Facing the Nightmare
(Part 4 of the Road trip Arc)
When I woke, hours later, much later than I had thought I
would sleep; I ached in every joint and muscle, it felt like I had a bad
case of the flu. I felt bruised. Ok, so my face was bruised, I don’t
mean that. I mean, all over, inside and out. Inside my head.
I just lay still for a while, and tried to sort it all out.
Hero was gone; off with Trowa on a mission. That hit me first, left me feeling
cold and alone and a little irritated with myself for being so…dependant.
I remembered…Gods, I remembered threatening Heero Yuy
and living to tell the tale. I had to grin, remembering the wide-eyed look
on his face. I hunted back through memory a little further. I remembered
being in Heero’s arms and thinking that I had never in all my life
felt safe before. Oh Gods! I remembered Heero opening his arms to me with
Wufei sitting right there watching us. I thought my heart would burst with
that sweet recollection. I stared at the ceiling for a bit and let that
one replay...a couple of times. I will take that memory to my grave as my
most cherished possession.
But why was Wufei in my room with us? I could remember him…hitting
me. Why the hell did Wufei belt me like that? I frowned hard, trying to
dredge up the details. Wufei hit me because I was lost somewhere…somewhere
dark, and really cold…how’d I get there?
Duo, who …?
Man, I needed a shower. My hair felt positively gross. I forgot
to re-braid it last night and I hate when I sleep with it down; it takes
forever to get the tangles out. I got slowly out of bed and limped to the
bathroom; my knee’s always stiff when I first get up. I wondered if
it would ever be normal again. A hot shower would help that too. I thought
I heard a sound in the hall, but nobody appeared in my doorway, so I went
on in and started my shower, taking the extra time to put conditioner in
my hair and comb it through. After I got out and scrounged up some clean
clothes, I almost felt like a human being again. Most of the aches and pains
had faded a little, except for a pounding headache I couldn’t seem
to shake. I’d have to ask Quatre for some aspirin.
I braided my hair, wet as it was, and went down to see if
I could find some food. I damn near tripped over a desk chair that was sitting
right outside my bedroom door. Well, well; wonder which one of them Heero
threatened into babysitting me? I leaned down, inspecting the seat and finally
found a telltale strand of black hair. What a surprise; Wufei. Then again,
Heero probably made him feel guilty about the fact that he had tried to
cave the side of my head in, even if it had been for a good cause.
I waffled between pissed off that they all obviously felt
like I was made out of spun glass, and glowingly happy that Heero cared
enough to think about me even on his way out to a mission. I settled on
mildly amused and determined that at some point before this day was out,
I would give Wufei a run for his money with a little game of catch-me-if-you-can.
I pointedly put the chair back in Wufei’s room, and
went down to the kitchen where I found my two keepers with their heads together
over a sink full of dirty dishes.
I crept up behind them, in an evil temperament, and said rather
loudly, ‘Hey guys! The mad Gundam pilot just escaped his room!’
Neither one of them so much as flinched, robbing me of any
satisfaction at all; though Quatre did blush furiously. I guess that was
all the revenge I was going to get.
They turned as one toward me, and Wufei started to retort
with something that would have been incredibly clever and the two of us
could have word-sparred for the next half an hour. But then they saw my
face and Quatre just made a little ‘oh’ sound, and Wufei’s
smirk turned into a guilty frown. I had meant to look in the mirror, but
‘Maxwell, I am very…’
‘Don’t you dare tell me you’re sorry.’
I cut him off; I was really tired of people looking at me with their faces
wearing that particular expression. ‘You did what had to be done.
I owe you thanks; you do not owe me an apology.’
I really didn’t want to talk about this anymore; it
made it hard to ignore the place in the back of my head where the black
hole resided. Didn’t want to go there, Hu-uh, no way, no thank you
‘I am starving.’ I said and turned away from them
to rummage in the refrigerator. I came up with an apple and a can of soda
and headed out the kitchen door with a backward wave. ‘Goin’
to the hanger! See ya later!’ I almost laughed out loud, hearing Wufei
cursing under his breath as he scrambled to get out of the dishwater and
get dried. I certainly hoped he didn’t think I was going to make this
easy on him.
‘Duo!’ I heard Quatre yell, ‘You can’t
seriously call that breakfast?’ But I was already off the back porch
and gone from their sight. I ducked behind the hedge and worked my way to
the driveway where I parked my butt on the hood of the first car I came
to. I sat and munched on my apple and waited. I heard Wufei come charging
out the door and start running down the path towards the hanger. He didn’t
go far before figuring out I should have still been in sight. I could just
see his feet through the bottom of the hedgerow; he stopped his headlong
run and just stood for a moment. It took him just a second to think of the
cars and then he was running back toward the driveway. I almost jumped down
and took the game to the next level, but at the last second, I restrained
myself and was still sitting there, ready to greet him with an innocent
‘What’s the matter, Wufei? Lose something?’
The look on his face was absolutely priceless; a mixture of
‘Oh thank God!’ and ‘I’m going to kill you!’
all rolled into one.
‘Maxwell…’ came the warning growl and I
took another bite out of my apple, beaming at him.
‘What? You wanna walk to the hanger with me?’
I hopped off the car and started back toward the path. ‘Shoulda said
something; I would have waited for you.’
‘You are impossible.’ He glared, but fell into
step beside me.
‘Not impossible, just…irrepressible.’
He just snorted. He was on my left, the side with the split
lip and the bruised cheek. I could see him stealing glances at my face out
of the corner of his eye. I felt kinda bad, it was obviously really bothering
him. But neither one of us seemed to quite know what to say, so we made
the walk in silence. I finished my apple by the time we got to the hanger,
and I tossed the core in a trashcan as we went through the door, and then
popped the can of soda, downing a good portion of it while I flipped on
the lights and started toward my Gundam.
‘That stuff will rot your stomach lining out.’
He frowned at me, obviously not in a good mood.
‘Yes, but I will die with a pleasant caffeine buzz.’
I grinned at him and keyed my password into Deathscythes remote. Nothing
happened. The hatch did not open. There was no sound of hydraulics, no hiss
of pressurized air. Nothing.
‘That son of a bitch.’ I snarled, having to resist
the urge to throw either the can or the remote across the hanger. I tried
it one more time, just to be sure, with the same lack of results.
I was extremely pissed. Had Heero’s Gundam been sitting
there in the hanger, it would probably have had its cockpit filled with
jello or whipped cream or guacamole dip or something equally vile. But it
wasn’t, so I downed the rest of my soda and hurled the can as far
as I could.
‘Oh, I don’t think so, Heero Yuy. I do not bloody
well think so.’ I muttered and went to get a stool out of the office.
It was going to be a long afternoon. Behind me, I heard Wufei sigh heavily
and go to make his own seating arrangements. I forgot about him. I forgot
to be irritated about him shadowing me like a mother hen. I forgot the headache.
You do not lock me out of my own damn Gundam. You especially do not do it
I sat down and began hacking into my own hacked into Gundam.
I was really, really… annoyed. After a couple of hours, Wufei came
and tried to get me to give it up. I ignored him and eventually he stopped
talking to me. Several hours after that, Quatre showed up with food and
drinks and I heard him speaking softly with Wufei. I wordlessly accepted
a sandwich and a glass of juice, wishing he had brought more soda. Quatre
kept Wufei company for a while, before shaking his head and wandering back
to the house. Through it all I continued to key in password after password;
shinigami, godofdeath, stayput, baka, fuckyou, fuckoff, letmein, imgonnakillyou,
I tried random number sequences, I tried dates and times and old passwords,
I tried Japanese, I tried Chinese, I keyed until my fingers cramped. I was
getting close, I could feel it. My mind was getting to that weary point
where it made intuitive leaps all on its own, I could feel it almost ready
to fall into place. What the hell, Heero? What were you thinking? Why would
you do this…again? Stupid question. I knew why the hell he did it.
