Tangled In the Web
by Dyna Dee
Both Heero and Duo began to feel that their lives were falling into a comfortable pattern as the routine of Heero's leaving five mornings a week became easier for the both of them. Although he felt more comfortable with leaving Duo and going to work, Heero made sure his cell phone remained on, just in case.
Their elderly neighbor began to visit Duo daily, staying to chat for a short while to discuss the latest current events and slowly ingratiating his way into the formerly reluctant young man's life. Things seemed to be moving smoothly until one week after Frank brought over his coffee cake when Duo woke up feeling miserable. The nausea he felt coming on the day before was back, and then he complained that his joints were aching. Heero was already dressed for work, but hesitated leaving his lover sick in his condition. After Duo's second bout of vomiting, he went to the phone announcing his intention of calling Sally.
"No, Heero. Don't bother her," Duo said firmly, though he looked pale and miserable as he settled himself back into bed. "It's probably just a virus and there's nothing she can do for that."
Heero frowned, but hung the phone up, knowing his lover was probably right. "Then I'll stay home and take care of you," he said.
"You're new on the job. It wouldn't look good to miss a day of work already," Duo argued, looking as pale as the white pillowcase his head rested against.
Moving to sit on the edge of the bed and taking Duo's hand into his own, Heero stated, "I don't feel right about leaving you like this."
"Heero," Duo was clearly exasperated, "I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself. I'll just stay in bed and rest until you get home. It's only for a couple of hours."
"Would you mind if I call Frank and see if he'll come and check on you?"
Duo knew he would agree to just about anything to get Heero to go to work and let him rest... in peace. He really didn't feel up to talking much less arguing. "Fine," he gave in. "Go ahead and call him." He lay curled on his side with his eyes closed as Heero made the call. After saying hello, his partner first apologized before getting to the reason for his early morning call. A curt word of thanks and farewell ended the call and then Heero was back by his side.
"Frank will be here around eight thirty. I'll leave the back door open so he can get in."
"No!" Panic lit the wide blue-violet eyes. "Can't you take the key to him?"
"Alright," Heero said quickly, berating himself for not realizing that a door left open, even in a secure backyard, would panic his lover. "I'll run it over on my way to work."
Heero frowned. "Have I ever lied to you?" He regretted the question immediately as it brought back to mind the one time he was forced to lie to Duo. It was a black day to remember for both he and Duo; the day he left him for Relena in order to protect him from her threats. It was a moment in time and a lie would haunt them both for the rest of their lives. I never ceased to amaze him that Duo had forgiven him for it, but that didn't mean either of them had forgotten. "I take that back," he said, a look of hurt and self-recrimination crossing his face. He leaned over and kissed Duo's forehead, surprised at the lack of heat he thought he'd feel considering he'd been so sick moments ago. "Call me if you want me to come home," he said softly.
Duo rolled to his back and reached up to touch his hand to Heero's cheek, not knowing what to do or say to ease the guilt that still lingered in the deep blue eyes. "Go on. I think I feel better already. Try not to worry."
Heero gave his pale-faced lover a weak smile before straightening and quickly leaving the room. As soon as his footsteps faded down the stairs, Duo turned onto his side and curled up into a tight ball. He hadn't lied, he was feeling a bit better, but he still ached from the inside out. With Sinjin re-settling in front of him, giving him a sense of comfort, Duo dozed off, hoping that when he woke again he'd feel better.
He woke up, alarmed at the sound of his name being anxiously shouted by a male voice he quickly recognized as his neighbor's. Sitting up, he pulled his dog protectively against his chest. "Up here," he answered back, fighting down the fear he felt rising within him at the sound of hurried footsteps climbing the staircase. When Frank finally rounded the door to his room, he could see the elderly man's face was flushed, his eyes were wide as they quickly fastened on him and instant relief shone on his face.
"Are you alright?" Frank said, still sounding a bit panicked.
Duo blinked, feeling confused by the man's emotional state. "I'm not feeling very well," he answered.
"You're not bleeding? Have you been outside?"
"No," Duo answered, feeling confused. "I was sleeping."
The man looked equally confused then went to the phone on the dresser and picked up the receiver. "Can you tell me Heero's phone number? I don't have it memorized yet."
A sense of foreboding shot through the braided man's body. "What's wrong?"
"I don't want to worry you, but I need to see if Heero's all right."
