They say your life passes before your eyes when you’re
facing down death and pretty sure you’re going to lose, but I have
to say, that didn’t happen. It was more like a litany of every swear
word I’d ever learned. In alphabetical order.
And then there was a tiny moment of guilt over what Sister
Helen used to call my ‘not nice’ vocabulary.
But really, I guess with Heero knocking on my hatch with only
about three minutes left on his clock, I really didn’t have time to
think about much of anything.
‘Damn it, Maxwell! Let me aboard!’ he shouted
over the comm, even as I hesitated over the controls, trying to think of
some other way to do what had to be done, and it kind of made me get over
‘What the fucking hell did you do, you asshole?!’
I shouted back, though I suppose it was pretty much a rhetorical question.
I’d seen the flash, heard his own cursing, seen him blast away from
his damaged trawler on the jet stream from his freaking air tank…
I knew what he’d done.
‘Duo!’ he yelled, and it was the thread of panic
that kind of made me resign myself, I guess, and I started taking breaths
like I was getting ready to run a hundred yard dash for the gold.
‘I’m gonna kill you, Yuy,’ I snapped in
between pants, hands snugging up straps and harness in preparation for the
joy that was about to come.
There was nothing from my partner, and I could almost feel
his total confusion, watching his clock tick down and wondering what the
hell my problem was.
Course… he didn’t know I wasn’t exactly
suited up to regulation.
Or… you know… at all.
Fucking idiot. One of us, anyway. Or both.
I didn’t have the time to stop and question that it
never crossed my mind not to open the hatch for him.
I wasted ten seconds sketchily crossing myself, then grabbed
the controls, took one last deep breath and told him, ‘Ninety seconds,
Heero! You got ninety seconds… I’m in your hands buddy!’
And then I pushed the button. I only got to hear the first
part of his scream of denial as he got it, and then I couldn’t hear
anything at all.
Ninety seconds. It’s what the books say. I hoped to
God they were right; never personally tested the theory. It was a damn hard
thing to resist the urge to hold my breath.
Explosive decompression is kinda pretty. I remember thinking
that as the air fogged away in a swirl of mist that made the bright stars
shimmer and twinkle for a second.
It’s damn cold too. And maybe the scariest thing I’d
done this side of pushing a self-destruct button. Heero appeared in the
hatch as soon as the fog cleared, and I saw the stars seem to steady around
him. Kind of made a halo, or maybe that was just the edges of my vision
starting to go.
It crossed my mind that I was sorry I couldn’t see Heero’s
I wondered if he was cussing at me.
I distinctly remember smiling at him, but I can’t recall
if I was just being an asshole or not.
Then my sight dimmed a bit more, and the last thing I remember
was the feeling of the water boiling on my tongue.
I’ve lost consciousness a time or two in my day, but I have to say
that waking up after that little incident was probably one of the most disorienting.
I just couldn’t seem to get my head together. I was cold and felt…
stiff? I don’t know; things felt weird. Swollen, maybe? Yeah, kind
of like the swelling you get when something is infected. Only I was feeling
that in odd places all over. I couldn’t really seem to think about
anything else for a moment; just a puzzled few minutes of trying to remember
why I felt so very strange. My mouth was dry, and I had a flash of almost
remembering a peculiar feeling, but couldn’t quite make it come clear.
And I was cold. Did I mention I was cold? But there was something
over me that was warm and oddly comforting, but I couldn’t quite seem
to get my head around what it was.
I blame that utter floundering for not speaking up right away
when I heard the arguing. At first, I just couldn’t make sense of
it. And then I couldn’t seem to focus enough to decide if it was something
I should do anything about.
‘…the hell down, Yuy!’ someone said, rather
loudly, actually, and I wondered who it was.
‘I didn’t know!’ another voice said but
I couldn’t figure that one out either. It was an upset voice, and
hearing it made me feel funny. ‘God; I didn’t know! I could
have killed him!’
‘Do I damn well need to sedate you, you idiot?’
that first voice snapped, and it was a kind of pissy snap. I decided I was
curious who it was and rolled my head to find the speakers. ‘He’s
going to be fine!’
