"Duo?" Heero said again, still shaking the other boy. "Wake up."
Duo stared at the one hovering above him, his skin covered in a fine sweat from his fever, completely lost of any recognition of where he was and who was with him. For a few moments Heero's heart leapt, but he calmed when Duo finally responded to him.
"H-heero...," the longhaired boy mumbled. "M'up."
"How do you feel?" Heero's glare was piercing. Duo had noted once before that the way he could tell that Heero was either uncomfortable, annoyed, or worried was that his eyes got exceptionally hard.
"Hot." Duo let his eyes close again, since keeping them open made his head spin. "Not to good."
Heero sighed. "Can you sit up?"
For a few seconds Duo didn't respond, but then weakly pushed himself upright, his eyes still closed. Then he winced from the pain radiating from his injured side, causing his eyes to snap open. Heero was holding him by the shoulder to help steady his wobbly body as he sat up.
"I don't... Hee...," Duo tried a couple of times to speak coherently, but between his nausea, his pain, and the debilitating fever coursing through his body, he couldn't keep anything straight, either in his mind or on his tongue. "Need t'lay down." He slid out of Heero's fingers and abruptly dropped himself back to the sand where he prayed for the world to stop spinning.
"No. Get up. Let me help you," Heero insisted. He started grabbing at the other boy in attempt to get him upright again.
Duo thought that the other boy must be completely insane at that moment but didn't have the energy to reply. Or, he thought, maybe he did reply with a nice "fuck you," and didn't even realize it, but he guessed that he hadn't, because he wasn't staring face-to-face with Heero's pissed-off glare.
"Come on, work with me, Duo. You're getting up." Heero was going to make him get up, regardless of the fact that he couldn't get up.
"Heero... please...," His tone was laden with misery as he tried to fight being forced to stand up.
Heero managed to help Duo stand, then held him up with the other boy's arm over his shoulders. "Now, walk." It was an order, not a request, and once more, Duo found himself obeying, although he had no idea why, or where they were going.
They wove and stumbled across the beach, Heero doing his best to keep his sick friend from collapsing, all the while Duo concentrating on simply lift one exhausted foot after the other, until he noticed that the texture of the sand had changed. The loose grains had turned into cool, compacted grains, and before long Duo felt the tail end of a wave wash over his toes. He reacted sharply.
"Hey! That's too cold!"
"Exactly," Heero answered, and continued leading Duo toward the water.
Heero led the other boy into the oncoming surf despite his halfhearted protests, holding him tightly so he didn't lose his balance, until they had waded into the chilly water waist deep. The waves were rough today, much to his dismay, and keeping himself upright as well as keeping a hold of Duo was a task that required all of Heero's strength, but he knew he was doing the right thing. He steadied himself, positioning behind the other boy, then pushed him out further into the water, not stopping until they were chest deep and he was having trouble keeping Duo in front of him.
As Heero's lips began getting gray, Duo's attentiveness started to improve, the coolness of the water combating his high fever and actually feeling good after he accustomed himself to its bite. They floundered like that in the water for twenty minutes or so, until Duo had improved considerably, and Heero was beginning to shiver. Shortly thereafter, Heero suggested they retreat back to the beach for a while, but not before having Duo dunk his whole head in the chilly waves, to keep him cool for as long as possible as his hair dried.
The soaking helped Duo considerably, lowering his fever enough that he could actually think and speak without feeling like he was on a tilt-a-whirl, but the relief didn't last long. A few hours at best, and then he was spiking higher again, this time in the middle of what was turning out to be the hottest day they'd spent on the beach. It wasn't exceptionally sweltering as hot days go, but for someone who was severely feverish, it felt like the middle of the Sahara desert. Heero was prompted to move Duo away from the campsite and out of the heat, so he relocated their bedrolls to the very edge of the sparse wood where there were some shaded areas to protect him from direct sunlight. Duo spent most of the day sleeping after that, totally oblivious to everything going on around him.
Heero, on the other hand, was continuing with the daily errands. He monitored the trap, cooking what they'd caught, although at this point there wasn't anything he could do to get a morsel of food past the other boy's lips. Then he went for water at the stream, ingeniously carrying some back for Duo with "bowls" that he'd made out of a few very carefully peeled fruits, their skins working quite well as vessels to transport the water in. After he'd managed to at least wake Duo and get him to drink two bowls full, Heero rested himself, keeping his ear alert as he dozed in the shade beside his friend.
Dusk returned, and with it so did Duo's nightmares, accompanied by bad fevers once more. He was mumbling in his sleep this time, and beads of sweat collected on his skin, rolling off him, over and over again. His hair was saturated, as were his clothes, what little he'd been wearing, so Heero stripped him down to nothing but his underwear and just sat at his side, thinking and hoping...and praying.
Fevers, as he knew, were a good thing when there was an infection. They were the body's own mechanism for killing off unwanted trespassers, however, he also knew fevers that got out of control could kill a person. With no way of obtaining an accurate temperature, Heero could only guess when hot was too hot, since he'd never experienced, not himself or anyone he knew, a fever that was so debilitating that it left a person unresponsive. That was his biggest worry - the not knowing.
In an attempt to calm his inner unrest, Heero got up and went back out to the beach to feed the fire and check on the location device, not that anything had changed. When he returned, Duo was once more, mumbling out loud, but seemed to acknowledge his approach.
"H-hey H-h-heee-eero," Duo said, his uncooperative mouth slurring his words.
