Warnings : Yaoi, sappy angst, OOC, Duo POV, language, mention
of past NCS, Wufei/Duo friendship. This is a direct sequel to the 'Road
Thanks to Christy for the beta job, and to Kracken and Plaiddragon for opinions
Standard ownership prattle; you know I don’t own… I know I don’t
They say you should be careful what you wish for… you
might get it. What did I wish for? Heero to stop treating me like I was
made out of egg shells, and would blow away if he took his eyes off me.
What did I get? Heero gone for three days for his Preventers’ agent
It was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I was thrilled at the sign that we
might be getting back to something akin to ‘normal’, but on
the other… well; let’s face it… even before the storm,
Heero and I have never been all that thrilled about being apart.
I do have to wonder though, if he’d have gone if most of his licenses
and permits hadn’t been on the bleeding edge of expiring. Wufei had
gone a month prior, and Heero should have gone with him then, but hadn’t
been willing yet. I’m not technically sure he was willing now, but
he hadn’t had a lot of choice if he wanted to stay in a field position.
Or, as much of a field position as he’d been in lately.
I wonder sometimes if maybe Commander Une doesn’t have a touch of
residual guilt over some of her actions during the war, because I sure as
hell couldn’t figure out why else she let us get away with the crap
we did. I’m pretty sure that ‘my life partner has a boo-boo’
is not one of the check boxes on the long term disability forms, but somehow
Heero and I had both qualified.
And thank the Gods we had, or I imagine Heero would have been putting a
call through to Quatre asking for help, because he sure as bloody hell wouldn’t
have gone back to work during that time.
After our little vacation, things had gone a long way toward shifting back
to that coveted ‘normal’. Heero had acquiesced, and we’d
finally returned to work. It had taken me another month before I could manage
more than part time, but just establishing a routine again had felt good.
I think getting Heero back into the office had helped more than anything
else. He’d taken an interest in their case-load quite despite himself,
and it had been a hell of a welcome relief to have him focused on something
besides me for a change.
Or maybe it was my getting past those damn muscle spasms, that had finally
allowed him to relax a little. Whatever it was, it had felt like a victory
to rival winning the war, when he’d admitted that he had to make this
trip… hell; that he could make this trip, and I’d be all right.
I will confess to a tiny suspicion that Heero and Wufei not qualifying together
might have been planned… I really couldn’t tell. But it did
seem awfully convenient that when Wufei went, he flew out to the training
facility, but Heero chose to drive. Necessitating that I catch rides with
Wufei for the few days he was gone.
Coincidence? Well… I’d seen that brand of Yuy-Chang coincidence
before, so I wasn’t about to bet against it. Wufei… in his slightly
less obvious way… is every bit the mother-hen that Heero is. It wasn’t
beyond either one of them to have cooked up a plan like that. I had wanted
to be irritated about it, but it just wasn’t worth the effort.
Especially since, not that I’d admit it to either one of the bastards,
the company had been nice.
The first night alone had rather taken me by surprise. Despite Heero calling
and our talking for almost an hour, I think it was well after two in the
morning before I’d managed to fall asleep. The next day had sucked
copious amounts, but the second night had been easier simply because I’d
been so exhausted. I think I scared Wufei when I almost fell asleep on the
drive home. Might have been why he’d accepted so quickly when I’d
invited him to stay for dinner, even though I’d planned on just ordering
pizza. Or maybe he was under orders to be at my beck and call… who
knew with those two? In my more aggrieved moments, I imagined Heero sitting
Wufei down and giving him a long list of things to watch for where I was
concerned. ‘If he shows any signs of wanting company…’
this imagined Heero would say, and Wufei would nod seriously, taking his
Sometimes these mental images amused me, and sometimes… they did not.
Although, when I had one of those slightly less amused moments, I now had
a remedy in the bit of artwork that occupied the bulletin board beside my
desk at work. A four year old’s rendition of a medal of honor…
complete with little pink hearts and something brown that I had yet to identify.
Heero and Wufei might not think much of my still recovering physical abilities…
but I was somebody’s hero.
The thing had been hanging there when I’d come back to work from my
leave, right above the three plates of cookies, brownies and fudge that
the child’s mother had made. Have I ever mentioned that my second
in command likes to bake?
I still got a grin out of the thing every time it happened to catch my eye.
Not that the server whose guts were currently strewn across the work-bench
was making me feel particularly hero-like. It was, actually, making me feel
just a bit homicidal. Some days, the tendency bred from my youth to eke
every moment of usefulness out of everything, irritates even me.
Misty probably kept me from actually setting aside the screw-driver and
picking up the hammer by calling, ‘Hey boss-man; your ride’s
here,’ at the exact moment that the notion to beat the thing into
scrap crossed my mind.
I glanced up to find Wufei standing in the doorway, smiling bemusedly at
me. I couldn’t decide if it was from watching me suck on a bloody
knuckle, or from listening to me cuss at electronics around said knuckle.
‘Perhaps you should leave while you’re still one up on the computer,
Maxwell,’ he grinned.
‘Who says he’s ahead,’ I heard Paul mutter as he shut
down his computer and prepared to leave for the evening.
‘Hey!’ I growled, pulling my abused finger out of my mouth.
‘It’s best two falls out of three; I’m still good!’
‘Looked like a tie to me,’ Misty interjected and then ducked
quickly around Wufei on her way out before I could retaliate.
‘You see what I have to put up with?’ I asked Wufei in a theatrically
put out tone. ‘I don’t…’
‘Get any respect?’ Wufei finished for me as he traded nods with
Paul who was following Misty to the elevator. The kid looked faintly flushed
to me and it crossed my mind that Wufei seriously intimidated him. Heero
did too, now that I thought about it. I wondered if it was agenthood, or
‘No respect,’ I grumbled as I pushed away from the work bench.
‘No help… no sympathy…’
Wufei just snorted, waiting for me to fetch my coat and do my final shut-down
routine. He didn’t say anything, but I could feel him watching me.
Probably looking for signs that I was sore or stiff. I’d be willing
to bet he had a list from Heero about that too… watch for a limp,
watch how he straightens, look for signs that he isn’t using his left
arm, blah, blah, blah.
Though if Chang Wufei offered to give me a massage, we were going to have
some serious words; I don’t care what the fuck instructions Heero
He stepped out in the hall as I came through the door and waited while I
locked up. ‘You know,’ I ventured, feeling just a touch guilty.
‘I really could take the bus home… you don’t have to drive
He chuckled and gave me a rueful little smile. ‘Heero would…’
he began, but I cut him off.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ I rolled my eyes. ‘I know. The Gods forbid
Heero Yuy not get his way.’
We walked the short distance to the elevator and he made the effort to look
contrite. ‘Well, you argue with him… I’m not.’
‘It seldom does me any good,’ I sighed and punched the call
Wufei looked for a moment like he was going to say something, but then somehow
seemed to change his mind. ‘You’re not going to bleed all over
my car, are you?’
I held my hand up and gave my knuckles a once-over. ‘I don’t
think I’ll be passing out from blood-loss,’ I opined and he
just shook his head. The elevator came and we stepped in.
‘So,’ he asked once we were moving. ‘How’s Heero
I flashed a wide grin, remembering the previous night’s phone call.
‘More than ready to come home; nothing like a little ‘top gun’
complex to make a guy twitchy.’
Wufei chuckled, but the humor in it held a touch of irony. ‘Yes, it’s
no secret who we are, and there isn’t a cadet out there that wouldn’t
love to be able to best us in some way or other.’ He sighed, running
a hand over his hair. ‘Definitely keeps you on your toes.’
I chuckled darkly. ‘He had the obstacle course yesterday.’
Wufei winced, stepping out of the elevator as the doors swept open. ‘I
think I pulled some muscles on that one,’ he admitted.
I matched his chuckle, giving Elliot at the guard station a wave as we went
through the lobby. The kid grinned and waved back. ‘Heero only said
that he hasn’t put that much effort into anything since the war.’
Wufei couldn’t help himself, and mused, ‘I wonder what his time
was?’ the look on his face told me that he knew how competitive he
‘I have no idea,’ I smirked at him. ‘You’ll have
to ask him yourself.’
I think he would have retorted, but we passed a group leaving the payroll
department and Shirley engaged me in conversation that I quickly figured
out was just her trying to get me to tell her what kind of home computer
to buy. We escaped when I promised to work her up a sample configuration.
Wufei gave me a funny look and all I could do was shrug. ‘I never
have the heart to tell them that any off the shelf brand name computer will
do anything they could ever possibly want to do. I think they like to believe
that it’s harder than it is.’
‘Or they just like an excuse to talk to the good-looking IT guy,’
Wufei quipped and it made me jerk my head around to look at him.
‘Wufei!’ I groaned. ‘That’s just gross! The woman
is old enough to be my grandmother!’
He laughed rather unrepentantly, pulling his keys out and pushing the button
to unlock his car. I was just getting ready to climb in, when I heard someone
call my name and turned to find Sally Po making her way across the garage
I spared Wufei a glance, but couldn’t read the expression I found
there. He played his cards rather close to the chest when it came to the
woman, but I was pretty sure he was interested with a capital ‘I’.
The only thing that gave me any reason to doubt, was the fact that I’d
been waiting for him to make some kind of move for… a long time.
‘Glad I caught you,’ Sally said as she came up to us and stopped
to pull something out of her bag. ‘I’ve been meaning to give
this to you for ages.’
I couldn’t help blinking rather blankly at the card she held out to
me, wondering what odd holiday I had missed. ‘What’s this?’
I asked with my usual subtlety.
She gave me a lop-sided grin. ‘A get-well card,’ she informed
me, and I couldn’t help laughing.
‘Isn’t it a little late for that?’ I grinned at her and
she punched my arm.
‘It’s the thought that counts, asshole,’ she grinned back
and turned to move off again.
‘Hey,’ I began, making myself not look at Wufei. ‘What’s
‘Meeting some of the girls down at the Roman House for dinner,’
she told me, her grin turning a bit sardonic. ‘They tell me I spend
too much time in the lab and I need to get out more.’
I caught the almost wistful glance she cast Wufei’s way, but knew
better than to try and intervene. Wufei would have my head on a pike for
attempting to insert myself into his… hypothetical love life.
‘Well… thanks,’ I said instead, feeling a little bit lame,
but she was already headed for her car and just gave us a wave.
We climbed into Wufei’s car then, and I found myself turning the card
between my fingers. My name was written across an envelope that appeared
to be delicately tinted, in a damn impressive calligraphy. I was almost
loathe to open it, but found when I turned it again, that it wasn’t
sealed. I thought about waiting until I got home, but realized that Wufei
hadn’t started the car yet, and was obviously expecting me to open
it right away. Made me wonder about the source of his curiosity, but I hid
The card proved to be handmade, and I couldn’t help but be touched
by the obvious work that had gone into it. No five minute trip into the
card shop for this. It was painted and decorated with cut-outs and all hand-lettered,
and I was feeling a little weird just looking at the outside. But then I
opened it and couldn’t decide quite where to look after that. In that
delicate, ornate script, it simply read, ‘In the dictionary next to
the word ‘spirit’ it reads Duo Maxwell.’
While I did my stare at the floor and blush, routine, Wufei reached out
and gently took the card from my hands to read. I dared a glance up at him
and found him blushing harder than I was. He shot a look at Sally’s
departing car that I just flat could not work out. It seemed… almost
angry. But not. I couldn’t figure out why he seemed so embarrassed;
I’d expected him to tease the crap out of me over it.
‘Is…’ I ventured. ‘Something wrong?’
He blinked, as though shaking off some thought, and then he gave me a small
smile, handing the card back. ‘No… nothing’s wrong.’
He started the car while I carefully tucked the card back in the envelope
and then slipped it in the inside pocket of my jacket. We were quiet while
he pulled out of the parking garage and onto the street. I stole a couple
of glances his way and wished I had a clue what had so totally changed his
mood. I couldn’t help worrying that he was getting tired of dragging
my sorry ass around.
‘I… uh…’ I finally tossed out, feeling the pressure
of the quiet, ‘didn’t know that Sally did that sort of thing.’
Wufei glanced at me, his expression clearing a little. ‘I believe
it’s an off-shoot of a scrapbook hobby.’
‘Oh,’ I said in my witty way, and wondered why we were suddenly
so uncomfortable. ‘Didn’t know she did that either.’
He grinned then, and some of his tension went away. I was left pretty damn
confused about what I’d done to create it in the first place. ‘The
woman saves all manner of odd scraps of paper for the purpose of cutting
them into weird little shapes. You should see her office.’
The idea of visiting the offices of the Preventers’ resident coroner
didn’t appeal to me all that much, but I didn’t say so. ‘She
just didn’t strike me as the type, I guess.’
He actually laughed out loud. ‘Well, I doubt she would ever guess
what you do in your spare time either, so you’re even.’
I felt myself frowning; my sewing hobby is something I’m just the
tiniest bit touchy about. I’m a guy, and apparently guys are not supposed
to have creative out-lets or some such bullshit. Or, it has to be creative
in a manly way; must involve grease or electronics in some form.
