Innocence Faded, Part 12
by Kea & Jenn
The child will crawl to find you
What do you expect when you wake up? It seems like an easy question, doesn't it? Most anyone will tell you that they anticipate a certain set of stimuli or conditions upon waking. I think it has something to do with the human tendency for falling into a routine.
Ultimately, I suppose that returns me back to the argument I've had with myself over and over again. I donít expect a thing when I wake, have never been in any situation where there was something lasting or enduring enough to expect. One more basic human tendency, inapplicable to me. Doesnít that make me less than human?
Then again, Iím finding it harder and harder to continue an argument thatís getting very tired. Instead of accepting the judgment as a given, Iím forced to search for proof, validation. Maybe eventually Iíll have no argument at all. One can hope.
It's a baby step. But...Iím still young, I have the time to take small steps. In time, maybe I can even learn what it means to be young. Thank God I have someone to teach me.
God... Eternal mystery or cosmic joke? I don't know, I've never had the opportunity to wonder. Then again, I've found heaven, haven't I? And... watching the dawnlight tiptoe gently across his face, stroking fingertips of radiance through the fire-gold filaments of his lashes...how could I possibly think that the divine was absent in the world?
Thank God, thank someone, because I certainly never did anything to deserve the angel that lay just out of reach, an impish smile curving his lips as he snored gently through my scrutiny. Just when I think I'm saving him from me, he saves me from myself. How many times had he pulled me from the brink? And for what? The reasons were obvious to anyone but me...
Keep telling me, Duo, because evidently my head is too thick to absorb them.
I closed my eyes, basking in his presence, as though the force of it danced against my skin like a caress. I stretched, caught myself and winced. My body still ached from the day before, but it was a pleasant ache. Surprising, strange, different, but pleasant. Sometimes I underestimate Duo. I should really learn to stop that.
I settled back against the pillow and...well... tried to imagine what it would be like to wake up this way every morning. What would it be like for the question of waking up to have an easy answer? To know that the light will fall across our bed just so, filtering through the drapes to dapple snowy bedding in gold. To expect a warm presence and a generous mouth curved in a knowing smile... and violet eyes that pierced my heart, summoned by morning's first kiss.
I was wrong...it was not the place that was heaven, but the feeling. I swallowed hard, the realization that there could be a thousand thousand more opportunities for this feeling overwhelming my novice ability to cope. The feeling flooded my eyes and rolled down my cheeks...and as it moved through me and over me, I held onto it with a fierce joy.
I was alive... For the first time in my short life...that meant something.
Consciousness lay just out of reach; to leave the dream would spill me back into the reality of Heero avoiding me. I would awaken and he would be gone and facing that seemed downright unfair with the memory of that beautiful dream still pulsing through my mind. The two of us, alone, making love on the beach in what could only be termed a communion of souls. Scrambling back to the house in a flurry of sand and sweat turned to a long sojourn in the oversized shower and blissful rest in one another's arms. After fighting so hard to make it real, I wasn't ready to let go and return to that uncertain and often cruel world beyond my closed eyelids. I just wanted to forever stay in this blissfully warm spot of surrealism where I could feel his body heat radiating under the blankets.
I didn't expect him to be in our bed when I woke; perhaps that's why I still clung to sleep. Too many times in the past few days the hope I'd awoken with had shortly dwindled to despair. I wanted so, so badly to believe I'd finally gotten through to him and he knew I wouldn't walk away. God, I loved him...I loved him! Turning my back became impossible; I had no illusions that love meant we would always agree or never say things in anger to hurt, but...in admitting how much I needed him I'd found the faith to follow my feelings and make the decision to do whatever it took to make him happy. To make him human.
God, even if that meant letting him leave....
I shied violently from the thought, but love was never meant to be a jailer. 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.' 
Despite my resistance, my eyelids crept open by degrees, blinking almost myopically at the influx of light from above and to my left. I blinked again, rubbing at the sleep-crusted corners of my eyes, and yawned. Time to get up and face the day. He hadn't reacted when orgasm had wrung my confession from my bones, so there was still hope. Hope that he hadn't heard and hadn't run away and....
