I wake up not having any clue where I am until the window slides into focus and I recognize the blue campus security light shining into it from the ground. I chose the room for that light. It wasn't that security could really do anything for me. Hell, I could probably drop most of the guards around. It was just what the blue represented – safety. I put my hand to my heart and stare at the light, hoping that its somewhat mesmerizing presence will wipe out what remains of the nightmare that has awoken me.
"Duo?" Quatre's voice drifts in from his room, across the common area that adjoins our two rooms. It is accompanied by a slight, female-sounding moan on the part of the person in his bed. I can hear the sheets rustle from where I am and feet padding over the carpeting.
After the debacle with Mariemeia I was broke and considering my options when Quatre sent all five of us a transmission saying that if we were up for college, he would be more than willing to foot the bill. To hear Quatre speak of it, you would have thought he was pitching a trip to the South Caribbean to hunt buried treasure. Wufei was already safely ensconced in Preventer business, the Ringmaster had offered Trowa a job actually working with the lions instead of just feeding them and Heero was too shaken up over Relena's kidnapping in the first place to allow anyone else to oversee her security. I, on the other hand, was up for four years of people my age (at least biologically) and the chance to learn about something other than mechanics. So I took him up on his offer and we started college a year and a half ago, a few weeks past the date I had at some point designated my birthday. I had just turned seventeen.
It turned out to be the best decision of my life. Quatre's money and family name got us the best in dorm rooms, which translated into the best living space I have ever occupied. There's a lot to do, good coffee available at all hours of the day and night and I found myself to be extremely good at languages and chemistry. I made friends easily and got to indulge my social side in ways that I never had hopping from mission to mission, talking to my Gundam more than any living being.
College has been good for Quatre, too, if in a completely different way. We tell each other everything, it doesn't make much sense for me to hide anything with him having empathic tendencies and though Quatre might seem open, he is actually very rarely trusting. If he didn't tell me, he'd go insane from keeping it inside. So I was surprised that it took him until the beginning of this year to tell me what I'd known all along – he missed Trowa. I got the feeling that the endless partners he'd brought home, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes a month, sometimes no more than a day, were just holdovers. As it turns out, Quatre is horrible at being by himself -- evidently empaths experience loneliness on a deeper level than most of us. I don't think he consciously brings home the ones he knows won't work out, but they never stay around for long and he doesn't seem too upset when they leave. Each person seems to build him up, though, rather than diminishing. Quatre uses campus life to get involved in everything, he is the poster-boy for every leadership conference ever held. His ability to draw people together is flourishing now that he is allowed to use it for something outside of war.
I nearly run into Quatre in the common room as it is dark and he is not fully awake. I reach out to steady him and smile. "Go back to sleep, Q, I'm fine."
He shakes his head discouragingly. I have gotten better about not 'donning the mask,' as he so delicately puts it, when I am around him. I am still, however, far from an open book.
"Your nightmares have picked up lately. Three just this week, and it's only Wednesday." His voice stays hushed, not wanting to wake the girl in his room.
"I know, Q, I'm sorry."
"This is worried Quatre, Duo, not mad Quatre." He pulls me down onto the sofa and we settle without thought into cuddling. We discovered no later than a month into our college foray that we found each other immensely physically comforting. It was around the same time that we found out we did not work as a couple. Still, on the nights when Quatre didn't have someone sharing his space, I was never surprised by his presence in my bed. "Maybe you should go see someone."
Quatre does not know what the nightmares are actually about. He feels my fear and hurt, but gets none of the narrative behind those emotions. I think he assumes that they are all one, recurring nightmare. In actuality, I almost never have the same nightmare twice. Sleep preys on every part of my life, all my fears and the causes I have for self-hatred. By the time the war had begun, there was already enough material for a lifetime of restless nights. By the time it was over, I was seriously considering a career dealing speed.
"I'll think about it." He also does not know that I have tried the therapy route. I gave a test run of a month with two sessions a week to four different head doctors, each with different qualifications, over the entirety of last year. I don't like waking him up all the time. The circles under his eyes are partly owed to the fact that he is concertmaster for the school orchestra and co-chair of the Students in Support of Sank Ideology, (a.k.a., Absolute Pacifism) as well as interning for one of the economics professors and holding position as a member in good standing for six other organizations. They can also be contributed to his extra-extra curricular activities. Wink, wink. Mostly though, they're due to his getting up three to four times a week in the middle of the night to sit up with me, while I convince myself that sleep is not, in fact, the enemy.
