A Touch of Human Kindness
'Please let him still be in the same place,' Heero prayed as he headed out the door of his apartment. Ever since he'd awakened the previous night to find Duo gone, along with his gold watch and statuette, he'd spent the entire day anxiously waiting for the chance to go look for him. All he'd done at work was stare at the clock. When the day was finally over, he'd rushed home to change clothes. While he was changing, he'd turned on the news.
Now, as he got in his car, Heero felt a renewed sense of urgency. The story he'd seen on the news had made his blood run cold with terror. Now as he sped through the streets towards Duo's neighborhood, he just hoped that Duo was there and that he was okay.
Duo stood on the street corner looking anxiously down the street. "Where the hell is she," he asked himself out loud. He'd spent the day tending his bruises and black eye and waiting for Hilde to call. He hadn't seen her all day, which was very unusual. They were best friends and tried to spend as much time together as possible. Duo knew that without her, there was no way he'd have survived on the streets for as long as he had. She was a tough, smart girl and she'd taken Duo under her wing from the moment they'd met.
Duo wondered where she could be. She wasn't at home and he hadn't found her in any of their usual haunts. He'd been looking for her all day. Heero had continued to plague his thoughts and he desperately needed someone to talk to. Now, as dusk approached, he began to get really worried.
Thinking about Hilde, Duo's mind didn't initially register the car driving towards him. Shock didn't begin to describe his state of mind when he finally noticed and recognized the car. When Heero got out and walked towards him, Duo could only stare in disbelief.
"You're crazy! What in the hell do you want from me," Duo yelled when he was finally able to speak.
In contrast to Duo's outburst, Heero replied in an intense but quiet voice. "I want you to come with me."
"NANI!?" Duo couldn't believe his ears. "What are you talking about?"
"I want you to come with me and to never come back here ever again. Don't you understand, Duo, that you shouldn't be living like this? Let me help you. You deserve so much better."
"How do you know what I deserve? You don't know anything about me!"
"I know that you're a kind person. I know that you're a good person. I know that you shouldn't be out here having to sell yourself just to survive."
Duo screamed in frustration at Heero's calm, sure demeanor. "You don't know anything of the kind! You think I'm a nice person? For Christ's sake, I just robbed you! I stole from you!" Duo growled as Heero just stared calmly at him. "Arghhh! What are you, an idiot? I am not a nice person, Heero. I do not want your help. I do not need your help. Just go away and leave me alone!"
Heero's manner didn't change as he responded, "You don't need my help, ne? Look at yourself. I'm betting those bruises don't stop at your face." Finally, Heero's voice became more emphatic as he said, "Duo, you're beautiful. How could you let someone hurt you like this? How could you think you deserve such treatment?"
"I can take care of myself," Duo replied coldly. "I've been doing it for eight years."
"Yes, I can see that. That black eye is a testament to your skills." Heero took a deep breath and tried to calm down when Duo winced at the cruel statement. "Look, Duo. I know you can take care of yourself. The fact that you're still alive proves that. But, Duo, how long do you think your luck will hold out."
Duo said nothing. Heero sighed. "Tell me this then. Where is your friend, that woman I've seen standing here with you?"
"Hilde," Duo asked, confused. "What do you know about her?"
"Is that her name," Heero asked sadly. "Duo, before I came over here, I was watching the news. There was a report about a young prostitute who'd been found dead in an alley. She'd been beaten to death, presumably by a customer." Heero paused, looking at the dawning realization on Duo's face. "It was your friend, Duo. It was Hilde."
Duo went pale. 'No. God, please, not Hilde.' Hilde had been his lifeline. She'd taken care of him when he was bruised. She'd held him when he'd cried. As he thought about the petite, black-haired girl who'd meant so much to him, he started to shake. "Oh my God," he said in a whisper.
