"Daydreams...like books in the shelf of my mind"
--Lolah Burford, 'Edward, Edward'
by D.C. Logan
He woke later, cotton headed and lightly disoriented. Sunlight filtered in at the edges of the blinds, but he couldn't see his clock from his current position. He was too comfortable and would have taken too much effort to move, so he stayed there and stared at the ceiling and considered drifting back off into sleep. So, this was what contentment felt like. He shifted minutely, trying to find a more comfortable position for his right arm, and the sudden fireworks dancing along his nerve synapses reminded him violently of exactly _why_ he was lying in bed at whatever hour it was.
He sat up then and looked to see if Duo was sitting in the chair by the window, but was unsurprised to find the chair empty. He tested the shoulder; he could move it... some. Hurt like hell though. He was itching for a bath and a shave, but that would have to wait for later. Bathroom first, then meds, then... He stood, wobbled, corrected his stance, tried to stretch and failed, then reached down to absently scratch his balls and realized what a bad idea _that_ was when his shoulder exploded again. His sling must have slipped off in the night. Hell with it, he'd dig through the sheets and find it later.
A few minutes later, after a brief visit to his bathroom during which he pointedly avoided looking in the mirror--he'd had one of his protagonists have the good sense to do that once, and it felt like an excellent idea to him this morning, or afternoon... whatever--he shuffled though his apartment.
He'd never had reason to figure out how many body parts seemed connected to his chest before. Right now the shoulder seemed to be overpowering all other sensation, but his ribs ached deep inside, and his arm throbbed in the cast. Hell, he was just a moving pile of misery today wasn't he? Meds... meds were a good idea if not a downright necessity at the moment. He followed the sound of happy coffee-grinding noises to the kitchen. Good, Duo must be here.
It wasn't Duo, and it was hard to swallow the disappointment. The yet nameless grunt-nurse was sitting in his kitchen, pouring fresh coffee into Heero's favorite mug. That hurt, but he chose to ignore the slight in favor of searching for his medications.
"Mornin' sir, you sleep any last night?" Heero looked at him, he looked slightly concerned... maybe he wasn't such a bad guy after all. He extended a cup of coffee to Heero that removed at least some of the doubt. "You should have a sling on that."
"It's not so bad as long as I keep it steady."
"It won't heal if you play with it like that though. Sit down, I'll get you a straw or something so you don't have to use it as much."
Heero sat, pulled the hot salvation close to him, and raised the guy to sainthood in his estimation. Okay, Wufei could live. This guy he'd found might not be so bad after all.
Heero still wasn't going to let him anywhere near him with a damp sponge though.
Meds, coffee, and thirty minutes later, he was more exhausted than he'd expected. Nap time again. His nurse wandered off, saying something about watching a movie in the living room. Heero thought about going into his office for a while, just to sit and think, but decided against it. He didn't want to risk giving the guy access to his office space, that was too dangerous. It wasn't until he was sitting on the edge of his bed and trying to decide whether to watch TV or sleep that he saw the book. Duo must have left it on his end table last night. He recognized the title, since it was one he'd asked Duo to order for him weeks ago. It must have arrived while he'd been in the hospital. He picked it up, which hurt like hell, and settled awkwardly against his headboard to attempt to read it.
It had been a busy hell of a day at Daydreams. Duo had been anxious and eager to visit Heero all day, but Trowa had called at eleven to say that he had an emergency, and then at two to beg for the rest of the day as well. Of course Quatre was with him, which left Duo without help all afternoon and into evening. When the store emptied at ten, he rushed though the closing procedure, dumped the day's receipts into the safe without totaling out the accounts, checked the locks, killed the lights, and rolled down and padlocked the security grate. He was starving and had a vague headache from lack of food. Usually he would run out for lunch or dinner as need and hunger indicated, but the shop had been too busy today for him to leave for the ten minutes it usually took to run out and back again--good for the books, bad for his stomach. This wouldn't be the first time he'd missed meals in the past, nor the last.
