"Say nighty night and kiss me. Just hold me tight, and tell me you’ll miss me. While I’m alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me." - The Mamas and The Papas, Dream A Little Dream
The day had been one of those hot, sunny days. The kind where you swore you could see the sky curving above you, arching into a great dome above your head. They had gone out on the water. Lounging about and watching the annual lobster boat races, the waves rocking them gently as they cheered on the decrepit fleet. Duo, Heero, and Hilde had perched on the bow, dipping their toes in the icy water and shouting for the boats they wanted to win most.
Milliard had brought a picnic lunch, and around midday began passing out stacked sandwiches and ice cold drinks. Eventually the hot and cloudless day had made them all drowsy enough to want to return to their temporary home on the island.
The rest of the daylight hours had been spent alternately relaxing around the campsite and exploring the island. When night had fallen, Milliard had laughingly told them he’d saved the best dinner for last, and then had begun to pull out several packages of hotdogs and marshmallows. After that, everyone just had to find the right stick to cook their meal on, and a hunt ensued for the longest, strongest, most fireproof stick. Many hotdogs and marshmallows died flaming deaths within the cheerful bonfire to the laughing group gathered around it.
It wasn’t until after dinner that they found out just how badly Duo had been burnt while on the boat. Hilde had laughingly slapped him on the back, causing the longhaired boy to rise up from his seat, his face turning deathly pale. Immediately she’d apologized, while Milliard and Relena exchanged frowns. It had been Heero who’d finally lifted up Duo’s shirt, showing them all the cause of the boy’s anguish. Heero had been surprised out how much the angry red of Duo’s back disturbed him.
He had glared at the painful looking burn, then gently lowered the shirt and dragged Duo to their tent. Settling the boy down on his stomach, he’d gone to ask the others if they had anything to calm the pain. Relena had already disappeared to get something, and came back with a paste mixture she’d told him she had made herself. It smelled mostly of mint, but seemed to have a faint undertone of vinegar and some unidentifiable herb.
The lamp sat near Heero’s leg, giving off a soft glow. In the dim lighting, Duo’s back appeared to be a deep russet shade. Heero winced again as a hiss of pain escaped the boy. He carefully slathered more of the cooling mixture onto Duo’s back, absently caressing the fevered skin.
"You should have worn some sunblock." Heero said reprovingly.
Duo’s head was turned to one side, his voice slightly muffled against the pillow. "I didn’t even think about it. I suppose this is what I get." He wiggled against the sleeping bag a bit. "I think my legs got burnt too."
"I’ll get them when I’m done with your back." Heero said softly as he stroked the hot flesh beneath his hand. After a few minutes, Duo stopped squirming and lay still. Heero paused, his hand resting on the smooth back. He hadn’t really had a chance to be alone with Duo since the other night on the beach. His fingers trailed over the soft skin. Tomorrow everyone would be going home again, and what would happen then?
"I have to drive Hilde to the airport tomorrow night." He said quietly.
"Hmm?" Duo’s eyes were closed, his breathing steady and even.
Heero peered at the sleepy features for a moment. "I’m done with your back, what part of your legs feel burnt?" Heero nudged him. "If you want me to get at them, you’re going to have to take off these jeans."
Duo sighed. "Mmm...k." He rolled onto his side, his eyes still closed, and sleepily began to unbutton and unzip, sliding the pants off his hips. He let out a small yawn, managed to get his jeans down to his knees, then curled up slightly and snuggled his face against the pillow again. "How bad is it?" He asked in a blurry voice.
Heero examined the bare skin; not liking the angry red on the front of Duo’s legs. "Looks like you’ve been boiled." He said absently, scooping up another handful of the lotion, gently spreading it over the bright crimson legs. Duo gasped and squirmed again, making soft sleepy noises and clutching the pillow. Heero wondered how the boy was going to sleep with this horrible burn. Unless the cream lasted for more than a few hours, he imagined Duo was going to spend a very uncomfortable night. He sighed, rubbing the paste in.
Gradually, Duo’s muscles relaxed and he again breathed deeply, his brow smoothing in sleep. Heero turned him over until he once more lay on his stomach, intending to put another coating of lotion on the burn. He knelt back and looked at the peacefully sleeping boy. Duo’s braid stretched above his head and over the pillow. His arms burrowed beneath the pillow, lips parted, eyelids fluttering occasionally.
Heero could hear the muted sounds of the others, still gathered outside around the fire. He didn’t want to leave the tent though, or Duo. Careful not to disturb the sleeping boy, he tugged the jeans the rest of the way off. Then unzipped the sleeping bag and eased Duo’s legs into it, he left the bag unzipped, and coating his hands with more of the mint paste, began a gentle massage of the scarlet shoulders and back. His mind wandered to vague thoughts of school, his parents, Duo, and without even realizing it, his hands began to barely touch the hot skin, feathering over it.
Duo murmured in his sleep. Heero noticed the slight pink of the pert, upturned nose and gently dabbed a bit of the paste onto it as well. He smiled when Duo’s face scrunched up in a grimace, then muttering drowsily the boy snuggled further into his pillow.
Stroking a finger over the arched eyebrows and slack mouth, Heero pulled the sleeping bag up and zipped it. He lay down, carefully wrapping an arm around Duo, and briefly pressed his lips to the burning skin of his neck. "Sleep well." He whispered, and clicked off the lamp, letting the darkness inside the tent envelop them.