There was a warm human body partially under the blankets next to me. Heero was still here. The body heat from my dream was no illusion.
I started to say his name, but stopped in shock. Heero Yuy...was weeping. Not misty-eyed, not teared up or even crying, but weeping, huge tears silently pouring down his face like rain while his chin and shoulders both shook. A look that could have been rapture or pain twisted his face and I felt my insides clench. What was wrong...what could possibly have happened to result in this? I'd never seen him cry, never! Oh, dear Lord, what have I done?
"H-Heero?" I whispered, barely audible, as I stretched out a hand and laid it on his wet cheek. "What's wrong? Are...are you hurt?"
My eyes flew open at the sound of his voice, the world a blurry mosaic of shapes and colors. I scrubbed at my eyes impatiently to clear them, but it wasn't working very well, the tears kept flowing against my will. I rolled onto my side and rubbed my face against the pillow, soaking the fabric and making the situation even more miserably comical with virtually no result.
I looked up at him and sniffled, taken aback by the fearful look on his face. "I..." What had he said? I replayed it in my mind, neatly extracting comprehension from that mental record. "Iya, iya," I said quickly, sniffling more. "I'm ok." He looked like he didn't believe me, and really, I don't think I could blame him. I... I don't think I've cried like that since I was a child. No, I don't think I've cried like that at all.
I tried again. "Hontou ni... I'm alright." That sounded better. Less...pitiful.
For all the world, he looked like a lost child, confused and bewildered by his unfamiliar surroundings. He wiped his face on the pillow, and I felt my heart swell; he sniffled and rubbed at his nose, and I felt it explode.
The next thing I knew, I'd all but crawled on top of him, arms wrapped around him and my head buried in his damp neck. "You're here, you're still here, you're alright," I heard a voice saying over and over again; distantly, I recognized it as mine. "I was..." I felt my own breath hitch in my throat, his tears continuing to fall and now wetting my hair, "...so afraid you'd be gone." I was kissing his neck now, almost hysterically, unsure why the sight of him crying had affected me so. I had to hold him, to touch him, to feel how blessedly real and warm and human he was.
I can't believe I'm thrilled he can cry.
"I'm sorry...sorry. 'm overreacting," I mumbled against his skin, my voice nearly lost under my hair.
I love him so much it feels like I'm drowning in it.
Startled again. I guess I'm just not used to waking up with him, to the thought of sharing my life and my bed with him. I wanted to be...and yet I didn't. No amount of wanting would include this feeling becoming commonplace. I paused, then went with what felt right, snugging my arms around his waist and nuzzling against his cheek. For some reason, the tears wouldn't stop, I think they may have even come a little harder.
Overwhelmed seemed like the appropriate description here, and yet I couldn't regret that. Not when I could feel so intensely. A deep breath drew his scent to me and I shivered slightly, inhaling again for the sole purpose of enjoying it.
"I'm here," I said softly. "I--I'm not going anywhere." I meant it, I didn't want to run anymore. Not if running meant I couldn't be with him. Pulling back, I gently pushed his hair away from his face, tucking it behind his ears. For a long moment, I just watched him, drinking in the sight of him trying to gather himself, failing miserably as our eyes met and his emotions bubbled over again. A slight, wistful smile suddenly tugged at the corner of my mouth, my eyes flicking away and then back.
I ducked my head shyly, then put voice to something I'd been thinking about since he'd woken up. "I had a dream last night," I began. "Kind of weird, I haven't had a good dream in so long that..." I trailed off, shrugging. "I don't know." I swallowed hard, reaching up to wipe away the last of the slowing tears from my eyes.
"In my dream," I said very quietly, "you said you loved me."
Silence fell between us for a heartbeat...two... My smile turned wry, almost self-deprecating. "Baka, ne?" 
His arms around me, his heart beating against me, felt so right, full of a certainty and strength of purpose that left me trembling inside. Had my desire been only for his body, I don't think his emotions could so move me, even in their seeming rarity. Yet, my entire being seemed acutely tuned to the most subtle rise and fall of his feelings and the ways they found expression. I could live fulfilled for weeks off the tenderness in his touch, the wiry strength in his hands.