"Like you thought about it last year?" There is an edge to his voice, he hates being underestimated. "Why didn't you tell me that you were seeing people?"
I shrug as much as I can in his arms. "Didn't want you to be disappointed if it didn't work out."
"Why didn't it?"
I am silent for a long time and I know he thinks that I am ignoring his question. He jumps slightly when I speak again. "Because it's not that I can't talk about it. You know that, I've told you all the things there are to tell, even when it had you and me both sobbing and screaming. I just...it's..."
He waits for me to start again without asking questions. I hate disappointing him, so I find a way to verbalize. "This past year and half have been the greatest of my life, no holds barred. I love it here, I love being with you. I feel oddly…um, unfinished? Like I forgot a part of myself somewheres back and I have to go back and pick it up in order to move forward. I guess the nightmares are just trying to get me to stop and actively look, ya know?"
His next comment is not what I expected. "Have you talked to Heero lately?"
"Uh..." I have to think. "Well, I mean, we only talk about three times a year really, and it's only been a coupla months, so I guess so. Why?"
"I did my monthlies on Sunday." Quatre gives a call out to each of the pilots every month without fail to check up. "There's been a drastic pick up in his nightmares of late."
"Heero told you that?" I would try to keep the jealousy out of my voice, but he would know anyway. The last time Heero told me something was wrong, it was when he got shot in the thigh protecting Relena. Even then, it was mentioned in passing.
"I guilt tripped him. Made him think it was affecting me."
I can hear the slightly chagrined blush he has in his tone of voice and I grin. Quatre is not without his devious side. Poor Heero probably has no idea that unless he dies or goes into some kind of coma, he has to at least be in the same country as Quatre for the blond to sense anything, maybe nearer.
"Yeah, well, to say it's unlikely that he'll mention that to me, ever, let alone in the near future is an understatement. Assuming that planets collided, or something, and he did, I can't just fucking pack up and go to him. Midterms are in a week, the speaker I've been looking forward to since I found out about him is coming this weekend, the steering committee for Spring Ball would then be three people short and the basketball team would be sans a forward. I can't just run to him every time he thinks he can use me." I wish my tone sounded more angry and less weary. Less wistful.
"You're a grade A idiot, sweetie."
"If Trowa called and asked me to come, there wouldn't be a midterm on the planet that could even make me hesitate." Quatre sighs. "You have plans for spring break already?"
"Don't even suggest I go visit him. It'll be the same as last time, I'll end up on made-for-tourist bus rides while he struggles his hardest to find three minutes in the week so that we can talk. Or, rather, I can talk. He just sits there and looks unimpressed."
"I'll go with you. That way, even if he doesn't spend much time with us, you won't be riding the bus by yourself."
I close my eyes. He is going to win the argument. I've only ever won one argument with him and it was over what kind of Ben & Jerry's (tm) to purchase. It's hard to fight with someone when you know they're right. Besides which, as much as I hate myself for it, I miss Heero. If three minutes is all I'm going to get, I'll suck it up and smile at him the whole time. I open my eyes. The fear of my nightmare has slid away and I am falling asleep in his arms. A shape that was not previously in my line of vision is outlined in Quatre's doorway and I realize that the girl has awoken to the surprise of an empty bed. I nudge Quatre and I can feel him smiling into my neck. "Whatever, Q, it's your money. You're making the arrangements, though."
The words are abrupt as I disentangle myself from his arms. I am inside my room when I feel the need to apologize. He's just trying to help, after all. I turn around and stick my head out the door. He is standing and has pulled the girl into him; they are kissing. He breaks off, sensing me.
"Go to bed, Maxwell." He sticks his tongue out at me.
I twist my tongue into a knot and stick it out at him. This annoys him because, despite my best efforts at instruction, he cannot master the art of tongue-contortion. I respond with a slight lisp, "Yeth thir."
To my surprise, Heero deigns to meet us at the landing pad. Quatre launches himself at our former co-pilot. Heero stumbles backwards, catching himself from falling at the force of Quatre's attack. After a few minutes, an opening is made for me. I give Heero my most patented grin and hold out my hand. Heero takes it, and then, in a move that nearly has me on my ass in shock, pulls me into a hug. Heero was never weak, but the end of the war has meant a time of unprecedented growth spurts for each of us -- with the exception of Trowa. Even at my newly and proudly acquired height of five foot seven inches, Heero is a good three inches taller. We are both still slim, but with the availability of food and no need to scrunch into shoe box-size cockpits, our physiques have contoured and shaped into the musculature of athletic eighteen year olds. Our bodies, at least when clothed, no longer tell any of our story. The result of this growth at this precise moment is that I am enfolded in a hug, that, if I trusted Heero less, I would assume was an underhanded way of murder. I do trust Heero, though, and find myself disgustingly happy about the fact that I am well on my way to asphyxiation. Now there's a kink I never suspected myself of having...
