The Cost

Chapter 13:Care Packages


by Kracken


Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning:Male/male sex, duosufferitus, angst,violence, language

The Cost

Care Packages

"Duo?" Heero smiled as he leaned in close to grip Duo's hands over the doctor's report clutched against Duo's chest. "Are you are all right?"

Duo sniffled, nodded jerkily, and then grinned back. "It's just..." He couldn't go on, closing his eyes tightly to control his emotions.

"If you're done getting my clipboard wet, Mr. Maxwell," the doctor chuckled as he teased it out of Duo's hands, "we'll get you ready to take that drain tube out."

"I'm really clear?" Duo asked, opening his eyes and giving Heero and the doctor a suddenly dangerous look full of tears."You aren't lying to get me into the operating room?"

"I wouldn't lie about this, not even to save your life," Heero replied steadily, his grip on Duo's hands tightening. "Every decision is yours, Duo. No one here is ever going to take that away from you. You are definitely clear of infection. You are definitely not going to lose any limbs."

"A damned miracle, if you ask me," the doctor interjected. "I've never seen anyone respond to medications so well. Once your system was given the right combinations of drug therapy, it cleaned house completely. In fact," He scratched his head, perplexed, "I think the infection was introduced through a faulty injector during one of your operations and had nothing to do with bio rejection at all."

Anger flitted across Duo's face, but then he pushed it away, filing it as a something that needed to be dealt with later. "I don't want to be set back any more," he said with determination. "I'll come back here every freakin' day if I have to, to make sure this shit doesn't happen again."

"You simply have to monitor your temperature," the doctor softly retorted as he redied Duo to be taken out of his room, "and pay attention to any new pain, hot spot, or swelling. The hard truth is, Mr. Maxwell, that your body was giving you ample warning that something was seriously wrong. You chose to ignore it."

Duo ground his teeth, but Heero's pained expression kept him from becoming defensive. The doctor was right. Perhaps a machine was at fault for his troubles, but it didn't have to get that serious. He had long ignored that creeping swelling and pain, telling himself that it hadn't been any different from his general pain. "Let's get this over with," he said briskly, deciding that ending that conversation was for the best. He couldn't win it and losing it was too upsetting. "I want this damned tube out."

"I can do this. I'm not a damned baby," Duo growled. He needed to fill a prescription and Heero was out, on a forced day away from Duo and the need to constantly attend to him. The argument over that had been loud and long, especially since everyone who usually kept an eye on Duo during Heero's absences, were otherwise occupied. Finding the nearly empty bottle of syrup, and his lone inhaler, for his sensitive lungs had capped a day that had left Duo feeling his dependency keenly, and all of his assurances to Heero, to the contrary, like lies.

His attempt at cooking a pot of soup, intended for Heero's return, later that day, had ended with a pan filled with the smoking ruin of dehydrated meat and vegetables. Duo had fallen asleep, waking in a panic when the smoke alarm had gone off. Choking on the smoke, he had spent far too long getting his oxygen tank and mask from where they had been stored. He hadn't needed them for some weeks and had opted to take them off of his chair. Battling with the burned soup, and his choking, hacking fit, had not been pleasant. It had left him sick and exhausted. He had spent nearly two hours near an open window and with his front door propped open. His irritated lungs needed drugs to soothe them. What he had on hand wasn't going to be enough.

"It's just a few blocks down," Duo argued with himself as he fumbled to hook the oxygen onto his wheelchair. If he took his medications, and was careful, he could get there and back before they became ineffective. Begging a neighbor wasn't an option. He was afraid that they would call an ambulance, or worse, his doctor. That man would not only call the ambulance, but keep him under observation all night long. It was better to deal with a few blocks journey, and a pharmacist who wouldn't look over his counter, and come to any conclusions about the state of the customer he was dispensing pills to.

Not having his leg stuck out in a support cast made the ordeal easier, but Duo still had to dress himself in warm clothing and get himself comfortably strapped down into his chair. A fall out of his chair, on concrete or asphalt, was a real fear. Getting stuck somewhere, without anyone willing to help him, was another. Duo made certain that his walker was attached to his chair as well, though he hadn't really put it to the test. He still had a red light when it came to putting any weight on his still healing joints.

Duo slipped on fingerless, leather gloves, to spare his hands on the wheels of his chair, and jammed a cold sports drink beside him. Prescription in hand, he made the call to the pharmacy, and then wheeled out of his home.

Easy, Duo thought as he negotiated the elevator, and then was helped out of the front door by a man walking through, and distractedly holding it open for him, while he text messaged on his cell phone with his free hand.

"Thanks," Duo told him, but the man was already hurrying down the sidewalk.

Duo snorted and then took a long look up and down the busy street. It was strange to be alone. Even stranger not to have someone hovering and ready to attend to his every need. Instead, people rushed by him, pointedly ignoring the scarred man in the wheelchair, as if he were embarrassing, or too hard to deal with.

A chill breeze ruffled Duo's bangs and it was painful to shiver. It reminded him that he needed to hurry. Rolling down the uneven, cracked sidewalk, he struggled, having to push hard on the wheels and dodge potholes. There was nothing he could do about the sudden rises of sidewalk, though, that made forward progress almost impossible. He had to shove down on the wheels hard to get over them and a finger of fear kept him wondering if he would find a rise that he couldn't negotiate.

