Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, wish I did, just enjoy writing about ‘em for free etc
Category: Romance, some angst
Notes: Therapy isn’t always a medical matter …
Feedback: If you liked it, PLEASE let me know!
Written for gwy’s inspiration …
Heero stood for a moment in the doorway, watching. He knew that Duo hadn’t seen him yet. The other man sat cross-legged on the carpet, his back to the door. There were three open books on one side of him, two magazines on the other. He had earphones on, his upper body swaying gently in time with whatever was playing at the moment, and his hands busy leafing through the glossy pages. Heero watched the thick braid flick carelessly along Duo’s left side, then spring back towards the right as he jerked to the beat of his music. Occasionally a few notes would burst out as he sang along. They weren’t particularly tuneful, but they were bold.
Heero smiled. It had been quite some time since Duo had sung along to anything.
He took a few steps into the room, carrying the hot tea carefully. He moved to the side of Duo so that he’d be seen. Only once had he approached Duo from behind: Duo had reacted swiftly and aggressively, not realizing for that split second who was there. Heero had lost a couple of good china mugs that day, and still had the pale mark of a scald on his forearm. Duo had apologized for almost a week, until Heero persuaded him to shut up. It had been another couple of days before the wary scowl had left Duo’s face.
Heero wasn’t exactly counting the days that Duo had been with him, but his heart seemed to have the imprint of their pattern.
Duo looked up at the movement, saw him and grinned. It was an easy smile, but Heero noticed how his hand darted to the nearest magazine, flipping it shut. He peeled the earphones out of his ears. “Hi. Thanks for the tea. I was going to come and do some breakfast for us.”
Heero shook his head gently. “No need.” Duo forgot time more easily nowadays – he couldn’t always hold perspective well in his thoughts and words. Things were getting better by the day, of course. That was another measure that Heero was counting. “Do you want to use the desk? I can move my stuff to one side.”
Duo sat back, sipping at the tea. “Nah. Just browsing. Nothing important. Just keeping myself occupied until I go back to work.”
Heero caught the reply before it even formed on his lips, though his eyes may have flickered their concern. He knew it’d be some months before Duo went back to work. Maybe he was worried for his house guest’s sake … maybe there were other, more personal reasons that he wasn’t.
“Can I see what you were looking at?”
Duo frowned. He so obviously wanted to say ‘no’ – this nervous secrecy had been characteristic, ever since he was released from hospital. Heero was meant to try to draw him back out, to facilitate the healing process. He met Duo’s wary look this morning and knew that he had no real interest in the doctor’s medical instructions – he just wanted to talk to Duo in the old ways again.
Duo nudged the magazine with his toe and it opened again. Heero was startled to see what looked like a fashion spread. Not only that …
“They’re kimono. I didn’t know you had an interest in them.”
Duo shrugged, but his eyes darted to Heero’s face and back down again. “Sorry. Bet you think I’m some kind of a stalker or something. It’s just that I saw yours and it fascinated me. Wanted to know some more about ‘em.”
Engage him, the doctors had said to him, their eyes narrow with the caution that comes with diagnosing mental conditions, their clipboards pressed to their chests like shields that proved a poor defence against the force of Heero Yuy’s surprising distress. The disorientation will pass, as the drugs they used on him work through his system. But he needs to be encouraged back into the reality you both shared. He needs to be stimulated again, by people he knows and respects.
Heero sat slowly down beside him. He was as close as he dared go; close enough to see the muscle in Duo’s thigh clench, though the other man tried to hide it by wriggling; far enough not to brush against him without warning. Yet another daily improvement: Duo let him take his arm now – let him sit on the same couch with him. Heero found it astonishingly rewarding, for all kinds of conflicting reasons.
“Would you wear one yourself?”
It was Duo’s turn to be startled, but not in a serious way. “Me? It’s a Japanese thing, isn’t it …”
Heero’s turn to shrug, though he accompanied it with a smile. “Not exclusively. I wear American clothing, don’t I? Maybe neither of us is entirely of one country, one place.” One home. “We can choose what we want.”
Duo nodded. “Maybe. I suppose I wonder what it must feel like. Looks pretty relaxed – pretty comfy.”
Heero stood up and held out a hand for him. “Come and try one on. I have several.”
Duo looked at his hand. This time, Heero could see he wanted to say ‘yes’. He would make it easy for him to do so, and not because that was one of the strategies the psychologists had advised, but because he wanted to make life easy for Duo Maxwell.
Duo stood in front of the mirror and smiled. “It’s cool. Feels good.” He wrapped the dark blue fabric around him, left over right, just like he’d obviously read in the magazines, for Heero hadn’t tried to instruct him. The hem brushed at his thin ankles and bare feet: the wave pattern burst across the fabric, as if the sea water washed over him.