We get back to the palace and I am more affected than I want to admit by Heero placing both of us in the rooms on either side of his. I am busy quickly transferring my stuff from bag to closet when I feel him a few feet behind me.
"How's Relena?" He is not shocked by my voice, but then, it is hard to catch Heero off guard.
I almost trip over my bag. Going past the fact that Heero has just offered me seemingly irrelevant information to the question asked, he opened a conversation that I was quite sure we were going to spend the whole of this week dancing around. From his tone, the fact that he is not urbanely sarcastic, he is not referring to her crush on him.
"Oh?" I am relatively sure that I am speaking in my normal octave.
Heero doesn't respond, instead moving to the bed, where he sits down and watches me move a little too quickly around the room. I finish unpacking with record speed, brush my hands against the side-seams of my jeans and decide that I'm too old to play the silence game. "Why couldn't you have just told me about whatever you were going through, Hee? Q does not exist to play mediator between us."
A shrug is his only response and I am tempted to smack him. "I came all the way out here to see you and help you figure your shit out. You can do better than that."
"If you didn't want to come-"
"Heero." While I claim to be the supreme artist of deceptive cheeriness, I never bothered with deceptive calm.
"You listen to Quatre." He sounds like something inside of him has been broken without any assistance from me and I am immediately repentant.
"I'd listen to you too, Hee, if you'd just speak up every once in awhile." I move to sit down next to him. I am less surprised than I should be when he doesn't move away so that our legs won't touch.
"Thank you for coming."
For once, I am the silent one.
He is in my room before I have fallen asleep. I don't know if I expected it or not, but I pull back the covers on the other side of the bed and wait for him to climb in. I enjoy watching him as much or more than I ever have. He settles himself so that he is facing me and goes for a direct hit to my most vulnerable spot.
"Quatre says you're having them too."
"Them?" I will have to talk to Quatre about roommate confidentiality. In the meantime, no way am I making this easy for him.
He hesitates, but he asks. "Tell me about them?"
"Fuck you. Why don't you tell me about yours?"
"They vary. Sometimes it's the training – beatings I took in order to obliterate pain from my consciousness, being locked in tiny dark spaces, or held under water for indeterminate amounts of time, being given pets and ultimately forced to kill them. Most of the time they're about the war: the aftermath of land battles with heaps of dead just scattered about, Quatre's eyes when after he blew up the colony, the feeling of constantly wanting to self-destruct, the feeling of attempting to self-destruct, Zech's madness...You in that telecast. You when I went to get you out."
I take all this in. Of all the times for Heero to call one of my bluffs, this is the least convenient. If it wasn't for those last few reasons, I would take him in my arms, hold him until he fell asleep and figure I owed him no debts. After all, I hadn't said I would respond with a verbalization of my own horrors. In light of his admissions, though, I find myself talking.
"Some of mine are about the war. You guys, mostly, and the dead. They're angry and sad and a million other things that I can't change for them. I see the church burning and I swear I can hear the screams of everyone, even though I made it back long after they were all dead. Then there's Solo, who's too weak to cough or dry-heave or even moan at the amount of pain he's in. There's the male nurse who caught me stealing meds and extracted payment from me over the sterilized counter top; the lady that OZ set on me while I was waiting for you to come and kill me. She could have taught the devil lessons in dealing out pain. The way Q sounds on those rare nights when everything gets to be too much and he wakes up unable to breathe. He sprained his wrist one time when that happened. Fell out of bed trying to get my attention. Scared the living crap out of the freshman he had brought home. Sometimes they're just sensations – hunger, fear, pain...rejection."
I look directly at him on my last word and barely hold in a smirk. We are now tit for tat. He doesn't speak, but then, I don't expect him to. He's said more to me in a day than I think he has said in his whole lifetime. He places himself in the middle of the bed, reaches out and, with barely any effort, pulls me into him. I close my eyes. I can do without words.
