by D.C. Logan
He gritted his teeth and stared fixedly at the cold gray concrete floor spaced between his hands. He wasn't going to cry. His right index finger tilted up at an odd angle. It had hurt like hell when they broke it, but that was child's play compared to what they intended to do to him yet. He was afraid—not for the first time in his life mind you—but nothing brought every bad memory to the front of his mind like a beating. And these thugs were dressed in the uniforms of soldiers, and they were being meticulously thorough.
He didn't have any information they wanted, and he gathered from the conversation between Crooked Nose and Tattoo Arm that they had lost comrades at the Edward's base and had drawn lots for the privilege of being in the room with him now. They weren't wasting their opportunity. The third aggressor seemed to be of a higher rank—and seemed to be enjoying the show immensely. Duo didn't even want to think about what that meant for him later. He concentrated painfully on drawing as much air as possible into his lungs. It hurt. Like it or not, he was fifteen and the other three doubled him in years and nearly tripled him in mass. He wondered if he'd survive this experience. He wondered if he'd want to...
Heero logged off his secure line and began rummaging through a swarm of indexed computer files until he located the few he needed to review. Duo was most likely to be held in one of the cells reserved for political inmates. That made getting him out of the facility more difficult, but his orders were to retrieve—not terminate—assuming Duo was still alive when he got there. Based on the reports he was able to access through his system, they were planning on using him as an example of what could be expected for resisting the military forces. Likely they'd abuse him to an inch of his life, parade him about as an example, and publicly execute him. And it wasn't a long shot that they'd make the biggest show of it they could to intimidate the other Gundam pilots and keep the colonies in check.
He ran down his mental checklist as he studied the pilfered blueprints of the facility. He'd need a supply of small-pack explosive units and electronic detonators, his sidearm with extra clips of ammunition—"Hn," what else... As an afterthought, he unlocked the box at the back of his lower desk drawer and pocketed the contents. If Duo was in really bad shape, the stimulant drug might come in handy. He was easily able to carry Duo if he was critically injured, but it would make things easier if he could get Duo on his own feet and keep him there during their escape—he hoped they hadn't broken his feet or legs.
Breaking into the facility was easy. Really. Oz soldiers were such amateurs when it came to stringent security. It came from too much promotion from within—sloppy soldiers who didn't want exposure on the front line or in any region with combat activity sought out favors and transferred to earthside and colonyside facilities. But they never shed that casual attitude or lack of discipline, and those were easy traits to exploit.
Using the ventilation ductwork as his passport from one level to the next, he carefully set the explosive charges. He placed them strategically along his intended escape route and set the charges in the receiving bay for remote manual detonation. If all went according to plan, he'd trigger the timers when he opened Duo's cell. The supply-bay explosions would act as the distracting force—other charges placed throughout the building would cover his escape, since he wasn't sure yet how fast he'd be able to move with Duo along. Even in perfect health (unlikely today), Duo couldn't hope to keep up with his acutely trained and modified biological systems—Dr. J had ensured that.
He spent the next two hours observing the movement of the guards from his vantage point above the ceiling panels in the 6th floor corridor. He had set enough explosives to clear the path from this hall to his intended exit. But now he had to find out which cell Duo was in—and this hall was patrolled by soldiers who knew what they were doing. They moved proudly with the realization that they had been hand-picked for the honor of guarding such a prize prisoner. Based on that fact alone, Heero knew he was in the right area. This containment facility was an old established unit—soundproof doors and walls, no coding or badging of the doors in the corridor. It was designed to confuse all but regular visitors to the facility, but their mistake was in using a public vendor for their maintenance needs. The blueprints Heero had access to showed eight cells on this hall. He had narrowed it down to two.
He listened carefully at the regular movement of the patrol below. He lay on his back two meters above their ignorant heads and triangulated sounds and matched them to the map in his mind's eye. A door's electronic lock clicked and thunked as the heavy bolts retracted from the wall into the reinforced door. He heard disorganized movement from the cell on the exterior wall. He strained his hearing and caught garbled phrases—a conversation between two men—but nothing that he could make out clearly.
So it sounded like two soldiers had left the cell and Duo was still in it. Good. Those odds he could work with. He waited a few moments for the men to move away from his position and rolled silently onto his hands and knees. He moved stealthily through kilometers of steel extrusion, back down to his egress hole. He'd take the direct route up to the cellblock.
