War is never pretty. In fact, it is about the ugliest experience anyone could ever make. There are people who disagree with that, but… come on.
Yeah, rape and the like sound worse, on a smaller scale. But have you ever thought about the fact that rape is just another part of war? That small children, that get misused, are nothing out of the norm? That boys, who get beaten and forced to stand up for something they don't believe in, are considered usual?
Everyone who has experienced war for real knows what I'm talking about. You won't ever forget the screams of those you couldn't help, the tears of the mothers who cried for their children, the haunted looks in the eyes of those who lost their beloved.
Even worse is it when you know that you're responsible. That you were the one who put these screams, tears and looks there. That you were it who is the reason there are people who lost everything they had.
These are things that you won't be able to just put past you. The war ends eventually when you are lucky, but things like that are burned into your very soul.
Which is the reason as for where I am today.
After the war, the five of us split up. We were all happy it was finally over and all of us had plans as for what to do, or where to go. And if it was only to make sure someone we were concerned about was safe.
However, it didn't even take us two months until we found ourselves together once more, holed up in a small house, at least twenty miles away from any other humans. You ask why? Well, the answer is simple.
The soldier can end the war, but the war within will always stay with the soldier.
In short: We were all pretty much messed up. Every single one of us had too many hang ups to be considered normal enough to actually join civility once more. We were all haunted by the ghosts of our past, crashed hopes and buried dreams. So we thought staying together would do us some good. You know, staying close to those who can actually understand you and all that shit. Yeah, right.
The first few weeks were not all that bad. While we all tried to deal with our problems, it was pretty much like all the times we holed up together during the war. It took us a while to figure out that nothing got better because we played the denial-game. You know that game? The game where you pretend that nothing had changed? Yeah, that's the one.
We finally figured it out after Trowa casually mentioned during breakfast that we should re-locate soon – we had stayed at one location too long and were due to be discovered pretty soon. At first we didn't even think about it, just making suggestions, until we finally, one after the other, realized what we were doing.
After that, we tried a more direct approach. Neither of us was big on talking about our problems so our timed 'therapy sessions' turned out to be a big fail. We just couldn't bring ourselves to just talk on command, even less with four other people there. However, this way showed us at least that it was pretty useless to try and find professional help. If we couldn't open up to each other, to our brothers that we trusted the most, no-one else was likely to get anything out of us.
At a loss as for what we should do, we mostly kept for ourselves the next couple of weeks. It took us a while to figure out that we saw less and less of Quatre – no wonder, we were all quite busy with our own thoughts. Turns out our unofficial leader had decided to bury whatever residential pain he held within himself in work. He had some of his sisters send him paperwork and started to attend meetings via the net.
For a while I was happy for him – I really was. At that point I could only wish for something else that managed to occupy my thoughts. However, as it came to a point where we had to force him to make breaks and come out to eat we started to realize that something had to be wrong. The dark rings that we all had due to our nightmares had gotten a lot worse and his eyes had lost their light. It was as if we would look at some puppet that was just moving by its strings, there was no incentive within him anymore.
And while we all realized that something was going even more wrong than it had before, it was too late. It was as if we could see him die right in front of us. Oh, his body, the shell, was still living and working like a madman, but whatever we did, we couldn't reach his soul anymore. Not long after we realized that, he told us that he was going back to L4, back to his business. While he could do quite a bit locked away here, if he really wanted to oversee everything he needed to be where the action was.
We tried to argue with him, tried to get him to see reason and stop his suicidal behavior, but he wouldn't hear any of it.
And then, one morning, he was simply gone.
You could say watching what happened to Quatre was like a wake-up call for me. It showed me that we all needed help before we destroyed ourselves. And if no-one was there who could help us… well, then I would have to take the role.
You see, one of my biggest problems that I took with me since my childhood was that no matter how bad I was myself, I always needed to take care of those who were dear to me. First it was Solo and the gang, later Father Maxwell and Sister Helen.
Now it was my brothers in arms.
And I already had lost one.
Seeing Quatre go off like a timed-bomb on a suicidal mission without any way to shake him out it made me realize that once again, I would need to stand as the protector, even if no-one else would call me that.
It became my goal, making sure that none of the other three would end this way. Heero and Wufei had definite potential to walk this way down as well, and Trowa could easily lose himself within his own soul.
So, to make sure the rest of my brothers were taken care of, I slipped the masks back on.
It hurt. It hurt in a way that I wouldn't have thought it would. After the war I had thought I wouldn't need these masks anymore, that now that the fighting was over I would finally be able to sort myself out and be the person I wanted to be – not that I knew what kind of person that was, mind you.
I did it subtle. Even in their states of self-focused depression, the other three were unusually sharp and I knew that if I would just act up as the joker once more, they would take notice and realize that something was wrong. So, one day at a time, I started to act more carefree, more like a guy who didn't have any worry in the world at all.
Did I ever mention before that I'm a damn good actor?
At first they didn't seem to take any notice of my changed behavior at all, but after a while I could feel their wistful looks and smiles behind my back – the kind of smiles that you smile when you're happy for someone but can't really show it because of your own pain.
They were buying the act.
Once I made it clear that I was all good once more, I made it my next personal mission to make them open up to me. Not like in this god forsaken group-therapy session that we tried, but individually. I made sure to make time to talk with each of them as often as possible without being intrusive, offering a shoulder to lean on. Making myself available while not forcing them to do anything.
Trowa was the first to crack.
I was surprised at first. In my personal opinion I would have thought that Trowa would take the longest. He and I hadn't had quite as much contact during the war as I had with the other three. And while I still considered us close, his usual very reserved nature and secretive personality had made me sure that he would need quite a lot reassurances that I was trustworthy enough to open up to.
However, with Quatre gone it seemed like Trowa was even more lost as he had been before. As I learned, Quatre had been his crutch, his reason to hang on and try harder. Watching our brother slowly kill himself had done things to him that were imaginable even worse than the residue problems that he had carried with him since childhood. And, let me tell you, his childhood had sucked every bit as much as my own had. There are points where I would say he had had it worse, but there are always two sides of the medal for that.
Let's just say we were pretty balanced in that point and keep it at that.
Growing up as someone without a name, fighting for as long as he could remember and getting the basics of guerilla warfare drilled into him before he could even spell the word, he had learned to shut down his feelings at a pretty young age. The one time he had actually opened up and trusted someone left him betrayed and with a harsh lesson learned. His life contained blending more than individuality and so it was no wonder that he found himself in a position to pilot Heavyarms as the original Trowa was killed.