"What happened?" Duo persisted as fear joined his feelings of foreboding. "Tell me, Frank, what's going on?"
"Please, Duo, just give me the number."
"Not until you tell me what the hell is going on!" Duo shouted, uncaring if he hurt the man's feelings.
The older man frowned and ran a nervous hand through his thinning gray hair. "I found a pool of blood on the porch in front of the door," he answered reluctantly. "I trailed it down into the grass. I just want to call Heero to make sure he's all right."
Duo rattled off the numbers then jumped out of bed and, wearing only his boxers and t-shirt, he rushed from the room with Sinjin running behind him, barking as a result of the nervous tension in the room.
"Duo, wait!" Frank called out after him as he listened to the ringing of Heero's office phone. The young man ignored him as he disappeared through the bedroom door and could be heard running down the stairs.
"Heero!" Frank said, relieved to hear the other man's voice. "Are you alright?" You're not hurt in any way are you?"
"No," Heero answered, startled at the anxiousness evident in the older man's voice. "Are you at the house? What's the matter?"
"Thank goodness," Frank replied, then putting his hand over the receiver, he yelled out the door, hoping Duo could hear him, "Heero's fine. It wasn't him." He then went on to relate to Heero of the puddle of blood he'd found upon arriving at their home a few minutes earlier.
The local law enforcement showed up ten minutes later. Frank had gotten Duo back into his bed, telling the pale young man that he would deal with the police while he rested. Once the bedroom door closed, the shaken young man picked up the phone Frank had placed on the bedside table and dialed Heero's office. "Hey," he said in a quiet voice, trying to sound as casual and calm as he could while one hand clutched the phone and the other held tight to his braid. "Just needed to make sure you're okay."
Frank returned to the bedroom forty-five minutes later to find Duo laying on his side with the gray-furred dog cradled in his arms. "What did they say?" Duo asked without moving.
"They took a sample of the blood and will have it tested. I hosed off the porch and sidewalk so all traces of it are gone."
Duo's eyebrows drew together in thought and worry. "Who could have done it and why?" he asked, obviously disturbed by the whole incident.
"It's probably just a kid's prank and your doorstep was picked at random."
"You think that's all it is?" Duo asked both hopeful and dubious.
Frank could see the need for the young man to be reassured. He sensed Duo was almost desperate for it. "Yes, and the police believe that to be the case also."
Relief flickered briefly over the younger man's face. Then almost shyly, Duo said, "Thanks, Frank. Thanks for dealing with all of this for me."
The older man's eyes crinkled as he smiled. "I'm glad to help. It helps me deal with the loss of my son when I can help another young man out." With his face softening, Frank asked, "How are you feeling now?"
"A bit better," Duo replied, pulling his blanket up close to his chin, suddenly feeling self conscious about being in his underwear with the other man in the room.
"Let me put the dog out in the back and I'll get you some tea and toast," Frank offered, and at the word out, the furry mass in Duo's arms began to wiggle furiously.
"Sounds like a good idea," Duo said. "Wanna go out, boy?" he asked the dog. A moment later, Frank was carrying a very excited Cairn Terrier down the stairs.
Duo was unable to relax until Heero returned home that day. The incident of the blood on the doorstep was put down as a sick prank after they received a phone call from the police reporting the blood wasn't human and most likely came from a dog or cat.
Yet on the following day, Heero opened the front door to go to work and found a dissected carcass of a cat secured to the outside surface of the door with duct tape. Not wanting to alarm his lover who was feeling better and was finishing up in the shower, Heero rushed into the kitchen and doubled up several garbage bags and carefully removed the poor animal's body and secured it in the plastic. He went to his trusty neighbor's house and asked Frank to call the police and report the incident. With luck, Duo would be unaware of the latest, troubling incident.
Duo recovered quickly from his bout of the flu, or that's what they called the brief malady. Then four days later the illness returned. Heero came home from work to find his lover curled up on the front room sofa, moaning from the miserable ache in his belly. An empty cooking pot sat at the side of the sofa, showing that Duo was prepared in case his stomach rebelled.
Heero managed to get him into their bed where he stayed until the next morning. Frank was called upon again to sit in Heero's absence, a task he happily accepted.
"You used to be a doctor, Frank," Duo said as he looked at the older man with a pitiful beseeching look in his eyes. "What the hell is wrong with me?"