"Duo, I'm so sorry," Heero said sincerely. "But, please, I don't want you to end up like her. I don't want to have to hear about you on the news one night." Heero's voice dropped to a near whisper as he continued, "I care about you too much for that. If something happened to you, it would kill me."
Duo looked up, surprised. It was all too much at once. 'Hilde's dead you care about me Hilde's dead you care' The two thoughts chased each other endlessly through his mind. Weakly he said, "Why do you care? I stole from you " His voice trailed off as Heero smiled.
"Yes, I know that you stole from me. I know that you took my watch and that ugly little statue that came with the apartment. I know that you cleaned out my wallet. No, wait. You didn't, did you? You left me most of my money." Heero looked pointedly at Duo's left wrist. "Tell me Duo, how much were you planning to sell that watch for."
Duo followed Heero's gaze. He'd forgotten that he was wearing the watch. 'Busted,' he thought as he looked back up. Heero was still looking at him intently. Duo looked away, unable to meet those beautiful eyes.
Heero continued, "But I also know why you stole from me." Duo looked up quickly, confused. Heero went on, "Don't think I didn't see your face when I apologized to you last night. For some reason, you were terrified. I know that you took those things thinking it would keep me from looking for you."
Duo looked down again. Heero was right on the mark. Somehow he'd seen through Duo's ploy. "Duo," Heero said softly, "you don't have to be afraid of me. I could never hurt you. I could sooner hurt myself." The quiet intensity and certainty behind that profession had Duo terrified all over again.
Heero saw that Duo was shaking but continued anyway. He had to. Both of their futures depended upon the outcome of this confrontation. "Duo, I told you before that I didn't expect anything from you. I wasn't kind to you because I wanted anything. I didn't cook for you because I expected some sort of payback. I didn't make love to you instead of just trying to fuck you because I wanted you to be indebted to me."
Duo closed his eyes. He felt like he was on sensory overload. He couldn't handle the emotions racing through him as Heero spoke. "Do you know why I did those things, Duo?" Duo tried to breath. "Do you?" Duo held his breath.
Duo opened his eyes and looked at Heero. Other than that, he stood as still as a statue. His mind was completely blank. He wasn't equipped to process the mind-boggling confession Heero had just made. He just stared as the world he knew spun away.
Duo might have stood there forever if right at that moment Smoke hadn't yelled, "What the hell is going on here?" Heero reluctantly looked away from Duo in time to see an extremely ugly blond and a huge, hulking baldheaded man walking towards him.
Smoke looked at Duo, who still stood frozen. Smoke frowned. Duo didn't even seem to register his presence. He'd heard Duo yelling from down the street and had brought Bob along to investigate. Now he looked from Duo to the young man standing slightly apart from him. The Asian man was looking silently at him and Smoke had the good sense to feel intimidated at the silent menace in his expression.
"Who the hell are you," he asked brashly, attempting to cover his nervousness.
"He was Duo's last customer," Bob said in his toneless basso.
"Is that right?" Smoke figured that the guy had come looking for his stolen property and was harassing Duo. What he didn't understand is why Duo looked like he'd seen a ghost. "Well, what the hell do you want?"
"I've come for Duo," Heero said in a low monotone.
Smoke couldn't believe the nerve of this guy. "Oh, really? Duo's one of my top moneymakers. You think I'm just going to let him go with you for free?"
"I don't care what you think. Duo is leaving with me." Heero looked at Duo for a moment and then back at Smoke. "Are you the one who hurt him," Heero asked quietly. He was furious, but only those who knew Heero well would realize it.
Smoke was unfortunately not one of those people. "So what if I did? What are you going to do about it?" Smoke looked over at Bob and then turned back to Heero with a condescending smirk.
"Omae o korosu," Heero replied.
Smoke didn't understand Japanese and missed the threat. So he just shrugged and said, "Well, whatever, it's time for you to go. Bob, why don't you help him leave."