Having always been a soldier, his interest hadn't actually been in the peace that the mission was supposed to bring. It was just another step in his life. Only after he had met Catherine and Quate did he actually start to feel something about our mission. And it was also where his problems began.
Having himself deprived of emotions since an early age it was hard for him to get used to them once more. His body had its own protection, always trying to avoid them. Which only made him prone to moments in which they came through all the more. His amnesia after Quatre shot him wasn't even all that unreasonable if you looked at it like that. He had opened up to Quatre, saw him as a friend and someone he wanted to protect. Quatre was someone who, in his mind, couldn't possibly betray him – and he went ahead and did it anyway. And even though we all knew that our lost friend wasn't thinking clearly at the time, Trowa's mind refused to belief that once again he had trusted and was betrayed. Luckily for everyone involved, by then the way back to the circus had been integrated into him, that he went there before his protective shields came back up. The exposure to Cathy, acting like an overprotective sister, had prevented him to go back to who he once was, unlikely to open up again to anyone.
And now he had to learn to deal with all the emotions that had come with all this. While Cathy had been one of the main factors in prying his shell open to allow them once more, by now they were mostly focused on Quatre once more. With him gone, he didn't know what to do. He knew, theoretically, that Quatre hadn't betrayed him again, but without anyone else to center on he had a hard time dealing with that.
So I made myself his new centerpoint.
It wasn't something I had really set out to do, but when I think about it, it was a logical outcome. I made him open up to me – and in the process I made myself handy for him to focus on, to rely on for strength as he learned to live.
I didn't mind it, not really. Once we started talking, Trowa was a very insightful guy. And while I was careful to always keep the conversation on his problems instead of myself, I could see him understanding me, even though it would never happen. At that point, that knowledge was enough.
One saved, two more to go. I could do this.
Not as surprisingly as Trowa, Wufei broke next. Honestly, I had thought he would be the first. We had already shared quite a bit of our depressing pasts with each other as we both had been prisoners during the war, so, after he made the first step, it was easy to let him fall back into old habits.
He and I are very similar with our depression. We both share quite a great case of survivor's guilt. But while he couldn't forgive himself for being the sole survivor of his colony, I was fighting the curse that has followed me my whole life until now. And I was starting to think that I was losing the fight. True, no member of my 'new' family has died yet, but only just. Not to forget the fact that Quatre was more dead than alive at this point.
However, while Trowa was easy to 'cure' once I found out what the problem was, with Wufei I had more problems. It's not like I could just bring back his colony. The colony, together with everyone who lived on it at the time, was gone forever. The only legacy that was left was Wufei's memory. A memory that threatened to take him away too, sooner or later, if nothing happened anytime soon. For me it was clear that in his case, he needed a focal point. Nothing as destructive as Quatre was with his work, but neither could it be a person – as it was the case with Trowa. Wufei had lost too many, and hurt still too much for them, as that he could replace these people anytime soon. That he had accepted us four was a miracle in itself in my opinion. He needed a goal, something to work for. Something that let him work off his guilt and gave him a purpose once more.
But until I found a solution for this problem, I tried to be there for him, lend him a listening ear and a calm confidence that everything would get better. Somehow. I think he even believed me, if only for the fact that apparently he saw my returned optimism as a sign that I have laid my own demons to rest. Demons which, after all, were very similar to his own. I couldn't very well tell him that this was only a mask to help them. But hey, who was I to argue with it? It gave him hope, so in some way, I had found a way to help him. I just hoped that contrary to me he would find some real peace one day.
Once I realized that I had done the best I could for Wufei, I mainly concentrated on the last of our little group. While I didn't forget to be there for Trowa or Wufei, continuing to be their point of peace, my main focus was on Heero – and that was a harder task then I would have thought it to be at first.
Heero didn't want help; that much I got pretty fast. While he wouldn't say as much, I noticed that he didn't talk to me at all whenever I invited myself to share whatever space he occupied at the time. We would just sit and stare into space, sometimes for hours on end. I tried to not let it discourage me, but it was hard on me. Without him telling me what his problems were, hell, without him talking at all I had much too much time to think about my own problems. Something that I had, after all, sworn to avoid to the best of my abilities. It was only made harder by the fact that I couldn't let that little fact become obvious. Heero was one of the most observant people that I knew. And while it seemed to me that he was mostly occupied with his own thoughts, I couldn't be sure that the smallest crack on my mask wouldn't be noticed.
So my time with Heero was not only taxing in a way of fixating on another's problems, it strained my own hiding abilities to the point where I thought I was going to break. I felt like crying more than once, but I forced myself to keep smiling, keep trying to radiate optimism.
The nights, which had previously been the worst time, seeing that I was for myself with nothing to occupy my thoughts, became my outlet. I would lay in my bed for hours, just trying not to break, trying to avoid falling asleep in fear I would have nightmares, trying to stay silent. But at the same time I could let go, shed tears for my own and my friends' sake and curse the injustice of our whole situation. I have no doubts that without the nights, I would have broken a long time ago.
After the first few weeks, my time spent with Trowa also got better. Once we had gotten his problems under control, we started to just do things together. He would still occasionally tell me about a nightmare he had had, or thoughts that shook him, but mostly we did things like watching movies, playing games, walking through the nearby forest and the like. Whenever he actually came to a point where he would ask about my own well-being I would skillfully divert his attention to something else. I couldn't answer to such a question. My policy about not lying was as strong as ever and if it ever came to the point where they wouldn't let me get away without answering, I know there would be even more blame on their parts. No, better to just let them think I was doing great.
However, I was under no illusions that if I wasn't mistaken, our time with Trowa would come to an end soon. He was ready to go out again, find his slot in life. And while I would need to do the separation carefully, I was happy for him. After the life he had led up to this point he deserved some happiness.
So I gradually worked some more activities into our time spent together. While I was reluctant to leave the house for longer than a day, due to the other two, I got in contact with Catherine. And after I made it clear that I was trying to help Trowa, she even forgave me my part in the war, when I had tried to take him away again – eventually. After that it was pretty simple to arrange visits for her so Trowa could slowly focus on her again, as he had done as he had amnesia. I couldn't stay his focus point; no way in hell was I going to be able to live my whole life as the outlet for the other three. I would be there for them for as long as they needed me, I had sworn myself that, but I couldn't do this forever. I chose Catherine for Trowa because I knew she would do everything to see that he was kept safe and had someone there for him at all times. While I disagreed with her over protectiveness on his behalf during the war, it was exactly what he needed now.