There were only a small handful of people who were even aware that I indulged
in the high art of quilting. And of that handful, there was only one person
who had ever actually seen me do it. While I enjoy the feeling it gives
me of carrying on a tradition that was taught to me as a child… I’m
not stupid enough to go around with an ‘I *heart* quilting’
I mean, for the Gods’ sake… I’m an ex-Gundam pilot, ex-terrorist,
ex-pick pocket, semi-openly gay IT geek… I do not need to give people
additional reason to look at me funny.
‘Duo?’ Wufei’s voice broke into my reverie with gentle
concern. ‘Did I say something wrong?’
‘Sorry,’ I muttered, shaking the thoughts away, and touched
the spot on my jacket over where the card was hidden away. ‘I just…
guess that kind of sentimental stuff makes me uncomfortable.’
He snorted, and when I glanced at him, he spared me a quick little derisive
‘Don’t start,’ I warned, and made him chuckle. Chang Wufei
has been known to find Heero and myself just a bit… sentimental.
‘I wouldn’t dream of it,’ he deadpanned and it was my
turn to snort.
‘You need to get out more,’ I informed him, not for the first
‘Don’t you start,’ he grumbled, giving the line that little
twist that was supposed to indicate his long-suffering patience with me.
I let it go; point made, and wondered if Sally would keep waiting for the
indecisive idiot forever.
We were nearing the apartment and I gestured vaguely toward the curb.
‘Why don’t you just drop me out front?’ I suggested. ‘I
need to walk over to the market anyway…’
There was a sigh from Wufei and when I looked his way, I got the eye-roll
gesture. ‘Or why don’t I just go on down to the market in the
first place?’ he countered.
‘You don’t have to do that,’ I replied, feeling uncomfortably
like somebody’s inconvenient little brother or something.
‘It’s not a problem, Duo,’ he assured me. ‘I was
planning on stopping on my way home to pick up some bread anyway.’
I eyed him, trying to decide if he was just saying that, and wondered why
it mattered. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m touchy about things
because of Heero’s over-protective streak on steroids or not. ‘Well…
I guess if you need something anyway. The bakery here is pretty decent,
though you want to stay away from the meat department.’
‘Bakery?’ Wufei asked, raising an eyebrow, and I realized we’d
been talking loaf of Wonder bread. I chuckled.
‘Bakery, Chang,’ I grinned. ‘Live a little… forget
the store brands, do yourself a favor and get yourself a loaf out of the
bakery. They make it fresh every morning.’
The look of vague interest that crossed his face let me stop feeling like
I was going shopping with my body-guard and more like I was going shopping
with my friend.
‘Come, grass-hopper,’ I grinned at him as he parked and shut
off the car. ‘Let me show you the ropes of fine dining.’
He laughed, shaking his head. ‘I’m going to learn something
from the man who can’t boil water?’ he teased, following me
‘Not about cooking, asshole,’ I returned. ‘About how to
buy so you don’t have to cook.’
He just shook his head again while I pointed him in the direction of the
bakery department, muttering something about ‘should have known’
as we split up. I was on my way to the deli where entire meals can be purchased
in nifty little nukeable containers.
I take a lot of grief over my cooking abilities, and not all of that grief
is entirely… unjustified. I can fieldstrip any weapon known to man
with my eyes closed, weigh necessary C4 amounts within a fraction of an
ounce with my bare hands, build an adequate file server out of spare parts
and aluminum foil, sew better than ninety percent of the women working at
Preventors’ headquarters, but cook? No. If left to my own devices,
I would not starve to death, but Mrs. Paul, Dinty Moore, the Campbell’s
guy and I have a long standing relationship. I’m all about pre-packaged
and fast. Hard to fuck up a can of condensed soup. Harder still to screw
up a meal bought hot out of the deli.
I ordered my chicken dinner from the girl behind the counter and was waiting
while she dished it into the handy compartmented tray when I suddenly felt…
I was aware of someone behind me and I shifted over, thinking that the person
wanted to see into the display case I was standing in front of, but they
didn’t move up when I got out of the way. I glanced back and found
a very tall, rather broad gentleman… staring at my ass.
You know… that’s a damn uncomfortable thing to discover. Some
people claim it’s flattering, but there is absolutely nothing about
finding somebody looking at you like you’re a slab of meat, that has
anything of flattery in it.
‘Can I help you?’ I ground out, and those eyes flicked up to
meet mine. I say up… up from my butt, not up as in height, because
the guy just freaking towered over me.
‘I’ll bet you could,’ he muttered and there was the ghost
of a leer. I’m not sure I was supposed to have heard the comment,
but I narrowed my eyes and took a step back, letting him know I had.
He was a bear of a guy, short-cropped hair and a leather jacket that was
supposed to make him look cool, and I suppose it did, but once you’ve
tagged a guy as an asshole, cool doesn’t enter your mind. ‘Not
my type, buddy,’ I informed him coldly and wondered when I found myself
wishing that Wufei would come back. What the hell was the matter with me?
I more than knew the truth of ‘size isn’t everything’
when it came to a fight, but there was something about the guy that was
kicking in the heavy duty alarm bells. Not just the normal ‘Watch
out’ ones, but the ‘Oh shit’ ones.
‘Aw, come on honey,’ he drawled. ‘Don’t be that
way,’ and he took a step that bought back the space I’d gained.
I felt adrenaline hit my system like a tanker truck and again was surprised…
yeah, the guy was being an ass, but he wasn’t going to get too out
of hand in the middle of a crowded grocery store.
‘Back off,’ I growled and there was more than a broad hint of
menace in it. The guy was pissing me off mega-amounts, and I found my hands
balling into fists without me telling them to.
He blinked at me, looking a little surprised and then… a little amused.
Like it never entered his mind that I could be a serious threat if the situation
escalated into a brawl. He actually chuckled. ‘Come on… I’m
not that bad, am I?’ he grinned and something in my gut just turned
to water. I have no idea what happened, I just suddenly needed to be somewhere
else. Anywhere else.
‘Get the fuck away from me.’ I snarled and the guy looked a
little taken aback; I don’t think he’d been expecting his game
to jump to the end-zone so fast. He did take a step back, raising his hands
in that universal ‘no threat’ gesture.
‘Jesus,’ he exclaimed, looking a little wide-eyed. ‘Didn’t
mean nothin’… calm down, man.’
I was way past calming down, and not really even sure why. There was a strange
roaring in my ears and I turned on my heel once he gave me the space to
do it and strode off. I think I heard the girl behind the counter call something
after me about my order, but I didn’t look back.
What the hell, was all I could think. I was well and truly on the verge
of panic and not sure why. I would probably have stormed right out of the
stinking store and run all the way home if I hadn’t plowed smack into
Wufei at the end of the aisle.
I damn near knocked him on his ass, and when he threw an arm out to steady
us both, it was all I could do not to grab on. ‘Maxwell?’ he
said, voice sounding a little alarmed. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Did you find the bakery?’ I asked, but I knew my voice was
so tight it sounded strained. I struggled to bring it under control; last
thing I wanted to do was let Chang Wufei know that I’d just let some
random asshole spook me so bad I’d almost forgotten that I hadn’t
come into the store alone.
He frowned at me slightly and glanced pointedly at the package he was carrying,
that steadying hand not letting go of my arm. ‘Duo,’ he said
softly. ‘What is the matter? You feel… shaky.’
I blew out a breath and tried to stop feeling like a rabbit fleeing the
hounds. I really felt stupid, not at all sure what it had been about that
guy that had freaked me so much. I just didn’t want to get into it
and maybe risk Wufei making matters worse by wanting to go straighten the
idiot out or some damn macho thing like that, so I… hedged. ‘I…
guess I overdid it a little today,’ I told him, managing not to cringe.
‘I’m just a little tired.’
The concern in his eyes cranked up another notch, and the hand on my arm
went from steadying to supportive. ‘Come on then,’ he said gently.
‘Let’s get you home.’
I thought for a second he was just going to put down the damn bread and
take me out of there immediately, and I would have argued the point, but
the clerk from the deli department chose that moment to catch up to me.
‘Sir,’ she said brightly, brandishing a chicken dinner. ‘You
forgot your order!’
I managed not to flinch away from her sudden appearance at my elbow and
even managed a ‘Thanks,’ as I automatically reached for the
container. ‘Sorry about that,’ I muttered, feeling rather ridiculous,
but she only smiled.
‘I totally understand,’ she said knowingly, and then turned
to retreat to her station.
Since we were going to have to go through the check-out for me anyway, Wufei
kept his loaf of bread and didn’t even argue about my paying for it
with my dinner, since it got us out of there faster. Though I didn’t
even try to carry the sack, Wufei can be worse than Heero when he thinks
there’s something wrong with one of his friends. I don’t think
I’ll ever forget the time Trowa accidentally broke a finger while
the lot of us had been playing a bit of basketball together. It had kinda,
sorta been Wufei’s fault and I thought the guilt would eat him alive.
It had taken us almost six months to get him to come out and play with us
By the time we left the store, I was feeling a little less twitchy, and
the rush of adrenaline was fading, leaving me just feeling stupid as Wufei
hovered over me, opening the car door and obviously watching me like a hawk
as I sat down.
‘I’m fine,’ I grumbled as he got into the car, a frown
of worry on his face. I could have kicked myself for not coming up with
a better excuse, instead of just falling back on my recent injuries.
‘That would explain why your hands are shaking,’ Wufei said,
raising an eyebrow as he handed the sack across for me to hold.
I took it with a noncommittal sound and let my hands curl around the heat
coming from my dinner.
Wufei started the car, backing out of the parking spot and I found a certain
relief from just getting away from the store and knowing that my asshole
Romeo-wannabe wasn’t going to suddenly appear again. ‘Duo,’
Wufei said, obviously wrestling with his apprehension over my sudden odd
behavior. ‘You’re not… I mean, you didn’t set off…’
I snorted and decided I needed to get my head out of my ass and make more
of an effort at reassurance or I was going to find myself with Chang Wufei
spending the night. ‘No,’ I soothed. ‘Not a spasm. I just…
skipped lunch, I guess.’
‘You guess?’ he chuckled at me. ‘You don’t remember
whether you ate or not?’
I laughed in return, glad to see some of the tension fading from his expression.
‘Well, I can get kind of wrapped up in what I’m doing sometimes…’
I said, and let him make an assumption that wasn’t altogether the
He gave me the indulgent sigh and a roll of his eyes. ‘You’re
hopeless,’ he informed me.
I tried to look contrite. ‘Well,’ I justified. ‘Not like
I haven’t skipped meals before. I guess maybe I did a little bit too
much lifting today on top of it.’ It might have been a bit of unnecessary
embellishment, but I didn’t want the guy hand feeding me until Heero
returned. It got me another sigh.
I had rather assumed that I’d worried him enough that no way would
he just drop me off like usual, and so I wasn’t surprised when he
pulled in and parked in front of the apartment, taking the sack away from
me before he even got out of the car. ‘Wufei,’ I tried again,
‘really… I am fine.’
‘I can see that,’ he smiled. ‘But if you do not let me
see you upstairs, I will be so distracted with worry that I might have an
accident on the way home. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience,
now would you?’
I had to laugh; there just wasn’t any other answer to a melodramatic
line like that. ‘You’re such an asshole,’ I grumbled amiably
and we headed across the parking lot.
Mrs. Littlejohn was out walking the family dog and she gave me a wave which
I returned. ‘Heero still out of town?’ she called and I managed
not to grin too wide.
‘He’s supposed to be back this weekend,’ I yelled in turn
and we waved again as Wufei and I headed inside. I couldn’t completely
hide the smirk and Wufei, predictably, wanted to know what the deal was.
‘You gotta promise me you won’t tell Heero,’ I told him,
and a look came across his face that was rather… priceless.
The humor left his voice as he had to ask me, ‘It isn’t something
that he… should know… is it?’
‘Gods no!’ I laughed and he nodded to let me know he would keep
his mouth shut. My grin got wider. ‘Mrs. Littlejohn has figured out
when Heero takes his morning jog and manages to be outside walking the dog
at the same time every day.’
Wufei blinked at me, his confusion plain. ‘How are you so sure it
has anything to do with Heero? Animals have schedules too…’
I snorted. ‘Yeah, but half the time the dog doesn’t even go
to the bathroom. They stay out just long enough for Mrs. Littlejohn to stare
at Heero’s butt as he runs down the block, and she goes in the minute
he turns the corner and is out of sight.’
Wufei tried hard to suppress the laugh, but couldn’t manage it. ‘And
Heero does not know this?’
‘Hell no,’ I confirmed. ‘He already thinks the whole block
is populated by stalkers!’
‘I’m not sure it isn’t,’ Wufei muttered, as he followed
me up the stairs, but he was still chuckling so I didn’t think he
was really serious. Wufei is as much an agent as Heero, but he’s slightly
less anal about it.
