Warnings : Yaoi, angst, sap, OOC, alternating POVs, language
and some totally unrepentant Duosufferitis. This is a direct sequel to the
'Road Trip' series.
Thanks to Christy for another great beta job, and Aya and Kracken for opinions
Feed-back is a welcome distraction from the tedium of the daily grind.
And I'm pretty sure that GW ownership isn't really in any doubt; we don't...
Guardian Spirits by Sunhawk
I was pretty much in a foul mood that morning, and I allowed
myself to storm into my computer room, knowing that nobody else would be
in yet. I come to work a half an hour before most of the rest of the building
in order to have time to make sure all the servers are up and running. It
gave me time to reboot things if I needed to before anybody was in to care.
Just one of those little things that the Network Administrator took care
of without being asked.
Heero had, on the way to work that morning, revealed the fact
that he and Wufei were leaving on an extended mission that day. Probably
wouldn't be back for a week or two. Nothing really unusual for a pair of
Preventers. It didn't bother me as much that they were going to be gone,
as it bothered me that he had waited so long to tell me. I hated it when
he treated me like I had to freaking be protected from every damn little
thing. A little warning would have been nice. I do not think I am a prick
about it when he goes on-site for an assignment. No more than he's a prick
about it when I have to go out of town to training or to a technical seminar.
It's not like I would have been pissy with him from the time he told me
until he left. What the hell had the point been in not telling me? Sometimes
I could just smack him up the side of the head.
I went through my little morning routine, opening up for the
day, checking the previous nights logs, checking my e-mail. I let the familiar
habits soothe away a little of my irritation, just trying to put it out
of my mind. It wasn't the first time we'd argued, and it sure as hell probably
wouldn't be the last.
By the time eight o'clock rolled around, I had pretty well
settled myself down and felt like I could deal with my staff without biting
their heads off. It wasn't their fault, after all, that my lover was an
over-protective idiot with the inability to deal with emotional confrontation.
It was a damned lucky thing he was good in bed.
I was mildly surprised when Misty came storming into the room
at eight exuding signs of a foul mood of her own.
'Uhhh... Morning?' I ventured as she threw her purse into
the desk drawer and viciously punched the power button on her PC.
She looked at me, a little apologetically. 'Sorry, Boss-man,'
she grinned faintly. 'Bad morning.'
'Seems to be the way of things today,' I empathized, tossing
back my own half-hearted grin.
'You too?' She pulled out her chair and threw herself into
it, slumping down and watching her PC boot up. 'What's the matter?'
I laughed. 'Oh... ladies first.'
She smirked at me. 'Goody! A bitch session! You first.'
I smiled; the banter, oddly enough, making me feel better.
I turned toward her and stuck my fist out, she rolled her eyes and stuck
hers out as well, and we played a round of rock, paper, scissors to see
who started. Don't ask me where these strange little things come from; I
have no real memory of how this ritual got started.
She has no idea that I can tell from the way her wrist muscles
tighten which move she is going to use. I make it a point not to win all
the time, and she doesn't suspect. I won this time.
'You first,' I declared and she stuck out her tongue.
'Well, you know that Justin and I were supposed to be going
to the Screaming Wombats concert this weekend?'
I rolled my eyes; I think I have a fairly eclectic taste in
music...but the Screaming Wombats?
'You've only been talking about it for the past month,' I
teased. 'Your first trip away from home, just the two of you since Carrie
was born.' I didn't have to point out that Carrie was now four, excuse me;
four years old.
Her face waffled back and forth between, 'I'm going to cry'
and 'I'm going to kill somebody ' and she finally blurted, 'Justin's stupid
sister was supposed to keep Carrie for the weekend and she called this morning
and backed out.'
I made that weird groaning noise you make when you're trying
to be sympathetic. 'Well that completely sucks.'
'Tell me about it. The tickets are paid for and I'm going
to lose the deposit on the hotel room and everything.' She sighed heavily
and then she grinned. 'Your turn.'
'Well,' I murmured, 'as it turns out, my irritation of the
day may just be a solution to your irritation of the day.'
So I whined about Heero dumping his news on me at the last
minute, pointed out that I now had absolutely nothing going on for the next
week and a half to two weeks and would be more than happy to baby-sit my
Goddaughter for the weekend.
'Oh Gods, Duo!' I thought she was going to cry. 'Do you mean
'If....' I warned, 'you clear it with Justin first.'
She sobered. Her husband had not been all that enthralled
with me since the St. Bernard incident. Come on; can't a guy buy a puppy
for his only Godchild?
Paul came in not long after that, and I found something for
the two of us to go do so that Misty could have some privacy to call her
hubby and do her best to convince him that I was trustworthy enough to watch
his little Princess for two or three days. I didn't really want to be around
to hear how much she had to cajole. I gave it a good half an hour before
Paul and I went back into the room, and the solar flares and moonbeams emanating
from her face gave me my answer. I now had plans for the weekend.
She smirked at me. 'There's a few... rules, Boss-man.'
'Hit me with them, Number One.' This should be good; let's
see if good ol' Justin left me any loopholes.
'When we come home, we do not have anything living at our
house that wasn't there when we left.'
'Done,' I nodded. I had learned a thing or two from the puppy
'We will write up a pre-set menu for Carrie. No caffeine.
No chocolate. Limited sugar.'
I rolled my eyes, but nodded. I heard a stifled snicker from
Paul's direction and had to take a moment to glare at him.
'No extravagant, outlandish gifts.' She had the grace to look
a little embarrassed, and I was sure this list was generated straight from
I hesitated. 'Define extravagant.'
'Nothing bigger than a breadbox or more expensive than a damned
I hid the feral grin, appearing on the outside to nod in resignation.
Good try Justin my boy, but that left all kinds of loopholes.
Her eyes dropped as she muttered, 'He doesn't want to hear
any complaints from the neighbors.' At least she had stopped pretending
these were anything but his ideas. I only raised an eyebrow on that one,
not deigning to speak.
She hesitated slightly, then said in a rush, 'No structural
changes to the house.'
Paul laughed out loud. I didn't have to glare at him; Misty
did it. 'I didn't make this shit up, ok?'
'Is that all?' I queried with a raised eyebrow and she nodded
'I think I can stay within the confines of the... regulations,'
I assured her. She beamed.
All for the sake of the Screaming Wombats; go figure.
Arrangements were made for me to be at her house that evening
at seven, with bags packed and bells on. I found I was actually looking
forward to it. I enjoyed Carrie's company; she was a sweet kid. So unlike
all the other children I had known in my lifetime. Untouched by a war that
had ended before her birth. I cherished that.
My phone rang during the noon hour and I saw Heero's extension
on the display. Misty and Paul were both out to lunch, and being alone,
I was suddenly overtaken with a perverse mood, and I let it ring. He was
only calling to apologize and say goodbye before they left for the shuttle
port. I was still stinging enough from the morning that I just didn't want
to hear it. I wasn't quite ready to be over it, but at the same time, wasn't
quite mad enough to take the argument up again. So I watched it ring, watched
it stop, and stared at it until the message light came on. And yes, I scooped
it up on the first flash of the damned little green light.
'Duo...' There was a heavy sigh. 'Damn it...I hate these things.'
Meaning the voice mail. There was a pause, I knew he was debating hanging
up. 'Love... I'm sorry. It was wrong of me... I just... can't stand to see
that look on your face...' I heard a voice in the background that sounded
like Wufei, probably telling him to hurry up, there was another sigh. 'I
can't do this on a stupid machine... I'll call you tonight... Duo, I love
I played the damn thing three times and then deleted it. Stop
laughing; I know I'm pathetic.
It had been a really stupid argument and I knew it. I don't
really know if I was even still mad. Not even really hurt, just a little
stung. A little irritated. Heero had done something stupid. I had over-reacted.
We'd had some words. Not the first argument we'd had in our long history
together, and I'm sure it most certainly would not be the last. As sure
as the Gods made little green apples; it wouldn't be the last.
I dialed his extension and, of course, got his voice mail.
I'd missed him. He checked his voice mail while out of town like other people
'Heero...' I put the grin into my voice for him. 'Heart and
soul... asshole.' And I hung up.
It didn't take much to mend things when you've been together
as long as we have. By the time he got home, the whole thing would be forgotten.
The rest of the day went by fairly quickly, the high-light
of the afternoon coming when we got to make fun of the guy in Accounting
who spent fifteen minutes trying to login to the network with his caps lock
key on. He fumed and yelled about us locking his account out for a good
five minutes. It was sheer bliss to watch Paul calmly reach over his shoulder
and almost gently press that single key and politely ask the man to try
just one more time. His face turned the most interesting shade of red I
have ever seen. It was worth the trip to the second floor just to watch.
It probably wouldn't have been near as funny if it hadn't been the third
time it had happened in the last month.
I went home in a much better mood than I had been in when
I arrived that morning, despite the long drive home alone. Though I did
take advantage of it by rolling all the windows down and turning the stereo
way up. Something Heero had never developed an appreciation for.
Whatever irritation I had left over vanished when I arrived
home, walked into the bedroom to pack and found the roses lying on my side
of the bed. A single red and a single white, bound together with a ribbon.
The flowers themselves were enough to lighten my mood, but what really put
the grin on my face was the mental picture I had of Wufei's face as he rolled
his eyes and growled in exasperation about the stupid delay. I could almost
hear him telling Heero that they were going to miss the damned shuttle if
he didn't hurry the hell up! I put the roses in water and set them in the
middle of the kitchen table. I chuckled the whole time I was changing clothes
Misty and I had discussed dinner for the evening, and Carrie
and I had been granted permission to order pizza delivery. Heero was not
a huge fan of pizza, and hated having it delivered. It creeped him out to
imagine his dinner being handled by some delivery driver for however long
it took to get to the apartment. I think he'd seen one too many exposes
on TV. On the rare occasions that he would consent to pizza, we could order
it out, but he always went to pick it up. Kind of took the fun out of it,
if you asked me. The whole point to pizza, as far as I'm concerned, is that
somebody else is doing all the work and then bringing it right to you. Thirty
minutes or free and all that. I usually had pizza at least once whenever
he was out of town.
I drove over to Misty and Justin's, arriving promptly at seven.
I didn't have to knock, the minute I pulled up, there was the sound of furious,
high-pitched puppy barks from within, mingled with high-pitched childish
squeals. My Godchild is kind of fond of me, ok? So's her dog. I honest to
the Gods think that's what really bugs Justin about me; his dog likes me
better than him. I encourage this. I spoil the puppy almost as much as the
kid; there were puppy treats in my jacket pocket. Carrie's present was tucked
into my duffle bag, where it would stay until her wet-blanket parents were
on their way. I had not spent an entire paycheck on it. Almost, but not
'Unca Duo!' came the shriek as the front door flew open and
my Goddaughter was charging out and leaping off the porch, utterly confident
that I would catch her.
She is the spitting image of her mother, from the curly, unruly
hair, to the grin plastered all over her face. She has her father's eyes,
and I think she'll have his height, but her exuberance is all Misty's.
The barking puppy joined us, doing his best to jump up into
my arms as well, or at least high enough to get at the jacket pocket that
he knew held his treat. He wasn't much of a puppy anymore; growing fast.
But then, he was a St. Bernard. He could almost reach the pocket after putting
his front paws up on my thigh.
'Down, Bernie,' I commanded; best nip this behavior in the
bud before he got big enough to knock my ass over.
He sat obediently; tail wagging so hard his whole back end
was wiggling, and waited until I gave him his treat. Then the three of us
went in the house.
Carrie's parents were waiting almost impatiently for us in
the living room. I blinked at the sight of my assistant Network Administrator
in a dress. A low cut, black sheath dress no less, with pearls.
'Isn't Mommy pretty, Unca Duo?' Carrie beamed at her mother
from her perch on my left hip as though it were somehow her doing.
I smirked at the two of them, standing there dressed to the
nines and more than ready to be on their way, 'Ok, who the... heck are you
and what have you done with Number One?'
Misty blushed all the way down to...all the way down the front
of her low cut dress. Justin slipped a somewhat possessive arm around her
waist, and just for giggles, I checked him out as well; just to make him
squirm and remind him that I really didn't have any interest in his wife.
Their car was already packed, and I only had to stand and
listen to the standard 'this is where we'll be, call if anything comes up'
speech. Dinner and dancing tonight, concert tomorrow night; here are the
numbers... blah, blah, blah. Carrie and I stood in the driveway and waved
until the car was out of sight.
There was a tiny little moment where I saw her lip tremble
and I felt a twinge of panic. I aborted it with a cheery, 'Ready to call
the pizza delivery guy?'
'Yeah!' We raced back to the house, Bernie dancing around
us, intent on making somebody fall down where he could reach their faces.
I foiled Bernie and still managed to let Carrie win the race.
I splurged, and ordered us a pizza each because I intended
to enjoy this, damnit, and I really do not like plain cheese pizza.
We put in the 'Labyrinth' disc and skipped through it to all
the musical numbers so we could dance. I 'heard' the pizza delivery guy
every five minutes and kept her running back and forth to the door to check.
That, by the way, is the secret Duo Maxwell babysitting method; utterly
foolproof. Wear the little buggers out so completely they pass out at bedtime
without the energy to argue.
We danced to the door when the pizza finally arrived to 'Magic
Dance', ignoring the drivers rolling eyes. I tipped him well enough, and
he went away smiling.
I locked Bernie in the utility room so we could eat on the
living room floor and we started the movie over from the beginning to watch
while we ate. We cheered for the fox, and yelled for Sarah to just freaking
turn around for once, and held our noses the whole time they were in the
bog of eternal stench. Clapped whenever Bluto made the rocks move and booed
the Goblin King. When the pizza was gone, we let Bernie out, and he ran
in happy circles around the whole house before coming to flop down on the
floor beside us.
Then was cleanup time and then was bedtime. I had no trouble
getting her to run off and get changed for bed after she saw the package
that I pulled out of my duffle bag but wouldn't let her have until she was
in her pajamas and her hair was brushed. I know a little something about
kids. Especially kids you are not going to have to live with constantly.
Her nice, normal, slightly strict parents were more than enough to counterbalance
my occasional extravagances.
You know what a Steiff is? I didn't the first time I saw one.
I just saw this absolutely gorgeous teddy bear. I wanted it for Carrie the
instant I saw it; it was the same color as her hair and had the same rich
chocolate brown eyes. It had a big green ribbon around its neck, which just
happens to be Carrie's favorite color. Then I saw the price tag and I believe
Heero had to reach out and push my jaw back in place. I love teddy bears,
ok? Never had one. I really wanted to get Carrie a teddy bear, but I wanted
it to be perfect, and this one fit the bill. I walked away from that stupid
bear five times. The sixth time I stopped to look at it, two months later,
Heero picked it up off the shelf and plopped it in my hands.
'Just buy the damned thing, will you?' he had grinned at me.
And I had. My conscience was still stinging.
I let her unwrap it just before her bedtime story. Her eyes
grew wide and she squealed with that happy, childish glee that kids lose
by the time they get to be six or seven and they suddenly become aware that
people are watching them when they open packages. At four, you still got
the unadulterated, honest reaction and big sloppy kisses if you're lucky.
I got a hug too.
She promptly named the thing 'Dirt' because that was what
his color reminded her of. I laughed until the tears ran down my face and
she giggled with me, not really understanding why we were laughing so hard.
Then I tucked her in under the quilt I had made her when she
was born and settled down to tell her the story of the Princess and the
five Guardian Spirits. You don't think that Duo Maxwell would just read
any old fairy tale, do you? Hell no; I made up all the stories I told my
'Unca Duo?' she asked me when I got to the part where the
great bear spirit completed the first quest to win his way through the first
portal where he met the great hawk spirit.
'How come you're so happy?'
I blinked at her for a minute. 'What makes you think I'm so
'Daddy says you are.'
I'm slow, ok? It took me almost a full thirty seconds before
I processed it and figured out the slight miscommunication between father
I laughed out loud, confirming for her that I was, indeed,
'I guess,' I told her with a grin. 'I'm happy because Uncle
Heero loves me so much.'
She let me go back to the story then, and I told the part
where the great bear and the great hawk had to join forces to complete the
second quest in order to open the second portal where they teamed up with
the great wolf spirit. Then I kissed her goodnight and turned the light
off. She was asleep before I got back to the living room, Bernie at my heels.
I settled on the couch and flipped on the news to check the
weather. I was thinking about the zoo tomorrow, but wasn't sure if it was
going to be clear or not.
My cell phone rang promptly at ten and I pulled it out, noting
Heero's number before answering it with a soft, 'Hey.'
'Are you all right?' His voice sounded strained and I realized
he had probably called the apartment first.
'Fine,' I chuckled at him. 'You left me high and dry so I
made other arrangements.' I left only the slightest pause. 'I'm babysitting
Carrie for the weekend.'
Relief was plain in his voice. 'I was worried when I didn't
get an answer at home.' There was another pause, 'Duo...I'm sorry. I...'
'Let's not,' I told him warmly. 'I don't want to get started
again.' I chuckled, 'I mean; we're happy, right?'
He could hear in my voice that there was a story here and
So I told him about my conversation with Carrie and we laughed
'You know,' he said at length. 'Justin really is an asshole.'
I snorted. 'Oh, I don't know.' I thought about it, 'There
must be something to the guy. I mean, Misty loves him.'
It was his turn to snort softly. 'There's just no accounting
for taste. I don't like his attitude toward you. He never hesitates to use
you whenever he needs a babysitter or...'
'Heero,' I admonished softly and he quieted with a sigh, it
was an old argument. 'Besides,' I grinned, 'he did so hesitate,' and I told
him about the list of rules.
He laughed out loud then and I had to smirk. 'I got him though;
I gave her the bear tonight.'
'What did she think?' he asked, and I was pleased that his
thoughts were on Carrie, and not Justin.
'She loved it,' I chuckled wryly. 'She named it 'Dirt'.'
That got me another hard laugh. 'Children certainly know how
to put things in perspective, don't they?'
There was a small, companionable silence and then, 'Duo...
I love you.'
I smiled up at the ceiling and scratched Bernie behind the
ear. 'I love you too.'
'Even if I'm an asshole?'
'Maybe because you are such an asshole,' I teased lightly.
'I wish I was there,' he said softly then.
'Hey,' I told him, 'you're the one who left me, remember?'
The next silence was strained.
'Heero?' I ventured into it. 'Come on, Heero; I was teasing.
I got over it, ok?'
'I didn't,' he told me gently. 'I feel awful. I don't even
really know why I didn't tell you.'
'Because,' I informed him with a sigh, 'you can't stand to
upset me or make me sad. And your going away always makes me sad.'
'That...' Did you know you could hear someone blush? 'That
pretty much covers it, I guess. Sounds pretty stupid when you put it that
'It sounds sweet,' I smiled. 'Damned annoying; but sweet all
'I want you in my arms,' he breathed softly, and I shivered;
I could hear his need clear across the miles.
I closed my eyes. 'I'm there, my love.' We just sat for a
bit and listened to nothing, just having that open line between us.
'Hey, the roses were... a nice touch. Thank you,' I told him
and he made a small grunt that sounded pleased. There was more comfortable
'Where are you sleeping?' he asked after a while.
'On the couch,' I said dryly. 'I can't stand the idea of sleeping
in their bed; it's just... weird.'
He chuckled. 'Stay warm,' he told me in a voice designed to
raise the temperature.
'No problem there,' I purred. 'I have Bernie.'
It took him almost two heartbeats. I thought I would choke
'The dog,' he said when it finally clicked in his head.
'Who did you think I meant?' I asked innocently.
'You are evil, Duo Maxwell.' I could hear the grin.
'Good night, love,' I said gently.
'Good night, my heart.'
And we hung up. Shit. I had missed the weather. So I sat up
another hour only to find out it was probably going to rain.
I lay down on the couch to sleep and decided pretty quick
that Bernie was going to be more of a liability than an asset. Warm he might
have been, but he also drooled, he was getting damned heavy, and frankly...
his breath smelled.
I woke the next morning feeling like I'd been beaten with
a stick and decided that tonight Bernie was sleeping in the garage. On a
strange whim, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Heero's voice mail.
'Get your damned assignment finished and get your butt home.
As a bed partner, Bernie sucks.' And I hung up.
I am not foolish enough to wake a sleeping child, especially
on a Saturday, and managed a couple of peaceful hours before Carrie came
wandering out yawning and dragging Dirt behind her.
Her eyes widened in remembrance when she saw me, 'Unca Duo!'
and I was treated to another running tackle as though she hadn't seen me
We had cereal for breakfast and watched cartoons for an hour
or so. I could not believe that coyote still after all these years hadn't
caught that stupid roadrunner. Go figure. I'd always had him pegged as the
brighter of the two. I guess it just goes to show that dumb luck can take
you a long way. I'd always had a certain affinity for the coyote. But I
really think he should have just sued Acme and bought himself a good meal.
I aborted the trip to the zoo, because it was threatening
rain, and we went to the museum instead. Hey, I'm not a complete waste as
a Godfather; I occasionally do educational things too. We had a blast in
the dinosaur exhibit, I got the pre-requisite picture taken of us in the
mouth of the T-Rex, we got down in the sand pit and dug for fossils, I bought
us ice cream. Then we wandered into the aerospace section and I thought
somebody had punched me in the stomach.
As you round the curved wall that separates the dinosaur exhibit
from the space section, you are greeted with a full size, floor to ceiling,
artists rendering of Wing Gundam self-destructing. The artist had done a
damned impressive job. I almost threw up. I stood and blinked up at it,
turned to stone in the middle of the aisle; an obstacle in the flow of people.
It took Carrie tugging on my hand to bring me back to the
here and now.
'Unca Duo, come on!' A happy, four-year-old, not all that
interested in looking at murals when more interesting things beckoned from
I let her drag we away, but had to find a bench after a couple
of minutes because I thought my knees were going to give out.
A tiny bit of advice for you; don't ever let one of the darkest
moments of your life turn into a piece of history.
There was a mock up, cut-away model of a Leo in the middle
of the room and I let Carrie go crawl around in it with the other kids while
I tried to put my heart back in my chest. I couldn't believe how the years
had just melted away and hauled my ass back to the war. I looked around
at the rest of the exhibit, and decided pretty quickly that we were going
to have to leave there and get on to the botanical gardens. Soon.
But first, there was something I had to do. I felt extremely
embarrassed about it, but I didn't bloody well care. I pulled out my cell
phone and dialed Heero's number. I knew he was probably in the middle of
something, but I also knew he would never ignore my call.
'Hello?' I heard his voice, tinged faintly with concern and
I felt the iron band around my chest loosen and I was able to breathe again.
'Busy?' I asked softly, and I knew my voice was a little unsteady.
My eyes never left Carrie as she clambered around inside a replica of a
death machine that had tried to kill me a hundred times over.
"Never,' he said and I could hear him moving. I knew
he was probably leaving a meeting or something and I felt vaguely bad about
After a few moments, his voice came again. 'What's wrong?'
I sighed. 'Nothing really,' I reassured him, and a slightly
hysterical bubble of a laugh tried to force its way passed my lips. 'Just
needed to know what year it was.'
'Duo?' he questioned, his tone telling me I was scaring him.
I took a deep calming breath. 'I'm sorry love... I'll tell
you all about it when you come home. I just... I had to hear your voice.
I could tell he was still concerned and I really did start
to feel guilty for bothering him. Now that the shock of it was fading, I
was starting to feel kind of stupid. Carrie chose that moment to run over.
'Unca Duo! Who ya talkin' to?' she squealed. 'Is it Mommy?'
'No sweetie, it's Uncle Heero,' I told her. 'Just a minute...'
'Can I talk?' She was reaching for the phone, bouncing up
and down and I sighed heavily.
'Not right now...' I started to tell her, but Heero interrupted
'It's all right,' I could hear the smile. 'I have a minute.'
So I handed the phone to her and took that minute he was giving
me to get myself back together. I was only half hearing what she was babbling
'I gots a new bear and his name is Dirt and we had pizza and
we dug in the sand and found old bones and I gots strawberry ice c'eam and
I got to climb on this big 'bot called a lee-oh and...'
Kids don't understand punctuation at all. She talked a blue
streak; Wufei liked to say that it was pretty obvious that she was my Goddaughter.
I was just thinking that I should probably take the phone away from her
and rescue Heero when she got quiet and began nodding intently, then said,
'ok. Bye,' and handed the phone back to me right before she threw her arms
around my neck and hugged me tight enough to make the air hiss out of my
'That's from Unca Heero,' she told me solemnly and then ran
back to play on the Lee-oh.
I raised the phone to my ear, and he must have heard me.
'I'm here,' I told him.
'I love you,' his voice was that soothing one that he uses
when the nightmares come stalking.
'I know,' I told him around the lump in my throat. 'I love
'You going to be all right?'
I chuckled lightly. 'Yeah... it's a freaking museum, Heero.
I'm fine. I just needed to... hear your voice.'
'Museum?' he questioned, but I knew he needed to go.
'Later, my love,' I told him gently. 'Get back to work.'
'I'll call you tonight.'
'Damn straight,' I growled, and he chuckled lightly for me.
We hung up.
Being a part of history... sucks.
It took the lure of another dish of ice cream to get Carrie
out of that room full of ghosts and bad dreams. It took a half an hour of
wandering around in the gardens watching Carrie chase butterflies before
I could shake off that damned mental image. I took a bunch of pictures,
managing to catch a large yellow butterfly sitting in her hair and then
we went to the gift shop. I let her pick whatever she wanted, and was a
little surprised when she came to the cash register lugging a stuffed black
panther that rivaled Bernie in size.
'Like on my blanky, Unca Duo,' she proclaimed, and of course
that touched my heart so much that she got the three picture books, the
six beanbag tree frogs, and the coloring book she wanted as well. I couldn't
break up a family of tree frogs, now could I? I bought her a jacket too,
because it was getting cold out and we hadn't needed them that morning when
we left the house.
I let her pick where we ate dinner, and ended up eating burgers
and fries at this place with a guy wandering around the dining room in a
giant blue bird suit. I've eaten worse; just not in a lot of years.
We stopped by the disc rental place and she picked out three
movies and I bought one of those big bags of popcorn for later. It was starting
to rain by the time we got back to the house.
Bernie was ecstatic to see us, thundering around us in circles,
wagging his whole butt and barking in pure, puppy joy. When he calmed down
enough, I put some of the popcorn out in a bowl, grabbed a soda for myself
and a juice for Carrie, and the three of us settled on the couch to watch
three hours of cartoon bliss.
I was exhausted. Gods, where do kids get their energy? My
legs ached all the way up to the back of my neck. We were half way through
the Charlie Brown Christmas special, don't ask me; I didn't pick it, when
I noticed that Bernie was acting funny. His tail was tucked and he was kind
of whiney, and wouldn't get off my lap no matter what I did. We had just
started Fraggle Rock when I heard the distant sound of sirens.
'What's that?' Carrie wanted to know, and I had to pretend
a certain nonchalance as I turned off the disc and switched on the news.
'I'm not sure munchkin, let's see if there's something about
it on TV.'
We had just enough time to hear the tornado warning before
the power went out.
'Unca Duo?' Her voice was high-pitched and frightened.
'It's ok, Sweetie,' I lied. 'It's just a power failure, I'll
get a flashlight.'
I had to get her to hold on to Bernie, because he wanted to
follow me, and I was having enough trouble navigating the unfamiliar surroundings
in the dark. There was a surreal, flashback kind of moment as I moved through
the house with my arms sweeping my path, before I found a flashlight in
the kitchen and flicked it on.