As we were halfway through with the 'process' I realized this was going to be harder on me than I previously thought it would be. After the first couple of visits, during which we all three spent time together, I made sure to leave Catherine alone with Trowa more and more, which made a big cut in my 'relaxing' time. As much as it pained me to admit it, focusing on something good had actually helped me too. It had distracted me from my own problems just as much as it had helped my friend. Setting him loose now would mean I was down to no fun time at all once again. However, I wasn't going to go back on my resolution. And, after another few weeks, Catherine asked Trowa to come back with her to the circus, to which he agreed. After making sure first that I was ok.
"Are you sure you will be ok?" he had asked me, obviously concerned to leave me alone with the other two. I couldn't be sure if he had caught on to my little plot, but I made sure to divert his attention once again.
"Of course, Tro-man." I grinned. No lie, I was going to be ok. One way or the other. "Don't worry about me, I have lived through worse." True again. Seeing my friends die or killing innocents had been worse. Even though my own depression threatened to drown me, it couldn't be compared with that. "And it's not like you're going to vanish completely. Make sure to prepare the circus for the tornado that is me. You don't think I would just let you go and never check up on you, did you?" I counter-asked, playing up an air of mock-hurt, making him laugh. Though I noticed the gentle gaze he gave me. The last sentence was just as much a reassurance for him as it was fabricated to distract him. He needed to know that I wouldn't forget about him – the separating process wasn't complete yet. Though he was alright with putting distance between us, I was pretty sure that we would still talk to each other via the phone for at least the first few weeks regularly, maybe even daily. Later it hopefully would become less, but I didn't really worry about that. He had enough people at the circus who cared about him, together with all the animals that he had come to love. So whenever he would fall back into depression I had no doubt there would be someone to snap him out of it.
Family must be truly something to be treasured, even if it wasn't by blood.
Then he was gone, and I went back to my self-appointed task. With Trowa in safe hands I didn't have to split my time into three anymore, only half. I tried to see it as something positive.
The next few weeks were very… taxing. Not only didn't I have the time with Trowa as an outlet anymore, but I didn't seem to make any progress with the other two at all. Wufei wasn't too bad, at least not bad enough to do anything stupid, but I worried about Heero. He still had yet to talk to me and I was under no illusion that he would do something drastically if he didn't get better. But what was I meant to do? I couldn't force him, and I already tried to spend as much time with him as I could without being too obvious about it. My suggestions for some quiet activity would be dismissed by him most of the time and I could call it a personal win if he actually took notice of me.
Worst of all, however, was his expression. Oh, his facial expression didn't change – he was much too good with hiding his emotions – but his eyes were so… it hurt me too just look into them. There was so much pain, so much longing, so much regret. And while he never talked about his problems, I could guess quite a few just by looking him in his eyes. The fact that he seemed to stare right through me whenever I did this was just another part that made me fear for him.
Heero was easily the one I felt closest to, always has been. While I spent more time with Quatre and have actually had deeper conversations with Wufei during the war, Heero had been the first I've met, that I've helped and who had saved me in return. More than once. Also he could tell me until he turned blue that he only freed me from that cell in OZ prison because I was important to the mission, but I knew without a doubt that he had come to kill me that day, if something hadn't changed his mind. So his continued state of deep depression was like a punch into the gut for me. I wanted to help him, I needed to help him. But I was running out of ideas here.
About six weeks after Trowa had gone back to the circus I got a call from Lady Une. Actually it was a call with an offer for all of us, but seeing the state the other two were still in, I wasn't surprised that I was the one who actually answered it.
She explained the concept of the Preventers to me, making it clear that it was meant as a peace-keeping force and that they wouldn't be used to dominate someone. And she wanted us on her payroll. However, it wasn't until she mentioned that she did this in Treize's legacy, in the belief that he would have wanted for someone to stand up for those who couldn't, that I heard a bell ring.
I told her that I would have to think about it, but that I would tell the other two. Also I told her to not, under any circumstances, contact Trowa with it. I had just pulled him out from his depression, there was no way I would let him go back into a situation where there was potential for him to get betrayed. Only after she gave me her word did I promise to really think about her offer and at last she accepted that.
To tell you the truth, I didn't intend on joining, not then. I knew that there was a faint chance that I might would end up with them, but at the time I didn't really consider it for me. However, I had an idea that this might just the thing that Wufei needed. He and Treize were freakishly similar if one wanted to get down to it and this would give him a new purpose without having to kill again. True, there was always the chance that something would go wrong; that there would still be someone dead at the end of it, but that wasn't the norm. In my opinion it was well worth the risk.
I brought the whole thing up to him, trying to make it sound as irresistible as I could without him noticing. Though I noticed quite fast that I wouldn't have needed to go that far. After he had listened to me outline the concept, he was eagerly asking questions, trying to gain more information before reaching a decision. At the end I had to admit that I was running out of answers and that it might be best if he called Une directly. Luckily she had left me her contact number for cases like that. He didn't hesitate about it at all. Half an hour later, as I was walking by the living room in search for Heero, I could already hear him talk with her about salaries and stuff like that. A rueful smile stole its way to my lips at that. Seemed like my second 'patient' was taken out of my hands sooner than I would have thought. But it was for the best, I had to tell me that again and again.
Four days later we said goodbye to Wufei. He thanked me for all the time that I've been there for him and told me to call him whenever I needed to. At the he actually hugged me. I was so stunned by that that I took me a whole five seconds to return the gesture. This was certainly unexpected.
But when I looked into his eyes after he pulled back, I could understand the reason. They shone again with renewed confidence and purpose. And while there was still some residue pain lingering over the losses that he had suffered, I had been right. What he had really needed was something to fight for. And what could be better for someone like him, who always had fought for justice to be served, than to defend those who couldn't do it?
Then he was gone and it was down to Heero and me. Steeling myself I rolled up my imaginary sleeves and took a deep breath. I could do this. I had to do this. Heero Yuy wouldn't die under my watch.
That was a promise.
If I found out one thing during the following days, it was that Heero Yuy was one stubborn idiot. It seemed like he knew instinctively that now with Trowa and Wufei gone, that my whole attention would focus on him. Something that didn't seem to please him.
So he made himself scarce for quite a few days.
Damn that guy, he nearly gave me a heart attack! Simply vanishing like that, did he have any idea what that did to me? No note, no call, no traces as for where he might have gone. All that was gone beside him was his gun, but that didn't really help my mood. On the contrary, it rather made me even more fearful. And while I knew that he rarely went anywhere without it, I didn't have to like it.