He dashed across the street to the takeout Chinese window while mentally tabulating his budget. It had been a good day, if Todd had fresh shrimp, he was getting the spicy cashew shrimp dish he liked so much. He turned once he reached the opposite sidewalk to look up at the fourth-floor windows. Two were dark, but he could see the play of light against the other ceiling. Someone was watching TV up there. On impulse, Duo ordered enough food for at least four people. He wasn't sure what Heero would feel like eating--he had first choice--and Charles was big enough to need two meals, easy. Duo raced back across the road while juggling food, keys, and his sheet of instructions.
Charles answered the door, damn, he'd hoped that Heero might still be awake. Still, the food was hot and Charles was company. "Evenin' Charles! I come bearing gifts of the Asian persuasion..." He handed the bag to Charles to entice him into moving away from the door. The man followed the lure of Golden Sun takeout like a pro.
"Dunno if he's awake," Charles shrugged to the back room while unfolding the top of the bag, "but he needs to take his meds regardless. Why don't you go check on him while I rustle up some plates and such."
"Okay, but if he's awake, he gets first dibs on the Chinese..."
Charles looked thoughtful, "What'd you get?"
"Um, Buddist delight, cashew shrimp, sesame beef, and something else that Todd dropped in that has lots of veggies in it. Oh yeah, and extra rice and fortune cookies."
"Deal then, but only 'cause I know he's not gonna wanna eat much." He grinned and waved Duo off to the back of the apartment.
Duo padded down the hall to Heero's room. The reading light next to his bed was on, and Heero was in an awkward sprawl on his mattress, apparently he'd attempted to find a comfortable position to read from. His eyes were closed, but he didn't look restful. Duo walked to the side of the bad and settled down on his heels. "Heero? Hey Heero." He kept his voice soft, not wanting to alarm him.
Heero opened his eyes immediately, then blinked rapidly to stall a response. He groaned, started to rise, and groaned again. Damn he hurt.
"Hey Heero," Duo tilted the light away from Heero's face, giving him some time to adjust. "Charles says it's time for more meds; and I brought food if you're interested? Chinese from across the street?"
"The guy in your kitchen?" There was no response. "Your nurse for the duration." He peered into Heero's face, yes, there was a glow of recognition if he looked hard enough for it.
"Yeah, takeout Chinese--you eat anything today? You hungry?" Aha, and some definite interest there as well. "C'mon, I'll help you up okay?"
It was a subdued and aching Heero that wandered into the kitchen alongside Duo a few minutes later. Charles had set out a stack of bowls and had inserted a large spoon into each of the containers. Apparently that was the extent of his culinary abilities. Duo filled Heero's bowl based on his assorted nods and twitches and set it on the table while helping himself to some more of the same.
Heero ate slowly and painfully; it tasted good though and was much better than the bland food fed to him at the hospital. He'd never thought of eating as arduous before; he'd have to file this experience away for use in one of his novels later. Damn he hurt... and he still wanted a bath. He shot a glance at, what was his name? Charles? Before deciding that, no, he wasn't ready for that. He'd endure a while longer.
He didn't last much past his late supper either. Charles measured out his meds, which he dutifully swallowed. Duo walked alongside him back to his bedroom, and assisted with covers and pillows and such, doing his best to arrange them to Heero's comfort. Heero felt awful; dizzy from the drugs, aching from too much time abed, and he still felt that odd limbo that came with being mentally awake but with an exhausted body.
Duo picked up the book from where Heero had discarded it on the bed. He turned it over, noted where the pages had been pressed open, and looked down at Heero. He was relaxed, quiet and looked small and weak. He was so unlike the man Duo had been introduced to two short weeks ago, and yet so much more... This was Heero in the potential stage, and that was nearly as heady an experience as when he was healthy and thriving. He was so much more accessible like this, and Duo hated that that particular thought had surfaced. It felt mean and beneath him somehow to be enjoying any part of this.
"Want me to read this for a while? 'Til you fall asleep again?"
The one word said so much about Heero's feelings of helplessness and loss of control that Duo was spun by it. He sat then, on a chair pulled from the side so as not to disturb Heero with his moving later, and began to read where Heero had left off.
Heero settled deep into the bed, secure, drug fogged, and with the one thing he'd often desired as a child but had never been gifted with--someone to read him to sleep.