My mouth was babbling on to her about the grand adventure
we were going to have, even as my hands were gathering things we might need.
My brain had kicked into that ancient 'soldier going to ground' mode. I
was a little shocked at how easy it came back. Necessities: water, food,
warmth, shelter, light, weapons... Oooops; wrong reality.
I got the dog leash, a couple of bottles of water out of the
fridge, and a handful of granola bars out of the cupboard.
I sent Carrie on a mission to get her jacket because it might
be cold on our 'quest'. She came back clutching Dirt and her quilt as well.
I made sure I had my cell phone and my own jacket, clipped
Bernie's leash on him and took us down to the basement.
It was the typical cluttered basement; boxes and tools and
dirty clothes, the laundry room was down there. I looked around for the
best place to take shelter, all too aware of the sound of the rising wind,
and the sound of Bernie's whimpers.
There was an old cast iron sink in the corner, Misty had told
me it had been left in the house when they moved in five years ago. It was
a large, deep, double sided thing, still there only because nobody cared
enough to break their back trying to get it hauled up the stairs. It was
'Here, honey,' I told Carrie, who was looking at my wide-eyed.
Wondering, I imagined, when the adventure was supposed to start. 'Hold the
flashlight while I... look for the first portal.'
She giggled. 'But Unca Duo, the bear has to find the first
pothole,' she corrected me, but held the flashlight in the right general
I pulled the sink out from the wall, and wrestled it over
on its side; I used my hands to brush it free of dust and cobwebs, and beckoned
'Look, Princess!' I exclaimed. 'A secret cave!'
She giggled and ran over, Bernie at her heels. 'That's a sink!'
'Work with me here a little, will ya Princess?' I laughed,
and took her quilt from her to fold and wrap around her like a cloak. 'There;
now you look like a Princess.'
She beamed. 'Unca Duo, you're silly!' She giggled some more.
I took the flashlight back, and shined it into the 'cave'.
'In you go my brave, adventurous Princess!' I urged her in,
trying to keep my voice calm even as my heart was starting to pound. The
wind was getting louder.
Finally, she consented to get down and crawl into the secret
'It's not a very big cave,' she observed after she got settled.
'It's gonna get smaller,' I muttered, and gave Bernie a shove
toward the shelter. He needed no urging, liking the looks of the little
hidey-hole and crawling in with her. 'The Princess has to have her brave
and loyal guard dog!' I smiled and then crouched down in front of the opening.
I shoved the water and food in the other 'cave' and grabbed hold of the
edge of the sink; turning the flashlight off and tucking in my jacket pocket.
'Ok,' I tried very hard to keep my voice light, but I had
to raise it a little to be heard. 'The Princess is going to stay in the
cave with her brave guard dog no matter what, ok?'
It was starting to get through to her that this wasn't a game
any more, and she nodded hard. 'Unca Duo?'
'I want my Mommy and Daddy.' It came out sounding really scared.
'I know, sweetie. I want Uncle Heero.' I had to force it to
come out not sounding scared.
That was about all we had time for. Bernie started to howl,
and Carrie clutched Dirt to her face as hard as she could, and I just did
my best to shelter the entrance to the secret cave like any good Guardian
Spirit would do. It sounded like a freight train was headed right for us.
Hang on Toto; we're not in Kansas anymore.
I hadn't slept well; I never do when I'm away from Duo. I
woke long before the alarm went off and just lay in the dark staring up
at the ceiling thinking about what a total idiot I could be.
I will never understand how it is that he makes me do the
things he makes me do. Not that I am saying for a minute that I thought
the argument was his fault. I just would never have done what I had done
to anybody else. I had known about this trip for a week, and had just kept
putting off telling him about it. It's not that he gives me a hard time
about them, but he always gets this look on his face...I can't take that
look on his face. He tries not to show it, and I don't suppose anybody else
would see the shadow in his eyes that tells me how miserable it makes him.
He hates to be apart from me as much as I hate to be apart from him. Gods;
you'd think after all these years together we'd get over that. I think it's
something that has roots in those days of assignments ripping us apart,
sometimes for months at a time. Living in constant fear, wondering where
the other one was. Wondering what their missions were. Wondering when we'd
manage to see each other again. Wondering if we'd manage to see each other
again. It's just something that gets into your bones and never really goes
I finally said the hell with it and just went ahead and got
up, showered and got dressed. I sat and watched the early morning news until
I thought that Wufei would be up and called his room to see if he wanted
to get breakfast. I really didn't feel like being alone.
I left the door unlocked for him and after he was dressed
and ready, he came across the hall. We sat and finished watching the news
together. We were several hundred miles from home and though the day here
seemed to be clear, it looked like Duo and Carrie were in for some heavy
rain before the day was out.
'We need to get going if we're going to have time to eat,'
Wufei observed. 'We have a meeting at eight.'
I grunted and switched off the television, grabbing my jacket
as we started for the door.
'So,' Wufei smirked at me, 'did you and Maxwell make up last
I glowered at him. 'Yes, thank you very much for your concern.'
'Did the roses help?' He couldn't help letting his smirk widen.
'Yes,' I had to admit, though grudgingly. 'Thanks for the
He chuckled lightly. 'Well, you were obviously the one who
owed the apology, because it was a completely brainless thing to do.'
I just glared at him as we stepped into the elevator. He chuckled
a little more as he hit the button for the lobby. In my pocket, my cell
phone vibrated to tell me I had voice mail. I frowned and pulled it out;
it hadn't rung, so I hadn't missed a call. I punched up the message and
heard the warm, teasing tones of my lover.
'Get your damned assignment finished and get your butt home.
As a bed partner, Bernie sucks.'
Beside me, Wufei couldn't contain a horrified gasp; my partner
has exceptional hearing. I laughed out loud, I'm not sure if at Duo's message,
or Wufei's reaction.
'Bernie is Misty's dog,' I informed my shocked companion.
'Duo is babysitting Carrie this weekend.'
I entertained myself for the next couple of floors watching
his face change color.
Breakfast was an awkward thing for a little bit, until Wufei
got over his consternation. Then we settled down to going over reports and
comparing notes. The local law enforcement offices had reason to believe
that there was a serious weapons dealer working out of their jurisdiction,
and had called the Preventers in when they figured out that the type of
weapons were entirely out of their league. We were scheduled for a sit down
meeting with them in a half an hour, despite its being a Saturday. We had
split the pile of documentation last night, each of us taking half of it
to read over in our rooms. We shared the information over fresh fruit and
It looked like it was going to be a fairly cut and dried affair.
The evidence was quite clear, the locals had done an amazing amount of digging
prior to calling us in, and it was just a matter now of making the arrangements
for a full scale Preventer's raid. They really only needed us for the high-tech
muscle and the armament. I personally held out hope that this was not going
to take the two weeks we had originally allowed.
This stage of things, however, was nothing but meetings and
talking, and by lunchtime I was entirely sick of it. I was just about ready
to take a couple of handguns and Wufei and go route the nest of warmongers
out by ourselves, then I could go home to Duo where I could get a decent
Once, I had been forced by circumstances to go off on a week
long, middle of nowhere, stake out while Duo was injured. This was back
at the end of the war when missions were still missions, and the needs and
wants of young soldiers mattered not one whit. After several nights of almost
no sleep at all, Wufei had desperately suggested that we try sleeping in
the same bed. Equally desperate, I had agreed, and actually did sleep a
little better. I'm pretty sure, however that Chang Wufei slept not two minutes
after I rolled over in my sleep and threw an arm around him. He didn't offer
a second night.
'What are you smirking at, Yuy?' he frowned at me over lunch,
catching me wool gathering.
'Just... memories,' I informed him with a smile, not elaborating.
'I don't think I want to know,' he said, and I smirked again,
thinking no, you do not.
We finished our lunch just in time to rush back to a meeting
with the Chief of Police and the departments' legal advisors. Twenty minutes
into the meeting, my cell phone rang and I glanced at it, seeing Duo's number.
I passed Wufei a glance to tell him to take over the conversation, muttered
an apology and answered my phone. I never ignore Duo's calls. It's a personal
rule of mine. He could call me in the middle of a firefight and I would
answer the damn phone.
'Hello?' I couldn't quite keep the apprehension out of my
voice. Duo didn't call me at the drop of a hat in the middle of the day
like this unless it was important. He knew I would most likely be working.
I heard a shaky breath. 'Busy?' There was a strange quaver
in his voice and I could hear the sound of laughing children in the background.
I made pointed eye contact with Wufei and rose to leave the
room. 'Never,' I told him firmly and didn't speak again until I had gotten
out to the hallway. 'What's wrong?' I asked softly.
'Nothing really,' he said, but that strange quality to his
voice told me different. There was a brief silence and an aborted laugh
that sounded strained. 'Just needed to know what year it was.'
He didn't sound good. 'Duo?' I questioned, growing truly concerned.
I heard him take a steadying breath. 'I'm sorry love... I'll
tell you all about it when you come home. I just... I had to hear your voice.
I wasn't at all sure what to say to him, I couldn't for the
life of me think what might be wrong. Then there was the muted chatter of
Carrie's happy voice in the background. I could hear her trying to get the
phone away from Duo, and I could hear his weary voice trying to calm her.
'It's all right,' I told him warmly, 'I have a minute.'
She was talking almost before she got the phone close enough
to her mouth for it to pick up. 'I gots a new bear and his name is Dirt
and we had pizza and we dug in the sand and found old bones and I gots strawberry
ice c'eam and I got to climb on this big 'bot called a lee-oh and...'
This, I decided could go on all day. 'Carrie, can you do something
for me?' I finally caught her attention.
'Uh-huh,' she confirmed.
'Will you give Uncle Duo a big, hard hug and tell him it's
from... Uncle Heero?'
'Ok. Bye,' she told me with firm resolve and I snorted; mission
There was a long moment of silence and then I heard... something
that let me know Duo was on the other end of that open line again.
'Duo?' I asked gently.
'I'm here,' he told me, sounding a little better.
'I love you,' I told him, trying to put as much behind it
as I could on a stupid cell phone.
'I know,' he said, voice sounding thick. 'I love you too.'
'You going to be all right?'
He chuckled lightly. 'Yeah... it's a freaking museum, Heero.
I'm fine. I just needed to... hear your voice.' There was that strange wobble
'Museum?' I asked, trying to figure how a trip to the museum
could have triggered this kind of anxiety.
'Later, my love,' he told him gently. 'Get back to work.'
'I'll call you tonight,' I tried again to reassure. Tried
to give him whatever it was he had called needing.
'Damn straight,' he growled, trying to cover up that something
was bothering him still. There wasn't much I could do from here, and I chuckled
softly for him, letting him think that I was fooled. We hung up.
I went back to the meeting, not able to keep the frown from
my face, and Wufei caught my eye at the first opportunity. I just shook
my head with a look that told him, later.
We finished the meeting by mid-afternoon, and decided to take
a 'scenic' drive past the warehouse under suspicion.
Wufei pounced as soon as we were alone in the car together.
'Anything wrong?' Trying to sound casual and not really succeeding.
In his own way, he worries about things almost as much as I do.
'I'm not really sure,' I sighed, picking up on the thread
of our non-verbal conversation from earlier, even though it had been an
hour since Duo's call. 'I think Duo took Carrie to the museum and something...
seems to have upset him.'
There was a sudden, tense silence and I glanced at Wufei's
profile; saw the muscles of his jaw working hard.
'What?' I questioned, knowing without a doubt that he knew
'You two don't ever go down to the museum, do you?' he queried,
and not for the first time in our long relationship I wanted to throttle
'Spit it out, Wufei,' I growled and he grimaced.
'There is a fairly new space and the colonies exhibit.' He
hesitated. 'There's a rather... shocking mural of...Wing.'
'My Gundam?' A strange chill ran up my spine. 'Shocking how?'
'An artist's interpretation of the time you self-destructed.'
He chose the wrong moment to get blunt, and I almost rear-ended a car at
a red light.
'Shit,' I blurted, the whole thing falling into place. I suddenly
knew what a lee-oh was.
'How did he sound?' Wufei wanted to know.
'Pretty shaken up,' I murmured. 'I thought at first... from
the sound of his voice, that there'd been some kind of accident.'
'It is rather... arresting,' he told me, looking out the passenger
window. 'And I wasn't... alone.'
There wasn't a whole lot I could say to that, and we drove
on in silence. I'm not sure what he was thinking about, I was just cursing
this damned mission and wishing I could get home.
We did a quick drive-by on the warehouse, I like to see a
target first hand whenever possible, and by the time we were through there,
it was getting late. We went to find someplace to eat and it was almost
five before we got back to the hotel. We went our separate ways, I heard
Wufei turning on his television even as I was going into my room. I only
took the time to remove my jacket and tie before reaching for my phone.
I was a little irritated at the sudden harsh knock on my door, even more
so when Wufei burst in, wordlessly going to turn on my TV. I started to
snap at him; I really just wanted a little privacy to talk to Duo. But the
stricken look on his face stopped me cold. In my ear, I could hear Duo's
cell phone beginning to ring.
Wufei ruthlessly thumbed through the channels, pulling up
a newscast that was showing aerial pictures of a tornado-devastated neighborhood.
In my right ear, I was listening to the familiar voice of our local newscaster
from back home, his report picked up by the national stations, giving times
and areas. In my left ear, I was hearing the sound of un-answered ringing.
I did not recognize either Misty's house, or her neighborhood
in the pictures in front of us. There wasn't enough left for anything to
look familiar. My knees sagged and I sat down heavily on the bed. Duo's
cell phone apologized and asked if I would like to leave a message.
I don't know if it was the pain, the ringing of the cell phone,
or Carrie's broken sobs that finally pulled me back to consciousness. I
blinked my eyes open and had to bite down hard on an outcry. Bloody hell;
having a house fall on your ass really hurts.
I tried to get my head together, and take stock of things.
I was almost totally pinned to the ground. I was buried in... house from
about mid-chest on down. Though my arms were free, moving my left one was
causing an unbearable pain in my chest and back. Breathing was hard. I tried
to shift and almost blacked out again. Couldn't do that; couldn't leave
Carrie here alone.
'Munchkin?' I called softly because my voice didn't work too
well without any air behind it.
'Unca Duo?' I could hear the stark terror in her voice, but
by the Gods she had stayed where I had put her.
'It's ok, sweetie,' I told her, and tried to see my watch
in the gloom to judge how long I had been out. I was able to stick my arm
out toward her. 'Can you push the button and tell me what the numbers are?'
I asked, and she seemed a little relieved to have something to do. Or maybe
she was just relieved to have me talking again.
She dutifully pressed the light button, and her crying subsided
a little as she bent to read me the numbers. It was just after five. I hadn't
been out more than five or six minutes. I took my arm back and let it rest
on the floor.
'That's good, honey.' I was left gasping from that small exertion,
and I had to wonder just how badly I was hurt. 'Are you ok?'
Uh-huh,' she confirmed and sniffled a little bit. 'I want
'I know,' I reassured her. 'It's gonna be all right. Uncle
Heero will come and get us.'
'And my Daddy too?' she wanted to know.
'And your Daddy too,' I agreed. 'Is Bernie ok?'
She actually giggled, tears subsiding now that she had someone
with her again. 'He's not a very good guard dog, Unca Duo. He hided behind
I tried to chuckle for her, but I didn't have the breath for
it. 'I guess I'm not a very good Guardian Spirit either,' I said.
There was a hesitation and then she said, 'Unca Duo?'
She leaned down and whispered low, as though it were a great
secret, 'I'm not a real Princess.'
I grinned, 'I think you make a pretty good Princess. Why don't
you think you're a Princess?'
'Cause I'm scared.'
I managed to get my right arm shifted over enough to pat her
ankle. 'Bernie and I are a little scared too.' I grinned, thinking about
it, 'Besides... that makes you better than just your average, everyday Princess.
That makes you a smart Princess.'
'Smart Princess?' That puzzled her.
'Yeah; you've got enough sense to be scared when a house falls
She giggled again, and it was really something of a relief.
'And you were a smart enough Princess to stay in the cave
just like I told you to.'
She leaned down and looked at me. 'You're a good Spirit too,
Unca Duo,' she told me firmly. 'You found the cave.'
'Too bad I couldn't have found the stupid portal,' I muttered.
'Silly Unca Duo,' she jeered at me. 'All three of the spirits
have to find the next pothole.'
I tried to laugh; were my stories that predictable? Nah. Couldn't
be. My Goddaughter was just exceptionally bright was all.
Somewhere in that effort to laugh, I finally figured out that
something was rammed right through my torso; back to front. Pinning me to
the floor like a bug on display. I tried really hard not to think about
it. Yeah. Sure.
'Tell me the next part of the story, Unca Duo?' she asked.
Why not; I sure as hell wasn't going anywhere. In my pocket,
well beyond my reach, my cell phone started to ring again. I made a small
effort to get at it, but the pain I caused almost made me forget where I
was and I had to just lay there and listen to it ring until the voice mail
kicked in and it stopped.
'So,' I began, 'the great bear spirit and the great hawk spirit
met up with the great and beautiful wolf spirit and set out on their quest
for the third portal...'
We left everything at the hotel. We ran out of that room without
taking the time to grab anything. I let Wufei drive to the shuttle port
only so my hands were free to use the cell phone. I only got the voice mail
again. I took two seconds to leave a message this time, just in case.
'Duo, Gods damn it to hell; call me.'
Wufei was weaving us in and out of traffic, pushing the speed
limit, but still pushing my patience. Faster! I wanted to yell at him.
'He's all right, Heero,' Wufei ground out through gritted
teeth, eyes never leaving the road. 'He's got that little girl to take care
As though that would magically keep Duo safe as well. Fear
was making me temperamental and I turned to glare at him, but his face looked
like mine felt. He was damned near as scared as I was. That was just his
way; always the reassuring word. As though just saying it would make it
I grunted. And tried the cell phone again.
'Time it, Yuy,' he warned me. 'Don't run the battery down,
we may need it.'
I didn't know whether to growl or laugh at him. How quickly
we fell back on old habits; preserve supplies; guard the equipment. Being
prepared meant staying alive.
We stormed the shuttle port. We started out trying to bully
our way aboard a shuttle, but soon discovered that the weather had everything
headed toward home grounded. I ruthlessly used our Preventer's IDs and every
intimidating expression in my arsenal and managed, finally, to commandeer
a private jet. We couldn't manage to convince the pilot to go with the plane
though, and I ended up flying it myself. At lift off, I calculated we were
still two hours out.
Once airborne, Wufei pulled out his own cell phone and made
the call I hadn't thought to.
'Trowa?' his voice was tight and clipped; there was a pause
as Trowa said something. 'Heero's with me, we're fine. Duo needs us. We
can't find him; he was staying with Carrie for the weekend.' There was another
He looked to me and I stared at him. Damn; I didn't really
know. 'Somewhere in the Willowhills area,' I told him. 'I don't know the
'Get to Willowhills,' Wufei relayed and they hung up.
'Try the apartment,' I told him, needing to do something...
anything. He dialed it, but got no response.
Then he started trying to deal with a swamped emergency service.
We had no real proof to offer them that Duo and Carrie were injured. We
couldn't even give them an exact address. They already had more than enough
to keep them busy and quite frankly, I felt like they blew us off. It was
difficult to be intimidating over a phone, though Wufei tried his damnedest.
He called information, trying to get that elusive address.
Of course, they had a Gods damned unlisted number.
His brain was functioning much better than mine was, and he
happened to have Sally Po's number programmed into his cell. He was able
to get hold of her to see if someone could go into the office and get the
exact address for Misty's house from the payroll files.
We hit the top of the hour and I tried Duo's phone again with
the same damned frustrating results. I was starting to have mental pictures
of him... I snarled at the damned phone and had to resist the urge to fling
it across the plane.
'Unca Duo?' Carrie was saying, and I was vaguely aware that
she had called me more than once. 'What happened then, Unca Duo?'
I struggled to collect my thoughts and bring them back to
the story. Where the hell had I left off? 'Uhmmmm... Then the bear, hawk,
wolf and panther spirits had to... they had to...'
She huffed at me a little indignantly. 'They have to learn
to work together so they can find the next pothole and free the d'agon spirit.'
Oh, how could I have been so dumb? Of course.
In my pocket, my cell phone rang again and I had to squelch
down the urge to scream. I knew it was Heero and I wanted the sound of his
voice so badly I could have burst into tears. I really wasn't sure I was
going to make it. This wasn't supposed to happen to Carrie. This was the
stuff of life-long nightmares. I should know; I had enough of my own.
The war was over and shit like watching people you cared for
die in the dark was not something my Godchild was ever intended to experience.
I forced my arm across the floor again and got Carrie to push the button
on my watch and read me the numbers. It was six. Heero had resorted to calling
on the hour. Gods, how I wished I could get my hand down there to get hold
of that damned phone.
'Unca Duo, I'm thirsty.' The voice was plaintive.
'In the other cave, honey,' I was rather proud of the fact
that I could answer that simple need. Though it took both of us and everything
I had to get one of the bottles open for her.
Gods, I wished someone would come; I didn't want her trying
to climb out of here on her own, but I didn't want her down here when I
It was a nightmare landing in the high winds. It took the
both of us, working in concert to wrestle the plane to the ground and even
then we damaged the front landing gear. I didn't care, I would pay for repairs
myself if need be.
We had gotten a call bare minutes before touchdown from Sally
with the address. As soon as he was able to relinquish his hold on the co-pilot's
yoke, Wufei pulled out his phone again and called Trowa back with the information.
He and Quatre were still fifteen or twenty minutes away from the Willowhills
area; roads were closed all over the place.
We were running for Wufei's car, left in the parking garage
when we departed from here just yesterday, even as he finished the call.
I let him drive again, because I was not going to attempt to dispute the
fact that I was in no shape to do it. My chest had been tight and aching
for the last hour. It was after seven, and I called the cell phone again,
hoping beyond hope that I would hear Duo's voice this time. But, again,
it simply rang until the voice mail kicked in. I bit back on a helpless
moan. I'm coming, Duo, I willed at the phone; just hang on.
I tried the emergency number again, now that I had an address,
but ended up being put on hold. Wufei switched on the radio, and we discovered
that part of the downtown area was an inferno; broken gas lines had caused
an explosion. I suspected we were pretty much on our own.
'Faster,' I growled, not able to help myself. I was surprised
when his hand closed over mine where it had fallen to the seat, still clutching
the damned, useless cell phone. I glanced up at him, and he dared take his
eyes off the road for the second it took to meet mine. He squeezed my hand
hard. Neither of us spoke and after a moment, he had to have both hands
to drive again.
We were starting to enter into the path the tornado had taken,
and the damage was unbelievable. Trees were the first things we noticed,
uprooted and tossed around like some giant, mad gardener had been weeding.
Wufei had to slow and ease the car around obstacles, and twice we had to
back up to take an alternate route. In his pocket, Wufei's phone rang, and
we both jumped as though shots had been fired at us. He tossed it to me,
not wanting to take his hand off the wheel.
'Yuy,' I barked into the thing, knowing my voice was far from
'Heero... it's Quatre.' I could tell from his voice that he
would have preferred Wufei.
'Where are you?' I wanted to know, and there was a hesitation
in his voice.
'We're... not sure,' I heard another voice in the background,
Trowa's. 'There's no way to tell what the address's... were.'
That chilled me. That word; were. I thought furiously, I had
only been to the place a couple of times.
'Do you see... any signs of a large church?'
'Not yet,' I was told.
'It was south of the church a couple of blocks.' I thought
desperately for landmarks that might have survived. 'There was a small strip
mall to the north... maybe four blocks.' There was nothing to the east and
west but more houses. I couldn't narrow it down any more than that. 'We're
getting close as well. Wufei's car.'
There was a lingering silence and I knew that Quatre was struggling
for something reassuring to say, so I filled the silence with an abrupt,
'watch for us,' and hung up. I didn't feel like dealing with it.
There was nothing else moving out here but us. We had to make
a serious detour when we found our way blocked by some downed power lines
not long after. I was starting to feel like I was going to throw up. The
pictures running through my head were all of Duo in his worst moments. I
saw him on that torture rack on the station. I saw him in the hospital bed
after his surgery. I saw him battered. I saw him bruised. I saw him bleeding.
But most of all, I kept hearing his soft voice whispering to me, 'You're
always there to catch me when I fall.' I scrubbed my hands across tired
'Keep it together, Yuy,' Wufei's voice came to me, firm and
strong. 'He needs you. We'll find him.'
We were getting close, and it was all I could do not to bail
out of the car. It felt like I could run faster than we were moving.
Guardian Spirits by Sunhawk
'...and the five Guardian... spirits... finally together again
after a thousand... years... opened the final portal...' I had to stop again;
I just couldn't get enough air. 'Sorry... sweetie...' I was taken with a
harsh cough then and couldn't bite back an agonized moan. My hand, when
I removed it from my mouth was spattered with blood. Over all...this had
turned into a pretty crappy weekend.
'Unca Duo?' came Carrie's worried voice. 'You don't have to
tell me stories no more.'
'S'ok honey...' I tried to smile for her, thinking to wipe
my hand across my mouth just in case I got blood on my face. 'Just... give
me... a minute.'
When I thought about it too hard, I realized I had to have
a collapsed lung. There was just no way in hell that whatever was impaling
me went in here and came out there without going right through my left lung.
And if I'd had any doubts, the blood pretty well confirmed it. Beyond that,
I'm not sure what all else was wrong with me. I felt pretty chilled, and
wondered if I was bleeding somewhere under all the debris.
'You... warm... enough...?' I managed to gasp out.
'Uh-huh,' Carrie smiled and patted my hand; she'd been doing
that a lot lately. 'I gots my blanky.'
She was wearing a jacket, was wrapped in her quilt and cuddled
up with Bernie. While I was glad she was comfortable, it didn't tell me
if it was cold down here or not. I guess it really didn't matter; there
wasn't anything I could do about it anyway. If I was bleeding to death,
I was bleeding to death.
Then Bernie, who had been cowering in the back of the cave
since his world had fallen apart, did something he hadn't done yet. He poked
his nose out, sniffing around, and gave a tiny little thump of a wag with
'Hold his... leash, punkin,' I told her, daring to let myself
hope, and listened hard.
We passed Trowa and Quatre within the next five minutes, and
they fell in behind us as we wove through the empty streets. It was unbelievably
difficult to navigate through the neighborhood, but we finally found the
remains of the church, and I was oriented at last.
'This way!' I fairly shouted, heart in my throat, and pointed
We had to stop a block from where we needed to be, the street
was just impassable. I finally gave in to the urge and leapt from the car,
running the last block, hurdling over debris as I went. The pounding feet
behind me barely registered.
Why was finding Misty's house such a shock? I don't know.
The entire area was decimated for a good half mile. There had been absolutely
no hope of finding that house still intact. Had there been anything still
standing, we would have seen it from blocks away. But somehow, when I finally
stumbled into what was once the front yard, I was stopped cold. Stopped
as though I had run into an unseen brick wall.
It looked like a damned war zone. There was nothing left standing
for blocks and blocks. Frame or brick, it didn't matter, the storm had taken
it all down to the ground. I couldn't have done a better job with my Gundam
and a beam cannon.
'Duo?' I breathed, and it registered that the twisted blue
metal thing on the far side of the... house, was our car. 'Duo!' I shouted,
and I know it was just a little bit hysterical.
I wasn't sure at first if I had really heard it. Heero's voice.
I had been wanting to hear it for so long. A couple of times, drifting on
the edge of consciousness, I had sworn I had heard him, breathing in my
ear, 'Hang on, love. Just hang on.'
