The throbbing in his head was his first sign that he was awakening. If he had been one for creative metaphors, he might have compared it to a space shuttle colliding with his brain or a full-scale Gundam battle-esque headache, but he wasn't the type for such fanciful thoughts and it simply hurt. It felt like every inch of his body ached, though his abdomen seemed to be the worst. Faintly he could hear sounds, a voice, near him, speaking to him, but try as he might, he couldn't place it. Maybe if he could just pry his eyes open...
The light was a bit of a shock, but he'd been expecting it and was somewhat prepared for it. Everything was painfully bright at first, but slowly objects began to come into focus. It looked like his bedroom at Quatre's house, but that jarred with what little he remembered from before. Thanatos had stuck his hand through his stomach and pulled out the sword; surely he could not have survived that; surely, not even a god could survive that. So was this what happened when you die? You wake up like nothing happened? Somehow that didn't seem quite... fair, and with some difficulty, he bit back a feeling of being cheated.
Across the large room, the door opened almost silently. The person who was entering the room was small, blonde, and female, he noted, staring at her through eyes still slitted against the light. She stepped in the room quietly, socked feet making no noise on the thickly carpeted floor.
It took an effort, but he pushed himself to a sitting position to see her better. She looked so tired. Something was worrying her to the point of exhaustion. "Usagi," he called softly.
She started abruptly, like she'd been off in another world, her eyes going wide when she saw him sitting up. "Heero!" She was across the room before she finished the word, entire body poised to envelope him, when she was the slightly pained look hiding on his features and managed to restrain herself, instead gingerly sitting on the edge of the bed and taking his hand in both of hers. "Heero..." she repeated more softly. From up close, she seemed so very, very tired, run ragged as he had once heard it put. But he had to know...
"What happened?" he asked.
Her eyes darkened a fraction. "You don't remember?"
"Nothing after Thanatos ripped -" He broke off as she winced slightly then began again. "After Thanatos took the sword from me."
She bit her lip lightly. "Nothing good happened, that's for sure."
"Usagi..." He couldn't quite keep the bite out of his voice. "Tell me what happened," he said slowly, enunciating each word carefully.
"That girl, the demon, showed up and took the Ginzuishou from me. They vanished and raised Vritra. Oneesan attacked us; Ran-nikun stopped her though. Duo saved you from dying, and Hotaru-chan healed you. And..." Out of breath at last, she trailed off, sapphire eyes dropping to the bedspread.
"And?" he prompted a bit softer.
"And Oneesan left. She just vanished the day after Vritra arose, didn't say where she was going or anything. Ran-nikun went a little mad, and he's locked himself up in the library."
He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "IS that everything?" Slowly she shook her head. "What else?"
Suddenly the voice he had heard earlier clicked in his mind: it had been the American's. The words still refused to return to him, but the voice had definitely been Duo's. He was supposed to be protecting Usagi. Where was he? He couldn't be... "What about Duo?"
"He's... he's..." she floundered, trying and failing to get the words out.
"He's not... dead, is he?" What was that cold wave that went through his body, accompanying the thought of Duo, his best friend, his partner, dead?
"No," she finally got out, and he let out a loud but quick sigh of relief, "but it's still a close thing. He keeps fading in and out and has been for the past few days."
Days...? "How long have I been unconscious?"
So Anechan has been gone for three days without a trace, he mused silently. No wonder Aya-san is so upset. If the situations were reversed and it was Usagi who had vanished, I'd be going crazy too. Then for four days, Duo has been... She wouldn't want to leave either of us, he admitted to himself, privately amazed that it didn't bother him. "Have you gotten any rest?"
She shrugged. "Quatre's made me get some sleep here and there."
Thank goodness for Quatre then. "Can I go see Duo?"
"Are you sure you're up to it?" She paused, looking at him again. "Of course you're up to it."
He nodded once, sliding his legs over the side of the bed, grateful as Usagi merely handed him a pair of jeans and a shirt without questions or too many lingering glances. He pulled the clothes on fairly quickly, forgoing buttoning up the shirt, and tread on bare feet that grew steadier with each and every step he took closer to the door where the blonde woman awaited him.
He kept a steadying hand on the wall as he walked, Usagi matching his pace. True, he felt a lot better, but apparently even a god's body needed a little time to recoup itself from four days without movement, he allowed himself to admit, holding back even a blink as twitches and pinches in the muscles of his legs made themselves known. "Has Hotaru-san taken a look at Duo yet?" he asked, a good bit to distract himself.
Usagi nodded. "Hai. Physically, there's nothing wrong with him."
"Meaning there's nothing she can do to help him," he surmised.
