He seemed to have a multi-level awareness of the situation. First, there was a general knowledge of events, not limited to what his senses told him. Second, he could detect Duo’s thoughts and feelings more intensely than he’d yet done. Third, his own emotional state, primarily in response to Duo’s, was sharp and prominent. And beneath that, a state apart from the emotional was much more blurry but still somewhat distracting: he thought that, physically, he was relatively relaxed and comfortable, if a little hot, but this lay distinctly in the background to the sharp panic and misery he absorbed from the atmosphere and from Duo.

These layers of awareness were so chaotic that it took him an unpleasant while to adjust and actually process what he was picking up; so he didn’t know, when things began to clarify, how they’d come to this point.

Duo, a helpless doll, lay at the side of the road, barely able to move and feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. He even lacked the background physical awareness that kept Heero grounded; reaching for it and not finding it, Heero felt his own panic increase. The complete absence of physical sensation behind Duo’s mentation was a barrier so impenetrable, so blank and black, it was as if Duo wasn’t even alive. Heero’s despair at the idea seemed to blend with Duo’s despair at the condition he was in.

The poor doll waved his arms weakly against the gravel he should have been able to feel. Someone was nearing, and Duo struggled wildly, trying at least to sit up and completely, miserably failing. The approaching figure was a blend of Heero and a guy named Leon, who’d kept Duo for five months before giving him to Goodwill in 2008. Now this individual walked with purpose along the road without looking down, and Duo was trying harder than ever to get his attention.

He flailed his arms and legs, but only managed somehow to flip himself over. The wave of anguish this occasioned choked his already quiet voice as he let out a muffled yell through the gravel. It was no use. The man couldn’t hear him. Duo was sure, at the sound of crunching footsteps receding into silence, that his heart was breaking, and Heero ached along with him.

What was definitely breaking was the gravelly ledge. It crumbled and collapsed; there was nothing to hold onto, and Duo’s fingers wouldn’t separate and his wrists wouldn’t bend. No good; he couldn’t stop his slide; he had no control over his downward movement; he was in the water.

He was unnaturally heavy and not at all buoyant, as he always had been. The water through which he sank should have been wet, but he couldn’t feel it; should have choked him, but he didn’t breathe; should have chilled him, but he had no way of detecting the temperature. What it did was stifle him mentally, blind him and deafen him, steal the last of his senses so he had nothing left. Nothing but the lonely prospect of an eternity here at the bottom of the water in this sensationless prison with not one single remaining freedom. Not even that of death.

Heero believed he was the one to awaken them this time, bucking so hard against Duo’s misery and its causes that he actually jerked himself awake and, sitting up abruptly, roused Duo as well. Duo too, extremely disoriented, scrambled into a sitting position, and Heero’s agitation did nothing to quell his panic. And as Heero gathered Duo into his clinging arms, Duo’s breaths came quick and ragged.

“You don’t have to do that.” Heero’s voice was harsh, and his words didn’t necessarily make any sense. “I won’t let that happen.”

Duo clung in return, sliding closer, crushing the blanket between them. He had nothing coherent to say yet, but he wouldn’t be Duo if he didn’t express himself somehow. The noise he made was rich with emotion — or perhaps that was just what Heero read from him: all the dread and hopelessness from the dream still throbbed inside Duo, but his consciousness of Heero’s comforting presence grew and strengthened.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was.” The mental simulation of sensory deprivation had been appalling, even with the consciousness of Heero’s own senses in the background. It horrified him to think that Duo’s memory of being unable to feel anything was strong enough to suppress his actual senses.

“You were there?”

“Yeah.” Heero was running his hands all over Duo as he’d developed a habit of doing after these dreams, but this time, with the echo of Duo’s wretchedness in his heart, his movements were much more intense. So intense, in fact, that it actually pulled Duo’s thoughts forcibly away from where they’d been pinned and writhing. This was the purpose of the movement, of course, but Heero’s desire to distract his boyfriend was deeper and more complex this time.

“Hey… hey…” Having picked up on the fact that Heero had shared his dream, Duo was also realizing quickly why Heero was more agitated than usual — and all of a sudden, bizarrely, it was Duo offering the comfort. “My poor communicator… I’m sorry you had to see that…”

“I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“But at least I’m used to it.” Duo was still very shaken, but concentrating on Heero’s discomfort was helping him recover. “I had a really long time to get used to that kind of thing, but you’ve never felt that before, have you?”

“Please tell me,” Heero begged, easily as breathless as Duo, “you don’t really want to die.” He knew there was no surface thought to this purpose in Duo’s head, but the despondency of the nightmare had pierced deep… and suicidal thoughts beneath the surface were more worrisome in any case.

“No!” said Duo fiercely, squeezing Heero hard. “Dreams are a totally different– I am so happy– you have no idea how glad I am to be alive.”

Intense wordless relief tightened Heero’s grip as well, and Duo snuggled against him in equal silence for a minute or so.

