Broken Jade

Part Twenty-Seven: Turns to Hail

Trowa stretched, a tightening and loosening of muscles, feeling the weight of the blankets pressing down on his body. It took a few more breaths before he realized that the blankets weren't the only weight on him; there was a leg thrown over his groin, providing a subtle but pleasurable pressure. An arm was stretched across his chest, fingers curling over under his side. Trowa lay still, cataloguing the sensations as they filtered in with the morning light.

His right arm was along his body, and he could feel the edge of the bed just under his fingertips. His left arm had become someone's pillow, and was bent at the elbow, angling down to press against shoulder blades. Something moved against him, and Trowa realized the leg across his body was beginning to shift in place, and something else - that was becoming firmer with every insistent push - was against his hip. He recognized that sensation, and opened his eyes, turning his head a little to survey the layout of the land.

Duo was sprawled across him, the messy and half-undone braid across Trowa's chest. Behind Duo, Heero was on his side, spooning against Duo, one hand lazily thrown over, the fingers caught between Duo's side and Trowa's body. Trowa raised his eyebrows, curiosity seeping into his groggy state. Normally Heero, like Trowa, preferred to sleep with minimum contact, entwining only their legs or fingers. The few times they'd slept entangled from shoulder to feet had been after longer missions, but by the second night together, they'd be back to their usual sides of the bed. He wondered if Heero's subconscious were doing the same thing with Duo, now that he was back after a long absence.

It was then that Trowa became aware that the subtle shifts of the leg against his groin had awakened a morning erection, and the object rubbing against his hip, he decided, must be Duo's. Soft lips had begun suckling at Trowa's chest, just above his nipple. Trowa bit back a grunt of pleasure, feeling physically pinned, yet unwilling to move. He didn't want to startle Duo, not after last night's solid punch, but he wasn't sure how to go about disengaging from the pile of bodies. On Duo's other side, Heero made a strange sound, deep in his throat, although his eyes were still closed. Heero's mouth opened, and Trowa watched over Duo's head as Heero's tongue slipped out, licking his lips before he sighed and settled back into sleep. Duo's body continued to move, writhing gently between them, and Trowa could see a line appear on Heero's sleepy face, between his brows.

Now I really need to do something, Trowa thought, recognizing the signs of Heero's imminent reaction. Trowa moved slightly under Duo. But his arm was effectively trapped, and there was little room to maneuver. He sighed, staring up at the ceiling, unable to prevent his body from reacting to the lips making their way towards his nipple. The arm across his chest shifted, the fingers beginning to play in circles on Trowa's ribs, and he shivered.

Then Ifrit jumped on the bed --- and directly onto Trowa's stomach.

With a strangled shout, Trowa curled, instinctively defending himself in case the cat moved farther south. Duo sat up with a yelp. Heero opened his eyes, looked at the cat, grunted, and rolled over on his other side. Ifrit meowed from where he'd landed, between Trowa's knees. The cat's ears were flat back on his head, and he gave a little shake as he turned his back and began washing himself. Trowa chuckled, and ran a hand through his hair. When he felt like he had himself more under control, he glanced over at Duo.

"Mas... " Duo yawned, and rubbed his eyes, then his hand fell away as he registered what he'd been about to say. "Trowa, hey, uh... " Duo flushed, and twisted in place, scrambling out of the bed over the back of the sofa. "I... uh... breakfast would be a good thing," he said, grabbing the top blanket and pulling it with him. There was a thump as he fell over the back and landed on the wooden floor. Heero sat up with a jerk.

"What the hell is going on?" Heero glared at Trowa, who shook his head, and Heero's glare was replaced with confusion. "Tro? Where's---"

"Right here, I'm fine, sorry... I... " Duo popped up from behind the sofa, his face still red as he wrapped the blanket around him. "I'm gonna go get dressed, I think." He scuttled from the living room, pounding up the steps, his head down.

Heero twisted on the bed to watch Duo go, then turned to Trowa. "What was that all about?"