Heero was right there by him. "Hmmm?"
"Ya know s-something?"
Heero didn't speak, but kept his glaring eyes glued on the other boy.
"'M really glad we got to be friends. Ya know that?" There was a faint smile on Duo's lips, and his eyes remained closed. "You're OK. A l-little uptight... but you're OK."
"Hmmph," Heero smirked. "Uptight, huh?"
"That's because I have to work with people like you, baka!" The Japanese boy's voice conveyed a weak sarcasm.
"Oh, you wound me, Yuy!" Duo chuckled, amused by the attempt at humor, then quieted.
For a few minutes neither spoke, both listening to the music of the waves crashing on the shore, each privately contemplating their short lives, and where this adventure was going to lead them. Then Duo began once more.
"I was dreaming about them, Heero. About my old buddies on L2, and about Solo, and Father Maxwell. They're all dead, you know. Every last one of them. Sister Helen too. She was the only mother I've ever known." His voice was dry and faded in and out. "I'm scared. Heero, I'm really scared... because I think they were calling to me, and I don't want to go where they are. Not yet. Not when I have another friend to stick with me."
Heero moved in closer to where Duo lay with his head propped on the bedroll, his eyes staring straight up into twilight. His skin glistened in the growing moonlight, wet with perspiration, and little tears rolled from the corners of his eyes, down his temples and into his hair.
"Don't be scared. Everything will be fine," Heero said in his best supportive voice, full well knowing that it was probably a lie.
"I can't help it, Heero. I know you've been worried about me, and now look. God... I feel so awful, part of me just wants to give up and..."
"DON'T even say that!" Heero's voice was loud and abrasive. "You have an infection, you have a fever, but you can get well. You just have to fight it. You can do that. I know you can."
"How do you know I can? Maybe I don't care anymore. Maybe I do just want to give up. Because all I've ever done is fight for my life, and I'm tired of it."
"You'll keep fighting."
"Why should I?"
For a few seconds there was no response, until Heero finally said "Because you're my friend... and I need you." There was stunned silence after that.
"I'm your friend. You? Tough guy?" Duo tried to laugh, but his voice caught in his dry throat. "I thought you didn't need friends the way I do."
Heero blushed. "I do, though. I guess I just never realized it because I never had a friend before. I-I do need friends. You ARE my friend."
Duo smiled. "That's nice to hear, Heero. Maybe all isn't lost for you after all, huh?"
"Hmmmpf," was all Heero said.
"I know we had a rocky beginning, you and I, but I've been hoping you'd loosen up with me for a while, Heero. I like you. You have style."
Heero looked away, out to the waters edge, now visible only by the frosty white edges of water that flowed out onto the sand, illuminated by the bright moonlight, contemplating.
"Can I tell you something, something that I probably would never have told you if it hadn't been for the past week?"
"Shoot," Duo replied, lying once more with his eyes closed.
"When we crashed, when we were in the water... I guess I must have been knocked out, because I don't remember much after impact. I woke up a few times, floating on a piece of the fuselage, and I had some... thoughts. I really thought I was going to die, and I was afraid." Heero paused, gathering his emotions. "I've never been afraid of anything before this. I've never had regrets before this. But this whole war, it's making me regret a lot of things, mostly that the most enjoyable years of my life are almost gone, and I have nothing to show for it."
"You wan't to know what I regretted the most, as I was floating there, thinking I was a dead man?"
"Not being honest with you."
"Huh?" Duo opened his eyes slightly, craning them to look at Heero without lifting his head off the bedroll. The Japanese boy blushed slightly, and turned his face away from Duo's sight. "I regretted not telling you that I admired you. That being around you gave me confidence and made me feel important. I regretted hiding the fact that I wanted to be closer to you than I was allowing myself, covering it all up with my bullshit soldier training crap."
"Well... um... I guess you don't have to regret that anymore then, right?"
Heero chuckled. "No, I guess not."
"But, why the sudden change, I mean, was it just thinking that you were going to die that scared the shit out of you or what?"
Heero thought for a moment "That... and you."
"Me?" Duo asked.
"Just... the way you are. The way you carry yourself. The way you helped me before, and made me ignore my instinct to push away from you back in the cavern. All that stuff. The way you need me."
Duo didn't say a word after that, because there wasn't a need to. He knew exactly what the other boy meant. The fact that sometimes it takes a drastic measure for us to allow ourselves to see what's really there, and admit it. Heero had been so uncomfortable around other people before, so unneeding of them, that he never allowed himself to acknowledge the fact that underneath, he was really no different than anyone else, and all that hard exterior was, was learned behavior, not what's there naturally. Duo smiled.
"Heero?" Duo asked quietly, after a good fifteen minutes of silence. Heero was still quietly sitting, staring out to sea, contemplating the universe.
"Is there any way that you'd..." He stopped. "Nah, never mind."
"What is it?"
"Would you lay by me tonight? Just... just because I miss the feel of someone being close, and it's been so long..."
After a brief hesitation, Heero got up and moved his bedroll over next to Duo's, close enough that he could feel the boy's seething heat radiating off his feverish body, and reclined on it.
"Thanks," the longhaired boy whispered as he started to doze off again.
Heero lay on his back staring at the stars for a long time, just thinking and wondering, and asking himself questions, but before long he decided that this was all good and fine. As his eyelids got heavier with impending sleep, he turned to catch a last glimpse of Duo lying next to him, and he smiled.
Duo's nightmares were minimal that night.