The same reason he did it last time. He didn’t think I was up to taking
care of myself and he was afraid. Afraid something would go wrong on his
mission and I would try to go after him. My fingers moved almost of their
own accord across the keypad, and above me, Deathscythes hatch hissed open.
I looked down at the last sequence I had keyed, the final try in a thousand
other guesses, knowing what I had keyed, but needing to see it anyway; myheart.
Damn it, Heero, that’s hitting below the belt. I carefully
lay the remote down on the workbench and just sat staring off into space.
Not fair. Not fair. I really wanted to be mad at him. I really hate being
treated like that. Like a small child who needs to be watched over and protected.
I haven’t been a child for a very long, long time. I’ve never
needed anyone to watch over me. Never had anyone to watch over me. And maybe,
that’s why I found, somewhere deep down inside, I liked the feeling,
I didn’t want to like it as much as I did, but it’s an easy
feeling to get used to. And that’s why I hated being treated that
way; because it made me like it. Who the hell was I? I didn’t feel
like me, anymore. I didn’t want everybody looking at me as though
I was going to explode any minute. I didn’t want this place in my
head that I couldn’t look at except out of the corner of my minds
eye. I knew what was there. I did. I knew it, in my heart, but if I didn’t
look directly at it, it stayed where it belonged and we kept our uneasy
truce. Except at night. But not since I opened my heart and let Heero in.
The truce didn’t seem to be in effect any more. After all this time,
all bets were off…and I was afraid. The dark place in my head was
getting bigger and it was getting harder to ignore.
I closed my eyes and leaned my head into my hands. The headache
was back with a pounding vengeance. I really needed to get my shit together.
I’m a soldier. I couldn’t afford to be this…weak. Heero
thought I was strong; how long before he got tired of taking care of me.
How long before I lost his respect and then his love?
That black hole in my head was shifting and roiling around
like a …balloon? A…bubble? A…blob… of black oil.
It was like driving along and seeing something dead in the middle of the
road; you didn’t really want to look as you got closer and closer,
you could try to not let your eyes focus on it, but in the end you had to
look and see what it was before it wandered into traffic. I tried not to
look, except out of the safe corners of my attention, but it was …there.
Demanding my notice. I needed to look, just to see if it really was getting
bigger. I needed….
‘Duo, who r…’
‘Maxwell?’ Wufei’s hand was on my shoulder,
squeezing firmly and I came back into the here and now with a start. I found
my hands shaking and my body slick with sweat. I thought my head was going
to explode; the headache had gotten so much worse. On my shoulder, Wufei’s
fingers tightened slightly, ‘Duo?’ he asked, his tone getting
anxious. I guess I scared him. I guess I scared me.
‘S’ok.’ I murmured, ‘Just a real bad
headache.’ I wished I could tell him how glad I was he had been there.
How near I had come to a tumble down the rabbit’s hole…again.
‘May we, then,’ he said dryly, ‘return to
I chuckled and his hand released, leaving a spot that felt
chill in its absence. He moved toward the door and I hopped off the stool
to follow, and promptly fell on my face on the damn concrete floor. How
Wufei was there in an instant, turning me over and hauling
me into his lap before I had a chance to even start levering myself up.
‘Duo! Duo, are you all right?’ There was fear
in his voice and his dark eyes were full of concern. I wanted to shrivel
up and blow away on the wind.
‘I’m Ok. I’m all right. Relax; my knee just
gave way, that’s all.’ I struggled to rise, feeling my face
getting hotter by the second. ‘Didn’t realize how long I’d
been sitting still.’
He pulled me up and had to hold me steady while I got my feet
under me. My knee was stiff and felt swollen. It came to me suddenly that
I had skipped my exercises yesterday after learning about Heero and Trowa’s
mission, and hadn’t done anything with it today either.
‘Damn, ‘Fei, I can’t believe how fast it
goes to hell when I don’t work with it.’ It was a sign of my
disconcertion that I let the pet name slip, and a measure of his worried
state of mind that he let it pass. I tried pulling away, but he wouldn’t
let go of my arm. Which was really just as well, because the leg was trembling
under me like it was about to buckle again.
‘Let me help you.’ He finally said after a few
minutes of my trying to force the stupid thing to hold me up, and I didn’t
have a lot of choice but to let him pull my arm around his shoulders and
take some of my weight.
With his help, I began limping my way back toward the house;
I could not believe it when I realized it was already dark out. The air
was cool and clear, and in the distance there was the faint glow of the
light on the kitchen porch. It seemed like a hell of a long way.
‘Man, I am so tired of being so bloody helpless.’
I grumbled after a few yards, just to break the uncomfortable silence that
had risen between us.
‘You are far from helpless, Maxwell.’ He grunted,
a hint of amusement in his voice, as we worked our way up the path. We found
it difficult to work out a walking rhythm. He seemed uncomfortable at first,
putting his arm around my waist, but there really wasn’t any place
else he could put his hand with my arm thrown around his shoulders. It took
a number of yards before we matched strides and stopped bumping into each
other. I had to smile, thinking about Heero helping me. There had never
been any awkwardness; it had been easy for us to move together from the
first time I had offered him my support when he had been the one who needed
it. But thinking about Heero just made my heart ache, so I stopped.
I thought about asking why he didn’t offer to go get
one of the cars, but I suspect he was afraid to leave me alone with my Gundam
now that I had cracked the password and could get into it again. Instead,
‘I’m sorry.’ It came out kind of tight voiced,
though I hadn’t meant it to.
‘For what?’ he asked, glancing over at me briefly.
I sighed, ‘Everything.’ I tilted my head back
and looked up at the stars, wishing the pounding in my head would go away,
‘Just every damn thing.’
‘You have nothing to be sorry for.’
‘Doesn’t feel that way.’
He sighed, ‘It’s only been a few months, give
yourself a little more time.’
I was feeling grumpy, ‘Feels like it’s been for
He chuckled lightly, ‘Only to you. Your recovery has
Well, damn. I couldn’t say anything for a minute.
‘Thanks for…for being around, man.’ I managed
after a bit.
He just grunted and we finished the walk in silence. By the
time we reached the house, the exercise had loosened things up a little,
and I was able to straighten up and walk on my own. Though I noticed Wufei’s
hand hovering near my elbow.
Once inside, I went straight to the kitchen sink where I knew
a bottle of aspirin was kept and downed several of them right there. Behind
me, I heard Wufei digging ice out of the refrigerator and turned to see
him making up an ice pack.
‘Not yet, I have got to go down to the gym for a while.’
He stopped and I detected a slight rise and fall of his shoulders
as he heaved a silent sigh just before he turned around to face me. He tried
to put an interested look on his face and I almost laughed.
‘Wufei, look;’ I decided to stop playing games,
‘I know damn well Heero set you on baby sitting detail, but that doesn’t
mean you have to follow me every stinking place I go, Ok?’
His face darkened, ‘Maxwell, I swore on my honor that
I would allow no harm to come to you.’
‘I am going downstairs into the gym. I am not even leaving
the house. I am going to do some work on the leg press, and I will probably
spend some time on the stationary bike. If my knee loosens up enough, I
will use the treadmill. I am usually there for an hour to an hour and a
half. There is no reason….’