The older man offered a reassuring smile as he put the tray of tea and soda crackers on the bedside table. "Well, it could be any number of things," he answered calmly. "Could be a lingering virus or a severe allergy to something in your diet. It could even be something as simple as a nervous stomach, which would make more sense since you don't seem to be running a temperature." He picked up a saucer carrying a cup of hot tea and passed it to Duo who had managed to sit up. "Heero has told me how difficult it's been for you to not only have him gone, but for your friends to be gone as well."
Duo frowned as he stirred his tea. "I'm not a child with separation anxiety," he said in a subdued voice.
"No, not a child at all," Frank agreed. "But a young man who's lived through some pretty traumatic events." Duo looked up sharply at the man. "Not that anyone has said anything," Frank was quick to add, forestalling the braided young man's anger. "I've just read some things about the war, your part in it and what's happened since then. I just put two and two together with what I've seen as a neighbor."
Duo looked away from the man, not wanting to discuss his life with him. He watched as Frank brought a chair over to the side of the bed and then picked up his own cup of tea.
"Mrs. L is supposed to come today," Duo said abruptly.
"Yes, you've mentioned her before but I've never had the pleasure of making her acquaintance," Frank said as he sipped his tea.
"She's great," Duo said with obvious affection for the woman. The older man stared at him for a long moment before lowering his eyes and to sip from his cup.
"What time is she due to arrive?"
"Just before noon. She's bringing lunch with her and will probably sit and visit with us all afternoon." It was clear that the prospect of visiting with the older woman pleased the younger man.
"You care her a lot, don't you?" Frank asked in a neutral voice that caused Duo to look up at him, wondering what the man was thinking. If he didn't know better, he thought he'd detected a trace of irritation in his voice. "She's been very kind to me, almost like the grandmother I never knew or had," he answered.
When the doctor didn't look up or reply, Duo sensed something was wrong. "What's the matter? Are you okay?" he asked, becoming concerned.
Frank seemed to shake himself out of his thoughts and looked up, offering the other a small smile of apology. "I'm fine. Just a bit distracted today."
"Maybe you can hang around until she comes," Duo offered. "Then you can meet her. She's older than you, so don't think I'm trying to set you up," he rushed to say with a crooked grin. "I just think if you meet her, you'll see why she's so special to us."
"I'd like that," Frank answered, but Duo couldn't help but think his smile seemed forced and he wondered if the older man was jealous of the sweet grandmother figure in his life.
Freshly showered and dressed in clean sweats, Duo stood in his stockinged feet in the foyer as Mrs. L. stepped through the front door with a covered pot in her hand and two bags in the other. He and Frank were quick to relieve her of her burdens and then the introductions began.
Duo watched with a growing curiosity as Frank seemed to be his charming self as he introduced the two, but he couldn't help but notice the man seemed put off. His words, though polite, were clipped and his voice was cool as he made polite inquiries about the elderly woman.
A few awkward moments later, Frank excused himself and bid them both goodbye, telling Duo he'd see him tomorrow.
"He seems nice enough, " Mrs. L. commented a moment later, taking Duo's arm and leading him back to the kitchen.
"I think he's having an off day," Duo replied, wondering what had been bothering the older man.
"We're all certainly entitled to those kind of days now and again," she replied, kindly sympathetic. "Now, tell me, how you're feeling today?"
And so the two began to prepare the table for lunch, chatting easily and until Heero arrived home, on time as usual, and the three enjoyed yet another meal and pleasant afternoon spent in each other's company.
After hugs and kisses were given to each of their cheeks, Heero led Mrs. L to the car and drove her home, leaving Duo behind in a house that suddenly became uncomfortably quiet.
With his stomach feeling better, he grabbed up the remote and turned on the television and settled on the couch. A half hour passed before he realized that Heero hadn't returned. The trip to Mrs. L.'s house and back shouldn't have taken more than ten minutes, fifteen if she sent him home with some baked goods. Rising from the sofa he moved towards the phone and noticed that Heero's cell phone lay next to it. Hesitating, he moved to the front window to look out onto the street, willing the familiar silver car to appear as he fiddled absently with the end of his braid.
Fifteen more minutes passed with still no sign of Heero. Duo remembered clearly that he said he'd be right back. Heero was always very careful to state how long he'd be gone or call if he was going to be delayed. His being late just wasn't like him.