I fretted for three days, running around like a hen that had just lost its head and couldn't sleep. Some part of me knew that I could call the others for help, but I didn't want to do that. Wufei and Trowa were just setting up there new lives – they really didn't need me disrupting them so early on. And Quatre… well, we didn't have any more contact with Quatre. True, we still saw him over the news, but he hadn't gotten back to us ever since he left the house. And from what I had seen on the newsfeed, I knew why. Still the same dead eyes, still the hollow, see-through smile and the fallen in cheekbones. My one-time brother was nothing more than a walking corpse. I wondered if I was the only one who could see that. For me it was so glaringly obvious that I was surprised no-one else had started to ask questions by now.
I searched for Heero, walking as far as I dared without really going anywhere at all, not wanting to leave the house alone in case he came back, went through his things to find at least a small hint, some clue as for where he could have gone. But as expected I came up with nothing.
As he finally showed up again after three days, I was feeling so close to the breaking point as never before. I wanted to cry, but I didn't dare. I wanted to scream at him, but I was so relieved that he was alive that I just couldn't. I wanted to tell him how much he had frightened him, but then he would have gotten suspicious. So, as he walked back in through the front door nearly exactly seventy-two hours after he had left, I did neither of these things. I just smiled at him and greeted him and acted as if his vanishing act was just a normal day-to-day occurrence.
After that, sleep was a thing from the past. I hadn't been able to sleep without having nightmares for years now, but with the new fear of Heero just walking away and never coming back I couldn't even do that anymore. I would fall asleep, nap for about half an hour and then be wide awake in the next instant, panic stricken listening for signs that Heero was still there. I had installed a bug under his bed, hoping that he would never find it that just transmitted sounds. Whenever I jerked awake I hastily reached for my headphones, making sure that there was still a sign of life coming from the other room.
The lack of real sleep, nightmare induced or not, made holding up the act even more difficult. Wearing a mask from day to day, trying to show that everything was alright with me, wore on me anyway. Without any rest to re-charge myself I was running on my gums after only a week. I tried to stay awake during the day, always keeping sight of my only brother left, and worked myself through the night. I didn't dare to take any medicaments due to the fact that they wouldn't let me wake up whenever there really was something that would need me wide awake, so all I could do was trying to catch as much sleep as I could and hoping that Heero wouldn't notice.
Who did I try to fool?
While it took him longer than I thought I might would, he eventually called me out on the dark rings under my eyes. He probably wouldn't have worried, if I wouldn't have made it a point to seem alright towards the guys. Going from chipper to death-tired in the span of a few days triggered questions.
"You are not sleeping properly." He told me in that no-nonsense tone of his, frowning. "Did anything happen lately?"
I couldn't lie to him. I hated lying. But neither could I tell him that I couldn't sleep because I feared he would vanish.
"Kinda, yeah." I admitted without going into details. "Don't worry though." I tried to reassure him.
"Nightmares?" he continued to ask, apparently more open to the idea of talking about my problems than his own.
"Something like that." I replied honestly. "You know that I never took well to be left behind." I continued, implying that with Wufei and Trowa gone I was getting jitters about being alone. When, in fact, I was anxious about him vanishing on me. It wasn't even all that far off from the truth. His frown turned thoughtful with that and at last he nodded, apparently having found an answer that satisfied him.
"Why don't you put your bed into my room? That way you will know that I'm still here." He suggested and I didn't know if I should cheer or cry out in fear. While I was pretty sure it would help me keep an eye on him, it also took away the only time when I could let go. However, one look into his determined eyes and I knew that it didn't matter. Heero had set his mind to something and therefore it was a forlorn hope that I would be able to escape.
So, by evening, my bed had found its way into his room. The day actually hadn't been all that bad. Heero had tolerated my presence and actually had said something from time to time, though I could nearly bet that it was more for my sake than for his own.
Getting ready for bed that day, my fears came back. What if I would still wake up repeatedly? Or even worse, what if I would speak before I could remember where I was? If Heero caught on to what I was up I was sure that he would just shut me completely out. However, under my friend's watchful eyes I couldn't really do anything. So I just slipped under the covers and hopes that everything would work out.
Luckily for me, just being able to sense Heero's presence with me in the room seemed to do the trick. I slept through the night without any disturbance and I can't tell you what a relief that was. Even better was only the fact that I was much too tired to dream, therefore earning myself one of these rare nights without any nightmares at all.
As I woke up the next morning it was easy to slip the mask back on. Now, that I had a good night's sleep I felt tons better and my optimism that I could do this grew. Though I also noticed that the more chipper I got, the more Heero distanced himself from me.
Hm, that definitely needed some thought.
It didn't take me long to figure out that as troubled as Heero was about his own state, he couldn't tolerate cheerfulness around him. That actually turned out to be a problem, seeing that this was my best act. I knew I could turn it down, but the more I did that, the more I would become see-through. And especially with Heero, who had known me longest and sometimes seemed to know exactly what I was thinking, I feared the prospect of lowering my shields. However, my goal of helping him still stood. And if he couldn't tolerate me when my mood was too bright for him, I would need to tone it down.
This time I didn't bother with doing it slowly. I didn't act as if I was getting worse again, but that I was just quietly content. Heero would notice that I was doing this for him one way or the other, and I rather would get this over with as fast as possible. After months of just taking care of my brothers, without any special care to my own needs, my nerves were spun pretty thin. And while I had sworn to see this through, by know I started to doubt if I actually had the stamina for it. My driving force at that point was pure will and stubbornness, refusing to let my own depression drown me before Heero was at least at a point where he didn't need me anymore.
Of course, Mr. Perfect noticed, if not immediately. However, other than a sharp gaze, he didn't acknowledge it to me at all, which just seemed like a sign to me that he was grateful, but didn't want to seem like a bastard who didn't want happiness for those close to him. I never had thought of it in these terms anyway, so I was actually warmed by his concern. The days following we were actually making process – not that he knew what kind of process he was supposed to make in my book. While I still wouldn't call what we had 'conversations', we spoke with each other occasionally. Trivial things at first, but I noticed that he would speak up whenever he would notice that I've had a rough night or seemed especially thoughtful.
It… frustrated me. I didn't know what to do anymore. All the signals that I got from him showed that he wanted me to open up to him, but not the other way around. I still haven't heard one word of what was troubling him, even though at least I was starting to get some hints from our general topics. And I was surprised that most of my hunches about him had been completely wrong.
I knew by now that contrary to general belief, he wasn't troubled by his training. That was the only thing that I did not figure out, but he actually told me. Though my guess would be he never intended to do so. It was a direct reaction to something I had said, something that had to do with how my training could never compare with the brutality and thoroughness of his own. He had been surprised and told me that while his training might have been pretty intense, he was glad for it. He was sure that he would never have survived for this long if not for all the years of preparation.