‘You don’t know that!’ the upset voice shouted,
and I found it… him, and I knew him. ‘You can’t know that
until he wakes up! I don’t know how long it took! There could be…
Heero, I realized. That was Heero, and I felt better but couldn’t
think why I should.
‘If you hadn’t made it, he wouldn’t be lying
there,’ the pissy one said. The pissy one was a lady and I knew it
was Sally. That meant something, but… it escaped me. ‘he’d
be in the damn morgue. Now stop your ranting. He checks out; he should be
Somebody… somebody got hurt, I realized and I wondered
‘Then why the fuck won’t he come around?’
Heero yelled, getting in her face, or as close as he could manage since
he was still shorter than her and it looked funny with him fuming and pointing
his finger up at her. I would have laughed, but my mouth still felt kind
of funny and I realized my tongue was one of those body parts that felt
It came to me then that I was the party on the injured list.
Then Sally said, her voice changing to less than pissy. ‘I
think he just did.’
Heero forgot all about jabbing his finger at her and whirled
toward me. Toward the bed I seemed to be in. ‘Duo?’ he asked
and all of his bluster was gone. They both came toward me and I tracked
their movements, not sure which one of them to watch.
Heero moved around the bed, staying out of Sally’s way
and when he found a place on my left to stand, his hands grabbed the rail
of the bed and his knuckles were white.
‘Maxwell,’ Sally said gently, ‘look at me,
I turned back her way, and she shone her pen light in my eyes,
her expression very serious, but somehow calm. ‘Can you tell me your
name?’ she asked and I thought it was kind of stupid since they’d
already supplied it to me, and even if I hadn’t known it, they would
have given it away. As a trick question, it left a lot to be desired. I
nodded at her since my mouth still felt so odd.
She frowned a little and tried again, ‘Do you know where
I blinked and thought about it and decided that considering
the present company, I was probably in the infirmary. And considering my
last memories, I was most likely aboard the ‘Moon Shadow’, so
I nodded again.
There was a noise beside me and I rolled my head Heero’s
way again. The bed rail looked in danger of bending, and he looked in danger
of… something else. ‘Oh God…’ he moaned, lowering
his head as though he couldn’t look at me.
‘Duo,’ Sally prompted, forcing my attention back
her way. ‘Can you speak to me, please?’ A look of concern had
found its way past that calm and I realized they thought I couldn’t.
Speak, that is.
‘Hurts,’ I croaked and kind of blinked at the
weird sound of my own voice. It felt like I had marbles in my mouth. Sally
instantly brightened, and Heero’s head snapped up, his expression
this painfully hopeful one.
‘Here,’ she said and held a drink bulb to my lips,
only letting me sip at it. It made me very aware of how thirsty I was, and
I would have reached for the bulb, but I didn’t want to pull my arm
out from under the blanket. Yes… that’s what that comforting
thing was; a heated blanket.
But then she took the water away and folded the blanket back
anyway. I made a sound of unhappiness and for a moment I thought the two
of them were going to argue over it. Heero has a rather impressive glare,
but Sally can trump him when she wants to, because she has the weight of
her position behind it. Really doesn’t do to piss off the lady that
can put things like ‘psychopath’ in your permanent record.
She lifted my hands up into the cold air, ignoring Heero,
and smiled slightly. ‘The swelling is already going down,’ she
told us and I couldn’t help staring at my fat fingers and wondering
just how bad they had been swollen, if this was improved. I flexed them
experimentally and grimaced at the tightness.
I was just as glad when the blanket got pulled back into place
because it was really cold. I looked from one of them to the other, trying
to trace things backward and failing utterly. ‘What… the hell
happened?’ I finally managed, feeling like a three year old just learning
to talk in sentences.
Heero’s face did something really odd. I would have
called the look guilt-stricken, but that didn’t really make sense.
‘What do you remember?’ Sally asked gently.
I really had to think about it. ‘Breakfast,’ I
said slowly, having that solidly in my mind and then trying to work forward
from there. I distinctly remembered eating breakfast though; remembered
Heero sharing the last muffin with me because I’d been running late
and the only things left on the buffet had been cook’s God-awful half
done eggs and some sausage that had looked… questionable.