Looking away from the street, Duo was surprised to see that his braid had been unwoven and he hadn't been aware that he'd done it. He looked around but couldn't find the elastic that had held it and couldn't for the life of him figure out what he'd done with it. Giving up, he decided he had more important things to attend to, and he went back to the phone table and picked up the receiver. He dialed Mrs. L's number and waited while it rang. After four rings, there was a click of an answering machine and the familiar voice of the elderly woman spoke an invitation to leave a message. He hung up the phone and felt in the pit of his churning stomach that something was wrong.
With panic rising along with the lump in his throat, he picked up Sinjin, standing at his side watching him, and moved on instinct alone as he flung open the front door, slammed it behind him and ran to Frank's house.
"Frank!" He pounded his fists repeatedly on the man's door while shouting his name frantically. The older man opened the door with a look of surprise on his face.
"Duo!" he greeted him. Then his eyes widened as he saw the look of panic on the younger man's face. "What's the matter?" he asked solemnly.
"Heero took Mrs. L. home and hasn't returned. Something's wrong, Frank. I know it is." he answered in a rush, his face pale and his eyes wide. He didn't protest or pull away when the older man grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him inside his home and shut the door behind him.
"Alright, take a deep breath and try to calm down," Frank advised, observing the insecure young man with the deeply worried expression on his face and his dog clutched to his chest. "How long ago did he leave?"
"About forty-five minutes ago," Duo rushed to answer, his eyes darting warily around the interior of Frank's home to take in his surroundings as quickly as possible. "He never goes out without telling me exactly where he's going and when he's coming back."
"Do you want me to call the police? Or would you rather we get in my car and I'll take you to Mrs. Lunderson's house?"
"The car," Duo said, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
Several minutes later the green sedan was backing out of the older man's garage, carrying Frank, Duo and the dog, still being held tightly.
"Relax, Duo," Frank urged, talking in a soothing manner. "I'm sure Heero is fine and that there's an explanation for his being late. Maybe he stopped at the store?"
"He went yesterday," Duo replied, staring out his side window. Once out of the driveway, he directed Frank to Mrs. L.'s house. Two and a half blocks from their destination, the car slowed as they neared an intersection with a stoplight that helped control the rush-hour traffic. Both men noted the police cars, just off the side of the road, that had their flashing red lights warning oncoming traffic to be cautious, and several uniformed officers were in the process of re-directing traffic around an accident.
"Oh, shit" Duo whispered with fear, his face blanched as he saw the familiar looking car that now resembled an accordion. He fumbled for the door handle and pulled it, opening the door and leaping from the car.
"Duo, wait!" Frank shouted after him as he watched the young man, braid swinging wildly behind him, run towards the accident. There wasn't any allowance for parking on the street, so he simply pulled his car over to the side of the road and eased it up onto the sidewalk before parking it illegally then followed after his distraught neighbor.
Duo stood before a police officer in his stockinged feet and with his barking and squirming dog in his arms. Frightened eyes turned to Frank as he came to stand by his side and cautiously put a comforting arm around the slender shoulders as he looked up to address the officer.
"I'm the neighbor to the two young men that own that silver car," Frank began, motioning with his head to the wreck. "Can you tell me what happened and how the passengers are?"
As the elderly man spoke calmly, Duo's eyes were fixed on the crumpled metal car that sat in the middle of the traffic chaos. Not far from it was a waste disposal truck that had obviously collided with it. Feeling numb with fear, he distantly heard the police man reply to Frank's questions. "The driver of the car said something about his brakes failing. He had to swerve to miss a pedestrian in the crosswalk and that put him on a collision course with the truck."
"Typical," Duo murmured so softly that only Frank heard as the policeman continued.
"Both he and his passenger were taken to St. Mary's Hospital."
"They're alive?" Duo asked, still dazed by what had happened.
"Both of them were conscious. Mr. Yuy sustained a head wound but was concerned about his passenger. She was shaken, but didn't look too bad to me," he added. "Then again, you can't always tell from the outside if their injuries are severe or not."
"Can we go?" Duo pleaded with his neighbor.
The older man smiled. "Sure, Robbie, I'll take you there," He patted Duo's shoulder and turned him around to go back to his illegally parked car.
Duo blinked at the name Frank had called him, but thought it was just a slip and let it go. He vaguely remembered his neighbor's deceased son's name was the same one he'd just called him. Probably just a slip from all that was going on, he told himself and let the matter it go. All he wanted to think about for the moment was getting to the hospital to see how Heero and Mrs. Lunderson were doing.