His words offered me the reassurance I'd sought all my life: someone who wouldn't leave me. The abject fear that had gripped me between sleep and wakefulness came as a shock, but I guess it shouldn't have. It is a familiar terror to me, one which I don't know if I will ever completely lose. Too many people close to me have died for me to blindly give affection anymore. Heero is amazingly strong, but he's not invincible. He's...human.
God, I nearly started bawling. I'll just have to entrust him to fate for now, I decided, studying his spiky-lashed eyes, and carry a damned big stick to protect him.
I watched him cast the last of the water from his eyes, everything in me stilled by the hesitant words that followed. Whether he knew it or not, he was giving me an out, a means by which to still hide what I felt. Hide it, until I was sure it was what he wanted. The demands, the expectations, the baggage that accompanied 'love'...I couldn't force all that on him. He had heard me, but I could pass it off as a dream--a beautiful dream, but still something that wasn't real. Until the right time, he would never need to know.
But I would know. A lie of omission is still a lie.
And Duo Maxwell doesn't lie.
"Iya," I whispered, giving my head a small shake. "Baka ja nai." My voice wavered, but the words kept pouring forth. "Yume ja nai. Hontou desu."  Carefully, I took his tear-moistened face between my fingers, reverting back to touch to aid my message. "Ore wa...omae ga...suki desu. Aishiteru yo." 
The words couldn't be taken back. I'd said them. That made them real.
He cradled my face in his hands, lifting my eyes to his as he made his confession. I swallowed hard, searching his face, not sure at first what to say. This is all still so frustrating to me, so foreign. He was waiting
for a reaction, I could tell, his body tense with wanting for it.
I--I know he's as vital to me as air, that even being in his presence robbed me of all ability to think clearly or rationally. I know he's the most beautiful person I've ever seen, and that my life has never felt more real than it does right now, lying in bed beside him. But... He knows what love is. All its nuances, its implications, they're perfectly clear to him.
When he said that he loved me, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what he was saying. I could see it in his eyes.
I don't. And before I offer him those words, I had to learn what they meant. I had to be sure. Ultimately, I'd rather die than hurt him, and hurting him that way would be as bad, or worse, than driving a knife through his chest.
That left just one problem... how to make him understand?
"Duo, I..." I took a deep breath, then forced myself to look at him again. "It makes me hurt," I said quietly, frowning as I struggled to express what I meant. "You've given me something impossible, and I don't know how to give it back." I paused, frowned more deeply and shook my head. "No, that's not--" Cursing softly, I ground to a stop again. "Love is--" No, dammit.
Growling, I grit my teeth and looked at him fiercely. "This..." Leaning in, I brushed my lips against his, striving for something, anything... to show him how I feel.
Nervousness danced in my stomach like a line of chorus girls and I was light-headed from holding my breath, but I had to speak up, to make things clear. This was too vital to risk misunderstandings. I hadn't given him my feelings as a demand that they be returned in kind. Okay, the tiny part of me that admits to being a complete sap was hoping for a reciprocal confession, but...to insist upon it was the same as putting a price on my love. You can't have a price on something that is freely given.
"You don't have to..." was as far as I got before a warm mouth pulled me into its depths and swallowed me whole.
I drank deeply from him, draining the well of his mouth as his tongue flirted with mine. The kiss was a gift, water on the parched earth of my soul, and I craved more to slake my thirst. I was swimming in him, utterly immersed in the gentle, tender exploration he made of my lips. Like a river, he branched into tributary lines, exploring down to my neck, my throat, the pooling hollows of my collarbones, each suckling kiss a droplet of meaning, an unspoken, tentative whisper like wind over waters. With breeze and breath, Heero answered my spoken feelings in the only way he knew how, communicated in last night's language that he cared, too.
Did he love me the way I loved him? I didn't know, but I found it didn't matter. Real love isn't conditional. How he felt or didn't feel wouldn't change my love.
"Heero..." I exhaled his name, inhaled his scent and felt my entire being leap. Sapphirine eyes looked up at me through a forest of unruly bangs, almost like those of a wild animal pondering the actions of an unknown that could be either predator or prey. "It's all right," I said, reaching one hand towards those bangs, stroking them and the forehead they sheltered. "You don't have to give it back."
