When He Sleeps
When he sleeps, he gives up that unnerving calm he can has during the day. His face makes these funny little movements his daytime stoneface would never show. He doesn't sleep like a log, either; he's almost restless. I reach out to touch his face - something that could easily have gotten me killed less than two years ago - and he doesn't respond. Well, not unfavorably, anyway. Instead, there's this quirky little smile, and a content sigh.
I've never told him about it. I don't think he'd like to hear he's like a baby when he sleeps. He knows I'm awake, though. That's one of many things we're total opposites on. He wants his mornings; the smell of fresh newspaper ink, the purple, red and yellow sunrises and fresh coffee. I want my nights; the late night specials, the cool, damp evening air and left-over pizza. We compromise on most things, but can't shake our original comfort zones. When we joined the Preventers, we got different schedules too; he got his mornings free and an early shift, and I my nights and a later shift - which barely gives us our afternoons. Lunchtime is constantly shifting; another compromise.
I lift away his bangs, so I can see all of his face. He surprises me, turning over again, my fingers brushing over his forehead. I draw a slight breath, but he doesn't wake. I'm glad - he is no less grumpy than me when he's pulled from his slumber. That's another thing he'd never admit; that he's grown soft enough to require his full eight hours a day.
Watching him like this has become a habit. Before I fall asleep, before I try to wrap him in my arms or wiggle my way into his, I study his sleeping face; his true face. They say when you sleep, you relax enough, let go of enough inhibitions to dare show who you really are - your true face, your true feelings, your true self - your very soul.
I never tire of what I see.
He doesn't know it, but tomorrow is his birthday. I decided that last week. We've never had birthdays. That is, he doesn't know when he was born, same as me. He doesn't know his parents, and neither do I. We have no one to ask, either. Those who might know, are all dead now.
That's what I did earlier tonight - as soon as he went to sleep, I started preparing. Okay, so I've been doing that for a lot of late nights this last week - but this time, I had to get everything out from wherever I hid it, and set it all up for when he wakes up. I didn't dare start on the cake until I was sure he was sound asleep. While his hair-trigger reflexes have learned to tune me out, they don't ignore unknown sounds. Took him weeks to faze out the noises from the old plumbing when we moved in. Yet, I can sing off-key all I want in the shower, and he'll snooze on, happy as a hippo.
Anyway, the cake is in the fridge now. No way he can miss that tomorrow - but that's okay. I know his routine; he'll go to the bathroom first, and that's where my first strike will be. The cake is for our afternoon, not his morning. The streamers crisscrossing the bathroom, the big 'Happy Birthday, Heero!' I wrote with borrowed lipstick across the mirror over the sink and the little confetti tubes I've rigged to go off as he opens the door, those are for his morning.
Not sure if I'll wake up from that noise, or from his reaction. They won't make all that much noise, anyway - wouldn't want to surprise an ex-soldier with what sounds like an explosion or gunshot; the gut reaction to that is never pleasant, and definitely not a good way to start the day. Ever wonder why his alarm clock plays soft classical music? Not that he ever needs the thing - he always wakes up seconds before it goes off; just soon enough to shut it off before it plays. I don't know why he kept that instinct. I've told him the music won't wake me. Hell, he could probably have used screaming death metal, if he wanted to, I'm a fairly heavy sleeper.
He'd never do that, though. Not unless I had played some nasty prank on him - and his retorts are usually far more subtle, anyway.
His present is in his cabinet, right on top of the pants I know he plans to wear tomorrow. He's very predictable like that; he decides those things a long time in advance. Oh, he can be spontaneous, if he wants to be, but he prefers to plan everything out ahead of time, rather than go with the flow. We've had many tiny confrontations because of that, but they hardly ever grow serious.
No, I won't tell you what I got him. That's between him and me. Soon to be around us, I hope - and that's all I'll say about that. It's not like it's the world's greatest gift. I honestly didn't know what to get him - he always seems so content, never wanting for anything - not for things I could buy or wrap easily, at least.