"He... " Trowa winced. How could he say, in Duo's hearing, that Duo's training had no problems taking advantage of the situation? It would only add to the humiliation Duo was clearly already feeling. He sighed and pulled his legs up, kicking Ifrit lazily under the blankets until the cat meowed again and jumped down from the bed. Trowa leaned his elbows on his knees and let his head fall. "Later," he said, and Heero nodded.


Heero was washing the dishes in the kitchen, while Trowa and Duo straightened up the living room. By the time Heero appeared in the doorway, the room was back to its usual clean state. Trowa smirked as Heero nodded in satisfaction.

"Maxwell," Heero said. "Have a seat. I have an idea."

"Sure," Duo said, moving quickly to sit in the wing back chair.

Trowa tossed him a blanket and Duo scowled, but draped it over himself obediently. He had avoided Trowa's gaze through all of breakfast, and Trowa sighed as he sat down on the sofa, leaning back to stretch out his legs. Ifrit followed Heero from the kitchen, meowing as he wrapped himself around Heero's ankles, and the dark-haired man muttered a curse before picking Ifrit up and depositing him on Trowa's lap. Trowa rolled his eyes and scratched the cat under the chin while Heero took the other wingback chair.

"I thought... " Heero paused, a line between his brows as he stared at the table between them. "I thought it might help if we gave you a calendar of what's happened over the ten months. Start at the beginning." He frowned, concentrating. "It might help you sort out which memories come first."

Duo nodded slowly. His knuckles were white against the blue blanket.

"Today is December twenty-third," Heero said, in a calm, level tone. "You left for the mission start on February twelfth of this year. Three messages were received, all from L2, between the thirteenth and nineteenth of February. There was no more contact, until we received word that you had been on a shuttle accident within the cluster, on March eleventh."

Duo paled, but didn't say anything.

"On August twenty-ninth," Heero continued, "you were... located through a tip from a woman who discovered you in her son's house. We... " He glanced at Trowa, who nodded. "We retrieved you from that location, and brought you directly here. We're currently in the mountains on the western border of Sanq, about twenty minutes outside the town of Sur la Croix."

"On the cross," Duo translated. He laughed, a sharp bark. "Damn Catholics."

"Maxwell," Heero said, chewing his lip for a minute. "In Bremen, there's a grave marker with your name on it, in the war hero cemetery. Missing, believed dead, March eleventh, AC 206."

"I see." Duo's voice was preternaturally calm.

"The grave marker was set in the wall on May first," Trowa said, picking up where Heero obviously couldn't continue. "We... " He dropped his head, unwilling to look in Duo's direction, unwilling to see the man refuse to look him in the eye. And now, Trowa thought, we're even. I can't look him in the eyes, either. "There was no sign or word to contradict the shuttle's passenger record. Heero looked, desperately... but we three eventually convinced him there was no hope." Trowa stared down at his hands, buried in Ifrit's fur. "I'm sorry. I know that's not good enough, but we left you there, and we... "

"I looked," Heero said, his voice hoarse. "But I couldn't find anything, and the agent we sent found no record, no one who'd seen you... there was nothing. But I... I'm sorry, Duo," he whispered, and Trowa noticed Duo's flinch from the corner of his eye, but Heero's head was down as he spoke. "I should've kept looking."

The room was quiet for several minutes, and Trowa finally raised his head to see Duo staring at both of them. His expression was inscrutable, and Trowa braced himself, ready to accept whatever Duo would say. But Duo only sighed, and shook his head.

"You two are going to beat yourself up about not finding me right away," he said, and he smiled, but a little sadly. "Unless the months have been rearranged since I've been gone, that's still four months that you've been here with me, every day. Am I right?"

Heero nodded, and Trowa gave a little shrug with one shoulder.

"Yeah," Duo said. "Seems to me that if there's anyone who should be apologizing, it's me for putting you through this hell."

"It wasn't your fault," Heero protested, his head coming up. His eyes flashed as he leaned forward. "None of any of it is your fault. You---"

"Right," Duo said, lifting one hand to wave dismissively. "But I'd say we're even." He sighed, and leaned his head against the back of the chair. "I knew you'd find me, and I knew you'd figure it out, one way or another. You'd get me back. And you did." Duo shrugged, closing his eyes. "That's all that matters to me."

