Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.
My arm hurt, throbbing like a toothache just at the elbow, and it felt swollen. My head pounded along with my heartbeat and I felt a loose tooth with my tongue... a tongue that felt two sizes too big for my mouth and as dry as a desert. My first thought was, 'Duo'. My second thought was, 'What the hell happened?' The conversation over my head filled me in on the details.
"I couldn't find him, Quatre! I really thought they had taken off with him... to hurt him... and it was all my fault, because I was too damned slow getting there."
"Duo,calm down. Nothing happened. He's safe. Those men are in lock up.'
'You weren't there! You don't know what it was like...looking for him. Une told me his last position, but he wasn't there. I know Heero. I thought that he had lied to Une, that he had stayed to make sure that those men didn't get away before the security detail showed up. I didn't expect... when Douglas found him at the bottom of those stairs... I didn't even think to look there! How stupid can I goddam be?'
I heard a shaky sob and then I was reaching out with a good hand and latching onto Duo unerringly. Quatre already had a hold on him and I towed him in along with Duo as I pulled my lover in close.
"Do not be a dumb ass," I whispered in a dry throat as I made sticky eyes open. "I slipped and fell on the stairs. There was no way for you to know where I was."
Duo swam in my vision, looking pale and needy, and Quatre was grinning, relieved and letting go of him."See," he said to Duo. "Everything is all right. Now stop apologizing for not being super human, and take care of your man."
Duo turned an embarrassed shade of pink, both of his hands coming up to clasp mine as Quatre nodded to me and made his retreat.
"Head hurts," I complained. "Mouth dry."
Duo snagged a water bottle from a side table and put the straw to my lips. It was cold, and I wondered how many times he had refilled it with ice, waiting for me to need it. I drank gratefully.
"Easy," Duo warned me as he pulled the straw away. "They think that you have a concussion. I don't want you throwing up water on me."
I agreed with that diagnosis. My stomach did feel queasy and my head was pounding. He saw my grimace.
"Should I get the doctor?" Duo wondered.
That led to an obvious question, but I felt compelled to ask it. "I'm in the hospital?"
"Yes," he replied and perched on the side of the bed, looking down at me.
"How long?" Was the next question as I looked around and decided which hospital I was in. With a partner like Duo, I was very familiar with every hospital in the area.
"Five hours," he told me, watching me looking around and smiling. "This is the nicest hospital," he told me. "Nurse Carla and Nurse Stacey will spoil you."
We knew every doctor and every nurse, just as we knew every hospital room. I didn't allow myself to think too deeply about that, about how dangerous his life was. It was strange being on the other side, being the one in the hospital bed. The last time had been awhile ago. Tonsillitis was an embarrassing thing for an ex Gundam pilot to suffer through.
"Do I get ice cream this time, too?" I asked, giving him an impish smile.
He snickered. "I'll see about it."
Duo grew serious suddenly, leaning down, and kissing me on my dry lips. "You scared the shit out of me," he told me quietly.
It wasn't critical. He was simply stating a fact. I understood. "I was trying to stay safe," I replied as I stroked fingers down his arm to soothe him. "I wasn't intending to be a part of the action."
His gaze was intense. "They why were you falling down a flight of stairs?"
This was the part that I wanted to avoid the most. I discarded the excuse of a headache, to stall it, knowing that it was better said now. "You were angry. You were going to run there and-"
"That's my job, Heero," he told me. "I do it every day. Why shouldn't I do it for you, too, to keep you safe?"
"Passion can make a man cross the line," I said. "I know how protective you can get."
He let out an exasperated breath."Yeah, I was mad," he admitted, "and I really wanted to make them pay for thinking that they could hurt you, but I wouldn't have really done anything except arrest them. I wanted to make sure that happened." He eyed me. "So... You were rushing to what? Save me?"
I nodded, hiding behind my tangled bangs.
"Thank you," he breathed against my lips and I fell into the kiss, glad that he wasn't going to be angry and shout. I don't think my head could have taken it, just then.
He broke the kiss and stood up. "I'm going to go get the doctor, so that he can check on you... and maybe see about that ice cream."
He stopped at the door, paused for a long moment, and then turned. His heart was in his eyes. "You really did scare me, Heero Yuy."
"I'm sorry," I replied, but then sighed,"It's never going to get easier, you realize?"
"I have more optimism," he retorted and then gave me a cocky grin, "Especially, when I'm the one making sure, that people who try to hurt you, go to jail."