Somehow, I manage to get my open palm trapped between his pillow and cheek. That smile is back, and he's leaning into my palm like a kitten being petted. I grin. I don't laugh; I don't want him to wake up right now. I wish I could have captured the moment with a camera, but the flash...
Well, I'll lock the sight in with all the others I've gathered of him; all the dreams that became reality, one by one. I still have many left, but we'll hopefully have enough time for all of them - and if we get that far, maybe we can go through them all over again. Or at the very least, do the highlights. Maybe tomorrow will be one of them.
I lie down, close up to him, softly move my hand, touch his shoulder with my other. Even asleep, he knows, and rolls over, toward me, into my arms. I hurriedly straighten the sheets, so they won't be tangled between us. I embrace him as best I can, kiss the nape of his neck goodnight. There's a soft sound of approval, but he sleeps on.
I'm growing really tired now. Even with his warm back against me, I'm aware enough of his steady pulse and uneven breath. Oddly enough, it doesn't bother me; never has. I can still fall asleep, whether I'm in his arms or he is in mine. It's safe there.
When he sleeps, he grins. It isn't just the mischievous one he often shows me when awake; the one that always concerns me a little, as there's usually a practical joke with me as the target within two heartbeats. No, he isn't malicious, he's merely trying to loosen me up - make sure I stay relaxed. Yeah, every stunt makes me very tense from realization through initial execution, but afterwards... He's a master at making up for it afterwards, leaving me a lot more comfortable than before.
I still get revenge, though. He'd expect no less of me.
I sip from my coffee, adjust my legs. The footstool by our bed is uncomfortable and hard, but I won't risk sitting in our bed. That might wake him, and right now, I want to let him sleep. I'm sure he counted on me waking him up, but he left me the choice. I'm sure there was a reason for that.
He surprised me this time, all right. I knew he was up to something. All of last week, I thought I heard odd noises as I fell asleep, but come morning I never knew if I had dreamt them all or not. It took me a good shower and then some to get rid of all the confetti. I'm leaving the vacuuming of the bathroom floor to him, though. His 'card' was pretty hard to ignore, but it made me smile, once I calmed down after figuring out what I was covered in. We talked about our lacking pasts some time ago, and I suspected he'd do something about it - but not quite this.
I never realized it was my birthday - but from this day forward, it is. I won't ask him, because I know this means I'm supposed to select one for him next. I wonder how he feels about being an autumn child.
Child... No, I can't see him as one, even when he's asleep. Sure, he's the jester, always the one with a joke handy, and a cheerful face an expression away - but when he's determined on something, he concentrates on it far more than I do. I've never told him that, though. He thinks he's so laid-back and carefree compared to me. I suppose he is, on the larger scheme of things, but his focus can be so intense.
Like for my birthday. A whole week worth of nights has he been working, sacrificing his precious nights. I can picture what it must have looked like; him sitting over by the open window in the study, the fresh, soft mist-sprinkled breeze moving the curtains he once picked out - thin, black fabric with little white angels. I still haven't dared ask what made him pick that.
And in the dancing angels of the night, he'd sit, drawing droplets of blood from his fingertips whenever he made a wrong stitch, biting his lip not to make more than a whimper, if even that. Each little line is weaved in on the blanket with great care, if not skill. No, they aren't all entirely even, but it doesn't matter. It was made from the heart - that matters.
Yes; he made me - us - a blanket. Yes, it's a store-bought blanket, soft, thick white cotton - but it was like a canvas to the artist. The entire thing is riddled with figures and symbols, some made with haste, others with great care, some are patches and pieces of other fabrics scissored out and stitched on. I recognize most of the motifs. The generic ones are easy; hearts, angels, demons, miniature versions of the Gundams... I can't help but smile, and barely contain the laughter. I touch the one that's supposed to be Deathscythe, look up to study its former pilot.