Trowa frowned, studying the lines on Duo's face. "Maxwell," he started to say, but Heero cut him off.

"I have a name," Heero said. He flushed at Trowa's raised eyebrows, but Duo opened his eyes, giving Heero a puzzled look. Heero looked abashed. "Deo."

"For me?" Duo's expression melted into a pleased smile, and Trowa's heart nearly broke at seeing an open, Jade-like expression once again. "I... " Duo blinked, and his eyes shuttered. "Why that name?"

"It's the sounds," Heero replied. "D... but with an ay-sound, like Jade. But... "

"Dio," Trowa said.

"Dio?" Duo looked confused, his gaze swinging back and forth between them. "What's that mean?"

"Same as *deo*. God. D-I-O are the first three letters of Dionysus... a god, yes." He smiled at Duo's lowered brows. "*Dio* and *deo* come from the same Indo-European root, *div*, which I seem to recall means 'shining.' I could look it up... " Trowa stared pointedly at the bookshelves.

"Dionysus," Duo repeated, rolling the word carefully in his mouth.

"God of wine," Trowa said, his lips curling up at the edges. "Known for orgiastic and ecstatic parties. But he was also a peacemaker, and a lawgiver. And between his parties, he often spent time alone in deep contemplation." Trowa glanced at Duo, but the other man's eyes were still on the shelves, his gaze traveling across the books as though fascinated. "Dionysus was also killed when young, a babe, I think, and brought back to life. So he has ties to death through that, and destruction through the excesses of ecstasy. Yet at the same time he's a god of vegetation and cultivation, bringing life and joy. He's the god of destruction, and creation, and joy in both."

"You're making this up," Duo challenged, but he looked amused.

Trowa shook his head. "Nope. You think I keep these books for decoration?"

"I was hoping," Duo retorted, but he chuckled softly. "Guess I can blame the intuitive leap on Heero?"

"Sure. We make a good pair that way."

"Yeah," Duo said, his gaze falling away from Trowa, back to the fire. "You do." He was quiet a minute, then shrugged. The move seemed overly nonchalant to Trowa. Duo's lips moved, but no sound came forth, and Trowa wondered if Duo were trying on the name. After a second, Duo gave gave Heero a tentative smile. "I like both. I don't know which... " He ducked his head, studying his fingers twisting in the blanket's edge. "You can pick... "

"Deo," Heero said. "I think Dio fits better, but the sounds need to be similar if you're to recognize it."

"Deo," Duo repeated, his smile suddenly brilliant. "Deo," he said again, softly.

Heero dropped his head, a shy smile on his face. Trowa smiled, watching his lover. Duo looked up, and his expression turned preoccupied. Trowa wondered what prompted the change. The fire crackled, sending sparks up the chimney, and Ifrit jumped down from Trowa's lap with an indignant meow. Trowa rubbed his hands together and leaned forward, looking at Duo. The silence held, until Duo slowly acknowledged Trowa's look with a questioning nod.

"Quatre and Wufei," Trowa said, "have been investigating the auction house since August. A week ago they were able to infiltrate an auction. Nearly all the ringleaders were captured, but more are being hunted down. Every one of those bastards is now behind bars or on their way there."

"Locked up," Duo murmured. His eyes were dark, and his smile was tight, white lines around his lips making it look more like a grimace. "Yeah, well, it'll do for now."

"We never let Quatre or Wufei come see you," Trowa continued. "We didn't think you'd want them to see you before you'd come back. I hope that's okay. We didn't think you'd want everyone to know... "

Duo nodded, once, slowly. "I... remember the week in darkness," he said, then shook his head. "Or perhaps it was longer. I remember when the man came to me and told me they knew who I was, and that I was undercover. I knew... if I didn't come up with a way out, they were going to kill me. I don't know why, but I knew they would do it painfully. They were like that... and dead is dead." His voice was a monotone. "So... when they left me, in that stinking icy darkness, I sorted through every memory I have, and... " He stopped, brows furrowed, his face as dark as a thundercloud. "All I remember after that was anger, and the scent of battle in my nose. My darkness became Deathscythe's cockpit."