I couldn't help smiling back, but I couldn't share in that optimism. Even during the war, he had always been so sure that everything would be all right.I don't think he took his eyes off of the sun, much, enough to see the shadows, but I saw them every day. I was too sure that they would always be there, waiting for another unwary moment to destroy that which was good and peaceful, waiting to destroy us.
Nurse Carla and Stacey did indeed spoil me, and they seemed to think that leaving me without a guard, after what had just happened to me, was worse than criminal. They took it upon themselves to keep watch, as regulated as any Oz soldiers that I had ever seen, and just as serious about their self appointed duty. When my X-rays came back with good news, along with my doctor's opinion that I could safely go home, they seemed disappointed to have to return to their normal routine.I thanked them and told them goodbye, and Duo grinned at me for liking their attention so much.
"What am I going to do with you?" Duo wondered. "You're going to want all of this pampering at home, now."
"Sponge baths might be nice," I played along, as I sat on the edge of the bed and buttoned my shirt.
"Not from Carla and Stacey, I hope?" Duo retorted and I could see a hint of jealousy in his expression.
I snorted, but then teased, "Maybe a Carl and a Stan..."
"Over my dead body!" Duo growled. "You belong to me!"
He was only half joking. I soothed him by replying, "I'd much rather have you do the sponge bath... and the breakfast in bed... and the dressing and undressing."
Duo looked aroused and reigned it in with difficulty. "We'll see how you feel about that offer, once we get home."
I smiled at his eagerness even while I was annoyed by the wheelchair that he pushed to the side of the bed. My arm was still strapped and one ankle throbbed, but my head was clear and I knew that I didn't need to be wheeled anywhere.
"You know that you have to," Duo warned, "So don't whine about it,Yuy."
Maybe being in a wheelchair made the strange man feel that I was vulnerable, a captive audience, I'm not sure, but, when we reached the main doors, and Duo left me to bring the car around, he seemed confidence itself as he snapped a few pics of me with his digital hand pad and stepped forward.
"Ronald Whelan," he introduced himself. He was a slick looking young man in a three piece suit, tall and overbearing as he leaned down. "Western Hemisphere News. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions for a story that I'm working on?"
"Yes, I do," I replied. "I'm not giving any statements."
"You're a famous individual, attached to another famous individual," Whelan said, "It's only natural that people would be concerned about the attack on your person. Those in the homosexual communities are worried that resentment against their lifestyle choices, is growing. Other people are worried that your lifestyle, your commitment to your relationship with Duo Maxwell, might be endangering them as well."
I frowned and retorted, "How could my relationship hurt anyone?"
"Innocent bystanders are hurt all of the time, Mr. Yuy," the man pointed out. "How many people were in the parking garage where you were attacked?"
"Almost attacked," I corrected."Are you insinuating that I'm a danger to the people around me? Perhaps you should place that burden on the people who intended to attack me?"
"Of course," the man said apologetically, "but you must admit that you have become the weather vane that everyone is watching? If such a high profile man, such as yourself, is being attacked, then can attacks on other homosexuals be far behind?"
"They didn't attack me because I was a homosexual," I grated out and then took a deep breath and snarled, "I told you, that I didn't want to talk to you. Please leave me alone."
"Is this man bothering you, Mr. Yuy?" Stacey, a small, blonde woman with large blue eyes, and a starched nurse uniform, came striding up to confront the reporter.
I winced at the picture of a little nurse defending me, but replied, "Yes, he is. I'm sure he'll be leaving now."
"Without a story?Not likely," the reporter snorted. "It's your duty to keep the public safe and informed, as a Preventer agent," the man began, but Stacey was poking a finger into his chest and making him take a step back from me.
"He told you to go," Stacey warned him. "Back off our I'll call security."
I began to stand up from my chair, concerned for her when the man gave her a small shove back, but Stacey gave me an imperative gesture to keep my seat. "Rules state, that all patients remain in a wheelchair until their ride arrives. I'll take care of Mr. Rude, here."
The man sniffed. "I hardly think that you're capable of stopping me from doing anything that I want, runt. I intend to get my interview, so piss off before I'm forced to-"
"Forced to what?" Stacey cut in, voice full of bravado.
My worry escalated. "Stacey, thank you, but-" I began, but the reporter took that moment to try and take a picture of Duo pulling up and getting out of our car. The flash of his hand in a threatening manner was enough for nurse Stacey.
Stacey executed a perfect flying kick and the reporter fell like a sack of potatoes. She landed lightly, straightened her uniform primly, and then called out, "I need a doctor, stat!"
"What the hell?" Duo exclaimed as he came up to us, hand slipping under his jacket where he kept his gun. "Who the fuck is that?"