The freight elevator was efficient and empty. Heero stood in the center of the carrier, feet spread, sidearm moved to the small of his back for easy accessibility. The mechanical whirring of the lift seemed loud to him. His body began to tense in anticipation as the running lights and the rising numbers flashed. He mentally prepared himself for the next few minutes. Clear the hall. Open the cell. Deal with anyone still in the cell. Grab Duo. Set off his distraction. Ride freight elevator down. Get the hell out. Hope that planning paid off…
The elevator slowed and stopped before he completed his mental review. Showtime.
He moved behind the button panel, waited for the door to open, and flipped the hold switch on the door. And waited. After a few moments, he heard the clip of boots on the polished floor as a uniformed lackey investigated the puzzle of the waiting elevator. His eyes had a moment to widen in surprised shock before Heero silenced him. He left the unconscious man in the elevator and moved down the hall. One down, more to come. With a practiced ease, he shifted his stance and walked confidently into the detention block. Only one set of vertical bars blocked the hall, and it was simple work to bend two bars enough for a slim young man (or two) to fit through.
There should be two guards at the next turn if his information was accurate. There were three, but none of them had the chance to make more than a grunted "oomph" as they hit the floor. Remembering how much his hip had hurt after the last door he'd taken down, he took a few precious seconds to remove the electronic key from the guard stationed in front of the cell and swiped it through the lock to retract the bolt mechanism. The door slid open.
There were two people in the room. Heero saw at once why the soldier had been so distracted that he hadn't reacted to the opening door. He struck the man on the back of his neck with more force than absolutely necessary and kicked his corpse off of Duo's unconscious form. One glance at Duo revealed why the soldier felt confident enough to remain in the room alone with his prisoner. Heero took a long grim look and triggered the explosives in the loading dock.
In the dim light, it was hard to tell how much was bruising and how much was blood. Heero carefully adjusted Duo's clothes and shifted him onto his back. He'd do a thorough inventory later, but at least his legs and feet looked relatively undamaged. In any other instance, he wouldn't have risked moving him, but if he died on the way out of the facility, better that than at a public execution. He dug the syringe out of his pocket and drove the large needle into the vein at the base of Duo's neck. It should hurt like hell. Apparently it did—since it was painful enough to rouse Duo from his semi-conscious state. His eyes blinked and tried to focus in the dim light. His breathing shifted from shallow breaths to a painful panting as he became more aware of his surroundings.
Heero crouched down closer to Duo's face and peered into his watering eyes. "That drug will wear off in about twenty minutes. Can you move?"
Duo started and looked at Heero with wide frightened eyes. Tear tracks had cut through the blood smears on his face. He looked like a tragic clown. He shifted and winced painfully. "No," he whispered harshly from his bruised and abused throat. "Just end it now Heero. Please?"
Looking at Duo's face, he felt a moment of indecision, "Can't. My orders were to get you out of here, not to kill you. You're necessary."
"Oh." He looked disappointed in Heero's verdict. A short simple death after all he'd been though over the last few days would have felt like a blissful release. But even in the state he was in, he knew it was futile to argue with Heero. "I can't move." he said when he realized it was true. And had a moment of panic when he thought they'd sliced his spinal cord like they'd threatened to.
Heero shifted his sidearm back to his waist and lifted Duo gently from the shoulders. Duo gave an inadvertent flinch at the contact, but gritted his teeth as he was manually shifted into a seated, then standing position. Heero moved to Duo's right and pulled him against his left side, shifting Duo's arm over his neck and shoulder. He moved his sidearm back into his right hand and peered into the hall.
Good. His distraction was apparently working. The entire facility's attention was focused on the terrorism on the second level—but that wouldn't last long.
"Try to stay conscious until we get to the transport, okay?"
At the moment, with pain washing over his entire body, Duo couldn't speak or nod, but he made watery eye contact with Heero in acquiesce.
Shifting Duo's nearly dead weight through the bent bars of the security gate was not something Heero ever wanted to have to do again. He'd literally had to push the young pilot though and drop him painfully in a heap on the other side. Duo was struggling to maintain silence, but the impact against the floor wrenched a cry of agony from his throat. Heero clenched his teeth and rearranged Duo's mostly limp form against his own and moved down the corridor with careful stealth. Mercifully enough, the elevator was still waiting for them when they turned the corner. After manouvering Duo into a slumped position in the far corner of the lift, he set off more of his surprise charges to keep the soldier patrols busy. By the time the doors opened on the concourse level, the room had been cleared. They walked right out through the front door.