Duo rapped on the door again, still no response. He leaned close and pressed his ear against the surface and held his breath and opened his mouth slightly to improve his hearing, but either they'd gone out, or the soundproofing was impressively good on these reinforced fire doors.
He dropped his laundry duffle to the floor and rummaged though his pockets for the key Wufei had given him--it was in here somewhere. Hmmm, receipt for lunch, T tokens, aha! He fit key to lock and twisted smoothly, checking around the corner to see if the alarm system was engaged or not.
It wasn't, which didn't make any sense, especially since Wufei had told him that Heero was a bit paranoid about keeping the alarm system engaged--mostly due to fear of fire.
"Hello the house! Heero? Charles? Anyone? Yo! Company!"
He crept into the darkened living room, feeling like a thief. Even with Wufei's expressed permission to be here, he still felt a trickle of unease slide down his spine. This was not his home. Wherever they'd gone off to, they must have left in a rush. He swallowed hard, he hoped that nothing had happened to Heero. Damn.
He walked down the hall to Heero's room, calling out softly as he went. He stopped outside of Heero's closed door, not wanting to enter uninvited if Heero was actually in there. Yet he knew he wouldn't be able to settle in to wait for their return until he cleared the apartment. He edged the door open and called softly within. To his surprise, he heard a muffled response.
Duo followed the voice to the bathroom door and tapped on the frame, "Heero? You in there?" He pressed his ear to the new door and waited. There was a soft groan of resignation, followed by...
"Yeah, come in."
Well, _that_ was unexpected. Duo set his bag to the side of the door, nervously ran the palms of his hands down his thighs, and reached out and twisted the knob slowly; allowing Heero ample opportunity to change his mind. He peered around the edge of the doorway once he had it open a few inches, and looked inside, curious, open to anything.
Heero was damp and shivering slightly in the empty bathtub. He'd managed to snag a towel and drape it over his loins for propriety's sake, and had his cast resting on the edge of the basin, but was otherwise entirely exposed. He was clean shaven, looked completely exhausted, and watched Duo with tired humiliation in his eyes.
"Alright, so I tried to take a bath, slipped down and couldn't get the right leverage to get out again." He sighed in resignation, "Um, help?"
Duo opened the door entirely, considered his options, looked around and grabbed a large towel from off the vanity. He threw it over Heero before reaching down and trying to figure out the best or most strategic points to lift from. No, not those. Damn. He got down on his knees next to the tub and reached in to lift and brace Heero's upper body so he could work a knee under himself and push. Duo kept an upset running commentary all the while; "What did you think you were doing huh? Could've killed yourself you know. Why didn't you call for help huh? That's what Charles is here for you know. Stupid move buddy, real dumb, you know that?" Duo managed to pull him the rest of the way out of the tub, and the two of them sat on the cold bathroom floor, gasping with effort.
"I fired the nurse."
"What?" Duo was shocked. "What'd'ya do that for? The doc said you needed one, your friend said you needed one, and you just proved it. How long have you been stuck in the bathtub anyway?"
"Don't know, an hour? Maybe two. I thought draining the water would help, but it didn't." He ran his hand awkwardly over his chest, "Well, at least I'm clean now."
"Dumb way to get clean, and you didn't answer my question" He looked at him in worried disgust. "Oh, never mind, you're a mess, let's get you into bed first." Duo untangled himself from Heero's towel and crouched next to him, lifting him into a near standing position. Heero didn't straighten however.
"You hurt yourself?"
"Uh, no. I don't think so. Just wet and cold mostly."
"Well..." Oh, he realized very well what after a moment's thought. "Listen, I'll close my eyes 'til you get into bed if that's what's bothering you; but I'm not moving. Got it?"
There was another sigh, "Okay."
"Not that I wouldn't mind looking though."
Now why had he said that? Heero had enough on his mind as it was without Duo rattling off sexual innuendos at him. Damn, no wonder he was still single. "Listen, I'm sorry about that remark. Just get under the covers and settled and let me know when the coast is clear okay?"
There was a push against Duo's leg, and the creak of the countertop as Heero's weight was transferred to it, and a sharp, painful gasp as the bad shoulder took the load. 'Idiot' thought Duo. Both of them fit that description at the moment so he kept it to himself.