But there was just no arguing with the look of resolve on
his face. Gods; I was a freaking mission.
‘I missed my morning kata.’ He said simply, ‘I
can do it while you exercise your knee.’
So off we went together and spent the next hour on opposite
sides of the gym, sweating out our own private frustrations in silence.
I knew he was tired and didn’t really want to be down here, so I cut
it short on the hour and just sat and watched him finish the routine he
had started before rising and heading for the door, knowing he would follow
me back upstairs. I was starting to get irritated again.
I stopped off in the kitchen for another soda and my ice pack
and headed up the stairs with my shadow tailing along behind. At the top
of the stairs, I couldn’t resist turning and leering at him,
‘I’m going to go rinse off in the shower, do I
need to get enough towels for both of us?’
I thought he would choke. All I got was an incoherent growl.
He swept passed me into his own room, but I noticed he left the door open.
I did not leave mine open; I shut it rather firmly. I knew it wouldn’t
last, but it was nearly the first moment of solitude I had managed all day
and I heaved a sigh as a little of the tension ebbed away. I didn’t
wash my hair again, but I did get into the shower and rinsed away the sweat
of my workout. I pulled on a pair of running shorts when I got out; I had
a feeling I would be having company before the evening was over, and sure
enough, when I came out of the bathroom, my door was standing open again.
I thought I would scream. I was getting frustrated and annoyed
and felt like I was on the verge of shattering into a million pieces. The
stupid aspirin hadn’t helped the damned headache one bit, if anything,
it was worse. I just wanted to be left alone for a while. I needed to think,
I needed a little space, I needed…Heero. No. I had to be honest with
myself; I wanted Heero. Big difference, Maxwell; I chided myself. I needed
to settle down. I took a deep, calming breath and let it out. Just forget
he’s there, that’s what I had to do. Just go on about my business,
let him sit out in the damn hall all bloody night if he wanted to, what
the hell difference did it make to me?
I went to my desk and sorted through my little stack of CDs
until I found one of the few that weren’t what I liked to think of
as ‘battle music’. I put in a McKennett and turned the volume
down low, I think Quatre had already gone to bed. Something soft and soothing.
I went to the bedside table and snagged the can of soda and the ice pack
I had brought up with me, flipped off the bedroom light and went over to
the window, I raised it, making sure to make enough noise that Wufei wouldn’t
think I was trying to be quiet and sneak out, and let in a soft gust of
wind. The moon was near full and shone faintly in through the clouds. I
pulled the desk chair over and sat in a puddle of silver light, sipped my
drink, and let the night breeze play with the wisps of hair around my face.
I parked the ice pack half-heartedly on my knee, closed my eyes and tried
as hard as I could to relax.
It was harder, without something to occupy my attention, to
ignore that place in my head. It was definitely getting bigger. Did bigger
imply stronger? Was I making a mistake in trying to ignore it? There hardly
seemed to be room in my head for the both of us anymore. The truce that
had lasted all these years was unquestionably off. Just thinking about it
was making my heart speed up in my chest. I sipped at my soda and tried
to calm back down. Behind me, Loreena sang of the dark night of the soul,
and I had to wonder why in the hell I had picked out this CD. Was I trying
to calm down, or was I trying to depress myself? I grimaced into the watery
moonlight, there really wasn’t any getting around this, was there?
What was I so damned afraid of? I kinda-sorta knew what was in that thrice-damned
black hole; it was something I had freaking survived once, why couldn’t
I just face it down and be done with it?
I finished my drink, quietly set the can down in the trashcan,
dumped the sweating ice pack on the windowsill, and went over to lean in
the bedroom doorway. As expected, the chair was back, and Wufei was sitting
there, leaning against the wall right beside my door, his arms folded across
‘How long is this mission supposed to last?’
‘About a week.’
‘What are you planning on doing? Not sleeping for the
‘If it is necessary.’
I would like to say I was dumbstruck, but it really wasn’t
any more than I was expecting from him.
‘Baka.’ I muttered and walked out of my room and
into his. As if on queue, he rose and followed me.
‘Maxwell, what the hell are you doing?’
‘Just shut up and get the other end of this.’
I had hold of the mattress off his bed, and waited patiently for him to
pick up his end. He just stood, hands on hips and glared at me.
‘Don’t be an idiot, Wufei. If you continue like
this, by the end of the week an arthritic, half blind old woman could allude
you, much less a street rat like me.’
He continued to glare, refusing to move and my new found calm
started to wear a little thin, ‘Look. I am conceding that you feel
it is necessary to remain in my stinking presence every moment until Heero
comes back. Will you bloody well concede that you have to freaking sleep?
Believe me, if I have one of my patented nightmares, you will not sleep
through it.’ A small battle of wills ensued, but even Wufei is not
stubborn to the point of lunacy, and finally, he grabbed the other end of
the mattress and we hauled it into my room.
It would only fit in the space near the door, and I would
have to be careful not to step on him if I had to get up and go to the bathroom.
There were a few, bizarre, uncomfortable moments in which I decided to sleep
in my shorts and he stripped off shirt and shoes and settled on sleeping
in his pants. I crawled wearily into my bed and resisted the urge to say,
good night John-boy, and instead, just turned my back on him and tried to
forget he was there. On the desk, Loreena was still singing and I just let
it go; the player would stop at the end of the CD anyway. She sang us both
gently to sleep.
I got my usual couple of hours before the dreams started.
It wasn’t really a bad one, not like some of them could be; I’ve
had worse. One of the ones that is so old I was almost numb to it. Not one
of the mind bending ones that I had to fight kicking and screaming to get
out of, but one of the soul shredding ones that would leave me mired in
a fog of depression for the rest of the day. It still brought me jerking
awake and I found myself sitting up in the middle of the bed, sweat drying
on my skin and my heart pounding in my ears. I glanced down at Wufei and
he seemed to have slept through it. But then, as I had promised, this dream
wasn’t what I thought of as one of the ‘patented’ ones,
he wouldn’t have slept through one of those.
I pulled the one knee that would bend that far, up to my chest,
hugged it, and just sat and got my breath back. I had a ritual that went
with this dream. It was a dream of before I was Duo Maxwell, before I really
had a name at all. When the plague came through and wiped out so many of
Solo’s gang, before I stole the serum. I pulled up the faces of each
of the dead and put a name to it, all the little ones. I was probably the
last living soul now that still remembered them, and I swore I would never
forget; Ren, Py, Dart, Cat, Cutter, Mary Lynn, Mad Dog, Race, Eel, Long
Tom, and of course, Solo. The ones who died on my watch; the beginning of
the blood on my hands. I let my defenses down to remember the children and
the thing in my head pounced.
I suddenly became aware that the bubble that contained what
I didn’t want to deal with, was stretching thinner and thinner, oil
swirling on its surface, about to burst. There was more of it in my head
now than there was of me. I panicked.
‘Fei?’ my voice wasn’t much more than a
choked cry, and I was ashamed and at the same time, scared he wouldn’t
He was up and heading toward me even as his groggy voice was
asking, ‘Duo? What’s wrong?’
How do you tell somebody that the secret trap door inside
your head is about to fall open and you’re going to pitch face first
into the rabbit hole from hell and oh God don’t let me go there alone;
I’m scared and I don’t want to know?
‘It’s time.’ Was all the warning I was able
to give him and I devoted all my strength to not letting that bubble break.
