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Acherontia Atropos (Part 11)

As the cold water hissed down on me, deadening my arms and back, I 
whispered “I can’t do this” to the uncaring room before I put my face in my 
hands and cried.

It's hard to describe or understand what I was thinking at that time. The only 
reason I can remember anything is because while my main self was 
cowering in the shower and whimpering like a lost three year old, there was 
a small portion that was divorced completely from what was going on, a 
tiny part of myself that was merely watching, not caring about what was 
happening in the slightest. I've always found that part of myself disturbing; 
it's the part of me that lets me kill people and be able to sleep afterwards, or 
blow up buildings and not think about how many people died. It wasn't so 
much even a part of me as a refuge, somewhere that I could retreat to when 
I couldn't handle what was happening. It was white, neutral blankness that 
was the essence of nothing.

I didn't want to know what had happened to me. I wanted to erase the last 
fifteen minutes of my life. My, I guess they weren't my friends 
any more...had touched me, in ways that I never wanted anyone but perhaps 
Heero to touch me. 

And I had enjoyed it. God forgive me, on some deep, primal level, I had 
been aroused by it, and my body had reacted.

I was drowning in my own self-loathing. I felt dirty, and it wasn't dirt that 
the stinging spray of the shower could wash away. I wanted to hide away 
where no one would ever be able to see me, so that no one would ever be 
able to see how dirty I was. I wanted to rake my fingernails along my arms 
to try to scrape the imaginary filth off, only I couldn't seem to make my 
hands unclench or get my arms to move. The part of myself that still had 
any control retreated from everything, withdrawing into the blank, white 
place that normally disturbed me.

I don't know how long I sat underneath the freezing spray of the shower. It 
could have been a minute, it could have been an hour or any length of time 
in between the two. At first, the cold water had made my skin sting, given 
me pain that I could hold on to the world with, that I could cling to because 
it belonged to me and it wasn't tainted by the touch of monsters. All too 
soon, however, I was numb, and all I could do was shiver. I was actually 
shaking so hard that I was having a tough time breathing; my teeth were 
chattering loudly, and every now and then, my body jerked and I hit the 
back of my head against the shower wall. My uniform had long since 
soaked through completely. It was clinging to my body like a second skin of 
ice, providing no protection from the freezing water. The cold wasn't just 
purely physical, though. It reached down through my soul until I was afraid 
that I would never be able to be warm again.

The monsters under the bed were real, and they could look just like my 

I couldn't do this.

The first thing I really heard, other than the continued hissing and splashing 
of the shower, was someone knocking on the bathroom door. By that time, I 
was too cold to move, too cold to think. Too cold to care.

The knocking came again, a little louder. "Duo?" Quatre's voice was 
muffled by the wood of the door. "Are you ok?"

Any other time, I would have laughed at the question, because it was just 
too stupid. Of course I wasn't ok.

I wasn't sure if I was ever going to be ok again.

I guess my lack of response worried Quatre, because he knocked on the 
door again, even more loudly. "Duo, can you hear me?" The knob rattled. 
"Please open the door." Even if I had felt like it, I don't think I could have 
gotten up; I was too cold. I couldn't feel any more, which was almost 
comforting. The knob rattled again, and the door creaked as Quatre pushed 
against it experimentally, seeing if he could get it to give even a little. 
"Duo!" Quatre yelled. "Say something!" Idly, I wondered why he sounded 
so upset. Maybe he thought I was trying to kill myself again. I half wished 
that I could speak and tell him that I wasn't going to and that he should 
know me better than that, but I couldn't make my voice work right; I was 
shivering too hard. I'd promised Wufei that I wouldn't ever try again, no 
matter what. Quatre didn't have to be worried. 

I just needed to get away for a little while. That was all.

Something was happening beyond the bathroom door. I could hear Quatre's 
voice, saying something loudly. I couldn't quite hear what he said over the 
sound of the shower, but I could tell that he was excited, and very upset. 
After a moment, he fell silent, and then someone pounded on the door, hard. 
It was Heero. "Duo, open the damn door." He sounded very angry, but there 
was something else in his voice, something that I couldn't really understand. 
Not in Heero's voice. In anyone else's voice, I would have said it was fear. 
But Heero Yuy doesn't feel fear.

I tried to answer, because no matter how upset I was, I still didn't want 
Heero to be angry with me. And he sounded extremely angry. Nothing 
would come out of my mouth though, other than soft gulping sounds that 
would be impossible to hear through the door. There was another pause, 
another excited discussion, and then something slammed into the door once, 
then again, harder. With a tortured, loud crack, the lock broke and the door 
was flung inwards, slamming solidly into the wall and staying there. The 
doorknob had probably imbedded itself in the wall. I wanted to wince; that 
would be a bitch to fix.