Heero stood carefully to one side, belting his own choice around him, watching Duo’s delight. “It’s called a yukata, it’s in a cooler cotton than the more formal kimono. It’s easy to wear around the house. People would wear it around the onsen –“ He saw Duo’s eyebrows rise, quizzically. “A hot spring. No, I don’t have one in the apartment.” Duo’s brief smile made his heart shiver with pleasure. It had been a pathetic little joke, really, but he avoided a more robust, cynical humour. “If you wore it out, you’d need geta, the Japanese sandals. Also a proper belt, to keep yourself decent …” He bit his lip. Duo was particularly possessive of his body at the moment. When he arrived, the scars had been deep, the bruises colourful – the vivid patterns on his pale skin a testament to something far from beautiful.
But Duo was nodding, apparently unworried. “Cool. But I guess I can’t quite carry it off like you do.” He looked away from the mirror, suddenly catching Heero’s gaze. There wasn’t any time to glance away – Heero met his eyes in the hope he wouldn’t be intimidated.
Duo sighed. “I’m not made of china, Heero. You can look at me if you like. I’m not going to leap for your throat.” He saw Heero’s troubled expression and grimaced. “They think I might lapse back, don’t they? That, or leap ahead off an imaginary, hallucinatory cliff. They’ll have told you to keep me very calm – to treat me with kid gloves. I know what it’s about. Therapy … pity, maybe. Please don’t think I’m not grateful, though, for your care …”
Heero stepped forward, unable to stop himself. “I don’t need gratitude. You’re my friend, Duo. You’re here because I want you with me – because I want you to have a place where you feel safe. Where you can heal more quickly.” Where I can care for you.
Duo smiled at him, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I understand that healing has to happen. I just don’t feel it. Does that make sense?”
Heero nodded. “That’s why I’m here. Not for them, Duo – the doctors, the department. I’m here for you, so that you can see your recovery. So that you can see you’ll be the same man again, see your strength returning. So that you can see your defeat of them, of the bastards who took you –“
“ – of the ghosts,” Duo broke in. His eye were wide, the pupils dilated.
Heero took a deep breath. “The dreams will go, too.”
“You know that?” Duo challenged, though his voice was soft.
“Yes,” Heero replied, staring back at him. “I know, because I’ve had them too, in the past. I know, because I sleep beside you.” He saw Duo shiver and he put out a hand to his arm, instinctively. “Please. I didn’t tell you, but I wanted to. I hear you in the night and I want to …” He couldn’t find the right words: his throat felt tight. “Every day your sleep gets deeper – every day your rest is better.”
Duo’s eyes were even wider. “How the fuck am I meant to know that, Heero –“
“That’s why you have me. Like I said. I’m here as your validation.”
They stared at each other for moments longer, both of them breathing a little too heavily. Heero still held his hand on Duo’s arm, creasing the soft cotton fabric of the kimono. Duo’s feet shifted slightly, as if he wanted to move away, but he stayed where he was. A slight flush came to his cheeks.
When he broke the silence, his words were calm again, though brittle. “So here I am, an all-American boy in a borrowed Japanese gown. An alien …”
“No,” said Heero, sharply. “No pity, Duo. Not from me, not from yourself. You’re better than that.”
Duo pulled at his hand suddenly, tugging him beside him. Heero swallowed down the shock of his touch, once so familiar, now so rare. They stood together, looking into the mirror. Matching kimono, Duo’s in a dark blue fabric, Heero’s a cool white with the waves in black. As Heero caught the other pair of eyes in the reflection, Duo smiled at him. It was a smile from the old days. Heero’s heart lost a couple of steps, then steadied again.
Duo turned back to peer in the mirror. “Still say you look better in it than me.” He was smiling, but now there was a tiny flame of mischief in his expression. Heero could remember the last time Duo had looked like that – could remember how he’d felt: how he’d sounded: how his skin had tasted between his lips …
It hurt to remember – but it was a hopeful hurt. He laughed at himself for considering such a Duo phrase.
“You look fine,” he said aloud. “I like you because you’re you, not because you’re like me. Does that make sense?”
Duo grinned. “Yeah. We’re more like each other than we ever thought.” He turned suddenly, facing back to Heero. “I didn’t mean to imply you pitied me. I know it’s not that.”
Heero smiled, too. “Sure. Though I have to confess it’s not entirely selfless, either.”
Duo peered at him. “The treating with kid gloves? Or the sleeping with me?” The shoulder of his kimono had slipped down his arm as he’d turned. There’d been the glimpse of bare, muscled thigh as the cloth settled back in place below his waist. Heero looked into his eyes and saw that Duo knew he was watching – and that he accepted it. That maybe - soon – he would welcome more. Once again.
“You’re what I need, Heero. You know that? You always have been.”
“I’m not sure I’m the best fashion source for a whole new look…” Heero knew his face was flushed, but knew he should still step carefully, still seek compassion, not controversy…
Duo laughed gently beside him. “I’m feeling those kid gloves again. OK, so we take it easy for a while longer. But I’ve always known how I feel, always felt it, whatever happened – you remember that.”
“I will,” he replied. I do.
He knew he was grinning too, now – he could feel happiness creasing the corners of his eyes. He wanted to hold Duo, but that would wait. The steps had to be followed – but not necessarily at a snail’s pace. They stood in their matching robes, their very different features contrasting in the mirror’s reflection, and their eyes shining at each other.
The laugh that followed – though soft and cautious – was from both of them together.