Looking at it from this angle, I had to admit that he had a point. While I still didn't like what was done to him during his training – and had the suspicion that he didn't care for that part all that much either – it had brought him through the war, so maybe it was for the best.
Also I knew by now that pre-training topics were absolutely forbidden. The one time I had actually dared to ask what he had done before J found him, he had gotten this… haunted look and closed up faster than I had the time to apologize. He hadn't talked to me for two days after that, barely able to banish the expression that still lingered behind his eyes. When he finally was able to speak to me again, it was cautious and I made damn sure to stay away from this part of his life.
After a while of no process at all, I dared to try a different approach. We had been alone in the house for nearly two months by then and I thought with the war nearly a year over now, enough time had passed to make the topic obvious.
So with the one year anniversary coming up, I tried to open a conversation about it as casually as possible. Concentrating on the fact that he only locked up whenever it started to get too intense, I focused on the few good things that had actually come from the war. I brought up my love for piloting, my gratefulness about having met the other four and the fact that now, that it was over, all the former enemies seemed to work together for one common goal.
Heero was even more quiet than usual while I talked, with a strange look on his face. And after I ended and asked him if he saw any good points that had come from the war he had actually smiled! It had nearly thrown me off my rocker, but I managed to hold onto my composure. It wasn't a smile that screamed happiness. It was wistful and kind of dreamy but it was a smile. And Heero was the one smiling it. That was more than enough to make it special.
"I liked how everyone fought for what was important to them." He started, quietly. "That even though many had to die, they were all dying for a purpose. There were many fractions that we fought against, but everyone had their own thoughts and hopes. And I liked that while many were hopeless, there weren't many who had lost their dreams. Most of them believed in their dreams even stronger than ever before."
I was actually struck speechless for a whole minute after his confession. If there was one thing that I hadn't expected, then it was something like that. Heero never had seemed to care about things like that, always carrying on, always looking forward to the next mission. I hadn't known that below his tough exterior, he was actually quite the softie. That thought made me smile for real for a few seconds.
Seeing me smile at him must have shaken him out of whatever mood had befallen him however, and with a quick excuse he ran away like he had done it so often lately.
It didn't matter. This unexpected insightful piece that he had given me helped me more than whatever tidbits that I might have managed to extract from him afterwards.
So, contrary to popular belief, Heero Yuy didn't think of dreams as worthless. Neither did he think highly of people who simply followed orders without standing up for them. That bit came as quite the shock, seeing that I thought for a long while that this was exactly what he had been doing.
I didn't try to speak to him for the next few hours, trying to give him some time to collect his thoughts again. If there was one thing that I was beginning to learn, then it was that Heero needed his control more than anything. I always had known that he was a control-freak, but it actually ran deeper. To me it seemed like that his emotions, contrary to not being there as many thought, were tightly bundled within him, waiting for an opportunity to break through. And he was doing his damnest to avoid that, for whatever reason. Keeping a tight control over them was the only way for him to keep them in.
The following night I was woken up by a nightmare. But, to my great surprise, it wasn't one of mine. Ever since Heero first told me to move my bed into his room, we had fallen back easily to our old roommate behavior that we sometimes needed when we attended boarding schools at the same time. And while I actually slept a lot better with him there, the topic of moving back to my own room had never come up.
So, as I jerked awake that night, it was to Heero trashing around on his bed, a fine layer of sweat coating his body. His eyebrows were pinched together as if in pain and it was terrible obvious that whatever he was dreaming about, it was hurting him a lot.
Alarmed by the look of it I sat up and called his name, trying to shake him out of it. I knew that it could be a damn bad idea to actually touch him, but I also knew that I would do it when it came down to it. I couldn't leave him as a prisoner to his own dream. As he didn't react to the calling I threw a pillow, my last hope to that he would just wake up. But as if he had seen it coming, he lifted a hand and defended against it as he would against an attacker, still without waking.
That didn't sit well with me. When the soldier part of his consciousness was aware enough to reflect an in-coming missile, how was he going to react to me? Sighing inwardly I called once more, before preparing myself to probably getting beaten, though hopefully not killed, as I went over to his bed.
Strangely enough, instead of reacting violently as I sat down on the border of his bed, he seemed to… calm somewhat. It wasn't enough to shake the nightmare, but it was as if he sensed that backup was there and that he could count on me, as if he knew instinctively that I would help him, not attack him.
Being warmed by that for only a second, I reached down and cautiously laid my hand on his shoulder, shaking it softly while again calling his name. I had barely touched him when he jerked awake, his eyes wide open and with a lingering fear behind them that made me hurt for him.
"It's ok, Buddy." I murmured soothingly, trying to calm him down. "It was just a dream. You're alright now." I knew that he probably wasn't 'alright', but these were the things you said to someone who just got shaken up pretty badly.
I noticed the fine tremor that worked its way through Heero's body and frowned. Heero himself hadn't said one word so far, but as his eyes turned to take me in, there was a plea in them, a plea that I couldn't resist. Trying to smile reassuringly I laid down beside him, wrapping my arms around him and just held him as he shook, obviously fighting his emotions back down. I knew that he probably wouldn't be happy about his moment of weakness the next day, but right now he needed me, and that was all that was important to me.
I had been right; Heero wasn't the least bit pleased about how he had broken down in front of me the night before. And in typical Heero fashion, he tried to completely ignore it. I tried to show him that it didn't matter, that I didn't think less of him for it, but after he had lashed out towards me for the fourth time – with words, not physically, mind you – I got the hint and decided to just leave him be for a bit, until he came back on his own.
I'll never know if I should have pushed him, or if there was any way that I could have prevented what happened next, but I was going to make damn sure that it would never happen again.
The next few days were horrible. Heero didn't seem able to forgive himself and, not knowing how to deal with the situation, lashed out towards me more and more often, no matter what I did or how much I tried to reassure him that it was ok. But only after he followed through with a few punches that left me thoroughly hurting on the ground, did he seem to snap out of it again. He swore profusely under his breath, a pained look washing over his face and he helped me to bed, checking me over for any internal injuries, before vanishing again.
It was even worse than the first time. The first time I could be at least reasonable sure that he only wanted his solitude, even though I feared for him, but this time I knew that something was terribly wrong, that he was blaming himself. Mixed together with the state his emotions had been in lately I could nearly bet that he wasn't just going to take a stroll through the woods.
Fighting my own body and protesting muscles, as well as the painkillers that Heero had forced down my throat and that were making me seriously groggy, I got up. My first stop was to check for his gun and I can't describe the relief that I felt when I found it. He must have forgotten about it in his rush to get away. That didn't mean that he wasn't still in danger, but my chances had at least gotten somewhat better.
