The Little Things Arc
Part Seven: Warm Sheets
by D.C. Logan
I'd been late coming home. And since my luck was running about the same as usual, I'd missed the last connection and didn't creep in until the narrow hours of morning. I walked through the apartment frustrated, angry, and tired - berating the whole wide world and its invisible masters.
Soft frightened noises were coming from the other room, and at first I'd thought that Heero'd left the vid screen on. But no, as I soft-footed my way into the common room, it was clear that the sounds were coming from the bedroom. And I sighed. Only three days between the dreams this time, damn.
I moved into the bedroom in 'not too quiet' mode. It wouldn't do to wake him, and too much noise or none at all most certainly would. Especially to someone trained as he was. I'd tried moving around after hours one night and we'd frightened ourselves nearly to death with the results. Heero couldn't figure why I'd be moving thief-quiet in my own kitchen; I hadn't expected him to come on a date fully armed. Burning off the resulting adrenaline had been a helluva lot of fun mind you, but I didn't want to try that again. Not tonight anyway.
In the semidarkness - I stripped off my clothes, kicked them under the book-laden chair, and moved to the side of the bed. No matter what the novels and popular media said, he never looked peaceful while sleeping. He looked younger, yes, with some of the tension drained from his face. But he looked tired and worn, even in slumber. He shifted, shivered, and curled his knees tighter against his chest, and then he moaned softly one last time and fell silent; his consciousness rising to meet my presence in the room. I pulled on my favorite shirt, and dragged back the blankets to ease my body between the sheets - feeling the cool air creeping into his closer warmth.
As I shifted closer to the center of the mattress, I could feel the heat radiating off of him. I was always cold; he never stopped burning. I didn't want to wake him any more than necessary. He shifted, and rolled the weight of his body into mine, cool meeting warm in stages: initial touch, testing contact, and then settling smoothly along my body. And there was a genuine comfort in the touch of his flesh.
"Duo?" he whispered in a dream-muddled voice.
I hummed back at him in reassurance and stroked the curve of his arm under the covers.
He's gentle in this state of partial awareness as he never was when truly awake. He woke differently now as well. During the war, when his sleep was disturbed he was instantly aware of his surroundings. Now that his time as a soldier had past, waking was a more gradual thing - which was all to the better in my opinion. And in this case, his partial awareness drifted seamlessly back into sleep as I guarded his dreams.
And as dawn slowly approached, I felt something slipping from me very gently. The stress of the day and the anxiety that dogged me on my travels home melted away and was replaced by a warm lassitude. This was truly what my idea of home felt like. The same way a house knows its family by the random shift of weight on its floors. And as Heero's body warmed into mine, we drifted into the undisturbed sleep of the charmed.
I woke oddly disoriented, my body heavy with deep slumber. And I came slowly back to myself - lifting from the dreams that held me within their grasp. As I became more aware, I felt myself rising from a point inches deeper than the surface of the bed. True deep sleep as I rarely experience it. A gift.
In the stillness of early morning, he radiates boneless warmth, comfort, and sublime contentment. Like a banked bed of coals, he warms the sheets and me without any risk of burning at his touch.
And I absorb his presence without looking at him. I sense the texture of soft faded sheets - dry against my skin, and a sense of lethargy pervades me. A heavy head on my shoulder. Warm weight resting comfortingly along my side. The sweet-salty scent of his skin, and under it the tang of the night terrors that gripped him and shook his soul in the dark. His hair tickles my face, but not for the wealth of a thousand worlds would I shift and disturb his hard-won rest.
My joints feel curiously loose. Watching him sleep, wondering what he dreamed, I feel at once protective and necessary. I shift subtly within the old shirt I'd worn to bed last night - Heero's shirt. And where it touches my skin, it reminds me of his touch, unconscious though it was, while grappling with his private demons in the depths of night. The bone-deep terror had held him tightly in her grasp. His lashes spiked with fearful tears, even in slumber, and I recognized my own tears in his eyes. Compassion isn't an emotion I surrender to often, but for him I've found I'd do anything.
And I know firsthand about bad dreams. If I'd lived a simpler, cleaner life, I wouldn't have endured events that fuel a thousand different nightmares. Heero has enough material to fill his dreams every night until rapture. And then some. And they haunt him without even a shade of mercy.
But for whatever inexplicable reason, the dreams quiet when we sleep together - our limbs tangled like young puppies or children careless in their youth. We usually sleep on opposite reaches of the mattress - needing our own space even in slumber. But the room had turned for the colder in the night, and the warmth in our skin had drawn us to each other. Gravitation. And I came back to consciousness pressed up against him with legs tangled and arms entwined. Holding onto each other with an intensity that held a hint of desperation under it.
And I feel near to bursting with a sudden joy too strong for my body to contain - too monumental for my mind to grasp. And shallow tears of emotion rise to fill my gritty eyes. Being close to Heero does this to me sometimes, and I'm helpless in the grip of so powerful and overwhelming an emotion. But it soon relaxes its grip, releases me, and I regain some semblance of control. My chest burns with the release of tension, my breath catches as it restarts.
Heero shifts closer to me, still deeply asleep. He takes a single deep breath, and his sigh shivers over my skin.
And my body fills with the warmth, tightness, and excitement of a good secret held close. And I realize anew how very much I love him.