I suppose it is fate showing its sense of humor that makes
the simplest of missions go wrong. Why else would it always be the jobs
you don’t think twice about that give you the most trouble and the
assignments that you think will be the death of you that go the easiest?
Fate, I had no doubt, was enjoying itself immensely.
It was a simple reconnaissance mission, there was not even
supposed to have been any fighting. I had not been happy about accepting
the assignment when it had come in. I felt it should have gone to Maxwell;
infiltration and stealth were his specialties after all. I am not the…
subtlest pilot. I prefer a frontal assault.
I got my inadvertent wish. Isn’t that a proverb; be
careful what you wish for; you may get it?
The assignment had been to simply infiltrate a small, civilian-run
research facility located on the colony L3 and verify that they were working
with the Romefeller Foundation. There hadn’t even been any data to
retrieve; I was simply to prove or disprove the presence of the enemy. I
suppose the mission could be declared a complete success; I had more than
verified the ties to the military faction and had the bullet holes in my
hide to prove it.
Now if I could just live long enough to return to base with
I had managed to get myself out of the facility despite my
injuries, had stolen a motorcycle from the parking lot and had hauled ass,
as Maxwell would have put it, out of there and back to my hidden Gundam.
Three hours and a pretty nasty space battle later found me away from the
L3 colony and blessedly, finally free of pursuit. It also found me hiding
in my damaged Gundam, tucked in tight to a piece of space debris and resoundingly
cursing Oz, Romefeller, Treize Khushrenada, mobile dolls in general, and
the bad luck that had drawn me this assignment.
My first priority was assuring that I wasn’t found;
I shut down all non-essential systems, leaving myself with bare-minimum
life-support. I ran a quick scan of the surrounding area to verify that
I didn’t have company out here before finally turning my attention
to my own condition. The worst was a gunshot wound clear through the meaty
part of my right thigh. Secondary was a crease across my ribs; I was very
aware that I was damn lucky that one hadn’t been just a hair to the
left. Everything over and above that was merely annoying; cuts, bruises
and road abrasions garnered when I had run the motorcycle off the road in
an effort to elude my hunters.
When I had first reached my Altron, I had taken the precious
seconds to rip my shirt into a hasty field dressing for the leg wound lest
I bleed to death in the middle of my fleeing the colony. Damn, but that
ate at me, running like a whipped dog. But I think even the tenacious Heero
Yuy would have turned tail and run under the circumstances. Much as I hated
to admit it, the whole thing had all the earmarks of a very well laid trap.
If not a trap, then the largest damn coincidence known to man.
I bent to stripping the blood-soaked dressing from the leg;
I needed to tend to it with a little more attention. I hissed as the remnants
of my shirt pulled free from the wound and blood sluggishly trickled anew.
I reached to the right of my pilot’s seat for the med-kit and fished
out the pain-meds and a bottle of water. I used the latter to wash down
a couple of the pills before using the rest to clean my leg as best I could,
then I fumbled out the gauze and sterile pads and with shaking hands, bound
it up again. It flitted through my mind that there probably wasn’t
much point in going to all this work; I doubted Altron was in any shape
to get me anywhere that could possibly be considered safe. I was very probably
going to die out here.
The wound across my ribs hadn’t been terribly deep and
wasn’t bleeding anymore. There wasn’t a lot I could do for it
other than cover it so that I stopped brushing it painfully as I moved.
It was awkward as hell wrapping the gauze around my own torso but I managed
it at length and then found that it was necessary to sit back and rest.
I had lost enough blood that I was feeling fairly light-headed from just
that small exertion.
Either that blood-loss or the minimal life-support was making
the cockpit damned cold and I suddenly remembered the blankets that Maxwell
had insisted be packed into each of the Gundams. I dragged it out and wrapped
it carefully around my shoulders, more than happy to admit that he had been
right about having it here. He had made several of these extra inclusions
in our supplies not long after the battle that had cost him his sight for
several, long, nerve-wracking weeks. I knew without looking, for instance,
that there would be no less than six bottles of water secured in my med-kit.