He still grins halfway into his pillow, almost as if he knows. Perhaps he does; I can't seem to keep anything hidden from him anymore. He still can, but I'm getting better at it. Duo twists and turns a lot when he sleeps - unless he's anchored in my arms, or wrapped around me. I never remember it happening - but that's almost always how I wake up; with his warmth so close I can barely breathe.
Maybe it is a little uncomfortable, but it beats being kicked by his flailing legs, or being torn awake by screams; his or mine. His nightmares are mine too.
I tug a little on the blanket, covering the slight gap between it and my shirt. This early, it beats pants. I'll have to leave soon, though. I saw the cake in the refrigerator, so I think he expects me to go to work, and prepare for a party when I come back. Maybe he plans to stay home today, or leave early. I was wondering why he avoided my question when I asked him about lunch plans yesterday.
The blanket is riddled with bits of our lives. I think he knows more about mine than I do of his. I know what the burning building with a broken bell-tower is. I recognize the mushroom that is G's profile. The dog and the flower stitched next to each other are mine. Others... I'm uncertain of. Some, like the stitched-on black felt knife which looks like he wiped his pricked fingertips on repeatedly, I'm not sure I'll ever dare ask about. Not out in the open, at least.
I know I called them generic shapes, but even those have a meaning. I know they do. When Duo focuses so intently on something, everything is there for a reason; all things have a purpose. There are times when he doesn't realize what's pouring out of his subconscious, either - but that is one reason for this blanket of our past, I think. Deep down, he wants us to work out the few bits of it we haven't. Birthdays are one. Family and shelter... I hope we have mostly covered.
I can barely wait to tell him how much I appreciate his gift. I want to wake him up, let him know right away - but he has earned his sleep. I don't think he's had his fair share this last week. If he chose to have today off, then he should all of it for himself - until I get home again, at least.
Watching him is enough for now. Well, almost.
He probably didn't remember, but today is our anniversary. Two years since we met - at gunpoint. Stupid Cupid follows the times too, apparently, going from bow and arrow to gun and bullet. Not that it took instantly; after all, those first shots were only grazers. Eventually, though... I chuckle. Maybe he did remember, and chose my birthday deliberately, so he'd only have one date to remember. I told you everything he does has a meaning.
He turns over again, one leg out of the blanket now, him on his back. He snores. Not all that loud, but he does. His grin fades a little, and I see the goose bumps forming on his leg. I shake my head, smirking. My coffee is getting cold anyway, and I have to go soon. Setting the cup aside, I untangle myself from the blanket, and walk over as fleet-footed as I can. While I could pull on the bed blanket and tuck him in again, that would probably wake him. I look at my gift, and decide to put it to good use, wrapping it around him as gently as I can. He settles down, snore gone, smiling now. He rolls over, towards where I'm standing. Unable to resist, I kneel down, brush aside his bangs and place a kiss more breath than touch on his forehead. There's a slight sigh; his or mine, I can't tell.
I look at him, at my gift within gift. I'm tempted to stay home, call in sick or something. I won't - Duo would disapprove. Lady Une might do worse, if she's having a bad day. The blanket hugs him well. I study them both, again sorely tempted. Then I notice a little symbol currently draped across his hip; that of a five-tacked star, each tack with a name inside. You can guess which, I'm sure. Our friends are also part of the blanket, of course - also part of our lives. I see other symbols I can't recognize from either of our pasts. Maybe he has tried to include things of our present and potential future too? Knowing Duo, he has. Hope has a place within these threads.
It's strange how things work out, some times. Once, I was shaped by Odin Lowe. Doctor J built further on that foundation. Then Duo shook it up badly, altered it for the better and rebuilt the whole house, and still he isn't done. I smile. No, it isn't that he's controlling me, not in the way Odin and J did. He lets me know how he feels, and leaves me the choice to redecorate. It's the same thing the other way around - though I will suggest Duo is a bit more headstrong and resistant to change than I am. He would object, of course.