Another nod. "Setsuna-san thinks that maybe bringing you back drained his energy, and that's what's wrong with him." As if sensing where his thoughts were about to turn, she continued, "And it's hardly your fault, Heero. Duo knew what he was doing."
Does she even realize how familiarly she talks about Duo? Just since this... weird change we've all undergone, she's dropped the '-kun' from both mine and Duo's names. He glanced at her, a faint smile hanging on his lips despite his worry. If she hasn't realized it so far, there's no point in mentioning it to her yet.
Then suddenly Duo's door was looming before him, and even that dim amusement fled him abruptly and he could only stare at it apprehensively for a long moment, able to feel Usagi's eyes on him, feel the questions in them, but unable to move, unable to answer them. "Heero," she finally asked softly, "are you okay?"
The sound of her voice, vocalizing her previously silent questions, finally broke the stalemate. He nodded, making a soft, vague sound of affirmation, and pushed the door open. In the chair beside the bed, purple eyes framed by dark hair glanced up at him, a slight frown darkening Hotaru's face as she studied him critically. "You shouldn't be out of bed, Heero-san."
"He just wanted to see Duo," Usagi cut in, stepping around him and into the room. She glanced at him curiously for a moment then spoke again to the other woman. "And I wanted to see if perhaps you could help me with Ran-nikun."
"Of course," the younger goddess agreed, rising to her feet. She fixed Heero with a rather piercing stare. "Let me know if there's any change."
He nodded once, acknowledging the politely phrased request for the order it was, and he watched as Usagi drew her out of the room, closing the door behind them with a quiet clicking sound. Making as little noise as possible, he drew Hotaru's chair closer to the bed and sank down in it, finally allow himself to fully take in the sight of the figure on the bed.
Duo seemed to be shallowly breathing, a thin layer of sweat covering his face despite the comfortable temperature of the room. There was a wound on his shoulder that still hadn't healed. What he could see of the other man's skin was pale, his clinically detached eyes noted. All the classic symptoms of shock, though he'd never heard of a case lasting so long. He could see why Hotaru had been so reluctant to leave him, why Quatre had had to pull Usagi away. It felt like it was only a matter of time before the auburn-haired man was -
He squinted briefly, staving off such thoughts before they could fully mature and reached out to pick up the limp end of Duo's braid. Maybe it's a good thing he's not awake to see this, he thought dourly. I think the last time I saw his hair in this condition , I was getting him out of an OZ prison cell... Or was it that time he, Wufei, and I were in that cell together? His eyes slipped shut, letting memories flash by; certainly becoming a god had made him a good deal more sentimental; and his other hand moved to lightly hold one of his partner's. "Duo..."
The hand he held squeezed his lightly, and his eyes flew open again to find tired but lucid violet eyes staring back at him. "Du-" he began.
"Hotaru finally left?" the other man cut him off by asking. He nodded, and Duo chuckled softly. "Didn't think she was ever going to go."
It took an effort to keep a smirk from building on his face. "Hiding out?"
"Damn straight! That girl's scary!" Duo broke off to cough harshly, turning his head away and covering his mouth with his free hand, not releasing his grip on Heero's hand; if anything, he seemed to be holding it tighter. "Damn," he muttered as the spell abated.
"I'll go get Hotaru," he offered, beginning to rise.
Duo's continued hold on his hand held him in place. "I'm fine. Stay." He opened his mouth to protest, but of course, Duo cut him off. "Call me crazy, but it seems to be a little... I'm..."
Abruptly and for no reason, it made sense to him what the usually verbose American was having such a hard time saying. Slowly he lowered himself to sit on the side of the bed with only a quiet "okay" to accompany his actions. Carefully he made himself comfortable, leaning partially against the pillows and partially against the headboard.
In only a matter of minutes he could feel sleep beginning to tug on him. Glancing to the side and down, he could see Duo drifting off as well. "Hey?" he asked softly, nudging the other man gently.
"Hmm?" was the extent of the response he got.
"Don't die on me, okay?"
"Okay." Violet eyes slipped shut once more. "I won't die on you." He could actually see as Duo gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep.
Hmph. Knowing Duo and his damn literalness... Holding sleep at bay a moment or two longer, he maneuvered one arm beneath Duo, sliding the injured man over to rest against his chest, letting the warmth of his skin and steady rhythm of his breathing lull him into sleep as well.
27 February 2003
Well, I've been meaning to have this done the last week or so, but the boys didn't want to stop! Really! I promise! Overall, however, I'm very pleased with how this is turning out. I hope to be done when Chapter 50 rolls around. When that will be, I don't know quite yet, but I'd like to be done before 2003 ends. >.<