Once in the apartment, I was steered straight to the kitchen and ordered
to sit down while Wufei unpacked my dinner and fetched silverware. Now that
I was on my home ground, most of my weird anxiety had faded and I was left
to just kick my own ass for inadvertently setting Wufei off. He had said
once that he considered me part of his ‘family’, and I suppose
that’s where his protective tendencies sprang from. I wonder sometimes
if it’s just an Asian thing… because he and Heero suffer from
some of the worst ‘Mine!’ issues I have ever seen. They both
would do anything to protect what they care about. And yeah, most of the
time, when I’m not feeling like somebody’s baby brother, that
caring makes me feel damn good.
But since this particular instance of hovering was totally unjustified,
I was left just feeling like I’d tricked him or something.
‘You know,’ I ventured, while he moved around my kitchen. ‘They
always give you twice what a normal person can eat… if you want to
I saw him glance at the chicken, potatoes and cole slaw in front of me and
I suspect there was a hint of distaste there, but it was covered so quickly
I couldn’t be sure. Wufei is nothing if not a perfect guest. ‘I
would… like that,’ he said, and it had a strangely formal feel
to it. He brought a plate and sat down across from me, letting me split
the dinner between us. He opened his own loaf of bread while I did so, and
shared it out. I couldn’t help grinning… he always finds a way
to contribute to any meals he eats with us.
We ate in silence for a minute before Wufei gently asked, ‘Feeling
It made me feel bad all over again, so I just nodded and changed the subject.
‘See, deli food isn’t so bad.’
‘Duo…’ he chided, and I sighed.
‘I’m fine, Fei… really,’ I relented. ‘I just…
still get tired sometimes is all.’
‘Tired?’ he prodded, raising that questioning eyebrow.
‘Yeah,’ I replied, maybe just a bit more firmly than I’d
He didn’t answer right away and I glanced up to find this weird-ass
look on his face that seemed sad somehow. ‘I know you get… uncomfortable
with us hovering,’ he said gently. ‘But we came very close to
losing you and… it scared us a very great deal. We learned to appreciate
what we almost lost.’
I did the carp thing. The gaping mouth? The bug eyes? Accompanied by a beauty
of a blush. After a second of that, Wufei started to look a little flushed
around the edges himself and looked away.
‘Eat,’ he grumbled gruffly and we both pushed our slaw around
like it was the most fascinating stuff in the world.
‘Not like I planned it or anything,’ I finally managed, and
his snort of almost laughter helped ease the tension a little.
‘I should hope not,’ he returned. ‘Because it was a lousy
‘Hell,’ I groused. ‘If I’d planned the damn thing,
I would have been out of town!’ He chuckled, eating with a bit more
appetite, but the line made me start thinking and I had to say. ‘But…
I don’t know… maybe it worked out for the best?’
He stopped with a fork full of mashed potatoes half way to his mouth and
looked at me in surprise. It took him a second to work it around, and then
his expression softened. ‘Perhaps so, my friend. You saved that child’s
life in probably the only way possible. There’s no way to say now,
if her parents would have thought of what you did.’
I shrugged uncomfortably. ‘I don’t know, they might have…’
Wufei put down his fork and gave me a hard look. ‘I went back to that
house, Duo. The two of you would not have survived if not for that old sink.
You barely survived. It would not have saved three people.’
I blinked at him, not sure which part of that statement to feel funny about.
‘You… went back?’
He ducked his head and worked at repositioning his dollop of potatoes. ‘Yes.
I wanted… I had to…’ Then he took a breath and simply
said, ‘Yes, I went back.’
It was a strange thought, somebody going back to that nightmare. I thought
about him poking around that pile of timber. Realized from his words that
he’d actually gone down into that hole and seen the place where I’d
lain for… what had felt like a very long time. Had probably seen my
blood on that concrete floor. I shivered for reasons that wouldn’t
come clear in my head. ‘Gods… you could have been hurt…
you shouldn’t have…’
He laughed, looking bemused and somehow oddly affectionate at the same time.
‘I didn’t go by myself,’ he assured, and I didn’t
ask who, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
We ate for a while in silence after that, but I don’t think it was
uncomfortable… we both just had things to think about.
Wufei is as predictable as Heero in his own way, and it did not surprise
me when he insisted that he clean up after we finished eating. I’d
have argued more, but the mess just wasn’t that much to start with;
it didn’t seem worth it.
I made a point of counting, and he asked me three times between supper and
leaving, if I was sure I was all right. The third time, he actually had
his jacket on and was standing at the door. ‘You make a rotten mother-hen,
Chang,’ I teased him from where I’d settled myself in the living
room, in an effort to ease his mind.
He quirked a grin that tried for contrite and didn’t make it. ‘I
wouldn’t question you so much if you’d stop being so evasive,’
I rolled my eyes. ‘I wouldn’t evade, if Heero didn’t set
you guys on me like I was five years old.’
I knew from the look on his face that I’d said something wrong. The
teasing tone was suddenly gone from his voice and he actually took a step
back toward me. ‘Duo… I am here because you are my friend, not
because Heero ‘makes’ me, you understand?’
I blinked, trying to make the sudden mental track change with him. ‘O…
ok… I didn’t mean…’
‘I know you didn’t,’ he said, giving me a look that somehow
reminded me of Heero in a strangely uncomfortable way. ‘But I want
you to know that I spend time with you because I enjoy your company and
not out of some damn sense of duty.’
I was probably supposed to say something in there, I’m pretty sure
of it anyway, but nothing came to mind. Chang Wufei does not often pull
the… sentimental stuff on me, and it always catches me by total surprise
when he does. Thankfully, he didn’t wait for me, maybe understanding
I wouldn’t come up with anything coherent to say anyway.
‘I want you to promise me that you’ll call me if you need anything,
all right?’ he instructed firmly, and I nodded dumbly, wondering how
we’d suddenly gotten so serious.
‘I’ll be going then,’ he smiled, and it made me wonder
if he wasn’t enjoying rendering me damn near speechless.
‘Uhm… thanks, Fei,’ I managed and it got me an odd little,
almost formal bow as he opened the door to go.
‘You are entirely welcome,’ and then he was gone.
The man is like a roller coaster ride sometimes. A scary one. I think if
I ever figured him out completely, the world might tilt on its axis. Most
of the time he comes across like the most anal-retentive person in the Earth-sphere;
‘sentimental tripe’ makes him cringe and roll his eyes. But
then he can hit you with a warm-fuzzy that just leaves you… well,
sitting in the middle of your apartment staring at a closed door.
Staring at a closed door and suddenly wishing he’d stayed.
I shook myself and rose to go make sure that door was locked up tight. Abruptly
having the strange urge to recon the apartment and make sure all was secure.
That’s usually Heero’s evening ritual, and I’ll admit
that I hadn’t been adhering to it very strictly since he’d been
gone, but there was still a touch of that underlying nervousness there from
the grocery encounter, and it made me want the assurances of locks and latches.
It had turned into a very strange day.
It would be hours before Heero was able to call, so I went ahead with my
shower and ended up settled in my armchair, phone and cold bottle of soda
at my elbow, sewing in my hands, and the TV murmuring nothing important
to me as I worked.
Some time back, Trowa and Quatre had held a little… I’m not
sure what you want to call it; ceremony? It was just the five of us; me,
Heero, and Wufei as witnesses I guess, as they’d traded a kind of
marriage vow. It hadn’t been much, though I’ll admit to having
felt very touched by the whole thing. They’d done everything legally
that could be done to officially acknowledge their relationship, and Quatre
had gotten irritated with the clinical feel to the whole thing, so after
the last bits of paperwork had been signed, sealed, and notarized, he’d
invited us all out to their beach house and they’d performed their
own little ‘wedding’ ceremony. Just vows traded in a nice setting
with a few friends. Quatre told me later he just wanted something that didn’t
involve lawyers. It was nice.
I’d started on a quilt for them the day Heero and I had gotten home
from the trip. Double Wedding Ring pattern. One of the toughest damn things
I’ve ever tackled and I seriously doubt I will ever do another one.
But if it came out the way I had envisioned, it would be worth all the work;
I could already imagine Quatre’s face when I gave it to them. But
it had the added bonus that when I worked on it, it occupied most of my
attention. Not a lot of room left over to feel stupid about letting some
guy’s lame pick-up line freak me out.
I was just glad I’d kept Wufei from figuring out what had really been
bothering me… that would have been humiliating.
Despite the soda, the sewing, and the vaguely interesting documentary on
the evolution of inter-colony communications, I was more than ready for
the phone to ring when Heero finally called.
And even though being ready for it, it still made me jump. I hit mute on
the television and answered it before the second ring. ‘Hello?’
There was a soft but theatric groan and Heero’s voice, ‘Hey,
I chuckled. ‘Rough day?’
He chuckled in return. ‘Let’s just say I’m glad I don’t
have to do this every year.’
‘Maybe you wouldn’t be so soft if you had to do it every year,’
I teased, and he gave me an indignant snort.
‘Soft has nothing to do with it… this would suck even if I had
to do it every week!’ he informed me.
‘Not quite the young hot-shot you once were?’ I grinned, and
got the expected growl.
‘I’d like to see you out here…’ he began, and I
heard him shut it down, but I ignored it. I had no doubt he was kicking
himself for the slip, but it was actually kind of nice to hear. Nice to
realize that he’d forgotten for five seconds the shape I was in.
‘You just want to see me in those stupid little trainee outfits so
you can laugh,’ I accused haughtily, and was relieved when he let
it go and didn’t start apologizing.
‘You would think they could come up with a… less ugly design,’
he sighed. ‘I don’t think orange is my color.’
I snickered at him. ‘Heero… that particular shade of orange
is nobody’s color.’ He laughed with me and I found myself relaxing.
It always amazes me how just the sound of his voice can do that to me. And
this time, it also rather took me by surprise how much I was relaxing. I
hadn’t realized just how tense I had been. ‘I can’t wait
until you get home,’ I blurted, feeling this odd upwelling of emotion,
and not quite sure what it was.
‘I can’t wait either!’ he groaned, missing the odd tone
in my voice. ‘I’m so tired of this place I could scream.’
‘What was on today’s schedule?’ I asked, pushing aside
the weird feelings.
‘Firing range,’ he informed me with a tired sigh. ‘Eight
damn hours of it. Why in the hell they had to do it all in one day, I’ll
never know. I’ve got recoil bruises on both shoulders that must go
all the way through.’
I frowned. ‘What the hell did they have you doing?’
There was another of those theatric groans. ‘Pistol and rifle, standing,
squatting and prone, two runs through the firing range obstacle course,
solo and pairs, and they’ve added a driving course. Hitting a moving
target, from a moving target. And it didn’t help that I got paired
with an idiot during the partners round in the obstacle course. He almost
shot three of the ‘civilians’ and then sprained his damn ankle.
I had to finish the course hauling him out by the seat of his damn pants.’
I couldn’t help laughing at the mental image. ‘That’s
what you get for not going with Wufei,’ I snickered at him, and it
took him a moment to reply, but I ignored the guilty hesitation.
‘Well,’ he said, his tone only slightly subdued. ‘I don’t
think I have to worry about being paired up with him again tomorrow…
I’m pretty sure he washed out today.’
‘Didn’t kill your score, did he?’ I asked, and Heero snorted.
‘What he cost me, I made up in bonus points for ‘saving him’,
he chuckled, and it had a smug tone to it.
‘So, you think you’ll pass, fly-boy?’ I grinned and got
the expected sound of disdain.
‘Of course,’ he informed me and then changed the subject completely.
‘But enough of that crap… how are you doing?’
‘I had a harrowing day fighting budget issues and insubordination,’
I moaned in mock exhaustion.
‘Insubordination?’ Heero asked, ever my straight man.
‘My staff refuses to call me Your Highness,’ I huffed and he
‘The King of Geek gets no respect,’ he grinned, and yes I could
hear it in his voice.
‘Not even from you,’ I groused, and managed to get a bit of
‘Well, Your Highness, I hate to disrespect and run, but I have a dinner
date to keep.’
I gasped in theatric horror. ‘You’re cheating on me?’
‘It’s the last full day and the examiners always take the whole
group out for steak,’ he said, not adding the you know that, but it
was in his voice.
‘Not only cheating, but cheating with an entire squad of men,’
I chided woefully.
‘Women too,’ he dead-panned, making me chuckle.
‘And you didn’t even invite me,’ I accused, and I could
almost see him shaking his head at me.
‘I’d much rather come home and invite you to something more
private,’ he said, making it almost a husky purr.
I snorted. ‘Tomorrow?’
‘It’ll be late,’ he warned me, somewhat unnecessarily.
‘I’ll be waiting,’ I assured him and could tell that I
needed to let him go.
‘You better be,’ he grumbled affectionately. ‘I’ll
see you then. Love you.’
‘Love you, hot-shot,’ I replied and got a chuckle before the
I hung up both pleased with myself and sorry. Pleased that I’d managed
to evade talking about anything too serious, thus eliminating the possibility
of Heero figuring out that I’d had a bad evening, without actually
lying about it, I might add. But sorry that I hadn’t been able to
talk to him longer.