I move away from the bed in search of my pants. I pause, wondering if I should choose the pair next to the one I found the blanket over, just to tease Duo. He knows me to the point of predictability now. I wish I could say the same, but he always finds a way to surprise me - like now. I knew he was up to something, but I couldn't figure out why. I didn't dare pry, either - at least not enough to make him aware I was doing it.
We've been through a lot, and we've barely begun our lives. Who knows what will lie in our future - but it doesn't matter. We have each other now; someone to share pains and burdens, someone to seek comfort and shelter with, someone to gain strength through when needed most. Someone to love, and be loved by.
That is a true gift.
When he sleeps, you could never guess the blood that is on his hands. Never guess he was a soldier, a killer, a terrorist - but barely ever a child. In his sleep, the child is set free; even the young man of day can't block out the babe of night. Lying here next to him, watching his closed eyes and tousled bangs, all that he's missing is the thumb in his mouth. I suppress a snicker, as well as the urge to rectify that missing pacifier. Some practical jokes he'd not take too well to.
It's strange how soundly he sleeps, though. Not long ago, sleeping was always dangerous. Even then, you had to stay alert, prepared to become fully awake in a split second. Learning that didn't take me all that long - I think I learned it before Heero did; he with Doctor J, I in the school of life. Flunking was not an option in either place. All things considered, it's amazing he can look so relaxed now. I know I sleep a lot better these days, too.
Maybe we feel safe with each other so close - too safe, really. If one is to protect the other, the other would have to keep the old instincts, right? The fighting may have stopped, but there is always danger. Especially to those whom many a slain soldier's family can trace their loss to. Luckily, it's rare we're ever recognized, and of those times, the strongest reaction was a mother lamenting the loss of her son quite loudly. I shocked the hell out of her when I just hugged her, letting her cry into my shoulder for a good while. It was enough to calm her down enough to offer an apology.
We don't know if either of us killed her son. Maybe none of us pilots did; the war had more sides than just the ones facing us. We were just the easiest to pick out, other than generals and other high-ranking people, I suppose. The grunt that kills is hardly ever made a public figure. We escaped that too, for the most part.
I shudder. I don't like to think about the past. An ocean of hurt with islands of hope and sunshine. A sparkling continent of which rests before me. I focus on that thought instead; be glad for what I have, not sad for what that was. Officially, the war is over, but Heero and I are still trapped in it, to an extent, and like other people in the same situation, we might never get completely out of it. Still, we're a lot better off than most; we have our own two-man therapy group - though our 'sessions' can be a bit unorthodox.
He has the blanket around him. I'm pilfering at the closest top corner, wanting to slip in under with him. I decide to wait a little while, though. It took a lot of work to make that blanket, despite what a rush job it was. It wouldn't surprise me if I halfway dozed off most nights, yet kept going in a trance-like state, completely zombie-like and utterly focused. More than once, I woke up in our bed, not knowing how I got there. I don't think Heero brought me there - if he did, he'd never admit to it. And if he did, he would have known about the blanket, and I'm fairly sure he didn't.
See, I was awake when he found it. I did wake up from his reaction to the confetti and streamers, and I barely kept awake long enough for him to find the blanket. That surprised gasp, and the way he hugged it made everything worthwhile; all the lost nights, all the little pinpricks on my fingers.
Blood... I realize that's what's covering the little black knife bent across Heero's shoulder. I frown a little. Was I that distracted - didn't I realize I stained Heero's gift? I sigh. Maybe I did. Looking at the rest of the blanket, I can't remember even half the things I shaped or attached. Still, it feels like it all belongs there, for one reason or another.
