The Perfect Escape
Part 3 - Numbness
Heero and Duo’s life settled into routine. Everyday, they woke up and had breakfast. Heero drove them to their work, had lunch together when the time came, returned to their apartment, ate dinner and went to sleep. There were no surprises, no spontaneous shows of affection, no sudden change in plans.
There had been a time when Heero had been deathly afraid of Duo’s mercurial nature, a time when his own feelings had overwhelmed him into running away. But now, after his admission to himself, to Duo, he wanted the life he had with Duo before all this mess. He wanted Duo to annoy him, shower him with love, yell at him, anything but blandly smile at him and tell him that everything was nice. He missed the laughing, crying emotional idiot.
But he said nothing. To Duo, everything was perfectly normal. Heero would not ruin it for Duo. Not again.
Life was uneventful and Heero was slowly dying underneath the weight of it all.
Trowa sat uncomfortably at his desk, listening to the mildly cheery voice that belonged to Duo. Currently, Duo was explaining the new mission parameters with a patience that defied logic. In the past, Duo’s words would have tumbled over each other in haste to get out, his sentences punctuated by joking comments to lighten the mood. Trowa spaced out, thinking about the past. His eyes glazed over fondly as he remembered Duo complaining about their missions using colorful language. Those were the fun days.
"Trowa, are you listening?"
Duo’s inquiry broke through Trowa’s musings. Startled that he could drift off during a mission briefing, Trowa nodded in embarrassment, assuring Duo that he had understood. Duo smiled slightly and handed him a package which probably contained the details of the new mission. Trowa could only stare as Duo walked out of his office.
‘He really has changed.’
Trowa shook his head clear of the disturbing thought and paged Quatre. They were going to go to Heero and Duo’s apartment tonight for dinner, invited or not. It had been three months already and Duo had not come out of the strange mood funk. It was time to take action.
Spaghetti and meatballs. Bland, normal, nothing offensive or creative. It was a meal contrived by a normal person with no outlandish tastes. A meal created by Duo.
Quatre nor Trowa could quite eat the meal, but not because it was not tasty. They were used to Duo cooking up something weird from his imaginations and using them as guinea pigs. They carefully looked at Duo who was serenely slurping up spaghetti as if nothing was wrong. Heero, for his part, was trying to eat rather unsuccessfully.
When dinner was done, all four cleaned up the table with nary a word, stacking plates into the dishwasher and clearing the table. It was the most uneventful dinner and it bothered Quatre and Trowa to no end. Heero seemed to be taking it like he was used to it, but Quatre’s sixth sense picked up a dulling numbness from the stoic man. A numbness so intense that it was nearly painful.
There was a severe lack of conversation, yet another deviation from the old days. Unable to take the stifling silence, Quatre began to speak.
"So, Duo, how was your first month back at the job?"
Duo considered for a moment before disappointing Quatre.
"It’s going fine. The new mission seems okay. We’re all going to work on it, so it will be like the old days, huh?"
Quatre smiled faintly. There was no bubbling excitement, or even the residual complaint about the boring nature of their missions. There was just a quiet acceptance and a bland curiosity. Not giving up, Quatre pasted on a happy smile and continued.
"Yeah. Remember that mission to Florence six months ago? I fell into the river by the Ponte Della Vecchio and you had to fish me out. That was funny."
"It was. I remember it well."
It was true that he remembered. But that was all.
Trowa watched as his lover tried over and over again to get Duo to act like himself. And he felt his shoulders slump more and more as his lover failed to elicit nothing more than slight amusement out of Duo. He could say nothing as Quatre’s efforts flagged and Heero’s eyes lost more of its color as the evening droned on.
Finally, Quatre lost some of his legendary patience when dealing with his friends. In a small huff, he practically ordered Heero to accompany him into the bedroom so that he could talk to the suffering man, leaving Trowa alone with Duo.
"Heero, what’s wrong with you?"
Mildly surprised, Heero faced Quatre. He had thought Quatre had ordered him in here to grill him about Duo’s odd behavior, not his.
"Me? Shouldn’t you be more worried about Duo?"
"I worry about Duo. I also worry about you. You lost some weight."
Heero shrugged. He hadn’t noticed.
"More than that," Quatre continued in his concerned but angry voice, "you gave up."
Heero paced, the frustration and sorrow he had kept silent rising to the surface.
"So what if I did? What choice do I have?"
Quatre ached for his friend, but he would not let him give up so easily.
"You have choices, Heero. You can help him become better."
"Don’t you think I’ve tried? Don’t you think I gave it my all? Damn it Quatre, don’t you know it’s killing me to see him like this, to know that I’ll never get him back?"
Ignoring the pain littering Heero’s every movement, Quatre went for the jugular.
"I know you tried, Heero! But you owe it to Duo to help him now. He helped you, didn’t he? He made you feel! It took him two fucking years, but he did it. And you owe him no less!"
Heero flinched. It had been a low blow.
"That’s not fair, Quatre."
"I know. But it’s true."