I had to smile thinking about it; none of us had argued with him when he
had appeared in the hanger one day with sacks full of supplies and insisted
that each and every Gundam be stocked with bottled water, blankets, flashlights
and emergency rations. He had been so somber, a set to his jaw as though
he had expected an argument. One look at that determined expression had
told every one of us that there was no point in discussing it; you didn’t
win against Maxwell when he had that look in his eye. Not that I, at least,
would have said a thing about it. He had still been finding his balance
after that terrible ordeal and the gesture had seemed to help him. I would
have let him hang fuzzy dice in my cockpit as long as it helped take that
haunted look out of his eyes.
That had been a near thing. A damn near thing and it still
made me shiver when I let myself think about talking him through reentry.
I honestly hadn’t thought we could do it… hadn’t thought
that anyone could pilot a Gundam through something like that blind. He is
easily the best pilot among us though he seldom gets credit for it. To be
brutally honest, I had only agreed to attempt it because I hadn’t
wanted Yuy to try it. Had not wanted that guilt on his head when Maxwell
died. No one was more surprised than I was when he got that Gundam to Earth
intact. Mostly intact.
After Maxwell had recovered his sight and it was all over,
Winner had given him a pair of those goggles that he wears sometimes. We
had all laughed and teased him about it but there had been a certain grateful…
relief on Maxwell’s face and I had little doubt that he actually did
wear them in battle.
The warmth of the blanket was helping with the shakiness and
I turned my attention back to the med-kit, pulling out another bottle of
water and fishing around for one of those ration bars that I knew Maxwell
had stowed in there. My fingers closed on something… fuzzy and I am
embarrassed to have to admit that I jerked my hand back with a barely suppressed
yelp. I leaned over the arm of my pilot’s seat and met the black glittering
eyes of a small… dragon.
I blinked at it stupidly for a moment, wondering idly if I
had lost more blood than I had thought or if I had possibly taken a hit
to the head without realizing it. Then it seeped through to my adrenaline-addled
brain that the thing wasn’t moving. I reached down and plucked it
from where it nestled between water bottles and gauze, bringing it up into
It was a… what do they call them? A plushie? And attached
with a ribbon to its tail was a small envelope. My name was printed on the
outside in what I recognized as Maxwell’s small, neat hand. I liberated
the envelope with a frown; he must have snuck this in here when he stocked
the med-kits. That had been almost a month ago. I plopped the little dragon
down on my good knee and peeled open the note.
‘Wufei,’ I read and could almost hear his voice,
‘I never really was able to tell you how much I appreciated you saving
my ass. I know Heero kind of put you on the spot asking you to talk me down
like that and I wanted you to know that I realize what a crappy thing it
was, for him to dump that on you. But I’m glad you were there; I’ve
always been able to count on you even though I know I make you crazy half
the time. This is ‘Justice’.’ I glanced at the little
toy sitting on my lap with a rueful smirk. ‘I just wanted you to have
something to remind you that you have people you can count on too. Sometimes
you just seem like you forget that. Duo.’
I folded the note, stuck it back in the med-kit and then lifted
the silly plushie into the palm of my hand to look it over. Justice. I snorted
out loud. Sometimes Maxwell’s sense of humor is a little… odd.
It actually was made in the Chinese style instead of the more
popular European. Muted blues and greens with touches of metallic gold here
and there; not the gaudy thing that I would have expected from Deathscythe’s
Some cultures believe that it is bad luck to view a dragon
in its entirety, that’s why most of the older, more traditional paintings
of them depict them with part of their bodies obscured by clouds or ocean
waves. Maxwell had thought of that; around the neck of the dragon was tied
a miniature silk neckerchief, obviously handmade. The Chinese character
for ‘justice’ had been stitched delicately into the triangle
fold of the scarf and a small jade bead had been stitched to hang from the
corner of the silk cloth. I was deeply touched by the effort he had obviously
gone to. I wondered if Yuy had helped him with the translation; I didn’t
think that Maxwell knew much Chinese at all. I found myself grinning at
nobody in particular, as I thought about them with their heads bent together
over the work. It still amazed me, the things that Yuy would do for his
‘Welcome aboard, Justice.’ I murmured, feeling
just a little bit stupid, and found a place on the console for it to sit.