I tried to concentrate, rummaging through all the old tricks that were stored within my brain, even though my head protested mightily against the use of said part of my body. Heero was an elite soldier, but even he was prone to make mistakes when in a high state of emotional distress. It had shown in the past and I was hoping that it would be the case once again.
After pulling on some warm clothes that still left me with enough room to maneuver in, I went out of the frontdoor, searching for some traces. The last time he had run he had the weather on his side, but this time it would be hard for him to just vanish without a trace at all. While we were too far south to get snow in these parts, it had been raining repeatedly lately, and the ground was pretty moody. Not bad enough to actually let you sink in more than about half an inch, but that half inch was already a big help.
As expected, I found some footprints towards the forest in the north. It was actually a good choice if he wanted to hide – there was no path leading up to it after all – but the dried out grass, trampled down by hasty legs, would lead me directly to him.
It got a bit more complicated once I reached the trees – their canopy of leaves had held back most of the rain – but I was every little bit as good as Heero was. And contrary to him I still had enough thought left to know what to look for.
I finally found him about an hour after he had stormed out of the house. He hadn't bothered to run away too far – thank God! – and I had followed him nearly immediately. Something else I was incredible grateful for.
At first I walked up to him slowly, as if approaching a skittish animal. I didn't know in what mood I would find him after all. But as he didn't do anything but lie there, I got an uneasy feeling about it all. Unsure of myself, I called his name, but as that didn't get a reaction either, I swore and walked up to him in a brisk pace. Walking around him to look at him from the front, all the blood in my face seemed to leave me.
I had been right – my chances with him had been higher as if he had taken his gun with him. As it was, all he had obviously had at hand was a sharp stone. Not long enough to ram into his torso – but sharp enough to cut pretty deep. Both his wrists were sliced open several times, still bleeding. He apparently had lost consciousness only a little while ago. I only had been a few minutes behind him, and he would have needed to find a suitable stone.
Flying into action, I kneeled down beside him, searching with one hand for a pulse on his neck while the other already pulled my scarf off. Finding one, if weak, left me with a little hope. I knew I would need to be fast, but I had sworn to protect him, and damn if he was going to die on me.
Tearing my scarf into two parts, I bound both of his upper arms tightly, trying to stop more blood from running out before I could do something about the cuts. I didn't have anything suitable with me to put on them, so, with a great deal of reluctance, I pulled the lighter out of my pants that I usually used to light the fire in the living room.
I hated what I was about to do and I knew it was dangerous, but it was my best chance at this point. I couldn't let him bled out before I got him help, and the bindings around his upper arms would only help so much, especially when I moved him. So, taking a deep breath, I used the fire to close the wounds.
It was… horrible. Have you ever smelt burnt flesh? Not like when you left a steak too long in the pan, but when the skin crawled away, giving in to the flames and offering up the unprotected muscles under it.
I have smelt it before, and some of my worst memories were coupled to it. The destruction of the Maxwell church, the burnt corpses, Sister Helen's last words… I nearly faltered in my task as a series of flashbacks ran through my mind, but I clenched my teeth and continued, making sure the fire sealed the skin together once more without burning more than necessary. Heero hadn't made it easy – there were cuts all over his wrists and a good part of his lower arms.
Once I was reasonable sure I had done all I could, I shakily got up, trying not to throw up. That I actually had to do this to one of my brothers, to the one I was closest to… it tore at my heart. But it was better than losing him; I repeated that to me again and again.
Feeling for his pulse once more I discovered that it was still there, I hadn't been too late. Now I 'only' needed to get him to a hospital before the side effects of the burning would set in. I had no doubts that he wasn't out of the woods yet – in more than one sense.
Unconscious people always seemed heavier than they actually were; it had a lot to do with living and dead weight. Now I never have been a push-over, but carrying Heero for a distance like that wasn't the easiest of tasks. I managed, but I wasn't sure how. As soon as I reached the house I put him down on one of the couches in the living room and called for an ambulance, telling them what to expect before hanging up.
Knowing that I only had a few minutes and that we most likely would be gone for at least a few days, I continued to run up the stairs and throw some of our stuff together. There was no chance in hell that I would leave him alone in the hospital and I intended to fight for that right if necessary.
I planted the dufflebag with our clothes at the frontdoor, opening it after a second thought and then walked back to see how Heero was doing. His skin felt a bit hot to me, but that was no surprise. Fever was only one of the side effects that one could experience from burning wounds. I actually would be surprised if the wounds wouldn't get infected. After sliced with a dirty stone and then sealed with fire, it was nearly a guarantee.
Just as I was checking him over once more, I started to hear the sound of chopper blades and sighed in relief. As far away from civilization as we were it would have taken too long to send an ambulance via the land route. Moments later there were several men in our living room, checking Heero over and making preparations to get him ready for travel. They asked me questions and I answered them as good as I could. At the end I didn't even need to demand to go along with Heero. I don't know if it was the look in my face that clearly said that I wasn't leaving him alone or if it was because they had more questions, or maybe it was simply because I looked pretty shaken for them too and they just wanted to make sure that I was ok, but they ushered me into the chopper right behind my friend.
Once in the hospital Heero was whisked away toward the emergency room – as one of the men had explained they would need to cut the burnt parts back up to repair the damage below. I had winced at that but he also assured me that this was the best that I could have done with what I had at hand and I thought that he was probably right. It didn't matter; it still meant that Heero would have to undergo surgery and that left me with enough time for myself.
My first course of action was calling Wufei and Trowa. While I didn't want to worry them, they deserved to know what had happened. I glossed a bit over the details as for why Heero had run off, but they didn't need to know that. They both expressed their worry for our brother as well as me and I assured them that I was alright, even though I had to stress the truth quite a bit with that. I knew that I wasn't alright – I was still shaken up by the whole experience as well as the effects of my injuries prior to the whole adventure were starting to catch up on me. Which probably was why, as a nurse came to fetch me and told me that she wanted to make sure I was ok, I went with her without any protest. Upon seeing my bruised abdomen she frowned and I explained why Heero had even run off. She was pretty sympathetic after that, trying to reassure me that my friend would be alright.
I had to tell her what kind of pain meds I had taken and after looking me over and declaring me in a slight state of shock she injected me with a slight tranquilizer and put me into a bed, swearing that she would see to it that Heero would be assigned the same room as me. Only after knowing that I finally let the drugs take over, making me fall asleep for the first time in months with the feeling that everything was taken care off.