But Bernie heard him too. He wiggled and waggled and finally
poked his nose out of the cave.
'It's Unca Heero!' Carrie squealed, and clapped her hands.
'Told... ya...' I grinned. I could hear other voices not long
after that, Quatre's for sure and I thought maybe Wufei's. Relief flooded
through me like a damned drug. My family was here. They had come for me.
I didn't have the breath to answer them, but I could have cried listening
to them call my name.
'Can you... answer them...?' I asked Carrie, and should have
known better than to ask such a stupid question of a four year old. She
almost seemed to smirk at me.
'Unca Heero!' she shrieked, and even the dog ducked his head
and tucked his tail.
If I tilted my head until I thought I would blackout, I could
just see the stairs out of the corner of my eye. They looked intact.
'Listen... sweetie... I need you... to do something...' She
leaned down close so she could hear, her face solemn.
It was faint, but we heard Carrie's shrill voice answer us,
and converged quickly on the spot where we had heard it the loudest.
My hands were shaking so badly I had to keep them at my sides
to hide it. Why didn't Duo answer?
As if reading my mind, Quatre gently interjected, 'She doesn't
sound scared. She would be it she were... alone.'
It was logical, but it didn't explain why Duo didn't answer.
It did, of course, if I let myself think about it. He was hurt. He had to
be hurt or he would have called out to me. How in the hell were we going
to find them in this mess?
'Heero,' Trowa was next to me, his hand suddenly warm and
squeezing firmly on my elbow. 'They would have gone to the basement. Do
you know the lay-out of the house?'
I had to get myself together. Duo needed me.
I turned back to the street to get my orientation. The front
door would have been roughly... there . The living room...the kitchen beyond...the
basement door would have been... I paced it out in my head and shifted,
finding where I was fairly certain the stairs would have been.
'Here,' I told him. 'Roughly,' I added unnecessarily.
Behind me, I heard Wufei speaking on the phone again. He was
making another attempt to get through on the emergency number. We had an
address and a little girl in trouble, maybe this time he would get somewhere.
Quatre turned toward the place I had indicated and yelled
There was an answer and we bent to carefully shifting debris.
The small stuff, the shingles, the pieces of two-by-four studs, the siding,
moved fairly easily, but it wasn't long before we encountered beams that
we couldn't move by hand. There were spaces underneath and behind those
beams, but we couldn't see.
Trowa and Quatre exchanged a look, and Quatre ran off toward
'Call her again, Heero,' Trowa bade me. 'She knows your voice.'
I did, and I managed it without my voice breaking.
'....All set... Princess...?' I was reduced now to a near
pant, and had to turn my head every few minutes when a cough wracked me
until I saw stars. I needed to get her out of here. I was pretty sure I
was running out of time.
Somewhere above us, I heard Heero call Carrie again, and his
voice sounded a little clearer. They must be digging for us.
'Yep,' she assured me in her best, tough Princess voice.
'Ok... get a hold... of Bernie...' I watched her wrap the
leash tight around her little hand. 'Now... tell Unca Heero... to call...Bernie.'
She sat and looked at me for a minute, kind of scared to leave
me, to go off in the dark.
'S'ok... Princess,' I told her, suppressing the cough that
wanted to take hold of me. 'The brave... and loyal... guard dog... will
lead you... to Unca Heero...'
'I's scared,' she breathed, leaning down and kissing me softly
on the side of my face.
'Me too... baby,' I was able to pat her knee. 'Heero... will
get... your Mommy...'
That set a light in her eyes and she finally sat up and shouted
for all she was worth, 'Unca Heero! Call Bernie!'
There was a stone, cold silence for a minute, and I imagined
Heero having to process the command. I smiled, thinking about the look on
his face and then heard his voice again, hesitant at first and then more
firmly, 'Bernie! Come here, Bernie!'
Beside us, Bernie began to wag his tail.
'Come on, boy! Good dog! Come on Bernie!'
Heero was warming to it, and finally Bernie couldn't take
it anymore and lunged for the stairs, dragging Carrie after him. I stuffed
my wrist in my mouth, trying to prepare myself for what I knew was coming
next. The only way to the stairs was over the pile of timber that was on
top of me.
The pain took me under; the sound of Heero's voice calling
for Bernie was the last thing I heard.
Quatre came running back from the cars, and when I turned
to see what he had gone after, I saw another car pulling in near ours, stopped
as we had been by the debris. I saw Misty bail out of the car almost before
it stopped, Justin right behind her as soon as he shut off the engine.
Quatre was beside us, a flashlight in his hands.
Then we heard the piping sound of Carrie's voice again, 'Unca
Heero! Call Bernie!'
It took me a minute. What? Why in the hell...? Of course...
Bernie would lead Carrie to us.
I didn't want to. Carrie was the only link I had to Duo.
Then Wufei was beside me. 'Call the dog, Heero.' I don't know
if he could tell what was going through my head; maybe, because he put a
hand on my shoulder and squeezed hard.
Behind me I heard the sound of Misty sobbing uncontrollably
and Quatre talking to her in his soft, calm way.
'Bernie! Come here, Bernie!' The words felt strange in my
mouth, and Wufei's hand squeezed encouragement. 'Come on, boy! Good dog!
Come on Bernie!'
Trowa was kneeling near where we thought the stairs were,
shining the flashlight through a space under a heavy support beam.
Justin moved up beside him, and took over calling for Bernie.
'I see her!' Trowa suddenly exclaimed, and seconds later I
saw the furry brown and white head of Bernie poke out from under the beam.
Carrie was right behind him, and they both had to squirm and wiggle to get
'Daddy!' she squealed, and Justin scooped her up in a bear
hug, hurrying over to where Quatre had Misty restrained.
I had to turn my back on the reunion. Wufei wrapped his arm
around me, and I found that my heart was thudding painfully in my ears.
'I have to get down there,' I told him.
'The fire crew is on the way,' he soothed. 'As soon as we
have the equipment... we'll get him out.'
Quatre had left Misty to her husband and daughter and was
back with Trowa. They were conversing in low tones, but I couldn't focus
enough to pay any attention. Behind me, I heard Carrie prattling along to
'Unca Duo said Unca Heero would come, and he did!' she babbled
happily and it hit me like a blow.
I think I would have fallen to my knees if Wufei hadn't been
half supporting me already.
'We'll get him,' he told me fiercely. 'We'll get him out;
Quatre was suddenly beside us, tugging his jacket off and
with his mission face on.
'Come on,' he commanded and we followed.
I saw Trowa standing just down from the hole that Carrie and
Bernie had crawled out of, far too small for us to get through. He didn't
'If you guys can left this beam just a couple of inches,'
Quatre was saying. 'I think I can get through there.'
I looked at him. He hadn't changed a lot since the war. He
had always been the smallest among us. Had retained, over the years, his
lithe, slight frame. I looked dubiously at the hole he was intending to
crawl through, and I doubted he could manage it, but could have hugged him
for wanting to try.
The three of us moved into position, getting the best grip
we could on the huge beam, while Quatre went and lay down on the ground
in front of the hole. We waited for his signal and then did our damnedest
to raise it up the little bit he was asking for. The thing might have been
set in concrete. We pulled and tugged for all we were worth, and it shifted,
but wouldn't come up quite far enough.
'Little more, guys!' Quatre called encouragement and I started
to fear that he was going to make a try for it and get caught under the
Then suddenly, the beam gave a little and raised that extra
inch. There was an ecstatic cry from Quatre and after a few long moments
of feeling the beam vibrate in our hands as he squirmed under it, he yelled,
'I'm clear!' and we let it back down with a collective groan. A groan from
four voices. I turned to find Justin straightening from the position he
had taken behind Trowa. I nodded. He nodded back and went to rejoin his
Trowa was quickly beside the entrance that Quatre had just
ventured through, and we moved beside him. We could see the glow of the
flashlight as it bobbed down through the debris, fading from our sight.
I had to remind myself to breathe. Someone was rubbing my
back in small circles. I'm not even sure if it was Wufei or Trowa.
Someone was calling me, gentle fingers were stroking my cheek
and I came back to the pain thinking that Carrie hadn't made it out.
'Munchkin?' I asked, breath a near impossibility. 'What...?'
'It's Quatre,' and I opened my eyes to see his sweet, welcome
face in the glow of a flashlight.
'Where...' I tried, sucking air for all I was worth. Where
'Being small sometimes has its advantages,' he smiled for
me, keeping his voice light. 'I was the only one who could fit through the
'Carrie?' I wanted to know.
'She's fine. She's with her parents, they just got here.'
I had to cough then and almost left him, struggling back to
the sound of his worried voice. 'Duo? Can you give me a status?'
I smiled, with the feel of blood on my lips; how easily we
all fell back on old habits. In my head I could here Heero, screaming over
the sound of gunfire, 'Status!'
'Soldier down.' I tried to chuckle for him and couldn't.
I saw him looking at the pile of crap on my back and I realized
he was considering trying to dig me out.
'No!' I cried, making myself cough until the world went dizzily
to gray at the edges. He waited for me, understanding that there was something
important he didn't know. When I finally had breath again, I managed, 'impaled.'
His breath hissed through his teeth, and he squirmed around until he finally
found it. I felt like apologizing for not finding a gentler word for it.
'Shit,' he muttered, and just in case I hadn't heard the first
time, he said it again, 'Shit!'
'S'ok,' I wheezed out. 'Just... don't touch. Kinda... hurts....'
I thought he was going to cry. I do my damnedest to crack
jokes in these kinds of situations and somehow I can't ever get the laugh.
I'll never understand it.
'Duo,' he told me then, 'Wufei called for a rescue unit, you
just have to hang on a little longer. As soon as they can get the entrance
opened up, we'll get you out of here.'
He had hold of my hand, and I squeezed it in acknowledgment.
'How's... Heero...?' I asked then, and he chuckled softly.
'About to have a cow. A really big cow.'
I would have snorted if I could have managed it; all I could
do was grin.
'Duo,' he asked me then, voice gone all serious. 'Do you think
you could talk to him? I have my cell phone... Trowa's waiting for us.'
'Gods... Quatre... please?' I could have wept.
He smiled at me warmly and let his fingers stroke my cheek
for a minute before he reached for the phone.
There was nothing from down there for the longest time and
it was all I could do not to fall on the beam and try to gnaw my way through
it. I was vaguely aware of Trowa moving away from us. In the far reaches
of the back of my mind, I found it odd. But Wufei continued to rub those
gentle circles on my shoulder, murmuring encouragements every now and again
and I just kept myself focused on the spot where Quatre had disappeared.
'Heero?' Trowa was back, kneeling beside me and there was
something strange in his eyes.
I didn't bother with the what, just met his gaze and waited.
'Quatre's found him. He's alive, but he's hurt pretty bad.'
I realized that he was holding his phone in his hands. I also
realized that I hadn't heard it ring; he had turned it to vibrate so that
had the news been bad, I wouldn't have heard it ringing. He handed it to
me now and I raised it to my ear. Faintly, sounding weak and far away, I
heard my lover call my name.
I waited impatiently while Quatre talked to Trowa in low tones,
explaining in detail my situation and condition. Then I had to wait through
a silence while, I'm sure, Trowa approached Heero. Finally, Quatre was holding
the phone to the side of my face and I whispered, 'Heero...?'
There was the most abysmal, long silence, and then his trembling
voice, full of fear and trying to hide it. 'Duo... love?'
All I could manage was his name again, 'Heero.' A sigh. A
declaration. A prayer. He'd come for me.
'Are you...' He caught himself; he'd been told I wasn't all
right, I'm sure. 'How... I love you.'
I smiled, and felt something unwind from around my heart.
'Love... you,' I told him.
'Don't you dare fucking die on me, damn it,' he suddenly burst
out and I felt all the tension and frustration he had been dealing with
for the last several hours. I thought about what he had to have gone through
to have gotten here as fast as he had.
'Didn't... hijack... shuttle... did you?' I panted out and
over the line I heard his soft moan. Damn, I just couldn't get a laugh tonight.
I was taken with another coughing fit, and Quatre took the
phone away from me. I almost reached for it.
'Let him rest a minute, Heero,' I heard him say, and then,
voice a little fearful, 'Is the emergency crew here yet?'
The world was fading at the edges and I wanted to tell him
that I thought it was too late, but I didn't have the breath.
His voice sounded so...frail. His breathing was harsh and
labored. Had I not already been on the ground, I think I would have fallen.
I could not deal with not being able to reach him. I wanted him out of there.
I wanted him safe. I wanted him in my arms.
'Don't you dare fucking die on me, damn it,' I hissed before
I could stop it, and had to choke back on the sudden bubble of a sob. It
was quiet for a bit and then his voice came again, and how in the hell he
managed the teasing tone, I'll never know.
'Didn't... hijack... shuttle... did you?'
It almost undid me. Then I heard the harsh sound of coughing
and suddenly it was Quatre on the line again.
He tried to reassure me, but then he negated that reassurance
by asking about the emergency squad. I could tell from his voice that we
really needed them. He must have taken the phone away from his face, because
his voice became distant, but I could still hear him softly calling Duo's
My partner, he of the exceptional hearing, took the phone
away from me and wrapped me close in his arms there on the ground.
The world around me was in sharp focus. I heard every noise.
I felt every bit of debris under me. The beam in front of my eyes was sharp
and detailed in my sight. I could smell the faint traces of distant smoke.
Could almost taste the bitter tang of it in the back of my throat. I was
strung as tight as if for battle, but there was nothing I could do and it
was eating me alive from the inside out.
I heard the sound of sirens in the middle distance, and I
noted Trowa and Justin run to wave them down, they were still some blocks
away. I heard Wufei talking softly to Quatre for a few moments and then
he slipped the phone into his pocket. Behind me, I heard Misty arguing with
Carrie over something, and Carrie suddenly getting a firm tone, telling
her mother in no uncertain terms that, 'I gots a mission!'
Perhaps it was the word 'mission' that got my attention. It
was such an odd thing for a four year old to say. She suddenly slipped free
of her mother who was also hanging onto the wiggling Bernie.
She ran right to me, before anyone could stop her, though
I saw both Misty and Wufei look somewhat horrified.
She came and squatted down in front of me, peering intently
at my face, and I wiped half-heartedly at my eyes. Wufei loosed his hold
on me a little so that I could turn towards her. I didn't deal with her
all that often. Though she was supposed to be my Godchild as much as Duo's,
I just wasn't all that comfortable around small children. To tell you the
truth, I'd always thought she was a little afraid of me. When I reflected
on it, I realized she had just been through what should have been the single
most traumatic event in her life. I didn't know much about children, but
I couldn't understand why she wasn't crying hysterically.
'Why aren't you scared?' I blurted, shocking myself with my
But she just grinned at me. 'Silly Unca Heero,' she scolded
me. 'Unca Duo said to not be scared.'
I almost laughed. Well, that certainly explained it; everything
in the world was all right if Uncle Duo said so.
She looked at me closer. 'You cryin', Unca Heero?'
Misty had moved up behind her and I heard her gasp.
I thought about lying, but there really didn't seem to be
much point. 'A little,' I told her and she nodded, reaching to take something
from around her neck.
Before I quite knew what she was doing, she had thrown her
arms around my neck and hugged me hard. 'That's from Unca Duo,' she proclaimed,
and if that alone hadn't been enough to break me, she handed me Duo's cross.
'Unca Duo gave it to me to keeps me safe until I gots out
of the cave.'
I blinked at it, where it lay in my hand. That small, familiar
thing that was as much a part of my Duo as his silken hair and his infectious
'He said if Unca Heero cried I was s'pposed to give it to
him.' She addressed that last to Wufei, perhaps because I wasn't listening
all that closely any more.
I felt Wufei take it, undo the clasp and slip it around my
neck. When it was fastened securely, he tucked it inside my shirt. It still
felt warm from Carrie wearing it, and I closed my eyes, pretending it was
still warm from Duo's skin. He will amaze me until the day I die. Trapped
down there in the dark, with a freaking house on top of him, and he had
thought to try to find a way to comfort me.
Over my head, Wufei said softly to Carrie, 'Mission accomplished.'
And she bent to give me a last kiss on the cheek before letting her mother
lead her away.
I let Wufei's arms envelop me again.
I came back again to the soft sound of Quatre calling my name,
voice tinged with fear.
'S'ok,' I managed for him, and finding his hand still clutching
mine, I squeezed as well as I could.
'Duo,' he was telling me. 'You just have to hang on a little
longer. They're here. It won't be long now.'
I was swirled back through time to a dark night on the road
and Quatre's voice calling us home over a stolen radio. I smiled.
'Ok... Mr.... Hawk...'
I actually got a tiny smile and I blinked to realize I could
see it. He was lying on the ground, curled beside me so he was down on my
level where I could see him. I smiled in return.
'That's right, Mr. Black,' he told me. 'You've always been
the toughest of us. You've been through worse than this. Everything's going
to be all right.'
His words warmed me and lulled me, and I clung to his fingers
and listened to his murmured reassurances. I just hoped that somewhere up
there, somebody was holding Heero's hand as well.
The ambulance was finally there, and Trowa let Justin lead
them up to the hole, running ahead and reclaiming his cell phone from Wufei.
He punched the button for Quatre and handed it over to the EMT as soon as
the group of them strode up. Wufei was pulling me to my feet, moving me
out of the way. I went; my eyes watching as the other two men knelt beside
that dark hole in the ground with power tools. Finally... finally... finally...
The chief was conferring with Quatre, and they were making
decisions based on what he was saying. A man was sent back to the truck
for something. The huge circular saw was started up. My hands were clenched
at my side. Finally...finally...finally...
Wufei was still beside me, his hands on my shoulders. I saw
Trowa look our way, as though getting some signal from Wufei. He came toward
us and I found myself braced between them.
'Heero,' Wufei was saying, 'we have to stay out of the way.'
They thought I was going to try to get down that hole as soon
as the obstruction was cleared away. They were probably right. All bets
were pretty much off as to what I might or might not do.
'He may want you down there, Heero,' Trowa said softly, 'but
he needs them.'
'I know,' I told them, just so they knew I was still in there
somewhere. Even though my eyes never left the man with the screaming saw.
Even though my body was tensing for the struggle without any real conscious
effort on my part.
Their hands tightened as the first cut was finished, and the
second was begun.
Finally... finally... finally...
Quatre's phone rang and he sat up to answer it, but he kept
his hand on mine.
He was telling someone we didn't know in clipped tones just
what equipment they needed down here. Explaining about the spikes rammed
through my chest. I heard the word shock. I heard the words blood loss.
I heard the word hurry.
I wanted to ask him to put Heero on for a minute. I wanted
to say goodbye... just in case.
But over our heads somewhere, there was the sudden roar of
power equipment. I couldn't have spoken loud enough for him to hear me over
'Heero...' Wufei was warning me, telling me he didn't want
a wrestling match here in the middle of the rubble. Telling me there was
no way in the seven hells they were going to let me down there. And I knew
I couldn't go. Knew I had to wait a little longer.
'I know,' I snarled as I watched the chunk of beam removed
and the opening was finally clear. I didn't lunge for it. I didn't make
them force me back. But my eyes were getting gritty from not blinking as
I stared at it. As though I could pull Duo out of there with my thoughts.
I'm here. I'm here. Hang on, love; just hang on.
The chief disappeared into that dark maw, carrying a spotlight,
and there was the strange glow of light from underground after that. Shining
crazily up through the rubble. There was nothing for a bit. Then the radio
in the hand of the man waiting by the entrance crackled to life. I jumped.
He stretched a hand down after a moment and helped Quatre
out of the hole. Then he gathered his equipment and followed his chief.
I realized I was leaning toward the hole and made myself stop.
Quatre was hunched protectively over me, even though we seemed
to be some distance from where the work was being done. He still had hold
of my hand, and when the noise stopped he rubbed the back of my knuckles
with his thumb. 'Still with me, Duo?'
I hummed an affirmative and listened to the sounds of heavy
boots coming down the steps. With a final squeeze, Quatre rose to guide
the man down the stairs.
'Don't step on any of that!' he called, and I could have kissed
him. Didn't want anybody doing that again, thank you very much, once was
more than enough.
He guided the man around until he was standing in that one
small clear spot in front of the sink. I wanted to look up, but couldn't
raise my head. They conversed, words quick and terse. I couldn't think past
the pain to really focus on it.
Then Quatre squatted back down beside me and stroked my cheek
by way of farewell. 'See you top side, kittling.'
'Quatre... tell... Heero...' I wanted so badly to be able
to talk, I wanted the air to tell Quatre all the things I needed to say
to Heero, but he ran his thumb gently across my lips and silenced me.
'You'll tell him yourself, damnit!' and then he was gone.
I felt a pang of loss, but the EMT guy was sitting down in the spot he had
'So,' he said even as his fingers were feeling around the
parts of me he could get to, 'don't tell me I have to call you kittling?'
His voice was gruff, but not unkind.
'I'd rather... you didn't...' I panted. 'Name's... Duo...'
He chuckled lightly; I could feel him taking my pulse. 'Duo
then,' he confirmed, and I wanted to tell him he didn't need to bother with
the banter, but it didn't seem to be worth the effort.
I heard someone else coming down the stairs, lugging heavy
'You?' I gasped out, and it took him a minute.
'Roger; my name's Roger.' He was stroking his fingers over
my head, looking for wounds I guess.
'Roger... please... don't let... them... step on... my board.'
I got a laugh, my first real one all night. Other than from
Carrie, but I didn't count them. It felt like a small triumph.
'Sure thing, Duo,' I could hear him smiling.
He got down on the floor then, and flashed a small pin light
in my eyes. 'Heero, huh? Asian looking guy?'
'Yeah...' I gasped, blinking at the sudden light, unsure where
this was leading, but all I got was a chuckle.
'That would explain why your other two buddies had him in
a head lock,' he told me wryly and all I could do was grin. I couldn't even
manage a decent blush.
Then he was gone from my side, orders were being issued and
equipment was being passed around. I think there were three of them down
here, but one of them had to stay on the stairs and hold the light because
there just wasn't room for all of us.
Roger came back and I was a little surprised at the relief
that flooded through me. Damn... we'd bonded already.
They were trying to work my legs free, shifting wreckage away
from me in little increments.
Something pulled out of my leg and I hissed, but let it go.
It was going to have to come out sooner or later anyway. There was an exclamation
from one of the other guys and an exchange of words.
Roger leaned down, worried. 'Didn't you feel that?'
'Hell... yes,' I ground out.
'Damn it...' he muttered and took my hand, 'don't do that,
Duo. Tell us...'
'Just... don't touch... my board... and we'll be... fine,'
I told him.
I think he growled. 'Be more careful,' he called to his buddies.
'We got a tough guy here.'
'Nah...' I panted. 'I just... gotta... pee...'
His laugh rang loud and honest and I marked myself up another
The shifting of debris slowed some, but continued. Roger was
looking around, and grunted, poking his hand into the sink. 'This where
you had the kid stashed?'
'Yeah,' I confirmed, not able to elaborate.
'Damn good thinking,' he praised. 'You probably saved her
life.' He turned and looked around a little more. 'No... you definitely
saved her life.'
I grunted. I had kind of already figured that out. Just too
damn bad the secret cave hadn't been big enough for all three of us.
'Duo?' he said, a little loudly. 'You still with us?'
'Where... else?' I muttered and he chuckled again. I could
work with this kind of crowd. The last one had been a tough room.
That other voice, belonging to the guy I hadn't even seen
yet, clinically called out my condition as he uncovered things. I was apparently
punctured like a damn pincushion and my freaking leg was broken. Broken
bad enough he could see it. I hadn't even noticed over the more... immediate
'Listen, kid...' I almost laughed. I could just barely see
the guy, and though he looked like he might be in his forties, I sure as
hell wasn't a kid any more.
'I know...' I cut him off. 'Spikes... aren't comin' out...
It was his turn to grunt. 'Tough guy and a smart guy... don't
think I can deal with much more out of you.' There was a moment of silence.
Behind me, I could feel a lot more air on my lower half and figured they
just about had me uncovered.
'We're going to have to cut the beam...' He took my hand.
'And... it's gonna hurt... like a... mother...' I finished
I didn't win the chuckle this time. 'Yeah,' he confirmed and
I could tell they were getting ready to start.
'Just... do it... fast,' I told him, turned my face to the
floor and curled my good arm around my head.
'Damn,' I heard Roger mutter and then there was the sound
of an engine roaring to life.
Shit, this was going to suck.
We couldn't hear much from down below, though once the three
EMT's had gone down, the guys did move us to where I could see. About all
we were able to discern was the last man down, where he squatted on the
steps holding the light.
It was a nightmare world down there. I marveled that Carrie
had come out of that hellhole without so much as a splinter. Somehow, I
knew it was thanks to Duo.
Below us, I heard someone laugh and I flinched. It was such
a surreal thing to hear coming from there. Beside me, Quatre grinned.
'Duo's been trying to make jokes,' he explained and then kind
of looked sad again. 'Glad he found someone to laugh for him. I couldn't
I looked at him, really looked, for the first time since he
had come up out of there. I found, to my consternation, that he had sacrificed
some skin off his back and chest to make it through that sliver of an entrance.
'Thank you, Quatre,' I murmured, not trusting my voice for
any more than that. He smiled across at me and below us there was the sudden
startling sound of a saw motor. We all jumped.
'What the hell?' I muttered, and saw Quatre look around at
the others. His expression told me there was something I didn't know yet.
'What the hell?' I repeated, making it a real question this time and not
just idle wondering.
If there had not been the sound of the saw below us, a silence
would have ensued that would have allowed a pin dropping to be heard. I
turned on Wufei, because I never could yell at Quatre.
'Tell me,' I growled.
And when he did, I had to lunge away to throw up.
They did their best to hold it steady, but come on...there
was just no way in hell. The vibration of that saw cutting through that
beam was some of the worst pain I have ever endured. I would have screamed
like a baby if I'd had the air for it. Roger was hovering over me, trying
to protect me from the sawdust. They made the first cut and the guy with
the saw had to maneuver around to get at the other side. Roger drew back
and rubbed a hand against the back of my head. I was too fucking far gone
to care. I felt him checking my pulse. He leaned close and yelled to me
over the sound of the saw.
'Duo? Talk to me, man.'
I was really sorry then about not having the damn breath to
speak, because a half a dozen really good wisecracks flitted through my
head that I truly wanted to deliver.
'Just... fucking... do it,' I croaked. I don't see how in
the hell he heard me, but he must have, because the saw was biting into
the wood again. It was a hundred times worse this time with the beam only
supported on one side.
Blackness finally swept up and took me away. I would have
thanked the Gods if I could have.
The noise of the saw quit, and the man on the stairs scrambled
up, calling for the gurney. Trowa pulled the thing over and passed it down.
It was still an unbearable amount of time before movement finally showed
that they were bringing him up. I moved forward to help pull the gurney
out through the hole, Wufei let me go, moving to the other side to balance
I missed the gentle rubbing on my back, the firm hands reminding
me to breathe.
Duo was face down on the gurney, the chunk of wood still attached,
wrapped in padding trying to keep it steady. He... looked like a broken
doll. His breath was coming in bubbly pants, there was blood smeared across
his lips. His leg was broken, a compound fracture... I could see it. I could
see blood from other things, but couldn't tell what the hell all was wrong
with him. My vision blurred again and I blinked furiously to clear my sight.
Duo needed me.
Half out of the hole, his eyes suddenly blinked open and he
was reaching out towards the EMT chief.