Its head flopped slightly to the side and it appeared to be regarding me
quizzically. I snorted softly and turned back to my original task; finding
my lunch. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair; damn but my leg hurt. While
I had not gotten this far into the war completely unscathed, this was probably
the worst of the wounds I had sustained. And damned if it wasn’t the
same leg I had taken a bullet in last fall, though that had been in the
calf. It was something that still ached sometimes when it got very cold.
As it was going to if I ended up sitting here for very long.
That wound had made me appreciate Maxwell’s limp a little
bit more. You didn’t see it very often after almost a year but when
he had overworked that knee or there was a sudden weather change, you could
see him favoring it ever so slightly. He tried so hard to cover it and I
don’t think that even observant Winner noticed it half the time. But
I did and I knew that Yuy did; very little escaped that man where his Duo
I had learned a thing or two about strength from watching
Maxwell. It had surprised and… humbled me. He was so very much more
under that cocky grin than I had anticipated. I suppose we all were when
you got right down to it. But it had made me feel… chastened when
I had realized just how badly I had misjudged him.
There was a blip on my radar screen and I held my breath while
I watched the searchers sweep through the area. Automatically, I switched
the radio onto the emergency frequency but couldn’t have risked an
outgoing call even if I had thought it would do any good. I breathed a sigh
of relief as the tiny lights moved across my screen and out of my radar
range. I finished my ration bar and sipped a little more water. I would
have to remember to thank Maxwell for thinking of the blanket, without it
I had no doubt I would be shivering in my seat.
I met the glittering, black eyes of the little dragon and
had to share a wry grin with it. Before meeting the other pilots I would
probably have been highly insulted to have found a ‘foolish toy’
packed in my med-kit. Hell, prior to forming our unlikely alliance I would
not have allowed anyone close enough to my Gundam to have done such a thing.
I had not thought twice about allowing Maxwell to climb all over my Altron;
I hadn’t even watched him to verify that he was doing what he said
I shook my head, though there was no one to see it but Justice.
Sometimes I think it was a near toss up as to which one of us had changed
the most. Other times I knew without a doubt it was Yuy. The Perfect Soldier
had let the Harlequin inside his defenses and I doubt he would ever be the
Those two had been a trial. Barton and Winner had been so
much easier to deal with when their feelings for each other had blossomed.
They had come together as though they had never been anything other than
a couple. Their relationship was… balanced, calm and steady. They
each had their own… roles and they embraced them. Barton was the more
physically powerful of the two and assumed a somewhat protective position,
while Winner was a natural born leader and though he accepted Barton’s
defensive nature he clearly had the final say when there was any divergence
Ah, but our other two partners… there had been nothing
easy about that relationship.
I flicked the nose of my guest, making the dragon’s
head flop over in the other direction and he now looked up at me with an
expression of amusement.
No, nothing easy about the Yuy-Maxwell union. I think they
were the last two of the five of us to figure out what was going on between
them. I had realized how Yuy felt the night we had arrived at that pre-arranged
drop point in the park and found him clutching a radio listening in shock
to reports of Maxwell’s car going up in flames. He had looked at me
with the most hideously dead expression in his eyes and only said, ‘He
Days later, when Maxwell had turned up alive after all, it
hadn’t taken long to figure out that he felt the same way. I believe
quite firmly to this day that his need to see to his partner’s safety
was all that had gotten him through that ordeal.
That was also the day I had learned that… as Maxwell
would say… I didn’t know shit about strength. I used to think
it was about victory, about skill and the warrior’s code of honor.
Maxwell taught me that it was about tenacity, about having the will to get
back up even after you’ve been beaten to your knees. He showed me,
without ever meaning to, that it didn’t matter if you lost the battle
if you had what it took to get back up and fight the rest of the war.