I decided, on a bit of introspection, that going on to bed while I was still
somewhat relaxed might not be such a bad idea. It was just a bit early for
a Friday night, a little past ten, but having just talked to Heero, I was
about as settled as I’d been since the grocery, and I probably shouldn’t
When I wasn’t distracted, my mind kept wanting to play that ‘shoulda’
game. You know the one? All the great lines you should have said? All the
perfect moves you should have made? The things you should have done that
would have kept you from looking like an idiot? Some imp in the back of
my head kept trotting out scenarios and replaying the whole conversation,
but had taken an intermission during Heero’s call. I decided to go
to sleep before it came back for act two.
It was nicer thinking about Heero in his orange jump suit, rappelling down
the side of a building, anyway.
You know, sometimes it kind of amazes me when I think back on Heero’s
and my history together. Amazes me that we ever found each other. Amazes
me that we managed to come through what we came through to see it out the
other side. Amazes me what we’ve managed to build together.
It’s surreal sometimes… there was a day when I never would have
believed we’d live through the war. Could not even imagine the kind
of life Heero and I have together. And now… I could barely remember
what it felt like to be so sure you were going to die each day, that loving
and being loved sometimes seemed like a punishment.
Now, it sometimes felt like Heero had been with me forever, like he’d
always been a part of me somehow, even before we met… if that makes
Wufei would roll his eyes and call me sentimental, if he could hear me.
I put up my sewing, turned off the television, and put the rest of my soda
back in the fridge. It would probably be flat by morning, but there was
too much to throw out. Then I headed off for bed.
During those times that Heero is off on assignment, I try to convince myself
that having the entire bed to myself is a treat by sprawling all across
it, but it seldom works and I usually just end up balled up in my usual
spot, unconsciously making room for my bedmate even though he isn’t
That’s my round-about way of saying the nights are the worst.
It took me awhile to fall asleep and I ended up putting on some soft music,
something I haven’t done in years, but it helps distract the thought
processes when they’re running in circles.
The circle I was stuck in was the one where I’d effectively run away
from an idiot. I couldn’t help worrying at it like a sore tooth. I
couldn’t help wondering at myself… wondering at what had prompted
me to tuck-tail and retreat. Would I have reacted the same before the storm?
Was it some unconscious fear of re-injuring myself?
When I finally managed to doze off, it was with my mind playing the shoulda
game. ‘Come on… I’m not that bad, am I?’
Yes, actually… you are.
Maybe not, but with a pick up line like that, nobody is likely to find out.
Eat shit and die.
It deteriorated from there. I just couldn’t accept that I’d
panicked, I guess. Couldn’t understand what had come over me in the
first place. I’d probably looked like some sort of pansy-ass, shrinking
violet, if I may mix my flower metaphors. The guy had just been an asshole.
Since when do I run away from assholes?
I got my answer somewhere around midnight.
I think we all remember my nightmares, don’t we? The ones that come
with the capital letters and make the people who lived through them with
me twitchy? The screaming? The thrashing?
Gods… it hit me like a ton of lead bricks. It has been a lot of years.
A very long lot of years.
You do not forget a thing like that… not ever. But time can fade it…
dull it. And let’s be honest, it’s a thing that you want to
forget. That kind of trauma… that kind of terror… it’s
not something you want to dwell on. And maybe it’s been easier for
me to push it aside because for most of my childhood, the memory of it had
been so repressed, that I’d literally put it out of my mind.
Or, more accurately… very, very deep inside my mind.
Until my feelings for Heero had started to stir, and those memories had
bubbled up to the surface again. Facing them… dealing with them…
accepting them… I can’t think of a time in my life that has
been rougher, and looking at my history, I think that’s saying a lot.
Nothing has ever brought me closer to giving up, than fighting through those
But that had been, as I said, a lot of years ago. I had not had that nightmare
since the war. Had not even really thought about it in a very long time.
But its power to tear me to pieces has not been diminished.
There were subtle differences… the soldier from all those years ago
bore a striking resemblance to the man from the grocery. He wore that oh-so-cool
leather jacket. I kept smelling chicken.
But the bite of that wooden crate into my hips was the same… the grit
of the alley under my knees… the pain of the glass as it buried itself
in my palm… the sounds of my own screams.
And just like before, it was like living through it all over again.
I woke on the floor, twisted in the sheets and struggling against nothing.
Throat raw… shaking like a leaf… in pain in a dozen places…
heart pounding so hard my chest hurt.
I barely managed to scramble to the damn bathroom before I vomited up every
last bit of that deli dinner, and knew I wasn’t going to be able to
stomach the idea of chicken for quite awhile.
I had a moment of strange incoherency then, mind ruled by nothing but the
last vestiges of the nightmare. It was the cold of the tile that made me
aware that I’d wedged myself between the toilet and the wall, in the
very corner of the bathroom in an instinctive attempt to hide. I was aware
of it… but it still took me a while to decide that moving was a good
idea. The sound of my own ragged, panting breath echoing so very eerily
in the confined bathroom, is what convinced me, I think.
I reached out and flushed the toilet, to rid myself of that awful smell,
and then cringed at the sound of the loud rush of water. Some part of my
mind half expecting the noise to give away my position. To draw down the
predators. That same small part was struggling hard to scream for Solo.
‘Shit,’ I muttered, a vain attempt at bolstering myself. ‘Get
yourself together, Maxwell.’
Might have been more convincing if my voice hadn’t been trembling
so damn much that I doubt anybody could have understood me had they even
heard me. I crept out of my not so hidden hidey-hole and made myself go
wash up. It felt like my legs were made of rubber. I couldn’t even
look at myself in the mirror, half afraid of seeing the evidence of what
hadn’t just happened.
Needed to stress that to myself… it had not just happened. Despite
how my body felt. Despite what my mind said. Despite things I could feel
that I knew could not really be there.
It became necessary to turn on all the lights… to check all the locks…
to verify the security that couldn’t really protect me from my own
Some analytical part of my head was putting pieces together and drawing
comparisons between a certain dark figure from my past and the asshole at
the grocery. Understanding what had triggered the nightmare didn’t
help much in dealing with it though.
I gathered the quilt from our bed and wrapped myself in it as I made my
way through the apartment, limping for no reason that was valid. I turned
on the lights in every damn room, had to check every shadowed corner, every
window latch. Had to try the front door. Had to stop myself from cradling
my hand to my chest.
Had to put some effort into remembering that boys did not cry.
I fetched my opened bottle of soda from the fridge and it hadn’t even
been long enough that it was flat yet. I walked through the apartment again
and finally admitted to myself that I was just trying to keep myself distracted
so I didn’t call Heero.
Because that little voice in my head might be screaming for Solo…
but the rest of me was screaming for Heero, and I just couldn’t let
myself do that for real.
Nothing he could do anyway. He’d had a tough day and he didn’t
need me waking him up. He’d be home in less than twenty-four hours
anyway. Not like he could get there any faster. He was still facing one
last rough day and he didn’t need to be doing it worrying about me.
Nothing he could do.
Except talk to me. And never mind that I’d have given my soul away
on a bloody silver platter to hear his voice in that moment. But it was
after midnight and I knew he’d be asleep, or getting ready to go to
sleep, and he did not need my stupid melodrama.
So I checked the windows again and retreated to my chair, bottle of soda
clutched in my hands like a talisman, understanding that sleep was not going
to be happening again until Heero got home.
I looked at my sewing but knew there wasn’t any solace there…
my damn hands weren’t steady enough to handle anything that precise,
and I just didn’t think I could manage the concentration. Besides…
this may not make a lot of sense, but I didn’t want to sew that memory
into Trowa and Quatre’s gift. When you make something by hand, you
are committing hours of your time to it, and what you think about and what
you feel while you work finds its way into the piece when you’re done.
Maybe it doesn’t matter to anybody else, because nobody is going to
see those thoughts but you… but they’re there.
The quilt I was wrapped in was one of my own; Heero had picked the fabric
and the pattern and brought it to me, I think as a way of letting me know
he understood and supported my strange hobby. When I ran my hands over the
blues and the greens, I felt his regard and his strange almost-pride in
my work. I remembered the evenings we’d spent while I worked on it,
could remember the books he had read to me. When I traced the lines of the
quilting, I could remember his soft smile as he’d presented me with
the bundle of a project yet to be.
If I picked up Trowa and Quatre’s quilt now… I was afraid it
would only remind me later of things too dark to send into their home. I
didn’t want that near them, even if only I saw it. Only I remembered
I found I was clutching our quilt tight around me and was on the verge of
giving in to the need to hear Heero’s voice. I wrestled it ruthlessly
down. ‘Idiot,’ I muttered, and was appalled at the twisted sound
of my own voice.
What the hell was the matter with me? I’d dealt with this enough times
before. Why couldn’t I get myself back under control? Just because
it had been so many years? Because I hadn’t been expecting it? Because
that moron at the grocery wouldn’t leave my head?
I was shocked as hell to look down and find that I had my cell phone clutched
in my hand. I didn’t even remember picking it up. Hadn’t even
remembered that I’d left it lay on the table by my chair. I made myself
put it back down and took a long swallow of soda. It churned rather unhappily
on my stomach and I set the bottle aside as well.
Without the bottle, I couldn’t keep my hand from curling up protectively.
I looked down to show my stubborn damn mind that there was nothing there
but a stupid scar, and between one blink and the next there was blood all
over my palm… running down my arm in trickles.
I knew it wasn’t there. Was able to blink it out of existence as quickly
as it had come… but that didn’t stop the lurch my heart made.
Didn’t stop the sound that slipped from my throat. Didn’t stop
my good hand from snatching the phone from the table.
I have no idea what synapses rubbed up against what synapses, maybe some
engrained need to protect Heero, but I found my fingers dialing Wufei, my
mind wildly trying to think of some reasonable excuse for calling the man
at twelve thirty in the damn morning.
Wufei is something of a night owl and I could only hope that the hour wouldn’t
seem too outrageous to him. His voice, when he picked up, didn’t seem
all that groggy.
‘Hello?’ he said, sounding faintly concerned. ‘Duo?’
‘Uh… Wufei?’ I managed, appalled at how close to breaking
down I was. ‘I think… I mean… I can’t find my jacket
and… uh… I thought it might be in your car. Maybe.’
It took him a moment to reply and I wasn’t sure if I sounded so bad
he couldn’t understand me, or if he was just so surprised at the hour.
‘Your jacket?’ he echoed, sounding very unsure of himself. ‘I
don’t think so. No… I remember you taking it off when we got
to the apartment.’
‘Oh,’ I replied and couldn’t think of anything else to
say. ‘Are you sure?’ I winced and tried to get my head together,
but I just wanted him to talk to me some more. Just wanted to hear a voice
that was more than an echo.
‘Duo,’ he reproached, voice going all gentle. ‘What’s
the matter? Are you all right?’
‘Sure!’ I blurted, and suddenly felt like a total idiot instead
of just a regular, garden variety idiot. Gods… what had I been thinking?
‘I mean… I’m sorry; I didn’t realize it was so late.
I… uh… should have waited until morning.’
‘Duo,’ he said again, more sternly. ‘What is wrong? You
‘I’m ok,’ I lied. ‘I’m really sorry. I just
wasn’t paying attention to the time. I… I should have paid attention.
‘Maxwell,’ he tried, sounding like he was getting irritated
with me. ‘Why in the hell would you even need your jacket at this
time of night? Where…’
I really just couldn’t figure out a way to say, ‘I just needed
to hear a living voice,’ that didn’t sound pretty damn nuts,
so I pulled a strategic retreat. ‘You’re right… I should
have looked at the time… I… I was looking for my card…
I’m real sorry if I woke you up. I’ll let you go, bye.’
And I hung up. I thought I heard him call my name just before I hit the
disconnect button and I cringed, but he didn’t call me back immediately.
I hoped I hadn’t pissed him off so much that he had trouble getting
But you know… even that little bit had helped me ground myself back
in the present. I had forgotten how badly those damn nightmares pulled me
into the past. Pulled me into memory and made it hard for me to remember
just where I was supposed to be. Quatre had told me once, years later when
we were able to talk about it a little bit, that I fell back into an L2
accent right after. I hadn’t known, but I guess it made a certain
amount of sense. He’d told me that’s how he’d known when
I was getting my head back together… when I’d stopped sounding
like a street kid and started sounding like a pilot again.
I’d always had to judge by the lack of certain… hallucinations.
You know; when I stopped seeing blood?
I was always cold too, and I’ve wondered about that. Not like it was
snowing that night or anything. I suppose it was some flavor of shock, but
this time was no different, and Heero’s and my quilt wasn’t
doing much for keeping it at bay. It was what finally prompted me to move
after a while. To get my shaky, wobbly, sorry ass up and go get dressed.
I was mostly focused on warmth and it was only coincidence that one of Heero’s
sweatshirts was at the front of the closet and the first warm thing I ran
It was one of his academy shirts and I couldn’t help wondering if
he’d worn one like it out to dinner. It helped to think so, somehow.
At least… if I didn’t think about it too hard and start feeling
Somewhere in there it finally dawned on me to be thankful that the apartment
below us was empty. I wasn’t at all sure I could have handled a damn
visit from the cops had somebody called them about all the screaming. Because
I’d been given to understand that I got rather loud.