Neither boy was awake when Hilde finally came to bed. She stood for a long moment at the tent flap, her eyes soft in the moonlight. Then she sighed and slid across them, slipping into her sleeping bag and tugging it over her head.
"I’ll miss you sis." Duo hugged Relena tightly, burying his face against her neck.
"It was a fun trip this year wasn’t it Duo. I’ll be back in a few weeks. Take care of yourself." She returned the hug, stroking his hair.
Duo finally let her go, and then caught up a rather surprised Dorothy in an equally loving hug. "Take care of Rel." He whispered fiercely into her ear, then added in a lighter tone "Come back and visit with her."
"I will Duo." She smiled at him, a slight nod of understanding passing between them as he let her go.
"Call!" Mil yelled as the two girls got into the car. Relena rolled her window down, and poking her head out, grinned at them. "I want to see that back porch finished when I come back Duo!" Then waving, the girls drove off, heading back to school.
Mil turned and looked over at his brother. "How’s that burn feeling?"
"Horrible." Duo groaned, rolling his eyes.
"Relena left a jar of that balm she makes. It should help." Milliard paused, staring off over the front lawn and down the street. "I need to talk to you about something, let’s go inside."
Duo gave his cousin a curious look, then followed him into the house. Heero had gone to take Hilde to the airport already. The small girl had hugged Duo gently before she left, for once being solemn. Her final few words had stuck with him, he could tell they’d come from her heart. "You make him want to be himself all the time Duo. He’s been hiding his whole life, forcing himself not to feel. And without even trying, you make him want to be human. Just remember," her hands had unconsciously tightened on his shoulders, making him wince. "Things like love are new to him, and he might not always know how to show he cares." Duo had blinked at her, amazed. Things like love, and, Duo just wasn’t sure what love was. He loved his family, and his friends, and Heero…he didn’t know, it was different. It wasn’t like the unashamed feelings of love he felt for Mil or Rel, it was, more animalistic, deep, at a gut level.
He shook his head now as he walked through the house towards the kitchen. He still felt confused, and yet high. Like his feet didn’t really touch down, his head stuffed with cottony thoughts. And his back was on fire, every brush of his t-shirt sending annoying pain along his nerves.
Milliard sat down in one of the kitchen chairs, an unusually serious expression on his face. He gestured to the seat next to him, and Duo sat down as well, frowning.
"Duo, I have to leave tomorrow morning. I’m going to be gone for a few days. The committee heads want a meeting. Treize and I both have to be there. I’ve never left you alone before, I know you can take care of yourself, but…I just want to know if your ok with being by yourself here." He smiled suddenly. "At least Heero is right next door if you get too lonely." He couldn’t tell if Duo was blushing or not, the pink tint on his cheeks temporarily permanent due sunburn. "I’ll leave the hotel number and our cell phone numbers, if anything comes up just call, ok?" He looked anxiously at Duo for a moment.
Duo laughed, "That’s why you’ve got that look on your face? I’ll be fine Mil, don’t worry about a thing. I’m a big boy now; I can take care of myself." He winced as he unconsciously leant back in the chair, the burn on his back sending fire racing along his spine.
"Alright, I’ll be gone before you get up most likely. Take care of that burn. If I come back and have to see your peeling skin…" He trailed off and grinned. "Just take care, ok?"
"I will bro, and don’t worry, I promise the house will be in one piece when you get back."
"Just make sure you stay in one piece."
The next morning Duo managed to crawl downstairs and call Mr. Mac. In a soft whisper, he asked what exactly the symptoms of the flu were. Nodding at the replies, he’d hung up and slowly eased down onto the floor below the phone. His body felt on fire, and from more than just the sunburn. He’d had a horrible night of sleep; tossing and turning, sweat bathing his body, then chills racking him.
Now as he rest his head against the wall and let his eyes roam unseeing over the kitchen, he nearly felt like laughing at his predicament. It figured, the one time no one was around to help him, and he came down with the flu. He closed his eyes, absently rubbing at one tingling leg. He could actually feel the fever inching over his skin. Now he just had to make his way back upstairs and into bed. Leaning against the wall for support, he dragged himself up and stood shakily. Then, feeling dizzy, he clung to the walls and made his way upstairs again. Reaching his room, he collapsed onto the bed, shivering and yet extraordinarily hot.
When a knock came on the door several hours later, Duo didn’t even hear it. When the phone rang a few minutes after that, his oblivious ears didn’t pick that up either. But when Heero’s voice, soft and worried against his ear, questioned him, a cool hand brushing the sweat soaked bangs back from his forehead, he finally woke. Nearly incoherent with fever he managed to tell Heero about his illness, then he once more sank into sleep, the soft touch on his face comforting him.
Heero watched the sleeping features for a long time, stroking one fevered cheek. He’d gone down to the store after classes, as usual, waiting for Duo to get off work. When Mr. Mac had left, and still no beautiful boy with a long braid had come out, he’d begun to worry. Running home, he’d knocked almost frantically on the door of Duo’s house, then becoming even more worried he’d called. Finally, desperate, he’d opened the front door and gone up the stairs, his manners and normal restraint deserting him.
Seeing Duo in this condition, wracked with a fever so high Heero could feel the heat radiating off his body in waves, had made his heart clench in his chest. Then he calmed down and thought. He’d need a few supplies, and he’d have to wake Duo up for the phone number of Milliard’s hotel. As long as nothing got worse, he should be able to manage.