It had taken the two of them months to finally admit their
feelings to themselves, much less each other. If Maxwell had not been so
gravely injured during that time, one of the other three of us would probably
have locked them in a room together and not let them out until they’d
worked it through.
I dared an attempt at standing up from the pilot’s chair,
only enough to work the blanket around more than just my shoulders. It was
damned cold in here; if I passed a couple of hours without further signs
of searchers, I would dare to turn the life-support up a little. I set the
proximity alarms and attempted to settle down for a little sleep. I couldn’t
attempt repairs out here in total vacuum, after all. There wasn’t
a lot else I could do but sleep and watch my monitors.
I should have known better than to doze off on the heels of
sitting here reflecting on those days after Yuy and Maxwell’s ‘Road
Trip’, as they called it. The days that led up to Maxwell’s
I woke with a start from a nightmare of my own, spawned by
those long days of dealing with his. They weren’t really nightmares
for him but more like flashbacks and getting him through them had turned
into the longest week of my and Winner’s lives. I had never in all
my life had to handle something that … impossible.
I shuddered and reached to turn up the heat with a muttered
curse. The hell with it; I wasn’t going to sit here and freeze to
death trying to avoid detection. The warm air washed across me and though
it eased the gooseflesh somewhat, it didn’t do much for the images
left over in my mind.
On the darker nights I could still hear his screams. Screams
I could do nothing about, no matter how hard I tried… night after
night… all I had been able to do was hold him until it was over but
he hadn’t even known I was there. I hadn’t been able to stop
his attacks, had not been able to ease them. I had very nearly wept with
frustration the first night that Yuy had returned from that mission and
simply talked Maxwell through the night. That was the first time I truly
understood what they meant to each other. I had been… awed. Humbled
and left feeling… damn lonely.
Barton and Winner, though truly devoted to each other, would
never have the same… connection that Yuy and Maxwell did. I saw that
night that soul mates really and truly did exist in this world outside of
fairy tales and legends; I had the living proof of it right in front of
my eyes. It was a daunting idea, that I had been graced with this glimpse
of a love that ran deeper than life. I had felt honored and a little frightened.
I felt obligated…almost duty-bound to protect it. I had lain awake
in the room with them the next morning and listened to the quiet murmur
of their voices. Yuy was so uncharacteristically… gentle when he was
with his partner. His voice, normally so cold and harsh, might not have
been his own. They had forgotten I was there, or at least Yuy had; Maxwell
had fallen asleep before I had discovered there was nowhere else to sleep
but on the floor of his room. I had been mortified to hear them speaking
intimately of wet dreams and orgasms. Had it been within my power to sink
through the floor, I would have done it in a heartbeat but I had been trapped.
I listened with no little amusement as Yuy tried, somewhat
vainly, to speak without embarrassment on the subject at hand. But then
it truly sank in what Maxwell was saying and I realized that the trauma
of his childhood had completely stolen his sexuality from him. The agony
and terror that had been visited on him had robbed him entirely of any sort
of physical pleasure.
It had made me very angry. I had lain on my mattress on the
floor and stared up at the ceiling and fervently wished that I could twist
the fabric of time so that I might go back and find those soulless bastards
who had dared touch him. I wanted to kill them, more than that… I
wanted to obliterate them. I was consumed with the overwhelming need to
protect what was mine as I had not been since… since… Meiran.
I grasped something else that day; Yuy and Maxwell’s…
relationship was not grounded in the physical. I had made an assumption
on that point based on the number of times I had found them in the same
bed together. It had puzzled me at the time, knowing what Maxwell was going
through. I realized that morning that I had made a false assumption and
it only served to make their union seem all the more… pure. They transcended
mere hormonal attraction; their bond was something that ran deeper, something
that was strong as steel at the same time that it seemed as fragile as blown
I came out of my nightmare-induced reverie to find the piercing
black eyes of Justice staring at me with a hint of reproach.
