When Duo woke the next morning in the spare room on the second floor next to Heero's, he remembered exactly what he'd done. That had been no friendly, plutonic, good-night kiss; even Heero had to know that. He groaned to himself and rubbed his eyes. He'd finally done it. He'd been wanting to show Heero how he felt for what seemed like so long now. Last night, either he'd finally gotten up the courage or suffered some kind of lapse of sanity, depending on how you looked at it. Bad or good, the cards were on the table now, he couldn't take it back or play it off. He had to simply wait for Heero's reaction.
There was no sense in delaying the inevitable, so he got up and pulled on some clothes. He had arranged for Sally to come by first thing in the morning to take care of Heero, so he had to make sure the General was awake and get him fed before the doctor arrived. Heero would probably want to get up and pretend like nothing was wrong. Duo thought in passing that the hardest part was going to be making sure the impatient soldier stayed in bed, and he had some fleeting ideas about how that might be accomplished, but dutifully reminded himself that Heero was injured.
He went to the room at the end of the hall and knocked softly on the door. There was no answer so he quietly opened the door and poked his head in. Heero was still fast asleep. It wasn't like him to sleep so late, which only proved to Duo just how much he must need the rest. Duo shut the door and went downstairs to prepare some breakfast. He was fawned over and clucked at by Mona and told that he should go back to bed himself and get some more sleep, but he wanted to bring Heero his breakfast.
Mona had other chores to do, so she left him alone to overanalyze and try to concentrate enough to not cut his fingers off as he briskly chopped some fruit and sliced the bread. He was nervous, there was no denying that. What if Heero hadn't appreciated his advances last night? As much as Duo liked to forget about it, he was a slave. He did not think of himself as a slave; he refused to define himself that way. He even went so far as to avoid acting like one unless absolutely necessary, but ‘slave' was his official legal status. That was how society viewed him, that was his place. That was how Heero, too, viewed him despite the man's professed dislike of slavery.
Slaves didn't do things unless told to. They didn't act on their own will. Slaves didn't do things like make the first move on their master. Well, they might, Duo amended, if they were looking for favors. Duo frowned to himself as he loaded a tray. He wondered what Heero thought of this. A slave had kissed him. Without asking permission, without even a warning. Was that some kind of unforgivable offense? Would Heero be upset? It hadn't seemed like he'd hated it at the time, but the man had been on the brink of collapse.
Duo cast all worry from his mind. This was Heero. If he didn't like it, then he would probably just scold Duo and things would be awkward for a while. It wasn't like he was going to beat or sell Duo for something like that. Probably. Anyway, if Heero felt the same, then he would let Duo know. The next move would be his. Duo decided not to do anything more unless Heero reciprocated. When it came down to it, all this speculation did him no good, so he steeled himself and took Heero's breakfast upstairs.
Heero woke exactly the way he'd fallen asleep - in the bed with Duo leaning over him. For a moment, he thought it was still last night; that Duo was tucking him into bed and had just kissed him. He searched Duo's face, wondering about the kiss, and most specifically, whether he would do it again.
He immediately noticed, however, that he could actually see Duo's face. It was light out. Morning. He blinked a couple times. His entire body felt like it was made of lead. His mind was fuzzy and not coming instantly to complete awareness like it usually did. He was an early riser by nature and not used to being woken up.
"How long have I been asleep?" he asked, voice scratchy and sticking in his throat. His eyes felt gritty and he rubbed at them.
"Not long enough," Duo answered. "I would have let you sleep as long as you wanted, but Sally is coming by early."
Duo was still leaning over him, giving him a look he wasn't sure he knew how to interpret. Something with a lot of tenderness. The look he liked, but he felt defenseless and uncomfortable just lying on his back in bed like this. He moved his hands and tried to sit up. He felt out of sorts, like time had jumped and left him behind and he'd just completely missed something huge. He was poisoned, beaten up, and hung over to boot, none of which were really helping him at the moment.
"Wait, let me help you," Duo stopped him and grabbed some pillows to cushion his back. Heero thanked him and rested back. "How are you feeling?" Duo asked.
"I'll live," Heero answered.
That answer made Duo shake his head. "You'd better," he grinned. "Are you hungry? I brought up some food. Do you want to eat anything before Sally comes?"
Heero couldn't shake the feeling that Duo was waiting for something from him, like Duo had asked a question, besides whether he wanted breakfast or not, and was waiting for his answer. "I'll have a little something, but water first, please," he cleared his throat.