Trowa exhaled slowly, his fingers itching to hold Duo while he spoke, to offer comfort through touch that he couldn't give through words. Trowa had no idea what he'd say, if Duo were to require an answer. I'm sorry? I understand? I wish I could've stopped it? Telling Duo not to speak was out of the question, Trowa reasoned. It had to be said, at some point, and better when Duo chose than to have it burst out.

"They came for me, I don't know how long after they found out," Duo's whisper was continuing without break. "I think a week, or two, they'd continued to act as though nothing had changed. I had been cheerful, compliant, and their guard was down. When they got me---" He flinched suddenly, and his eyes squeezed tight for a heartbeat "---they were restraining me by my hair, and one man was moving to shackle my feet. I got the knife from his belt, and slit his throat before the second man knew what was happening. But I couldn't reach the second man without getting my braid undone. So I cut it off. And then I killed him. And then I killed everyone I saw."

"Except one," Heero muttered. "She's the one who---"

"Figures," Duo said. "I don't know why I let her live. I only remember cursing her when I came around the corner to find all those men waiting at the entrance. And after that... " He shrugged. "The rest is a haze, but then I slowly came back." He shook his head. "No. I didn't. But something filled the gap."

"Shinigami," Trowa murmured.

Duo nodded. "I held onto that for as long as I could. Then, eventually, even that couldn't hold up, and I put it away, too." He sighed, and rubbed his nose, sinking back into the wingchair with a yawn. "And then there was nothing left."

His eyes closed, and he opened his mouth to speak, but then closed it. Several minutes passed, before Trowa raised his head. Duo's chest was rising and falling in even breaths, and Trowa blinked, glancing at Heero.

"Asleep," Heero said. "His body still hasn't really recovered from last night."

Trowa nodded, and got up, taking another blanket from the back of the sofa and draping it over Duo as well. Tucking it in around Duo, Trowa sighed as he stared down at the pallor in Duo's cheeks, and the lines in Duo's forehead.

"There was something left," Trowa whispered to Duo's still form. "You put away your surface, and your memories. You put away your anger, and your independence. But you never put away your heart." He smiled down at Duo, and gave in, leaning over to kiss Duo's forehead. The sleeping man nuzzled Trowa's hand in his sleep, murmuring something inaudible. "And it's your heart... " Trowa couldn't finish.


Duo woke up an hour later, stretching a bit before curling back under the two blankets with a grumpy look. Trowa looked up from his book, and gave him a tentative smile. Duo returned it, then his eyes went wide, and he dropped his chin, pulling the blankets up around him. Trowa closed the book and set it down on the table in front of the sofa.

"Heero's on the computer, checking to see if there's news on the investigation," Trowa said. "Deo... " The name sounded odd in his ears, but right, at the same time. "I... " Trowa shook his head. "There's no way to say this, really. But I hope that someday you can forgive us for everything we've had to do, over the past four months."

"I thought you said you could live with it," Duo replied, after a second's hesitation.

"I can. But... if you can't, I'm willing to accept that our friendship may end."

"It hasn't ended yet, Trowa," Duo said, pulling the blanket down enough for Trowa to see the manic grin on his face. "Don't go borrowing trouble." Pain flashed across his face, and he turned away, to stare into the fire. "I... " Duo shook his head, and shrugged. "It's like knowing you dreamed, and only seeing bits and pieces, but not being able to piece together the plot."

"When we first found you," Trowa said, a bit uncomfortably, "you were... the training was very strong."

Duo nodded, but didn't look away from the fire.

"And much of your training was never broken." Trowa listened to the sounds of Heero moving in the study, and knew Heero would be joining them shortly. "I guess now that you're back, you'll want to do the rest on your own." Something ached inside Trowa's chest at that thought.

"What about," Duo whispered, then swallowed hard. "My apartment?"

"Sold," Trowa replied. "All your stuff is in storage with Quatre or Wufei, except most of the bigger furniture, and the kitchen stuff. Things that we figured weren't as... important."

"I loved that sofa," Duo said, his lips twisting in a wry smile. He shifted, turning his gaze on Trowa. "Why'd you keep the rest?"