Heero was actively trying not to listen to Duo’s thoughts, but when he had nothing else to distract him, when his boyfriend’s mental state was his biggest concern, this was borderline impossible. So he’d already seen it coming when Duo said with a reluctant sigh, “You’re right about one thing… I definitely need some therapy. I already would really like this to stop, but if you’re going to be seeing this stuff too, that’s… we can’t be having that.”

Heero wasn’t sure what to say. Duo, he knew, had already come to the conclusion that he did need therapy simply for his own sake, but he was clearly sincere in his desire to spare Heero the unpleasant dreams, and this had prompted him to make the admission aloud. Though touched, Heero was still concerned. And it was evident that, though Duo had said it aloud, he still didn’t want to discuss it. Admitting he needed therapy was one step he’d had to work up to; he wasn’t ready for the next step just yet.

He expected Heero to say something, though — something like, “We’ll have to talk to Trowa about that again,” or even something that amounted to, “I told you so,” even though Heero would never have said such a thing and Duo knew it. And when Heero didn’t come up with anything to say, Duo was simultaneously relieved and amused. He went from uncomfortable thoughts about therapy to lighter ones about how it just figured that the uncommunicative Heero should turn out to be a magical communicator. Duo wasn’t nearly as experienced with the magical community as some other hundred-year-old magicians might be, but in the experience he did have, communicators often turned out to be the people with the highest walls.

It was remarkable how quickly fully-formed thoughts developed. Even in regard to his own reflections Heero had never considered this, but he was struck now with the rapidity of this complete thought of Duo’s that probably contained even greater complexity than what he was capable of picking up at this point — not to mention the instantaneous nature of Duo’s follow-up that, if Heero had started hearing his thoughts, he might not appreciate this latest one.

“I did hear that, but I don’t mind.” Heero ran a hand up Duo’s face and into his hair as he spoke. “I know what I’m like.” Duo wouldn’t see much of his reassuring look, but he could probably hear it in his voice.

“Yeah, but Quatre’s been rude about it lately.” The topic was definitely distracting Duo and helping the negative feelings of the nightmare to fade unusually quickly. As such, this was an even better moment for the conversation Heero had been planning and putting off since Sunday.

“I’m going to need to talk to Trowa about steps I can take to control this, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it until this thing with Quatre is over.” Heero looked at Duo earnestly as Duo nodded his understanding in the bedroom dimness. “Is it going to bother you that I’m hearing your thoughts?”

Duo leaned forward and kissed him, reflecting as he did so that a boyfriend you could simultaneously communicate with and kiss was a convenient thing to have. Of course this was not his only thought. He loved the increase in intimacy the presence of Heero in his head represented, but he didn’t know for sure that he was ready for the lack of privacy, which in some ways smacked of his time as a doll. He was reminded of Heero’s statement from Sunday: he didn’t feel he had anything specifically to keep secret, but there were potential embarrassments he would no longer be able to hide… aspects of himself that might make Heero think the worse of him. Yet to have Heero know him more completely was, overall, very desirable. And in any case, there was absolutely nothing to be done about it, so he might as well make the best of it.

Though not entirely pleased with this set of ideas, nor by the fact that Duo didn’t seem able to articulate them, Heero had to be satisfied with this answer for the moment. He was fairly pleased with the suggestion that arose from his own subconscious at about the same time: that perhaps his mental connection to Duo would allow him to affect or even repress Duo’s nightmares. That was something else he would have to look into.

It also occurred to him suddenly, somewhat irrelevantly, to wonder why he’d been able to sense whatever had happened to Quatre on Friday night when Quatre had been clear across the country. He obviously had a lot to learn about his blossoming abilities, but he felt it must probably be put off until after the current problem was solved.

Raising a hand to clasp the one of Heero’s that was still against his face, Duo pulled back at last into a position that put them eye-to-eye again, though there was still so little light in the room that expressions were difficult to make out. That didn’t much matter, though; Heero could tell Duo wanted to speak but couldn’t quite decide what to say.

Then they both jumped as the alarm went off. In response to this mutual violent start, Duo began laughing, and flung himself forward into a hug that knocked Heero onto his back with a significant tangling of blanket between and around them. Though Heero’s arm went out to try to stop the beeping from the nightstand, his blind flailing in that direction was continually ineffectual as Duo kissed him several times at various points across his head and neck. The wellspring of optimism Duo seemed perpetually able to tap had served its purpose as usual, and Duo was suddenly sanguine again.

Heero couldn’t help being affected by that hope. Perhaps something would have changed today. Four days had passed, after all, and, though nobody had come up with any answers yet, there was still the possibility that Quatre’s anger would work itself out. Maybe when they got to the office they would find him in a significantly better mood. Then Trowa could stop worrying about that and turn his thoughts toward a therapist for Duo and some learning resources for Heero.

The nightmare hadn’t been a pleasant way to start the day, and should probably, Heero reflected as he finally managed to silence the alarm, at least taint if not completely ruin it. But with Duo around — and this wasn’t the first time Heero had noticed this remarkable condition — he was able to be relatively optimistic even in the face of a negative circumstance concerning Duo himself. Things were going to be fine. Or at least, if not fine, things were going to be possible to live through. Heero was certain of that.

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