Somewhere in the drive from the containment facility to Heero's current flat, Duo succumbed to the cumulative effects of the pain he was in and the drug Heero had administered, and slipped quietly into oblivion. Well, mostly quiet. When the movement of the transport shifted his body, Heero heard small sounds of pain from the back seat of the car. He was at a loss as to what to do with the young pilot. He desperately needed care at a hospital—but that wasn't an option. He would have to survive on what little Heero knew about first aid. Heero closed his eyes briefly as he recalled what Duo looked like in the cell. Even if his amateur care couldn't restore him to health, at the very least he wouldn't have to die in that hell they'd just left.
Heero didn't even pause as he entered his flat. He kicked the door shut before any of his nosy neighbors could pry into his comings and goings and carried Duo over his shoulder to the bathroom at the end of the hall. Once there, he unceremoniously dumped him into the tub fully clothed. If Heero was correct in reading his respiratory signs, Duo was going into shock. Breathing was steady but shallow, and Heero didn't like the bruise on the side of Duo's head—he hoped he wasn't concussed or worse. He turned on the taps full blast to fill the tub with warm water and knelt by the tub. Time to check the extent of the damage. It was just as well that Duo was unconscious at the moment. After what he'd just been through, he wouldn't have been tolerant of hands exploring his body—even a fellow soldier checking him over for clinical reasons.
As the tub filled, Heero watched with growing horror at the amount of soaked blood that Duo's black clothing had concealed. The water was already a rusty brown color and it wasn't very deep. Heero removed Duo's boots and worked the wet black clothing off of his unresisting limbs. The marks underneath weren't pretty to look at. Duo would have some interesting scars to remember this by, and it looked like Heero was going to have to stitch some of them. One of the soldiers had been particularly inventive and creative with his torture—singe marks and small burns covered much of his torso. Two fingers on his right hand were definitely broken, some ribs too from the look of things. Heero hoped that his lungs were sound. The bruising was thorough and spectacular and looked like it had been applied over the course of a few days. Heero had never seen its equal. Mentally, it remained to be seen how much damage had been done to Deathscythe's pilot. The dried blood between his legs hinted of another torture all together.
He drained the water and ran fresh into the basin to better soak the open wounds and maintain Duo's core temperature. His color had improved from wax white to pale flesh and he had started shivering—two good signs that he was past the danger point for shock.
Heero drained and refilled the tub a third time, taking the effort to remove all the dried blood to find treatable injuries. He also scrubbed out the abrasions on Duo's palms and knees and unbraided his hair so the dried blood and fluids would rinse out. His hair was a snarled mess—apparently his tormentors had used his braid as an impromptu leash. Heero noted that portions of his hair drifted clear from his scalp once it had been unbraided, and there was a red patch on the back of Duo's head where a hank had been torn completely free. It was still bleeding sluggishly—but head wounds did that. The warm water had caused some of his other wounds to start bleeding again—but that would at least ensure that they were cleaner when Heero closed them.
Heero shifted and lifted a wet and naked Duo into a slouched position in the bath. Working one handed, he snagged a towel from a standing rack and wrapped it loosely about Duo's head. He shifted again, and lifted Duo into his arms. Walking tentatively with his burden across the slick floor, he carried him into the bedroom and settled him carefully onto a bed padded with soft towels. Heero went back to the bath, dumped all Duo's clothes and his blood-soaked boots back into the half-filled tub to soak and retrieved his medical field kit from under the sink.
The slash over Duo's ribcage was the largest, and it took Heero's unpracticed fingers seventeen stitches to close it soundly. It took over fifty stitches in total to connect all the pieces together. Duo was out for all of it, which was good news since Heero wasn't sure how he could have restrained him while tying blood knots in monofiliment under not-quite-surgical conditions. He sprayed the sutures with antibiotic sealant, and sprayed some of the same on the burns and abrasions for good measure. He then rolled Duo onto his side and gave him another puncture with a hypodermic—a hefty dose of antibiotics couldn't hurt, he figured.