Getting dressed had helped a little more… just having something to
do, so I started setting myself little tasks. Just things to keep me moving.
Things to keep me occupied and not thinking so damn much. Not dwelling.
Warmth was on the agenda, and after clothing had been achieved, tea seemed
like a good idea. Not my favorite, but the soda that was my own first choice
was not sitting on my stomach well. Heero had several blends that he made
for soothing upset stomachs and I could certainly handle heating a pot of
I was in the kitchen, mug in hand and water heating when I heard something
rattling the door to the apartment.
If I had achieved any kind of calm… any kind of ground or center,
it blew out the window in that moment.
Adrenaline hit my system between one heart-beat and the next and sent my
pulse rate into over drive. A noise escaped my throat that I would have
been humiliated about had I been able to hear it over the sound of the blood
pounding in my ears. I was only distantly aware of the mug falling from
my hand and smashing on the floor.
I wanted to call for help, but I wasn’t sure just who to appeal to.
The only thought my brain had was the observation that I was far too big
to fit out the little half window over the sink and there were no other
escape routes. I very clearly remember thinking that Solo would be furious
with me for letting myself get cornered.
And then Wufei’s voice called my name, sounding very worried. ‘Duo?
Where are you?’
‘W… Wufei?’ I heard somebody say and there he was in the
kitchen doorway, looking confused and anxious and just a little bit rumpled.
‘Duo?’ he asked, seeming a bit relieved to have found me. ‘Are
you all right? What is going on?’
I managed to shake my head, but I don’t think he understood what I
was denying. I suddenly felt like all my bones were slowly dissolving into
liquid. I would have asked him confused questions if I could have found
He came straight across the kitchen toward me, and I saw him frown as he
looked down at the kitchen floor. I looked too and was a little bit surprised
to see the shards of ceramic. But then he reached for my arm, possibly to
lead me away from the mess before I cut myself in my stocking feet, and
I think his move had just been too quick. Too sudden, and I flinched away
from him with a stumbling backward step that brought my back into sudden
contact with the counter hard enough to rattle the dishes in the drainer.
I saw a moment of bewildered almost-pain in his eyes, and then I saw him
understand. I don’t really know how, but I could tell the moment it
all clicked into place in his head. He’s always been ungodly quick
adding two and two… even when the sum isn’t quite numerical.
A small part of me wanted to be embarrassed about the realization, but…
this was Wufei.
He is one of those people who lived through those dark days with me. A shared
thing that at one time I remembered fearing would destroy any respect he
might ever have had for me, but had ended up drawing us closer. Had ended
up with Wufei as one of my closest friends.
My best friend, I reminded myself, and when he offered his hand again I
was able to reach for it. ‘It’s all right now,’ he told
me gently and drew me around the mess on the floor until I wasn’t
in any danger. I nodded absently and remembered not to clutch. He got me
to a chair just as I thought my legs would give out and I found myself wondering
about the oddness of adrenaline. Why in the world would Mother Nature design
something to kick in when the body thinks it’s in danger that leaves
you feeling so damn wiped out when it stops?
I blinked to find Wufei kneeling beside me and dumbly asked, ‘What
are you doing here?’
He snorted softly and touched my arm as though assuring himself that I wasn’t
really hurt. ‘Maxwell,’ he said ruefully, ‘what the hell
else was I going to do after you called me at this hour with your voice
so unsteady I wasn’t sure it was you at first?’
I blushed and looked down. ‘M’sorry,’ I muttered and he
‘Stop apologizing,’ he grumbled. ‘I told you to call me
and you did. Now, can you tell me…’ he trailed off, knowing
but not really knowing what was going on. Maybe not sure what he wanted
I took my turn with the heavy sigh. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said
again, even though he’d told me not too. ‘I didn’t mean
to bother anybody…’
He’d been sitting on his heels and he straightened then, putting an
arm around my shoulders. ‘Stop that,’ he commanded gruffly,
drawing me against his shoulder. ‘There’s no damn reason for
you to suffer through something like this alone. I’m glad you called
I leaned into him, though I knew he was only going to be able to feel how
I was still shaking. ‘There’s nothing you can do, really…’
I began, but he cut me off with an almost exasperated sound.
‘I can be here,’ he told me firmly, and I knew there was no
point in denying to him that it would help. We’d been here before.
‘I just…’ I tried and he sighed again, giving me a tight
‘Don’t,’ he warned me, and then looked around. ‘You
were making tea?’
I nodded, suddenly very tired. ‘I… thought it might help warm
He gave my shoulder another squeeze and went to finish the job, fetching
down two mugs from the cabinet. I watched him move efficiently around my
kitchen and lost myself for a bit in memories better than the ones that
had been plaguing me.
Wufei knew right where everything was and worked as comfortably as though
he were in his own home. It dawned on me while he swept up the bits of broken
crockery, that I was hard pressed to remember a time when he wasn’t
in my life either. He felt as much like a brother to me as Solo ever had.
‘I’m sorry I bothered you,’ I admitted, while his back
was to me. ‘But… I’m glad you’re here.’
He stilled for a moment in his work and then gave me a solemn nod; not turning
around. Allowing me that moment of revelation in the dubious privacy in
which I’d offered it.
I wondered as he dumped the mess into the trash, just which mug I’d
broken and hoped it hadn’t been one of Heero’s favorites. I
suppose I’d figure it out at some point, but paying enough attention
to tell from the clues of color and size of the pile of shards seemed too
difficult in that moment.
Shards. The word made me realize that I was mindlessly rubbing at my hand
and I made myself stop.
When the tea was ready, Wufei turned to me with the mugs in his hands. ‘Come
on, my friend,’ he urged softly and took us into the living room where
he settled me on the couch. I didn’t object when he gathered the afghan
from where it hung across the back, and wrapped it around me. I was surprised
when he touched my hands to make me stop that damned rubbing again before
giving me my mug of tea. The heat felt good and I found myself almost curling
around it, the strong scent of chamomile and something I couldn’t
identify enveloping me. It reminded me of Heero, and I swear it was that
as much as anything that let me start to relax. I bent my concentration
on my hands to stop their faint trembling and Wufei settled beside me, turned
slightly toward me, his arm resting on the back of the couch.
‘Thanks,’ I murmured and he gave me that little inclination
of his head again, that hinted at a formal bow.
‘Better?’ he asked, and sipped at his own tea.
‘Yeah,’ I sighed, looking down into my mug. ‘It helps
having somebody to… talk to.’
‘I know,’ he soothed and then looked troubled. ‘I did
not know you were still plagued with these… dreams,’ he said,
but it was as much a question as a statement.
I blew gently into the steam of my tea to buy a moment and then admitted.
‘I haven’t been. Not since… the war.’
He frowned faintly, I could see it out of the corner of my eye, and I could
almost feel him thinking. ‘Then… something triggered this?’
I sighed and shrugged, not really sure I wanted to admit to something that
felt so damn stupid. ‘Yeah,’ I muttered and sipped at the tea.
His hand twitched as though he would reach out, but he didn’t. ‘Talk
to me, Duo.’
My hand found its way to my face and rubbed over my eyes. ‘S’stupid,’
My evasiveness made him think something that wasn’t so, after a minute,
and he looked faintly horrified. ‘Duo… I didn’t do anything,
did I... ?’
I cut him off with a sharp shake of my head. ‘Gods no, Fei,’
I reassured. ‘Nothing you did. There was just this guy at the grocery…’
I felt myself squirming under his sharp gaze and raised my mug again, inhaling
deeply of that scent that spoke of mornings with Heero.
He was quiet for a moment, his own mug resting against his thigh. ‘I
thought there was something more you weren’t telling me,’ he
confessed, and though there was a touch of a rebuke in his words, it was
mostly just gentle encouragement.
I sipped and sighed and finally said, ‘He was just some jerk. Hit
on me, is all.’ I couldn’t look at him and studied the weave
of the afghan. ‘I didn’t even realize until later why it freaked
me out so much.’
He watched me for a moment and then finally did reach out to touch my arm,
urging me to look at him. It took me a heartbeat, but when I met his gaze,
there was nothing there but understanding. ‘He reminded you of…
‘One of those men?’ I finished for him when he couldn’t
find the words, and shivered quite despite myself. ‘Yeah.’
He made a sound that was soft and pained and the light touch of his fingers
on my arm became a solid weight on my shoulder. ‘You should have told
me,’ he chided, and I couldn’t help the snort.
‘Why? So you could have gone and beaten him up?’ I shook my
head, almost able to smile at the look on his face. ‘Wouldn’t
have helped… I’d still be right where I am now.’
‘Still…’ he complained, and I wondered at the dark look
in his eyes. Until I remembered a certain knife-wielding college punk and
a back alley. Remembered the words I’d heard Wufei say. Family.
It was one of those rare moments when feeling that protectiveness felt good.
‘Thank you,’ I told him, not even sure for which time. Maybe
just for the sentiment. He looked startled and then he smiled softly, that
almost angry look leaving him. When he didn’t speak, I took another
swallow of my drink and had to tell him, ‘I just wish I knew why I
let the asshole freak me out so much. I wasn’t even thinking about…
it at the time. It wasn’t until later that I realized.’
Wufei gave me a final pat before draping his arm over the back of the couch
again. ‘The sub-conscious mind is a strange thing sometimes.’
I snorted. ‘No shit?’ and it made him quirk a little grin at
He sipped his tea carefully before venturing, ‘Some part of you knew,
even if your conscious mind couldn’t… acknowledge the connection
at the time.’
I suspected he had almost said ‘handle’ instead of acknowledge,
but I wasn’t going to call him on it. I mulled that over and supposed
he was right… supposed I had known that myself, somewhere deep inside.
Had known it was something more than a creep staring at my ass that had
sent me running for cover. ‘It just pisses me off that I backed down
from that son of a bitch,’ I said, feeling the faint stirrings of
that anger skittering around in my gut. ‘And I’m sick of him
being in my head because of it.’
Wufei gave me the raised eyebrow look, a thing I’d swear he picked
up from Heero, and waited for me to elaborate.
I flushed, hating to admit that I’d acted like a wimp that had gotten
his ass pinched. ‘I… just didn’t handle him very well,’
I sighed. ‘And I can’t stop thinking about it.’
‘That’s only natural,’ he told me, smiling gently. ‘Nobody
likes to think they came out of an… altercation in second place.’
I grinned at him. ‘That’s a very polite way of saying nobody
likes looking like a wuss.’
He chuckled softly, seeming a bit relieved that I’d managed to lighten
up a bit. ‘Thank you,’ he intoned. ‘I do try.’
I yawned then, rather suddenly, and wide enough to make my jaw pop. I blinked
stupidly at the wall afterward, totally taken by surprise. ‘Excuse
me,’ I muttered automatically and Wufei chuckled at me.
‘Stress,’ he informed me, ‘will do that to you. Might
I suggest we consider trying to get some sleep?’
I glanced side-long at him, not sure what to object to first. There was
definitely some guilt in there for dragging the man out in the middle of
the night to come and make me tea and hold my hand. Then there was the odd
disquiet that came from the suggestion that he was planning on staying with
me. But mostly there was the rather immediate fear of going back to sleep.
I couldn’t help being worried about the nightmare coming back. Worried
being the mildest word I could think of to describe the feeling running
around inside me. I’d determined hours ago that there was no way in
hell I’d be sleeping again until Heero got home, but that decision
had not taken Chang Wufei into consideration. I had never imagined that
he would show up on my doorstep, though I suppose I should have. Having
him with me had helped settle my nerves more than I would have managed alone.
That touch of relaxation was allowing the fatigue to overtake me, making
sleep a slightly more attractive notion. As long as my memories left me
Wufei was looking a little pensive, and I knew there was at least some understanding
there, of what I was afraid of. ‘Before…’ he ventured,
choosing his words with care. ‘During the war, you never seemed to
fear going back to sleep.’
I snorted. ‘I think I was just too damn exhausted,’ I told him,
even as I stopped and wondered about it. ‘I… I’m not sure
it ever occurred to me.’
That seemed damn weird, when I really thought about it, but I could distinctly
recall more than once managing to sleep again. And I couldn’t really
remember being afraid to do so.
‘Something is different,’ Wufei guessed, making it a question,
trying to make me think about it.
‘It really wasn’t the same,’ I said, almost talking to
myself as I worked it out in my head. ‘I mean… it was just like
I remember it, only some of the details were different. It’s never…
His hand came back to touch me, settling on my back, his fingers rubbing
gently at my neck. ‘So it was a dream,’ he suggested. ‘Not
so much the flash-backs you were having before?’
‘I… I think so,’ I said, surprised when my voice dropped
to a whisper and I wondered what I thought I had to hide from.
‘And you’re afraid you’ll dream again?’ he asked,
and this time it was a question that was more of a statement. I wondered
how he could do that.
‘Yeah,’ I confirmed, not really trusting my voice for more than
that. Not really trusting myself to keep from blurting out the part where
I wanted Heero. Needed Heero.