Heero was through the doorway and into the bathroom before the door had 
even hit the wall. He ran heavily into the edge of the sink and grunted. 
Typical Heero. Use a thermo-nuclear device to kill ants. He turned and 
fixed me with the most intense, angry glare I've ever seen from him. I 
wanted to cower away, too apologize. His eyes flicked down for a moment. 
I think he was checking the water that was running down the drain for any 
traces of blood. Maybe Quatre really did think that I would try to slit my 
wrists again.

"Duo?" Heero said. He moved forward, and Quatre managed to squeeze 
into the bathroom after him. 

I managed to lift my head and tried to look at Heero. My hair was 
completely soaked, and it hung in front of my eyes in a ragged, dripping 
curtain. I could dimly feel water running down my face in continuous 
streams. I wasn't sure how much of it was from the shower, and how much 
of it was tears. I couldn't stop shaking.

His eyes never leaving my face, Heero reached over me and turned the 
shower off with a viscious jerk of his wrist. I heard the caulking around the 
handle crack. 

"Duo, are you alright?" Quatre asked, his tone frantic.

I couldn't answer.

Heero didn't seem to know quite what to do. For a long moment, he just 
looked at me, like he would swallow me with his eyes. A hard chill hit me, 
and my entire body convulsed, jerking my head back to crack against the 
tiled shower wall again. Until now, I hadn't really felt the cold; I had just 
felt numb. Now the air hit me like a solid, icy wall. 

Heero grabbed me roughly and hauled me out of the shower, holding me 
tightly against him. Quatre quickly got out of his way and he carried me out 
into the main room. I tried to giggle; he seemed to be doing that an awful 
lot, lately. It was really starting to get ridiculous. All I could do was let out a 
soft puff of air, though.

"Baka." Heero said angrily. "He had the cold water on all the way." Quatre 
came up beside him, his face pale and pinched with worry. Without 
preamble, Heero dumped me on his bed and started to unbutton my shirt. 
He had a difficult time with it; my arms were drawn up against my chest, 
held tight by my spasming muscles, and the material of the shirt was soaked 
and didn't want to give. I was also shaking so hard that he kept losing his 
grip. Quatre was pulling off my shoes and my pants, or at least I think so. I 
couldn't feel it. 

With a growl, Heero gave up and simply popped all the buttons, forcibly 
sitting me up so he could pull the completely ruined shirt off of me. Quatre 
got my pants off, and then my underwear. Both of them picked me up, this 
time, I think because I was shaking too hard to be managed by just one 
person, and quickly moved me over to my bed. Their hands were so warm 
that they felt like fire against my skin, and I managed a high, shaky 
whimper. Heero muttered a really foul word and pulled my blanket up over 
me. He pulled the extra blankets from under my bed and piled those on top 
of me as well. They didn't feel like they were doing much good.

Heero said another extremely foul word. I couldn't hear what it was, though, 
only that the tone of it was angry, and full of something that sounded 
suspiciously like worry. My vision was starting to dim again, so I simply 
shut my eyes, and I felt the last few threads of reality starting to slip through 
my fingers. I think the thing that frightened me the most later was that I 
really didn't care. I just wanted to escape.

I heard Quatre say "He's not going to be able to warm up on his own."

The pressure of the blankets lifted from me for a few short moments, and 
two warm bodies slid into the bed, one on either side of me. 

Suddenly, all the fear that I thought I had escaped from surged back into 
me. I heard Kaori whispering "We're always watching you..." The tiny bit of 
uncaring peace that I had been clinging to was torn away. I could feel them 
pressing in around me. I couldn't breathe. Oh god...I couldn't breathe...

/No! Don't touch me!/


I let out a strangled, terrified sob and tried to curl up into a little ball, tried 
to cover my face with my hands so I could hide. Warm, strong arms 
wrapped around me and pulled me tightly against someone's bare chest. I 
couldn't control my arms well enough to push them away. All I could do 
was whimper. 

"It's ok, Duo." Quatre said softly by my ear. "It's just me and Heero. It's ok. 
We're just trying to warm you up. It's ok. You're safe now. It's ok..." He 
kept repeating the same soft words, over and over in a calming litany that I 
latched firmly on to. Heero and Quatre were my friends. No, they were 
more than my friends. More than family. They wouldn't hurt me. Another 
sob tore itself from my throat and I buried my face against Quatre's hot 
shoulder and started to cry like I would never stop.

Two warm, calloused hands touched my back tentatively. I stiffened before 
I realized that it must be Heero and made myself relax. Heero was touching 
me. He wouldn't let anyone hurt me. After a moment, the hands slid around 
my waist and Heero was pressed up against my back.

Neither he nor Quatre were wearing more than their underwear, and I wasn't 
wearing anything at all, but for that moment, it didn't bother me or make me 
feel uncomfortable. I needed the physical contact, I think. This was clean. It 
was comfort.