'Don't let... Carrie... see...' The sound of his voice tore
at me; so broken, so damn bubbly. It spoke of blood in the lungs. Quatre
turned immediately away to find Carrie and her parents, making sure they
kept her clear. Wufei pulled his jacket off and gently spread it over Duo's
They set him down once they were clear of the rubble. An oxygen
mask went on, now that they weren't running power tools, and the chief was
starting an IV.
'Duo?' I called to him softly, in the moment I had before
they started moving with him again. 'Can you hear me?'
His eyes found me and he smiled as best he could through the
'Love... you,' he said then, and I knew it for the goodbye
'You're going to be all right,' I told him, letting my hands
stroke over his cheek and through his hair. 'You hear me, damn it?'
He just looked at me, exhaustion and pain clear in his eyes,
and I was as scared as I have ever been in my entire life. He was tired
of fighting...he was ready to let go. I tried to imagine what it had been
like for him down there, but really couldn't.
'Duo, please, don't leave me...' I breathed, that tether that
held us together. That phrase that had been between us from the day our
forced partnership had started to turn into something more. 'Don't leave
me here alone.'
It was like watching someone struggle upright under a great
weight. You could freaking see it in his eyes; that moment when he stopped
thinking about how bad it was hurting and starting thinking about...me.
He might not be able to hang on for himself, but by the Gods he would hang
on for me. My eyes blurred again.
'Damn,' I heard the gruff voice of the squad chief beside
me and he slapped my shoulder. 'You're with us.'
I blinked. It hadn't occurred to me that they might not let
me ride with Duo, but the man had already forgotten me.
'Time to go, tough guy,' he addressed Duo and we were lifting
the gurney again.
'Unca Duo!' I heard behind us, and glanced to see Carrie standing
between her parents waving frantically. Duo's hand rose slightly for her,
though I could see it cost him. I saw Duo's mouth try to form words and
I struggled to think of something Duo might say to her.
'Uncle Duo says he'll see you later... munchkin,' I called
and if the bright smile on her face hadn't told me I'd done all right, the
smile I found on Duo's face when I looked back, would have.
And thank the Gods again; I stayed in that dark oblivion while
they loaded me into the metal basket and began the climb out of that damn
hellhole. My next fleeting kiss with consciousness found me half in and
half out of that pile of rubble that used to be Misty's house. I think it
was the brush of the cool night air that brought me back. All I could think
about was what I probably looked like.
'Don't let... Carrie... see...' I panted out, trying to find
Roger, my trusted savior. But it was Wufei and Quatre who came to the rescue,
and I relaxed, trusting them to see to it that Carrie didn't see anything
that would give her nightmares. I wanted very badly for her not to have
There were a few dizzying moments, while I was hauled almost
upright to get the gurney through that entrance, and then they were setting
Roger and his boys were doing things to me, I couldn't have
cared less what, because I finally heard Heero's voice and he was there,
squatting down beside me. 'Duo? Can you hear me?'
Gods, his voice was a solace. I had been wanting that voice
for so long. His hands were touching me, gently stroking through my hair
and over my face. I could feel his fingers trembling.
I was so tired. I hurt so bad. I just wanted to close my eyes
and make the pain go away. I wanted to rest. Someone else was there to take
care of Carrie now. I didn't need to be on guard any more. I just needed
to tell Heero, 'Love... you.'
'You're going to be all right,' he growled, his voice thick
and hurting and scared. 'You hear me, damn it?'
I couldn't answer him. I didn't know how. I honest to the
Gods didn't think that I was going to be all right. I just wanted to let
'Duo, please, don't leave me...' That thing we said to each
other, that last ditch, you can not do this to me thing. 'Don't leave me
Of course I couldn't give up. What the hell had I been thinking?
He was tied to me and I was tied to him, bound together with threads woven
from the fiber of our souls. If I let go, he would let go with me. I couldn't
let that happen. I would bear whatever had to be borne for Heero's sake.
It got hazy then, they lifted me again, and I was engulfed
with another wave of that lightheadedness. I heard Carrie call me and I
tried to answer her, but couldn't. Over my head, Heero called to her, offering
comfort on my behalf. He called her munchkin; something he never did. I
knew he was trying to give her something that sounded like it had come from
me. Some message to her little four-year-old ears from her favorite Unca
I smiled up at him; I would probably have told her that the
Guardian spirits had finally come together... but munchkin would do.
I settled myself in an out of the way spot behind the driver's
seat, near Duo's head, and dared anybody to try to deny me. They would have
to shoot me to get me out of that damned ambulance; I wasn't leaving him.
To my relief, no one mentioned it. I knew this was pretty
much against regulations, but the chief just smiled at me, a big, friendly,
amused grin that I found vaguely annoying.
The doors of the ambulance slammed shut and I lost sight of
Wufei and the others. I knew they would follow us.
I took Duo's right hand in my left and slid my other hand
under his hair to rest gently curled against the back of his neck. It was
about the only places I could see clearly that I could touch without hurting
The siren above us woke and began to wail, the ambulance easing
into reverse. I could tell the driver was trying to be careful, but the
movement brought a whimper from Duo's lips anyway. I squeezed his hand.
The EMT chief had stayed in the back with us, the other two
were in the front, 'You're Heero, right?' the guy asked me as he shifted
from where he was sitting to try and steady the board resting against Duo's
I nodded, and he took hold of my right hand and slid it under
the chunk of wood on the opposite side from where he was supporting it.
'I'm Roger,' he told me with that same strange grin. 'You're
a shock absorber.'
I grunted with no little surprise, wanting to jerk my hand
away, afraid I would hurt Duo.
'It'll hurt him worse if we hit a bump and that thing gets
twisted,' he said as though reading my mind, he looked at me a little appraisingly.
'Want me to get Isaac to come back here?'
I felt Duo clutch at my hand, and I shook my head. 'I've got
The ambulance had gotten turned around, and we were starting
to pick up speed.
'You're only here because you looked a little shocky,' Roger
said to me then and I blinked up at him. He only winked. 'This is breaking
every rule ever written; I could get in a lot of trouble.'
'Then why...?' I muttered, meeting his gaze and not understanding.
His face got serious. 'I think you know why,' he said softly,
then the grin sprang back. 'You're supposed to be talking to tough guy,
here.' He leaned down, looking into Duo's face. 'You still with me, tough
'Where... hell... else?' murmured Duo and my heart ached in
my chest listening to his labored voice through the mask.
I let go of his hand to stroke my fingertips gently across
his face. Roger rather pointedly turned away, looking out the back window.
I leaned down and gentle as a feather, kissed Duo's temple, all I could
'You go and die on me and I'll kill you,' I whispered close
to his ear and was graced with a tiny snort of a laugh.
'I'm... tryin'...' he murmured.
'Come on, love; we've been through worse,' I tried to reassure
him, was desperate to keep him talking, but was heartbroken listening to
him struggle with the words.
He grunted softly, his fingers questing for mine. I took his
hand again and grasped it tight.
'You telling me this is worse than the Road Trip to Hell?'
I teased lightly, just trying to keep the flow of words coming.
'Time... fades... things,' he panted, then coughed, and I
retrieved my hand long enough to wipe the blood from his lips.
'Never thought I'd live to see you brought down by a little
thing like having a house... fall on you.' My voice broke and I had to stop,
leaning over to rest my forehead against the side of his head.
'S'ok,' he told me and I almost lost it.
I clutched at his fingers and kissed the top of his head.
'Hurts,' he breathed, voice for me and me alone.
It felt like I was dying inside. 'I know, love. I know.'
I cast about, trying to find something that might distract
him. 'Duo? You know that vacation we were talking about?'
He hummed an affirmative and I sighed a little for him. 'We
may have to put it off. I sort of... damaged a Lear jet getting home.' I
felt guilty as hell doing it, but concern for me was the only thing I could
think of that might turn his thoughts outward.
'You... ok?' He immediately tried to raise his head to look
at me but I held him down.
'We're fine,' I soothed. 'But I'm probably going to have to
pay for the damages.'
'Didn't... steal...?' he began and I cut him off with a chuckle.
'No, we just abused the hell out of the name of the Preventer's
organization.' I caught a stiffening in Rogers's spine, but I didn't care;
the dullness in Duo's eyes was a little faded.
'It took us both to get it back on the ground,' I told him
and truly felt like shit worrying him like this, but I had his attention.
'Wind... sheers?' the pilot in him asked.
'Yes,' I confirmed. 'Tore up the front landing gear pretty
'Shouldn't... have... fucking... been in... the air.'
Roger turned toward me and smiled, giving me a thumbs up sign,
apparently pleased that I was doing the job he had let me in here to do.
'What the hell was I supposed to do when you didn't answer
your cell phone?' I mock growled at him.
'Called... Trowa...?' he grinned up at me and I chuckled for
'We did that too.'
'Did you... have to... call... the damn... thing so... often?'
he struggled through it, but the frustration was plain in his voice.
'Sorry, love,' I told him, chagrined. 'It was all I had.'
'Thought... I was... gonna... scream,' he tried a glare but
it just wasn't up to par.
I stroked his hair and turned to look out the front. 'We should
be getting close,' I ventured and heard Roger clear his throat. I turned
back to see him looking at me, tired and vaguely unhappy.
'The County hospital closed their emergency room an hour ago,
they're full,' he told me softly. 'We're heading on over to St. Michaels.'
I thought I would truly break down and weep then; St. Michaels
was another good twenty miles.
I took a deep breath and turned back to Duo. 'So just what
the hell is a secret cave?' Carrie was the only other thing I could think
of that might just keep his mind occupied.
It was Heero's voice that got me through that nightmare ride.
I hope I'm around to tell him that someday. It didn't matter what he was
saying, most of it washed right over me without leaving much of an impression.
It was just his tone. I could hear his love and his fear. I could feel his
frustration and guilt. When I thought I could not hang on even one more
minute, his voice would come and wrap around me again, holding me up and
keeping me anchored.
We'd promised, in that other lifetime, that neither of us
would ever ask the other to go on alone. I came as close as I ever have
to breaking that promise that night. I was as sure as the sun was going
to come up in the morning that I was going to die. But there was Heero,
holding my hand and stroking my cheek and begging me to hold on just a little
longer. My word bound me not to ask him to live on without me. My heart
could not face the possibility of his death, even if I wouldn't be around
for it. So I held on. Just one more mile, just one more minute, and finally...
just one more excruciating breath. In the end, all I had was the rasp of
my own breathing... and Heero's voice.
By the time we got to the hospital, he wasn't answering me
any more. His eyes were just open and staring straight ahead, but he had
stopped responding. So I just talked, not knowing what the hell else to
do. He was still with me, I could feel it in the clutch of his fingers,
but it was as though all his strength had been reserved for forcing his
body to inhale and exhale, one ragged breath at a time.
'...you remember that mission with the flea infested safe
house? That medic said you were made out of gundanium, remember? Accused
me of dragging you back to the base behind the damn truck. I'll never understand
why they always thought your getting hurt was my damn fault somehow. This
can't be any worse than the time you jumped out of that Gods damned car
at fifty miles an hour, can it? Just hang on a little longer, love. We've
got to be getting close...just a little longer. Do it for me, my little
one? Please don't die on me...'
Pain. Fear. Heero's sweet voice behind it all. Inhale. Exhale.
Pain...Gods the pain. Inhale. Exhale. Heero needs me. Can't let Heero down.
Inhale. Exhale. I can't do it. Heero's calling me... I have to do it. In...inhale.
Exhale. For Heero. For Heero. Just one more time. Inhale. Exhale. Heero's
voice, like an anchor, holding me fast. Inhale... Heero? Where...?
I knew they were going to separate us at the hospital, but
it didn't make it any easier to let go of his hand when the time came. I
just stood where they left me in the middle of the damned hall, watching
them wheel him away and feeling like my entire world had just splintered
into a million shards. They had called ahead, and the surgery bay had already
been set up, they didn't even pause in the emergency room, just rushed him
straight through the huge double doors that I was not allowed to pass.
I'm sure I only stood there for a matter of a few minutes
before my friends were surrounding me, but it seemed like an eternity. Quatre
and Trowa came in on either side of me and led me into the waiting room,
finding a place with enough chairs to accommodate all of us, and settled
me into a corner seat where they could buffer me from the world. Misty and
Justin were there, off in the depths of the emergency room, getting Carrie
checked out. Wufei came and squatted in front of me, forcing me to make
'Yuy?' he said softly. 'How was he doing?'
I blinked at him, raising a hand to rub across my face, and
found myself shaking like a leaf. 'I don't... not good,' I told him, sounding
a little hoarse from all that talking. 'I'm not sure...' My voice caught
and I stopped.
Wufei laid his hand on the back of my neck and pulled my head
down to rest on his shoulder, whispering harsh next to my ear, 'He's going
to make it. He's going to be all right.'
Trowa was rubbing a hand up and down my back, and Quatre had
hold of my shoulder. They waited until I had pushed the hysteria down and
I sat back up. I cleared my throat and tried again.
'He was talking to me a bit when we first left the... house,
but by the time we got here, he wasn't responding to me at all.'
'Why the hell did they come all the way to St. Michaels?'
Trowa wanted to know.
'County was so swamped they shut down their emergency room,'
I told him with a sigh, fighting off a shiver. 'I thought... I thought we'd
never get here.'
I was vaguely aware of Trowa stirring on my left side, sitting
up and shifting, and then a jacket was being slipped around my shoulders.
I opened my mouth to object, but he just smiled at me.
'Put it on Heero, I'm fine.'
I didn't fight it anymore; it felt good and helped ease the
shivering. I murmured a thank you, letting them help me into it.
The doors where Duo had disappeared suddenly swung outward,
disgorging Roger and his men. Wufei rose from in front of me to intercept
them, but as soon as they saw us, Roger came our way.
'He's in surgery already,' he told us without preamble. 'They
were ready for him. Called Doc McKay in; he's in the best hands he could
Wufei took charge for me, thanking them and shaking hands,
trying to safeguard me from having to interact with the outside world. Roger,
however, had other ideas, and came around him as though he weren't even
He reached out and thumped me gently on the shoulder. 'Damn
fine job, back there,' he told me. 'You handled it just right. Not sure
we'd have gotten him here without you.'
I grunted; as comforting words... they weren't very.
Then they were gone, striding off to go back out and try to
save somebody else. I had the presence of mind at the last moment, to glance
at their insignia and get the number of their engine company; fifty-one.
Duo would want to thank them.
A nurse came then and found us, leading us through a maze
of corridors to a waiting room separate from the emergency room, for families
of surgery patients. It was blessedly empty. After seeing the way there,
Quatre went back to tell Misty and Justin where it was so they could come
down when the doctors were done with Carrie.
I found myself wishing they wouldn't come. I didn't want the
eyes of outsiders on me right now. I felt a certain pressure to maintain
a level of control I didn't feel up to. I just wanted them to go away, and
I felt guilty for wishing it.
When Quatre came back, he settled himself beside Trowa, receiving
a soft kiss and a reassuring hug. I felt a pang, watching them. They had
become, in the years since the war, rather comfortable with their relationship.
They could walk down the sidewalk together hand in hand and never think
a thing about it. It still disturbed me; I didn't like the feel of eyes
on me. Didn't like the attention it always drew for two men to show affection
in public. Duo and I had never really talked about it, we didn't go out
of our way to hide our relationship, but we didn't advertise it either.
I found myself worrying that maybe it bothered Duo that I couldn't take
his hand in the mall or put my arm around him when we walked down the street.
My fingers, of their own accord, found the small gold cross
around my neck and gently caressed it. I wished I were the type of person
who could pray.
Wufei was sitting down beside me, and I realized that he had
been gone for some minutes. He gently but firmly pressed a Styrofoam cup
of something hot into my hands.
'Drink,' he commanded gruffly. 'You're still chilled.'
I took it and sipped automatically, it was hot chocolate and
'It was either that or coffee,' he smiled faintly; I hate
I wasn't crazy about hot chocolate either, but it felt soothing
going down, warming me from the inside out. Duo loved hot chocolate. He
melted marshmallows in it, ate buttered toast with it and turned its consumption
into an art form.
I had to close my eyes for a moment, and I felt Wufei's hand
come to rest on my back. I felt vaguely guilty how much I wanted that touch.
I wanted to throw myself into his arms and sob my heart out. I wanted to
scream Duo's name. I wanted someone to rock me and tell me everything was
going to be fine. Instead, I sipped at my cup of hot chocolate.
Misty and Justin came in not long after, Carrie running ahead
of them, her exuberance testimony that she was fine. She was dragging that
stupid bear still, the one that Duo had given her... Gods; just last night.
The one that he said she had named Dirt. I'm sure there was never a Steiff
bear in the world that had been dragged around the way this one had been.
It was already looking a little bedraggled, but like Carrie and Bernie,
had come through the collapse of a house relatively untouched. I was oddly
pleased that Duo's gift to her had survived the disaster. Then I noticed
the quilt folded and hanging over Misty's arm and I could have cried. I
had watched Duo create that quilt over a period of months. Had watched him
struggle with the design and concept, had spent sweet, peaceful evenings
reading to him while he sewed. I was more than oddly pleased that it had
survived. More than pleased that Carrie had thought enough of it to take
it with her to the sanctuary of the basement. I had another moment of needing
to close my eyes.
Wufei's hand made those calming circles on my back.
'Let's see your bear, Carrie,' I heard Quatre say and I opened
my eyes to see her hand it over to him. His eyes widened when he got a closer
look at it and he glanced at me. If anyone in this room would know what
that bear was, Quatre would. He grinned at her. 'Let me guess, honey; Uncle
Duo gave this to you?'
'Uh-huh,' she confirmed with a happy smile. 'His names Dirt.'
Quatre had to stifle a laugh.
'Well, he's a darn pretty bear,' Quatre smiled at her and
I realized that he had made it his business, on Duo's behalf, to keep this
little girl from being frightened by what was going on around her.
'He's like on my blanky too,' she told him, taking the bear
back and tucking it under her arm. 'Cept his eyes aren't green.'
'Well, he's got brown eyes like yours,' Quatre reassured her,
sharing a knowing glance with Trowa. 'So I'm sure that's ok.'
'Unca Duo gots me a big black kitty at the... 'seum, so I...'
Her face clouded over suddenly as she remembered that the 'big black kitty'
was long gone. She made a tiny little 'oh' sound, and her lip began to tremble.
I knew that look would have melted Duo into a puddle on the
spot, and I found myself saying, 'That's all right... munchkin; Uncle Duo
and I will buy you another one.'
Her smile blazed back to life and she jumped up and down.
'Oh boy! He's like on my blanky too! Now I needs the birdie, the puppy,
and the d'agon!' She smiled happily, pronouncing the next part very carefully,
as though repeating something important, 'Then the five Guardian Spirits
will come and make everything better!'
The looks we gave her must have been rather blank, because
she rolled her eyes in four year old exasperation, ran over to where her
parents were sitting, a little apart from us, and came running back with
her quilt. She spent some time trying to spread it out on the floor, and
Quatre got down and helped her. Seeing the thing again, made my heart ache
in my chest. Wufei's hand slid up my back and settled on my shoulder with
a firm grip.
After the quilt was spread out, she straightened the arms
and legs of Dirt and laid him down next to the appliquéd picture
of the bear. 'See?' she pointed, as though we were blind or stupid. 'And
the black kitty...'
'Panther,' Quatre corrected, his voice strained.
'Yeah!' Carrie beamed at him. 'That's it! I needs to get the
birdie...' She pointed at the next fanciful creature wrought by Duo's hand.
'Hawk,' whispered Quatre.
'Yeah! And the...' This time she just looked up at Quatre
and waited for him to supply the word.
'And the D'agon!' Her bright voice seemed so out of place
here. 'Unca Duo said that...' She furrowed her brow in childish thought
and then quoted, 'Nothing is stronger than the five Spirits together and
their love shines like the sun...' She faltered. 'But Unca Duo couldn't
finish the story 'cause he got a bad cough.'
She looked so tiny and innocent to have delivered that blow.
Wufei lunged from his place beside me and strode completely out of the room,
Carrie looking after him quizzically. Quatre leaned back against Trowa's
legs and reached blindly out for the hand that was seeking his.
And I... I just felt abandoned and alone. Cold down to my
soul where the warmth of jackets and hot chocolate would never reach. I
felt a taste of what life would be like without my heart, and I knew the
decision of whether or not to go on without him wasn't even in my hands.
There was no life without Duo. Without my Duo... there was just nothing.
Her mother called her away then, and she took her things to
go sit with them. Quatre got up off the floor to sit back down in the chair
next to Trowa, who wrapped him in a comforting embrace. Wufei came back
after a while, looking guilty and chagrined, and took his place beside me.
Before he had the chance, I sat back and put my hand on his shoulder, squeezing
gently. It had taken a small child to remind me that I was not the only
one in the room who loved Duo. I was not the only one who was suffering
'You all right?' I asked softly.
He grunted and nodded a tight little nod. 'Wouldn't have thought
a child that size could cut your heart out and feed it to you like that,'
he murmured low enough so that the words were for me alone.
I smiled for him and then we grew quiet. Other than the muted
sounds of the hospital around us, the only noise was Carrie prattling away
to her mother and father about her weekend. It was apparently impossible
to keep a child of four quiet. I kept waiting for her to get tired and fall
asleep somewhere, but it didn't seem like it was going to happen. I found
myself wishing again that they would just go away. Somewhere in there, it
hit me they probably had nowhere to go. So I offered them the keys to our
apartment, feeling guilty as hell as they thanked me. But in the end, they
blessedly accepted and went the hell away and I didn't have to listen to
Carrie say 'Unca Duo' any more. I just hoped they would keep Bernie from
tearing our place up.
After two hours, Wufei flung himself to his feet intent on
strangling someone to get answers. Trowa restrained him and Quatre went
off to ask the questions in what, I'm sure, would be a much more refined
He returned with not a lot of information, just that Duo was
still in surgery and the Doctor would come out to speak with us when they
were done. We tried to take heart from the simple fact that he was still
My head was pounding and my stomach churning by the time a
middle-aged man in surgical scrubs came through those doors, rubbing at
tired neck muscles and looking around the waiting room. It had been three
and a half hours.
We rose as one when he asked, 'Family of Mr. Maxwell?'
He looked a little taken-aback when the four of us descended
'How is he?' Quatre asked gently.
'He came through the surgery.' The Doctor couldn't contain
a slightly amazed shake of his head. 'He's in recovery.' But then he gave
us a stern look, 'We're not out of the woods yet though, the next twenty-four
hours should tell.'
'When can I... we see him?' I asked and I was half thinking
that I might not wait for permission.
The Doctor gave me a quizzical look. 'Are you Heero?'
I blinked at him owlishly, and Wufei had to confirm my identity
The Doctor gave me an odd smile. 'Your EMT driver recommended
that I bring you into the damned operating room.' He chuckled, rubbing the
back of his neck again and looking at me appraisingly. 'I wouldn't go that
far, but I've known Roger a long time... I'm going to break the rules on
his say-so and take you back there now.'
It seemed to be a night for breaking the rules.
So I followed Dr. McKay through the doors marked 'no admittance',
trailing along beside him as he led me where I wasn't supposed to be.
'Don't be alarmed by all the tubes and wires,' the Doctor
was telling me. 'He's just out of surgery; there's a lot of things we don't
normally let people see. He won't regain consciousness for some time. He's
on a respirator...'
But then we were there and I didn't hear another word the
man said. A nurse gave me a startled look, but stepped aside after exchanging
glances with Dr. McKay.
I could hear the heart monitor, sounding slow and labored,
each beep seeming to take an eternity to sound.
'Duo?' I breathed, and went passed the nurse to get to him,
not really seeing her. He was still on his stomach and I don't even really
want to talk about what he looked like. It was a mental image that haunted
me with nightmares for... a very long time.
I found his hand, I knew I could touch that without hurting
him, and I stroked his cheek. 'Oh Gods love... you made it. You did it...
I knew you could. Everything's going to be all right now.'
Words to convince myself as much as him. It was the only thing
I could give him in that moment... the sound of my voice.
Behind me, I heard the nurse exclaim, and the Doctor mutter,
'Well... damn.' I turned, alarmed, but found them with puzzled grins on
their faces looking at the heart monitor. When I focused on it, I realized
it had steadied. It sounded almost... normal.
Dr. McKay quirked a cock-eyed grin at me. 'I guess I owe Roger
a steak dinner, young man.'
'That's ok,' I told him softly. 'I owe him a damn sight more
Heero...? Yes... Heero. Can rest now. Heero's here.
Guardian Spirits by Sunhawk
Still unconscious, he fought his way off the respirator after
only five or six hours. But it was almost twelve hours before he finally
struggled up through the drug induced haze and regained some semblance of
awareness. I never left his side. They moved him out of recovery and into
ICU, and I went with him. I thought I would have to fight my way in there;
thought I would have to defend my right to stay beside him, but it seemed
that Dr. McKay's bending of the rules had set a precedent.
Duo and I were accumulating a long list of debts. Had broken
a hell of a long list of rules. I wasn't looking forward to explaining to
Commander Une about the Lear jet.
For a while after he started to come around, his eyes would
open but he didn't really seem to be seeing anything. They had him so medicated,
it was a wonder he was waking at all. I just continued to hold his hand
and whisper to him, letting the world move around us. After an eternity
of hours, his eyes started to track my movements and seemed to be registering
the things I was saying. At length, he tried to speak but couldn't. I traced
his lips with ice chips until he could take the moisture from my fingers
and he finally managed to croak words.
I smiled for him, so blessed relieved to hear his voice at
last, 'She's fine. The stupid dog is fine. You even saved Dirt.'
A tired quirk of his lips. 'Guys?' he asked.
'Everyone is ok, love,' I soothed. 'Nobody got hurt... but
'Time?' he asked then, able to communicate with these single
words. We had both been in the position he was in before. We both knew the
things that preyed on your mind when you started to come around.
'It's Sunday night,' I told him. 'You haven't been here twenty-four
hours yet. We're at St. Michaels, still in the ICU.'
I knew the things you needed to orient yourself. Had been
there often enough myself. I knew his next question before he asked it,
but waited, hoping it wouldn't come up.
I stroked his hair. 'Not for a while, my heart. We're going
to be here for a bit yet.'
He gave me an unhappy frown but drifted away to sleep again.
I completely refused to leave his side, dozing sometimes in
a chair pulled up to the bed where I could hold onto his hand. I was able
to cajole a urinal out of one of the third shift nurses, who seemed to find
the pair of us heartbreakingly 'sweet'. I didn't care what she thought as
long as I got some cooperation out of somebody. She would take the thing
and empty it for me and slip me sandwiches when nobody was looking. Food
was prohibited in the ICU.
It was the third day before they released him from intensive
care and we were shifted to a regular room where he was finally allowed
other visitors. Wufei, Trowa and Quatre descended on us like starving tigers.
He was able, in the short periods of time that he was awake,
to converse in whole sentences now. His condition upgraded from critical
to guarded. They were going to allow him to attempt eating a little broth.
He was still on his stomach, almost all of his wounds being on his back.
The others were allowed in only one at a time, and I wasn't
surprised that Wufei managed to come first. He came in carrying a bag and
looking me over as much as Duo.
He squatted down beside Duo, to be at eye level. 'Welcome
home, Mr. Black,' he said softly.
Duo smiled, blinking sleepily at him. 'Thanks, Mr. Dragon...
nice to still be here.'
Then Wufei turned critical eyes on me. 'This is the changing
of the guard, Yuy,' he told me firmly and I glared.
He only smirked. 'The entire seventh floor staff is talking
about you,' he informed me. 'Talking about how bad you smell.'