‘Shut up.’ I growled at it and turned my attention
to my screens; there didn’t seem to be anything out here but me and
I started considering trying to move Altron further out.
I called up the damage report, rather appalled that I had
allowed myself to drift off to sleep without checking this first. My propulsion
system was down at least sixty percent; I wasn’t going anywhere very
fast even if I did decide to move. I had lost my trident during the battle
and one of the dragon fangs was damaged; useless. It rankled me to sit here
in hiding, licking my wounds but I had learned… despite my best efforts…
that there were times when discretion truly was the better part of valor.
Dying here at this time would do little to benefit the rebellion. Living
to fight another day… just might. Something else I had learned from
My mission could hardly be counted any sort of success if
I didn’t get the information I had paid for in blood back to the others.
Yes, the enemy was very much involved with the Ishran Technologies Company.
Their research could very well be leading to some kind of biological warfare
based on the very little amount of information I had been able to extract.
This was quite likely the source of that thrice-damned drug that had been
used on Maxwell all that time ago.
I found I could not dwell on memories of that horrific mission
without getting… as Maxwell was fond of saying, flaming pissed. I
had learned a little something on that assignment about the depths to which
men without honor could stoop.
The four of us owed Maxwell our freedom and quite probably
our lives after that disaster. What he had borne had been the price of our
escape and there wasn’t a one of us that hadn’t been eaten alive
with guilt over leaving him in the clutches of the enemy. No matter that
we had returned for him as soon as we had realized; the damage had been
done and Oz had used him, in retaliation, as a guinea pig for their newest
invention. An experimental nerve drug that could turn the smallest touch
into searing pain. He is normally such a tactile soul; it had hurt immeasurably
to see him flinch at the slightest touch long after the actual drug had
worn off. Each of us had felt drawn to try to comfort him but had been left
floundering, at a loss, when he had recoiled from the things that used to
ease his mind. A firm squeeze on a shoulder, the brush of a hand on his
back, fingers to reach out and hold his own. He had tried to hide it but
it had taken months before you didn’t feel his muscles bunch when
you touched him.
Gods, but he is such a bright damn spirit.
My woolgathering mind supplied a tiny growl from Justice and
I flushed darkly. ‘I thought I told you to shut up,’ I growled
When it smirked back at me, I decided I had been hiding out
here just a little too damn long. I brought my Gundam back to full life
and started a series of scans of the area; finding nothing on radiation,
heat or radar. But just where was I off to? My damaged engines wouldn’t
get me back to Earth anytime in the next month; I’d starve to death
before I ever had to worry about the problem of getting planet side. My
only real option was to head for one of Winner’s many pre-arranged
pick-up points. The idea niggled at my pride and I found myself looking
down at the stupid little plushie on my console. I could almost hear Duo’s
voice; could almost see that lop-sided grin, ‘I just wanted you to
have something to remind you that you have people you can count on too.’
This very probably qualified as one of those times that I was going to need
to count on aforementioned people.
Like all of us, I had the coordinates committed to memory.
It would not do to have the locations entered into our computers; what good
are safe points if you can’t trust that they will remain safe? I called
up a vector map on my screens and found the nearest pick-up site, plotting
my course and checking the timing. It would take some time; I would hold
off risking the radio until I was closer. Though the fact that I hadn’t
heard anything on the emergency frequency left me feeling less than…confident
that actually getting to position Charlie Walter Banjo would do me any good.
I had to shake my head with wry amusement; I had lost a bet with Barton
over Maxwell and Winner’s mangling of the military call sign system.
I had said they had to have been drunk when they made these names up. Barton
had said that when the two of them put their heads together on something
they didn’t need to be drunk. Though I had to admit… there was
no mistaking their system for anyone else’s.
I brought my Altron’s engines to life, cringing at the
horrendous off-pitch… thrumming sound. I promised my Gundam a complete
overhaul when we got out of this mess, belted down and set us in motion.
I was very thankful that it was not really necessary to do more than key
in data; I felt like royal crap. Both leg and ribs were throbbing painfully;
I was almost shivering with cold despite the blanket and felt shaky and
light-headed. All in all, not the best day I’d ever had.