Then we’d walked down to ops and checked in with Howard.
There had been something… something odd. No; something uncomfortable.
Howard’s second, a guy nick-named Hoss for his horsey face, though
he thought it was for his size, had been teasing Heero. Yeah, Hoss had been
ribbing Heero about having me for a partner and somehow managing to give
the word ‘partner’ all kinds of under-tones. I’d wanted
to kick the guy; Heero really wasn’t all that used to the kind of
crude teasing that went on amongst the Sweepers and the guy had made him
blush. I’d never seen Heero blush before and it had bothered me. I’d
wanted to have a chance to talk to him about how Hoss could be, but hadn’t
been able to because… because…
We were there to check in with Howard before going out ship.
We’d been getting ready to suit up and…
‘Duo?’ Sally prompted gently and I blinked at
her, mind starting to feel like it was coming un-frozen.
‘Hoss can be an ass,’ I blurted and it was her
turn to blink. ‘Out… we were going out…’
‘That’s right,’ she soothed. ‘You
and Heero are here as part of the forensics team dispatched by Preventers
to work with…’
‘The Sweepers,’ I finished, the pieces clicking
into place. ‘The Adam’s case. We were going out to retrieve
We’d gone down to the bay to mount up, both of us piloting
a Scorpio retrieval unit. I’d stopped to pull Hoss aside to warn him
to lay off Heero. We’d argued for a few minutes and then Howard had
yelled at me to board because they’d started the launch count already.
And I hadn’t taken the time to suit up.
‘Son of a bitch,’ I muttered. ‘You wrecked
the fucking Scorpio.’
‘That’s right!’ Sally crowed, delighted
with my returning cognitive skills. Heero gave her a look that was somewhat
There had been a booby-trap or something. I wasn’t sure;
I’d been working my own sector and there had been a sudden flash,
and Heero’s voice swearing over my comm. unit. I remember thinking
my heart had stopped.
I glanced at him, and other than that death-grip he had on
the bed-rail, he looked fine. ‘You ok?’ I asked him anyway and
he nodded, his eyes dropping away from mine again.
‘Then what the fuck were you thinking?’ I blurted.
‘A little warning would have been nice!’
His gaze snapped back up and his eyes narrowed, defenses kicking
in. ‘How the hell was I supposed to know you’d do such a stupid
newbie thing like launching without your damn flight suit?’
He had a point, but damned if I’d admit to that, and
it wasn’t my point anyway. ‘Your God damn seat of the pants
planning is the issue here, Yuy…'
Sally cut into my tirade with a chuckle. ‘Well, you
seem to be recovering fine, Maxwell. The swelling will go down before long,
and the chills won’t last. I think I’ll leave you two alone
to work out which one of you was the bigger asshole.’
I frowned at her, just to let her know I wasn’t amused
by her amusement, but she just walked out, giving us a jaunty little wave
as she went.
It served to interrupt the flow of the argument though, and
we both just kind of petered out. Neither of us quite seemed to know what
to stare at. After a couple of minutes of silence, I finally dared at glance
at Heero and he was just staring after Sally like he was expecting her to
come back or something.
‘You sure you’re ok?’ I asked again, mostly
just to have something to say that maybe wouldn’t get us yelling at
each other again.
He snorted and scrubbed a hand over his face, finally looking
back to meet my gaze. He really looked rattled. I realized he was still
in his flight suit and I wondered just how long I’d been out. ‘I
am fine,’ he sighed, looking like he wanted to say something else
‘For the record,’ I grinned, ‘you look like
It surprised a little choke of a laugh from him and he shook
his head, looking away again. ‘You scared the fucking hell out of
‘You took a few years off my life too, asshole,’
I replied and realized suddenly that my tongue didn’t feel so damn
thick anymore. I pulled a hand out of the warmth long enough to glance at
it before burrowing back under the blanket. The swelling wasn’t completely
gone, but even I could tell it was going down.