Though the drive to the hospital was slow due to rush hour traffic and long stop lights, Frank assured Duo they were making good time. They arrived after what seemed to be an interminable amount of time at St. Mary's Hospital where Duo had been a frequent patient over the last year and a half. He hated the place. The smell and sounds of a hospital were always synonymous to him with pain and drugs. Frank pulled his car into the back parking lot just as the clouds above reluctantly let loose and a light drizzle began.
Though bile caught in his throat and his knees felt as if they were going to collapse from underneath him, his desperate need to seek out Heero overrode his physical and mental discomfort. He entered the building at a run with Frank breathing heavily just behind him as he struggled to keep up. He'd meant to slow down for the older man during their run from the car, but his heart and legs wouldn't listen to any common sense or courtesy.
The reception desk in the emergency room had several people in line waiting for their turn. The waiting, Duo decided, was going to drive him out of his mind. As fourth in line, he fidgeted nervously, unable to stand still while Heero was somewhere in the building hurt and maybe dying. His worry was compounded by knowing Mrs. L. was there also and any injury couldn't be a good one to someone of her advancing years. He wished Frank had let him bring Sinjin with him instead of leaving him in the car.
"Hold on, Duo. I'm sure they're being taken care of." Frank's hand on his shoulder and soft voice were no doubt trying to comfort him, but all the braided man could think was that he wished Trowa were there. Since his friend had rescued and nurtured him back to health, he instinctively turned to Trowa for help and comfort, especially during those rare times when Heero was either unavailable or emotionally distanced from him.
"We need to call the others," he said as the idea came to him.
"Let's wait until we have something to tell them," Frank suggested. "I'll help you with that if you'd like."
Duo nodded, grateful again for the older man's assistance and calmness. Twenty minutes later he made it to the front of the line where a middle-aged and emotionally detached looking receptionist looked up at the two men and offered a practiced, fake smile that probably came from dealing with sick or traumatized people one after another, day after day. "What can I do for you?" she asked.
Frank took over. "A young man and elderly woman were brought here a short while ago in an ambulance from a traffic accident and we'd like to see how they're doing."
"Their names?" The woman turned to her computer terminal.
"Yuy and Lunderson."
She frowned at the screen and then sighed as she stood up. "I'm only getting that they've been brought in. Let me go to the back and see what I can find out." She then left the small room by exiting a side door. The line of people behind them groaned at the delay.
Duo felt like his skin was on too tight. He hated being in the crowded room, surrounded by strangers. He wasn't comfortable with Frank's arm around his shoulder and he wanted to scream his frustration at not knowing how badly Heero and Mrs. L were hurt. He felt as if he was falling apart. He needed Heero and if no Heero, then Trowa, Wufei or Quatre. He knew that wasn't going to happen. So he stood there amidst the chaos of an emergency room and watched the clock on the wall behind the receptionist's desk and decided the clock was malfunctioning. The click and movement of the second hand seemed much too slow and the minute hand didn't seem to be moving at all.
He was losing it.
Covering his face with his hands, he tried to shut it all out: the hospital, the people in the waiting room, Frank, the vacant chair behind the counter as well as the torturous damn clock on the wall.
"Hang in there, son," Frank said softly, his voice sounding too close to Duo's ear to be comfortable.
Duo remained in that pose, hands over his face, until at last he heard a woman speaking his name. "Mr. Maxwell?"
He nodded his head in acknowledgment while inwardly cringing at the realization that the receptionist knew who he was and that she'd inadvertently announced him to a lobby full of strangers. He fought back the urge to run and hide and succeeded, because his need to see Heero overshadowed that fear.
A buzzer sounded and the lock on the door next to the reception window clicked loudly. "If you'll come through the door, I'll be happy to take you to Mr. Yuy." Duo noticed a change in the woman, there was now a spark of excitement on her face that he was sure she probably didn't experience very often at her work. She had the look on her face that people wore when seeing a famous person up close.
Duo moved forward, out from under Frank's arm and went through the door, the older man following close on his heels. With a bright, genuine smile that hadn't been there before, the woman greeted them and motioned for them to follow her as the door to the waiting room clicked shut behind them.
Duo's fingernails bit sharply into the palms of his hands. The woman leading them walked frustratingly slow, and kept looking back at him with an appraising eye, checking him out. He was repulsed by that look, knowing that she was old enough to be his mother and reeked of cigarette smoke, so he chose to ignore her. Finally, she turned the corner and entered the first room to her right, then held open the door for the two men to enter the room.