"I don't know." Trowa stared down at his hands, then at the book on the table. "I think it was like... eventually we wouldn't hurt as much, and we would go through it, determining who would keep what. You're our family, after all. We can't just... pitch what's left of you, as though you were never there. But we weren't ready yet to divide you up amongst ourselves."

"I know how to make croissants from scratch," Duo suddenly announced.

"Really?" Trowa was startled by both the announcement and the sudden topic change. "You never made them here."

"Oh." Duo smiled, shyly. "I could still make them, if we have everything."

"List what you need, and what we don't have, we can get," Trowa offered, returning the smile, pleased to see Duo beam in response. The study door opened, and a heartbeat later Heero was behind the sofa, his hands on Trowa's shoulders. Duo's smile faded quickly, and he turned his head away to stare into the fire, his eyes dull. Trowa frowned, confused. "Deo? Is something---"

"No, everything's about as good as it can be," Duo said, that barking laugh back in his voice. He smirked. "Given that I can't remember most of the past months, and what I can remember is either not worth remembering or mixed up with everything else... Yeah, fine enough for now."

Trowa put up one hand to rest it over Heero's. He leaned his head back, to see Heero giving Duo a narrowed glance. Trowa patted Heero's hand, and Heero looked down, with a rueful expression, then shook his head. Trowa sighed and nodded. Still no more word from Quatre or Wufei. Well, perhaps he'd call later, he thought, when Wufei might be in the office. It was only ten-thirty on a Tuesday, and the weekly mission debriefings always took through lunch.


"And now you have to cut the butter," Duo was explaining. Heero was leaning one hip against the countertop, the recipe book in his hands. Trowa was standing by Duo, watching over the shorter man's shoulder as he moved agilely through the motions. "If you soften the butter, it doesn't work as well. It's got to be hard, right out of the icebox," Duo said. He made quick work of the butter stick, the knife balanced in his hand as he glanced over his shoulder at Trowa. "Are you bored yet?"

"Not yet---Deo!" Trowa leapt forward, just as the knife came down on Duo's finger. He acted quickly, without thinking, pulling the knife away and dragging Duo sideways to the sink. "Shit, that's deep," he said, peering down at the cut as blood poured from Duo's index finger. "Heero?"


Heero was already out of the kitchen, and Trowa heard the bathroom door open and close as Heero retrieved the first aid kit. Meanwhile, Duo was tugging at Trowa's hold, and laughing nervously.

"Come on, I got tons worse than this in the war," Duo said. "It's not that bad."

"It's not just a paper cut, either," Trowa replied, with a skeptical look. "That's a sharp knife, and you were putting pressure on the blade. But I don't think it'll need stitches---"

"Stitches?" Duo rolled his eyes and kept trying to pull his hand away. "Just put a band-aid on it, and let me get back to what I was doing. We wait too long, the butter will go soft---"

"There's more butter in the icebox. You're not using butter you've bled all over," Trowa pointed out.

"Mast---" Duo's words cut off, and his face went flat. He frowned, looking like he was struggling with something. Then he shrugged, grinning widely as Trowa wrapped a dishcloth around his hand and guided him to a seat. "Geez, Trowa, I'm not gonna bleed to death. That would have to be the second most uncool way to go."

"Humor me, Deo," Trowa replied, putting his hands on Duo's shoulders to keep him in place.

Duo huffed, and set his hand on the table. Heero unwrapped the dishcloth, which was turning red, and raised his eyebrows.

"Deep," Heero observed. "But missed the blood vessels and nerves."

He grabbed an antiseptic packet from the first-aid kit, and tore it open. Trowa's nose wrinkled at the smell. At the same instant, Duo bucked up from the seat, his back arching from the motion. The chair tumbled backwards, catching Trowa across the thighs. Duo leapt sideways, away from Heero. His feet caught in the chair legs, and he went down. Instead of getting up, he scrambled forwards, turning once he hit the corner between the bookshelves and the cabinets. Trowa righted himself, pushing the chair out of the way, but stopped when he saw Duo's eyes. They were wide, and unfocused, and the man was panting heavily as he looked around the room, sheer panic on his face.

