The Perfect Escape
Part 2 - Confusion
Heero puttered around the kitchen, taking out pans and plates as quietly as possible. The morning sun was just drifting in through the partially opened blinds, telling Heero that Duo would not be up for yet another hour or so. By then, the breakfast should be ready to serve.
Heero made the motions of cracking eggs, stirring the batter in the bowl, all without conscious effort or thought. His mind was occupied by the surreal week he had just spent with his love.
He had known something was not right as soon as Duo woke up, and each day only confirmed that fact more and more. When Heero had told Duo that he would take care of him at their apartment, there had been no reaction. When they had returned a week ago to their place, Duo had shown no resentment, no pain, practically nothing. And for a whole week now, Duo had been content.
Content. It bothered Heero to no end, but he didn’t know why exactly. It wasn’t as if he wanted Duo to remember the pain he had been through, but what Duo was doing was unnatural. Quatre had told him to lie back and let it go for a while, trying to explain it away as a defense mechanism of some sort. Whatever it was, it was frightening Heero to death.
Heero dribbled some batter onto the pan, watching the batter sizzle. As right as clockwork, Duo stepped out of their bedroom, his hair free from bonds and his eyes still sleepy.
"Morning, Heero. Do I smell pancakes?"
Heero smiled brightly at Duo.
"Yes. Blueberry pancakes. Your favorite."
"Yeah, they are. Nice."
Heero’s smile lost a degree of its brightness. These days, everything was nice. The shower was nice. The food was nice. The world was nice. Heero was getting sick of things being nice.
"You used to say that these were the food of gods. You loved these pancakes."
"Yeah. I guess so."
Frustrated, Heero flipped the pancake a little harder than he should have. Little batter spots splattered onto his pristine shirt and counter. Duo merely arched an eyebrow in a curious fashion.
"You feeling okay, Heero?"
"Fine. Just fine."
Duo nodded in satisfaction. He did not understand the bright sheen of tears in Heero’s eyes nor the shaking of his hands. After all, he could not understand what he could not remember.
Heero watched Duo as he ate his breakfast. Duo occasionally stopped eating to talk about mundane things like the weather and his work at the Preventers. Nothing outrageous or spontaneous poured forth from his mouth. Not like before. Heero felt his food get lodged in his throat, fighting for space with the lump of tears. This Duo sitting before him was not the Duo he remembered. He was not the passionate, emotional man that he had left.
‘Duo.. How did I turn you into this?’
Oblivious to Heero’s guilt and pain, Duo ate on.
Night fell calmly over their part of the earth. Heero and Duo sat on their couch, watching one of Duo’s favorite movies. It was a comedy, something that had never failed to make Duo burst into laughter, no matter how many times he had seen it.
Except now, Duo only smiled and let out mild chuckles. He did not bother Heero as usual through the movie with ‘did you catch that line Heero? Wasn’t that great?’ or ‘oh man, I can’t believe you can sit through this movie without cracking up.’ It was eerie.
Heero glanced at Duo, hoping to find signs of hilarity in his eyes. Duo’s eyes, no matter how hard Duo tried, never lied. His eyes were always truthful about his emotions. Always. And at this time, they showed nothing Heero wanted to see.
‘He has dead eyes.’
Heero looked again and amended his previous thought.
‘No. Not dead. Just.. Constant. It’s like he only has one neutral emotion. For everything. It’s like he only feels a variation of one emotion.’
With that realization, Heero ran to the bathroom to vomit. The idea that Duo Maxwell could not feel anything beyond contentment made him more ill and more frightened than anything else in the world.
"Hey, Heero, you okay in there?"
Heero nearly laughed hysterically. Duo’s voice was coated in light concern. Concern. In the past, it would have been full blown worry, if not anxiety and various other emotions Duo was capable of exhibiting. Now it was just a neutral concern, like he was talking to a stranger.
"Fine. Just fine."
But Heero was anything but fine. He had to get back his Duo, the love of his life. The one who laughed. The one who loved. The one who hated.