He scrambled onto the bed and wrapped his arms around me from
behind, pulling me into what was meant to be an anchoring embrace. I will
never as long as I live tell him that it was the feeling of his bare chest
coming into contact with the bare skin of my back that made the bubble explode,
and hurled me into the gaping maw of memory.
I heard his voice, faint and far away, yelling for Quatre
and that was the last thing I remember before the rabbit hole swallowed
‘Duo, who raped you?’
You didn’t go out alone. It was one of the rules. There
was a certain safety in numbers even when you were small. It was the whole
point to banding together. Solo made the rules to keep us safe. But it was
Solo who told me I had to break the rules. Things had been very lean, and
we hadn’t had food in days.
‘You do better on your own, kid.’ He grinned at
me, punching me lightly on the arm. ‘You’re the best little
pick pocket I’ve ever had in the gang.’
I glowed with pleasure; Solo thought I was the best! I wouldn’t
let him down; I’d bring home enough credits to feed us for days. He’d
see! I’d make him proud.
So off I went into the streets alone, even though it was against
the rules. But times were hard, and the little ones were hungry. It was
up to me and Solo to take care of them. But I was one of the best, and I
was doing really well, probably had near enough to maybe buy some of the
out-dated K-rations the troopers sold in their off hours. I was feeling
really proud, and couldn’t wait to get back and show Solo. He’d
be happy, and the whole gang would go to sleep with full stomachs tonight.
But I got careless. They caught me going back. I was in a
hurry and forgot the other rule about never going where there wasn’t
at least three ways out. They got me in an alley. I was quick, and I almost
got away, climbing over a fence, but they were way bigger and when one of
them caught my ankle, I was hopelessly trapped; I never stood a chance.
‘Where you goin’ in such a hurry, honey?’
a gruff voice asked, dangling me upside down by that ankle. I squirmed and
they laughed, then the other one took hold of my hair and the first one
let go of my leg, letting me fall hard on the concrete.
There were two of them, off duty soldiers, and a little drunk.
The more I twisted and turned, the more they laughed. My knees and my hands
stung from being dumped on the ground, but I hardly felt the pain through
the suffocating fear that had hold of me. They let go of my hair when I
started to shake.
The first one, a huge, bear of a man leaned down and almost
gently stroked the tangled strands of my hair out of my face. He seemed
extremely excited, which just made it more confusing, ‘Come on, honey,
we’re not so bad, are we?’ and he leered at me in a way that
made my legs turn to water.
The second man, a blond, not as tall, but just as hugely intimidating
suddenly started getting angry. ‘That ain’t no girl!’
he grabbed my hair again, and jerked my head back so they could see me better
in the low light.
The bear man, if anything, seemed to be more pleased, ‘So?’
he leaned conspiratorially toward his blond companion, and said something
that made no sense, ‘You think the young girls are tight…’
They pulled me a little further into the alley and suddenly
there was a knife in the first ones hand. A great, huge, military knife.
I started to whimper, they were going to kill me, I was sure of it. If only
it had been that simple.
Instead, his hands replaced the blonds wrapped in my hair,
and he began cutting my clothes away. My mind wasn’t processing fast
enough, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Somewhere in there,
I started screaming for Solo, but the blond cuffed me in the side of the
head until I shut up.
‘Not too hard.’ Giggled bear-man, ‘I like
to hear to ‘em.’
He kicked the remnants of an old packing crate over and threw
me face down across it, splintered wood biting into my hips.
‘Hold him a minute.’ He growled, and the hands
on me changed. I heard the sound of the first ones zipper going down. Everything
came into sharp focus and seemed to slow down. I had time to feel the shard
of glass that had gashed the palm of my hand; I could feel stones biting
into my bare knees. The hands of the blond man pressing down on my back
were trembling slightly and they were both breathing hard. The terror in
my chest was expanding, telling me I had to get the hell out of there, that
this was a really bad mess, I had to get away, I had to get away right now!
I fought for all I was worth, I squirmed and twisted and bucked
and started screaming for Solo again, let them hit me all they wanted. Behind
me, the bear laughed darkly, ‘Oh, I like it when they fight.’
Then it was too late. I was hit with the worst, most agonizing
pain I have ever felt. My screams for Solo became just screams. Never ending
screams that they didn’t even seem to care about any more. This was
L2 for Gods sake; nobody was coming to my rescue.
My mind could not fathom what in the hell he was doing. In
front of me, blondy had opened his own pants and was stroking his cock,
‘Hurry up, damn it, I want my turn.’ He groaned,
his voice full of something dark and frightening.
It clicked in my head, seeing the man in front of me; I suddenly
knew what the one behind was doing. The pain was tearing me apart, and I
renewed my useless efforts to get away.
‘Oh, yeah, kid, that’s right; fight it.’
The bear moaned, and he was no longer content to leave me pressed into the
crate, his hands caught me around the waist and began pulling me backward
to meet his thrusts.
I no longer had a voice, and the pain finally overwhelmed
the fight and I went limp in his hands, but he was passed caring, pounding
at me until I felt him stiffen and something hot gushed inside me. I was
sure he’d killed me. But his plunging thrusts stopped and he jerked
out of me, letting me collapse across the crate, I couldn’t have gotten
up if I had tried. I thought it was over, but I was wrong.
‘God damn it! Move over!’ blondy’s voice
was coming in gasps and he scrabbled around to take the position that the
bear had been in just a moment before. I whimpered through a throat that
was raw, but they ignored me.
This one didn’t have as much to say as the first one,
just grabbed my hips and impaled me with one hard thrust. It was searing;
he was already worked up to a fever pitch and just pounded away at me, his
breath coming in ragged gasps. I almost slipped into a dark oblivion, but
whenever I came close, the bear would slap at my face and bring me back.
‘Wouldn’t want you to miss anything.’ He
grinned, washing my face with the stink of the alcohol on his breath.
Finally, blondy too went stiff and then collapsed across me,
his sweaty chest pressing against my back, taking my breath away.
They got up after a minute and put their clothes back to rights,
laughing together as they started to walk away. Then bear came back and
leaned down and whispered in my ear. ‘You were pretty good, kid. Maybe
we’ll look you up again some time.’
They went away and left me lying there, naked and bleeding
Solo came for me not long after, and took me back to one of
the hideouts and cleaned me up and tried to explain. He let me stay in for
a few days and I just lay in my pile of rags and built my black hole. I
think that night Shinigami was born, though he didn’t have a name
Their voices filtered through to me first, Quatre was there,
and his voice was broken and scared. Wufei was still with me, voice tight
and barely in control.
‘Is it…is it over?’ Quatre asked.
‘I don’t know.’ Wufei answered.
I opened my eyes on the here and now with a shuddering sigh.
Wufei was still behind me, arms bruisingly tight around me. Quatre was with
us, lying across my legs, eyes wide and face pale. I must have fought. Quatre
saw my eyes open.
‘Duo?’ his voice trembled.
‘S’ok.’ I managed, and my throat hurt. I
must have been screaming too.
My muscles were strung as tight as a bow string, and as the
guys eased their grip on me, it was like the string suddenly broke and I
collapsed, the only thing keeping me upright was Wufeis anchoring hold.
‘Told you, you wouldn’t sleep through it.’
I muttered hoarsely and Wufei let out a shaky breath.
‘Maxwell,’ he said gently, ‘the dead would
not have slept through that.’
I would have laughed, but I was afraid it would turn into
something else. In front of me, Quatre was turning to jelly now that it
was all over. He fought for a moment against tears, until I held out an
arm for him and he threw himself against us and sobbed fit to break your
I rubbed his back and breathed soft reassurances, ‘It’s
all over, Quatre. It’s Ok. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’
Cry for me, little one, cry for me the tears I can’t
shed for myself. Grant me a measure of the release I wish I could feel.