"Deo," Trowa whispered, bending his knees, ready to crouch down to Duo's level.

"Stay away from me, you bastard," Duo hissed, his bare feet kicking out against the wooden floor as he struggled to push himself farther into the corner. "Don't you shoot me up with that junk again! Fucking assholes, I'll break your arm if you come near me!"

"Duo!" Heero shouted.

Duo's eyes rolled up under his lids, and his body jerked. The movement banged his head against the wall.

"Heero, damn it," Trowa protested. "What the hell is---"

"Flashback," Heero replied. He dropped the antiseptic pad and picked up the dishcloth, moving past Trowa with a slow, cautious grace. "Jade," Heero whispered, getting down on one knee. "No one is going to hurt you---"

"I don't want it!" Duo's shout was deafening. His hands flailed out at Heero. "No! No! Don't want! Get away! No! I don't---"

Heero grabbed Duo's injured hand and yanked it forward. The effect was immediate. Duo slumped, and Heero grunted, pulling Duo into an embrace. There was silence for several seconds, and Trowa frowned, seeing Duo's form so completely relaxed against Heero's body. When Heero glanced over his shoulder, Trowa stepped forward, helping lift Duo to his feet. The man's head hung down, although his eyes were open and glazed. Heero stood up, about to take Duo from Trowa's arms, when Duo murmured something and pressed himself up against Trowa.

"Don't go," Duo whispered. His bloody hand draped itself around Trowa's waist, and he buried his face in Trowa's neck. "I like this... lemme stay here... "

"Deo?" Trowa blinked, feeling Duo's legs give out as the man slowly sank back to the floor. Trowa moved with him, ending up in a jumble of legs and arms as Heero watched, baffled. There was no response from Duo, and Trowa shook the man slightly. "Jade?"

"Master... " Duo sighed. There was a lazy smile on his face as his head fell back, but he didn't look Trowa in the eyes. "Please... " He shivered, and leaned forward, his lips unerringly finding the base of Trowa's neck as he began to suckle. His other hand moved up to wrap around Trowa's neck, and Duo wriggled languidly until he was in Trowa's lap.

"Jade, Deo, Maxwell," Trowa said. Duo didn't respond to any of the names. Trowa put his hands on Duo's shoulders and slowly pushed him away. Duo's eyes were downcast, and his smile was lopsided. Trowa looked up at Heero. "I think... it's like he's drunk?"

Heero nodded as he knelt down behind Duo, reaching for the injured hand.

"Master," Duo moaned, leaning back into Heero's body. He twisted to throw one arm over Heero's shoulder, his body writhing as he pressed up against Heero, but his other hand never left Trowa's waist. "Let's play," Duo whispered seductively. "When you play with me, I'm so happy... " He tugged at Heero's astonished face, pressing his lips against Heero's.

Heero sat back on his heels and slapped Duo, hard.

"What the---" Duo put a hand to his cheek, blinking, then turned to see Trowa only an inch from his face. "Holy fuck," Duo breathed, catapulting himself backwards off Trowa's lap. "Oh, shit," he cried, "fuck, Trowa, I---" Heero grabbed Duo's ankle, keeping him from moving, and Duo's face went white. "Don't kill me, Heero, I would never do that to---" Heero didn't let go, but began pulling Duo towards him, one hand out to grab the injured hand. "Heero, come'on, man, you're scaring me, I wasn't going to---"

"Deo," Heero said sternly. "Shut up, and take a deep breath."

Obediently, Duo took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly. Heero took the injured hand, dabbing at it with the soiled dishcloth, and then quickly grabbed a bandage from the table and wrapped it around Duo's finger. Duo stared at the hand for a second before raising a baffled face to Trowa, then Heero.

"How did we end up on the floor?"

"Memory trigger," Heero said curtly. "Alcohol."

"Alcohol. Like beer?" Duo looked around quizzically.

"No, like rubbing alcohol," Trowa replied. "Like... what's used to disinfect before giving shots."

