The first scream had him rolling off his bed, a knife in hand. Disoriented, he scanned the dark room. No one here but him.
The bed was empty. Huh.
A second scream, and he was at the door, even before he recognized the voice. He crossed the corridor in three long steps, knife still in hand. He missed his guns. Guns weren't allowed out of the safe anymore, not since --
"Shh, shh, just a bad dream."
Heero came to a stop in the open doorway, shifting his hand and angling his wrist so his body would hide the blade. Duo was already there, sitting on the edge of the mattress, a hand covering a tiny forehead.
For a second it felt like he was looking at a stranger. Two strangers, in fact, but even when Duo looked up and quirked an eyebrow at him, familiar, the child stayed a newcomer, an acquaintance, someone he didn't really know.
It's only been two weeks, he told himself, and waited for instructions.
"Come in, Heero," Duo said. The child was crawling in his lap, mouth twisted and eyes full of tears.
Heero slipped the knife in the waistband of his boxers, over his hip, and walked in, sat on the edge of the mattress when Duo pointed at it with his chin.
"How did you know?" he asked.
Duo shrugged, rubbing his hand in circles on the child's back. "Didn't. Just guessed."
The child was babbling about wolves and bears and red and being eaten. It wasn't very coherent. Heero sat in silence and waited until the sobs died down.
"Anything I can do?"
Duo flicked him a smile in the dark. "Yeah. Here."
The child was tense all over again on his lap, curled up in himself and trembling. Heero's arms came up to keep him from rolling off his thighs instinctively, but from there on -- he glared at Duo, who only smirked at him and patted both their heads.
"I'm going to make hot chocolate. Be right back, okay?"
He was gone before Heero could protest. His hot chocolate wasn't great, he'd been teased often enough to know that, but still better than his post-nightmares comforting skills. He patted the child's back slowly, relaxing a little when the child cautiously leaned against him.
He didn't expect being hugged, suddenly, little fingers clinging in his t-shirt -- finding the butt of the knife.
Heero knew the counsellor would howl knowing he'd had a weapon in the same room as a child. But that sudden glint of expectant tension, that interest edging past the nightmare's leftover fear... He didn't want to lie. He pulled out the blade, showed it, held securely out of reach.
"is it to kill the monsters?"
Monsters, like those who had killed his parents, hiding behind human faces. He was supposed to tell the child he was just dreaming, monsters didn't exist, he was safe because nothing bad in the world existed. Just his imagination.
Heero didn't kill anymore, hadn't since the war, had never wanted to kill again. He looked down at the child -- little head against his chest, body leaning into his own with growing trust, and...
"... Yeah. It is."
You're safe here, he thought, because I will not lie to you, the monsters do exist, but they'll never get through me.
When Duo came back, Ben was asleep again. They put him back in bed and drank hot chocolate as Heero looked for words to explain his new choice, but Duo didn't need words to get it, because he'd been there and waiting for Heero to catch up for two weeks already.