He started to speak, to utter what seemed a protest, but my fingers fell to his lips, begging indulgence for just a while longer. "This is my gift for you, for you and no one else. I won't say I don't want you to give it back. I'm human, I'm weak and selfish that way." One corner of my mouth wandered up in a rueful half-smile; I could lose myself in those sea-dark eyes studying me. "But...I won't tell you I love you to put those kinds of demands or restrictions on you. It isn't fair, it isn't love to do that to someone."
Trying to cobble words out of the swirling eddies inside me was difficult. Most of them were conceptual at best, but I found the more I spoke, the easier it became. A large part of me still quavered at the thought Heero might turn tail and run, but I had to give him that chance. I'd been so unfair to him in that respect already, I realized with shame. I certainly wasn't kidding when I said I was weak and selfish.
"I've never done this before, Heero. I'm still pretty stupid about this whole love thing. I know I'm going to make a lot of mistakes." One hand had migrated down to his chest, and I cherished the steady, strong pulse of his heartbeat beneath the pads of my fingers. "I already owe you a few apologies for ones I've made."
The quizzical look that crossed his face nearly made me laugh and nicely broke the tension I felt gathering inside me. He was so beautiful, eyelashes still unnaturally dark and damp from the earlier tears. Illumination from the skylight above cast his face in slight dappled shadows; the eastward sun was to my back, warm against my bare skin and loose hair. Gotta stop sleeping with it down; it would be a bitch to comb out later, but that was the least of my worries.
"I've...rushed things, I have." The words agreed, tumbling out and over one another like a litter of gangly puppies. "The house, the move, putting down roots. I really didn't stop to ask what you wanted, and that wasn't right. I took advantage of your uncertainty and I pushed us in this direction. And I am so, so sorry, because it was selfish and manipulative and...you deserve better than to be treated like that."
I sucked in a deep breath, as a swimmer breaking the surface and preparing to plunge under once more. "The worst part is I can't be completely sorry for all of that, because you're here. You're here and alive and real and human and...and I think I'll go crazy if I can't wake up to you every day for the rest of my life." I scrubbed my hands over my face, as if it would wash off the shame. God, I sounded like a needy, blithering female. "I want you here. I want you in my life so badly. But I won't decide that for you. I won't take that choice away from you any more than I already have."
I sniffled, emotions pricking my eyes but far too proud to let them fall and influence him. Remembering his owlish expression, I summoned a tiny, gentle smile from the depths of my soul, just for him. "My arms will always be open for you, because I love you. I meant what I said. I won't give up. I won't run away."
"I won't leave you. Ever."
Smiling sadly, I leaned in and feathered my lips to his, transferring the smallest puff of breath to his mouth. "Please tell me what you want, Heero."
Life with Duo-- Ha, there, I said it. Life. Living. With Duo. I wanted to giggle. It was a little frightening.
No, make that a lot frightening. Does crying always do this to people? I felt like some of the weight had
been taken away, that the pain, if not gone, had taken several steps back to a more comfortable distance. Maybe it was just for the moment but... God, it felt good.
That left me to consider my options. He was giving me the opportunity to make a choice. There was a part of me that could have shied away at that point, following instinct to go and find somewhere quiet to sort things out. He was right, everything was moving so fast. Only weeks ago we'd been fighting a war, now we were contemplating peace... and one another. Head still spinning, my body was fighting to adjust to totally new surroundings, new time-zone, and a halfway normal schedule. I could run just far enough to think, to decide what to do...
Then I realized exactly what had happened. When the world changed, so did I. Not easily, not alone. Between the two of us, we had found a place where I could exist, a stable foundation to slowly build on, until I had the chance to learn everything I needed to know to be something more.
I wasn't a soldier or a weapon anymore. I was a man. A man that needed the person lying next to him very much... that hurt inside because he couldn't, with confidence, give the same words to that person that had been given to him. Not because they were expected...but because I wanted this jumble of feelings to be the same, a match for what put such incredible light and passion in his eyes.