Heero glanced briefly at Duo who still stood staring into space. He took a few steps away from him, drawing attention away from the frozen young man. Seeing that Duo wasn't in any immediate danger, Heero turned his attention to the giant man approaching him. Bob planned to rough the guy up a bit and then put him in his car so he could leave. At least, that was his intention. The young man's expression never changed as Bob neared him. He never showed any sign of nervousness or even concern.
Seeing this lack of response, Smoke encouraged, "Teach this kid a lesson." Bob pulled back his fist to land a roundhouse punch to the silent young man. However, rather than the punch connecting with Heero's face, Bob found himself connecting with the ground. He held one hand to his bruised throat and one to his broken and bloody nose.
Smoke stared at the kid in horrified disbelief. He'd never seen anyone move so fast. Heero had taken Bob out with the deadly precision that had earned him the nickname "the perfect soldier" in his karate class. His sensei had actually had the moniker embroidered onto Heero's black belt. Heero looked down at Bob. Determining him to be out of commission, he turned his attention to Smoke.
Smoke may have been ugly and mean but he wasn't completely stupid. Heero looked towards him only to find a gun pointed at his face. Smoke wanted this guy gone and wasn't about to try to fight him fairly. Heero looked at him without an ounce of concern. Smoke was confused at the lack of response but decided to put it down to stupidity. "Say goodbye, kid." In the next instant, Smoke felt a shattering pain at the back of his head. He hit the ground and knew no more.
Duo stood over the unconscious Smoke with a brick in his hand. He looked from Smoke to the brick and then back to Smoke. He dropped the brick and backed away, not taking his eyes off of Smoke. When Heero had moved away from him, this had put him out of Bob and Smoke's line of sight. Duo had noticed only barely when Heero had taken care of Bob without any effort. But when Smoke had held the gun on Heero, Duo had reacted without thought. Moving up behind Smoke, he'd struck him on the back of the head as hard as he could with a brick he'd found nearby.
Duo couldn't believe what he had done. For eight years, Smoke had humiliated and abused Duo almost daily. In all of that time, even after he'd grown up enough to be able to fight back, Duo had never even tried to defend himself. But when Smoke had threatened Heero, Duo had felt a blinding anger that reached through his numbness. His only thought was that he had to protect this man, with his own life if necessary.
Determining that Smoke was not getting up anytime soon, Duo finally looked up at Heero. Neither spoke as cobalt and amethyst eyes locked. After a moment, Heero wordlessly stepped a bit closer to Duo and held out a hand.
Duo stared at the outstretched hand. He knew that it represented both the hope of a new life and the terror of the unknown. He knew that Heero would offer no help. This decision had to be completely his alone. He could take Heero's hand and take a chance that everything Heero had been saying hadn't been complete bullshit. Or, he could turn around and walk away, going back to the pathetic life he'd been living. A life he'd have to live completely alone, now that Hilde was gone.
Heero found himself holding his breath as he waited for Duo to decide. 'He looks so lost and so alone, but there's nothing else I can do. I've said all there is to say.' He understood the magnitude of the choice he was asking the other man to make. All he could do was wait and hope that he'd gotten through to Duo in some small way.
They stood there for an endless moment. Suddenly, Duo closed his eyes and let out a shuddering sigh. For one horrible instant, Heero thought that Duo was going to turn around and walk away. But Duo opened his eyes and meeting Heero's gaze, took Heero's proffered hand. Heero felt almost faint at the enormity of the relief that flowed through him. He closed his eyes briefly and resisted the urge to clasp Duo to him. Instead, squeezing the hand in his, he turned and led Duo to his waiting car.
Neither spoke on the ride to Heero's apartment. Duo sat staring out of his window. Heero looked over at him and recognized the signs of shock. Duo was still unnaturally pale and his face was covered by a sheen of sweat. His breathing was ragged and too fast and his pupils were slightly dilated. Heero stepped on the gas, wanting to get Duo home as soon as possible. When they finally reached the apartment, Heero got out quickly and went to help Duo out. Duo was not resistant but was about as responsive as a marionette with no strings. Heero maneuvered him into the apartment and sat him on the couch.