He rolled him back onto his back and covered his nakedness with a sheet and warm blanket. While he didn't exactly look like he was sleeping, some of the tension in his face was gone and he looked a little more relaxed. Heero looked carefully at Duo. He looked more like a tortured and fallen angel than his cognomen—the God of Death. There was something unsettling about the way he looked—so innocent and fragile and young under all that abuse. The young pilot looked different to him—without his brash attitude and ever-present chatter, he seemed... smaller... somehow.
Heero considered this as he unwound the towel from Duo's head. He parted the damp hair and searched for the source of the blood. Good thing he habitually used red towels. The patch on Duo's scalp was an angry red, but the bleeding had stopped. Heero sprayed this with the antibiotic as well and let the damp hair cascade over his hands as he tried to figure out what to do with it. Unbraided, it was longer than he'd realized. He went to the bathroom and returned with a comb. Working from the ends up to the crown of Duo's head, he gently combed out the snarls and tangles until it was a shining wave of liquid silk again. It was the only part of Duo that looked normal he thought sadly, and draped the wealth of hair over the back of Duo's pillow where it wouldn't pull against the abrasions on his skull. He looked carefully at his fellow pilot. He would live, but he was going to be in a great deal of pain over the next few weeks as his injuries—external and internal—slowly healed. Heero moved an uncomfortable chair within a few feet of the bedside and began his vigil.
Duo came back to consciousness later that evening. Weird visions of cockroaches dancing across armor plating filtered into his brain—disturbing his rest. What the hell? Duo blinked owlishly in the half-light of the bedroom. His eyes tracked over the unadorned surfaces of the room and came to rest on Heero. The filtered light of the desk lamp and computer monitor illuminated his face. His expression looked grim and a bit satanic in the reflected green light. Duo supressed a shiver. The quick cadence of fingers on a keyboard made sense of the cockroaches. He shifted and let out an involuntary groan as his body revolted against the movement. Heero looked over at the bed, pleased, Duo was finally coming around. Good. Heero had been worried about him.
Heero shifted in his chair and rolled it slowly to Duo's bedside. Stopping when he was a comfortable distance from the bed. "So, what happened," he queried in a soft voice.
Duo felt around in his head for words. "I made a mistake and got caught," he replied in a raspy whisper.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
"You came for me, but you wouldn't kill me." His eyes held accusation and the pain of betrayal at the memory.
Well, at least his memory was intact. "I counted at least three officers who were in the cell with you, were there more?"
"Maybe, I don't remember... I don't want to remember."
"You know that's not the way it works. If I could risk taking you to a hospital I would. But I need to know if there's anything medically that has to be done."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"You have some lacerations, three or four broken ribs, two broken fingers, and a possible concussion. And you're the victim of one of the most brutal beatings I've seen. You're conscious now, you have control over your facilities, and you're going to hurt like hell for the next few weeks. You're also going to have too much time to think about what happened in that detention cell over the next few days—and that's why you need to tell me what happened."
"I'm going to get you something to eat and some water. You might want to think about where you'd like to start. Keep in mind that I'm the one who carried you here, and I'm the one who treated all the physical damage on your body. I just need to know how it got there. And you need to tell me about it whether you realize it or not." He paused a moment and left the room to give Duo some privacy. As soon as he was out of view of the bedroom, he turned and braced himself against the cool wall of the kitchen. That was a lot harder than he thought it would be. He felt as if he'd kicked a puppy after it had been hit by a car. His gut clenched and he braced himself for more of the same. For the sake of Duo's sanity, it had to be done.
It was the longest set of words Duo had ever heard Heero string together at one time. And then the intent and meaning under those words hit...
"Oh shit," he whispered softly to himself. Duo squirmed mentally and swallowed convulsively. Heero had left the room. If there were any way out of this, he'd leave now. But his body betrayed him completely—too weak from exhaustion, drugs, and injury for him to even lift himself into a seated position. Oh God he hurt. Radiating pain told him once and for all that he had feeling in all his extremities. He experienced a spiraling sensation of guilt, pain and shame when he remembered some of his "punishment." How could he ever look Heero and the others in the face again—they'd all know what had been done to him, it would never be the same again. He knew in the objective part of his brain that Heero was right to insist—but there was nothing he wouldn't have exchanged for the opportunity to escape from the task.
Heero came back into the room carrying a tray with what looked like soup and a glass of ice water. Duo licked his lips and found them dry and parched.