I wanted to know what it meant to love him. But I didn't, and that made all the difference.
Life with Duo... is a roller coaster of emotion. There were no promises that everything would be ok, that the pain would stop. No guarantee that it wouldn't get worse. There were no promises that my nightmares would go away, or that I'd magically know how to be... normal. There was only one promise at work here,, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would be kept as long as the choices were his to make. He wouldn't leave. He would stay, and be my touchstone, for as long as I allowed him to. And you know, it was a promise I could return to him, without hesitation or waver.
So here it is, the moment of truth... and I finally think I'm ready for it. "I want to be with you," I breathed against his mouth. Drawing back so that I could see his eyes, I quirked my lips in an answering smile. "I want you to teach me what love is." I leaned closer again until our
foreheads touched, lacing my fingers with his where they rested over my heart. "And someday I want to give it back to you."
When he started to speak, it was my turn to silence him, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Shhh, let me finish... It's not because of how you feel or what you said..." I took a deep breath, squeezing his hand tightly.
"It's what I want."
In the past week or so, I think I've cried more than a heroine in a shoujo anime. And dammit if I didn't start again, dropping my head onto Heero's chest and bathing him with salty tears. It was embarrassing--never mind that he'd been drowning me in them a few minutes ago--but I was so overcome with relief it all came pouring out my eyes. Father, Sister, is this what real faith is? Believing with all your heart and soul in something? His free hand moved up and down my back in slow strokes, reassuring me in much the same way I'd been reassuring him. He wanted to stay, each touch said. With me. So much for turning off the waterworks.
It took a few minutes before words outpaced sobs up my throat. "S-Sorry," staggered out alongside a hiccup. "Little...overwhelmed, but...in a good way." I scrubbed my face off with the edge of the sheet, still feeling the constant clockwork beat of his heart under my fingertips. That made it easier to breathe normally instead of like a sputtering vacuum cleaner. "I was afraid you might not want to stay." Something like a snicker passed my lips, and I reached over Heero for the tissues on the nightstand. "Or that you'd run off and tell Wufei what a weepy onna I'm being and have a good laugh," I added, gathering the rest of my drippy dignity and drying my eyes and nose. "Not that I'd blame you; I'd probably be laughing at me about now, too." His mouth turned up in a small smile before he could catch it, and my heart flip-flopped in my chest.
Even while I made jokes, I clutched tightly to myself the precious things he'd spoken. I want to be with you...It's what I want. I clutched tighter the solid reality of him: his body, his heart, his amazing, generous spirit. I believed at last we had come home. We had a home, a refuge, a future; it was almost like a fucking fairy tale, it felt so wonderful. The spinning, tilting world in which we'd found ourselves had finally stilled, leaving only us in a sliver of paradise.
A small part of existence that belongs only to you...
Help him find sanctuary...
Take care, Duo...
We wouldn't be alone forever, I knew. There were friends waiting for us, friends whose voices I could almost hear calling us back to them. Friends wise and insightful enough to offer their counsel and wisdom but to do so from a distance, allowing us the opportunity to begin our journey together and depend only on each other. I wouldn't have wished the turmoil and the pain of this on any of them, even to share it with me. Maybe I'll share it with them in time, maybe I won't. No one needed to know just how close to the brink Heero was, how far he broke, how hard I had to fight to keep him sane or what the fight had cost me. In some ways, I thought it would hurt them more to know.
We will probably never be normal. I don't think anyone who has done and seen what we have could ever be like the rest of those in the world. We will probably hold just enough of the veneer of normality to survive and blend in. But, by all that's holy we'll be doing it together.
My stomach chose that introspective moment to declare its displeasure at my half-assed attempts to placate it the day before. Quite loudly. So much for my brilliant timing. "Uhm..." I said, patting the disgruntled body part, "I think that's a hint. I know I didn't put anything in me but soup and a sandwich yesterday, and I doubt you ate a thing." I poked him in those taut abs of steel, which definitely could use a little more flesh on them. "I don't promise it's the best, but I make a thoroughly edible breakfast." Flipping the tissue into the trash can--from three-point range, no less--I laid my head on his chest again and grinned up at him. I'd never felt more like part of a real couple. "What do you say?"