Reaching the door of the pharmacy brought with it a problem that Duo had forgotten. The door was too narrow. He stared at it in disbelief, and then began knocking on it with his knuckles in a fit of anger. When a young girl opened it tentatively, and looked down at him with wide eyes, he shoved his prescription and his credit card into her hands.

"You are a goddam pharmacy!" Duo growled. "Get a freakin new door or I'll call the city and have you cited!"

"Y-Yes, sir," the girl stammered and then disappeared into the shop with a jingle of bells hanging over the door. It seemed forever until she reappeared with a packaged and his card. "Sorry, sir," she apologized. "I've said something to the owner several times about the door."

"Thank you," Duo replied, softening and trying not to take out his frustration on her.

"Sir?" Duo looked up into very awe struck, cornflower blue, eyes. "Are you Duo Maxwell, the man who saved those two children? The Gundam pilot?"

Duo felt a flush of embarrassment. "Yes," he replied uncertainly.

It was her turn to blush. "I hope that they gave you a bunch of awards. You deserve them."

"Uhm... thanks," Duo managed.

Her blush deepened, she looked at a loss for anything else to say, and then retreated back into the shop in embarrassment.

Duo grunted, not sure what to think about having notoriety for something other than being a terrorist, and then began wheeling back to his apartment. When a man stepped in front of him, and put a foot out to stop his wheelchair, Duo was startled. He looked up at a grim face and knew at once that he was in trouble.

"Didn't jail teach you anything?" Duo wondered.

"You do what you know," the man replied. "I've been watching your buddy, waiting for my chance to get even. He seems real attached to you. I think I'll start getting my payback out of your hide."

"You and who else?" a young boy leaned on the back of Duo's wheelchair, his gang ranging behind him. Duo recognized the punk who had cut his air hose. "We're the only ones who can beat up on ugly here, got that?"

The man slipped hands into his coat pockets, not looking daunted at all. "You'll walk away, if you know what's good for you."

"Yeah?" The boy asked, "What'll you do if I don't?"

"Blow a hole between your eyes," the man replied calmly, confident that he was in the position of power. "I have a gun. I'll use it."

The boy cocked his head and scowled. "You want us to just walk away, so you can take gimp here into an ally and ... what?"

The man smiled and it was full of violence. "Rebreak every bone in his body for starters..."

"Yeah, that right?" the boy snickered and held up a cell phone. He said into it, "You get that cop? Here's his pic while you're on the line." He pointed the cell at the man and took several pictures. The man swore, and then turned and ran. "He's going up East street," the boy reported. "Better go catch him."

The boy put away his cell and turned his head to look at Duo, still leaning on his chair to be at Duo's level. "That little kid you saved from getting run over. He was my little brother," he told Duo seriously. "I owe you. Now get your ugly, hero butt home, so people don't mess with you any more."

Duo chuckled. "My plan exactly."

"Everything go all right?" Heero asked anxiously before he even removed his coat. Duo was sitting and stirring his second try at soup. He couldn't help looking pale and exhausted, or hide the fact that he had his oxygen strapped to his chair again. He also couldn't hide the smell of burned soup from his first attempt.

"I'm not a cook," Duo announced as Heero leaned down and gave him a kiss on the forehead. "But I think I managed soup. Considering what I had to go through, though, I have to say that I think I'll pass up making any more for awhile. Hope you don't mind?"

"Duo?" Heero prompted, needing to know more, but Duo was already motioning him to get the soup off the stove and wheeling away.

"So, what did you do today?" Duo asked, as he began fishing in a drawer for spoons.

"I went to the gym, the shooting range, and drove thirty miles," Heero replied, but refused to be distracted. "What happened, Duo?"

"Thirty miles?" Duo stubbornly said as he took the spoons to the table. "What for?"

"Because it made me feel good. I like to drive," Heero replied as he put the soup on the table, but then he went pale when he caught sight of the prescription packages. "You... went out... to get these?"

"Yeah," Duo grunted. "A quick roll there and back. Nothing major. I didn't have to throw myself under a bus, or anything. either. God was nice to me today." He winced at the white lie, but wasn't willing to worry Heero and undo all the good that his day to himself might have given him. "I did have a few words about that damned door at the pharmacy, though. I'm going to call the city. It should be wide enough for their customers to get through."

Duo rolled to their bed and Heero came to help him get into it. Sighing as his healing body was suddenly relieved of weight and the need to keep upright, Duo closed his eyes as Heero sat beside him and worked off his shoes. "Do you mind if I just sleep?" Duo mumbled around his weariness. "The soup was for you... I'm not really a fan of soup."

"Do you need your oxygen?" Heero wondered as he found impressions from the chair and began pushing back Duo's pants legs to examine them and make certain that they weren't bruises, or worse, sores.

"No,"Duo replied and said through a yawn, "Stop feelin' me up, H'ro. Wanna sleep."

"You do know how stupid you were today?" Heero asked softly, as his fingers began rubbing to ease the impressions. "It doesn't make me confident about leaving you alone again."

"Tough shit..." Duo snorted. "I was damned careful... not a pr'blmmm...problem. Seven babies and a nunn could'a fallen under a cement mixer and I would'a kept on rollin'..."

"Why don't I believe that?" Heero wondered.

"Why don't'cha?" Duo slurred as sleep began to claim him.

"Maybe because of the note stuck to the back of your chair?" Heero replied.

"Note? What's it say?" Duo wondered.

"Property of Jordan's gang."

Duo snickered and then let sleep take him under with Heero's kiss on his lips.




On to Chapter fourteen

Back to chapter Twelve

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