Duo actually grinned as I blushed to the roots of my damned
hair. Wufei was holding the bag out. 'Change of clothes, shampoo, soap,
toothbrush and toothpaste. Two energy drinks and some protein bars.' He
managed to smirk harder. 'He is out of the woods. I am here. Go and get
cleaned up; I have the nurses permission for you to use the shower.'
Duo actually managed a chuckle. 'You are kind of...ripe, love.'
It was the first time I had been more than two feet from him
for the last three days. I took the bag and had to work very hard to force
myself to walk across the room, enter the bathroom and close the door. The
man that stared back at me from the bathroom mirror looked... haggard.
I gulped down the drinks first and inhaled the protein bars.
The smuggled sandwiches at night, though much appreciated, had not really
been doing the job. The shower was a miracle of relief. I had not been aware
of just how damned tired I was until the moment when I had made the decision
to give over the point position to Wufei. Three days of sleeping as I could
in a straight back chair had me feeling like a zombie. It was all I could
do not to slip down to the floor of the shower and go to sleep right there.
I watched the bathroom door close behind Heero with a strange
mixture of relief and dread.
I had no illusions about the miracle of my continued existence.
Heero had drug me kicking and screaming... ok, ok... whimpering and whining
back to the mortal plane. I would not be here now if it were not for him.
I don't know if he knew that, but I sure as hell did.
There was no doubt in my mind that if he hadn't been there
at the top of those stairs that night, to call me back from the dark, I
would have given up and... died.
'I have five dollars that says he's done in there in less
than fifteen minutes,' Wufei chuckled softly beside me, taking over the
seat Heero had just vacated.
I smiled and twisted my head up to see him. 'Think it'll take
him that long?'
He scooted the chair around a little and sat forward so I
didn't have to crane my neck. He surprised me by reaching out and taking
'Wouldn't want Yuy to think I wasn't doing my job,' he told
me gruffly, but couldn't keep the corner of his mouth from twitching up.
His fingers were warm and strong wrapped around mine. My own
hand felt frail to me compared with his. I squeezed as best I could, grateful
for the touch. I had not struggled back to consciousness once since the
surgery without finding Heero's hands on me somehow. Touching, holding,
offering support and making sure I knew he was still there. There was a
hollow place with him gone, and I was glad Wufei was there to fill it as
best he could.
'How are you doing, Duo?' he asked me gently.
If I hadn't already known how close I had come, that would
have told me. Wufei seldom calls me 'Duo' unless I've scared the crap out
'All right... I guess. Just so damned tired.' I sighed softly;
it still hurt to breathe deep, and talking very much left me panting.
He smirked at me. 'You look like shit.'
I smirked back. 'Thanks a lot. Glad you came all this way
just to tell me that.'
'No problem,' he grinned wickedly, but his voice was warm
I had to rest for a little bit then; it couldn't have been
long, because when I opened my eyes, Heero was still in the shower.
'Sorry,' I muttered, but Wufei just chuckled lightly.
'It's all right; you need the rest.'
'Fei, has Heero gone home at all?' I asked him, the last couple
of days were pretty much a blur.
He smiled, glancing at the bathroom door. 'No.' His fingers
squeezed mine carefully. 'They let him go back to you as soon as you were
out of surgery and we haven't seen him since.'
'Damn,' I muttered. 'Can you see if you can get him to go
get some sleep?'
He actually laughed, though he kept it low. 'I can make no
promises there, Maxwell.'
'Try?' I pleaded. 'He's killing himself. I don't think he's
even leaving to go to the damn bathroom... I woke up last night and he was
using a stupid urinal! I don't think he's eating, I...'
'Shhh...' Wufei reached out and stroked his hand over my hair,
his voice sounding worried. 'All right, Duo; calm down. I'll talk to him,
ok? Just calm down.'
I drew a shuddering breath and fought against suddenly heavy
eyelids. 'Thanks, 'Fei,' I managed, and found myself drifting away again.
'Go to sleep, little spirit,' I thought I heard. 'Just rest.'
Just getting clean was enough to make me feel like I could
go on for another couple of days. And now that Duo was in a regular room,
I could ask the guys to bring me something to eat. That would help immensely.
I opened the bathroom door thinking that maybe... just maybe,
I would not fall flat on my face.
'Try?' I heard Duo saying, his voice rising and full of anxiety.
'He's killing himself. I don't think he's even leaving to go to the damn
bathroom... I woke up last night and he was using a stupid urinal! I don't
think he's eating, I...'
'Shhh...' Wufei reached out and stroked his hand over Duo's
hair. His voice sounded tight with concern. 'All right, Duo; calm down.
I'll talk to him, ok? Just calm down.'
Duo was suddenly overcome with exhaustion again, I could see
all the signs of him fading back into sleep and he muttered something I
couldn't make out.
Beside him, Wufei continued to stroke gentle fingers over
his forehead whispering soothing words until Duo had slipped away again.
'You're scaring him,' Wufei said to me then, not turning around,
and I moved to stand beside the bed.
'He needs me,' I said, simply.
'Yes he does,' he agreed, surprising me. 'He needs you whole
and well enough to take care of him.'
I only grunted.
He sighed and rubbed at eyes that seemed red and tired. 'Yuy...
Heero, for his sake, you have to take care of yourself too.'
'I'm fine,' I said, and it came out sounding... testy.
'He's been released from intensive care. He's going to get
better.' He looked up at me with a searching gaze. 'You can let yourself
relax a little.'
A growl was trying to make its way up my throat and I wrestled
it down. My desire to snap and snarl like some damn wild animal giving me
testimony I didn't really want to see, to just how exhausted I was.
'He's going to need you more once he's released to go home.
If you drive yourself to collapse now... you're not going to be able to
take care of him later.'
I sighed. He was making sense, he wasn't really telling me
anything I didn't already know. He was just forcing me to deal with what
had been staring me in the face for a while now.
He quirked a tired grin at me. 'Heero, he can get by on the
pale substitute of one of us for five or six hours a day.'
I had to smile in return, and I could see in his eyes that
he knew he was winning.
'I swear to you, one of us will stay with him the entire time
you're away.' He held up his right hand and he didn't say scouts honor,
but his tone of voice implied it. 'We will not leave him alone for a minute.'
I sighed heavily, letting my shoulders slump in defeat. 'Fine.
You're right... I know you're right.'
'It will relieve his mind a great deal,' he told me softly.
I had to duck my head and look away from him. 'If I can...
I damn near couldn't make myself leave the blasted room.'
He snorted. 'I'll take you home myself.'
'I can...' I started to object, and then remembered we didn't
have a car any more.
'Like I would let you drive yourself in the shape you're in
anyway,' he grunted and then patted my arm. 'I'll go get Quatre and then
But I cut him off. 'I won't leave him while he's asleep. I'll
wait until he wakes again... so I can tell him.'
He just gave me one of those little almost-not-there smiles
of his and said, 'All right.'
He got up and made me take the chair, relinquishing Duo's
hand to me. I had to admit that the idea of getting to lie down in my own
bed, even for just a couple of hours was damned enticing. Then I had a sudden
thought, and groaned. 'Misty and Justin aren't still at the apartment are
Wufei grinned at me. 'Regretting your hospitality? No, they
left yesterday to go stay with his sister.' That made him think, and he
fished my key out of his pocket. 'Here, they left this for you.'
I took the thing and stuck it in my pocket; relieved beyond
words that our home would indeed be the sanctuary I needed right now. If
they had still been there, I doubt if I would have agreed to go.
When I looked up again, I caught Wufei looking Duo over critically.
He glanced at me. 'Gods... he's a mess.'
'He did have a house fall on him,' I observed wryly and he
'He must be going crazy, stuck on his stomach like this,'
he said softly, reaching to pull the sheet up a little.
'Not really,' I said. 'He's still too... drugged. He sleeps
most of the time.'
He sighed heavily, his eyes looking infinitely weary. 'We
came damn close again, didn't we?' he whispered.
To losing him. 'Yes,' I agreed. 'We did. Very damn close.'
We sat for a time and watched Duo sleep, and then Wufei slipped
away so that first Quatre and then Trowa could come and see him. Wufei had
obviously spoken with them about me, because they both assured me of their
intent to sit with Duo while I went home. Trowa was there when Duo finally
'Hey,' I squatted down into his line of sight and smiled for
'Hey yourself,' he smiled in return and then his face clouded
a little. 'You're still here...'
'Of course I'm here,' I chuckled lightly for him. 'You didn't
think I'd leave without telling you first?'
His soft smile turned into a wide grin. 'Really? You mean
it? You're going to go home and get some sleep?'
Beside us, Trowa chuckled and Duo noticed him for the first
'Hello Duo,' he seemed much relieved to see Duo awake at last.
'Looks like we're going to get to spend some time together.'
'Is... Quatre here too?' Duo's smile faltered a little and
I knew he was thinking about how busy the Winner business usually kept Quatre,
but Trowa just snorted.
'Where the hell else would he be?' he looked pointedly at
me. 'He'll come back to see you again as soon as soldier boy here goes home.'
I graced him with a halfhearted glare, then bent to tell Duo
goodbye. 'I'll be back as soon as I can,' I said softly, squeezing his hand.
'I don't want to see you again before morning, Yuy,' he told
me firmly, but I could see the lie in his eyes and I almost didn't go.
Walking out that door and down the hall was the hardest damn
thing I've done in a very long time. It felt like a betrayal of the basest
I almost called him back. Pathetic, huh? At least he was through
the door before the...fear hit my gut and caused the heart monitor to lurch
into high gear. I really hate those damned things. It's like being hooked
up to a lie detector.
'Quatre will be relieved to see you awake,' Trowa told me
calmly, trying to distract me, I'm sure.
I quirked an eyebrow up at him. 'Sorry,' I muttered and knew
that I was flushing. 'I just...'
He leaned over and put a warm hand on my shoulder. 'Hey,'
he said softly. 'I'm sleeping with the man who went down into that basement
with you, remember? I know what you went through. You have a right to...lean
on us a little.'
I smiled gratefully, and found myself struggling with drowsiness
'Can you stay awake just a few more minutes?' Trowa asked
timidly, his voice apprehensive. 'Quatre really needs to... hear your voice.'
'You ask so much,' I teased. 'I've been awake almost five
whole, stupid minutes.'
He laughed for my benefit, hand rubbing lightly up and down
Quatre, when he got there, fairly flew through the door. His
smile could have lit up the room.
'Duo!' he beamed at me and came to slip his arms around my
shoulders for a firm hug. His embrace felt good; solid and real compared
to the feather light touches I had been receiving from Heero and Wufei.
I slid my arm around his and squeezed tight in return, though I could tell
there was no real pressure in it, but it served to keep him there for a
minute. He seemed to understand my need, and held me tight for a few minutes
until my arm was trembling with fatigue and I had to let it fall back to
the bed. He drew back and his eyes were shining wetly.
'You scared the hell out of us, Duo,' he scolded me and damned
if he didn't lean down and kiss the top of my head.
'S'ok now,' I told him, and felt the dark coming back for
'It's all right, Duo,' Trowa told me. 'Sleep.'
I closed my eyes on the sight of them happily embracing, the
last thing I heard was Quatre's voice sounding overcome with emotion, 'He's
really going to be all right, isn't he?'
Wufei took me home, insisting on coming upstairs with me.
I think he was afraid I would just throw myself down on the couch for a
couple of hours. When we got into the apartment, however, it became clear
that he had more on his mind as he strode purposefully into our kitchen
and began digging through the cupboards looking for something he could prepare
I followed him, meaning to object, but he fixed me with one
of those stares of his that makes you feel like an idiot and said, 'Go do
whatever you have to do to get yourself ready for bed and I will fix you
something to eat.'
There was no arguing with that voice. I turned toward the
bedroom, and my eyes found Duo's roses sitting in the middle of the kitchen
table. They were starting to wilt, and I suddenly found the most important
thing I had to do was change the water on those stupid flowers. Wufei didn't
Then I went to use my own damned bathroom and what a relief
it was not to have to worry about some nurse barging in on me. I rinsed
my face, changed into a pair of running shorts and went to eat the soup
and sandwich that Wufei put in front of me.
He sat with me while I wolfed it down, chuckling at me as
my hunger took control.
'You going to be all right?' he queried at length, when I
slowed down a little.
'Need anything else?' he pressed, propping his chin on one
'Just a couple of hours sleep,' I told him. 'I'm fine, Wufei.'
He looked away. 'Do you... want me to stay?'
I snorted, using the last of the sandwich to sop up the dregs
of the soup. 'I'm a big boy, Chang.'
'Aren't we all?' he muttered, but before I could question
that strange comment, said, 'More than just a couple of hours sleep, Yuy.'
We locked gazes for a long, tense moment.
'At least six hours,' he told me resolutely.
I gnawed on that; it was still less than Duo had asked.
'I want to be back before the Doctor makes his rounds at seven
tomorrow morning.' I was just as firm.
He was hesitant, but finally agreed with a tired nod. 'I'll
be by at six to pick you up.'
He left and I went to bed, having only bare seconds to revel
in the feel of our own familiar bed before I pitched headfirst into an exhausted
I think I managed four good hours before the nightmare swept
up and tried to disembowel me.
It wasn't long... it didn't need to be. I was crouched outside
that dark hole in the ground, pinned down by a half a dozen pairs of hands,
unable to get near those damned stairs. I could hear Duo calling for me,
but I couldn't make him hear me no matter how much I screamed. His voice
just kept getting weaker and weaker, sounding farther and farther away and
finally, I couldn't hear him at all.
Then Roger and his men were hauling that gurney up out of
the dark and on it was Duo's body... the way he had looked in the hospital
when they first let me go to him. Sprawled bonelessly on his stomach, the
respirator taped in place over his mouth, tubes and wires running everywhere.
His hair all bundled up under one of those caps, wearing nothing but a pointless
hospital gown that was completely gaped open, leaving his, in this vision,
untreated wounds open to my sight. I could see the bones sticking out from
the torn flesh of his thigh. The steel spikes were still thrust through
his body, the wood gone so that I could see the stark metal.
His skin was cold and gray. His eyes were open, staring unseeing...
flat and... dead.
I woke screaming his name and spent the rest of the night
huddled in the middle of the bed with our quilt clutched to my chest.
I was in that damn hospital for over two weeks. I was ready
to pull my hair out by the end. I was missing whole days out of my life.
I remembered only sketchy bits and pieces of conversations. I remembered
pain. I remembered fear. I remembered Heero's soothing voice, never far.
It got harder after I stopped drifting in and out. The pain
was there all the time and it became more difficult to cope with it. It
wasn't helping that despite the fact that Heero was going home in the evenings
to sleep, I could tell there was something wrong. But, of course he wouldn't
talk to me about it. I badgered Wufei to try to get it out of him, but he
either didn't have any luck, or he wouldn't tell me.
I felt so utterly helpless and vulnerable. I don't know why
the hell it is whenever I get hurt it always freaking involves both top
and bottom. I couldn't walk on my own with the damned broken leg, and the
wound through my torso made it extremely painful to use my left arm. The
dozen or so punctures in my back and the backs of my legs made it uncomfortable
as hell trying to lay on my back. I hate sleeping on my stomach. I hate
feeling vulnerable. I hate being kept in the dark. I'm not all that keen
about being in pain, either.
The guys had established a routine and one of them was with
me all the time. I don't know how in the blazes they worked it out with
the hospital staff; visiting hours didn't seem to apply to me. If I had
to guess, I'd say Heero threw the Preventer's name around some more. Or
maybe Doc McKay just liked us...I don't know. Heero came in for the day
shift, always making a point of getting there before the Doctor made his
rounds. He stayed until the evening, more than twelve hours. Wufei came
in, overlapping him a little, usually having to almost force Heero to leave,
and then he stayed with me until the small hours of the morning when Trowa
and Quatre came. They sat with me until Heero came back. It made me feel
awful. I was disrupting their lives and it really wasn't necessary any more.
I felt guilty and needy and like some kind of damn leech.
Drugs are not my friends. I know some people who can go under
anesthetic without any problem. I can't. Weeks after coming out from under,
I'm left moody and depressed and vaguely sick. Hey, damnit; it's documented
medical fact. It's called a side effect.
It all caught up with me about the fourth or fifth day. I'm
not even sure, and that was just another little straw on the back of this
sad and bedraggled camel. My time sense was screwed six ways to Sunday.
I never knew what day it was, and could only guess roughly at the time based
on who was sitting beside me.
At that stage of things, I was still sleeping more than not,
but it was true sleep not the sliding in and out of consciousness that I
had been enduring.
The pain woke me again. It's really hard to sleep when your
body is aching and stinging and burning in a dozen different places. I opened
my eyes to find that Wufei had dozed off beside me, sitting in that stupid
straight back chair. The lights were turned down for the night and the only
real sound was that Gods damned, annoying heart monitor.
It was the wee hours of the morning, that dead middle of the
night when nightmares creep out and run as they please. I lay and watched
Wufei; watched the slow, steady rise and fall of his chest. A single lock
of raven hair had slipped from that uncompromising tail and hung down across
one eye. I looked at those eyes, closed in sleep, and could see that they
looked bruised. He looked so damned tired. He should have been home in bed.
He shouldn't have to be spending his nights dozing fitfully in a stupid
In my head, I heard the maniacal laugh of some mad God as
he gleefully tossed that last straw onto the pile. I broke.
Tears poured down my face and I could tell I wasn't going
to be getting them stopped any time soon. The pillow was soaked in a matter
of minutes, and my breath was threatening to start doing that hitching thing.
I struggled to stay quiet. No way in the seven hells did I want Wufei to
wake and find me like this. I did a fairly decent job of stifling the sobs.
It was the thrice-damned heart monitor that gave me away.
His eyes flashed open and there was a moment of panic, as
he looked frantically around. Then his eyes found mine and he blinked in
surprise. 'Maxwell?' he asked, sounding incredulous, and his face went all
soft and warm.
I doubt if he had ever seen me weep like a child before. Most
of the tears I had shed in my lifetime had been in Heero's arms. I really
didn't want him to see me now. I buried my face in the pillow and did my
best to salvage the tiny little vestiges of what pride I had left.
'Can I have a few minutes?' I mumbled, not holding out a ton
He didn't speak, but I felt the bed moving as he lowered it.
I heard the scrape of the chair being moved and the clicks as the side rail
on the bed went down and suddenly, his arm was sliding in under me and I
found myself in the shelter of his embrace. I don't know how in the hell
he got himself twisted around that way, without actually getting in the
bed, which he couldn't have done without hurting me. He was oh, so careful,
but completely unyielding. He was not going to give me those few minutes.
I was overcome with a rush of emotion, gave it up for lost
and just took what he was offering. I buried my face in his shoulder and
sobbed brokenly, the gasping cries making my chest ache like hell.
'It's all right, Duo. Just let it out... let it go.' Like
I could stop it.
His hand stroked reassuringly over my hair and shoulders,
gentle and cautious. And I just lay in his arms and wept. It really didn't
take long; I was trembling with exhaustion after a surprisingly short amount
'I'm sorry,' I panted, when I was able. 'I'm so sorry.'
His arms tightened around me. 'Don't be sorry, bright spirit,
you needed to let it out.'
Bright spirit? That was new. I decided not to question it.
'It's the drugs,' I muttered, feeling like an utter ass. 'They always do
this to me.'
He chuckled softly, still not moving to let me go. 'Oh, the
pain and the guilt, the frustration and the feeling of helplessness have
nothing to do with it?'
I blinked in surprise and tried to raise my head to look up
at him, but it hurt too much and I just slumped back against his shoulder.
The hell with it. I needed this; and if, by the Gods, he was going to offer
it...I was going to accept.
'Duo, we've all been where you are at one time or another.'
There was the shadow of a melancholy smile in his voice. 'I remember feeling
ashamed and weak and guilty... but I remember my friends being by my side
I let myself settle against him, feeling my eyes drifting
shut. 'Thanks 'Fei' I murmured with the last of my strength, and I got a
bright chuckle in return.
'I remember a little, stuffed dragon as well...' Was the last
thing I heard, and I fell asleep with a foolish little smile on my face.
When I woke hours later, Wufei was gone and Heero was there.
I felt a pang of guilt; I had slept straight through Trowa and Quatre's
shift, as much as I had managed in one stretch so far. But then my eyes
focused on the little beanbag black panther tucked beside my pillow and
I had to grin. Maybe I could do this after all... with a little help from
I got to bring him home a week and a half later. It had taken
days of preparation; Quatre was an absolute gift from the Gods. He took
things in hand after it became fairly apparent that I wasn't up to handling
the tedium of coping with outsiders. I just did not have the patience to
deal with forms and phone calls and arrangements. I gave him the keys to
the apartment, my insurance and credit cards, and let him go. I trust Quatre
He made arrangements to rent a hospital bed, seeing to its
delivery and set-up. Made all the initial contact with our insurance company
about the car. Got the paperwork done that authorized a rental until the
settlement came through. Even picked the damn car up. He stocked the kitchen
and the medicine cabinet, buying things I never would have thought of, like
the no-rinse bath soap and the body lotion. He managed to find, the Gods
only know where, shorts that snapped up the sides that were going to make
dressing Duo a hell of a lot easier with that damned leg cast. He prepared
meals in advance that he packaged and froze so that all I had to do was
heat things up. He also cleaned the apartment, did up all the laundry and
went through the mail that I had been letting pile up, handling all the
bills and other dated material. Like I said; a rare and precious gift from
the Gods. One I could not have done without in the rough shape I was in.
Duo's mobility was almost nil. Walking without crutches was
impossible. Walking with crutches was so painfully hard on his chest injury
that he couldn't go two steps. Most of the lesser puncture wounds had at
least healed to the point that he could lay on his back a small part of
the time. That had gone a long way toward improving his mood; he's never
been one to sleep on his stomach.
The hospital supplied a medical transport to get him home,
and two rather large orderlies to manhandle him up the stairs. We let them,
because it was their job and they knew what they were doing. The anxiety
I felt, watching someone else carry him, was balanced by the fact that he
was safer in the hands of professionals. I remembered to breathe again after
he was settled in the hospital bed in the living room. I let Quatre and
Wufei handle the thank yous and seeing them out. My attention was on Duo.
He was hurting; I could see it in his eyes.
'What's wrong?' I asked him softly. 'Do you need your pain
He smiled wanly for me. 'They dosed me up just before we left
the hospital... I can't take any more for a while. I'm fine.'
'What's hurting?' I prodded gently.
He tried to clear it away so that I couldn't see. 'I... I'm
I frowned down at him, brushing his cheek with the tips of
my fingers. He looked so small and frail, so tired and worn out. My heart
ached watching him struggle to be all right for me. He was trying so hard
to hide the pain and ease my mind.
The guys were moving around us, unpacking the few things that
had come home from the hospital with us. Quatre had come up with a small
side table from somewhere that he had set up next to the bed. Trowa was
placing the refilled water pitcher there, along with a glass. Wufei was
going through the bag that contained the clothes Duo had been wearing the
night of the storm. He salvaged the shoes and socks, throwing them into
the hamper. The rest went in the trash, completely unrecoverable. Quatre
was setting out Duo's prescriptions on the table, unpacking the last of
the stuff from the hospital. I saw him grin suddenly, and out came that
silly beanbag animal that Wufei had given Duo. Quatre plopped it down on
the pillow next to Duo's head, and Duo took it in his hand, his fingers
curling around it rather possessively.
I blinked in sudden remembrance and reached to unfasten his
cross from around my neck. 'Hey,' I smiled. 'You're home now... you can
have this back.'
He tilted his head to aid in my slipping it on him. 'You kept
it safe for me,' he breathed, his fingers going to touch it, as if reassuring
himself that it was really there.
'Of course I did,' I chided.
'It felt strange not having it,' he said, almost to himself.
I grinned. 'You looked positively naked without it.' I leaned
down and kissed his forehead, gentle as a feather. 'I never thanked you
He flushed slightly, but only said, 'You're welcome.'
The absolute silence in the rest of the room brought us back
to our surroundings, and I blinked up to find three pairs of eyes watching
Wufei grinned at us. 'Either of you need anything else, or
would you just prefer we go the hell away and let you enjoy being home?'
Duo chuckled softly, 'I am getting kind of tired.'
'Then we should leave and let you get some sleep,' Trowa said,
and came to touch Duo's hand by way of goodbye. Quatre stepped in after
him, but leaned down to wrap his arms around Duo's shoulders in a hard hug.
I cringed watching it, fearing that he would hurt Duo, but Duo seemed to
accept it gratefully, his own right arm coming up to squeeze hard in return.
'I think you're getting stronger,' I heard Quatre whisper
'Thanks, Quatre,' Duo mumbled, looking slightly embarrassed.
The two of them left then and Wufei came up to say his own
farewell. He had Duo's cell phone from going through the bag from the hospital,
and he laid it carefully on the table where Duo could reach it. 'You need
anything,' he glanced up to include me as well. 'Either of you. You know
you can call me.'
We were alone then and I was seized with the most horrific
rush of emotions. I was vastly relieved to have Duo home, away from that
damned hospital with the comings and goings of all those people. But at
the same time I was almost overcome with the weight of responsibility. He
was counting on me for everything now, and already I felt as though I had
done something wrong. There was a hurt lurking in his eyes that he was trying
to hide from me and I didn't know what it was nor how to get him to talk
to me about it.
'It's good to have you home, love,' I told him tenderly, taking
his hand in mine, leaving the little panther lay in the middle of his chest.
He seemed to want it close.
His eyes were getting heavy lidded and I smiled down at him.
'Go to sleep my little one.'
'Call me when you get ready to eat,' he told me thickly, not
even noticing the detested pet name. 'Don't wait.'
'All right,' I lied. 'Just rest now.'
I stood beside the bed and held his hand until he seemed to
be sound asleep and then went to settle myself on the couch until he woke.
Gods. I suddenly realized that nothing had really changed;
I had merely switched locations. The only real difference here, was the
chair was more comfortable and I didn't have a nurse coming around every
couple of hours to give me the reassurance that everything was still fine.
And all I could do was hope that having him home would be
enough to ease the nightmares.
I had been elated to go home. It had been pure bliss when
Doc McKay had told us that I would be released in a day or two. I thought
the time would never pass. The trip, when it finally happened, had been
exhausting even though I hadn't done any of the real work. The ride had
been painful, every bump sending shocks through my body. I had endured the
embarrassment of being hauled up the stairs to the apartment like a sack
of bruised potatoes with stoic good cheer.
Then they had come through the apartment door and I had seen
the damned hospital bed set up in the living room and I had almost cried.
I wanted my own bed. I wanted...I needed to sleep with Heero
next to me. I wanted to open my eyes in the small hours of the morning and
hear his soft breathing, to know that he was sleeping peacefully. I wanted
to feel his warmth next to me, to be able to reach out and touch him when
I woke up with the sound of that freight train wind ringing in my ears.
I had been daydreaming about it for days. No one had bothered to tell me
about the damned hospital bed.
It stung. My gut twisted with a strange feeling of abandonment.
I wanted to object. I wanted to make demands.
But I didn't. I didn't want to have to ask to be accepted
back into my own bed. If I had to ask for it... it was going to take the
comfort out of it. It would only make me feel awkward, like an intruder.
Heero was hovering over me as soon as the muscle twins were
out the door. 'What's wrong?' his voice was full of concern; I guess he
could see something was bothering me and assumed it was a physical pain.
'Do you need your pain medicine?'