Duo handed him a glass of water.
At the moment, Heero felt like he was the one who deserved some answers. Like, what was that kiss last night? That wasn't like the kiss from before when Duo had slept in his room. That was... Well, he had never been kissed like that before, but it felt like a lover's kiss. He handed the glass back to Duo and tried to sink deeper into the pillows.
Duo slid the tray onto the bed and pulled a chair over. Heero nibbled at the food and tried to avoid looking at him. A lover's kiss from Duo. It was almost too good to be true. The fact that Duo was acting normal made him think that maybe it was too good to be true. Shouldn't he be... kissing him again? Heero didn't know. He didn't know how these things worked, he needed Duo to tell him. What did this mean? Where was this going?
Unless Duo made it clear to him what he wanted to happen, Heero couldn't afford to assume it was going anywhere. It may have been an impulsive thing that Duo did. Duo could change his mind - he could have already changed his mind. Heero knew better than to hope for too much. If he started to assume things, he may end up doing something that Duo didn't want. He would not do anything that might drive Duo away, that's what he had decided and he was sticking to it.
"Heero?" Duo interrupted his thoughts. "You sure you're ok?" Heero was even quieter than usual this morning. Was he angry with Duo after all? No, Duo told reminded himself, he had to account for the fact that Heero had been through a lot yesterday. He was probably still exhausted.
"I'll be ok," Heero answered, finally looking up and seeing the concerned look on Duo's face. He quickly looked down and took another piece of fruit to occupy him.
Duo's own appetite dwindled. Was Heero not going to say anything at all about the kiss? If Heero decided too simply pretend it never happened, he would have to do the same. The door swung open, startling him a little, and Baltus led Sally in. He got up and cleared the tray for the time being to give her some room to work.
"And how is my patient feeling this morning?" she asked, setting her bag on the foot of the bed.
"Better," Heero answered.
"Well you look worse," she commented, "some of those bruises are only now starting to show up." She came over to feel his forehead and frowned. "Thanks to your drinking last night, your body has been slower about getting rid of the last of the poison."
Heero frowned too. It wasn't as if he had wanted to drink last night.
"I want you on constant fluids," she advised Heero. "Duo? I can count on you to make sure he always has a glass of water in his hand?"
"Of course," Duo answered.
"And, Heero, that means frequent trips to the latrine," she went on. "It would be best to pass that poison, and the alcohol, as soon as possible. Understand?"
"Yes," Heero answered, almost meekly. That was Sally's classic frank manner. At least she hadn't asked for Duo's help with that part.
"All right, let's take a look at the wound," Sally said before sitting down in the chair by the bed. Heero pushed the covers down to his hips and untied the fasteners down the side of his tunic. The doctor cut the wrapping around his middle and Duo was on hand to dispose of them. Blood, medicine, and other substances had crusted the final square cotton bandage to his skin, but Heero didn't even flinch as she removed it. The entire area was bruised up more purple now than it had been the night before. She used the bowl of water and some cotton to clean the wound. "Looks like it's starting to heal normally," she commented, "I don't see too much puss or secretions."
When the four gashes were clean, Sally stood and went to her bag. "Duo, I'm going to show you how to make the medicine for Heero's wound," she said as she pulled a couple of earthen jars out. She showed him how to measure out the mixture and add just enough water to make a paste. She gently dabbed the paste on and explained to Duo as she did.
As a doctor, she was able to look at Heero's body clinically and objectively, but Duo was not. She saw an abdomen with a wound while he saw something completely different. He was seeing Heero half naked and very up close. All the lessons Domiodes had taught him came back to him; he was noticing curves and lines of Heero's muscles, the slight shadowing they created, the rich tone of his skin, the textures of old scars, the shallow rise and fall of his breath. It suddenly occurred to Duo that he had not done any drawing a quite a while.
When she was finished, the doctor had Heero sit up so she could wrap him back up and look at any other injuries that needed attention. She treated Duo's head wound before packing up. "Now, listen to me, Heero," she said firmly, "I want you on bed rest for two days."
"Two days?" Heero asked unhappily.
"Yes. The forty-eight hours after an injury are always the worst, so I want you resting," she told him. "And I want you to be honest with yourself about your activity level after that. Listen to your body. Don't overdo it."
Heero looked to be on the verge of pouting.
"It would be foolish to pay for my services and then not listen to my advice, right?" she reminded him as she snapped her bag closed.