I felt like a damn thief sneaking away from the scene of the
crime. Maxwell would call this strategically hauling ass. I called it…
It felt like I could get out of my Gundam and ‘walk’
faster than I was moving. I felt dangerously exposed and listening to the
vibration my engines were causing made me worry what sort of energy signal
I was leaving behind. Well, couldn’t be helped, I suppose. I reached
out and stroked a finger down the snout of my shipmate. ‘Maxwell should
have made you a spacesuit; I think you’re going to need it before
this ride’s over,’ I muttered, my eyes studying my screens,
watching closely for any sign of pursuit. Justice refrained from answering
me. I wondered again if I’d maybe hit my head when I had ditched the
motorcycle at the end of that heart-pounding ride back to my Gundam; I was
talking to a stuffed animal.
The proximity claxon went off at almost the exact moment that
my eyes caught a blip on the edge of my radar screen. Damn. I guess I had
known it was too much to hope that my hunters had given up and gone home.
I checked my vector map; still a good hour away from my destination and
no contact from base yet anyway.
I killed my engines and turned to face my personal set of
hounds; the fox wasn’t ready to give up the hunt just yet… let’s
see what you’ve got.
It was a pair of Leos armed with beam rifles; not much of
a threat on a better day, but my mobility was down and my armament was somewhat…
They closed quickly, splitting their formation and attempting
to come at me from both directions simultaneously. I lashed out with my
remaining dragon claw and scored a hit on my right hand enemy, turning just
in time to evade a beam rifle blast.
They were quick, for Leos, but not quick enough and I managed
to disable the right arm on the left hand one with my next strike. I cursed
the time required to retract the claw before I could attack again and spun
as quickly as I could away from another rifle beam.
In my mind’s eye, Justice whirled to hang by his little
claws from the edge of the view screen, his tongue hanging out in an excited
pant as he chirped encouragement. I laughed out loud; I had obviously lost
I took a hit that rocked me in my harness and caused Justice
to slide off the console onto the floor. I didn’t waste my attention
worrying about him. My next attack demolished the hatch of the first Leo
and I saw the unfortunate pilot sucked into space on a plume of explosive
decompression. Since he no longer needed his beam rifle, I took possession
of it and turned my attention to his partner. It didn’t take long
after that; while a Gundam can withstand a beam rifle pulse… a Leo
cannot. I took his rifle too.
I spared the few minutes it took to locate the body of the
first pilot to verify that he was already dead; slow suffocation in a space
suit abandoned in deep space was not something I would wish on anyone, not
even an enemy. Then I fished Justice out from under my pilot’s seat,
retrieved the ribbon that Maxwell had tied the card to his tail with and
found him a secure place to hang from my console. Out of the way and out
of sight of the view screen. I knew half the reason I did it was knowing
in advance how much it would please Maxwell. I could almost see the wide
grin, could hear the delighted laugh, could almost feel his hand falling
on my shoulder to squeeze tight. Justice swung lazily on his satin ribbon,
his eyes speaking accusations whenever they met mine.
‘Leave me the hell alone about it,’ I growled.
‘I’m not stupid… I know.’
I brought the engines back on-line and re-plotted my course.
The Gods only know why I bothered; my two sparing partners were sure to
have alerted someone and it was only a matter of time now. Though I had
to admit having acquired the two rifles upped my odds a little.
Since my position was probably already common knowledge all
over this sector now, I dared to use the radio. ‘Hawk’s Nest…
this is Lost Boy, do you read me?’
There was an immediate response and I recognized Winner’s
relieved voice. ‘Lost boy… this is Hawk’s Nest; I read.
What is your status?’
It was mildly disconcerting how much of a balm it was to hear
his voice. ‘Status is level three. Need extraction… if someone
is in the area.’ Level three being wounded but not actually dying…
at the moment.
‘Understood; Mr. Black is en route.’ His voice
had taken on that tight, controlled quality that told me I’d scared
him. ‘What is your nearest pick-up point?’