I sighed and tried to push the feelings down, smiling for
him. 'They dosed me up just before we left the hospital... I can't take
any more for a while. I'm fine.'
I was being ridiculous and I knew it. This was just to make
things easier on Heero. It was going to be much simpler for him to help
me in and out of this higher bed. He would sleep better without me being
there, shifting so restlessly. I knew that...but it still stung.
'What's hurting?' he pushed a little harder, trying to get
me to give him something he could make better.
I tried again to cover up the feelings I couldn't seem to
make go away and put on another soft smile. 'I... I'm just tired.'
He wasn't convinced, I could see it in his eyes and he brushed
his fingers cautiously over my face. I wanted to press into his hand, force
him to touch me with something more than those almost-not-there feather-light
I was only vaguely aware of the guys moving around the apartment,
putting things away and trying to be helpful. I took a shaky breath and
tried to get hold of myself...this was ridiculous. I heard Quatre's amused
chuckle, and my little panther was suddenly sitting on my pillow. I reached
for it and holding the damned thing in my hand made me feel oddly better.
'Hey,' Heero said, the spark of some remembrance in his eyes.
'You're home now... you can have this back.' And I realized he was removing
Father Maxwell's cross from around his neck.
It was such a screaming relief to see that little thing. I
had used it to help give Carrie the courage to climb up those dark stairs
into the unknown. Had asked her to give it to Heero, to try to relieve his
mind, to give him something to hold onto until I could get out and get to
him. I hadn't seen it since and had been afraid to ask. I just assumed Carrie
had lost it. 'You kept it safe for me,' I gasped, strangely warmed by the
fact that he had obviously been wearing it since the night the world fell
in. He carefully fastened it around my neck.
'Of course I did,' he smiled at me again, that same soft,
tender look in his eyes.
The weight of it lying against my chest felt good and solid,
like something that had been wrong that was suddenly right again. 'It felt
strange not having it.'
He grinned. 'You looked positively naked without it.' He leaned
down and kissed me ever so gently on the forehead and I tried hard to squelch
my disappointment in these frustrating near touches.
'I never thanked you for it,' he said softly, and I warmed
a little. Maybe I could do this... maybe.
Wufei's laughing voice came in the silence that followed,
'Either of you need anything else, or would you just prefer we go the hell
away and let you enjoy being home?'
I grinned at him, past Heero. 'I am getting kind of tired,'
I admitted, and it was true. This had been the busiest day I'd had in a
long time. I really did feel wrung out.
Trowa came toward me first, Heero stepping away to let him
come up beside me. 'Then we should leave and let you get some sleep,' he
said and reached to brush his fingers over the back of my hand. He was just
like Heero and Wufei, touching me like I would crumble away under his fingers.
Then he made room for his lover, and I had to grin as Quatre slid his arms
around my shoulders and hugged me tight. Over his arm, I could see the frown
on Heero's face. It felt wonderful; I pulled him close, returning the embrace
full measure. Or at least as full as I was able. Quatre drew back and grinned
at me. 'I think you're getting stronger.'
I flushed, absurdly pleased and managed a 'thanks, Quatre.'
The two of them left then and I raised my eyes to find Wufei
very deliberately placing my cell phone on the table next to me, our eyes
locked for a moment and he said, 'You need anything,' he turned his gaze
to include Heero, 'either of you. You know you can call me.'
But he was telling me that if I had another dark moment he
would be there. He was telling me it didn't matter what time it was. He
was telling me that Heero didn't know about my little break down in the
hospital. I smiled my thanks, and he grinned broadly at me, his eyes on
my chest. I realized that I was still clutching my little panther there.
Then he was gone too and it was just Heero and me. It was strangely uncomfortable.
He came to my side again, taking my hand to lightly hold it
and he smiled warmly, 'It's good to have you home, love,' he told me, and
it made it a little better. Now that the guys were gone and it had quieted,
I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open.
'Go to sleep my little one,' his voice was a soothing sound,
and it eased away some of the sting.
I thought about him sitting here, watching for me to wake
again, and I told him, 'Call me when you get ready to eat. Don't wait.'
'All right,' he said, and I knew he was just saying it. 'Just
It wasn't my own bed, but at least it was my own home and
I just let go; went to seek the darkness for a little while. Heero was still
holding my hand when I dozed off.
He slept for a long time; I was a little surprised how much
the simple act of coming home had taken out of him. Gods; he had such a
long road ahead of him. I wanted to ease his way down it as best I could,
but I truly wasn't sure how. He was hurting in a way I didn't understand,
on some level I couldn't seem to reach. That cast wasn't coming off for
some time yet, and even after it did, there was going to be therapy. I knew
he was worried about missing work, knew he was worried about me missing
work. I could not have cared less. He was my first and only priority right
now. He needed me and I meant to be there for him every step of the way.
But... somewhere along the lines in the last week, something had risen up
between us; some strange barrier that made some of the silences less of
a companionable thing and more of a...tension.
All I could do was go on taking care of him the best that
I knew how and just hope that things worked themselves out when it was all
I was so tired; achingly tired. Sleep was something that seemed
to be denied me right now. But it was important that I keep things focused
on Duo. I could rest when Duo was better. Right now, he needed me... needed
me to be strong. Succumbing to these nightmares was not being strong. They
didn't fit the mission parameters, so I would just have to ignore them.
Work around them. They were of no importance. When he finally woke, I went
and heated up one of Quatre's dinners and we ate. We made small talk. We
hovered around each other like two strangers. I didn't know what to do.
And still ahead of me was bedtime and the gnawing fear that I would have
another of those screaming nightmares and Duo would find out. The last thing
in the world he needed was to start worrying about me. He had more than
enough on his plate without adding that.
I left him the remote to the television, and went to do up
the dishes. When I came back, he was laying there staring up at the ceiling,
the control still lying unused in his slack fingers. I sighed, wishing,
not for the first time, that I could read his mind.
'What's wrong, Duo?' I went and perched carefully on the side
of his bed and took his hand.
His eyes left the ceiling and met mine. 'I might ask the same
question of you, love,' he said softly and I shivered.
'I'm fine,' I reassured him, gently rubbing my thumb across
those ages old surgery scars. 'Just worried about you is all.'
There was that odd pain flitting through his eyes again, and
I stopped rubbing, afraid I had hurt him somehow.
'Heero...' he began, and for a moment I saw something in his
face that spoke of some deep, unanswered need. It was gone in a moment,
before I could fully understand it.
'Duo... love,' I reached for that need with trembling words.
'Tell me what you want?' But it wasn't enough; the barrier was there again.
'I'm... fine, Heero,' he echoed back to me, and I was left
floundering, falling back on familiar ritual. I helped him use the urinal
and took it to the bathroom to empty and rinse it out. Got a glass of water
and watched to make sure he took his pain medicine. Found an extra blanket
to tuck in around him. All too soon we were left staring at each other,
and I had no idea in the world what in the hell to say. Words were so difficult;
my thoughts flitted around in my head like tiny, drunken grasshoppers.
He reached out tentatively and tugged on my sleeve, a sad
little smile playing about his lips. 'I love you?' he said softly and it
shocked me to hear the question in it. I sat back down with him.
'Of course. I love you too,' I told him gently and stroked
my fingers along his jaw to bring his face up to mine. I kissed him lovingly,
chastely. The last damned thing he needed to deal with right now was my
desire for him. I would not have him feeling guilty for not being able to
answer my cravings. I felt like such an absolute jerk for even thinking
about it. What kind of a sick son of a bitch was I, that I could sit here
on the edge of his damned hospital bed not two weeks after he had almost
fucking died and feel desire for him? I shivered. I would not, for all the
heavens and earth, bring that kind of pressure to bear on him.
I tried again to reach out to whatever it was he was hiding
from me. 'Duo, please tell me what's wrong? I want to help.'
He smiled sadly at me. 'I'm ok, Heero,' he reassured. 'The
drugs are just making me feel... weird.'
So we lied to each other a few more times. I told him nothing
was wrong. He told me nothing was bothering him. I'm pretty sure that neither
of us believed the other one, but we somehow couldn't seem to get passed
it. Neither of us willing to give in and admit the things we weren't talking
about. At length, we said our goodnights, and I went off to bed.
After Heero went to bed that first night, I just lay there
and felt sorry for myself for a while. I felt utterly and completely abandoned;
totally alone. I might as well have still been at the bottom of those blasted
stairs. So far, the only really good thing I could say about coming home
was being able to turn the damn lights off at night.
I had feigned drowsiness there at the end, to get him to go
on to bed so we could stop staring at each other. He was keeping something
from me, and I had the feeling it was something important. But I couldn't
get passed that guarded expression to even begin to figure out what was
going on in his head. He seemed so distant... almost apathetic.
And now, to add insult to injury, my damned, personal, internal
imp was trying to convince me that Heero was repulsed by my body. He had
been rubbing my hand earlier, massaging those old scars the way he used
to. Habit was making his fingers rub firmly, a little more like his normal
touch instead of those ridiculous feather brushes of his fingertips. But
all of a sudden, he had shivered and pulled away from me. Maybe... maybe
I had finally done more to myself than he could deal with? When you thought
about it, I was nothing but a mass of scar tissue; was it so bad now that
he found me... repellent? Was that what this was all about? Why I wasn't
in our bed, but abandoned out here to the living room? Because he didn't
want me there?
I knew Heero better than that. I knew it was just to make
things easier in the short term and that eventually I would be well enough
that things would return to normal. But at three in the morning, alone in
the dark, with nothing to hold onto but a stupid little plushy... the voice
of that little imp could be damned persuasive. I reached for my cell phone
three different times.
I thought I heard something from the bedroom in there somewhere,
and waited, hoping that Heero was going to come out, but it just got quiet
again and eventually I fell back asleep.
I had been right to fear that the nightmares weren't gone.
I might have known that just his being here wasn't going to be enough to
drive them away. Especially with him out there in the Gods damned living
I was at least able to keep from screaming. Having the damned
thing every night, night after night, had given me that much. I woke, shaking
and panting, sitting up in bed. I froze in fear, and it seemed I could hear
Duo shifting restlessly in the other room. I wanted to go out and check
on him, but I wouldn't have been able to hide the trembling. I'm pretty
sure I would have pulled him into my arms without much thought to his injuries
if I had gotten within three feet of him anyway. Best I just stay where
I was. So I lay back down and tried to slow the terrified pounding of my
heart, laying awake the rest of the night. Again.
You thought I was a wimp the first night? Should have been
there the second night when Heero went to bed and... shut the bedroom door.
Some of it was the drugs, ok? Laugh if you want to...but I
really do not react well to painkillers and anesthesia. And a large part
was just the fact that I was pretty much stuck in bed twenty-four hours
a day and had nothing to do but think. I have a very vivid, over-active
imagination, understand? Besides that, anybody who has ever been hurt/injured/majorly
sick will tell you that the small hours of the morning are the absolute
worst. Things that would not give you a second thought in the bright light
of day can bring you to your knees at two or three in the morning.
The sound of that door quietly clicking shut brought me to
me knees, ok? Crashing to my knees. I was absolutely confused and hurt beyond
words. The voice of that imp was louder than ever and starting to make perfect
sense. I am totally and completely ashamed to have to admit that not only
did I pick that stupid cell phone up a half dozen times, but I actually
went through with dialing Wufei's number. I cut it off before it had a chance
to ring though, and ended up clutching my little panther to my face and
sobbing into its fur for the better part of the night. Managing to only
doze fitfully in those ghostly hours right before dawn.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was the feel of strong
arms tight around me, strangely not hurting at all, though they should have.
I turned almost feverishly to return the embrace, desperate just for human
contact, needing some reassurance. Expecting to find Heero in my bed.
'It's all right, Duo,' Wufei's voice was soft and low. 'I
told you I'd be here if you needed me.'
'Fei?' My voice was unsteady even in my own ears, and though
he had surprised me, I suddenly just didn't care. I brought my arms up to
return the hug, amazed that my left arm went up around his neck. 'What have
I done, 'Fei? What have I done wrong?'
He pulled me against his shoulder and stroked my loose hair;
I didn't even remember it coming down. 'You've done nothing, little spirit.
It's not your fault.'
'Gods; am I so repulsive? Am I that awful?' I was crying again,
but he took it in stride and if anything pulled me closer.
'Never,' he said fiercely, his fingers stroking through my
hair. 'You are as bright and beautiful as you have ever been. Yuy is just
being an ass.'
'Then why the hell won't he touch me?' I wailed, utterly shocked
that I had actually said that out loud to Chang Wufei of all people. 'Why
won't he let me back into my own damn bed?' I sounded pathetic and unreasonable
even to myself, but now that he had gotten me started, I couldn't seem to
get stopped. 'He shut me out, 'Fei. He...'
'Shhh... it doesn't matter,' he soothed, his fingers caressing
my cheek, wiping away the tears. 'I'm here now, my bright little spirit,
and I will touch you. I will give you everything you need.'
Before I quite realized what was happening, he was pulling
my face up to meet his, and kissing me. It was so different from kissing
Heero; his lips were cool at first, probably from just coming in from outside.
He was a little more... forceful. He didn't wait for me to make the offer
of parted lips the way Heero did. His tongue darted out to lick and play
along my lower lip, asking for entrance. I gave it to him. Hell... I would
haven given him just about anything in that moment. I was so tangled up
with need and frustration, lost in a dark world of betrayal and pain. He
tasted of... almonds? Nutmeg? I couldn't quite place it.
His hand was teasing its way up under my t-shirt, tracing
my ribs and stroking my stomach. I cringed; this should be hurting... why
wasn't this hurting?
My eyes flew open wide and I found myself sitting up in the
middle of the bed completely alone, my chest and back screaming at me for
the sudden movement.
What the fuck! What in the holy ass seven hells had that been
I fell back, not sure whether to laugh or cry. I did not let
myself fall back asleep again that night.
I was getting tired. So damned tired. That second night, I
shut the bedroom door to make sure I didn't disturb Duo again. He didn't
seem to be sleeping well either and he didn't need me interrupting what
little rest he could get.
I was eternally grateful to Quatre for all the preparation
he had done for me. His precooked meals were an absolute Gods send. I wouldn't
have to do laundry for days yet, and was constantly finding other little
things he had thought of. Like a six-pack of Duo's soda in the bottom of
the refrigerator. I guiltily drank one that third day, just to help myself
get through. The caffeine gave me a little jolt that got me over the hump
and into the afternoon. My focus, my mission, had become just to be here
I spent most of the day sitting on the couch, watching him
sleep, dozing sometimes myself. I hadn't had one of those thrice-damned
nightmares during the day yet, but the possibility made me uneasy and I
didn't let myself slip into a deep sleep.
He looked... broken. So frail... so battered. In his sleep,
he clutched that stupid little stuffed animal to his cheek. I felt like
he was slipping away from me somehow. I couldn't think what to do. It seemed
I should be doing something.
That third day was a living nightmare. I couldn't wipe that
stupid dream out of my head, and every time I thought about it, I felt like
I was going to die of embarrassment. In the light of day, I could rationalize
it; I could see that it was just my frustration mixed in with the memory
of that night Wufei had held me while I cried in the hospital. But for a
few heart-stopping moments... it had seemed damn real. And I cringed thinking
about how easily my dream self had given in to the kisses of another. I've
had some weird dreams in my lifetime; try eating some summer sausage and
jalapeno cheese right before bedtime and see what happens. But none of them
had ever involved Chang Wufei before.
I spent most of the day either napping, or pretending to nap,
running away from the whole damned mess in the only way open to me right
at that point. Whenever I opened my eyes, Heero was right there, near at
hand, catnapping on the couch. Maybe he was running away too.
I couldn't bring myself to ask him for anything. It had gone
past just the issue of his touch. If I had to ask him to touch me, to hold
me, to let me come back to the bedroom... then I would never know if he
only did it because I asked. I knew damned well that if I made an issue
out of it, he would do whatever I wanted and I wasn't sure if I would be
able to tell if I... truly did repulse him or not.
But beyond that, I suddenly found I couldn't ask for anything.
He dozed off around noon, and I was starving, but I couldn't force myself
to call him. I wanted my hair washed, it felt positively gross, but it was
such a monstrous chore I didn't want to bother him with it. I needed to
roll over and get off my back for a while; the puncture wounds were killing
me. But if I didn't have help getting the broken leg turned, the pain about
undid me. I was thirsty, but the water in the pitcher by the bed needed
to be changed and tasted brackish.
I'm not real sure how I had gotten to the dark place I was
in, but by afternoon I had been reduced to hanging on to my soggy little
panther and just trying to get quietly through one hour at a time.
The guys showed up around five thirty. They must have come
as soon as Wufei got off work. They hadn't been back since the day I had
come home. They had called a couple of times, but I had felt odd about asking
them to come over, and Heero had insisted whenever they asked, that things
were 'just fine'.
Heero woke when the knock came on the door, and staggered
to it, dragging his fingers through his hair and yawning hugely.
They came into the apartment like a ray of blessed sunshine.
But there was no laughter, no jokes; Wufei looked concerned even as the
door was opening. Then they stepped in and his eyes widened in some small
amount of shock. Gods only knew what he was seeing; I could only guess what
I looked like, but I knew how faded and worn Heero looked.
'What the hell is going on here?' he blurted almost immediately.
Heero just looked confused; tired and blurry and confused.
'What...?' he muttered, but Wufei was already coming passed him toward me.
He had known something was the matter before he ever got through
that door, I could tell. He came to stand over me, reaching out to touch
my hand, and I couldn't help myself... I flinched. His eyes narrowed and
he drew his hand back.
'Duo,' he said very calmly. 'When I checked my phone log this
afternoon, I found your number... at three o'clock in the morning.'
Damn. I had gotten the call canceled before it rang, but it
still logged the number on his end. 'It... was an accident,' I muttered,
not able to meet his eyes, and just to make the conversation more interesting,
my stomach chose that moment to complain about missing lunch.
'What in the hell is going on here?' Wufei repeated.
Neither of us had an answer for him.
I was left reeling from the news that Duo had called Wufei
at three o'clock in the morning; it was obvious from the look on his face
that it had been no accident. He might have aborted the call, but he had
put it through in the first place on purpose. Why in the hell would he have
called Wufei with me right there in the next room? If he had needed something,
why hadn't he called me?
Then his stomach growled loudly and I was brought face to
face with the cold hard fact that I had not even fixed him lunch. I was
turning into a freaking zombie; what in the hell was wrong with me?
'Damn, Duo,' I blurted. 'Why didn't you wake me up?'
'You were tired,' he said, and it came out sounding defensive.
Wufei had picked up the panther to set it off to the side
and was looking at it suspiciously. Duo was blushing hotly. My brain just
would not process any more and I found myself rooted to the middle of the
living room floor, unable to make the concentrated effort to decide what
I should do.
But Wufei was taking things in hand, and decision-making was
suddenly something I didn't need to worry about. He started to send Quatre
into the kitchen to prepare dinner, but Duo seemed absolutely miserable
in Wufei's presence for some reason and at the last minute he switched roles,
leaving Quatre to deal with Duo while he went in to make dinner. I found
Trowa pushing me down onto the couch, taking my chin in his hand to tilt
my face away from Duo and towards him. He peeled an eyelid back and looked
me over critically.
'You look like shit, Yuy,' he frowned at me. 'What the hell's
'Can't...' I almost confessed to what I couldn't speak of,
but bit it off before Duo heard.
Behind us, Quatre had been talked in low tones with Duo, and
Trowa suddenly left me to join them. I leaped to my feet again, as I realized
that they were getting Duo out of bed, but the venomous look of pure anger
I got from Quatre rooted me to the spot. All I could do was watch while
they eased him toward the bathroom and it sank in that I hadn't been doing
any of the things he had been counting on me for.
I would have run away if that wouldn't have required a decision
of some sort. I couldn't believe the shape I was in. When had this crept
up on me? All I could do was stand there shaking in every limb, blinking
after them stupidly.
I was going to get clean. I would have cried with happiness
if I hadn't been afraid it would turn into something else and I wouldn't
be able to get it stopped. With Quatre on one side and Trowa on the other,
I made my slow, cautious way to the bathroom. This was the first time I
had been out of bed since I had left the hospital. I was trembling and sweating
before we got halfway there.
'You're doing fine, Duo,' Quatre soothed and we made it at
last. I was surprised to find a whole bunch of stuff in the bathroom that
I had never seen before. They sat me on the toilet and Quatre switched on
the bathroom heater. While things warmed up, he set up a wide-based, backless
stool in the middle of the tub and began slipping a plastic bag over my
cast. It seemed made just for the purpose, with several rows of some sort
of elastic around the top, and a sticky strip at the edge to seal it to
They helped me work the t-shirt off, there's a trick to it
when you can't raise one arm. They blessedly left the shorts on while Trowa
had to bodily lift me and sit me on the stool. Then he left me alone with
'You doing ok, Duo?' he asked me gently and I nodded. 'All
right then, I'm going to get your hair first, ok?' and I just nodded again.
I had my back to the showerhead, and behind me I heard him
rattling something I didn't recognize.
'What...?' I questioned and he chuckled softly.
'I've already had my shower today, thanks. I got a handheld
sprayer that goes on over the faucet... Ah! Got it.'
Then the water came on and I moaned with the sweet feel of
it washing clean and warm over me.
He soaked my hair top to bottom and then lathered it up, scrubbing
hard, as I had been afraid he wouldn't.
'Gods, Quatre,' I told him at length. 'I can't tell you how
good this feels.'
'Duo...' he hesitated. 'What in the world is going on?'
I almost choked. 'I... I don't know. He won't talk to me...
He...' All the things I had blurted to Wufei in my dream the other night
threatened to pour out of my mouth and I bit down hard. 'I just don't know.'
He continued to work with my hair; his hands gentle and firm,
though I could sense his underlying anger with Heero.
'Quatre,' I felt suddenly compelled to tell him, this moment
taking me back through the years to a dozen other moments very much like
it. 'I've never thanked you for...never treating me like... I'm made out
Behind me, he snorted derisively. 'I know better than that.
Tempered steel maybe... gundanium... but not glass.'
He caught me by surprise and I chuckled lightly. It felt good.
He leaned around to look me in the face with a bright smile.
He was rinsing my hair when Trowa poked his head back in the
bathroom. 'Wufei says dinner will be ready in twenty minutes if that's all
Quatre eyed me critically. 'Tell him to slow it down a little.'
Trowa ducked back out, and Quatre stepped back. 'Time to lose
the shorts Duo.'
I sighed in resignation. 'There goes the last of my dignity,'
I muttered and he laughed.
'I've washed your bare ass before, Duo Maxwell,' he smirked
'Don't remind me,' I growled and we unsnapped the sides of
the sopping shorts and he took them away.
'Where the hell did you find shorts like that, anyway?' I
asked, just to change the damned subject, but the question made him snicker.
'Don't ask.' And I suddenly didn't want to know.
He carefully gathered my hair and twisted it into a rope that
he draped over my shoulder out of the way. Then he warily began to wash
my back, very aware of the wounds. He got very quiet after a minute and
his hands stilled.
'Duo?' his voice was strange. 'How...' he hesitated, beginning
again. 'Have you been out of bed since you got home?'
It felt like he was asking me to tell the teacher on another
kid. I wavered, finally settling on that ages old evasion of answering a
question with another question. 'What's wrong?'
He took that as an answer in the negative. 'You have a couple
of bed sores starting to form back here.'
All I could do was grunt. I wanted to laugh at that mad God;
throw all the straws you want on the back of this little camel; you can't
break what's already broken.
We didn't speak much after that.
He let me have the washcloth when it came time to do the front,
and I washed everything I could reach. He had to take it back and do my
lower leg when I couldn't bend far enough.
He turned off the water and gave me a towel while he went
to get me clean clothes. He made sure I was dry and had shorts on again
before he called Trowa back to lift me out. That was one of the best things
about being cared for by Quatre, while he was just no-nonsense and straightforward
about things when they needed to be done; he remembered to keep your pride
in mind. I could always count on coming through one of these awkward encounters
with a little bit of self-respect intact.
Trowa would have carried me back to bed if there had been
a way to manage it, but it hurt bad enough, just his lifting me over the
edge of the tub. They stripped the plastic off my leg and then shored me
up as we headed back for the living room. I looked longingly at the bed
as we went through the bedroom. I hadn't meant to, and was left to squirm
when Quatre noticed.
'Duo, would you rather go to bed in here?' he asked in all
'No!' I blurted, alarmed. The last thing I wanted was to force
the issue with Heero by just showing up in his bed. It made me think though,
and I pulled them to a stop before we got into the living room.
'Guys...' I looked from one of them to the other, not sure
where in the hell to start. 'Something's wrong with Heero. Seriously wrong.'
They shared a look that was somewhere between amused and pissed,
and Quatre all but chuckled at me. 'We kind of noticed, Duo,' he said gently.
Trowa didn't look quite as amused and his arm around my waist
tightened slightly. 'Don't worry. We're not going anywhere until this is
That thing about the camel and the straws? I hadn't counted
on the rush of pain when some of the straws were lifted back off.
'Thank you,' I managed and had to close my eyes and fight
back the tears. I felt like I had been stuck in a foxhole for the last three
days, holding off the enemy with the last of my ammunition. Destined to
get shot down when my position was overrun... and suddenly hearing the cavalry
charging over the hill to my rescue.
'We're here now, Duo,' Quatre was whispering to me. 'You should
have called us. We didn't know...'
'Hush,' Trowa said softly, and I'm not sure if he was talking
to Quatre or me. They waited for me and at length I was able to open dry
eyes and we resumed the long trek to the living room.
The smells of dinner hit me as we came into the room, and
my stomach growled loudly again. I tried to make a joke of it, but Trowa
and Quatre just looked pissed.
They got me back into bed, and I realized that the sheets
had been changed while I was out of it. I was relieved and gave Trowa a
grateful look. I hate that sick-body smell that lingers for weeks after
you've been put under, while you're still sweating out the residue of the
anesthesia. I knew it would be back soon, it was coming from me after all,
but for now, there was just the faint scent of soap and laundry detergent.
I was exhausted from the exertion and just let them tuck me
into my clean bed.
Quatre went back to clean up the mess in the bathroom while
Trowa went to help Wufei finish bringing dinner in to the coffee table.
My eyes sought Heero, and found him curled into the corner
of the couch, staring off into space. He looked worse than I felt. When
Quatre came back, I caught him with a worried glance and he came to pat
'You are top priority,' he told me firmly. 'We'll deal with
They fed me; a thick, rich beef stew that Quatre had made
and frozen for us. There were biscuits with it and I ate until I thought
I would burst, though I could tell Wufei wasn't happy with the amount I
put away. When I was done, I was so blurrily sleepy I could barely keep
my eyes open. But Wufei was there with the bottle of pain pills.
'Maxwell,' he prodded me. 'Don't go to sleep yet. When was
the last time you took your medicine?'
'Not takin' any more,' I told him groggily.
'Yes you are,' he told me, smiling warmly.
'Tired of feelin' depressed...' I mumbled, things getting
said that I truly had not meant to say.
There was a moment's quiet, during which I drifted a little
deeper. I heard Quatre start to say something, but Wufei cut him off. I
tried to blink my eyes open to see just what in the hell was going on, but
I was clean and warm and full and utterly worn out, and just couldn't fight
it. I let my eyes fall closed; whatever they were talking about couldn't
be all that important.
Just when I thought I would drift away all together, Wufei
asked softly, 'Why did you call me last night?'
'Just wanted to talk...' I mumbled. 'Got so damned lonely.
Why'd Heero shut the door, 'Fei? What have I done wrong?'