The knife... I nibble on my lower lip. Yes, maybe I should talk to Heero about it soon - get rid of yet another demon from the past. He still has a few of his own; maybe I can coax him into an exchange we'd both be better off with. Washing the stain of the blanket will be easy enough, if I can tear it away from Heero long enough. With his help, I might wash away the stain on my mind that it mirrors.
His arm reaches out, searching for me. I take his hand, hold it in my own, notice how he instantly calms down from his little stir. That makes me smile.
We had our afternoon, cake and all. It wasn't a big cake; just enough for the two of us, and some leftovers for tomorrow, maybe. Yeah, we kept it a private party, at least tonight. I want to arrange a real party for him this weekend - invite all our friends, order food and drinks in, play loud music, turn the house upside down... That is, if I could get him to agree. Of course, I could throw him a full surprise party... I grin, tucking that idea away for tomorrow. I'll have to test the waters first.
Heero seemed to like the gift - something I'm very grateful for. I was so afraid he'd think it ugly, or plain stupid. Deep down, I knew he wouldn't think, much less say anything like that. Instead, he used his best honeyed tongue and said that nothing I ever did, would be stupid to him. I fully intend to remind him of that next time I get in trouble - like the time I bought him a pair of fairly tight-fitting jeans.
It's so odd - he's grown so fond of loose clothing. I have no idea where that comes from, really. I mean, the guy wore nothing but spandex shorts for over a year, and now a pair of rear-hugging pants is too much for him. Maybe he has finally grown self-conscious, adopted his own form of body-shyness. I grin. No, he has absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about - but I won't object to his decision, either. I'm sure I can convince him to change clothes if it ever were to matter to me. Privately, I wouldn't mind seeing him in something tight, or without anything at all, for that matter. Then there's this little, possessive voice in my head that really likes how he only shows himself off to me now. Plus, he's a lot easier to embarrass now, which is more fun.
He doesn't know it, but I plan to wake him up soon. He'll be grumpy, but I know he'll forgive me. He tired too soon, and fell asleep on me - I think the cake got to him. Well, that, and the fact he'd been up since dawn and been to work, something I hadn't. I should have thought better than keeping him up as late as I did. Bad planning on my part.
Before I came back to bed, I called Une. We won't have to report for duty tomorrow. She was a little objectionable at first, but I told him it was Heero's birthday and that I had 'plans' for the rest of the night as well. She got real quiet at that one, but she finally agreed.
Heero doesn't have to know I have to do a double shift next weekend to make up for these two days, as well as the last week. I haven't exactly been too alert at work. Not my fault this week at the office turned out to be so darned boring. That was probably the reason; 'at the office'. No field duty, only paperwork and such dull stuff.
I might as well wake him up entirely - I don't need the whole nine inch- uhm, yards, but I want to at least snuggle a little. Nookie optional. Unfortunately, a single touch is enough to rattle someone with hair-trigger reflexes, despite the gaps in those reflexes we've developed for one another.
It's deep into my night now, and his morning is fast approaching. For once, I want to share both of those with him, too. I've already let him rest for hours; he shouldn't be too grumpy, if I get through to his reasonable side he doesn't have to report to work tomorrow. His emotional side will be easier to sway, I think. I tug at the corner of the blanket again, slowly slipping in under it, alongside him. The slight smile of his slowly slides into a smirk.
He isn't asleep anymore.
I won't let him know I know just yet. Let him have his fun, it's his birthday. Of course, I plan to have my fun, too. I inch closer, place soft fingers at his cheek. I lean in to kiss him. There's a tiny tell-tale twitch of his left brow - I've never let him know of that; it's much too fun to exploit. Right before we'd make contact, I pause, and slide my leg across his thigh. The brow shoots up now, abandoning all pretence. I can't keep from laughing, and find two hungry blue eyes glaring at me. I grin back, and kiss him. Things get a little out of control after that.
Neither of us knows how stiff and sore we might be tomorrow - But we do know how much we love each other.
And we have all night and morning to show it.