Duo could barely remember the trip to the apartment. He'd felt Heero help him into the house as if he were in a fog. Now, as he sat motionless on the couch, he was barely aware of Heero going into the bathroom and then of the sound of running water. Heero came back into the living room and took Duo's hand, pulling him off of the couch. He walked Duo into the bathroom where the hot water of the shower was causing the room to fill with steam.
Heero knew that his first priority was to get Duo warm. Shock lowered a person's blood pressure to the point where they felt as if they were freezing. A person in this condition would shake and shiver uncontrollably until utterly exhausted. Heero had decided that the easiest way to give Duo a warming shower would be to go in with him. Heero quickly stripped first himself and then Duo. Although Duo was always beautiful to him, Heero felt no desire at the sight of Duo's nakedness other than the desire to take care of him. Taking hold of Duo's hand, he pulled him into the shower.
The first true sensation that Duo felt since the moment Heero had confessed his feelings were the stinging streams of the hot shower. Duo had felt unbearably cold and the hot water was a welcome relief. As he turned his face up to the warm cascade, he realized that Heero was in the shower with him. He felt Heero's hands in his hair, gently undoing his braid. 'Oh well, there goes the first rule. Guess that makes it a clean sweep,' he thought idly. Any concerns he had about Heero seeing him with his hair down vanished as Heero began to wash the lengthy mass.
Duo closed his eyes and sighed at the feel of Heero's hands massaging his scalp. Recovering from his shock, he thought about what had just happened. Although he knew that he had essentially made the decision to trust Heero with his life, he felt no qualms and no regrets. Instead, as was typical of him, his thoughts turned to how he could ever repay Heero for what he'd done. Although he'd heard when Heero had told him he'd done everything simply out of love, Duo had lived in the world of quid pro quo for too long. To Duo, Heero's kindness, and even his love, was a debt that must be satisfied.
Heero was unaware of Duo's thoughts as he finished washing his hair. He turned off the shower and pulled Duo out after him. As he dried Duo off, he was pleased to see that Duo's normal color had returned and that his eyes had regained their old awareness. Heero offered Duo a shy smile which was quickly returned. Feeling content for the first time that evening, Heero kissed Duo on the cheek and wrapped a towel around his head and waist.
After wrapping a towel around his own waist, he led Duo into the bedroom. Heero had nothing planned other than sleep. It had been an exhaustingly emotional evening and they both needed to rest. However, when he turned back to Duo after pulling back the covers he stopped short. Duo had removed both of his towels and stood there naked with his unbound hair surrounding him like a curtain of silk. Heero could only stare at the vision in front of him. But when Duo tried to move closer, Heero put his hand on Duo's shoulders and held him away.
"No, Duo," he said softly. At Duo's look of confusion, Heero put one hand on his cheek. Smiling sadly, Heero said, "You do not have to repay me."
In that instant, all of Heero's words finally got through to Duo. Duo inhaled on a shuddering sob. Years of pain and hopelessness were shed as Duo cried like he would never stop. Heero held the broken young man for a moment. Although Duo was shaking with the violence of his sobbing, for the first time, Heero felt like everything would be all right.
As Duo continued to weep helplessly, Heero picked him up. Malnourished and unnaturally slender, Duo didn't weigh much. Heero placed his precious burden in the bed and climbed in next to him. Heero pulled the covers over both of them and pulled Duo into his arms. He continued to hold Duo hours later, long after Duo had finally fallen asleep. Heero was busy planning for their future. A future in which Duo could finally let go of the trauma of his past.
A/N: I could have stopped here but the ideas kept coming, so I pressed on. If you're tired of reading, you may stop now with my blessing. However, if you're enjoying the story, by all means continue on to the next part.