Duo blinked. He should have looked. He'd wanted to look, but his ethics didn't stretch that far and now the opportunity was past. Damn. He climbed to his feet and grabbed another soft towel before walking over to the bed. He stopped just to the side of where Heero was sitting with the covers rucked up around his waist. The folds did a nice job of highlighting that exposed chest, and such a nice chest it was too. Duo unceremoniously dropped the towel on Heero's head and briskly dried his hair by rubbing the toweling over his scalp and alternately pushing the towel away from Heero's face to check his progress. Heero's eyes were closed in pleasure, and Duo relaxed. He wasn't as bad off as he'd originally thought, just tired and stressed and more than willing to entrust his care into Duo's hands. Which was heady, addictive stuff to Duo.
"Okay, so give, where'd Charles go?"
"I fired him this afternoon."
"Okay," he halted his hair drying services to consider that. "Um, no, not okay. Why?"
"I found him in my office."
Duo sat on the bed, damp towel in his lap. Shit. Oh well, no time like the present to come clean about this. "Heero, _I've_ been in your office. Your friend Wufei showed it to me." He looked at Heero; Heero looked thoughtful.
"Did you go though all my files to see what I'd written?"
"Uh, no. I just walked through and looked out the window."
"He had turned one of my computers on and was reading though the finished copy. I told him to leave. He left."
Duo thought about the invasion of privacy that represented, especially to someone as sensitive about personal space as Heero was. Yeah, in that sense Heero's action was completely justified. He nodded. "Okay, so how do we find a new nurse to replace him then?"
Heero's eyes widened.
"Look, he was wrong to do that, you were justified in doing what you did, but you've just proven that you aren't capable of staying here by yourself yet."
"I can get by."
"Sure, just like that?" He waved his hand in the general direction of the bathroom.
Heero flashed him a hard look. "So I'll stick to showers."
"Your doctors said you needed someone here."
"Are you going to tell them different?" Heero looked thoughtful, considering his options.
"You're not going to give in on this are you?" asked Duo.
"On hiring a new nurse? No."
Duo looked up at the ceiling as if counseling with a higher power. He looked at the bathroom door, at his bag next to it... and got an idea.
"Decent of you."
"I'm taking the sofa then."
"Listen Heero, you won't get a new nurse, I gave your friend Wufei my word that I'd check up on you, and you're obviously in no shape to be here on your own. I'm staying. End of discussion."
Heero sagged back into the covers, defeated. He hadn't thought Duo the bossy type. Too tired to argue with Duo any longer, he gave in gracefully. "Fine, you can have the guest room if you want it."
"Naah, then you'll have to listen to my snoring all night long." Duo walked over and picked up his bag. "Go to sleep Heero. You look half gone already."
He left the room, pulled the door three-quarters closed to allow for some privacy, and wandered into the dark living room to sit heavily on the sofa, brace his elbows on his knees, and sink his head into his hands. What had he just done? Insanity, that's what it was. Like he was going to get any sleep when the object of his current obsession was less than thirty feet away. Okay, and injured, and likely not as interested in Duo as Duo was interested in him. He groaned softly. At least they were talking. This situation, awkward as it was, seemed to be bringing out all of Duo's dominant behaviors, and Heero was following his lead... for the moment. It was a hell of a turn on, even if he knew it wouldn't last.
He toed his shoes off and threw himself backwards onto the cushions, stretching out with his arm cradled across the back of his head. Thinking. Mostly of a nearly naked oh-so-touchable damp Heero. Damn he'd smelled good. Duo rubbed his fingers across the damp patches left on his shirt.
'God Duo, you're such a pervert. The man was in the hospital two short days ago and all you can think about is crawling under, okay and across, the sheets with him.' He moaned softly, 'Why oh why did he have this effect on him? It just wasn't fair dammit!' Duo looked down the plane of his stomach, thought some disrespectful thoughts at his nether regions, and tried to think of anything else; the store's receipts for the day, the swing band he'd heard in Kendall station, dinner last night. 'Dammit Duo, you are _not_ going to jerk off on Heero's sofa." Oh shit, he hadn't meant to say that out loud.
Chagrined and embarrassed, the urge faded... marginally, and he drifted off to dreams of the same.