"Yes, ma'am," Duo answered for Heero.
"Duo, I'll entrust the patient to you," she said.
"Yes, ma'am," he repeated as he followed her out. He saw her to the door and she turned to him with one last thing to say.
"It shouldn't come as any surprise that Heero is the worst patient in the world," she sighed. "He's just terrible at being taken care of. I know he's not going to stay in bed like I told him to, so at least make sure he stays at home, ok?"
"I'll do my best," Duo smiled.
"Take care of yourself, too," she reminded him. "Come and get me first thing if anything seems wrong."
Duo bid her farewell and went back upstairs. He found Heero sitting up with his legs over the side of the bed.
"Oh no you don't!" he scolded and rushed over to make Heero lie down again.
"I was just going to go get some things from my office and bring them up," Heero claimed.
"You're not getting out of this bed, I'll bring your things up," Duo insisted. "Gods, Heero, she's not out of the house three minutes and you're already doing what she told you not to do!"
Heero grumbled and finally allowed himself to be rested comfortably back on the pillows.
"Ok, what can I get for you?" Duo asked.
Heero listed off some work items and books. "Some of the books are in Greek," he remembered. "Get me a tablet so I can write down the titles for you."
Duo found a wax tablet in a drawer and Heero wrote down the foreign titles. Duo watched him form the unfamiliar characters. His own Latin grammar and spelling had improved since he'd been asking Baltus to help him in their free time, but Greek was a complete unknown. He knew that Heero had learned both in school as a boy.
"What does that one say?" Duo asked, pointing to the title with the strangest characters. Heero gave him an odd look but pronounced it out loud for him. He handed Duo the tablet and Duo took it downstairs to retrieve the books. In the library, Duo found the Greek titles that matched the characters Heero had written out for him. He brought everything upstairs and moved a small table next to the bed.
"Say, Heero," he said as he stacked the books, "since you're on bedrest, how about teaching me some Greek?" He hoped Heero wouldn't say no. He knew some slaves,
like messengers, were kept illiterate on purpose. There wouldn't be some weird reason that he couldn't learn Greek, would there?
"You really have an interest in learning another language?" Heero asked.
"Yeah," Duo said, even though it had been an impulsive idea. "If I can learn it, then maybe I can write songs in it, or learn new songs."
"That's not a bad idea, then," Heero nodded.
"Can we start today?" Duo asked, liking the idea of spending more time up here with Heero. Maybe this would be just the thing to make sure he stayed in bed.
"After you finish your other chores. Have you taken care of the animals yet this morning?" Heero asked.
"No, I guess they've been waiting a while," Duo admitted.
"Go take care of your other duties, and then we can start your lessons."
"Ok," Duo agreed with a smile. "But before I go, I need you to drink this," he added and held a glass of water out to Heero.
Heero sighed, remembering the doctor's orders and drank the whole glass before handing it back. Duo took it with a smile. Being able to tell Heero what to do was kind of fun.
Duo took care of his chores for the morning and then curried Ala and Ares. The puppies were getting bigger and more adventurous, so they would soon need more room to run around and play. He'd have to work on that. When he was done with the animals, he helped Mona in the kitchen and finally went back upstairs with another glass of water for Heero.
He had left the door open on his way out and could see as he approached that Heero was fast asleep. He was on his back on the pillows, books around him on the bed and on the table. Everything was almost exactly where Duo had left it, as if Heero had just leaned back and fallen asleep as soon as he left. It made Duo smile a little. Heero probably hadn't wanted him to know how tired he was so he wouldn't worry. Force-feeding Heero another glass of water could wait, he decided, and went back downstairs.
Since Heero wouldn't miss him, he decided it was a good time to go out on a personal errand. He laced up his sturdier sandals and walked to the trader's market by the forum. He searched the booths there and finally selected a high-quality, carved bone knife hilt. It was for a larger knife, like a hunting knife, and he thought it would be about the right size for what he had in mind. He paid for it and hid it in his room when he got home.
He hoped he hadn't been out for too long. When he went back upstairs, Heero was awake and reading but it did not seem like he realized that Duo had been out of the house. After making him drink a glass of water, Heero agreed to start the Greek lessons. Duo sat on the bed with him and Heero began by teaching the alphabet. Duo completely engaged himself in learning to form the unfamiliar letters and pronouncing the sounds they made.