With the hint of a smirk, I leaned in, swiping my tongue across the tip of his nose. "You're right," I replied thoughtfully. "You would make a thoroughly edible breakfast." To prove my point, I tilted his chin up, lowering my head to drink in another taste of his mouth. The kiss had the potential to drive all thoughts of food from the surrounding area... until my body registered its own complaint.
Drawing away, I glanced ruefully downward. "I actually think it's been two days." The comment had been intended more for myself than for him. Somehow it earned me nothing but a mouthful of pillow.
"Baka!" Frowning, I unearthed myself from the pillow just in time to see him slipping into boxers, bathrobe and bunny (?!) slippers. "That's it, you're not doing another thing until I personally oversee the packing away of several breakfasts into your concentration camp bod." Casting a particularly dirty look at me over his shoulder, he headed for the stairs and disappeared down them, all well before I'd even managed to conceptualize an appropriate retort.
I caught myself almost gawking after him, trying to figure out where along the line I'd summoned that response. "Concentration camp?" Sitting up, I looked down at myself... and after a moment admitted that being able to count my clearly defined ribs wasn't necessarily a good thing. Well, it's not like I'd been deliberately...well... starving myself. I just... can't quite remember the last time I was actually hungry.
That's sad, isn't it? That's the thing, though. It wasn't a happy beginning, and there were no guarantees for a happy ending. Somewhere along the way, you just have to grab for a little happiness to call your own. I think maybe this is my chance to grab mine.
I sighed, another smile threatening to curve my lips as I listened to Duo's cheerful whistle as he assembled breakfast downstairs. Drawing my knees up to my chest, I looked out towards the balcony, where morning sunlight was streaming in through the filmy drapes. If I turned my head just so...I could see a whisper of movement in the shadow and sun that played across the floor.
The movement resolved itself into the quicksilver shape of a little girl, playing with a puppy. I imagined, as I watched her, that she paused in her game of chase, gently batting the puppy away from her skirts as she turned to me with huge blue eyes and a trusting smile. "Are you lost nii-chan?" she asked in a high, sweet voice.
I met her gaze for several long moments, then slowly shook my head. "No... I know exactly where I am." She tilted her head in curious inquiry, and I smiled. "I'm home."
She seemed to study my face intently for several moments before returning the nod. Satisfied, she bent down and gathered the puppy in her arms, giggling as it washed her face with its pink tongue. Flashing a shy smile my way, she stepped back towards the glass doors, running off to play in the winter sunlight where it danced across the sea.
Home isn't a place...for me, it's a person.
With one last look of farewell towards the water, I went downstairs to find my home.
Tadaima, Duo... 
Owari - continuing the timeline in the Sexcapades (ficlets) and Scarred (second arc)
 The Bible, I Corinthians 13:4-8a, New International Version
 Baka, ne? = Silly/stupid/foolish, isn't it?
 Yume ja nai = It isn't/wasn't a dream. Hontou desu = It's true/it's real.
 Ore wa...omae ga...suki desu = "I...love you." 'Ore' is the 'swaggeringly masculine' first-person pronoun for 'I' that all of the boys (except Quatre) use in the series. I have heard that its usage is considered somewhat rude, but I certainly hear it a lot in anime, even from boys as young as fourth grade. 'Omae' is one of the ways to say 'you'; it seems that male characters who use ore also use omae. Coincidence? Omae is another word I've heard can be somewhat rude in usage, but it can also be very intimate, as its literal meaning is 'the person who is in front of me'. 'Suki' is the traditional Japanese 'confession of love' verb. Duo follows this with 'aishiteru yo', which is a much more intense and intimate version. It also is one that tends to be used more rarely. The 'yo' is used for emphasis. Wow, never thought we'd close out a fic with a Japanese lesson. ^_^
 Tadaima = a traditional response when coming home, usually translated as "I'm home". I believe the literal meaning is close to "I have safely returned home."
If you've made it this far, thank you greatly for the support, and we hope that this story has meant as much to you as it has to us.
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