‘You scared us.’ He murmured, after a bit, pulling
away and sitting up.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for it to happen.
You shouldn’t have had to see.’
Wufei tightened his arms around me and he sounded tense and
a little angry, ‘Maxwell, will you stop apologizing?’
I managed a small smile, ‘Ok, Ok, I’m sor…’
Quatre actually giggled a tiny bit, I think from some look
on Wufeis face that I couldn’t see. Wufei sighed.
‘Can’t help it.’ I shrugged, and Wufei finally
began to unwind from around me. He let me slip gently back onto my pillows
and moved to sit on the side of the bed.
The palm of my right hand stung like wild fire and I turned
it over to look at it. There was nothing there except a scar that had been
there for so long I don’t know…didn’t know where it had
come from. There was a strange moment of double vision while I could see
the scar and at the same time, could see my hand covered in blood with the
glass shard still sticking out of it. I blinked and brought it into focus
and there was nothing there again, but the scar. I rubbed at it, but the
pain wouldn’t go away.
As I dwelled on it, other pains began to come awake. My knees,
scraped raw on the concrete, my face, where blondy had hit me to try to
make me stop screaming for help, and…and…there…as well.
I wanted to look down, absolutely positive that my thighs were covered in
blood and …other fluids. I knew it wasn’t so, that it had all
happened years and years ago, but my body insisted that no, I had just been
brutally…raped. Right here. Right now. It took every ounce of will
power I had left to hold it all together and not let the mewling sound in
my head come out passed my lips. To not look down, to not wipe at a stickiness
that wasn’t really there. I concentrated on the gash that I could
feel but couldn’t see in my hand. I let my fingers rub the scar, trying
to let it filter through. See, stupid self? There is no blood there. There
is no glass there. Solo cut that jagged piece of glass out of you with his
own hands. There is nothing there but a very old scar.
Oh Gods how I wished Heero were there.
‘Quatre,’ I ventured, trying to keep the quiver
out of my voice, ‘would you mind going down and getting me some aspirin
and maybe another can of soda?’ I wanted them out of the room for
just a little while. I just needed a minute, just a few minutes. To get
myself under control.
Quatre fairly leaped off the bed, happy to have something
to do. I tried to give him a reassuring smile. ‘No rush, man; it’s
just a bit of a headache.’
But he was already gone. I turned to Wufei, trying to think
of something else I needed. An errand, anything, but he was quicker than
that and not as easy to manipulate.
‘I’m not leaving, Maxwell, not for a damn second.
Don’t even think about it.’ He was glowering, but I could still
see the concern in his eyes. I must have been…really scary.
‘Wufei, please, I gotta have a second, Ok? Just a minute
His voice was firm, ‘No.’ and then his eyes flicked
to my nervous fingers, rubbing away at the gash that wasn’t there.
‘What is wrong with your hand?’
My control was fraying, ‘Damn it, Wufei,’ I held
my hand out, ‘What do you see?’
‘I see a scar from a rather ragged wound, but old.’
His gaze shifted suspiciously from the palm of my hand to my face.
‘I see blood.’ I told him flatly, ‘I still
see the damn glass.’
His eyes widened after a second, as the implication seeped
down and I caught the quick flick that his eyes made, looking where I didn’t
‘Yes.’ I hissed at him, and ‘I need a damn
Instead of leaving, he moved closer and took my hand, looking
at the scar and gently running his thumb over the line of it.
‘This is very old,’ he said at length, ‘what
happened was a long time ago.’
I met his eyes; it gave me something to focus on so I wouldn’t
look at what I didn’t want to ‘see’.
‘I know that…. My head knows that. But, my …body
is telling me different.’
He was torn, I could tell, but he started to argue with me
‘God damn it to hell, Wufei,’ my hands were starting
to shake where he still held them, rubbing the scar, ‘I can feel the
damn blood running down my legs. Please. I. Need. A. Damn. Minute.’
My voice broke, and I felt on the ragged, ragged edge of losing it completely.
‘Then we need to clean you up.’ Came Quatres gentle
voice from the doorway and he came back into the room, setting down the
can and pills on the bedside table before coming around Wufeis mattress
to take my hands away from him.
‘Come on.’ He said softly, and pulled me toward
the bathroom. There was something soothing in his voice, his manner, and
I stopped trying to fight them. His touch was as soft as a breath, but impossible
to resist. It took the two of them to get me there, and Wufei had to hold
me up while Quatre ran a bath and then they stripped me and put me in the
warm water. It was so much like Solo cleaning me up that I almost lost myself
in the flow of time again. Wufei left the bathroom when Quatre knelt by
the bathtub and began carefully pouring water over my shoulders and down
my back. How had he known what I needed? Sometimes Quatre could be so wise;
his compassion told him things that the rest of us couldn’t seem to
He went about cleaning me up, just as though he were cleansing
and dressing real wounds. I let him pull me into the illusion; listened
raptly as he told me everything would be all right. Let his voice calm the
screaming child in my head. Told him where all the cuts and scraps were
so he could soothe and ease them. He helped me with the soap and the washcloth
and waited patiently while I scrubbed some places almost raw. He even smeared
a little topical ointment on my hand and when he was done with me, somehow,
I did feel better. By the time I got out of the tub, I was able to stand
again and even dressed myself when Quatre brought me clean underwear and
shorts. They took me back to bed and tucked me in like a small child and
I let them. Wufei brought me the can of soda, but what he handed me weren’t
aspirin, but the more powerful drugs left over from after my surgery. I
started to protest, but he insisted, ‘Just for tonight.’ And
I took them.
He sat on the side of my bed and regarded me with one of his
unreadable expressions. I couldn’t meet his eyes. He was so damn strong;
like Heero, I couldn’t imagine anything like this breaking him the
way it had broken me. He made me feel ridiculous, pathetic. But the pain
of it was there all the same, real and now and I couldn’t ignore it.
Could not convince my body that it had happened a lifetime ago on another
world, far away from this place. If it had been within my power, in that
moment, under his unflinching gaze, I would have willed myself dead.
‘Wufei!’ Quatre had left the room unnoticed, but
was back, dragging something behind him, and he was angry, ‘Say something
Wufei looked baffled, looking first at me and then at Quatre,
‘What did I do?’
‘Look at him, you idiot!’ Quatre was really angry;
I had never heard him call anyone an idiot before, not even me.
‘Quatre,’ I didn’t want to deal with this
anymore, ‘it’s all right, leave it alone.’
‘I will not.’ he said firmly to me and then turned
on Wufei, ‘He thinks you’re condemning him!’
My face went hot as fire and if they both hadn’t been
between me and the door, I probably would have bolted. Wufei looked sharply
at me and his eyes widened.
‘No…oh no, Duo, never.’ He truly looked
horrified, and he was looking at me hard and I guess I was just too tired
to hide what was in my heart and it must have been written all over my face.
‘I was remembering how near we came to losing you not so very long
ago, my friend. I was remembering how helpless I felt then and was thinking
that I am equally helpless now. I don’t know what to do for you, and
I am not sure I am making the right decisions.’
I was quite a speech for Chang Wufei, who sometimes rivals
Heero for stoic silence. But damn; when that man delivered a warm fuzzy,
he sure as hell knows right where to hit you.
I couldn’t keep the slight, relieved smile from my face,
‘So far, you seem to be doing all right.’ I found Quatre with
my eyes, including him, ‘I’m still here, right?’