"You are picking this up quickly," Heero commented as Duo worked on perfecting the alphabet.
"I've heard it here and there around the city," Duo replied, "and I've heard you speak it quite a bit."
Heero just nodded and continued the lesson. He had not realized how often he switched into Greek when dealing with merchants or others around the city, though most Greeks who lived in Rome spoke at least passable Latin. It was probably a good thing for Duo to learn.
They took a break for lunch and then Duo made some excuses to go do some chores in order to give Heero a chance to sleep. When he poked his head in a bit later, that's exactly what Heero was doing. Duo smiled.
Later in the afternoon, he was in the peristyle, hard at work on his new invention, when Heero appeared behind him.
"What's that you're building?" he asked.
"A fence for the puppies - what are you doing out of bed?!" Duo scrambled to his feet.
"Need some help?" Heero offered.
"No! Get upstairs! What are you doing down here?"
"Just using the latrine like Sally told me to," Heero said innocently.
"There's one upstairs!"
"My legs needed a stretch."
"Well, they've been stretched, now back to bed with you!" Duo ordered before taking Heero by the shoulders and turning him back around towards the stairs.
"I want a bath."
"No. Your wounds aren't supposed to get wet for any extended period of time," Duo reminded him as he started to push him to the stairway.
"A short one?"
"I don't think it's possible for you to take a short bath," Duo commented sarcastically and pushed harder. "UPSTAIRS. NOW," he growled. Heero was pretty damned heavy when he didn't want to move. He would have been doubly angry if he could see how amused Heero was with his travails.
He finally wrestled Heero upstairs and negotiated his getting back into bed by suggesting they continue the Greek lessons. At least it gave Heero something to think about besides how much he hated bedrest. They broke again when it was time for Duo to help with dinner.
"If I so much as hear the stairs creak," Duo warned him.
"I'll stay up here," Heero cut in before Duo could finish his threat. The truth was he was tired again and would probably fall asleep. Duo eyed him distrustfully from the door, but did leave. Heero used the latrine one more time, drank the glass of water Duo had left, and then crawled back into bed for some more sleep. There was a time not too long ago when he would have pushed himself not to rest at all after a day like yesterday. The poison changed things a little but he'd been injured way worse than this and it wasn't unlike him to refuse to take it easy. He might have gone out today, he might have dragged his sorry body to the palestra and limped home if he had to. It was part of his training to push himself to the brink of exhaustion rather than indulge a weakened body or mind. Things were different now, with Duo looking after him and not afraid to contradict him, yell at him, or physically shove him if need be. He still thought two days of bedrest was unwarranted torture, but maybe for this one day, it would do him some good.
He awoke to a voice on the stairs.
"Come on, little guys! You can do it! Keep going! There you go!"
It was definitely Duo. It was getting dark in the room, so it must be about dinner time. Curious, he sat up as he heard footsteps tromping down the hall. One yipping puppy scampered into the room, followed by Duo, the others, and finally Diana.
"I thought we'd all have dinner together!" Duo grinned as he set a tray on the bed. The first puppy looked like he was attempting to judge a jump onto the bed, but he was much too small. Heero put a hand down and the puppy came over to investigate. Heero's fingers were quickly made into chew toys. Duo laughed as he lit some lamps in the room.
Diana came over to the side of the bed and nuzzled against Heero's elbow. Heero petted her head and stroked her ears, and she sat down there next to him. She had never been affectionate with him before Duo came to the house. Heero had raised her as a working dog and that was that, but Duo treated her more like a pet and eventually her behavior had adapted. Heero would have thought she would act like a ‘pet' with Duo only, since Heero didn't treat her any differently, but with increasing frequency she had become affectionate with him, probably encouraged by his positive reactions. He couldn't help but be a little touched that her loyalty to him was not just because he had trained her and raised her.
The puppies tumbled and rough housed on the floor. Duo lifted a couple onto the bed to play with them. They were still nursing, but showed some interest in the tray of food Duo had brought and he had to shoo them away. Heero didn't love the idea of eating with animals around, but Duo was happy and smiling and chattering at him, so he didn't complain. The puppies eventually tuckered out anyway. Duo brought them all onto the bed so they could cuddle up together and he petted them as Heero continued his Greek lessons.