"Shots... " Duo's eyes went wide, and he began to shake. "They... the... they... " His mouth opened and closed, and his eyes closed, squeezing up tightly as he swayed in place, huddled on the floor. "No, no," he moaned, putting his hands to his head. "When they... I... oh, no, please... "

"Deo," Heero called. "It's over, it's past, you're safe here."

Heero moved forwards, wrapping his arms around Duo and pulling the man to his chest. Duo took a deep breath, his shoulder heaving. Trowa moved around behind Duo, placing his legs around Duo's and pulling both Heero and Duo close to him. Duo's words were muffled against Heero's chest, but he wasn't crying, only mumbling.

"When they... " Duo's voice trailed away, and he hiccupped before swallowing hard. Trowa pressed closer, willing Duo to feel the safety of the arms wrapped around him tightly. Duo shuddered. "After... I'd do anything. I was calm, and didn't care, and whatever they told me, I agreed to... " His tone changed, filling with self-loathing. "I was so fucking *weak*. One stupid drug, and I'd taken all those Oz interrogations and their damned drugs and never fuckin' blinked. And one shot... each time, I was... god, I was pathetic, what I let them make me do... they didn't even have to make me. I fuckin' *volunteered*."

"Not true," Heero replied, his voice steady. He bent his head, burying his lips in Duo's hair, one hand around Duo's waist, the other stretching to include Trowa. "Those were the drugs. You are not to blame for that."

"But during the war---"

"During the war," Trowa interrupted, "you were healthy, you had a purpose, and you had all of yourself. You told us you hid yourself away... there was nothing left to protect you. They took advantage of that, but that's not your fault."

"If I'd fought harder---"

"You wouldn't have survived," Trowa hissed, unexpectedly angry at the men who'd done it, and at the same time, angry at Duo for believing any of it. "You've always been strong," he added, his tone gentling as he ran a hand up and down Duo's arm. "You knew what you had to do to survive, and you did it. It was to survive. That's what mattered. You survived. That's what matters."

"But I---" Duo's voice cracked. "I wanted it, when it was gone... I wanted that feeling... I missed it. It made me feel like I had a purpose... "

"I know," Heero said. He glanced at Trowa, and Trowa was surprised to see tears caught in Heero's eyelashes before the blue eyes closed, barring the vulnerability from sight. "When there's nothing of you, and too many of them, any feeling of bliss is worth any price."

Duo nodded, and shuddered again.

"And you'll do anything for a kind word," Heero continued. "Even things that later... make you want to vomit up every meal you've ever had, and shred your own skin until it's raw." His voice was broken and sorrowful. "But that's not your fault. Everyone wants love and affection, and when there's nothing else, we take what we can get, because it's what keeps us going even when we know the source is faulty."

"But I wanted---"

"It's okay to want it," Heero said. "But it's not okay to hate yourself for being human."

"But I do," came the mournful response. "I do... I should've fought... I let myself... I wanted... and when the drugs were gone... I still wanted." He curled in on himself, a small huddle between Heero and Trowa, rocking back and forth but for Heero and Trowa keeping him still. "I did, I wanted... I slept on the bare floor by that man's bed... " Duo's voice went up to a wail, both angry and helpless. "... And I was ecstatic because I was allowed to sleep in the same room as him!"

Trowa shifted, feeling his legs and buttocks start to tingle from sitting on the wooden floor. He nudged Heero, who nodded. Wordlessly they both came to their feet, Duo still pinioned between them, his tearless sobs echoing in the kitchen. It took several long minutes before they managed to shuffle all the way into the living room, lowering Duo onto the sofa between them as he clutched at Heero's shirt, his face buried againt Heero's neck. Trowa continued to rub Duo's back, watching the muscles gradually relax, and Duo faded into sleep. Heero looked down at Duo's lax form, and sighed.

"You were right," he said, catching Trowa's fingers with his. "There never will be an end, will there."

"There will be," Trowa assured him, with a crooked smile. "Deo, dio, div." Trowa leaned forward, planting a kiss on Duo's forehead, and then one on Heero's lips. "You and I each came back from the underworld. Now it's his turn."


End Part 27

On to Chapter twenty-eight

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