"A reporter," I replied with a tired sigh. "He wanted an interview and wouldn't take no for an answer."
Duo scowled. "Everyone keeps doing my job."
I was struck by the pain in his voice. I remembered his conversation with Quatre and took hold of his hand. "What job is that?" I asked quietly as guards and a doctor came running up.
"He attacked me and Mr. Yuy," Stacey told them, the flush of adrenalin in her face."I had to defend us both."
Duo blinked at her, the hurt growing. "I'm supposed to protect you, not a hundred pound nurse."
I squeezed his hand hard. "In case you forgot, I don't really need this chair," I reminded him. "I wasn't expecting that kind of trouble or Stacey wouldn't have had to subdue a reporter trying to get your picture."
"My picture?" Duo looked confused then. "He wasn't trying to hurt you?"
"No, just trying to make me the poster boy for whatever cause he's trying to promote," I replied.
"Asshole," Duo called him, giving the prone figure a glare.
I thanked Stacey and I had the feeling, from her expression, that she was going to be telling her grand kids, when she had them, about the time that she had saved a Gundam Pilot's life.After we had made a report to the guards, and then left the hospital, I couldn't help thinking about the things that the reporter had said to me. It didn't matter who the bad guy was, there were going to be people put in danger because of me. I couldn't see a way out of that, though. I couldn't stop living my life because of what might happen.
"We need a vacation away from all of this shit," Duo finally said, after a long time of tense silence. His hands worked on the steering wheel and the sunlight picked out white battle scars along his fingers and knuckles."We should go to L4 and sit around the artificial beaches, sipping fruity drinks. They don't have any of these stupid prejudices."
That wasn't true, but they did have a far more tolerant climate for anything out of the ordinary. I thought about it, leaving Earth, feeling the weightlessness of space again, and coming home to the colonies. It didn't carry the same ache as it once had. Earth had become my home, instead, Earth and Duo.
"The islands, then," Duo pressed."A few days on a boat, and then a week doing nothing, but shaking sand out of your shoes and making crazy love in some beach bungalow."
I liked the sound of it. It was a temptation to run away from it all, to be just Heero and Duo and not the hero and the man who had turned coward, the man who had dared sully the image of Duo Maxwell.
I was going to say, yes... hell, yes! I opened my mouth, turning to Duo, just as his cell rang. He fished it out of his pocket irritably.
He listened, nodding and frowning, our conversation forgotten, our flight of fancy going up in a puff of smoke, as real life concerns took precedence.
"I'm ready," Duo told who ever was on the other end of the call. "Jump in five hours."
He hung up and pocketed his cell, mind on the new mission. "I'll be gone for a few days. Trouble down south, as usual," he told me almost on automatic."I'll have Quatre check up on you. Chang is with me on this one."
"He doesn't need to check up on me," I replied, but he was hardly hearing me. I was a detail in his mission plan.
I was surprised when his mission plan included my safety. "Stay at home until I get back. Keep everything secure. I don't want you at work, before we know how many people were in on that plan to hurt you."
Sometimes, it's better just to say, "Yes, of course," and let him think about other things, more important things, like keeping himself alive to return home to me.I could take care of myself, after all.
I can't say that I didn't still think about Duo's vacation plan, especially when I was left alone to deal with the aches and pains of my injuries. I knew that he would bring it up again, when he came home, and I knew that I had to have an answer for him by then.
After thinking about it for at least a day, though, while I tried to save a bed of roses that had been severely neglected for months, I decided that a vacation was more about what Duo needed, than about running away.Recovering from injuries wasn't really relaxing, and I think he needed time off that didn't include pain and healing.
"Heero?" the call was cautious and far away. Quatre Winner knew better than to surprise me. He had come through the back gate and was still standing there, smiling in greeting.
I had been sitting on a low stool. I levered myself up with difficulty and limped to the fence, loppers in one hand and nursing a wounded thumb.
"Are you all right?" Quatre asked.
"Thorns," I grunted irritably. "Did you come for your scheduled 'check on Yuy',visit?"
Quatre made a face as he entered my back yard and took a seat at the small table and chairs under the spreading chinese maple. "Don't be like that," he admonished me. "Duo cares. I care. Of course, we're going to want to make sure you're all right."
I sighed and sat as well. "I'm sorry," I told him. "I hate when Duo tries to baby me."
Quatre nodded in understanding. "Sometimes, he's over protective, I know, but he's used to commanding entire teams of men, and making sure of their safety. He wouldn't do less for the man he loves... and neither would you. You did hire a nurse for him, as I recall."