I could feel both of them like steady flames on either side of me. Quatre's 
heartbeat was softly echoing in my ears. I could feel Heero's against my 
back. I drank of their warmth until I couldn't hold any more, until I stopped 
shaking and was able to uncurl myself from the little ball I'd been in. I fed 
their warmth into the profound chill that the vampires had put into me and it 
slowly receded until it was nothing more than a dull ache, though it 
wouldn't disappear entirely. 

I don't know how long the two of them just held me like that. It was at least 
an hour, maybe longer, I think, before I finally stopped crying and quieted. 
Then I was too tired to move. I sniffled loudly, sounding for all the world 
like a little kid. Quatre's arms tightened around me for a moment and I 
looked up. He looked very tired. "Are you going to be ok now?"

I tried to laugh, and ended up choking. My voice was thick with phlegm, 
my nose felt like it was going to explode, and my throat was very, very 
sore. "I don't know." I said honestly. Some people can cry without feeling 
like shit when they're done. That's definitely not one of my talents.

"What happened?" Quatre asked. 

I clenched my hands into fists until I felt my fingernails bite into my palms, 
forcing myself to focus. "Vampires." I said. My voice didn't shake. Go me. 
Not that I really had to put up any pretense of strength now, considering that 
Quatre's shoulder was slick with my tears. It made me feel better, though. 
"They were controlling Kaori and Mika and everyone. I couldn't even 
defend myself." I choked and bit back a sob. Maybe I wasn't as in control as 
I had thought. 

"Shit." Quatre said.

I managed a watery chuckle at that. I don't get to hear Quatre cuss very 

Heero's voice was soft and dangerous. "What did they do?"

"Please don't ask." I shook my head. "Please don't make me think about it." 
I wondered if I sounded as pathetic to them as I did in my own ears. Despite 
my own best efforts, I started shivering again.

Heero's arms tightened around my waist. "Daijoubu." He said simply.

I shook my head. "It's not ok." Despite my best efforts, tears started running 
from my eyes and I was crying again. I hate crying. It makes me feel weak 
and out of control. Right then, weak and out of control was pretty much the 
best description for me. I didn't have to like it though. "Goddamnit!" I 
scrubbed at my eyes with a hand.

There was a soft knock on the door, after which it was immediately opened. 
The person who had just come in let out a soft, surprised cough. I giggled 
thickly through my tears. I could only think of one person that could be. 
Wufei. My little laugh held a slightly hysterical edge.

"Come in and shut the door, Wufei." Quatre said. I heard the door shut, so I 
guess Wufei did as he was told, for once. "Duo was trying to freeze to 
death." Quatre continued. "We had to warm him up."

I giggled again, at the ecchi images that brought to mind. Oh god, this 
wasn't good. The way I was going, pretty soon I'd start to laugh, and then I 
wouldn't be able to stop, and then Mimura would show up with a strait 
jacket and a hand cart to haul me away to the happy place where people 
fingerpaint on the walls all day.

Wufei walked quietly up to the bed. I rolled my eyes up so I could see him. 
He didn't look shocked, which I had been expecting. "You look like hell, 
Duo." He remarked. "And you're being quiet." His voice was taut with 
anger, but I knew that it wasn't directed at me. He sat down on the edge of 
the bed by my head, and for a brief moment, he reached out and brushed my 
half dry hair back with on hand, so that it wasn't hanging in my face any 

I was a surprised a little--well, a lot. Wufei is my best friend, but he's not 
the touchy-feely type. But just this once, it seemed right. I could feel 
warmth radiating from him like I could feel from Heero and Quatre, and I 
stopped shivering. The door opened again, and shut. It had to be Trowa. No 
one said anything to him, and I felt Heero's arms stiffen. The bed shifted 
down a little, as he sat down at the foot. 

"Duo." Trowa said softly. "Gomen--"

"It's ok." I sniffled again and resisted the urge to wipe my nose on the back 
of my hand. "I needed it. I was scared."

"Aa." was all he said.

Tears wouldn't stop slipping from my eyes. I gave up and rested my head on 
Quatre's shoulder again. I wasn't shivering any more, but little tremors kept 
running through me. I shut my eyes. 

Wufei smoothed my hair back again, and then Quatre tilted my face up. He 
kissed me on the forehead. Any other time, it would have been weird. 
Instead, it was comforting. "Daijoubu." he said, very quietly.

I could still feel Quatre’s lips pressed against my forehead. I wasn't afraid 
any more. More than friends. More than family. We belonged. All of us. 

I let my eyes drift shut. I was so tired, so empty. I had to sleep. I wasn't 

I knew that they were there and they wouldn't let anyone hurt me.

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