I wake up looking into blue eyes that are not his. I scream and scramble back to fall off the bed. From the floor, I peer up. "Hi Relena."
"Duo." She has the grace not to smile, for which I am sickeningly grateful. "How's our erstwhile intellectual?"
"Oh, you must be in the wrong room. He's down the hall. Blond hair, yea high." I motion with my hand way over my head, as I have not yet picked myself up from off of the floor.
This she smiles at. "It's nice to see you."
I stand up. "Is it?"
"Yes. I just had to get past my fag hag stage is all."
She says it so nonchalantly that I almost find myself on the floor again. "That's very, ah, mature of you."
She laughs and I can't help but join. "Where am I going to find a new bodyguard, Duo?" The words are casual, but I am good at reading people, and she is easier than most I know. I do not enjoy her fear. I deal by denying it, flowing rather unevenly into a new, offensively intrusive conversation.
"Heero says there's someone new for you."
"He didn't say who."
"I didn't ask."
"The name Treize Khushenrada sound familiar?"
I sit down, this conversation is becoming perilous to my health. "Um, okay, not to sound stupid, but is necrophilia a new thing for you, or is this a 'it's been there my whole life and I'm just now admitting it' kind of thing?"
"That would be funny if I wasn't so tempted to vomit. He survived. Evidently some of the colonists on L1 found him dead in space and patched him up. The broadcasts of Mariemeia's little escapade brought him out of his decision to hole up for the rest of his existence. He's really great with her."
I am glad to hear that her tone has muted from the blind obsession that always filled it when she spoke of Heero to contented tenderness. I hold no grudges. If Treize wants to raise a daughter nobody ever knew was his and aid a woman with dreams of peace, more power to him. "Bet Heero was thrilled when he showed back up."
"Don't play dumb, Duo. We've come upon the softer, gentler Heero Yuy of late."
"That's like the bouncy version of Gundanium." I let her know with my eyes that I am well aware of what she is talking about. Her smile makes her seem small. "Even if you're right, even if he will go with me, we won't just leave you. He may not want you in his bed, but you were the first person ever in his heart. You will always be important to both of us for that reason alone."
She gets up to walk out. She has brushed past me when I feel her turn and grab me from the side. I fall into her and we grip each other in an attempt to find balance for several moments on end. Her voice is as unsteady as her balance, "You can be very kind at times."
"Only when the recipient of that kindness is worth the effort."
I find Quatre in the kitchen. "Heero has turned into a mad-talking machine."
Quatre grabs a bowl from one of a multitude of cabinets and I briefly wonder how he knows where to find things. He sets the bowl in front of me and pours some of the cereal he has chosen into my bowl without asking. I am unbothered. He hands me a spare spoon and looks pointedly at my bowl. "He's missed you."
"You're not the only one Heero talks to, you know."
I threaten him with a vague waving of the spoon in his general direction. "Unless you're gonna spill, don't say another word."
"He said last night was the first time he has slept without nightmares in over two months."
I affect a bad Jamaican accent. "It's da Duo voodoo, man."
"You're impossible. You want something, but then when it's offered on a silver platter, you refuse to take it."
"Q, you're my best friend, but you grew up in a place where silver platters were unlikely to rear to life and bite you in the ass. The silver platters where I come from, they won't stop with your ass, they'll eat all the way up to your head."
"You're afraid because it's too easy?"
"Yes. No. I don't think fear is the issue here, sensibility is more like it."
"Whatever you say."
"Fear will eat you too, if you let it know it has power over you."
"Love is that way as well. Sometimes, the things we view as scary or bad just need to be looked at in a different light. You may have to find a new tag phrase, but at eighteen years old, running and hiding are both counterproductive."
I scrape the last remnants of cereal from the bowl. "What happens if you're wrong? If searching for the new light, if staying where I am, just leaves me empty, torn up?"
"If you have to ask, then you don't value my friendship as highly as I had hoped."
"You cannot be picking up the pieces of Maxwell for the rest of our lives, Q."
"You plan on soaking yourself in nitrogen oxide?" Heero has slipped into the kitchen at some point without either of us noticing. I glare at him. Not that I could detect his approaches when I was at my best -- he was always better -- but he knows there's not a chance in hell that I could now.
I pretend that there is no possibility he has heard more than I wanted him to. "Yes, know where I can get some?"
He steals my bowl and frowns at me as though it is my fault that I have eaten what was poured for me. "We're fresh out. I like you whole."