"How long since you broke me out?"
"Only about 18 hours, but you had me worried with that head injury of yours."
"Yeah, don't mess with it, but you've got some stitches on your forehead and a nasty bruise on the side of your head—you're probably concussed as well."
Duo remembered how he'd received the cut on his forehead and closed his eyes and swallowed hard to keep the bile from rising in his throat.
Heero nodded in silent response to something he was thinking and moved the tray into range of Duo's unbroken hand.
He hesitated a moment, and putting his hand under the pillow, lifted Duo slightly and shifted a second pillow under the first to raise his patient into a more suitable position for eating and talking. His sharp eyes looked for reactions to his movements, and he flinched internally at what he saw. Duo's reactions were subtle, most likely seeping out under an iron-hard core of self-imposed control—but they were there nonetheless. Duo was afraid of him, and most likely anyone he would come into contact with until he recovered mentally from his ordeal.
Shaking, but with more control than he'd hoped for, Duo brought the drinking straw within range and felt the cool water flow down his raw throat. He paused in his drinking to remember quite how it had become so sore. Ah yes, then. And suppressed a mild twinge of panic that rose from his gut which he stifled reflexively.
Dammit, Heero was watching him too carefully. He was wearing that considering look he got on his face every time he filtered out all external stimuli to concentrate on a vexing problem. Which he guessed he qualified for at the moment. Humph, he hardly qualified as the comrade in arms Heero was sent to retrieve for the protection of the colonies. He couldn't even defend himself, he thought miserably. His lower body reminded him painfully again of just how miserably he'd failed this time around.
He transferred the straw from water glass to soup bowl, peering under his bangs to see if Heero would snicker. His fine motor skills weren't up to maneuvering a spoon yet, and he'd rather drink the broth than wear it. Not that he was wearing anything as far as he could tell—and he felt another wave of something that felt suspiciously like shame run through him at the thought of what Heero had seen.
He was hungry, but the effort of consuming the soup tired him more than he expected. Heero, moving noticeably slower and more predictably than normal—Duo could only assume that was for his benefit—gently took the tray away from his side and placed it on a neighboring table.
"Do you need to use the bathroom?"
Duo nodded, and then wanted to retract the action when he realized the triple impact of his head reeling, his nakedness, and his inability to move on his own.
Heero, expressionless, grabbed a long surgical gown off a pile of clean clothing and approached Duo.
"I'll need to slip this over your head and arms, is that okay?" He stood away from the side of the bed and waited with a careful expression that Duo couldn't identify.
Duo, realizing now why Heero was being so careful of physical contact, considered briefly and nodded very slightly. He raised his unwilling arms over his head while Heero fitted the smock over his upper body. He couldn't however, hide the inadvertent flinch that escaped his control when Heero pulled his hair gently through the neck of his gown. He hoped Heero hadn't noticed, but was aware that Heero missed little. Heero stood to the side of the bed, ready to assist him, but not controlling him in any way. He shifted to the side of the bed, and with Heero's assistance, tottered the short path to the bathroom. Heero left the bathroom light off at his request. He wasn't ready to face himself in the mirror yet. After the brief exodus from his bed, he felt exhausted again, but knew better than to think that Heero would allow him to sleep.
He settled back onto the bed and felt the weight of the world settle into his bones. He looked at Heero. Heero stared back neutrally. No, Heero definitely wasn't going to let him off the hook. Damn.
He shifted his gaze to the blank wall behind Heero, resigned himself to losing one of the most promising friendships of his life, and began to talk.
He started at the street scuffle that had escalated into a small riot between the local population and OZ soldiers. He talked about running like hell when one of the soldiers had recognized him from a photo circulating through OZ, and how he'd mistakenly chosen the wrong alley to run down—one with high metal-sided walls and no exit. He'd received the cut on his forehead and the concussion then, courtesy of his captors. The lacerations had occurred after he recovered consciousness at the local munition dump where they were holding him for transfer to the penal facility.
He'd managed to trick his two guards into looking the opposite direction for a critical moment and dodged out from under their care. They'd tracked him down without too much effort; his dizziness and the confusing layout of the warehouse had been his undoing. But they hadn't been pleased with his tricks, and had decided to ensure that he wouldn't be able to manage anything else while under their custody. They'd been thorough, but he'd had more severe punishment during a skirmish in Deathscythe.