‘Well,’ he mused, ignoring the fact that I wasn’t doing
much to hold up my end of the conversation, ‘if we’re dealing
with dreams… I should be able to wake you.’
I had to really think about that one. Had to think whether I believed it.
Could trust in it. I wasn’t so sure… even though most of the
phantom pains had faded, I could still feel the bruise on my hip from falling
out of bed. It had taken me a while to realize it was real past all the
other hurts. But… dream or flashback or whatever the hell you wanted
to call it, the thing had done a number on me and it hadn’t been pretty.
Those fingers of his massaged relentlessly at the corded muscles in my neck.
‘Duo… you’re exhausted. Let’s at least try. We can…
stay here. If you’d like.’
The tone of his voice had changed just slightly and I glanced his way to
find something in his expression that hinted at a vague discomfort. I supposed
it wasn’t all that attractive an idea for him… sharing a bed
with me. People really don’t give Wufei enough credit in the open-mindedness
department sometimes. The poor guy was the only straight one in a group
of five, and he took the lot of us in stride without batting an eye. I’d
never gotten even the faintest hint from him that he disapproved of any
of our relationships. And I don’t think his upbringing had been particularly
tolerant of homosexuality. Not that I know a hell of a lot about it, but
it just didn’t strike me as likely. Not in a society as wrapped up
in honor and tradition as his had been. But all the same… he couldn’t
really want to be cuddling up in bed with me.
‘You know you don’t have to stay,’ I blurted on a strange
up-welling of guilt and appreciation that was mixing around in my head until
I wasn’t sure just what I was feeling.
His fingers left my neck, and he quite suddenly smacked me lightly in the
back of the head. ‘Like I would leave,’ he said sternly.
I couldn’t help a chuckle, which totally ruined the aggrieved look
I tried to give him. ‘I’ll get some blankets,’ I told
him, the closest I could come to saying that I wanted him to stay, and he
took the tea mugs to rinse out while I went to do so.
I made myself turn some of the lights off as I went through the apartment.
It seemed oddly pitiable that they were all on, now that Wufei was there
with me. I was glad he hadn’t commented on it, leaving me at least
that much dignity. But it hadn’t escaped him, I realized, when he
didn’t turn off the kitchen lights until he was sure I had turned
off those in the bedroom.
I brought out quilts and the pillows from the bedroom while he toed off
his shoes and tucked them under the edge of the coffee table. By mutual
consent, we left the light on in the bathroom, the light faint so it shouldn’t
bother Wufei… but enough that it would allow me to see my surroundings.
When you’re having trouble convincing yourself of just what decade
you’re in… being unable to see is not all that helpful.
We had an awkward moment before we both settled on the couch, he with his
head toward one end, and me the other. It’s a long couch and if we
both curled up, we didn’t even really touch each other. I wondered
if he realized I’d kept Heero’s pillow for myself… liking
the faint scent that lingered on it.
‘All right?’ he asked after we’d sorted ourselves out,
and while I still wasn’t all that sure about things, I nodded, doubting
he could see it anyway.
‘Yeah, this should work.’
There was a noise that I could only describe as exasperated and he grumbled,
‘Please do not be deliberately obtuse. I know the sleeping arrangements
will work… are you all right?’
‘I’m ok,’ I mumbled and thought I just might be. Maybe
Wufei had been right about the differences between dreams and flash-backs.
While I still felt wrung-out and shaky, I didn’t feel like I was going
to burst into tears any second, or throw up on the floor. Vast improvements,
both, in my humble opinion.
‘Then try to get some sleep,’ he soothed. ‘I’ll
be right here.’
‘You’re a good friend, Fei,’ I was able to tell him there
in the almost dark and there was another of those wordless sounds that I
took to mean he was pleased.
We were quiet then, and I did my best to stay still so as not to bother
him. He didn’t fall asleep immediately, but I was fairly sure he dozed
off within the half hour. It eased my guilt some, though I had to wonder
just how either of us would fare in the morning after a night curled on
the couch. We were neither of us teenagers anymore and not quite so…
And while my guilt for dragging him out of his home in the middle of the
night eased, it didn’t stop me from missing the sound of his voice.
Heero’s mere presence was usually enough to alleviate whatever anxieties
I might be dealing with, but it had been the interaction with Wufei as much
as anything. He’d been keeping me distracted… keeping me occupied,
and having him asleep was only two steps better than his not being there
So, of course my head went right back to playing the shoulda game and the
imp trotted out act two of the now classic rendition of ‘The Grocery
How stupid had I looked, storming through the store with the clerk yelling
after me that I’d forgotten my order? Had to wonder if the jerk had
said anything after I’d left. Mocked me, maybe? Accused me of over-reacting?
Hell… I wasn’t even sure how much of the exchange anybody had
heard but the two of us. Maybe I’d looked like the asshole…
snapping and snarling while the other guy had just stood there smiling and
trying to talk to me. Though… the clerk had said she understood, so
maybe she’d heard enough to know what had really transpired. It didn’t
take the sting out of the fact that I’d given ground to the bastard.
I wondered if he actually lived around close; I’d never seen him before,
but… did that mean I would never run into him again? The thought made
me cringe, unsure if I would freeze up again, or just kick him in the balls
before the ass-staring could get started. Neither prospect was all that
attractive, really. One more than the other, but I won’t say which.
The notion started making me wonder if the freak might actually have moved
into the apartment complex somewhere. Heero and I had lived here for quite
a while, but people came and went all the time. There were always apartments
for rent… what if the son of a bitch lived right here? It creeped
me out thinking about the guy actually having a name; it was easier if he
was just ‘The Jerk’ and not somebody named Ed or Leroy or something.
It was probably two in the morning when I lost against the compulsion to
ease off the couch and go check to make sure Wufei had locked the front
door behind him when he’d come in. Since I was up anyway, I took the
time to check all the windows again… ghosting around the apartment
like some restless spirit, fingers brushing over latches in the dark.
Wufei was sitting up when I came back from the bedroom. ‘I’m
sorry,’ I sighed, knowing I’d disturbed him for nothing, since
I hadn’t found a thing unsecured.
‘It’s all right,’ he said and stretched an arm out. ‘Come
here,’ he commanded and I went where I was directed. He lifted the
edge of his quilt when I sat down and shared it between us; it felt warm
that close to him even without actually touching.
‘I didn’t mean to wake you,’ I apologized again, staring
at my feet where they were braced on the edge of the coffee table.
‘I wasn’t asleep,’ he informed me. ‘You’re
radiating too much tension to ignore.’
I opened my mouth on another ‘sorry’, but he cut me off.
‘Stop that,’ he chided, and I only sighed, letting it die. He
surprised me then by putting an arm around my shoulders and hugging me against
I could feel him trying to find a way to say something, and I waited quietly
for him to get it worked out. ‘You… can’t stop thinking
about that man, can you?’ he finally asked, and I had to resist the
urge to go, ‘duh!’
‘I know… I know,’ I grumbled. ‘I’m being stupid…’
He sighed and I let it peter out, waiting again for him to get the rest
of it worked out in his head. ‘I… think I know what is eating
at you, but I don’t want to plant ideas if I’m wrong.’
I blinked, wondering what in the hell he thought was so complicated about
the whole thing. A creepy guy had gotten too aggressive for polite company
and reminded me of an incident from my past best forgot. End of story. Not
I felt the rise and fall of his shoulder, where he had my head resting,
as he sighed.
‘Just spit it out, man,’ I muttered and figured he’d probably
be pretty far off base all the way around, but when a guy comes out in the
middle of the night because you had a bad dream… you indulge his whims.
It still took him a couple of long minutes and I just listened to him breathe,
feeling his arm tighten for a minute. ‘What happened to you was a
long time ago by the reckoning of a child. But, really, Duo… not forever.
That man at the grocery made you realize that… that… those men
are still out there. Somewhere.’
I think I mentioned before how perceptive Wufei can be? I could damn him
for it sometimes. Almost.
I rather felt like somebody kicked me in the stomach. It sucks to have the
lid lifted off the pot whose contents you are trying hard not to look at.
Wufei’s arm tightened more, perhaps afraid that I might push away.
I stayed leaning against him, as much to reassure as anything, and sighed,
making myself look down into that nasty pot.
Yeah… I suppose the little kid I used to be, liked to pretend that
those men had been punished somehow. Had died for what they’d done
to me. Obviously done to others. But… there wasn’t anything
to base that fantasy on. There was nothing to lead me to believe they hadn’t
come through the war just fine. Finished their tours of duty right there
on L2 and gone… any damn where, really.
And yeah… much as I hated to admit it, when Wufei just shined the
light of clarity on it like that, it had been eating at me all damn day.
The knowledge had been simmering in the back of my head somewhere and I’d
just been refusing to think about it.
‘I’m sorry, spirit,’ he whispered, sounding genuinely
‘D… don’t be,’ I told him, surprised by the odd
endearment. ‘You’re right. It’s been right there in front
of me all day, but I wouldn’t look at it.’
He sighed then, and seemed so damn unhappy. Seemed like he wanted to do
more than just put his arm around my shoulders. Wanted to do more to offer
comfort. There was a touch on the top of my head that I would have said
was a kiss if he’d been Heero. It made me remember a certain other
dream I’d had back when I’d first come home from the hospital.
A very… drug-induced dream. A somewhat… erotic dream.
I must have tensed, because Wufei was suddenly letting me go and sitting
up straight. ‘I... I’m sorry, Duo…’ he stammered
out, and I turned to look at him, my face flaring hotly, caught in remembrance.
Thank the Gods it was too dark for him to really see it.
‘Stop,’ I soothed, reaching to touch his arm, to let him know
I wasn’t recoiling from him. ‘My fault… I… I had
some pretty strange dreams when I was on all that medication. I just…
remembered something, and it made me feel weird. It wasn’t you, I
He ducked his head in a manner that made me think of abasement and I squirmed,
remembering the bit of dream and knowing the sudden discomfort was all coming
from me. ‘I apologize,’ he said and it sounded so formal I cringed.
‘I… over stepped what you…’
I smacked him lightly on the side of the head and it made him look up at
me in surprise. ‘Pay back,’ I grinned. ‘Now stop that
shit. Chang Wufei, we may not be related by blood, but you are as much my
brother as anyone ever has been. You can’t over-step yourself with
me. I told you… I flinched because of a stupid drug-dream… I
dreamed about talking vegetables around that time too… it does not
mean anything. It was just a stupid dream… I was not reacting to your
He was quiet for several long moments and I had to resist the urge to fill
that quiet with more babbling. He sat so stiffly and seemed so tense that
I had to wonder… I wouldn’t have thought the moment would upset
him as much as it seemed to.
Finally he gave me a side-ways look that I could have read better if it
hadn’t been so dark, and very quietly said, ‘You… dreamed
I snorted; I couldn’t help it, and tried to explain again. ‘You
know what drugs do to me, ‘Fei. I dreamed more crap during that time
than I like to admit to. I think it was during that time that Heero was
hiding from me, and I… it was just a dumb-ass dream. Scared the crap
out of me, to tell the truth. I swear to you… I do not feel that way
He was very quiet and I started to feel really funny. Really bad. I wasn’t
explaining myself well at all and I think I was just digging the hole deeper.
‘I’m not saying I don’t love you… ‘cause I
do, but just not like that,’ I heard myself blurt and thought I was
going to swallow my tongue. Now what in the name of the bloody damn Gods
had possessed me to pop out with that when I was trying to make the poor
guy less uncomfortable? I mentally scrambled frantically for something to
make it better, and wasn’t coming up with anything better than offering
him a drink, when he made a sound that took a second to resolve into a chuckle.
‘You’re gibbering, Maxwell,’ he said, and there was such
open affection in it I thought I would melt with relief. I had started to
fear that I’d just fucked up one of my oldest friendships.
‘It’s what I do,’ I quipped, and he chuckled a bit more.
It took him a second, and it made me wonder, but when he’d straightened
up I realized it wasn’t hesitation, but the fact that he was totally
changing tone. He gave me that weird, almost formal inclination of his head
and very seriously said, ‘Yes, Duo. We are friends.’
There was something very strange about his voice, but without being able
to really see his eyes, I couldn’t judge it. I wanted to say there
was a touch of melancholy to it, but that might have just been the almost
formal quality he was using.
‘I’m glad,’ I told him, needing to answer that tone even
though I didn’t entirely understand it. He didn’t immediately
reply and I was surprised to find that the whole stupid thing had completely
distracted me from my other thoughts. I decided to put the lid back on the
pot and forget it for now. Maybe I’d take another gander at it when
Heero came home. I could talk it through with him without all the filters.
As close as I felt to Wufei sometimes, there were things you could talk
about with your best friend… and there were things you couldn’t.
‘What do you say I fix us something to eat and we give this sleeping
thing another try?’ I ventured, reminded by a pang in my mid-section
that my dinner had rather rudely checked out some hours ago.
There was a noise that sounded disdainful. ‘How about I fix us something
to eat… so we can actually eat it?’
‘I can manage the complexities of cheese and crackers,’ I groused
and he just shook his head.