Heero fell silent and his eyes filled with unshed tears. When he noticed that his eyes were once again filled, he let out a bark of a laugh.
"I don’t think I’ve ever cried this much before."
Quatre nodded, encouraging Heero to go on, to let go of the imprisoning numbness within his heart.
"I want him back so much, but I can’t find a way. It hurts too much to try and have him smile at me without the force behind it. It hurts, Quatre. It hurts to know that he doesn’t love me."
Quatre walked over to Heero and put his arms around him in a comforting hug. Heero collapsed into them, nearly relieved that someone was there to support him. Soothingly, Quatre spoke.
"He does love you, Heero. He really does, whether or not he knows it. Besides, you can’t give up because of the pain. You know pain. You can work through it, I know you can. If it’s for Duo, you would do it."
"I would," Heero mumbled, "but this is a pain I haven’t been conditioned to fight."
"So learn, Heero. Learn to feel this pain. Don’t lock it away."
Quatre held Heero while he shed silent tears. Each tear thawed the numbness that had enveloped him. Each tear seared a path to Heero’s pain, opening a new road for hope.
Quatre and Trowa drove to their home in silence, each contemplating what they had seen during the dinner. Quatre had already imparted to Trowa about Heero’s dilemma, his voice hopeful about Heero’s recovery. Trowa had yet to say anything about his time alone with Duo.
"Okay, Trowa. Tell me what happened with Duo or I’m going to beat it out of you."
Trowa smiled, knowing that his love was only half joking. If he dragged the silence out any longer, he just might end up trussed up and beaten like a pińata before the night was over. The thought brought a strangely kinky smile to his face, but his concern over Duo won out over the aberrant thought.
"Duo loves Heero."
"Are you sure, Quatre?"
"Yes. He can’t say it, he can’t remember it, but somewhere deep inside, he knows it."
Puzzled, Quatre threw Trowa a look filled with questions. Before he could verbalize them, Trowa obligingly continued.
"Have you wondered why Duo stays with Heero still? Why he doesn’t do something else? If everything was equally nice to Duo, he would have left."
"Not if he is comfortable with where he is."
"No, my love," Trowa said with a slight shake of his head, "it’s not comfort. Duo admitted as much that the Heero he knows now is different than he remembers and it makes him uncomfortable. It’s routine between them, but there is nothing comfortable about it."
"So you think there is hope?"
"I think there is a possibility."
"Even better than hope."
The two lovers made the rest of their drive without further words. Hope. Possibility. Those were words that made all the difference.
The song was a familiar one. The contralto voice lilted to mesh with the strings, each a counterpoint to the other, playing in perfect harmony. The voice sang with such melancholy and sorrow that it should have clashed with the joyous strings, but together, they somehow made a song more beautiful than either would have alone.
Heero listened and smiled. This song was one of Duo’s favorites. The soft and haunting song made him tremble with emotions, the ones that had been frozen by the numbness. It was liberating to let go of the pain, if only for a short while, to truly enjoy something. Heero looked over at Duo who sat beside him listening and humming. His face was rather bland in expression, but his low throated humming held something entirely different. While Duo’s mind and face remained completely indifferent to the song, something in his heart was reaching out.
‘Maybe he had been reaching out all this time and I never noticed because I was too absorbed with my own pain and disappointment.’
That thought made Heero sad. It had not been enough that he had caused pain to his lover and them made him into a mockery of his past self. He had to go and ignore his love’s silent call because he had been too selfish. Earlier this evening, Quatre had given him hope. He would cling to it with all his might.
‘The smallest possibility is enough.’
The Devil pursed his lips. The mortal Duo Maxwell, he was a tenacious little thing. Even after giving up his emotions willingly, he was still fighting to regain it.
"This is the thanks I get for being so damned nice."
He spoke to no one in particular, but it was a goading thought nonetheless. He had fulfilled the mortal’s wish and had taken the pain away. The mortal had known of the consequences, had been fully warned, and had still wished for it. And now, the mortal wanted it back. For some strange, oblique reason, the mortal Duo Maxwell wanted to be in pain again.
"Humans.. strange, vexing creatures.. no wonder they lead such miserable lives most of the times."
But the Devil knew that his thought was flawed. He squinted at the glowing ball in his hand, the ball that contained all the pain and sorrow that had been Duo Maxwell’s. But underneath it, he could see the bright aura of joy, love and happiness. All entwined so intimately with the pain and sadness.
"Strange.. You wish and you wish, Duo Maxwell. Then you receive your wish. Then you have to go and try to take it back. Do you want your pain back so soon?"
Nothing answered him.
"I told you, Duo Maxwell, the Devil does not deal fairly. What you gave up, you cannot have again."
And somewhere within the recess of his mind, the Devil heard a voice tinged with humor and a bit of mockery.
‘Neither does Shinigami.’
"Well, mortal, if you want your emotions back, you have to wish for it. But you can’t wish for what you don’t remember. Can’t wish for something you don’t know."
But the Devil sat and contemplated a little. The other mortal associated with this Duo Maxwell, this Heero Yuy, he was also an interesting specimen.