Then they'd moved him via transport to the cellblock for "questioning," only they hadn't asked him any questions. His voice started to fracture as he retold the initial visit of the soldiers during his first day of confinement. They had beaten him, yes. But the real torture was the threats and promises of what they'd do to him over the week they had him at their mercy. Unsaid was the threat that he might not survive that long if they had their way. Cuffed and chained, he'd been truly helpless to prevent any of their actions.
Badly beaten after the first day, they'd removed the chains—deeming them unnecessary. Hoping to provoke one of his tormentors into killing him quickly, Duo had used his limited mobility to strike out at the soldier—but his attack was quickly snuffed and all he managed to do was to escalate the types of tortures and pleasures they had in mind.
By the time he struggled through the last events he could remember on the third day of his incarceration, he was hiccoughing with anxiety and relived fear.
Heero was carefully watching Duo. He knew the pilot well enough to know that once he started telling him what he'd been through; he'd tell his tale to the painful end—no matter what the personal cost. Duo was remarkably predicable in finishing what he'd started. It was a unique brand of honor—one he admired. He was also impressed at Duo's resourcefulness under the circumstances. Heero gave a mental nod to Duo's talent—even injured and disoriented he'd done his best to escape. He'd tell him so at a later date when he was prepared to hear the compliment for the impartial praise it was meant to be. He noticed the sheen of tears on Duo's face in the pale light of the room. Duo didn't seem to realize he was crying—so focused was he on getting painfully though the telling of his tale. While he spoke in a shaky voice, Heero kept mental track of the events, objectively matching each of them to the injuries on his patient.
The pain the pilot was reliving touched him at a level he hadn't responded to in years. A mix of respect, pity, shared grief, compassion, and frustration at the system that placed them at the mercy of others fought to the surface and raced across his mind. His reaction shocked him. He reached up to his face and found unshed tears. He wanted to comfort Duo in his time of grief, but was at a loss as to how to do so. He knew that physical contact could be the worst thing for Duo, triggering memories too raw and close to the surface to be fought or controlled. Yet he yearned to enfold and comfort his friend—to give back some of the humanity that had been torn and stolen from him. He stood, quiet and still, unmoving. Fighting for ironclad control that, until his realization moments ago, had been an intrinsic part of his soul.
Duo's voice stumbled to a halt. The room was silent. Fearing the worst, Duo shifted his eyes from the dead space of the wall and chanced a glance at Heero to judge his expression. He wasn't expecting the reaction he found there.
Heero was rocking quietly on his feet. He looked like he was in extreme pain. His eyes were glassed over with unshed tears. And he looked like he was holding back a killing rage just under the thin veneer of his cold surface. It shocked Duo speechless to see the change in Heero's demeanor. Gone was the remote soldier who had assisted him to the bathroom not an hour before. In his place was an avenging angel—one who was fighting for every inch of control he could muster. The transformation in front of his eyes was the last straw in his traumatic week—crying openly in more than mental anguish, he reached out to the familiar for comfort and acceptance.
Heero's eyes opened wide in shock at Duo's unexpected reaction. He swallowed the large lump in his throat and unlocked his immovable legs. He moved to the bed, hesitated for a moment, and nearly cried out loud when he saw a painful look of implied rejection shadow Duo's eyes. Moving hesitantly, as if animated from an external force, he reached down and enfolded Duo into his arms—bringing him tight against the warmth of his body. He shifted his weight onto the bed and held onto him gently while Duo's sobbing wracked though his chest and his tears fell openly in an unending stream down his face, dampening Heero's shirt and the skin underneath with salty rain. Heero softly stroked his back and rocked him gently. He spoke in soft soothing words through Duo's gasped cries, "It's over now, it's over." It sounded trite—even to his ears, but the words meant little now, the comfort meant a great deal to them both.
As Duo's sniffles quietly ceased, and the involuntary shudders passing through his body slowly ebbed and stilled, Heero felt him relax, and secure in his arms, safe and protected, pass into an exhausted sleep at last. Heero shifted his body into a more comfortable position and looked consideringly at Duo's sleeping face. He wrapped his arms tighter around his warm sleeping body and felt the protective urge that he'd been denying rise to the surface again. He considered turning off the lights, but instead shifted closer to Duo's resting form, rested his head gently on the pillow next to his, and waited for what the morning would bring.