I woke up nearly ten hours later, shocked by the time it had actually taken me to wake up again. My body must have taken more of a beating than I had previously thought. I fought my way through the fog that seemed to reside inside my head and after I finally managed to remember what was going on, I sharply turned to my side, looking for Heero. As the nurse had promised, he was laying in the bed next to me. Both his arms were bandaged and he had an IV hooked up to him, as well as a few other machines that probably continued to monitor his condition. He looked broken, lying there, but at the same time I was immensely relieved to see him. It meant that he had come through the surgery ok. And while he probably wouldn't thank me for it, I counted that as a point in my favor. I had managed to save him – even though it was only temporary. But maybe now we could finally talk about what was really bothering him.
Later that day Wufei came by to visit us, obviously feeling guilty that he had left me alone with Heero. I tried to reassure him as best as I could that it was ok and that I wasn't holding it against him, but I could feel that it sat wrong with him. That he hadn't been there to help me after I had helped him so much. Heero slept through his whole visit, but that was not surprising. The doctor that had come in to check up on us had assured me that he would probably sleep for the most part of the next few days, though he was expected to wake up sometime this evening.
Burnt flesh is not something that could be taken lightly. Even a small wound could end in an infection bad enough to kill someone. Combining that with the fact that the burns had been directly at his veins made the situation only worse.
The doctor's predicaments came true as Heero started to stir during the late afternoon hours. He seemed disorientated and it was obvious that he was pretty unhappy about being here, or having woken up at all. When the nurse told him what happened, I could see his face lock up clear across his room, even though he avoided looking in my direction. It didn't matter, I knew what that look meant anyway.
He was pissed beyond belief with me.
The next few days were pretty tense. Heero wanted to get out of the hospital, but they wouldn't allow him. As he demanded the papers to sign himself out they told him that seeing his wounds had been self-induced and obviously in an act of attempted suicide, they couldn't let him do that either. He was stuck until he either agreed to see a psychologist or go with someone who could watch over him. Seeing that he refused to even talk to me, neither was an option for him at that point.
I don't know why, but I was actually allowed to stay in my bed in the room. Whether it was because I was obviously concerned for him or because Sally had put something down on our files – that was actually something Wufei had told me at his second visit. Seemed like our dear Doctor had been a bit concerned about us after the war as well – it didn't matter. With me in the room with him, Heero couldn't do anything stupid, seeing that his wrists were both pretty much immobile and it would have been easy for me to overpower him.
On day four after he had woken up, he finally left his mighty pissed off attitude alone long enough to ask me why I had saved him. After all, he had done nothing but cause me grief for months now.
"Because you are my friend." I answered him, quietly. "My friend and my brother. And I'm not about to watch another one of you die."
That got me a sharp look.
"Quatre is not dead." He insisted, but it was weak at best and only got a mirthless laugh out of me.
"But only just. You have seen him, Heero. What's left of him is only a shell. The Quatre that we have known has died the moment that he gave up." I told him, a slight bitterness in my tone. To my surprise his voice, as he spoke up next, was gentle.
"Is that why you made it your goal to help us all, if we wanted or not?" he asked, causing my eyes to widen.
"I'm not an idiot, Duo." He answered before I could even formulate the question, sighing. "I could tell that you were hiding your own problems once again only to help us. And while I appreciate the thought and have to admit that it worked quite well with Trowa and Wufei, I couldn't let you do it the same way with me." He confessed, making me look down to my blanket, not able to hold his intense gaze.
It all made sense now, him avoiding talking about his problems, trying to coax mine out of me. Him being concerned about me not sleeping properly… It had been there all the time.
"Why didn't you say something then?" I asked after a while, not able to accept the fact for what it was.
"Would it have changed anything?" he counter-asked, making me think. He was right again. Even if he had told me that he had seen through me, I only would have tried to dissuade him from that thought and make fun out of it until he would forget about it again. At long last I sighed and ran my hand through my bangs. I was in quite the need for a shower, but until now that had been one of the last things on my mind.
"So what now?" I murmured after a while, not knowing what to do or say. My plan had failed, and while I had managed to safe him this time, it still wouldn't help him for the long run. And he had just made it clear that he wouldn't accept my help.
He was silent for a while, making me feel like I had been right, that he was trying to think of a solution that would get me off his back. However, as he finally answered, it was thoughtful.
"I think there might be a way for us to help each other." He told me, quietly, making me look at him once more.
"What?" I asked, eager to learn what I could do to help him. As his eyes locked his gaze with mine, however, I knew it wouldn't be so easy.
"Will you agree to let me try to help you when I agree to the same?" he requested at last, his eyes never leaving mine, a challenge burning in them. I… hesitated.
I don't know why, but the thought sat wrong with me. I had been looking out for myself for my whole life, and these past months that I had dedicated to the others only reinforced that lesson within me. I was there to protect others; they weren't supposed to do the same thing for me. And while I had felt like burning out more often than not while I was doing it, it still, on some level, had felt good to be able to help them.
Heero's soft voice cut through my musings.
"You said you wanted to help us because we were your friends, Duo. Is it so hard to accept that you mean a lot to me as well? That I wish that I could see you happy for real, and not only one of your masks?"
When he put it like that, it almost made much too much sense. But still, I couldn't give in, I couldn't just let go…
"I don't want you to end like I did."
THAT caused me to look up in shock once more, before my expression settled on a frown.
"Why would you think that?" I demanded, slightly defensive. I could hear him sigh and realized that this wasn't something that he had wanted to bring up.
"Duo, for the last months you have done nothing but trying to help us, forcing down your own problems until they nearly ate your from within. I don't know if you are even aware of it, but what was your plan once you had me all sorted out?" he asked me. I had to think about that. What would I have done once that happened? I have never really thought about that. Once he was on his way to leading a normal life I would have tried to figure out my own problems I guess. Though…
He must have seen something on my face that told him that he had been right, as he gave me a sad little smile.
"See? At the pace you were going, there was no going back for you. You were drowning within yourself and there are only two options down that road. Death in a physical sense or the death of your soul, like with Quatre." There was a small, pained grimace. "It still pains me to think that we were the reasons for him to die like that."
"What do you mean with that?" He seriously shocked me here. Before, I really hadn't thought he would be such an insightful guy. True, I knew he was observant, but all this required a much deeper, more emotional side.
"Quatre is an empath, Duo. Do you have any idea how hard it must have been for him to be around us? We were all dealing with our own problems and contrary to during the war, neither of us repressed them. Living with the four of us he must have felt like in a torture chamber."