I would have reached for my panther, but I was just too far
Guardian Spirits by Sunhawk
It was like watching a movie in which I wasn't involved. They
moved around me as though I wasn't there. Trowa and Quatre disappeared into
the bathroom with Duo, and Wufei vanished into the kitchen.
I fell back onto the couch and sat for a time with my head
in my hands, trying to make my brain function.
I had really screwed up this time. I had thought I had things
under control. How could I have slipped up so badly... especially where
Duo was concerned? Gods; I had done little more today than leave him lay
there like a lump while I just sat and practically drifted in and out of
consciousness. Dear Gods; I had not even fed him lunch.
Small wonder Quatre had glared at me hard enough to strip
the paint off the wall. I deserved nothing more.
I curled into the corner of the couch and pulled my knees
up to my chest. They moved around me and I barely noticed. The light had
gone out of my world when they took Duo away. I just didn't care. Duo was
being cared for, and for the first time in my memory, I trusted that they
would take better care of him than I was capable of doing.
I felt as though my brain had short-circuited. Nothing was
working right. Deep down somewhere, I knew it was prolonged sleep-deprivation.
I had not slept more than an hour or two a night in almost two weeks. Every
time I tried to go to bed at night, as soon as I drifted deep enough into
sleep to begin dreaming, I relived that same gut-wrenching vision of Duo's
body being hauled up out of the wreckage of that house.
I was vaguely aware of Trowa coming back from the bathroom
alone and changing the sheets on the hospital bed. I probably should have
gotten up and helped him, but I couldn't seem to make myself budge. He moved
in and out of my field of vision, changing the sheets, fetching a fresh
pitcher of water, going back to check on Duo and Quatre. I could hear Wufei
in the kitchen, but I couldn't work up to caring about that either.
It seemed a very long time before they brought Duo back. He
was struggling so hard to make it back to the bed. It was taking both Trowa
and Quatre to keep him upright and moving.
They eased him into the bed and pulled the covers up to keep
him from getting chilled with his hair still wet. There were a few moments
when the others left on errands, that we were alone in the room together.
I could feel him staring at me, worry plain on his face and I struggled
to pull myself together, to say something to him, to get up and go to him.
But it seemed as though I were sitting outside myself, and my body refused
to answer my commands.
I watched them feed him dinner, watched him eat voraciously,
saw Wufei frown over how little he actually consumed. I could see him becoming
more lethargic with each bite. But watching seemed to be all I could do.
He was drifting away even as Wufei tried to get him to take
his pain pills.
'Maxwell,' he prodded. 'Don't go to sleep yet. When was the
last time you took your medicine?'
'Not takin' any more,' I heard him say, and I wasn't at all
surprised. He hates taking medication; I was only amazed it took him this
long to get stubborn about it.
'Yes you are,' Wufei said firmly.
'Tired of feelin' depressed...' Duo said then, and every back
in the room stiffened, even mine. What? What did he mean by that? I felt
a flicker of some feeling get passed the wall that seemed to be around my
Everyone was still for a moment, as Duo slipped further away.
Quatre stepped to Wufei's side and spoke softly to him.
'We can't let him fall asleep on his back; he's getting bedsores.
We have to turn...' But Wufei cut him off with a gesture and a sharp nod.
He seemed to be waiting for Duo to fall further asleep.
Finally, Wufei leaned down close to Duo and said in a soft,
soothing tone, 'why did you call me last night?'
'Just wanted to talk...' he mumbled. 'Got so damned lonely.
Why'd Heero shut the door, 'Fei? What have I done wrong?'
That flicker of feeling in my head turned into pain and I
suddenly felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. What had I done? What
in the hell had I done?
Wufei gave up on the pain medicine and gestured Quatre and
Trowa to move in and get Duo turned over.
Then he was heading for me.
I half expected him to come around the couch and deck me.
I half wanted him to. Instead, he came and sat in front of me, first taking
my chin in his hand and looking closely at my eyes, much the way Trowa had.
He took my hands and raised them up in front of us, holding them lightly
and watching as they trembled uncontrollably. I could see him taking all
the clues and piecing things together.
'You aren't sleeping,' he said at long last, and all I could
do was shake my head.
'Why not?' As always, he cut straight to the heart of the
whole damn thing.
I tried my voice and found it as shaky as my hands. Hell;
as shaky as my whole body. How had I fallen this far?
'Can't,' I told him bluntly. 'Damned nightmares.' He couldn't
know what it had cost me to tell him that. Keeping that to myself, not scaring
Duo with my screaming night terrors, had become a self-appointed mission
over the last several weeks. Balanced against what Duo had been thinking...
suddenly it didn't seem quite so important to keep that secret. I could
suddenly see all the flaws in my carefully thought out logic.
The look on his face softened a little, and he let me have
my hands back. I wrapped my arms around my knees and looked at him through
eyes that hadn't been focusing so very well over the last couple of days.
I looked into his calm, patient face; not finding the loathing I had expected
to see there. 'Help me,' I whispered to him. I hadn't done such a great
job on my own.
He smiled at me. 'Good,' he said. 'This is going to be a whole
lot easier with your co-operation.'
As if on cue, a knock sounded at the front door. Wufei didn't
take his eyes from mine, but said, 'Trowa, would you let Sally in?'
I grunted in surprise.
He quirked a half-smile at me, his steady gaze telling me
he was gauging my reaction. 'I called her when I first went into the kitchen.'
Behind me, I could hear Trowa exchanging quiet greetings with
Sally Po, Head of forensics for the Preventers. A trained and tried field
medic. Wufei was intending on sedating me. My suspicions were confirmed
when she came around the couch to perch on the coffee table beside us, her
bag in her hand.
She grinned at me openly. 'Yuy and Maxwell; in over their
heads again, I see.'
They were expecting me to fight them. They were expecting
'Can you make me sleep without the nightmares?' I asked her
point blank and I saw that I had surprised them both. They didn't understand
the depth of my desperation.
She was pulling one of my eyelids back and looking at my pupils
intently, even as her other hand reached to take my pulse. She frowned.
'How in the hell long has this been going on?'
I was confused for a moment, trying to decide if Wufei had
guessed what was happening and told her when he called her, or if Trowa'd
had time to say more when he let her in and I just hadn't heard it.
'Yuy,' Wufei prompted and I realized I hadn't answered her.
'Since the night I came home,' I finally managed to supply.
Wufei cursed and gave her a day.
She looked at me a little harder. 'How much sleep have you
been averaging a night?'
I floundered with that one, not able to do the math in my
head. Sally looked to Wufei for direction and he reworded it for me.
'How long can you sleep before the nightmares start?'
'An hour...' I told him. 'Sometimes two.'
They shared a look and she told him, 'Get him in to bed and
I'll get the sedative ready.'
She looked back at me. 'Heero, are you taking any other medication?'
I shook my head and Wufei waved Trowa in. They guided me into
the bedroom and stripped me down, tucking me into bed like a small child.
When I was settled to suit them, Wufei called Sally in and she gave me the
injection. I felt it hitting me within a matter of minutes and I looked
up at them.
'No dreams?' I asked thickly.
'No dreams at all,' Sally reassured me and patted my hand
I forced my eyes to stay open a little longer, finding Wufei
beside the bed, 'Chang... Duo...'
He hushed me with the brush of fingers through my hair. 'I
have point,' he told me and I let go all together allowing the dark to come
up and take me away.
It was the strange, out of place sound of a woman's voice
that brought me up from the well of sleep. I found, gratefully, that I was
on my stomach and all those places that had been burning and stinging all
day felt much better. That cloying stench that I had been lying in was gone
as well. I wasn't hungry. All in all, a much better awakening than I'd had
in a while.
I might actually live.
I opened my eyes to see the apartment full of people; at least
that's what it seemed like at first. The guys were still there, and the
woman's voice I had heard belonged to Sally Po. They were sitting around
my coffee table, sipping drinks and talking in low tones. It was an oddly
I thought back, and had some vague memories of being cleaned
and fed and not much more. I must have practically passed out on them. Then
I remembered Heero, sitting on the couch staring off at nothing, and I realized
he wasn't in the room.
'...pig-headed stubborn is what he is,' Quatre was saying,
and I chose to remain still and see what tidbits of information might come
my way. I was heartily sick of being left in the dark.
Sally was shaking her head. 'That kind of sleep-deprivation
is an insidious thing,' she told him. 'Inside your own head, the things
you're doing make perfect sense.'
Trowa was sitting in the big armchair; his legs stretched
out in front of him, propped on the table. 'I don't see how neglecting Duo
could make sense to him no matter what kind of shape he was in.'
Sally sighed and sipped at her drink, I licked at dry lips
and wondered what the odds were of getting a soda out of one of these four.
'His time sense was probably severely impaired,' she was telling Trowa.
'He may not even have realized how much time had gone by. He became focused
on one thing...and his brain just couldn't deal with any more.'
'One thing?' Quatre asked.
'It's hard to say... multi-tasking is pretty much impossible.
The sleep deprived person has a tendency to fixate on one thing...' She
shrugged, telling him she couldn't even imagine.
'Protecting Duo from the nightmares,' Wufei said softly, staring
down into his mug.
Sally grunted softly in surprise. 'Possible,' she agreed.
Wufei was rubbing at his eyes. 'Mission; keep Duo from worrying.
The nightmares would have made Duo worry. Therefore Duo must not know about
the nightmares.' He sighed gustily. Sally looked unconvinced, but Trowa
and Quatre smiled knowingly and Quatre said, 'It's pretty typical of Heero.'
Then he looked troubled. 'But why didn't Duo call us?'
'Isn't that pretty typical of Maxwell?' Wufei smiled sadly.
'Trying to bear up under pressure? Tough it out?'
Both Trowa and Quatre chuckled lightly, sharing another of
those looks. I was starting to squirm. I guess that's what I got for eavesdropping.
Sally looked around at them, seeming vaguely confused. 'You
make them sound like they should be in therapy,' she said dryly.
There was a strange silence, then a trio of chuckles and Trowa
snickered lightly, 'Shouldn't we all?'
I decided I really didn't want to hear any more than I already
had, and shifted in the bed to let them know that I was 'waking up'.
All four of them jumped like they'd been shot. I would have
grinned if I hadn't been trying so hard to appear as though I had just blinked
open blurry eyes. Sally and Wufei both rose to come and check on me, and
I did my damnedest to look blissfully innocent.
Wufei smiled so fondly at me that I was instantly awash with
guilt and felt myself blushing. Wufei's smile turned into a grin. 'And just
how long have you been awake?'
'Busted, huh?' I grinned back.
He hummed an affirmative and I sighed. 'Long enough. What's
this about Heero having nightmares?'
He looked a little sad then, and squatted down so I didn't
have to twist my neck to look up at him.
'We don't know much more than that ourselves,' he told me,
reaching to brush my hair out of my eyes for me. It was still loose from
the shower. 'He was pretty... out of it by the time we questioned him. He's,
apparently, not been sleeping more than a couple of hours a night... since
the storm.' I almost groaned. 'Storm' had apparently become part of our
collective vocabulary. I could almost hear the capital letters in it 'The
Storm'. It sounded like a freaking movie title.
'Wufei...' Sally warned and I would have glared at her if
it wouldn't have looked pretty pathetic.
But Wufei just smiled up at her. 'I think there's been enough
secrets kept in this household for awhile, don't you?'
She subsided and I smiled gratefully at him. 'Where's Heero
now?' I asked, suddenly a little worried.
Wufei actually smirked. 'We sedated him.' He jerked his head
toward the bedroom. 'He's in there sleeping like a baby.'
I felt myself relax and sighed heavily. 'Thank the Gods for
you guys,' I blurted and then blushed.
Wufei chuckled and rubbed the pad of a calloused thumb across
my cheek. 'You're welcome.'
I glanced at Sally. 'But, uhmmm... if you don't mind my asking;
why is there a coroner in the middle of my living room?'
Sally burst out with a laugh that she quickly stifled, settling
on a wide grin. 'Because I come with a free drug supply and no questions
'Oh,' Wufei said wryly, 'you've been doing nothing but ask
She rolled her eyes and jerked her thumb over her shoulder.
'Get out of the way, Wufei and let me do the other part of what you called
me over here for.'
And I suddenly found myself being poked and prodded, and checked
over from top to bottom. Literally, when Quatre had to come and show her
the bed sores that were trying to form on my hip and shoulder blade. She
was very thorough, asking me all manner of questions about intake and output
that left me wanting to pull the covers over my head and die of embarrassment.
She checked my eyes, listened to my heart, took my temperature, had the
guys help me turn over so she could feel and listen to my abdomen.
At length, she pronounced me mildly dehydrated but otherwise
none the worse for wear. She gave me a little lecture about changing position
at least once every hour or so. Gave Wufei a list of recommended sports
drinks and a warning to make sure I drank more than just water. She looked
over my prescriptions and made a couple of suggestions to talk to Doc McKay
about. Changes that might help with the side effects I was suffering with.
Finally, she was packing her stuff back into the bag it had all come out
of and I managed to mutter my thanks.
She smiled at me. 'I'd been meaning to come by and see you
anyway. I just thought I'd wait until you felt a little more up to company.'
A sad look crossed her face. 'I'm sorry I didn't come sooner.'
I gave her one of the patented grins. 'Hell; the shape we
were in, we might not have answered the door.'
It was meant to be funny, but nobody laughed. She patted my
hand and went to get her jacket. I watched her walk across the room and
then looked up to watch Wufei watch her walk across the room. I grinned.
'Fei?' I said softly, soft enough to ensure that he knelt
down next to me to hear better.
'What, Duo?' he asked, voice a little concerned.
I carefully reached out and took hold of the collar of his
shirt and drew him closer. 'Walk the woman to her car.'
I was most gratified to see him flush darkly. He hissed a
warning at me but I only smiled.
'You were the one who called her out here,' I murmured. 'It
would only be the... honorable thing to do.'
He tried to maintain the stern look, but it finally crumbled
and he just shook his head. 'You are incorrigible.'
'Yes,' I grinned at him. 'But that's why you love me.'
He finally grinned back and surprised me with, 'Well, I knew
there had to be a reason.'
I let him go and he stood, so that when Sally finally got
her stuff together and turned to leave, Wufei offered to see her out without
so much as a glance in my direction.
Well... a little bloody progress after all these years. Maybe
I could dare dream about nieces and nephews someday after all.
I turned to find Quatre at my side with the most beautiful
bottle of Mt. Dew I have ever seen. I beamed at him.
'Quatre...' Trowa frowned and I feared I would lose it before
I could take the first swallow. But Quatre just smiled back at him.
'She said not plain water.'
'I doubt that's what she had in mind,' Trowa glared.
'Well, we don't have any Gatorade,' Quatre reasoned blandly.
'I doubt if one is going to hurt him.'
He opened the bottle and passed it to me and I swallowed in
pure, unadulterated bliss. 'Thanks, Quatre. This is the nicest thing anyone's
done for me all day.'
'Suck up,' Trowa muttered to Quatre and I almost spit the
drink back out all over myself.
It was a difficult climb back to consciousness. It seemed
to happen in stages. In the first stage, I was distantly aware of voices
and movement in the apartment, but was completely and totally unable to
make myself care enough to even try to listen to what was being said. At
some length, I was able to discern that the voices belonged to Trowa, Quatre
After a bit longer, that jogged my memory enough that I started
to remember why I was so obviously coming out of a drug induced stupor.
Oh dear Gods.
Duo. My Duo. What had I done?
I felt like my brain was engaging for the first time in days.
I looked at the clock and it didn't help a whole lot. My best guess was
that I had been asleep for somewhere close to sixteen hours, either that
or only four. Based on how I felt, my money was on the sixteen.
I staggered up to the bathroom, and after using the facilities,
took a few moments to wash my face and rinse the bad taste out of my mouth.
Then I went to find Duo. I had a lot of apologizing to do...
if he was still speaking to me.
All conversation ceased when I came wobbling out of the bedroom,
and I flushed, not able to meet anyone's eyes. I looked towards Duo's bed
and found him there asleep. I wanted to go to him. I wanted to talk to him.
I wished him awake. I hesitated, standing just inside the living room, feeling
like a damned intruder in my own home. There was the sudden sound of an
'Yuy,' Wufei said to me as he rose from the couch. 'When did
'stupid' become your middle name?'
Before I could stop him, he had gone and gently shaken Duo
awake. 'Sleeping Beauty's finally conscious,' I heard him snicker, then
he turned away and bluntly told Trowa and Quatre, 'I think we need to go
make lunch.' The three of them trailed out of the room.
Duo's eyes blinked open and flicked around a bit, hunting
before finding me, and he smiled warmly.
I thought my heart would break. How can he always forgive
me the stupid, damn crap I do?
'Come here, lover,' he called softly, and I was drawn to the
side of the bed as though pulled by a siren's song.
'Duo...' I breathed his name. It felt like a prayer on my
lips. There was no barrier here; the barrier had been in me. Careful as
I could, I sat on the edge of the bed, 'Duo, love... I...'
He stopped me with the touch of his fingers. 'We are going
to talk,' he said firmly. 'But I do not want to hear the word failed, not
even once. Do you understand me?'
I nodded, because his fingers were still covering my lips;
and blinked furiously.
'But first, you're going to kiss me,' his voice held an odd
tremor, 'and you're going to do it like you mean it, understand?'
I nodded again, and he moved his hand to my cheek, guiding
me down until our lips met. His parted beneath mine, and I accepted the
invitation. His hand slid further and tangled in my hair, pulling me closer,
drawing me down to meet his sudden desperation.
I drew back long enough to tell him, 'I'm so damn sorry.'
Before I met his trembling lips again. He matched me frantic need for frantic
need until he was panting beneath me and I had to stop before I completely
forgot his injuries.
He looked up at me with fever bright intensity. 'It's good
to have you back, love.'
He gave me his hand because it was about the only thing I
could hold without hurting him, and I hugged it to my chest. I was struggling
with a hundred twisted, conflicting emotions, completely overwhelmed that
he could so easily forgive me for screwing things up so badly.
'Duo, how in the hell can you forgive me? I betrayed your
trust... I...' I didn't even know where to start.
He growled low in his throat and glared at me. 'No failed.
No betrayed. No fucking sorrys. We've wasted days and I'm tired of it.'
He took his hand away and reached up to pull my head down
to rest on his shoulder and whispered fiercely in my ear, 'This damn hospital
bed is going away. Tonight I'm sleeping in our bed... with you. You are
going to hold me in your arms. You are going to tell me about these nightmares
and I am going to hold you. We are going to get past this. We're going to
get through it... together.'
He let me go and I sat up to look down at him. 'You are so...
beautiful,' I sighed, and something strange passed across his face. 'I don't
He rolled his eyes and sighed. 'You are bound and determined
to beat yourself up over this, aren't you?'
'Pretty much,' I confirmed for him with a tiny smile. 'I fucked
up. Huge amounts.'
'I think that has already been established,' he glared. 'And
I may have made a couple of decisions that were probably not the smartest
ones I've ever made.'
I recaptured his fingers and held them in the circle of mine.
'You didn't do anything...' I began, but he cut me off.
'Precisely,' he pounced on that opening in a heartbeat. 'I
could see something was wrong and I didn't call for help. I got so wrapped
up in coping with my problems that I didn't look outside myself to try to
help you with yours.'
'I shouldn't have put you in a position where you had to,'
I told him firmly. I didn't want him trying to share this guilt. This mess
was entirely my fault.
He sighed and let his head fall back on the pillow. 'Heero...
let's just say that once again between the two of us we have fairly well
confirmed that after all these years... we are still pretty damn screwed
I couldn't help but laugh and he smiled up at me tenderly.
'Sally thinks we need therapy.'
I shook my head in defeat and smiled down into those beautiful
amethyst eyes, that somehow never lost their faith in me. 'I love you,'
I told him simply.
'Heart and soul,' he murmured and gave me a look that demanded
I leaned down to comply and behind me, heard the sounds of
lunch being delivered to the coffee table.
'Glad to see you two got things straightened out,' I heard
Wufei chuckle, but I ignored him and finished what I had started. Let them
watch, damnit; I didn't care.
The guys stayed with us the rest of that day, feeding us lunch
and cleaning up the place a little bit. Quatre and Trowa made a trip to
the grocery and restocked the kitchen, incidentally getting me the sports
and protein drinks that Sally had recommended. They spent a couple of hours
cooking and freezing meals to replace what we had gone through in the last
couple of days.
I dozed quite a bit, the last several days had, apparently,
taken a lot out of me. I felt like I'd been severely beaten with a rather
large stick. Just the sound and feel of the guys in the apartment was such
a comforting thing. A feeling like... coming home after a long time away.
I felt safe and secure, and confident that Heero was being cared for. I
didn't even have to hold onto my little plushy buddy. Though I woke once
to find Wufei standing over me, the little thing resting in the palm of
his hand and a strange look on his face. He met my eyes squarely, holding
my gaze for a long time before softly telling me, 'I didn't give this to
you to replace your friends. I gave it to you to remind you of us.'
I opened my mouth to speak, but under the intensity of his
dark eyes, nothing came out.
'Don't you ever not call me when you need me again, understand?'
I nodded; utterly mute, feeling like a damned deer in headlights.
'Good,' he smiled, laying the panther back on the table, turned
and walked away.
It took a little while before I was able to doze back off.
When I roused again, it was to see Wufei in Heero's face and
my lover had much the same unfortunate deer expression.
'...won't come running over here every couple of days to sedate
you,' I heard Wufei say and I almost gave myself away with a snicker. Trowa
and Quatre were nowhere in sight, probably out shopping.
Heero hung his head and flushed darkly, his face registering
a heart wrenching mixture of shame and guilt. He mumbled something I couldn't
'Heero,' Wufei said patiently. 'Nightmares are perfectly understandable...
I've had a few myself over this, but they shouldn't be taking over your
'I know that, damnit,' Heero sounded a little irritated and
I wondered how long this conversation had been going on. 'Just what the
hell would you have me do?'
'You need to talk to somebody...' Wufei told him surprisingly
gently, and I heard the word therapy echoing behind his words.
'I'm not... I can't...!' Heero almost snarled and threw himself
up off the couch. He only walked a little ways off though, before stopping
with his back to Wufei and wrapping his arms around himself. Wufei stood
after a long moment and went softly to stand behind him, reaching out and
putting his hands on Heero's shoulders. That and nothing more. It was one
of those frozen moments. One of those mental images I will carry with me
for a long time to come. It spoke to me of Wufei's infinite patience...
his endless strength. And it spoke to me of Heero's vulnerability. Told
me that even an ex-Perfect Soldier had his limits.
They stood like that for a long while, I think Wufei could
have offered more, but I think it was all that Heero was able to accept.
They stayed with us through dinner, a somewhat lavish affair
that was cooked fresh from what Trowa and Quatre brought from the market.
They said it was to save the pre-cooked, frozen meals for us when we needed
them, but it was at least partially designed to entice me to eat. Comprised
entirely, as it was, of my favorite foods, and brought to me by a beaming
Quatre. They knew I couldn't deny that man anything any more than the rest
of them could. I personally felt like it wasn't fighting fair.
I let Heero feed me, mostly because cutting the steak up with
only one good hand was just a pain in the ass. Besides, it seemed to make
him feel better to do things for me, and the Gods only knew he needed something
to make him feel better.
They left us with admonishments and reassurances until I didn't
know whether to laugh or cry. They vowed someone would be back tomorrow
to check on us. It was dark before the front door was finally shut and we
There wasn't any uncomfortable dancing around each other tonight.
He came to me straight away, taking my hand in his and raising it to his
lips to lightly kiss the scar there.
'We have an incredible little family, don't we love?' I smiled
up at him, content under his touch.
He quirked a small grin in response. 'That we do.' Then he
sobered a little. 'I don't know where in the hell we would be without them.'
There was no answer to that, no answer that either of us wanted
to think about, so I didn't speak.
'Duo... love,' he was suddenly hesitant, almost timid. 'Did
you mean what you said?'
I was confused, thinking back, trying to figure out what he
was talking about. 'When?'
'About... sleeping with me?'
'Yes...' I told him, and it was surprisingly difficult to
get it out. 'I don't want to be out here by myself. I... want to sleep...
next to you.'
Something strangely like fear flickered through his eyes and
I was immediately sorry I had brought it up.
'I'm... I'm so afraid I'll hurt you,' he suddenly blurted
and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud as relief swept through
me. I had to shut my eyes.
'Duo? What's wrong?' His voice sounded distressed.
'I thought...' I started to tell him, then realized how it
would make him feel and clamped down on it, just shutting up.
'You thought what?' he prompted when I left the sentence unfinished.
'Never mind,' I smiled and reached to brush my fingers across
his cheek. 'It's not important now.'
'It is important,' he said firmly and I tried to look away,
kicking myself for the lapse. He gently put his hands on either side of
my face and forced me to look up at him. His eyes searched mine long and
hard and I suddenly felt like I was as transparent as a piece of crystal.
It was a strange feeling; yesterday I think I could have grown tentacles
and turned green and he wouldn't have noticed. Today I didn't feel like
I could even hide my damn thoughts.
His face crumbled as I blushed beneath his gaze. 'Oh Gods,
Duo. You thought... you thought I didn't want you.'
The echo of those feelings reverberated through my heart and
I started to cry. I couldn't stop it; the tears just starting coming. I
wanted to hide, but he wouldn't let me even turn my face away. I hate crying.
I hate myself for not being able to stop once it gets started. I hate the
way it makes me feel. I could see, now that I was climbing out of the dark
pit I had been in and looking back, that those feelings were false, hollow
things bred of the pain and the drugs and the confusion. But it didn't diminish
how much I had hurt. It didn't change how lost and alone I had felt. And
so... I cried.
His face was so... stricken. It just added to my long list
of hurts. I had put that look on his face because I couldn't fucking keep
my emotions in check.
'Oh... baby, no,' he breathed, and eased down until he could
slip his arms around my shoulders. I wrapped my right arm around his neck
and managed to force my left one far enough to at least rest on his waist.
So much less than I needed. Almost more than my body could bear.
I sobbed brokenly against his shoulder and did my damnedest
to wrestle it down. Where the hell did all the tears keep coming from? Wasn't
there an end to them somewhere? Hadn't I used my allotment for the whole
Gods damned year? The hitching gasp of my breath was sending tearing pains
through my torso, compounding my inability to concentrate and control it.
All I could do was cling to Heero and ride it out.
For his part, he hung on to me as tight as he dared, his arms
carefully high on my shoulders to avoid all the places he couldn't touch.
His hand gently stroking over my hair.
'I'm sorry, Duo. So damned sorry...' he murmured close to
my ear, his voice a throaty rumble of twisted emotion. 'I love you so very
much... there aren't words to tell you what you mean to me. Of course I
want you. I will always want you... I could sooner live without air than
live without you...'
Where did he learn to weave these spells with that magic voice
of his? I think sometimes he could read me an unabridged dictionary and
calm my heart; just as long as I could hear his voice. He talked me down
from it, despite the spiraling pain growing in my chest, and at length I
was able to push it aside enough to speak to him again.
'I... I'm sorry, Heero,' I was completely mortified, wanted
nothing so much as to take back the last ten minutes. 'The damned drugs
do this to me; you know that.'
'I do know that,' he agreed softly. 'And I should have been
here for you.'
He eased his embrace and drew back to look me in the eye for
a moment before leaning in to kiss me. Like he meant it.
He pulled away after a moment and looked down at me with a
concerned frown. 'You're trembling.'
I quirked a tired half smile. 'I apparently have the energy
reserves of a piss-ant.'