‘Yuy is right,’ he groaned theatrically. ‘You really would
starve to death if there was nobody around to feed you.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with cheese and crackers,’ I informed
him, and rose to lead the way to the kitchen, uncomfortable topics set aside
for the moment.
‘I was thinking something with a little more sustenance,’ he
scolded, and I knew he was letting me take us to more familiar ground. I’m
not sure I could have stood the harsh kitchen light otherwise. As it was,
I had to avoid looking right at him for a few minutes, feeling the last
of the awkwardness fading as we bantered.
He set me to digging out bowls and spoons while he heated us a can of soup,
ignoring my protests that I could handle a damn can-opener.
‘It’s not handling the can-opener I worry about,’ he quipped,
grinning at me while he worked. ‘It’s the application of the
pot and stove after that part.’
‘Hey,’ I objected. ‘I’m on a first named basis with
the Campbell guy! I can heat a stupid can of soup without mishap!’
He turned from his stirring to look at me, a hint of challenge in his eye.
‘Oh? Then just what is his first name?’
‘Joseph,’ I informed him haughtily and got down the box of crackers.
Wufei just shook his head at me.
‘The Gods only know if you’re right or not,’ he sighed,
sounding indulgent. ‘But I don’t even want to know how you know
‘I am a sage of useless information,’ I intoned, and got a chuckle.
‘Not sure that’s any claim to fame, Maxwell.’
I didn’t grace that with a response, just taking my bowl and doing
my two-handed David Copperfield impression, when I saw the soup was ready.
I’m not sure Wufei got it, because he just split the pot between us
We sat down opposite each other and I took a careful spoonful. ‘You’ll
make a good Mommy someday, Chang.’
He snorted, blowing on his own soup before replying. ‘Since there
are no gender-changing plans in my future… not very likely.’
‘A Daddy, then?’ I asked, giving him my blatantly hopeful look.
‘Don’t start,’ he said, reaching for the crackers. ‘Besides,
if any of us ever actually had children, you’d spoil them too rotten
to live with.’
He made me laugh, even while it made me feel a little sad. ‘But you’re
our last, best, hope, man… the only straight Gundam pilot in existence!’
He stopped with a spoonful of soup half-way to his mouth and gave me a look
that was absolutely unreadable. It took him a second, and the best he could
come up with was, ‘Don’t hold your breath.’
I sighed theatrically and we ate in silence for a moment. The soup was nice,
warming me all through. I was glad he hadn’t let me get away with
grazing out of the fridge. Sometimes there’s more to it than just
filling the void.
‘You know,’ I said into the quiet, the topic somehow turning
serious in my head. ‘Sally really does like you.’
He didn’t respond and I glanced up at him, half expected his usual
quick retort, but he was just looking down into his soup as though there
was something there besides vegetables and chicken. I had just about decided
he wasn’t going to speak, when he said, ‘She reminds me of you
I blinked at him. ‘Me?’
He smiled a little bit and glanced up at me, taking a moment to dip a cracker
into the soup. ‘She has your easy manner… and sometimes your
weird sense of humor.’
Something told me to leave off all the usual jokes and I waited a moment
to see if he would say more and when he didn’t, I found myself asking,
‘Why haven’t you ever asked her out? I know you’re kind
of attracted to her.’
I shocked myself that I’d just come out with it, without it being
wrapped in teasing and innuendo. It surprised me even more when he didn’t
evade with his usual sarcasm.
‘I… I don’t really know,’ he said at length, his
spoon moving slowly through his soup, maybe hoping he might uncover the
answer there. ‘Dreams, maybe,’ he said softly. ‘Cowardice?
Maybe there are things I just need to stop wishing for.’
I couldn’t answer him; he almost didn’t seem to be speaking
to me. It was like… he was just musing out loud. I was afraid if I
spoke, it would break the spell. I knew there had been an arranged marriage
when he was a child, one of those honor and tradition things that I’d
never really understood. They’d never really been married, though
there were promises made and something deeper that Wufei never talked about.
I don’t even know if he loved her. It was like… maybe…
he was seeing her reflection in that bowl of soup? I don’t know. He
was seeing something, and he stared at it for a long time.
But then the spell broke of its own accord and he shook himself, coming
back to the present. ‘Eat your soup before it gets cold,’ he
ordered, just as though I’d been the one star-gazing in the vegetables.
‘I slaved over a hot stove for hours.’
‘Yes sir,’ I murmured, understanding that the mood was gone
and wondering just what it had been.
We finished eating and just stacked the dishes in the sink for later, it
being something like three in the damn morning and neither of us inclined
to wash them. The full stomach and the complete change of topic were conspiring
to make me actually think I might be able to lie down for awhile. I hoped
so… it was turning into a long, weird night.
As we walked out of the kitchen Wufei settled his hands on my shoulders,
steering me as if I might argue about trying again to go to sleep. There
was a… hesitancy in his touch that told me it was just a bit deliberate.
I wasn’t sure if he was trying to reassure me that he wasn’t
afraid to touch me, or if it was something else. But it was gone in another
moment as he gave me a little shake.
‘You’re still so damn tense you feel like steel,’ he admonished,
like I could do something about it.
I sighed. ‘I know… I’m trying to relax, but I doubt it’s
going to happen until Heero gets home.’
He didn’t have an answer, and I was just as glad, because I had been
a little nervous that he’d meant to do something about it. The only
two things that came to mind were drugs and massage. Neither of which was
gonna happen, thank you very much.
We settled back into our places on the couch and I decided that even if
I stared at the wall all night, I would stay where I was, so that maybe
Wufei, at least, would get some sleep. Really no reason for the both of
us to be up all damn night.
Though, a half an hour later, when my eyes had adjusted enough that I could
see, and I looked his way… I saw the faint glitter of his eyes and
knew he wasn’t asleep.
He caught me looking, and I was expecting to be reprimanded for still being
awake, but he surprised me.
‘Duo,’ he asked me in a very quiet tone, voice almost somber.
‘Why… I’m not saying I’m sorry you called me, but…
why not Heero?’
I stared hard, trying to see his expression, and didn’t manage it.
‘I wanted to,’ I finally admitted. ‘But… he’d
have just made himself sick worrying. I was afraid he wouldn’t stay
and finish what he needs to.’
He was quiet and I could feel him staring back at me. It made me wonder
if perhaps there was some light shining on me that was letting him see when
After what seemed like a very long time, he snorted softly. ‘He’s
going to kill us both for not calling him.’
I leaned my head on the back of the couch and sighed. ‘I know. But
I couldn’t risk it.’
‘Two self-sacrificing idiots if I ever saw them,’ he teased,
but his voice sounded very odd. Almost strained. He shifted then, and settled
back a bit so that he was looking up at the ceiling and not at me. I was
surprised what a relief it was to be out from under that dark-eyed regard.
I didn’t answer him, somehow just not knowing how. We lay in the dark,
me staring at him and wondering… him staring into space and thinking,
I couldn’t say what. I swear, the light of false dawn was hinting
at the edges of the windows when he shifted to look at me again, somehow
not looking surprised to see me still awake.
‘Duo?’ he asked, voice almost a whisper, and I thought of young
girls, slumber parties and secrets. ‘What do you suppose Sally would
like to do on a date?’
I hoped he couldn’t see the almost manic grin. I thought about it
for a minute and replied just as softly, ‘Anything, man… I really
don’t think she’ll care, as long as it’s you.’
He snorted rather explosively and settled back down, obviously embarrassed,
and that was all he had to say on that topic for the rest of what remained
of the night.
But oddly, it gave me something else to think about, and might well have
been what finally let me fall asleep.
I decided before I did, that I was probably right… Sally would do
any damn thing Wufei wanted, from going to a demolition derby, to taking
in the opera… all she’d care about was the fact that Wufei was
finally asking her out.
However, I also decided that we’d have to come up with something really
good, because I’d be damned if Wufei wasn’t going to sweep her
right off her feet, first try. I wondered if I could find the biggest damn
scrap-booking store on the continent, and then find a nice little, romantic
bed and breakfast right near it. The quickest way to a woman’s heart
is through her interests, after all. Hell… it’s the quickest
way to anyone’s heart. But maybe that was a bit much for a first date;
I’d save that for later. A first date should be fairly simple. Maybe
something as easy as dinner and a movie? Didn’t want to scare the
woman off. Though, maybe something a bit more off-beat, just to show her
that Wufei wasn’t your average kind of guy? A museum trip, maybe?
I needed to make sure she realized he had a cultured side too… he
wasn’t all about that bluster he throws out for most people.
I mean… Wufei needed to make sure of all of that. With just a little
bit of coaching.
I dozed off wondering if his wardrobe would handle a night at the opera.
My phone woke me, and while it roused me from a dream, it had more to do
with dinner dates than random jerks. It was a shock, all the same, and combined
with the early hour to have me scrambling from the blankets before I half
registered what had disturbed me.
At the other end of the couch, Wufei was struggling up as well, obviously
as half dead as I was. ‘It’s ok, Duo… I’m here…
I think it dawned on the both of us at the same time that it was my cell
phone that had woken us up. Wufei slumped back against the pillows while
I staggered the few steps to the end chair and snatched the phone up, half
expecting to see a number that would indicate a work emergency. I was surprised,
and a bit concerned, to see Heero’s number on the display. Heero hadn’t
been calling me in the mornings; he hadn’t had the time. And I knew
they didn’t cut them any slack on the last day.
‘Heero?’ I asked, when I’d hit the answer button. ‘Are
you all right?’
There was a slight chuckle on the other end, and I dropped down into the
arm chair since I was closer to it than the couch. ‘I’m fine,’
he assured me. ‘I just… this is going to sound stupid, but I
just had this feeling something was wrong. I wanted to check in with you
before I had to go out to the field. I’m sorry… I hope you weren’t
sleeping in this morning?’
I was still getting my bearings; just starting to feel the sore spots you
get from sleeping in your clothes, and wishing I’d dragged the quilt
from the couch with me. ‘No… it’s all right. I…
we… I mean…’ I took a breath, feeling something inside
me uncoiling. ‘I’m glad you called; I really needed to hear
your voice this morning.’
‘Is everything all right?’ he asked, and I knew from his tone
that he had that little frown line between his brows. It made me smile.
‘It’s ok now,’ I told him, my head falling back against
the back rest. ‘It was kind of a… not great night, but Wufei
came and kept me company. We had dinner.’
Heero was quiet for a second, and I knew he was phrasing something, so I
waited, bemused by the fact that listening to him breathe was making muscles
that had been tight for hours, gradually relax. ‘You’re not
hurt?’ he finally asked.
‘No,’ I assured. ‘Just… had a stupid run in at the
grocery, and it ended up making me think about… some very old things.’
That was all I had to say to Heero, for him to piece it together. ‘Oh
Gods, love,’ he almost whispered. ‘I can skip the rest of today
and come straight home. I’ll just leave…’
‘Don’t you dare,’ I grumbled. ‘Everything is ok
now. Wufei came like the big brother he is, and stayed with me. I’m
fine now… was just a little spooked last night, is all.’ It
made me realize that Wufei was still in the damn room with me, and I lifted
my head to look. I found him lying back against his arm of the couch, watching
me with an expression that was such a bastard mix of things, I couldn’t
make it out. Vulnerable, was the first word that came to mind. Wistful,
somehow? I don’t know… the minute I lifted my head, the look
I always suspected that Wufei was lonelier than he let on. It made me hurt
inside suddenly, to see the evidence of it, and I wondered how the poor
guy dealt with being around two perfectly happy couples all the time. It
must feel, sometimes, like we were rubbing his nose in the fact that we’d
all found each other… and he hadn’t met anyone yet. It strengthened
my resolve to not let him back down from last night’s decision to
at least give things a try with Sally.
Wufei rose from his nest of blankets then, and retreated toward the kitchen,
making noises that hinted at breakfast preparations, but I knew he was just
giving me some privacy.
On the other end of the line, Heero sighed, unaware that my attention had
drifted for a moment. ‘Are you sure? I really would like to get this
over with, I’m almost through, but… you know you’re more
I snorted at him. ‘I would hope so,’ I teased, and it eased
his mind, I think, that I was able to. ‘I’m fine now…
Wufei stayed the night and we’re going to spend the day planning the
rest of his life.’
There was a moment of long silence, and then, ‘Pardon me?’
I chuckled, knowing that nothing would keep Heero from worrying better than
hearing me banter and laugh. ‘I think he’s finally going to
ask Sally out, love,’ I informed him in a low voice, feeling like
one of those slumber-party goers I’d thought about the previous night.
‘We just need to work out the finer details of dating today. And his
wardrobe. Do you know if he owns any red, button down shirts?’ I could
almost see Heero blinking at the phone.
‘Wufei is going to let you…?’ he began, and then there
was a sigh. ‘Never mind. I don’t think I want to know. Just
tell me you’re sure I shouldn’t come right home?’
I let the teasing fade, knowing I’d gotten as much from it as I could.
‘I’m positive,’ I said firmly. ‘I’m fine now.