Duo's eyes fell on the one occupied bed to see Heero laying flat on his back, his face pale with a bandage across his forehead. Dark-blue, pain-filled eyes turned as they entered and a faint, relieved smile grew on his lips. Without stopping, Duo walked straight to the bed and braced his arms on both sides of his lover's body to support his weight then lowered his upper body until his head came to gently rest on Heero's chest and he listened to the steady heart beat, reassuring him that his reason for living was still with him.
"Duo," Heero whispered his name as his hand came up to hold his braided head in place. It took all that was in the braided man not to break down, venting his bottled-up fears and the relief he felt that he'd been holding inside. "I'm alright," Heero continued, his hand stroking along his braid. "I'm sorry if you were worried. The hospital tried to call you at home but you were gone. I was afraid you'd panic when you learned what happened."
Clasping the hospital gown that covered Heero's chest Duo moved up slightly to bury his face in the warmth of his lover's neck. He couldn't even bring himself to think about what he would have done if his lover had been killed. Just the thought that he'd come so close to losing everything he needed in a moment's time affected him more deeply than he had words to express, so instead, his body spoke for him as it began to shake.
"Duo, really, I'm alright. Please don't," Heero pleaded softly, feeling badly for the scare he knew Duo had experienced when he didn't come home.
He didn't know how long it took him, but finally Duo found enough strength within himself to calm down. He told himself that he needed to be strong, for Heero. Even with that resolve, he found it hard to pull away from the safety and security Heero's warmth always gave him. "What did the doctor say?" he asked, so softly that he was sure only Heero could have heard him.
"Concussion from hitting the steering wheel, a broken left wrist and badly strained ankle from bracing for impact. They've taken some tests to see if I have any internal damage."
"Can we go home?" Duo's lips moved against the skin of Heero's neck as he spoke.
"I think I have to stay here for observation for at least twenty-four hours."
The injured man could hear the fear and need in his lover's voice, but he was at a loss as to what he could do to allay it. He could barely move from all of his body's aches that he was beginning to feel as a result of the abrupt collision. The strained muscles, the pain in his wrist and ankle and the nausea, dizziness and blurred vision not to mention the painful headache that was not diminishing all told him he was in no condition to go home. And that left them with a problem. Duo had always had their friends nearby to help when it was needed, and now their dependence on them was alarmingly evident. With the three off-planet and Mrs. Lunderson hospitalized, there was only their neighbor or the Peacecrafts left to rely on, and Duo wasn't comfortable with any of them. But that point was moot, as far as he was concerned. Duo couldn't go home alone, especially as shaken up as he currently was.
Heero closed his eyes, willing his head to stop hurting and his vision and dizziness to clear. He could deal with pain, but with him unable to get up off the bed they were in trouble. "Frank," he called out to their neighbor hovering near the door. The older man stepped forward to the end of the bed. "Could you find out how Mrs. Lunderson is for us? I think we'll both feel better if we know she's going to be alright."
"Certainly," the man answered, concern written on his face. His soft footfalls traced his exit from the room.
"Are we alone?" Heero asked, not able to see much over Duo's head and his blurred vision.
Duo lifted his head from its secure place and glanced around. "Yeah," he answered in a shaky whisper, showing he was still upset.
"Climb up next to me," Heero said and waited until he felt Duo move away from off him, then pulled back the covers until he climbed into bed with him. Even though Duo moved carefully, the slight movement caused Heero some pain, but he found it of little consequence in comparison to the warmth and security both of them experienced from the familiar contact. "Not too tight," he warned as Duo's arms encircled his chest . He immediately felt a gentling of the embrace, then Duo's hand returned to clench his hospital gown and he felt icy cold toes brush against his shins. "Why are your feet so cold? Where are your socks?" Heero wondered out loud.
"On the floor."
Heero puzzled a moment over that answer. "Why?"
"They're wet and dirty."
"How did they get that way?"
"I forgot my shoes when I ran to Frank's house."
Heero paused, imagining the panic Duo felt as he put aside his insecurities and ran to their neighbor's home for help. "Did you remember to lock the door?"
Several pensive moments passed before Duo replied. "I don't know."
"Where's your dog?"
"In Frank's car."
Heero carefully held back his frustration, knowing that venting it wouldn't contribute to the situation at all. As minutes passed, he could feel the tension in his lover's body lessened somewhat and the grip on his hospital gown became slack.