Anything less was unacceptable, not only to him, but to Duo also.
Quatre and Trowa watched Heero and Duo with worry. It was a beautiful day and Heero had dragged all of them out for a picnic lunch. If Wufei had not been away on assignment, he would have been forced to go as well. It was an odd thing, having Heero drag them out instead of Duo. In the past, Duo had used charm, jokes and good natured persuasion to convince them that a picnic was a good idea. Heero had used threats and certain doom.
Now they were all sitting in a nice circle, but only one person was eating. Duo munched away at his sandwich, seemingly content with the world. Heero sat and stared at his food, sending off feelings of misery and loneliness.
Enough was enough, Quatre decided. These two needed an intervention before things got seriously out of control.
"How is the home life?"
At Quatre’s question, Duo looked up, his mouth full with his latest bite. He looked at Heero, but it seemed Heero was not going to answer.
Quatre saw Heero cringe at Duo’s response. It was as if Duo had slapped him hard. Something was wrong. Very wrong.
"Are you still mad at Heero?"
"I never was, silly Quatre."
"Did you guys make up?"
"Nothing to make up for."
"Do you still love Heero?"
"I like him just fine."
With each answer, Heero’s misery deepened. Duo, on the other hand, was unaffected, perfectly satisfied with his answers. When Quatre stopped asking, Duo excused himself to go wash up, leaving Heero sitting there with a stunned Quatre and disquieted Trowa.
When Duo was out of earshot, Quatre turned to Heero.
"What the hell is going on here, Heero?"
"I don’t know."
Trowa winced. Heero had sounded broken, lost somewhere between horror and misery.
"Tell me what’s wrong, Heero."
Quatre’s tone brooked no argument. He had to know what was happening to his friends. This strange apparition that masqueraded as Duo and the broken being that claimed to be Heero, they were not the friends he knew.
"Wrong, Quatre? Where can I begin? How about, Duo never says anything beyond ‘that’s nice’? Or that he likes me? He was never angry, he didn’t feel anything when I left. It’s like his emotions are on hold."
"Like you during the war?"
At that, Heero exploded.
"NO! Not like that at all! Duo has emotions, just.. I mean, he has them, he expresses them, but it’s like someone put parameters around the intensity! It’s like.. he can’t feel beyond a certain measure.. it’s worse than not feeling."
Trowa patted Heero’s arm awkwardly when the tears started falling. In a hitched voice, Heero continued.
"He remembers me leaving, but he can’t fathom why he should have been in pain. He doesn’t remember how happy he was when we first moved in. He doesn’t remember being ecstatic when I surprised him for his birthday. He remembers the events, but nothing of the emotions. I tried to explain it, but it was like trying to explain what Beethoven’s Ninth sounds like to a deaf person. It’s not possible."
Quatre and Trowa sat with Heero, speechless. Duo’s condition was something they had never heard of. People shut emotions down when they got hurt - they knew of no one who could restrict the expansiveness of it. But more than Duo, they worried about Heero. He had finally come to realize his feelings and learned to express them in their fullness to Duo. But it was all for nothing. It seemed to be a little too late.
Dinner was a silent affair. Heero did not eat much and Duo did not talk up a storm as he would have in the face of silence. Heero felt the tension, but Duo did not notice it. It was beyond him now.
The silence broke when a discreet knock came at the door. Almost relieved at something to break the deathly quiet, Heero jumped up to answer the door. Duo merely stared, chewing his food thoroughly.
Heero regretted opening the door as soon as he saw the person who stood in the hallway.
Relena nervously twisted her fingers in her dress, unsure about what she wanted to say. She looked at Heero plaintively, silently begging for entrance. Heero stepped out of her way and she walked in, only to pause in shock when she saw Duo.
"Duo! You’re okay!"
Duo could not help but smile at Relena’s befuddled tone.
"I’m fine. How are you doing?"
Confused, Relena looked at Heero, hoping for a helping hand dealing with Duo. However, she found no solace or comfort there. All she saw was Heero looking moremiserable than when he had first come to her.