I hadn’t eaten much that day, and my stomach was fairly
empty, and the pills were starting to hit me pretty hard. I was having trouble
keeping my eyes open, it must have been two in the morning. I watched in
amusement as Wufei helped Quatre finish dragging his mattress into the room.
They ended up with it partly sticking out the doorway, and getting to the
stupid bathroom was going to be impossible now, but Quatre insisted that
he was not going back to his empty room to sleep alone after what had just
happened and Wufei could just live with it.
I dozed off, watching them, my heart full to bursting, and
slept like a dead man until well after sunrise. The last thing I remember
hearing was Wufei muttering,
‘Well, you’re the one who will have to explain
this to your employees in the morning.’
I opened my eyes hours later, on the sight of the two of them
on their mattresses on the floor, and it reminded me of sleeping in the
hideouts when I was with Solos gang. We would curl together for warmth in
whatever pile of rags and blankets we could find, like nothing more than
a litter of puppies. Gods, they looked so young lying there asleep; the
relaxed features softening the wary lines that we all wore in our waking
hours. Looking at them made me feel old.
I was almost shocked that I had gone the rest of the night
without more dreams. I shifted, waiting for my body to protest, but I found
that sleep had eased the edge off all the pains. I still could feel it,
but the light of dawn somehow seemed to have bled the strength out of it.
Maybe nightmares could only inflict the ghosts of wounds; dissipating with
the rise of the sun.
I looked around the inside of my head and found that the black
hole was gone; all the horrors were out of Pandora’s box now, so what
use was the box? It was all there, if I chose to look, all the dark memories.
Great gaping holes that had spattered my childhood were now filled. Things
that had made no sense, things said, things done, were now in context. And
I wondered at a mind that could bury that memory, but had left the memory
of the Maxwell church massacre, had left the plague, and the deaths of all
those people who had cared for me, and for whom I had cared. Well; it was
all back now; all the black crows of recollection come home to roost.
But what had it done to me? Was I still the same person I
had been? You know what scared me the most? Remembering the night after,
and knowing that was the night my battle persona was born. What if opening
up the box and letting the memories come out had destroyed Shinigami? What
would happen the next time I flew into battle? Would I be able to turn my
head over to that ruthless other self and do what had to be done? What if
I froze? What if I couldn’t find that dark, kill-me-if-you-can-because-I-don’t-give-a-damn
place in my head any more? I could fight the way I fought because I wasn’t
afraid, and I wasn’t afraid because death didn’t matter to me;
to my dark, other self. What if Shinigami cared? What the hell then?
I looked down at the guys again, and they still slept peacefully,
it had been a long, hard night. My rolling around in bed wrestling with
my thoughts had not disturbed either of them, and I had a sudden notion;
could I manage to get up and get out of the room without waking them? With
luck, Wufeis sub-conscious was listening for the sounds of another nightmare.
I was, after all, something of a master thief; I ought to be able to sneak
out of a damn room without a lot of trouble.
To be honest, I don’t know what came over me. At the
time, I didn’t really have anything planned; I think maybe the lure
of a bit of distraction was enough. I moved slow and easy, making not a
sound, and slipped from the bed. I stood for a few seconds, letting my knee
adjust and listening to the sound of their breathing. Neither of them stirred,
and I grinned like an idiot, creeping inch by cautious inch out of the room,
getting through the doorway without stepping on Quatres mattress proved
to be something of a challenge, but I gained the hall and had to repress
a gleeful laugh of victory; wasn’t out of the woods yet, though. It
wouldn’t take Wufei long to miss me, I was sure of that, and besides,
I was only half dressed. Where to hide? Where else? Wufeis room. I slid
through the half open door and crept into his bathroom and sat down in the
dark to wait. It only took about five minutes.
Oh, he was very angry. I heard them crashing about, checking
my bathroom, and then off they thundered down the stairs. I had to clap
my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing. This was the most fun I had
had in days.
They would head for the hanger to check on Deathscythe, I
had absolutely no doubt of that; I didn’t have long. I darted back
to my room and grabbed clothes, and my wallet, stopped long enough to jerk
a pad of paper out of the desk and scrawl a hasty ‘Went to run some
errands, see you when I get back’, threw it on the bed and ran full
tilt down the stairs, daring all kinds of stupid havoc if my knee failed
me. I probably wasn’t a minute behind them. Even Wufei couldn’t
run a quarter mile in that amount of time. I snagged a set of car keys from
the hook in the kitchen and ran, limping slightly, through the house to
exit through the front door. At the side of the house, were parked three
of the estate cars, I quickly matched the keys in my hand to a small, gray
two door, threw myself in right behind my stuff and dropped it into neutral
without starting it. The driveway was on a bit on an incline, and I was
able to roll most of the way to the front gate before I had to start it.
The engine was in perfect order, just like all the Winner vehicles, and
it started with a quiet purr. I was really hoping to get a couple of miles
behind me before they figured out where I went and started after me. I did
nothing to attract any attention, watching the rearview mirror, until I
hit the main road, and then I kicked the little car in the ass and took
off for town. Nobody saw me make my exit.
I turned the radio up and rolled the windows down and laughed
out loud from the sheer joy of escape. For a while, I just reveled in the
sweet solitude, not having had two minutes to myself in days. I reached
town and just drove around, thinking, until finally stopping at a little
out of the way diner for breakfast after about a half an hour of aimless
wandering. I parked the car and pulled on my shirt and shoes. I went inside
to the bathroom first, unbound my hair and did my best to smooth it with
my fingers and tightly re-braided it. I glanced at my reflection in the
mirror; God I looked scruffy. My cheek was bruised, my hair really needed
to be brushed and re-done right, and of all the damn things, the shirt I
had grabbed said ‘motherless’ on the front and ‘bastard’
on the back. Something I had picked up in a fit of self-deprecating humor.
It had seemed really funny at the time. Red lettering on black, it went
really well with the powder blue shorts, which, oddly enough, looked slept
in, and I had forgotten socks. Maybe I would just get breakfast to go.
The guilt hit me about a mile down the road, after I had wolfed
down the second breakfast burrito and I got to thinking that Wufei and Quatre
probably hadn’t eaten anything yet because of me. Guilt sucks. I really
did not think I was asking a whole hell of a lot; just a little time to
myself to sort out my thoughts, to figure out what the inside of my own
head looked like with the new furnishings. The worst was over and done with;
we’d lived through that last night. And, yes, I was damned glad I
hadn’t had to face that all alone. I think…I wasn’t one
hundred percent sure, mind you, but I think I would have come through it
on my own. But…that anchor had been nice. Wufeis strength, Quatres
understanding; they meant a lot. Guilt really, really sucks.
I had wandered into the vicinity of the mall, and I pulled
in to find a damn phone. The guilt sort of crushed the fragile rush I had
gotten from the success of my flight, and it left me wide open to the depression
I had known was coming.
There were phones all over the mall and I picked one at random,
dropped in my coins and dialed the Winner estate. I was half expecting to
get the answering machine or one of the staff members, but it was Quatres
voice on the other end.
‘Hello?’ I could hear the hope in his voice, and
I felt even worse.
‘Hey, Quatre, it’s Duo.’ I tried to sound
‘Duo! Where are you?’ there was a hint of panic
in his voice. ‘You scared us to death!’
‘Look, Quatre, I meant what I said last night; I just
need a little time to myself, that’s all. Everything’s all right.’
‘Wufei is frantic, Duo.’ His tone grew accusing.