I tilt my head and try to decide if that comment is meant to pass as sexual innuendo. In the context, however, this is beyond my comprehension, and I put it down to Heero not being one for words. "Yeah, it makes everything easier, doesn't it?"
I can't help it, mine comes out as a come on. He looks at Quatre in a non-expressive plea for help. Quatre's face contorts as he nobly attempts not to giggle. Heero's expression never changes as he hesitantly asks, "Um, Quatre?"
Quatre allows the laughter out and waits for it to pass before responding. "I'm sorry, it’s just, Duo's pretty much all talk, I'm pretty much all action. You’re looking at the wrong boy for help on that one."
Heero digests this new information. "I thought you loved Trowa."
I wish Quatre was still laughing. His smile is thin and well-worn. "Yes, well, everything unrequited is such a good time, yeah?"
I want to be mad at Heero for bringing this up. I want to feel the desire to rail at him for that completely inadequate sound of response. Instead I find courage I didn't know anyone had, let alone me, and look up at him. "Yeah, oh."
Something passes over his eyes and his hand twitches at his side as though to move without his permission. I take a deep breath and grab the hand.
He looks down at our enjoined hands. "Oh."
"Why are you here?" Heero is loitering in the door to my room. It is dark, but I have been in here for hours and he, well, the four of us always assumed that the scientists grafted cat genes or something onto his ocular senses. He does not turn on the light.
"Campus is boring during spring break. Q goes stir crazy." Assuming he doesn't just find someone to take the edge off for a week. "Did you tuck Relena in?"
"I delivered her safely to Treize."
Heero smiles. It is the first time I can really see his eyes in the night. He is looking at me as he smiles and I know that he has come here to be persistent. I stay silent and still as he takes his time undressing. Wherever Relena was this evening required formal dress and he is done up to the nines and tens. Heero is not sensual. Maybe not even sexy. He unbuttons and peels off and pulls out of and folds and sets aside. I am turned on by the sheer absence of fear I feel in his nakedness. He stands by the door and waits.
I push back the blankets and reveal nakedness. My hand slips to the messy bun contraption that I have stuck my hair in to keep it out of my face and I pull out the knot that keeps it there. Long hair, even longer than when we fought together, and healthier from an abundance of food, cascades down my body and around my face. I look at Heero as I feel its descent. I am sexy.
He shakes his head at my display. I wonder at this, but don't let it distract me as I watch him walk over and, with very little excess motion, pull himself into me, into my mouth. It occurs to me that he has never kissed anyone. His first efforts at anything are always filled with a similar confidence. It's not bluster. It is the awareness that he gets 99.99% of the things he does correct on the first try. In this case, he's not far off.
I pull him on top of me, so that we are both lying on the bed. I want to know that he knows it's me underneath him. I am not as strong as him, but we are equally hard and sharp against each other -- nothing has ever fit against me better in my life. Rolling us over, I force my mouth away from his to lick at the hollow of his throat. His hands fist in my hair to pull me back up. It hurts. I ignore it.
He stiffens at the sensation of my mouth on his nipple and I can feel the scream inside of him. I leave my ministrations for a mere second. "For once in your fucking life, Heero-" He doesn't make me finish. His scream is breathy and scared and smooth and his hand forces my mouth back to where it was.
It takes me a long time to get to his cock. I am enjoying myself too much to hurry and I know he doesn't have any complaints. I even take my time sucking him off. I am more playful than I ever remember being, kissing and blowing and licking and swallowing. My fingers close around my cock as I feel him getting close and I bring myself to completion a few seconds before he lets go.
I have just barely taken in the last load when I am being pulled up and wrapped in arms that have the potential to accidentally crush me. He holds me so tightly that my breath comes in puffs. When he speaks, his voice is unsure in a way that it has never been before. "Why are you here?"
"For this." I say, my voice smooth. His arms loosen a little and I try again. "For you."
His leg snakes around mine and he pulls me so far in I'm afraid we'll wake up attached. "Next time we do this," I feel his voice more than hearing it, "some part of me will be touching your cock while you orgasm."
And though it is said like a command, I reply: "Sounds like a reasonable enough request." But his breathing has already settled into the regularity of sleep.
Quatre, of course, knows what we have done. I seek him out on the balcony that connects to his room. His hair is wet from the shower. I tousle my fingers through it. "Q, it's not exactly warm out here." On cue, he shivers under my touch. I pull him inside and onto the bed where I wrap myself and several blankets around him.