Heero reached out almost automatically and tucked the blanket
back in place, but he didn’t speak.
I sighed, starting to feel a little frustrated. ‘What
the hell happened, anyway?’ I finally asked.
He frowned and I could tell before he told me, that he wasn’t
sure. ‘I don’t know. I was scanning my section when something
just exploded. I hadn’t even started the retrieval. I think it was
the scan that set it off. It blew off my claw and breached the hull.’
I shivered, thinking about what would have happened if I’d
been in that section myself. Skipping the flight suit really had been an
asshole newbie move. Dr. G would have whacked me in the back of the head
with that damn clip-board of his for it. Twice. ‘But why the fuck
didn’t you wait for me to come and get you, Heero? What the hell were
He looked flustered, and I was rather shocked to see him blushing
again. Damn; twice in one day? Had the world ended? He muttered something,
but wouldn’t look at me again and I couldn’t catch it.
‘Did you panic, buddy?’ I asked, and his face
just got redder.
‘I didn’t fucking panic,’ he snapped, glaring
again, and I think it was just whatever was embarrassing him.
‘Then what the hell made you pull a stunt like that?’
I had to ask, just totally not getting that part. He’d been relatively
safe where he was, if he’d just waited for me.
‘Three minutes should have been more than enough time…’
he growled, the blush leaving him, but some weird irritation taking its
‘That’s not the damn point!’ I felt compelled
to tell him, and he suddenly seemed to have had enough of the argument.
He threw his hands in the air with an inarticulate sound and stormed toward
‘God damn it, Yuy, I’m not done talking to you!’
I yelled after him, and when it didn’t even slow him down, I threw
the blanket back and made to go after him.
Can I be forgiven for thinking for two damn seconds that the
ship had come under attack and was lurching under my feet? Then I realized
it was me doing the lurching. Or staggering. Or some damn thing that probably
looked stupid as hell. If Sally had still been there, I’m sure she
would have laughed.
But then Heero was there and he had an arm around my waist,
and I clutched at him with both hands, pressing my forehead against his
solid shoulder and trying to make the world stop rotating.
‘Idiot,’ he murmured, and the thick emotion in
his voice just screwed with my balance in a whole different way. There was
a strange moment, and then his other arm came around me too, in this slow
slide like he was trying not to. But the arm won out and damn… he
was holding me in a way that wasn’t about support. Not at all.
If the room hadn’t been tilting around so damn much,
I’d have pulled back to look at him, but my half of the muffin was
threatening to schedule a return engagement and all I could do was clutch
at his suit with my eyes squeezed shut.
It took him a couple of long minutes to get around to helping
me back to bed, and I was barely settled before he was gone. Out the door
in a rush, leaving me with a strange headache, and an even stranger tingling
feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with muffins.
Sally came back not long after, checked me over again, laughed
some more and told me to get some rest. I decided that might not be such
a bad idea considering, and ended up taking a three hour nap.
When I woke again, I couldn’t feel any sign of the swelling,
and when I ventured gingerly out of bed, was pleased to find that the deck
was quite stable under my feet. The only really obvious sign of the whole
escapade I had left, was a rather burning thirst, so I took myself off to
the head. Sally came in when she heard me turn on the faucet, and found
me sucking water out of my cupped hands.
‘You could have asked,’ she chuckled and I straightened
when I caught her leaning to the side to get a better look at the back of
my hospital gown.
‘Stop that,’ I groused and she laughed harder.
‘I helped put your ass in that gown, Maxwell,’
she grinned at me. ‘Not like you have anything I haven’t seen
‘There’s a difference between duty and…
ogling, so knock it off, Po,’ I grumped, pulling at the gown to make
sure all the pertinent parts were under cover. ‘Now where are my clothes?’
‘You’ll have to make do with a set of scrubs,’
she informed me, stepping aside so I could exit the bathroom, and I caught
her watching my gait to make sure I was steady. ‘I’m afraid
we cut your clothes off you when Heero hauled you back in.’
I glanced where she indicted, and saw she’d laid a pair
of surgical scrubs on the foot of the bed I’d been occupying. ‘So
I’m free to go?’ I asked and she patted my shoulder.