I let my breath out in a heavy sigh, ‘I know. Tell him,
I’m sorry. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. I promise not
to do anything stupid.’
‘Please, Quatre, I just have to sort some stuff out.’
And I hung up before he could start in on me.
Time would only tell if that call had made things better or
worse. For them, anyway; it had definitely made me feel worse.
Well, I was here in the mall; I might as well look around
a little. Maybe I’d buy myself a new pair of jeans, these blue shorts
really looked stupid with the black and red shirt. I wandered around a bit,
garnering some stares and that sort of settled it and I bought myself some
black jeans, a pair of socks, and a hair brush and went to find a restroom.
Hair redone, face washed, and clothes changed, I went back to wandering
around, feeling much better, but found I was still attracting stares. What
the hell, never seen a guy with a yard long braid in a ‘motherless
bastard’ shirt before?
I broke down in the music store and bought myself a new CD,
a sort of get well present to myself. A, it’s-been-a-crappy-couple-of-days
gift. It didn’t really make me feel any better. Kind of like telling
the kid about to have the tonsillectomy that they can have all the ice cream
they want. Ohhhhh; that helps.
I bought a large Mt. Dew hoping the caffeine would kick the
depression a little, and began slowly backtracking toward the car. Maybe
I’d drive up to the park or something. I wasn’t in any hurry,
kind of window-shopping, but headed back the way I had come, when fighters
instincts kicked in and my radar went off. Something wasn’t right.
I slowed to look at a book display window, using the glass as a mirror and
spotted the group that was tailing me. There were three of them. If I hadn’t
recognized the big one with the blond buzz haircut, the bandage around his
forehead would probably have given him away. His two friends were not any
of the other ones who had jumped Heero and me in the park, so it was a pretty
safe bet they were in perfect health. And absolutely no doubt they recognized
me. Apparently, I kinda stand out in a crowd.
I stood and studied the books in the display for a minute,
eyes flicking here and there as I found all the escape routes. It was still
a long damn way back to the car. In the glass, my buddies were just standing
and watching me. I was probably all right as long as I stayed in the mall,
they didn’t really want any witnesses, because I had no doubt they
were intending on beating the living shit out of me. Well, wasn’t
this a wonderful little development. Did this qualify as doing something
I meandered on passed the bookstore and stopped again to pretend
to watch some puppies in the window of the pet store, while really watching
the image of my pursuers superimposed in the glass. They were nudging each
other and whispering together, occasionally looking around while trying
way too hard to not look like they were looking around. Watching for Heero,
perhaps? A little worried that I wasn’t alone after all? Guess they
had the guy with the long hair pegged as the lightweight. Well, bring it
on, boys; we’ll see. I got a little mad about then and decided I was
tired of the whole damn dance. I turned away from the frolicking puppies
and started purposely down the center of the mall, headed back toward the
entrance where I had come in. I finished my drink along the way, and chucked
the cup in a trashcan as I strode passed. I stuck my new CD in my back pocket,
and just threw away the sack with the blue shorts and hairbrush. Time to
By the time I hit the door, I had gained a little ground,
and as soon as I reached the outdoors, I ducked to the right and jogged
for the ramp where the delivery entrance was. A nice out of the way place,
away from prying eyes; I lingered to make sure they saw me when they dashed
through the doors after me. Then I waited.
They fanned out as they came across the driveway, the two
new guys seeming to follow the lead of the bandage boy. I grinned my best
smart-ass grin and beckoned them on. They had really not picked a good day
for this. I realized pretty quick that they weren’t going to make
the same mistake they had made…my God, just the day before yesterday.
They were not going to come at me one at a time. I took my stance, took
my knee into account, made a mental note to try not to hit anybody with
my still healing left hand, and let them come to me.
My grin turned feral, ‘How’s the rest of the girls
softball team doing? Out of the hospital yet?’
‘You son of a bitch!’ Snarled buzz-boy, and the
dark haired one in the Nike shirt who had been looking uncertain about the
whole thing, suddenly got a nasty look on his face. The third one, another
blond who looked to have the IQ of a slightly retarded ox, seemed like he
might get really angry too, as soon as he figured out what the girls softball
team had to do with anything.
I moved; this whole thing was getting tiresome. I darted in
and delivered a harsh hit right square to buzz boys bandaged head injury
and when he doubled over, I used his own momentum to send him staggering
into the ox. I danced lightly out of the circle they had attempted to put
me in, and took another stance. Ox was busy letting buzz slid off him to
the ground where he sat and held his head which looked like it might be
bleeding. Nike came at me, his face suffused with anger; this one was the
dangerous one, my instinct told me. I ducked his wild swing, coming up inside
his defense and hit him hard in the gut before twisting out of reach again.
These guys were athletes, not fighters, but any one of them
easily out weighed me by half; if they managed to get hold of me, I was
in big trouble. I noted with satisfaction that Nike was bent over, sucking
for air, as I turned my attention to ox-boy. He probably never had gotten
enough time to figure out my earlier insult, but he had taken severe umbrage
with my hitting his buddies where it hurt and was coming after me hell bent
for leather now. This one kind of scared me; he was just stupid enough that
pain might not stop him. I didn’t take any chances, and delivered
a hard kick to the center of his face and broke his nose all over the place.
I’ve heard that you can sometimes stop a charging bear with a shot
to the nose. It seemed to pretty well work on oxen too. But I staggered
on the recovery, and buzz had a chance to take a swing from his spot on
the ground holding his bandaged head. He hit me squarely in the side of
the knee, whether by design or luck, I will never know. I saw stars, just
like in the books, and went down hard. I was within buzz boys’ reach,
and could not afford to let him get hold of me. I instantly lashed out with
my other foot and caught him square in the crotch, pretty much eliminating
him as a threat for the foreseeable future. I rolled away and gained my
feet as fast as I could and came up facing a knife. I had been right; Nike
had turned out to be the one to keep an eye on. The edge of my vision told
me I was in even more trouble; reinforcements were coming, and it was a
cinch they weren’t coming to help me.
I was off center and my knee was screaming and Nike was closing
the gap, his face a mask of rage. I had time to think, this is not good,
and suddenly it all went to black and white and I was taking a stance that
my knee should not have let me manage, and Shinigami was in the drivers
seat. Nike boy didn’t even have the sense to realize what he was facing.
We gave him an opening on the weak left side, that he went
for like a shark, we made the sacrifice to sucker him in and as the knife
came across left to right, we caught his knife hand, his much stronger knife
hand, and twisted. The blade clattered to the ground, but we didn’t
let go until we heard the sound of the bones snapping in his forearm, and
truth be told, we didn’t let go even then, not until he started to
scream and the sound of running feet told us we had another one to deal
We retrieved the knife, Nike wasn’t going to be needing
it any more after all, and whirled to face the new comer. But this one had
stopped several yards away and was just standing there.
It was Wufei, eyes wide and wary, looking at me like I had
rabies. As soon as my mind registered that he wasn’t a threat, I turned
my attention back to the softball team, but none of them was going to be
coming after me again today. I blinked color back into my sight, and tossed
the knife into the dumpster at the end of the drive before turning and beginning
the long, limping trek to the car. As soon as Wufei saw the change in my
face, he was rushing to my side. I waved him off.
‘I’m fine. Let’s get the hell out of here.’
I just wanted to go lay down. I was not at all sure my knee wasn’t
screwed six ways to Sunday and I was going to be extremely pissed if the
surgery had to be done over.
Wufei reached for my arm, but I was too high strung to deal
with the contact just yet and jerked away, ‘I said, I’m fine.