"I was turned on." He seems to regret having to make this confession.
"That's not really surprising, babe."
"I went and seduced one of the maids afterwards. Took my time, fed her strawberries, all that romantic shit. She was flighty and noisy and it wasn't her I was fucking."
Quatre doesn't swear often, but when he does, he takes advantage of the moment, like he knows it's gonna be awhile before the motivation comes again. He has a way of saying four letter words, or any conjugation thereof, that makes them sound infinitely dirtier. I kiss the back of his neck.
"Don't let him get away with acting like it was just sex. He's a fucking pussy sometimes. Just hold on and let the shit fly. He'll come around."
I know all this, but I appreciate the affirmation, so I burrow my face into the skin of his neck.
"Listen to me talk about Heero like I'm some kind of fucking Boy Wonder."
My hand runs up and down his back in soothing gestures. "You haven't been a boy for a long time, don't pretend things are that simple."
"I'm gonna tell him."
"Next monthly. Just, y'know... 'Hey, I need you.'"
I would doubt him, but he sounds so resigned, and it's at his most tired that Quatre finds honesty to be unavoidably convenient. Which is why I say, "Don't wait. Relena can afford the phone charge."
The tiny reverberations of choppy giggles are what convinces me that he is going to take my advice.
I am turned to the stove making lunch when Heero's arm creeps around my waist. It is so unexpected, both his presence and the touch, that my hand brushes the pot of heating water and I jerk back, holding the hiss inside. He doesn't say anything, not to apologize nor to scold me for keeping the pain inside, like Quatre would do. Instead, his hand is on my wrist, propelling me hand first to the sink where he sticks the injured part under the faucet and turns on water cold enough to sting. As when afflicted by any type of physical pain, I am -- again -- silent.
He speaks over the still heavily running water. "If I had wanted to wake up alone this morning, I would have gone back to my room."
I turn the tap off and set to finding a medicine cabinet. "I was restless."
"If you had woken me up, we could have done restless together."
Unlike yesterday morning, this time, there is no question of the underlying suggestion in the statement he has just made. I abandon my search for the cream and walk over to him. My mouth is on his before my body catches up to lean against him, pushing him uncomfortably into the counter-top. He does not complain, reacting instinctively, kissing back. The hand that doesn't hurt grabs at the t-shirt he is wearing, only to be stopped by a stronger hand being placed over it. My hand gets placed on his back, forcing me in closer to him. One of his hands is spread over my lower back, stroking and keeping me stable all at once. The other is at the back of my neck, caressing skin and lightly tugging at loose wisps of hair.
The violence of this kissing flows into something more exploratory, more playful. He smiles against my mouth and I realize something that I would probably be killed for saying out loud. Heero is a romantic.
It takes us over a half an hour to pull away from each other's mouths. Even then, our hands continue to roam over each other's bodies. His hands come up to my face and hold my chin so that my eyes are locked on his. "You're a good kisser."
I can't help the slightly sardonic smile that spills off my lips. "You have nothing to compare it to."
"I don't need to. The taste of you makes me forget everything. It's good. Great."
"I've never done that before." I feel embarrassed. Like the first time I confessed my fantasies about the oldest boy in the orphanage to Father Maxwell.
I almost choke. "Um, no. Make out and, you know, not go anywhere with it."
"If I needed a sex toy I could have had Relena, easy. She is beautiful."
"I sometimes wondered if you'd noticed."
"Yeah. She's strong too. Doesn't let life trip her up. Didn't matter, though. I knew you were what I wanted from the moment you shot me. Duo Maxwell: confident fighter, ace pilot and hell raiser. You had figured out how to be emotional and chivalrous and survive. Then there's the whole part about you being hot. That's a plus." His breathing when he finishes is faster than normal. I only know this because I used to listen to it all the time. He'd be communicating about a mission, or sleeping or have his audio on while he was fighting and even over the noises, his breathing was always there for me. He expects me to leave him vulnerable, and I consider it. Having power is not something I experience often, and he has taken a very fundamental power from me for so long. No matter what I do now, though, I have power. He wants me, that gives me a margin of control.