As much as I hated to admit it, that made sense. But to be responsible for the death of a friend… it hurt. It hurt so much. I guess somewhere, deep down within me, I had known. To have Heero speak it out to me only drove the fact even more brutally home.
"He always had tried to not make us worry…" I murmured and saw him nod out of the corner of my eyes.
"He probably thought it was better to not trouble us with his problems on top of our own. And since he didn't want to upset us by killing himself he did the only thing that was left to him. He buried all his emotions so deep until he started to feel dead on the inside. Only he never realized that in doing that, he really killed a part of himself."
A shudder ran through me at that thought. But before I could wallow in the misery that came with the thought of another friend having had to die because of me, Heero spoke once again.
"Don't close yourself away like that. Please. I need you to accept Duo." He pleaded, obviously getting desperate. I lifted an eyebrow at him.
"How am I supposed to help you if I can't even help myself, Heero?" I asked, my voice growing bitter. "I only have made everything worse. Instead of helping you I pushed you to do something like that." I gestured towards his bound up wrists. That sparked something within his eyes, something stubborn.
"That wasn't your fault! Don't you ever think that this was your fault, Duo!" he demanded. "I did this to myself, fully and well knowing what it would mean." He insisted, but I couldn't help but look skeptical at him. As he got that I wasn't going to be persuaded from my thoughts he let out another sigh, this one sounding somewhat defeated.
"I… couldn't take it anymore." He admitted at last, obviously finally willing to open up to me. "All I ever wanted was someone who needed me. I grew up with the belief that I was replaceable; just another weapon that would be used and thrown away once its use was fulfilled. I didn't hate my life, but I wanted more for it. All the time during my training and the war, I hoped that one day maybe I would find someone who would need me, who would want me to stay with them."
Something clenched inside me. That was where the root of Heero's depression laid? No wonder that I hadn't been able to help him with the way I had been acting…
"At first, as I met you all, I thought it could be Relena. She is a strong girl, but she needs someone who protects her. She also made it clear that she wanted me on her side." There was a small, bittersweet smile gracing his lips. Obviously something had gone wrong with that. "That was my intention for as long as it took me to realize that while she wanted me by her side and needed my protection, she would never be able to understand me. While she has seen more action than any civilian ever should, she is as far from being a soldier as one can be. And while I knew that my heart yearned mostly for just finding someone who would want and need me, I knew that I would never be happy with her."
Suddenly, he was looking at me again and in his eyes burnt a new fire.
"Mostly, I realized that I would never fit to her as I went to kill you as you were kept a prisoner on the lunar base. I went there with every intention to just shoot you and be done with it, but as you said that you were destined to be killed by me, something just… klicked inside me. I looked you into your eyes and I just knew that you were it. It was unreasonable; because you didn't really need my protection, but then I understood that need didn't always mean protection."
His eyes were intense in the soft light coming through the window and I found myself unable to look away. This was almost surreal. How come I never realized?
"I saved you back then because after that realization I just couldn't go through with it and kill you. I needed time to figure out what all this meant, but it actually took me until after the war to really get it. Actually, it took me only one look at you after we moved all five together. I suddenly understood that need and understanding could go hand in hand. That you needed someone to help you. Someone who would be able to understand your past." He made a frustrated grunt and lifted his hand as if to run it through his hair, remembering halfway up to his head that he wouldn't be able to do that.
"But you never gave me any signs that you would want me to help you. You closed yourself away completely. And after we all saw what happened with Quatre it only got worse. I didn't know what to do. I saw you put on your old mask to help the other two, and it pained me to see you do it. I knew what you wanted, but I just couldn't bring myself to open up to you. Especially knowing that what I needed was the complete opposite to what you needed at the time."
I had to agree with him there. I probably wouldn't have reacted all that well to being told that he wanted to take care of me at that point.
"Lately, it had gotten better. I finally had some hope that you would let me in, that it would finally work out." He had smiled for a second there, but now his face twisted again, as if with suppressed anger.
"That was until that damn dream. I couldn't hold myself back from asking you for comfort that night, but it kicked your mask right back into place. I was so… so fucking frustrated. No matter what I tried, you were back to your game and you didn't let me deter your from it. My anger at my thoughtlessness only grew with that, and as I finally lashed out physically towards you… I knew I had to do something. I couldn't believe that I did that to you. My head kept screaming at me that now you would never want me and that hurt just as much as everything else. I didn't plan this, honestly." He gestured towards his wrists, though I had gotten that out of the context. "But all the frustration and hopelessness washed over me and I just… broke." He sighed again.
I swallowed and looked back down to my own blanket. This was a lot to take in. I never would have guessed… but then again, I wasn't sure if I would have done anything different if I had known. My instincts weren't something that was just easily dismissed. Had I known about Heero's need I probably still would have tried to help him – only I would have tried to direct his need to someone else. Something that I was sure now wouldn't have helped at all. It was pretty obvious that he had completely focused on me and I wasn't sure what to make of that. Sure, we had always been pretty close, but what he implied… I really wasn't sure if I was ready for that.
We were both quiet for a while, him probably waiting for a reaction from me and me thinking about what my reaction should be. It wasn't like I was totally adverse to the idea, but it was rather the fact that I've never given it much thought before. At the end I decided to tell him just that. Couldn't go wrong with honesty, right?
"I'm not sure if I can do this, Heero." I told him softly, playing with the end of my braid. "It isn't that I don't like you, or that I don't want you to be close to me, but I really don't think I'm ready for anything closer than friendship at this point." I admitted, not able to look up. "My head is pretty messed up, and I don't even know how to deal with that. Anything more… I don't want to lock you out, but I don't know if I can manage."
I finally looked up again and instead of the expected sadness I only saw gentleness and a small smile.
"I know that, Duo. I never would expect you to jump into anything that you aren't sure about. Just knowing that you need me and want to keep me close is enough for me, at least for now. I can't guarantee that there won't come a point where it won't be enough anymore, but for now I would be more than content to just be allowed to help you." Heero replied and my breath hitched within my throat. How could I say no to that? How could I even think about it? I must be an idiot.
So slowly, an answering smile built on my lips and at long last, I nodded at him.
"If you think you can be patient with me, then yes, I would like that." I told him, receiving the most beautiful expression that I've ever seen in return. Relief, mixed with happiness and contentment, all showing together on the face of the person who had already meant the most to me and, if I had any say at it at all, who would be even more important to me in the future.
It was true what I have said. I was pretty messed up and I really didn't expect any wonders, not even with Heero there to help me. But now, for the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted. I finally had something that I was looking forward to. Maybe it wouldn't be perfect, but as long as we come both out happy at the end of it, it didn't matter.