I want to go now.’
‘Duo, damn it!’ his voice was getting frantic
and he reached for me again, I could not fathom that he would not fucking
listen to me; I was getting really pissed off, a side effect of that little
burst of adrenaline, I guess. I whirled on him, and snarled, ‘I said,
But his face was white with fear and he was still freaking
reaching for me despite all my warnings.
‘Duo, he got you, damn it! Stop a minute!’
I finally looked down, where his eyes were looking, and the
front of my shirt was sliced through and wet, I blinked in confusion; I
hadn’t felt the knife connect. Wufei, ignoring my threat, or maybe
seeing that he had finally gotten through to me, pulled the shirt up and
hissed through gritted teeth.
‘Shit.’ I muttered. He had laid me open like a
Christmas turkey, hit me high on the left side and sliced cleanly across
my stomach in a downward arc. The ribs had stopped it from penetrating into
the abdominal cavity, but I was bleeding like a stuck pig.
I suddenly didn’t feel so damn good.
I met Wufeis eyes; he didn’t look so good either, his
face struggling between fear and rage.
‘It’s Ok, ‘Fei; it doesn’t look so
bad.’ He didn’t look convinced, and another, unnamed emotion
was added to the other two. He carefully wrapped an arm around my waist
just as I had figured out myself that I needed support. He turned for just
a second, locking eyes with Nike boy who was still rolling around on the
ground moaning piteously.
‘I’ll find you.’ He snarled, and I thought
the guy was going to faint.
I gaped at him all the way to the car.
He had the other Estate car, a large, maroon one, and he wouldn’t
even talk about letting me drive the gray car back.
‘We’ll send someone for it.’ He growled
at me when I mentioned it.
He settled me in the passenger seat, and made me pull the
shirt off all together while he poked and prodded, using the ruined shirt
to blot at the slash. It really wasn’t as bad as it had looked. The
bleeding was already slowing down, but we were both shaking by the time
we figured it out. He made me apply pressure with the remains of the wadded
He went around after that and climbed in the drivers seat,
heading us back to the safe house. He didn’t speak, and I began to
feel absolutely awful. Never one to leave a silence untouched, I finally
ventured, ‘I’m sorry, man, I honest to God didn’t go looking
‘Trouble has a way of finding you, Maxwell.’ He
grunted, not taking his eyes off the road.
I watched the trees and houses go by for a bit before trying
again, ‘The only reason I went into the damn mall was to find a phone.’
‘That’s how we found you. Quatre recognized the
‘Should have thought of that.’ I sighed, frowning
out the window and not looking at him just as hard as he was not looking
‘Damn good thing you didn’t.’ He glanced
pointedly at my bloody stomach and then back at the road.
I didn’t point out that I had finished the damn fight
without him, thank you very much. That he had not thrown the first punch.
And it finally filtered down to my brain. I finished the fight.
I had become Shinigami. Shinigami was not gone, not diluted, not dead, not
afraid, not vanquished by the explosion of that ugly black bubble in my
head. I could still achieve a battle mode. I would be able to fly my Gundam
into battle again and not find myself unable to do my job. I didn’t
know whether to sigh with relief or cry.
I thought about what Wufei had said. They found me because
of the phone call I had made. That was over an hour ago.
‘How long were you there?’ I asked suspiciously.
‘I was waiting for you by the car when you came out
of the shopping mall.’
‘So you saw the whole fight?’
He grunted an affirmative.
‘And you didn’t do anything?’
There was a slight pause, ‘There were only three of
them. You did not seem to need my help.’
It was my turn to not say anything.
And his turn to break the uncomfortable silence. ‘You
seemed to … need to handle it yourself.’
That admission, that he had trusted me to handle my own fight,
took my wounded spirit and tossed it high in the air where it soared for
the first time in months.
I loved Heero. I loved him with all my heart. He was the other
half of my poor crippled soul. The shelter he had given me when I had needed
it, was a priceless gift that I would spend a lifetime repaying if I was
granted that kind of time. But we were going to have to have a talk about
trust. He was going to have to come to grips with the fact that he had fallen
in love with a soldier. He was going to have to give me the space to be
what I was.
I sat up and grinned at Wufei, he could be mad at me if he
wanted, but the days excursion had been worth it to me. ‘Hey, can
we stop and take pizza back with us? Bet Quatre hasn’t eaten anything
I surprised a bark of a laugh out of him, and he shook his
head ruefully, ‘Maxwell, you’re impossible.’
‘I know. But I’m hungry too. Come on, we’ll
get one of those weird ones you like without any meat, Ok? I’m buying.’
In the end, I won. Though he made me wait in the car.
‘You are not going in without a shirt, and I am not
going in with you wearing a shirt that says ‘motherless bastard’,
wait here and stay out of trouble.’
‘Maybe you should call Quatre,’ I suggested meekly,
wiping somewhat ineffectively at the drying blood all over my front, ‘and
He looked at me rather oddly, ‘You pick the strangest
times to become considerate, Maxwell.’
He made the call and got the pizza, and wouldn’t even
let me touch it until we got back to the house.
Quatre met us in the drive way, fairly dancing from foot to
foot in his impatience, jerking the car door open almost before Wufei had
the car stopped. He fussed and hovered and trundled me up to the shower,
despite my pleas of impending starvation. I got out of the shower to find
my room completely rearranged, so that there was room now for both of their
mattresses, with the door to my room firmly shut. Wufeis bed was across
the doorway, and Quatres was under the window. The pizza boxes were stacked
on the desk and they were waiting to pounce as soon as I emerged from the
They poked and prodded some more, and antiseptic spray was
liberally applied. I think they were actually enjoying my grunts of discomfort.
The cut started deep, but tapered off as it ran along my abdomen.
‘This part could use some stitches.’ Wufei remarked
to Quatre as though they were discussing the repair of a piece of equipment
and not my stomach.
‘I think we can put a couple of butterfly bandages on
it and wrap the whole thing.’ Quatre replied, and they set about doing
just that. I gave up trying to interject any comments, just raising my arms
when they said to, and held the tape when it was handed to me, and sat up
straight when commanded.
I looked down at Quatres silky blond head, and Wufeis raven
black one, bent in concentration as they worked, and a bubble of pure happiness
rose in my chest. This was my family, and if they didn’t care for
me, I wouldn’t be able to make them so damn mad. My breath caught
on the feeling, so sharp and rare. It would vanish in a moment, I knew,
to be replaced by my fears for Heero, by the memories of last nights dreams,
but for the moment, I was able to hold it inside and let it spin in its
fragile, gossamer beauty. They both straightened in concern at the stiffening
of my body, one on my left and one on my right and before my head had a
chance to stop my heart, I threw an arm around each of them and pulled them
‘I’m really sorry, guys. I just…I didn’t…’
I gave it up with a sigh, ‘I’m glad you were there.’
The bubble burst, leaving me with a hollow spot in my chest
that echoed faintly of breaking glass. I released them and stood up with
a shaky laugh, the moment was over.
‘Can we eat now? It’s gonna get cold!’
I sat at the desk and ate, while they sat on the bed. I quietly
logged on to my laptop, just to check my e-mail, I said, and with them sitting
there, eating and talking, I calmly sent the message that would return me
to active duty. It was time. More than time.
I logged off, and we tossed the pizza boxes on the desk to
be cleaned up in the morning. When the lights finally went out, I lay back
with a sigh. Maybe tonight I would be tired enough to sleep without dreams.
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Back to Chapter Three
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