"So, Shinigami, want to play a game of wishing for higher stakes?"
The Devil laughed. As if there would be a response.
"I’ll say this much. You two entertain me. So, I will raise the stakes."
With a small swirling of the infernal air, the Devil, for the second time in his existence, went to the surface to grant a mortal’s wish.
Heero looked around with a faint frown on his face. He was sure that this was a dream, but it was so real. The water, the cliffs, the green hills. It was the same place that he and Duo had gone for vacation not too long ago before he had left him. It was the place that he had fallen from his emotional perch, the place that had been the witness to his realization that he loved Duo more than he could handle.
Startled, Heero turned to see with disbelieving eyes. His lover, Duo Maxwell, was walking towards him with a mischievous grin on his lively face. It was an expression that he had not seen in months.
‘So it is a dream.’
His lover chuckled.
"You’re a bright one. Of course it is. But then again.. dreams, reality, who can really tell."
Heero narrowed his eyes. Something was a little off. His instincts screamed and his body tensed.
"You’re not Duo."
"Another bright observation. Of course not."
Heero changed his stance slightly so that he could either tackle the stranger with is lover’s face or bolt at a moment’s notice. Somewhere, he thought it rather ridiculous that he was getting ready for a confrontation in his dream.
"Anyway, Heero Yuy the mortal, I’m here to grant your wish."
"Yes," said Duo’s look alike with an exasperated voice, "a wish, just like I granted for Duo Maxwell."
Suspicion wormed its way through Heero’s system and lodged in his heart.
"What did you do to Duo?"
The figure rolled his eyes.
"Why do I always get the bad rap? Because of shit like this. I granted Duo Maxwell’s wish that he never remember or feel pain again. I was being nice."
A low snarl erupted from Heero and he had to consciously control his dream body from maiming the being.
"You made Duo like that? You turned him into.. THAT?"
"No. He did that all by himself. He wanted to forgetpain. So, in an essence, he made the choice and I’m, as they say, only the middleman."
Heero trembled with anger and rage.
"What are you?"
The being rolled his eyes again. It seemed to be one of his favorite expressions.
"Fine, don’t believe me. But I’m here to offer you something. Something you wish for."
The being held out his hand and in the palm danced a bright ball of pure light.
"What I hold in my hand is Duo Maxwell’s emotions."
Heero gasped, unwittingly taking a step toward the enticing light.
"But, you can’t have it just yet."
"I’ll kill you if you don’t give that back to Duo."
"Yes, I’ve heard it all before. But, I can’t give it back if he doesn’t wish for it."
"You said you’d grant me a wish. Give it back to him."
The being wagged his finger impishly in front of Heero’s face.
"Not so easy. Every wish has a consequence. Duo Maxwell’s wish wiped out not only his pain but all his joys. Your wish.. Let’s just say that if this returns to Duo Maxwell, he will remember the pain that caused this interesting fiasco in the first place."
Heero stared dumbly, not quite understanding what the being was saying. Sighing, the being explained.
"Okay. If you wish Duo Maxwell to have his emotions back, you are going to cause him pain again. Not just a little pain, but big amounts of it. Staggering. The kind of pain that even makes me sick. And more than that, there are his emotions. You can wish it back, but if he doesn’t want it, wish it, it won’t go back to him."
The being let out a silent laugh.
"I told you it wasn’t easy. I told Duo Maxwell that I never dealt fairly and that silly mortal told me Shinigami doesn’t either."
Heero smiled. That was something Duo would have said.
"And you know, he really doesn’t deal fairly. Gives me a run for my money, that’s for sure. This ball keeps trying to bounce back to him. Every passing day, the ball bounces more. Something about you, spending time with you, makes him want more. Damn that mortal."
Hope lit up Heero’s eyes to a brilliant cobalt. Hope. It was there.
"So, seems like I can’t keep it without a lot of attention on my part. So I’m gonna grant you your wish, mortal, but under one condition."
"Make Duo Maxwell wish for the pain. When he wishes for the pain, he can have his emotions back and you can have your wish."
Still laughing, the Devil disappeared out Heero’s dream.
Heero woke with a start. Next to him, Duo slept soundlessly, not even waking up to check if he was okay. Quietly, Heero got out of their bed and sat by the window. He stared at his lover, mesmerized by the shadows and moonlight playing on his features.
He could get Duo back, but at a great price. Not to himself, but to Duo. Duo had to pay the price.
Could he cause his love so much pain again? Was it worth to Duo? Would it be selfish of him to even consider?
"What do you wish, Duo?"
Heero’s whispered question breezed over Duo’s sleeping figure. And to his surprise, he saw a lone tear streaking down his lover’s sleeping face. Heero got closer to Duo and put his face next to his lover’s.
"What do you want, Duo?"
Another tear traveled down Duo’s face.
With a little more force, more emotions, Heero asked his sleeping lover once again.
"What is that you wish for, Duo?"
As Heero watched intently, a soft sigh and a word escaped Duo’s lips.