Yes, I want you here and I can’t wait for you to get home. But I want
you in one piece, and I don’t want you having to turn around and go
right back. I’ll be fine… Wufei’s got my back.’
He sighed his frustration and I wondered if he was running his fingers through
his hair the way he did when he was upset. ‘I just wish…’
he began, sounding pained.
But I cut him off. ‘Timing is everything, Heero. It’s Murphy’s
Law that I’d run into some random pervert the week you’re out
I thought about phrasing just a little too late. ‘Do I need to be
hunting this asshole down when I get back?’ he ground out, and I couldn’t
help but laugh at him.
‘Sorry, hot shot,’ I soothed. ‘Last time I checked, it
was not illegal to proposition a person in a public place. Rude maybe…
but not grounds for arrest or ass kicking.’
‘He didn’t…’ he asked, and left it hang when he
couldn’t find the exact wording he wanted.
‘Didn’t lay a hand on me,’ I replied, not making him finish,
and I swear I heard a sigh of relief.
‘Duo,’ he said then, and again there was that ache in his voice.
‘I have to be going if I’m going to finish this today.’
‘It’s ok,’ I told him one more time. ‘Just get out
there and pass this stupid thing so we don’t have to do this again
any time soon.’
‘Roger, sir,’ he sighed, trying to make it light and not really
‘I’m serious…’ I had to tell him one last time.
‘Please don’t worry. Everything is fine now.’
‘I love you,’ he blurted, letting it tell me everything else.
‘I know,’ I smiled. ‘Heart and soul. Now get going.’
We hung up and I just sat for a moment, with a silly little smile on my
face, wondering that somehow he’d freaking known I needed him. I just
hoped he hadn’t been up all night, afraid of calling too early.
I realized after a bit, that there wasn’t a whole lot of noise coming
from the kitchen, so I rose and went to find Wufei, just a little bit embarrassed
by the fact that he’d over-heard such an intimate conversation. I
had the strange urge to apologize, but knowing Wufei, he’d just pretend
he hadn’t heard anything as long as I didn’t bring it up.
I found him sitting at the table waiting for the tea water to heat, looking
half asleep and… a little grouchy. I always seemed to recall that
Wufei was something of a morning person, so I wondered if it wasn’t
at least partially put on.
‘If it wouldn’t mean we’d just have to take off and go
fetch him,’ he grumbled. ‘I would wish the idiot would fall
on his ass today, for calling so damn early.’
I glanced at the clock and figured we’d gotten little more than a
couple of hours sleep. ‘Well… it wouldn’t feel all that
early if we hadn’t been up all night.’
‘It’s Saturday morning,’ he complained. ‘He should
have been more considerate.’
I couldn’t help but laugh at the almost little-boy petulance in his
voice. I had not known that Chang Wufei could achieve such a tone. ‘You’re
just cranky because you haven’t had your tea yet.’
He eyed me while I got up to fetch fresh mugs. ‘You seem… much
more relaxed this morning.’
I smiled as I poured the water. ‘Heero has a way of doing that.’
He didn’t reply, just waiting for me to bring the mugs to the table.
I took my place across from him again, feeling a bit out of sorts, because
he was in my seat and I was in Heero’s. Funny how little things can
become such a habit. He murmured his thanks when I sat the tea down, but
he seemed to be thinking, so I just sipped tea and watched him.
I had to resist the urge to grin at his rumpled self. I don’t think
I’d ever seen Wufei with his hair that messed up before. It made him
look… oddly younger and less sure of himself. I wondered if that’s
why he normally wore his hair in such a harsh style; to gain just that little
bit of edge on the world.
I’m not sure what he was thinking about so hard, but I finally got
tired of waiting. ‘We need to go on-line this morning and check the
movie schedules and maybe some of the local museums and art galleries. Depends
on what kind of tone you want. You don’t want to get too elaborate
on a first date. I don’t suppose you know what kind of food she likes
best? Italian? Indian? Something simpler? And do you own a red shirt, because
you would look great in red and black.’
I left him blinking, and again I had to suppress the urge to grin at him,
it had been a long time since I’d yanked his chain just for the fun
of it. ‘What?’ he finally sputtered.
‘You do not think that I’m going to let you back out of this
after all this time, do you?’ I chided, sipping at my tea.
‘Maxwell…’ he warned, but I just smiled.
‘Oh, we’re well past that stage, buddy,’ I informed him.
‘You as much as gave in last night and I’m holding you to it.’
He frowned at me. ‘It was merely conjecture.’
‘Didn’t sound like conjecture to me,’ I said, and was
a little surprised to see him start to look genuinely uncomfortable. He
usually rises to my teasing quite handily.
He stalled with a sip from his own mug. ‘Duo…’ he finally
said. ‘I’m just not sure…’
I sat my mug down and leaned forward, suddenly feeling something slipping
away, and compelled to reach for it. ‘Fei, please… give yourself
He looked startled by my sudden vehemence and unsure just what tone to take
with me. I think he wanted me to just drop the whole thing, which made me
feel like I couldn’t.
‘I worry about you,’ I blurted. ‘We both do. I want you
to have somebody in your life the way I have Heero.’
Wufei does not blush very often, but when he does, it kind of creeps up
his neck and always looks like it takes him by surprise. He tried to cover
it up by raising his mug. ‘There’s no need to worry,’
he grumbled, not meeting my eyes.
‘But we do,’ I told him, feeling a little odd for pushing so
hard, but I’d never seen him at this point before, and I had the feeling
if he backed down this time… he wouldn’t manage to attain it
again. I couldn’t stand the idea of him being alone for the rest of
He sighed. ‘I’m just not sure, sometimes,’ he admitted,
doing that thing where he looked for answers in his tea. ‘Sally is
a wonderful person and I value her friendship, but… what if I try
for something more and it doesn’t work out?’
‘But what if it does,’ I countered.
‘You’re such a damned optimist,’ he groused, and frowned
at his poor innocent tea.
‘Are you telling me you’re not up to a challenge?’ I prodded,
giving him a wide grin to make sure he knew I was deliberately goading.
‘Is this where I’m supposed to lose my temper and call her just
to prove your allegations of cowardice wrong?’ he shot back.
I snickered. ‘Hey… I did not call you a coward; you did. Sub-conscious
trying to tell you something?’
He snorted and shook his head. ‘Well, at least this way I have you
to blame if it turns out to be a mistake.’
‘And the credit, if it works out?’ I said blithely, making him
give me the quelling look that never seems to work on me. You’d think
he’d quit trying.
‘I’m sure you’ll take the credit one way or the other,’
he muttered, but it was kind of lame, and he didn’t seem to half be
trying, his concentration elsewhere.
A million miles and half a life time elsewhere, I’d bet. I stopped
the teasing and he just didn’t really seem to notice. I found myself
just watching him while he mulled over… something. He seemed troubled,
and it made me wonder what it was in his past that made it so hard for him
to reach out. So hard to accept what was so obviously right in front of
him. There wasn’t a one of us that didn’t know beyond a shadow
of a doubt that Sally Po was his for the asking. I’d seen her when
he’d been hurt during a mission. Seen her when he’d broken a
particularly hard case. Seen her watching… waiting… hoping.
His protests of ‘what if’ weren’t very convincing when
looked at in that light.
To this day, I don’t know what made me do it… maybe the hour,
maybe the almost vulnerable, tousled look of him, but I reached out and
laid my hand over his where it rested on the table and gently said, ‘You
have to let go, ‘Fei.’
He looked… positively stricken. And the strange urge that had over-taken
me pushed forward. ‘That was a long time ago… it’s time
to move on.’
He just sat and stared at me for a long moment, until I started to feel
foolish. Started to wonder what had made me open my mouth and insert myself
where I obviously didn’t belong. ‘That’s not…’
he began, but then stopped and just blinked at me some more. I couldn’t
tear my gaze away from those dark eyes of his, and was just seriously starting
to wish for a time machine, when he turned his hand and took hold of mine
for a second, reminding me where my fingers had been resting. ‘That
is… very perceptive,’ he finally said, and squeezed my hand
before quite deliberately pulling free.
‘I’m sorry,’ I told him. ‘I know it’s none
of my business… I just hate to see you lonely.’
He took up his tea mug with both hands, a gesture that made me feel like
he was running from my touch, and it finally let me break eye contact. I
went searching for answers in my own cup.
All I came away with were more questions, as I realized I really didn’t
like tea all that much, and found myself wondering why I was even drinking
I decided to blame it on the lack of sleep. Blame the whole weird morning
on the lack of sleep.
‘Stop looking like you just ran over the neighbor’s dog,’
he suddenly said, and when I looked up, he was smiling at me.
‘I just…’ I blurted. ‘I don’t know what’s
makin’ me run off at the mouth this morning, man.’
‘The same thing that makes you run off at the mouth most mornings?’
he supplied helpfully.
It was a return to safe and familiar ground and I let him take us there,
even while my head was struggling with the change of mood. Struggling with
the notion that I’d just missed something damned important.
It’s a very weird twist to go from feeling like the wise friend offering
sage advice, to feeling like you don’t know what in the hell is going
on, and never did. I couldn’t even think of a come back.
He looked a little frustrated with me, maybe irritated that I wasn’t
working with him to lighten the mood back up, and I decided to regroup.
‘Gods,’ I muttered. ‘I think I just need a shower and
maybe a soda instead of this weak-ass Kool-aid you and Heero drink; I can’t
seem to get woke up.’
He nodded, seeing the retreat, I’m sure, but letting me make it. I
stood, and stretched, and yawned… and firmly tucked my tail between
my legs and fled.
Sometimes, I really do wonder what comes over me.
In the safe privacy of my bathroom, I tried to go back over the conversation
and just got lost somewhere around the third loop on the roller coaster
If you could say nothing else though, you could certainly say this; I’d
sure as bloody hell gotten distracted from my own damn problems.
Although… if I really stopped to think about it, that was probably
what was driving this whole damn coaster ride to begin with. It wasn’t
Wufei… it was me. I always had been thrown off balance emotionally
when dealing with those stinking nightmares. And I suppose it only stood
to reason; they tore the hell out of my head to the point it was a wonder
I could function at all. I glanced toward the corner of the bathroom, the
toilet seeming all watery and blurry through the glass and the water of
the shower, and I could remember being hunkered there, hiding from ghosts.
Yeah… I suppose there was little doubt what had my undies in a knot,
whether I’d been consciously dwelling on it or not.
Just thinking about those flash-backs always left me feeling vulnerable
and seeking the nearest source of comfort and safety. Being deprived of
my main comfort, I think I’d just let that transfer over to Wufei.
Or maybe I’d just been hunting for a distraction.
As much as I hated to admit it, Wufei’s love life was none of my damn
business, and the fact that I was feeling abandoned and lonely and a little
bit scared, did not make it my business.
I’d just washed my hair the night before, but I did it again, needing
to stretch the time and make damn sure I was wide awake and ready to get
my head on straight. I washed, conditioned, combed, brushed and flossed
and went to get dressed. I was determined to set aside the previous night
and stop being such a pain in Wufei’s ass. I’m sure he would
I was even able to put on my own clothes and stop leaning on the weird little
crutch of wearing Heero’s. Proud?
It wasn’t until I opened the bedroom door, that I noticed Wufei talking
to someone. I hesitated, not wanting to intrude, and sort of became an accidental
eavesdropper. Really… I didn’t mean to listen in, but it’s
a small apartment.
‘… well, if you’d rather not…’ Wufei was saying,
and there was a broad stroke of sarcasm in the line, as he let it peter
out suggestively. There was a pause while he listened, followed by a light
chuckle. ‘You’re back-peddling, woman,’ he accused, and
I was surprised by the tone of affectionate teasing.
No doubt who he was talking too, and I couldn’t help the mad grin
that spread across my face despite my earlier resolve to uninvolve myself.
‘I perhaps could be persuaded to a concert instead,’ he mused.
‘Provided it isn’t that band you were listening to the last
time I was in your office.’
I don’t know what she said, but it made him chuckle again, and I couldn’t
help remembering what he’d said about Sally reminding him of me. Their
banter made me think a bit of the way Wufei teased me. Made me wonder what
would happen the first time she accompanied him to our place. Between the
two of us… we might just manage to make Wufei spontaneously combust.
Though… I suppose that was rushing into the future just a bit. Should
probably let the poor girl go out with him a couple of times before making
Wufei bring her home to ‘meet’ the family.
‘Yes,’ Wufei said then, and his voice had sobered. ‘I…
I guess…’ he stumbled to a halt, and I could almost hear him
taking a breath before he tried again to answer whatever it was she’d
asked. ‘Let’s just say that a good friend told me it was time
to get on with my life, and… I believe he might be right.’
It made something odd happen in my chest that I didn’t think was bad,
but felt strange all the same. Standing in the bedroom doorway, my gaze
fell on Quatre and Trowa’s quilt, and I resolved to work a little
harder to get it done, just in case I’d be needing to start something
new one of these days. You know… for the special occasion of a very
good friend. For the special occasion of… a brother.
Go to Chapter seventeen
Back to Chapter fifteen
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