He stroked my hair out of my eyes and lovingly wiped the tears
from my cheeks with his fingers. 'Rest, little one.'
I did feel like I could sleep some more, though it was starting
to make me crazy, this constant dozing. 'Do you think...' I ventured, 'that
you could help me with my hair?'
He smiled tenderly. 'How about you take a nap while I go get
a much needed shower. When I get out, we'll brush and braid your hair and
then... go to bed.'
I felt like crowing, but only smiled and nodded. He gave me
another kiss and went off to the bathroom. I could tell from the sounds
that he left the door open.
I hurt too much to really manage to nap; I just drifted on
the edges of sleep, listening to the sound of the running water and thinking
about the day.
Heero came back after a little bit, and finding me awake,
set to brushing my hair. He pulled the pillow out from under my head, and
worked me up so that my hair trailed off the head of the bed. He was able
to brush out most of the tangles without my having to endure the strain
of sitting up. When he doesn't need to be sedated, he's terribly thoughtful.
Once it was brushed, we had no choice but to get me up in
order to braid it. There was just no good way to move with that kind of
wound and in the end, Heero went and got one of the kitchen chairs for me
to sit on while he fixed my hair. It was such a relief to get it out of
I insisted I be allowed to use the bathroom since we were
up and moving anyway, instead of having to use the damned bedpan again.
Heero seemed a little relieved, and I almost chuckled at him.
Then it was time for bed and I found myself feeling hesitant
'Heero... are you sure this is all right with you?'
He frowned at me even as he was easing me down on the side
of the bed. 'Duo, you do not need my permission to sleep in your own bed.'
I stopped him with a look. 'Yes. I do.'
He blinked at me, caught between surprise and... pain. I was
sorry for that, but this was important to me. Somehow over the last three
days this had become... Heero's bed. It didn't feel like our bed anymore.
He knelt in front of me and took my hands. 'I have wanted
you back with me since that moment you first didn't answer your damned cell
phone. Had it been physically possible you would have slept on my chest
from that first night in the hospital. I want you here. Have always wanted
you here. Always will want you here. I just do not, above all things, want
to hurt you. You've hurt enough.'
It was my turn to blink. Then I smiled softly. 'Let's go to
He just grunted and helped me get undressed, easing me down
and tucking the quilts in around me.
It felt wonderful. Our bed, under our quilt, with Heero about
to stretch out beside me, warm and within reach. Perfect...except for one
'Heero...' I felt utterly ridiculous asking, after the fuss
I had made about it, but I hurt way too bad to ever get to sleep without
it. 'I... need my pain medicine.'
I had caught him by surprise again, and he looked at me hard,
understanding how bad things had to be to force me to ask. 'Of course, love.'
And he had the pills and a glass of water in my hands in a matter of minutes.
He put the bottle of pills and the water close by on my bedside
table, turned out the lights and slid cautiously in beside me.
I normally go to sleep with my head pillowed in the hollow
of his shoulder, my arm around his waist, my leg twined with his. You can't
sleep like that all night, or at least we can't, and we'll roll apart after
we've fallen asleep. But it's become such a habit to start out that way,
with his arm curled around me warm and protective, that I have trouble going
to sleep without it. I think he does too. It was worse this way; so close
to normal but so impossible to achieve that comforting position.
After an awkward moment, he turned toward me, wrapping his
arm around my head and pulling his legs up so I could lay my arm in the
curl of his body. His fingers gently stroked up and down my shoulder.
'Duo... how bad is it, love?' His voice was tinged with disquiet.
'Heero... don't,' I sighed and turned my head, resting our
I couldn't tell him how much it bothered me, my giving in
to the pain like this. Whenever I had to deal with injuries, I couldn't
help compare myself with Heero. I would always remember the sight of him
setting his own broken leg after that disastrous brush with captivity way
back when we had first met. If someone had told me that day that I would
end up falling in love with Heero Yuy, I would have laughed out loud. Hell,
let's be honest; he had scared the crap out of me. I had been in awe, and
was left feeling more than a little freaked out by our encounter. And more
than a little inadequate.
'Stop it,' he said into the silence that followed. 'We are
not in the middle of a damned war. We are not hiding out in fear for our
lives. We do not have to make do and scrape by.'
I flushed and looked away. Was he a bloody mind reader tonight?
'But you don't need to torture yourself with things you can't do anything
He gave me a soft growl. 'Damnit, Duo! You're still doing
it. Let me in... you're still hiding things from me.'
I turned back and raised an eyebrow. 'Me? What about you?
I haven't heard word one from you about nightmares or sleeping or anything
That stopped him cold and it was his turn to look away and
'Touché pushé cat.' I intoned in my best French
accent. I could tell he didn't get it; he never gets my cartoon imitations.
I watched him squirm a little bit, and then decided I might be able to draw
him out a little if I gave in first.
'Yes, it hurts, Heero.' I turned my head to look up at the
ceiling and I felt him turn back to watch me. 'It hurts like flaming hell.
The leg aches constantly; the cast is hot and it itches. It hurts to breath.
It hurts to do anything that uses my back muscles or my chest muscles. My
back is on fire most of the time; those damned puncture wounds burn.' I
looked back at him. 'But there's nothing you can do about it. It's just
going to take time to heal.'
He sat up and pushed the covers back, 'We need to get you
over on your stomach,' he said gently and I just sighed and let him help
me roll over. When I was settled, he pulled the quilt up to my waist again,
but then instead of lying back down I felt him fold his legs and sit beside
'Stop me if it hurts,' he said softly and began to gently
massage my shoulders. The relief was almost instantaneous and it shocked
a low moan out of me. Heero chuckled softly. 'Nothing I can do, huh?'
There wasn't a lot he could touch, really; my shoulders, my
hips and a place in the center of the small of my back. It didn't matter;
he reduced me to a whimpering puddle of goo in a matter of minutes. His
hands are strong and firm and he exerts just the right amount of pressure
in just the right places. Between his gentle ministrations and the pain
pills, I was floating on the fuzzy edge of sleep before I could believe
it. I was too far gone to care by the time I realized he had never gotten
around to telling me about the bad dreams. The last thing I remember was
the feel of him pulling the quilt up, kissing my temple, and whispering,
'good night, my heart.'
I think he slept a little longer than he had been. My doing?
Maybe. I like to think so; that my presence could soothe him the way his
reassured me. I don't know.
I woke with a start, not sure why, but with a sudden sense
that something was wrong. The clock is on Heero's side of the bed, and I
actually turned that way to check it. I forgot about the time when my eyes
found Heero sitting up in the middle of the bed, his hands clamped over
his own mouth. As I focused on him, I became aware of the vibration I could
feel through the mattress, caused by his shaking.
'Heero,' I called him softly, just letting him know I was
there, letting him know there wasn't any point in trying to hide from me,
that I was awake. He didn't move, and I forced my body over, ignoring the
pain that shot up my leg. I knew when he didn't react to my movements that
he was in bad shape. On my back, it put him on my stronger right side and
I was able to take hold of his arm and pull him towards me. He wouldn't
fight me for fear of hurting, and he let me draw him down. I was able to
get his head pillowed on my shoulder without too much pain and just held
him as best I could with one arm.
'I'm here, love. I'm all right. You got me through... it's
over now... it's all over and done. I'm all right...'
He was shaking and his skin felt cold and slick. But he didn't
speak, didn't take his hands away from his face. His muscles felt like braided
steel under my hand.
'Heero. Come on, Heero. It's all ok now... I'm right here
with you... I'm not going anywhere...'
Still he didn't respond, lying silent and tense in the curl
of my arm. I forced my left hand across my chest and managed to catch hold
of one of his hands. Linked, our hands fell back against my abdomen; I didn't
have the strength in that arm to hold it up. I tried to put myself in his
place, tried to think what it had been like over the last few weeks, tried
to imagine what he had gone through.
'Heero, you couldn't have gotten down those stairs. Quatre
almost didn't make it. You did the right thing letting Roger and his men
do their jobs.' There was a subtle change in the air, a something that told
me I was on the right track. 'I know it was hard. I know you wanted to come
and get me. But, damnit; I knew you were there. I heard your voice calling
me, you came for me; it made all the difference in the world.'
I didn't know I'd finally broken through until the first of
the silent tears began to cool on my shoulder.
'You have to know that you're all that got me through, right?
You didn't fail me. You were there for me every step of the way. And I know
'I almost lost you...' he whispered, so softly I almost didn't
hear it. 'Through the war... through everything we've gone through... I've
never come so close...'
'Shhhhh... It doesn't matter now. Everything's all right.'
His shaking was getting worse, and I held on tight, wishing
I had the strength to rock him.
'I couldn't get to you. You needed me and I couldn't get to
you. I've never felt so damned helpless...' His voice was unsteady and choked.
I had trouble making out what he was saying.
'You were there, Heero,' I told him firmly. 'You were right
there with me the whole damn time.'
'You... you were... dying... I could see it.... I...' A sob
bubbled up and he stopped talking.
'But you called me back.' I didn't bother denying the truth
of it. 'When I didn't have the strength to hold on anymore, you gave me
'I wasn't able to do a Gods damned thing!' he wailed. 'I couldn't
help you, I couldn't get to you... I couldn't...' He finally broke completely
and began to sob into my shoulder.
'Fucking hell!' I barked at him. 'I wouldn't be here if it
weren't for you! You gave me an anchor; you gave me something to hold on
for! Damnit, Heero, your voice was all that kept me from giving up! I couldn't
answer you; but by the Gods I heard you... every step of the way... you
were right there with me. You wouldn't let me quit.'
We were passed words then, he cried it out... at long last
and I just held on to him. I could only hope that this would help him; would
purge some of the guilt from his system and let him move on. Before long,
I was trembling right along with him and that, I think, was what finally
brought him back to himself.
He doesn't break down like this very often. I think I could
count the times on the fingers of one hand. I also think that every single
time could be directly attributed to something happening to me. He gets
through what has to be gotten through, and then later when all is said and
done, it'll overtake him. It's harsh and swift, hits him like a striking
falcon. Takes him to his knees and just as quickly as it comes...it's over.
That's how it was this time. He let me hold him while he wept
through his pain and then he was pushing it aside, suddenly worried that
he was hurting me. He wouldn't speak of it...would act as though it had
never happened. I wish I knew how he did it.
I let him fuss over me, let him give me another dose of medicine
because it had been long enough, and I was hurting pretty badly by then.
Let him ease me back over, to get off the wounds. Let him tuck the quilts
back around me. But then he surprised me, stretching out beside me and easing
in for a kiss. And not one of those gentle, feather soft kisses that I had
been getting. This one involved teeth and tongue and tasted of the salt
of tears. It left me aching and panting.
He groaned softly next to my ear, 'It's going to be a long
damned six weeks.'
Sex. The memory of it was... sweet. The thought of trying
it was... horrifying. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I must have
done my deer in headlights imitation again, because he laughed at me.
'Idiot.' he told me fondly. 'Go to sleep.'
'I will, if you will,' I murmured back.
His smile turned warm. 'I... I think I... just might be able
We fell back asleep with our fingers entwined.
It was the miracle of him by my side that got me through that
night. I had gotten him to sleep and then just lay there next to him, watching
the splendor of the rise and fall of his back as he breathed. The guilt
romped around me, nipping at me and making it hard to fall asleep myself.
I could not believe that I had let myself get into such a
state that I had mistreated him as badly as I had. It had all made such
sense at the time.
I was devastated that I had made him feel... unloved, undesirable.
Mortified that he took all of this from me in stride and... not so much
forgave me, as he never really blamed me in the first damned place!
I wanted his head on my shoulder; I wanted his arm around
me. It was so hard to fall asleep without his warmth pressed against me.
Not for the first time, I wished I could let him inside my
mind. Wished that he could see himself as I saw him, could feel how I felt
about him, could understand what he means to me. There were no words that
expressed what an integral part of me he was.
I eventually did fall asleep, and not surprisingly, woke hours
later caught in the snare of that all too familiar nightmare again.
But this time, Duo was there and he pulled me out of it with
his voice and his touch. He made it all right for me to let go for a while.
He showed me once again the depth of his incredible strength, putting aside
his pain to shore me up and bear the weight of mine. He let me lean on him,
and I'm ashamed to have to admit that I faltered and fell and that he had
to catch me.
The feel of his weakness, of his body quivering with fatigue,
gave me the strength to pull myself together and I tended to him until he
fell asleep again.
And for the first time, with his fingers wrapped warm in mine,
I managed to fall back asleep as well.
It was the beginning of the healing for both of us.
We passed the next couple of days settling into a routine.
Either Wufei or Trowa and Quatre stopped in at least once a day, and I had
little doubt that they would for awhile yet. Though their visits were more
than welcome, their arrivals always hit me like a mild rebuke; it was my
failure that made it necessary for them to come by and check on us every
day like that.
Duo was sleeping a little less and was starting to get bored.
The day that Misty and Justin arrived with Carrie for a visit, we were curled
together on the couch, Duo's laptop propped on my knees... shopping. He
had decided that he might like to work on something while he was stuck in
the apartment and we were on-line with the local quilt shop, ordering fabric.
He thought he might be able to handle a little sewing.
I was sitting sideways, supported against the arm of the couch,
with Duo reclining against my chest. This was something we had only tried
just today and though we both found it to be incredibly satisfying, I didn't
think it was a position he was going to be able to manage for long stretches
of time. I held the laptop balanced on my knee, the extra long phone cord
I had found, looping off across the coffee table, while Duo surfed his way
through the on-line quilt shop.
I cursed when the knock came on the door, and had to yell
for the interlopers to hang on a minute , while I gently untangled us, replacing
my body with several pillows and couch cushions, until Duo seemed as comfortable
as possible. Then I went to open the door and was greeted with the happy
squeals of a four-year-old. It was all I could do not to groan out loud.
I wasn't up to this yet, and I honestly didn't think that Duo was either.
Misty, thank the Gods, kept a tight rein on Carrie, or I'm
sure the child would have thrown herself into Duo's lap. I would have had
to hurt someone.
Misty came in hauling an assortment of baked goods. The woman
treats any given situation as an excuse to cook. Mostly cookies and brownies
and the like, sometimes homemade bread. It was a wonder she kept her slim
build; but perhaps that was because she was constantly giving the stuff
Carrie was chanting, 'Unca Duo!' like a mantra and after I
performed my social duties by taking their jackets and settling the pile
of Tupperware on the table, I found myself compelled to place myself where
I could intercept any exuberant hugs that might get directed at said Uncle.
'We're gonna get a new house, Unca Duo!' She finally left
off the mantra to deliver what was probably, for her, the most exciting
news she'd had in her short life.
Duo grinned for her. 'Is it a big house?' he asked, falling
into easy communication with her, seeming to forget her parents for a moment.
'We haven't found it yet, silly,' she informed him haughtily
with a roll of her brown eyes. 'But it's gonna have a big yard for Bernie
and Mommy says it might even have two bafrooms!'
Misty came and sat on the coffee table beside her daughter
and stroked a maternal hand over the curly locks, smiling warmly at Duo.
'We're not going to rebuild, we needed a bigger place anyway,' she explained.
'We've looked at a few places, but... haven't found anything that suits
all three of us.'
Carrie brightened, bouncing up and down in place. 'We saw
a house that had a tree house !' she squealed gleefully, as though that
was the most magical thing that she had ever seen. 'It was the bestest house.'
Then her smile faded a little. 'But it gots no basement.'
And that, apparently, removed said house from the running
altogether. Then she looked up at her mother and stage-whispered, 'I gotta
go potty.' I stepped aside and pointed the way, and Misty took her off to
the bathroom. I turned back and found the most stricken look on Duo's face.
'What's wrong?' I asked softly.
His eyes flicked to meet mine and his voice was unnaturally
husky. 'Damnit, Heero... I didn't want her scarred with this. I tried so
hard to make things all right... I...'
I didn't know what to say to him, but before I could even
begin to speak, the forgotten Justin was there; unexpected comfort coming
from an unexpected quarter.
'Duo... Good Lord, man, you couldn't have done more than you
did.' Duo turned from me to look up at Carrie's father, his eyes confused.
'They recommended at the hospital that we take her in for counseling. Hell;
she didn't fucking need any. You brought her through a tornado...' He faltered,
searching for words. 'She doesn't even have bad dreams.'
He came closer, sitting on the coffee table where Misty had
been, nearer eye level with Duo. 'You saved her life,' he told Duo thickly.
'You saved our little girl. And somehow... you kept her from being afraid
through the whole damn thing.'
So, maybe Justin wasn't such an asshole after all.
Duo moved to touch Justin's knee, and then thought better
of it. 'I didn't do anything...' he began, but Justin almost looked angry.
'Don't belittle it, Duo.' He looked away from us, this kind
of emotion obviously awkward for him. 'The counselor said he'd like to talk
to...'Unca Duo' some day. To find out how in the hell you brought a four
year old through... that... without so much as a nervous twitch.'
Duo ducked his head and flushed. 'I just... told her stories
and... explained things. I didn't really...' he floundered and flushed darker.
'Thank you,' Justin blurted suddenly.
'You're... you're welcome,' Duo responded and an awkward silence
ensued. I was just considering breaking it with something lame, like offering
drinks, when Carrie burst back into the room and more than filled it.
'You gots weird stuff in your bafroom, Unca Duo!' Carrie squealed
and beside us, Justin blanched.
Duo just ignored him and smiled at Carrie. 'That's so I can
take showers with my cast on, poppet.'
The look on Justin's face was really rather priceless, running
the gambit from relief to embarrassment. I do not even want to know what
he thought she was talking about.
'You gots a cast Unca Duo?' she asked, wide eyed and of course
the afghan had to be peeled back so she could see it.
'What's it for, Unca Duo?' she breathed, awed by the thing.
'Just to make my leg itch.' Duo grinned and made silly little
scratching motions until she giggled.
Then she looked him over somewhat curiously. 'Mommy says I
can't hug you, Unca Duo.' There was a plaintive note in her voice and I
shifted a little closer, half expecting Duo to let her, just to make her
'Not for a while yet, munchkin. Unca Duo has a couple of...
boo-boos.' Then he grinned at her and stuck his hand out. 'But we can hug
She giggled some more and grabbed his hand with both of hers
and squeezed tight while Duo pretended that she was crushing his fingers.
He is a master of misdirection and distraction, and maybe
Justin couldn't understand how Duo could have kept his daughter from being
frightened, but I could.
She babbled to him for a while about living with her Aunt
and cousins, about Bernie getting in trouble for digging in the Aunt's flowerbed.
About how her Aunt had looked at Dirt one morning and then spit coffee all
over herself. Duo got a glare from Misty at that point in the story, but
he just grinned at her, unabashed.
He had been up for some time before their arrival, and I knew
he had to be getting tired. We had kept the hospital bed after all, and
he napped there when he wanted to rest during the day. I needed to get him
back into it and off his back soon. I was trying to think of a way to politely
get them to leave, when Duo surprised me by reaching out and taping Carrie
gently on the end of the nose.
'You're going to have to save some stories for the next time
you visit, munchkin. It's almost time for my nap.'
'You gots to take a nap?' she asked, incredulous; the thread
of the meandering story forgotten.
He grinned at her, lowering his voice to tell her conspiratorially,
'Yep. Uncle Heero makes me.'
She looked up at me for confirmation, and since Duo had involved
me in his little game, I nodded sadly and told her. 'He was bad. He didn't
take his medicine.'
The laugh I got from Duo was delighted and real, and I was
shocked at how much I had been missing the sound.
Justin took Carrie in hand then, getting her jacket on her
while Misty came and tearily said her own thank yous to an uncomfortable
Duo. Then they were finally leaving, though I suppose, truth be told, they
hadn't been there all that long.
'Bye, Unca Duo!' Carrie called over her father's shoulder,
'Bye, Princess,' Duo said wearily. 'Be a good girl and give
Bernie a hug for me.'
Carrie giggled and waved again. At the last minute, Misty
turned and grinned at Duo, shaking her head. 'You'd make somebody a good
mommy, Duo Maxwell.'
He just snorted and then the door was shut and we were alone
again. I waited for the pain to come into his eyes. I couldn't believe she
had said that to him. I waited, but it didn't happen. He smiled up at me,
the comment already forgotten, his eyes looking heavy lidded.
'Help me to bed, love?' he asked softly.
'Of course,' I replied and got him up and across the room.
He was asleep within a matter of minutes. I settled myself
on the couch and watched him for a while, puzzling over it. I wasn't complaining,
I didn't want to see him hurt, but his lack of reaction surprised me. His
yearning for children of our own was something that he had never quite gotten
over. I would have expected the remark to have stung. Especially now, while
he was still dealing with the emotional upheaval the drugs always caused
in him. When I thought about the visit, Duo's reaction to Carrie in general
was pretty atypical. He always put her first, and I had half expected him
to let her hug him, enduring the pain just to reassure her that he was all
right. I had been expecting to have to intervene and make her leave him
alone so that he could rest. It had surprised me when he had called a halt
to the visit himself. There was something subtly different about his interaction
with the child, and I couldn't quite place my finger on it.
I moved silently around the apartment, cleaning up, looking
to make sure we had something thawed for dinner, refrigerating the massive
amounts of cookies that Misty had brought and I really didn't know what
to do with. I changed the sheets on our bed and gathered a basketful of
laundry for later. Busy work; things that could have waited. But my mind
kept looping back around to the interchange between Duo and Carrie. What
had been different? He had still doted on her, still conversed with her
almost exclusively, ignoring the adults in the room as though they hadn't
existed. He had smiled at her and laughed with her, and otherwise had shown
that he was as fond of her as he had ever been. But there was something
in his eyes that hadn't been the same. What was it? What had been missing?
It came to me, almost an hour later, standing over his sleeping
form, watching him breathe. I had one of his quilts tucked in around him,
and it put me in mind of a conversation we'd shared years ago while he had
worked on the quilt he gave to Carrie when she was born. We had talked about
children, talked about his wanting one of our own. I'll remember the hunger
in his eyes as he spoke of it, as long as I live. He had allowed me to see
his need, naked and full strength, just that one time. Then he had buried
it away, filed under 'impossible', and we never really spoken of it again.
But the ghost of that need came back to his eyes whenever he was around
Carrie or any other small child. And that was what was missing... he had
looked at Carrie, laughed with Carrie... and the hunger never awoke in his
eyes. I wasn't sure what to think.
I helped him to the bathroom when he woke, settling him on
the couch afterward, where he resumed his shopping while I fixed dinner.
We ate a light meal of chicken and rice... with cookies for dessert.
He was receptive to letting me sit behind him again, his lower
back supported with a thin cushion. We took a little time to surf the net
and find the web site for the museum and I ordered the replacement panther
that I had promised Carrie. When I told Duo the story of how I had come
to make that pledge, he positively glowed and looked a little further, finding
that the site had a stuffed wolf as well, and of course we had to order
it too. I reassured him that I was sure we could find a hawk and a dragon
He had to rest for a bit then, and he let himself relax back
against me. I ached to wrap my arms around him, to hold him tight and close.
I could feel the muscles in his back spasming uncontrollably against me.
I took his right hand in mine and held it tightly until the spell passed.
He sighed heavily, but didn't speak of it.
'Duo?' I said softly against the top of his head, 'is everything
'I'm fine,' he sighed, squeezing my hand.
'You seemed... strange... this afternoon.' I fished around
for words, struggling for the right concept.
'Stranger than normal?' he teased, but I wouldn't be distracted.
'When Carrie was here... things seemed... different,' I poked
a little more, hoping he would work with me a little bit.
'I don't understand,' he said, not making things any easier
'Duo,' I blurted, 'it breaks my heart to see you with children...
you're always so... full of yearning... but today...' I broke it off, wishing
I'd not even spoken.
He chuckled lightly, nuzzling his head back against my cheek.
But when he finally spoke, it wasn't any where near what I thought he would
'Do you remember Makoto Ito?' he said wistfully.
I snorted. 'How could I forget?' I wasn't sure what bearing
this had on the present topic, but was willing to wait for him to work his
way around to it.
He let his head rest against my shoulder, wrapping his good
arm around my raised knee. 'When I first met him...on that mission,' no
need to mention which mission, 'we had to spend the night hiding out in
that sewer together.'
I repressed a shiver and put my hand on his shoulder, gently
massaging. We had not talked all that much about that mission, after that
first argument. It wasn't a subject that either of us had been able to give
any emotional distance to at the time, and in the intervening years it had
not come up all that often.
'We talked... a lot.' His eyes closed and his voice became
It was one of those moods; the ones that didn't overtake him
all that often, but always afforded me rare glimpses into his past; into
He chuckled. 'The caffeine pills were upsetting him... a great
deal. I had to tell him a little bit about the... nightmares.'
Nightmares. Such a mild sounding word for the screaming night
terrors that used to overtake him. My hand left his shoulder and moved to
stroke tenderly across his cheek.
'He was pretty freaked out that he had just leaped into the
pit of no return with a raving madman.' He grinned in remembrance and I
chuckled lightly along with him.
'He kept trying to convince me to go to sleep.' His eyes blinked
open and he tilted his head to look up at me. 'He was a... persistent old
guy; kept at me about what circumstances would allow me to sleep.'
He turned his head away, the position obviously difficult
to hold. I felt the muscles around his upper body wound go into spasm again.
He got quiet until the spell passed. I frowned; I had not known about these
obviously painful attacks, but he picked up the thread of the story before
I could speak.
'I had to try to explain... you.' His smile grew warm and
affectionate. 'And he explained the term 'soul mate' to me.'
He twisted to look at me again. 'I more than knew the feeling...
but I'd never heard the term for it.'
I leaned down until I could brush his lips with mine, overwhelmed
with a sudden sense of ... completion? Connection? Union? Soul mates...
a very apt description. One soul mated eternally with the other. I shivered.
He had to let his head fall back on my shoulder again. 'He
spoke of his wife...of understanding how I felt.' A hint of a frown crossed
his face and he closed his eyes again. 'He told me she'd died... I think
she'd been dead ten years at the time he told me about it. I... I couldn't
understand how...' The frown deepened. 'I didn't understand how he could
have gone on... without her.'
I took him by the shoulders and held him; the best I could
manage. He was dancing around the edges of something we had spoken of only
once... a very long time ago. I couldn't bear to think about it, much less
talk about it. I remembered the feelings I'd had in the waiting room at
the hospital, understanding that there really, truly was no going on without
'They had children,' he said after a long pause. 'He told
me that was how he had carried on. He had other ties by the time he... lost
We were coming back around to the original subject, I'd had
faith that he would get there eventually, but I hadn't seen this coming.
There was another long pause, and I kissed the side of his
face and waited. His voice when it came at last was very soft.
'I figured out... at the bottom of those stairs, why I wanted
a child so badly.' He didn't open his eyes while he spoke. 'I wanted you
to have an anchor. I wanted to hold you to life.'
My gut clenched and my heart felt like it faltered in my chest.
'We swore we would never ask each other to go on alone,' he
sighed. 'I... I almost did... in that ambulance. It tears at me, thinking
about. But... I figured out that I don't have that right. No more than you
would have the right to ask me...'
'No more,' I quavered. 'Please... I... understand. But I don't
want to talk about it any more. I can't...'
The loving smile came back to his face, even if it was tinged
with a little sadness. 'It's all right. There's nothing more to discuss.
We both know our own hearts. But no more desperately wanting a child...
you're enough for me.'
'I love you... so damn much,' I told him huskily.
'With all my heart and soul,' he responded and lacing his
fingers with mine, fell asleep against my chest.
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