I blushed and ducked my head, pretending to look at my lopers.Duo could see to the center of my heart, but I was still uncomfortable with other people seeing how deeply I could feel for him.I suppose that it was part of my training, the training that had made me suppress everything to be a boy soldier. Caring that much had been considered a failing.
"He doesn't want me to return to work until he gets back," I told him, turning the loppers over and over in my hands.
"You'll be returning... let me guess... tomorrow?" Quatre sighed. "That would be your MO,Heero, and Duo's as well, for that matter."
"Not tomorrow," I retorted and then, quieter, "Two days, maybe, if the aches stop."
"And sooner than your doctor prescribes, I'll bet," Quatre guessed worriedly.
"They are always over cautious," I replied as I put the loppers on the table and crossed my arms over my chest defensively.
"It's Une's decision," Quatre pointed out. "She may follow the doctor's recommendation."
I had nothing to say to that. I knew that there would might be a battle in that respect, but I expected to win it.
The sun shone in Quatre's hair and it almost made his blue eyes seem like clear glass as he looked around the yard. Though I liked to garden, I wasn't the best. I had planted things that didn't need a great deal of care. Quatre seemed pleased by it all, though, and that brought me out of my shell long enough to feel a little pride in that.
"Quatre, I was considering a vacation-" I began but he jumped on that instantly.
"I own a few out of the way places," Quatre told me eagerly. "I wouldn't mind if you made use of them... or, if you'd rather, I have a few apartments... Paris...Tokyo... the Alps? You two have been needing some downtime. Preventers abuses your talents too much."
Paris. I could imagine Duo loving the busy streets and the fast paced atmosphere."I still have to talk to him about it, but Paris does sound-"
"I'll make sure that the apartment is prepared and ready for you," Quatre assured me, not allowing me to finish."Once you two have a taste of civilian life, you may not want to return to Preventers."
I wasn't slow. I could hear the hidden agenda in Quatre's words.
I gave him a level look until he stopped making plans and asked,"What's wrong?"
"Quatre, I know that you are embracing peace with both hands," I told him, "but you can't assume that we would want the same kind of life."
Quatre looked almost sad. "You both have always been at the fore front, fighting for everyone else. Even though you only do paperwork, now,you do it with the same dedication as Duo, who goes out into the field and risks his life. I can't help wondering if you both lead that sort of life,because you've never really known what living in true peace means. If you would just take some time away from Preventers..."
"We love our work," I replied, warmed that we had such a caring friend. "We know what sort of life we've chosen."
Quatre patted my hand and stood up."You are selfless to the point of being idiots. I'm glad that you've at least seen that you need a vacation once in awhile. I'll make sure that this one is memorable. Leave it all to me, Heero."
Quatre lived a life of privilege. I don't think that he understood about 'vacation time', and needing to file requests for it, and that someone might not want Duo Maxwell to give up saving the planet for a few days. That thought made me angry, and Quatre was probably wondering if he had gone too far when I escorted him to the gate.
"Make the plans after I call you," I told him and then made an effort to relax and smile. "Thank you for all your help."
Quatre wasn't going to go that easily. Instead, he became very serious and said, "About that incident in the Preventer garage-"
"I was never in any danger, except from my own two left feet," I replied, not wanting the lecture about staying safe.
Quatre surprised me by pointing out his guards, waiting just outside the fence. "I wanted to say, that it isn't just you, Heero. Don't ever think that. Mindless, envious hate is everywhere, and it's targets are many, including me.Perhaps, this time, it was about your relationship with Duo, but it could have just as easily been about your being an ex gundam pilot, or part of Preventers in general.What I'm trying to say is, that we can't stop living our lives, or change ourselves, to suit the people who don't like what we are. Those kind of hates are never satisfied."
I nodded. "I think that Duo gets blinded to that, once in awhile. He'd like to see me safe, away from Preventers, and away from the public eye... but, I can't live that way. I need to serve,just like he does."
Quatre looked around my garden with a soft smile. "I never guessed that you were hiding yourself away, denying yourself the things that you wanted from life. Duo did. He made you bloom, just like these flowers. He doesn't want to see you close up and go back to being the stunted young man that you were during the war... and I don't either."
"I won't," I promised, though it was as much a promise to myself as to Quatre.
"Good," Quatre replied.
He gave me a light hug and then I was alone with my garden again. It seemed empty without his brightness and it took awhile for my mind to settle and to tackle the rose bushes once more.
back to chapter Eight
on to chapter ten