"I wanted you when you came and got me out of that fucking OZ hellhole. You were scary -- took what you wanted, and I'd known guys like that. Didn't want you deciding I was what you wanted, at least not at first. But then you showed up, all cavalry-like and needing to kill me and you allowed desire to rule over orders. It was the first time I ever noticed anything real inside you. You never ran, but you hid and you lied. Even your name was a fallacy, the soldier with the pacifist's tag. After that day you just weren't so believable. I watched you fall through the atmosphere and I knew you were gonna come out fine, because what was inside you, shit, I dunno, it was just…as hot. That little piece of you, you sucked at getting rid of that, and *that* was exactly what I wanted."
"Have you gotten it?"
"Heero Yuy would use me for my body. And it's not like you don't want that, you just want everything else, too. Yes."
Quatre makes pancakes for dinner, which is the first sign that things are not going well in his corner. His oldest sister learned how to make pancakes while on an exchange program. The association with her makes them a shoo-in as a comfort food. Quatre never eats them unless he is too upset to do anything else. All in all, it is an unfortunate choice, because Quatre has a sensitive stomach and never fails to feel sick in reaction to the sugar when he gets worked up.
I sigh and let him know that we are in the room by asking if he's going to want anything with the pancakes. He is surprised by my voice, which tells me that he is even deeper in his own thoughts than I had imagined. Maybe Heero isn't, but I have to be giving off some pretty contented vibes.
He points at the strawberries lying out on the cutting board. Heero is quicker than me, already having grabbed a knife to slice with. I go on a scavenger hunt for powdered sugar. I turn around at the sound of quiet sobbing, but Heero has beaten me again, his arms folded awkwardly around Quatre, hands staining the smaller man's shirt with berry juice.
I don't stand still, because even if Quatre is clutching at Heero's neck and burying his face in Heero's chest, he needs me. So I stand near him and watch his pancakes. Last time they burned and he ate them anyway. I am glad for the decision when the pancakes are ready well before he has worn himself out.
When the crying has slowed, Heero places Quatre in a chair and I serve him up a pancake with the successfully located sugar and strawberries, cut and whole. Dutifully, he picks up the fork and works his way through the plate. He speaks as he is eating the last bite, his words careful around a full mouth. The first time he did that with me, I laughed. I'd never seen Quatre go without a properly placed dessert fork, let alone break etiquette to
that extent. He can be much more human when his heart is being ripped out.
"He's with Catherine."
I sigh, because Trowa is a coward and a fool and I sympathize completely. Heero gets up and pours himself a glass of water, drinking it all in one go. He sets the glass down loudly enough for Quatre to look up at him.
"Is that what he told you?" Heero's voice is hard and disappointed.
I shake my head slightly, because I know that Heero knows what I know, but that he will never be able to articulate it. "Q, he lied to you."
"Oh, I know that." Quatre pushes the plate away from himself and gives me the "do I look like an idiot?" stare. "I may not be able to read him from this far away, but I've always been good at picking up on the little things with him."
With everyone, really. Heero looks into the empty glass. "Women are an easy excuse. Especially ones like Catherine. Relena."
I nod. "Me and 'Fei, we could bluster our way through fear, and you were always at ease with your own fears. Trowa, Heero, they just let it nest inside themselves, all silent and strong and scared as all fuck. There's nothing more scary than you. Perception and wisdom and love…tricky shit. He can't just up and be brave for you. You've gotta do that for both of you."
"So, what? I'm without a plan here, Duo." Quatre rubs his stomach in the way that indicates nausea and I move closer to him, reaching out to help. Four hands, we have found, are better than two.
"I'll call him and tell him I want him to come for Spring Ball. You buy the ticket and we both know he won't refuse, not me and not a non-refundable travel ticket. I'll call 'Fei while I'm at it, tell'em it's a reunion, for good measure. That's not for another month and a half, which gives the three of us plenty of time to come up with a plan." I put on my best mischievous look, which gets Quatre to laugh, even if it is strained.
Quatre looks across the table. "Heero?"
"Uh, are you -- Am I gonna have a second roommate?"
"I'm sure I can find housing nearby if you prefer."
Quatre and I look at each other and roll our eyes in tandem. "Babe," I say, before I can think about the fact that I am attaching an endearment to Heero Yuy, "he was just trying to peer into our relationship status, not worrying about dorm space."
"Oh." Heero doesn't blush, but I can tell it's only by sheer force of will and the backing up of conditioning. "I'm staying with Duo. Following him."
Quatre looks at Heero in a way that is approving and threatening all at once and says in a voice that matches his gaze, "Glad to hear it."