Duo could tell when Heero was getting tired. He probably wouldn't admit it, but Duo thought it was time to change his bandages and call it a night. He made Heero drink one more glass of water and then brought tired puppies and empty plates back downstairs. Back up in the room, he found the poultice mixture Sally had left, measured some into a bowl, and added the right amount of water to it. He tried not to watch as Heero unfastened his tunic and opened it. He knew it was useless, he would have to look eventually, so he girded himself and turned around.
"Ok, sit forward," he said and Heero obeyed. Duo unrolled the bandage and Heero sat back again. The square of cotton slid off this time instead of sticking, which Sally had said would be a good sign. He cleaned the old medicine off and gently washed the four cuts.
Heero lay back and stared at the ceiling, trying to distract himself from the fact that Duo was leaning over him. And touching him. And he was mostly naked. His body was extremely fatigued, but he still couldn't trust it not to have any embarrassing reactions. Not with Duo touching him like this. He focused his mind on not becoming aroused. It was mind over matter. His mind could maintain control over his body.
"Sorry, does it sting?" Duo murmured.
"Sting?" Heero asked, daring to glance at him.
"Yeah, the medicine. Sally said it might hurt a little," Duo said as he continued intently smearing it over Heero's middle. He looked like an artist with paints. Heero immediately looked away again.
"I don't feel anything," he said honestly.
"Oh, that's good then," Duo nodded as he dipped his fingers into the bowl for the last of the paste. He believed Heero. If his scars were any indication, he'd had injuries much worse than this and the slight sting probably didn't even register on his pain scale, but there had been a funny look on Heero's face just now. His jaw had been sort of clenched and his breathing obviously controlled. "Just try to relax," Duo added.
Heero nearly snorted. Relax? If he allowed himself to relax, he was going to find himself in a rather uncomfortable predicament. Thankfully, the worst was soon over and he sat forward again so Duo could wrap a fresh bandage around him. He tried hard to ignore Duo's palms holding the cloth tight and smoothing it out over his skin. He pulled his tunic back on as soon as he could.
Duo put the medical supplies away and straightened up the room. "Should I kill the lamps?" he asked.
"Leave the one by the bed on," Heero told him.
Duo did as instructed, asking, "But you'll turn it off and go to bed soon, right?" Heero agreed and Duo went to the door. "I'll be sleeping next door again in case you need anything," he said.
"Thank you," Heero said earnestly and reached for a book.
Duo watched him from the door and very much regretted that he couldn't find the courage to go back over there and kiss him goodnight again. They'd spent most of the day together and Heero hadn't uttered one word about the kiss. Duo didn't want to push his luck again and that made him both sad and disheartened. Wasn't he the type who usually pushed? But this was Heero. For some reason, everything was different with Heero. He kept his sigh to himself and bid Heero goodnight before leaving.
Heero read a bit of a philosophy book until his eyes started to blur. He turned out the light to get some sleep, but his body could not forget Duo's closeness from before. He kept reminding himself of mind over matter. Besides, he didn't want to masturbate tonight. Any clenching or straining would be bad for his abdominal injuries. He might not even have the energy to finish, so it was a bad idea to even start. He had to stop thinking about Duo. Duo leaning over him. Duo's fingers rubbing firmly over his skin, moving lower and lower. Grabbing Duo's arms and holding him still for a kiss. Heero rolled onto his side and growled to himself.
Who was he kidding? He wouldn't know what to do with Duo, even if he could get him into bed. Heero had few previous experiences with sex and all were not exactly good ones. Growing up, there had been the constant solicitations from older men, which he had refused without exception and suffered the retaliatory consequences. There were the whores bought by the military, which he would not want to breathe the same air as, much less touch in any intimate way. He had never felt right about sleeping with servants, his own or anyone else's. He was awarded slaves and war captives, but he gave them away. His only experiences were with whores in brothels in the city. Women for whom he felt nothing, yet they could arouse him, make him hungry. Afterwards there was no peace, no satisfaction. He felt used, manipulated, disgusted. The pleasure of it was confusing to him, the intimacy almost terrifying. It never got any better and after just a few visits he developed a severe dislike for it and had never been back. It was simply not an activity he enjoyed.
It had been beaten into his head long ago by his teacher that his life would not be his own. It would be dedicated to serving his family, the military, and Rome. His own wishes were selfish, irrelevant. He was not to give in to his desires, it would only weaken his mind and his resolve. Pleasure was alien, unnerving, something he was not supposed to get used to. He did not know how to please a partner; he had never even really learned how to please himself. It was obvious that he was not a suitable partner for someone like Duo.