‘Just take it easy for a day or so, ok?’ she asked,
sounding like she thought I’d be doing anything but. ‘I don’t
think Yuy’s heart could take the strain if something else were to
happen to you right now.’
There was a decidedly wicked gleam in her eye, but she turned
and left the room so I could change, before I managed to think of a retort.
I really don’t think pastel mint green is my color,
but it beat the hell out of wandering around the ship with my ass hanging
out of my paisley hospital gown, and as it turned out… there was quite
a bit of wandering to be done before I found my misplaced partner.
There’s an observation deck down on nine that, in our
current position, looks out over the debris field, and I suppose I should
have thought of looking there first, but didn’t. Tried his cabin,
tried mine, tried the hanger bay, tried the cantina. By the time I stumbled
on him, I was getting pretty tired and not a little bit cranky. Was he freaking
hiding from me? Like he could just avoid me forever?
He was sitting up on the port rim, silhouetted against the
stars, the edge of L4-34 just visible on the left, the chunks of the Adam’s
ship drifting on the right. I wondered if his damaged Scorpio was still
out there, or if it had been towed in yet.
I walked over without ceremony and flopped down on the floor
below him, sighing and leaning back against the wall. The room was empty
accept for the two of us, and I imagined that not a lot of people would
have braved the look on Heero’s face to disturb his privacy. I was
fiddling with opening lines when he beat me to it.
‘When that charge went off right in my face, you know
what the first thing was that popped into my mind?’ he asked, voice
sounding oddly quiet for as pissed off as he’d been earlier.
‘Oh shit?’ I guessed, but I didn’t get the
laugh. In fact, he acted like he’d not even heard me.
‘I thought I was about to die, and I remember thinking…
I never got to know what it felt like to have Duo Maxwell’s legs wrapped
A comment like that, just for the record, is really hard to
come up with a response to. Your synapses just sort of stop firing for a
second and about all you’re left with is a slow blush and a really
strange feeling in the pit of your stomach. Still didn’t have a thing
to do with muffins.
I thanked God I hadn’t sat down where we could see each
‘Probably pretty damn stupid,’ he observed, still
sounding like we were talking about the weather or the latest Preventers’
employee handbook update. ‘Especially considering I’d never
really thought about anything like that before. It was just suddenly there…
in my head. Should have been thinking about the situation. About procedures.
But all I could think about was… you.’
I chuckled softly, looking out across the room and wondered
if he was still looking out the port or not. ‘I should have been mad
as hell,’ I told him. ‘But I was just scared for you.’
I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes and that final
image came back to me suddenly, of Heero’s form coming toward me.
The stars crystal shards all around him, sparking and flaring in the fog
‘When I realized what you risked…’ he said,
voice very soft, but carrying a weight of emotion in it. ‘When I realized
what you’d done…’ There was a shuddering sigh, but he
couldn’t seem to finish it. I felt a movement and cracked an eye open
to find his hand dangling down, hanging limp beside me.
‘I know,’ I told him and reached up to take his
hand in mine, sliding my fingers between his. He squeezed tight and we just
sat in silence for a bit.
There was a gentle tug on my hand and I tilted my head back
to look up at him. He was leaning a bit, looking down at me, and I’ve
never seen such a raw expression on his face. ‘I can’t begin
to tell you what it felt like to realize in the same five minutes that you’re
in love with your partner… and you might have just killed him.’
‘It didn’t happen though,’ I told him and
‘I know,’ he sighed, and straightened to look
out the port again. I brought my own gaze back down to the far wall.
‘I knew when I realized it never crossed my mind not
to open that hatch,’ I felt compelled to tell him after we’d
been quiet for a time, and the answer he made was a funny little gulp for
air, like he couldn’t breathe. The tug on my hand that time wasn’t
so gentle and I let it draw me to my feet and into his arms.
‘I…’ he tried, but his voice wasn’t
real strong and it petered out on another of those gasps after air.
‘I know,’ I whispered against his hair, and we
just sat there on that edge, in the glow of station light, for a very long
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