"Let's call Trowa," Duo said, his voice but a whisper.
Heero brought his good arm up and placed it around Duo's back and stroked the length of his braid. "No," he replied, resolute, feeling Duo's body, resting against his own, become still. "I can see now that we've become too dependent on our friends. If they were in town, I would call for their assistance. However, they're not here. Even if we called Trowa he's too far away to help with tonight's dilemma. We're going to have to figure this out for ourselves."
The tenseness was back in full measure, radiating from his lover's body. Despite his obvious worry, Duo remained silent. Heero realized any suggestion for a solution was going to have to come from him. "If I called Milliardo, would you be willing to go to his and Lucretia's home for the night?"
"How about if he came to our place and stayed overnight?"
"Then we're down to Frank. Would you like to stay at his place or have him spend the night in our home?"
Heero silently counted to ten as his head seemed to throb in time. "I'm giving you a choice, Duo. If you don't make it, I'll have to."
"I just want to stay here with you."
Both of them knew he was being stubborn and unreasonable and that his request wasn't going to be granted. They'd had enough experience in this hospital to know the rules and that they were strictly enforced by the staff and security.
"Please, Heero. Don't make me go."
It nearly broke the injured man's heart to deny his lover, but he really had no choice. "I'll ask Frank to stay in our guest room for the night. You can take Sinjin to bed with you and one of your sleeping pills to help you get through the night."
"Please." Duo's pleading was agonizing for him to endure.
"I'm sorry, Duo. I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances." He decided he'd better try a different tactic. "You can't leave your dog in Frank's car for long. He'll need to eat, drink and go outside. You can care for him better at home where he's more comfortable."
"I don't have to go now, do I?"
Relief filled Heero at those words, his battle was half over. "No, I'm sure Frank will let you stay at least until I get situated into my room for the night."
"And I can't call the guys?"
Heero hated hearing the vulnerability in his lover's voice and his earlier decision wavered. "You can call after you get into bed tonight. But please, tell them we're alright. I don't want them running home when I'll most likely be released tomorrow."
With those decisions made, both of them relaxed and the room remained quiet as they held each other. A timid knock on the door ended the quiet moment causing Duo to scurry out of the bed to stand next to it and Heero quickly pulled up his covers. The door opened and Frank's head poked past the edge. "Is it okay to come in?" he asked, sounding unsure.
"Come in, Frank," Heero called out and put his hand to his forehead to ease the ache there. As the older man moved into the room, Duo sat in the chair next to the bed and his eyes shifted between the two men.
"Mrs. Lunderson is going to be fine," Frank announced with a smile, knowing it was welcome news to the two young men. "She has a fractured wrist, much like Heero, and a very large bruise on her shoulder where she impacted on the side after the truck hit. She's shaken and is going to be very sore, but otherwise she'll be fine. She'll also be released tomorrow."
"That's a relief," Heero said, sharing a relieved looked with his lover. "Thank you, Frank. I appreciate your help."
"It was my pleasure," the older man said. "Now what else can I do to help?"
Heero managed a grateful smile and purposely focused on Frank rather than on Duo's pleading face, telling him not to continue. "I wondered if we could impose on you a bit further?" he asked. "Would it be possible for you to stay the night at our house with Duo? He's upset and not used to being alone." He hoped his brief explanation was enough to satisfy the man's curiosity as to why a grown adult needed company overnight. Frank knew only a little of Duo's circumstances, that he'd been wrongfully imprisoned and had been adversely affected by his two-year stay in a space penal colony. He also knew that he'd undergone corrective surgery, but that was all. He and his other friends guarded Duo's privacy as much as it was humanly possible.
"It isn't an imposition at all," the man assured them with a softness in his face and voice. "I'd be happy to stay over."
"Thank you," Heero said, greatly relieved. "We appreciate your help, don't we, Duo?" Giving a pointed look to the quiet man at his side, Heero patiently waited for Duo to reply.
"Thank you," the braided man said, his demeanor showing he was unhappy with the situation.
"It's just one night," Heero reminded him. "I'll be home tomorrow." But seeing the dark and pinched expression on the face that had once been open and happy, Heero could only shift his eyes back to their neighbor and give him a brief look of apology.
"Why don't I go to the car and check on Sinjin," Frank offered. "I'll take him for a little walk."
