushes away from the counter and follows me.
I take a seat on the cushioned porch swing that the previous owners thoughtfully left behind. Trowa hesitates for a moment but then carefully lowers himself onto the seat next to me. His jaw is clenched against the pain that this simple motion causes. Once he is settled he glances at me from under the fall of his hair. I suppose he is waiting for me to continue to lecture him on why he shouldn't do anything too strenuous or why he should seek out counseling, but I just eat my turkey sandwich in calm silence.
Heero stops his work and looks at us. There is a peculiar little furrow to his brows. I lift my glass and salute him. A minute smile forms on his lips and he shakes his head and turns back to his work.
"What is he doing to the mower?" Trowa asks.
"Apparently there was a clog in the fuel line," I answer wryly.
"And he needed to take the whole engine apart to fix it?" Trowa asks in disbelief.
I shrug my shoulders. I'm sure Trowa can recognize Heero's need for escape at the moment. "That's what he says," I reply as I finish the last bite of my sandwich. I wipe my hands on my jeans and deposit the empty plate on the porch by my feet. I sit back into the cushions of the swing and begin to rock slowly. I let my eyes drift shut and relax to the soothing sounds of the gentle breeze rustling the branches of our large oak tree. Man, I could just stay here all day and do nothing. Of course, I would have nothing to wear tomorrow if I don't do laundry.
I'm startled from my reverie by a light, hesitant touch on my shoulder. I open my eyes and see that Trowa has moved closer to me and has picked up my braid. His long fingers stroke the plaits lovingly and he brings the tousled end up to his nose and inhales deeply. He shifts closer and rests his head on my shoulder, my braid still clenched in his hand. For a brief moment I'm frozen. Trowa and I would snuggle like this in bed sometimes, or on the couch when we would watch a vid if we were alone in the house. We have never done anything so openly, and especially not in front of Heero. Trowa reaches out and plucks the glass from my hand, takes a swig, and then hands it back to me as if it was perfectly natural to do so. Thirst quenched, he makes himself comfortable and closes his eyes. I am amazed at how quickly his breathing evens out, indicating that he is asleep. He must be completely exhausted.
I look over to Heero and see that he is staring at us unabashedly. When his gaze meets mine, I see the shock he feels at seeing Trowa being so brazenly affectionate. But for the briefest of moments I see jealousy flash in his eyes, and I am stunned. Heero quickly schools his features and bends over the metal carcass of the mower. I can see that his shoulders are tense once again. Christ, what the hell is that all about? And if I'm reading him correctly, who is he directing the jealously at? Trowa or me? No, I refuse to give this another thought. I'm not going to play this stupid game anymore and try and figure out what's on Heero's mind. If there is a problem then he can come to me about it.
I lean back into the cushion once again and let the motion of the swing lull me into a light doze. I'm startled awake an indeterminate amount of time later by the sound of the lawnmower coming to life. I open my eyes to see Heero pushing the mower around the lawn, scowling unhappily as he does so. Trowa pushes himself off my shoulder and rubs at his eyes.
"Hey, you feeling better?" I say to Trowa.
"A little," he answers around a yawn.
"Good. I'm going to go inside and do some laundry. Do you need anything washed?" I say as I stand and stretch.
"Yes, my sheets. I'll get them," Trowa says as he moves to stand up. I place a hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay, I'll get them. You stay here and relax."
"Duo," Trowa says wearily and his shoulders slump, "I'm perfectly capable of walking up the stairs, stripping my bed, and bringing the sheets down to the basement."
"Alright, alright...I'll go get my stuff and meet you down in the basement," I say, hoping that will placate him. I turn and walk into the house and purposely do not wait for Trowa. He wants to prove to me that he can handle this little chore on his own, so I'll let him. I jog up the stairs and enter my pigsty of a room. I gather up all the items of clothing scattered across my floor and then quickly rip the sheets off my bed. I cram everything into my hamper until its overflowing and make my way down to the basement laundry room. On my way by Trowa's room I glance in to see him moving stiffly around the bed, pulling the sheets up. I watch as he grits his teeth every time he bends over. Shaking my head, I keep moving towards my destination.
I am just about finished loading the washing machine when Trowa limps into the narrow laundry room. He is slightly out of breath, but I choose to not comment on it. He is holding his bundle of sheets close to his chest as though it was a baby.
"Give me those; I already put mine in," I say as I reach out for him to hand the bed linens over. Trowa clutches the sheets tighter. "Trowa? If you want me to wash those, you need to give them to me." He reluctantly hands them over. I turn to put them into the washer and start to question the odd behavior when I notice the blood on the sheets. It wasn't an obscene amount of blood but there were a couple of good-sized stains.
"Trowa? What this?" I ask, holding the bed sheet up as evidence. Trowa lowers his chin and his hair falls over his eyes.
"It's nothing...I may have popped a few stitches," he practically mumbles.
"Popped a few stitches? Let me see." I throw the sheet down and step towards Trowa. He immediately backs out of the room and into the larger basement area.
"No, its fine," he says sternly and bats my hands away.
"Trowa, let me check," I say, no longer caring if I sound angry. Trowa evades my hands until I manage to corner him against the wall. I take hold of the shirt he is wearing and begin to pull it off his shoulder.
"Don't touch me!" Trowa screams as he tries to push me away. I quickly back off and watch as he slides down to his knees, trembling. He wraps his arms around his middle and hugs himself.
"Oh, Trowa," I gasp as I sink down to crouch beside him. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to grab you like that." My hands hover over his back, wanting to touch him, wanting to hold him, but afraid to do so.
"Stop it...just stop it, Duo!" he yells at me. "I'm sick to death of everyone coddling me. I don't want your fucking pity. I just want you to...to..."
"Want me to- what, Trowa?" I ask quietly. He looks up at me then. The tears are brimming in his vibrant green eyes.
"Make it stop," he pants. I'm speechless. It's not a major revelation but Trowa just took a baby step in the right direction. I open my arms to him and he accepts the embrace.
"I wish I could. I wish I could take away all the pain and hurt you feel, but I can't. What I can do is be here with you every step of the way," I whisper to him as I gently press his head to my chest. I have to choke back my own tears as I feel his arms encircle my waist. "Together, Trowa; we'll do this together."