Heero has evidently developed a habit of midnight snacking. I have the same habit, though mine is less of a development than the seizing of opportunity. Food has always been something of an obsession with me. I suppose it is to most people who grow up without it being readily available. When I figured out that I could make all-night trips to the snack bar two buildings down at college, I gave way to the temptation.
We wander down to the kitchen to search for appealing leftovers at around one in the morning. Heero is the first to enter and I freeze slightly at his easy, "Treize."
I unfreeze less than a second later and continue on my way to the 'fridge, acknowledging the third man in the room with a quick toss of my head.
Behind me, I hear two glasses being set down before Treize says, in a voice that is less smooth than my memories tell me it should be, "Maxwell, would you like some?"
He has a glass vial full of amber brown liquid in his hand. The liquid is not moving and it occurs to me how still he must be standing for it to settle like that. Heero stands equally as still across the counter from Treize, waiting for my answer. Treize has not asked him. They have done this before, more than once. I file it away that I should compliment Relena on knowing how to pick 'em. This is seconds before I realize that the compliment applies to me as well. "What's the poison?"
Something flickers in Heero's eye and I wonder if he is as curious as to how I would be drunk as I am -- of all the things I've done at college, my survival instincts remain too strong to indulge in that. Treize lays a third glass at the side of the other two and pours. He has his shot down and is pouring another one for himself before Heero and I have managed to get ours to our lips.
Heero drinks and shakes his head when Treize silently offers to pour another one. "What's on your mind?"
"If Maxwell were in Relena's position, what would be on your mind?"
"I have already begun to look for a replacement."
"And where are you going to find one that will care like you do? That I can look at and know won't betray us somewhere down the line for enough money or a new and shinier ideology?"
I hear the words come out of my mouth before I have consciously decided to say them. "Because Wufei owes you a debt of honor that only the two of you understand, and Heero asked him to help."
He looks at me for the first time as if to consider where I fit into this other than just as an obstacle to Relena's safety. "What do you know of Wufei and I?"
He wants to add the word honor at the end of that question but he doesn't. He has always been the gentleman warrior. "I know what Wufei looks like post-orgasmic. And I know what he looks like after throwing up for five days straight because he believes he has killed the man who made him glow like that."
Treize bows his head a bit. "Thank you for taking care of him."
I want to tell him that I didn't do it for him, but I can be a gentleman too. In my own way.
Treize's attention is back on Heero, who is keeping his face utterly blank. I don't think he knew about the man in front of him being with one of his closest friends. Wufei, after all, is at the top of the Preventer food-chain. If you want a competent bodyguard who believes in the principles of Absolute Pacifism, he's the guy to ask. When he speaks, Heero is completely at ease with the newly digested information. "We will find someone worthy of her. I found someone for Marie, I can do it for Relena."
Treize places the brandy back in the liquor cabinet and walks to the door. He has left the room when his voice filters back, "Heero?"
"I hope he makes you as happy as she has made me."
I wonder what peace like that feels like. I wonder if Heero can show me.
Two Weeks Later
I wake up knowing where I am, but not why I have woken. I can feel the chest that has become as familiar as my own at my back and the breathing pattern that I could dance to by memory at my neck. It takes a moment to realize that if Heero is behind me, my arms have folded around someone else entirely. "Hey, Q."
He looks up sheepishly. "Sorry."
Quatre has not brought anyone back to the room since vacation. He says he just hasn't found anyone worth the effort, but his eyes get the look that I labeled "Property of Trowa" long ago. He is waiting.
I kiss his forehead. "How long has it been since you slept?" Heero and I have discovered him in the common room at least four times now when leaving on our morning run. I lecture him about not waking me up each time, knowing that he won't again the next. I am pleasantly surprised by his presence, even if I understand that my conscious state is a mistake on his part.
He shrugs. "Can I stay here?"
I answer him by climbing over him, placing him between me and a now-awake Heero.
Quatre struggles to get up. "No, I just wanted to be near-"
"Am I that vile?" Heero is trying to affect hurt, but it comes out closer to confusion.
"Don't be silly, I just don't think I should be in between you two."
"Eh, I get to sleep with Heero every night."
We are both surprised by Heero's laugh. "Yeah, I actually get really tired of his hair always going-"
"Heero." Quatre is already yawning.
"G'night." Quatre snuggles down deeper in Heero's arms and his muscles loosen visibly. I grin at the sight of my two favorite people cuddling and position myself, back to the window, to join them. It occurs to me, right before I fall asleep, that I don't need to see the blue light outside anymore.