"I forgot his leash," Duo said, finally looking up at the older man.
"I'll improvise and use my belt." Frank grinned and tapped the black belt that surrounded his slightly rounded waist. "I'll be back in a little while." He then turned and left the room, the hospital door shutting quietly behind him.
Heero turned his attention back to the petulant young man in the chair. Duo's arms were crossed over his chest and his face was pinched as he glared at the tiled floor.
"Be nice to him, Duo," Heero warned. "We have no choice and he's being very kind to us."
"I don't want him in our home overnight," the other man said with a stubborn tilt of his chin.
"As I said, we don't have a choice."
They were at a stalemate and Heero hated it. The last thing he wanted was to have Duo angry with him and to leave the hospital feeling upset. He vividly recalled the accident, and in the few seconds after he realized he had no brakes and before the truck barreled into the side of the car, his thoughts had been of Duo. What would happen to his lover if he died? How would he survive it? Mrs. L's startled cry was the last thing he remembered before the truck impacted with the car and his head was introduced rather rudely to the steering wheel.
"Duo?" He reached his uninjured hand out to his lover and watched Duo's face, still pinched with anger, softened slightly as he let go of some of his resentment. His lover took his hand and bent forward to place his cheek against the top of it.
"Sorry," Duo whispered contritely.
"Me too," Heero sighed, suddenly feeling very tired. "I'm going to need you to call my office and tell them about the accident and that I'll be out for a couple of days."
Duo nodded, accepting the assignment. "The police said you thought the brakes failed," he said, then turned his cheek to kiss the hand his face was pressed against.
"Yes," Heero replied, closing his eyes. "They worked when I backed out of the driveway, but were gone when I came to the stoplight."
"We replaced the pads and fluids not two months ago," Duo said thoughtfully. "They shouldn't have failed, especially without some warning."
"The police will investigate it," Heero said while yawning widely. "We'll know in the next day or two."
At that point, the injured man on the bed drifted to sleep and on some conscious level, he noted Frank's return as well as the nurse. He registered a conversation going on, but ignored it for a deeper need for sleep. Much to his dismay, the nurse woke him regularly to check his vitals and pupils, causing him to get irritable when they came to move him to another room for the night.
Dozing once again, Heero felt cool, soft hands cradling his face as a voice spoke into his ear. "Heero, I've gotta go. They're kicking me outta here." He felt his lover's cheek rest against his own for a moment.
"I'll be alright, Duo," he replied in a thick, groggy voice. "I'll probably be home in the morning." He forced his eyes to open as the warmth of Duo's skin was removed from his cheek and saw the worry etched deeply in his lover's face. "Call Trowa tonight. Tell them Mrs. L and I are alright and not to worry. Don't ask them to come home," he said a bit more forcefully.
Duo didn't answer for a moment, but seeing the obstinate set of Heero's jaw, he relented. "Alright," he whispered.
"And don't forget to call my office if you haven't already. Or you can call Milliardo at home tonight."
Another nod was his reply from Duo. The next few moments were spent just looking at each other. "Come here," Heero ordered softly and raised his uninjured arm. Duo carefully leaned into the embrace and Heero could hear the slightly elevated breathing pattern and the racing of his heart. Tilting he head so his lips grazed Duo's ear, he whispered: "You can do this. You're the strongest person I know and I have no doubt that you can do whatever you set your mind to do."
Frank came to stand alongside the long-haired young man and smiled down at Heero. "Don't you worry, I'll take good care of him," he said confidently.
"See that he eats tonight and takes his vitamins in the morning. He has some sleeping pills to help him sleep after a stressful day like today."
"I'm not a child, Heero," Duo groused, shoving his hands into his jeans' pockets.
Heero opened his mouth to reply, but Frank cut him off, seeing the potential beginnings of an argument. "We'll stop on the way home and pick something up. Everything will be fine and I'll call in the morning to see when we can come pick you up." Heero nodded, grateful for the older man's intervention. "I'll see you tomorrow, Duo," he said softly.
"Come on, son," Frank gently urged the braided man. "Heero will be well taken care of and we'll come get him in the morning, alright?"
With stiff, reluctant movements, Duo allowed Frank to take his arm and lead him from the room, looking over his shoulder at the last moment to give a tortured look to the man in the bed, helpless to remedy the situation any further.
After the door closed behind the two, Heero brought his good hand up and covered his eyes and prayed to any deity listening to help his lover through the night.