"I.. I’m fine Duo. Um, Duo, can I talk to Heero alone for a second?"
Heero snapped his head up at Relena’s request. The Duo he knew would put up a fight, show jealousy, something. A reaction of some kind. But to his dismay, Duo nodded, threw a friendly smile at Relena and vacated the living room in short order.
Heero watched Duo leave, his heart falling with each step he took. It was not right! Duo would never have left. He would never have given Relena that smile. He would never have left Heero alone with her.
Hesitantly, Relena touched Heero’s arm. She tried not to wince when he jerked it back with enough force to wrench his own shoulder.
"Please, Heero.. I need.."
"Leave, Relena. If you care about me at all, leave."
Heero did not bother to see Relena out. Instead, he strode into the bedroom he shared with Duo to have it out, to demand an explanation, to beg for a reaction.
"What the hell was that?"
Duo watched Heero with a puzzled glance while Heero paced up and down their bedroom.
"Why were you so nice to her?"
"You used to get annoyed when I wasn’t. So this time, I thought I did the right thing."
Heero could say nothing in return. Duo sounded so damned logical.
"I remember you getting weird whenever I wasn’t nice to her, Heero. I don’t know why I was mean to her in the first place. She’s not a bad person."
Heero could do nothing but concede defeat. How could he explain? How could he tell Duo that he had wanted to see him fume with jealousy and anger instead of the cool calm and polite gentleness he had shown?
Frustrated, hurt and saddened, Heero grabbed Duo and kissed him hard. He poured passion and love into the kiss as much as the anger lurking beneath them. He wanted Duo to feel what he felt before all this happened, feel what he felt for him. He wanted Duo to remember.
Heero felt Duo’s lips move beneath his, open up and swallow his breath. But Duo did not tear at his clothes or run his hands up and down his body in urgency. Duo did not touch his exposed skin with feathery tenderness. He did not grind his body into Heero’s with a grasping need.
Not giving up his hope, Heero fell onto the bed on top of Duo without breaking contact with his lips. Heero felt the desperate need to join with Duo, even if Duo felt none of it. Heero shed his clothing quickly and practically ripped Duo out of his. When they were finally skin to skin, Heero shuddered and let his lips and hands travel the familiar planes of his lover’s body.
When Heero was sure that he had aroused Duo to his maximum peak, he coated himself with a generous dab of lube. He would make this memorable for Duo at all costs, not only because it was their first love making session since the coma, but because he was convinced that the physical contact would jar his emotional void.
Gently, Heero entered Duo, suppressing the moans as best as he could. He could not see Duo’s face because Duo was on his elbows and knees, but he could feel Duo tense up in pleasure. He set the rhythm, moving slowly at first, then intensifying each stroke with more pressure and speed. In the end, when he felt Duo orgasm, he could not remember for what reason he was making love to Duo. All that was important to Heero at the last moments was that he was finally with Duo the way it was meant to be.
Heero cuddled Duo closer to his body and listened to his lover’s breathing slow down. Their love making had blown his mind away as usual. Heero could only define it as magical, something that he would have with no one else. He looked at Duo, waiting for a response of some kind. Duo craned his neck to look at Heero. Heero felt his heart stop.
"That was nice, Heero. Good night."
Dumbfounded, Heero could only watch as his lover fell asleep in his arms. He had said that it was nice. Like the weather. Or the television show. Or a pair of socks.
Heero hugged Duo tighter and sobbed softly into Duo’s long hair. It was hopeless then, to try to make Duo remember. The hot tears traveled down Duo’s hair, each droplet lost to the mass of golden brown. Duo would not remember. For the rest of his life, Heero would be nothing but nice to him. Plain nice. No more passion, anger, the fire of life.
‘It hurts to see me through your eyes now, Duo.’
More tears fell.
‘But it’s okay. I understand that this is my punishment. I won’t leave you. Even if you never say you love me, never feel it for me, I will stay by your side.’
Duo slept on, not noticing the tears in his hair.