I gratefully slumped down on a chair first chance I got; leaned heavily against the kitchen table and took a profound interest in the swirls, slashes and other marks in the worn oak. Despite the relief, I didn't show it. Instead, brief moments of clarity made me grow ever more sullen. I'd behaved disgracefully, been weak. I'd broken the one house rule there was, and even despite that they'd sought me out and carried me back.
Like I didn't want to look up from the tabletop, I didn't dare hope I was back to stay permanently. "I'm sorry..." I muttered, perhaps too faint for anyone but me to hear. My mind was still spinning, but the thickest fog was beginning to lift. I wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or not. "I'm sorry I ran," I continued. "Sorry I cracked the bottle. Sorry I got myself smashed..."
Hilde put a hand on my shoulder, and though I avoided anything above chest level, I noticed Duo sat down across the table, folded his arms and tilted his chair up on two legs. His voice carried every bit of the grumpy vibe he sent. "It's okay, Heero."
Hilde intervened by softly rubbing my shoulders, thumbing the back of my neck. Contentedly, I straightened up; leaned back. "It's not your fault. It was an accident."
Her lie was a sweet one, and I wanted to believe it - but I knew I couldn't. At length, I looked up to meet Duo's face. As I'd imagined, he wasn't happy - not with me, and by the looks of it, not with Hilde for her latest contribution.
By the sudden tenseness in her hands, I pictured her matching his glare, eye for eye - and I was honestly surprised when Duo broke away first. He sighed, rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Look, Heero - what's done is done. It happened. You're with friends now, so don't worry about it."
Something in his elusive gaze made me wonder whether he was telling me, or himself.
I sensed he was about to start apologizing, but as many times before, he left me baffled. Going by the way her fingers dug into my flesh, Hilde was blindsided too - or maybe she was just pissed at first.
"Damn it," he growled as he slammed a fist to the table. "No, I'm not sorry, okay?! I'm not sorry that I kissed you - I wanted to, and you've been going after me since the moment you came here - before, even! I know I should have asked first, but I'm not sorry for what I did. You got that?!" He stood up too fast, tipping his chair over to crash against the floor.
Hilde's hands were gone, and she was fast on her way around the table for a confrontation.
Dizzy as I was, I stumbled to my feet, wobbled for a moment, then regained some semblance of balance.
Hilde caught Duo's arm before he could stomp off to the living room. Duo stopped, but he didn't turn around; just cocked his head forward and balled his fists. "Heero... I... I'll give you another chance, if..." Tentatively, he sent a glance over his shoulder, then aside. "If you give me another chance."
It took a moment for that to process, and I must have started a silly grin, going by Hilde's pleased expression and the soft flush across Duo's cheek. Hurriedly, I stumbled his way as he started to turn. I wanted to hug him, maybe kiss him - I could always blame it on the alcohol later.
Judging from the mild sense of impending dread his face gave off, he had to have some suspicion of what I was up to, but he didn't run, hardly even flinched. I think he wanted this as much as me, but the initiative had to be mine, at least for now.
But we never got that far.
Halfway to my target, I felt my guts revolt. The smile on my face flattened out as I covered my mouth and changed directions towards the bathroom, shuffling forward at best speed.
I made it on time - barely.
Soothing, circular touches to my back and strong grips steadying me made me dimly aware Duo and Hilde had followed me; supported me as I proceeded to puke my insides out. To say I was ashamed or embarrassed would be a grave understatement. I can usually handle a lot of alcohol, but whenever there's other butterflies in there too, the situation grows volatile.
My stomach didn't have all that much to empty, but the aftershocks kept coming.
Hilde stepped out, mentioning something about clean clothes, towels, something for me to drink - for washing out the bad taste or to counteract my impending hangover, I wasn't sure. After tasting her witchbrew, I could safely say it covered both - and that some things taste worse than bile.
As the heaves grew less frequent, Duo patted my back, his voice showing the crooked smirk on his face. "This look sure doesn't suit you, Heero... I mean, a former war hero, twice the savior of the world - never mind how many other times you pulled our asses out of the fire..." I shot him a glare as he closed his eyes, grinning. "And now you've got your green-shaded face in a toilet, flushing a bitter stomach the unusual way."
I wanted to fight back, but distraction at that point could have been messy. Another dry hurl came up; one last cramping - I hoped.
Stability ensued after Hilde returned with her liquid miracle cure. On good faith - and in retrospect, against better judgement, given the seething foam around the egg yolk dipping in the glass she offered - I drank it. Let's just say two wrongs definitely do not make a right.
They helped me clean myself up, change my shirt. Hilde put a quilt around my shoulders, and it took me a moment to recognize the smell and the patchwork patterns. My blanket - I still couldn't believe Duo had packed it for me when he picked me up. It doesn't look like much, but the old rag meant a lot to me - at least it had up to that point, being one of a few sources of warmth and comfort I had in my self-imposed solitude. I pulled at the corners and packed myself in, mind drifting away.
I'm not sure how it happened, but I came to wake up from a doze leaning against Duo, crushing him up against one of the walls, his arms around me. Hilde was gone, but I suspected the couch cushion buffering Duo and the wall was her contribution.
Still with her good intentions in mind, I caught glimpse the empty glass over by the high doorsill and frowned, recalling the flavor and consistency. Never again, I quietly vowed.
Duo stirred, shifted his palm along my side. I shot him a drowsy look, fought the urge to smile. Never say never, maybe... If this was the result...
I closed my eyes and pushed the thought away. I knew that was a wrong conclusion. Duo was willing to overlook my drinking this time; it didn't mean he'd do it the next time.
He knew I was awake by then. I rustled up against him, just enough so I could touch my lips to his neck. "I still want you," I mumbled.
"I know..." he breathed back.
I kissed the bit of his clavicle poking out from his shirt. "A chance, Duo. It's all I ask..."
"You'll get your chance..." His fingers briefly brushed through the hair at the back of my neck; a feather-touch. Then, he settled for holding me close. "Just don't push me too hard, okay? Give me time."
"I'll try..." I mumbled. My mind was wandering off again, craving escape from the dull headache. I was inclined to go along with it, content with where I was - in his arms. I didn't care we were in the bathroom, didn't care that I'd cramp Duo's legs and would undoubtedly wake up hurting from the hard tiles. Some things are worth a little pain, I decided, as he mothered me into a soft-rocking lull. His lips grazing my forehead before I was gone was as fleeting as a dream, and perhaps it was.
Other than my numb thighs come morning, it was the best sleep I'd ever had; one of a few times up until then I'd felt perfectly safe.
I could easily get used to a life like that - and we did.