‘Charlie Walter Banjo.’ Maxwell was already on
his way; he’d left before they were even sure of my coordinates. I
shook my head in wry amusement but had to stifle the warm feeling that came
on the heels of that same amusement.
‘Mission results?’ Winner was asking me somewhat
tersely and I’m sure he felt guilty, as though he were admitting out
loud that I might not make it back.
‘Answer to question is most definitely positive,’
I told him, understanding completely and only wished I dared tell him more.
There was a tiny hesitation and then, ‘We’ll see
you for dinner, Mr. Dragon.’
I snorted softly, ‘Thank you Mr. Hawk.’
‘Hawk’s Nest, out.’
‘Lost Boy, out.’
I killed the microphone but left the radio on for in-coming
calls. Well, all I could do was hope that Maxwell had enough of a head start
that he would get here before the friends of those two Leos showed up.
I pushed for as much speed as I dared, causing my stressed
engines to rumble alarmingly. Wouldn’t do to blow a stabilizer now
but I was under no delusions about my chances of making it out of here in
one piece if I didn’t rendezvous with help before my hunters closed
down my track.
I had to wonder just how Maxwell had managed to get himself
out here; the last I had heard he’d been assigned a search and destroy
that should have had him closer to L4 than L3. I stared at Charlie Walter
Banjo on my vector map as though I could will myself there faster. I couldn’t
decide whether to feel insulted that my partners had assumed I was in trouble,
or pleased that my partners had feared I was in trouble.
Either way, I found that I was comforted by the knowledge
that one of my friends was on their way.
There was the tiny ghost of a snicker in my imagination from
Justice where he swung lazily in his impromptu perch. I glared at him. ‘Will
you shut the fuck up?’
I dug out another bottle of water; I probably needed more
fluids. Did dehydration lead to hallucinations? Aimless mental rambling?
Talking plushies? Unrequited… feelings?
Justice fairly roared with laughter and I reached out with
a forefinger and flicked him rather violently on the tail, causing him to
spin dizzyingly. His black eyes flashed with scorn as he twisted around
and around, finally settling to stare at me as though the damn thing could
see inside my black soul. Ok… I was comforted by the knowledge that
Maxwell was on his way.
‘All right you demonic little thing,’ I barked,
‘I love him! Are you fucking happy now?’
Justice didn’t look happy. In fact, he looked a little…
disappointed. I thumped my head helplessly against the headrest of my pilot’s
seat. What in the hell was wrong with me? Had I truly lost my mind? None
of this was outside my own head. What was it about that stupid toy that
was eating at my guilty conscience? I had thought I had put these damn…yearnings
behind me. What was driving this again?
I had started out dismissing Maxwell as flighty and undisciplined.
I had, in fact, early in our acquaintance, wondered how in the world he
had ever managed to end up qualifying as a Gundam pilot. Over time, I had
started to understand how I had misjudged him. The manic grin hid a mind
every bit as sharp as his razor tongue. His piloting skills had won him
my notice, for all he cared. But once he was actually in my attention…
I found I couldn’t get him out.
By the time the ordeal of that ill-fated ‘Road Trip’
was over, he had won more than my attention; he had won my respect.
But he had won more than that from Yuy… much more than
In my darkest, most dishonorable moments, I can’t stop
myself from wondering if things might have turned out differently if I had
awoken to what was right in front of me faster than I had. Would it be my
touch that would bring that bright, true smile to Duo’s face? My name
that he called softly in his dreams?
But then the dawn would come and I would see the two of them
together and I would know what I was seeing. I would know that there was
no room for me there. They were two halves of a whole. What they had was
something to be guarded and cherished, not sullied with my disgraceful desires.
What I felt for Duo was nothing in the face of what he held in his soul
Duo… in my heart I called him Duo. I called him Maxwell
to his face because it was an easier name to use without my voice betraying
my emotion. But in my secret places he was… Duo, my bright and beautiful
I had faced my feelings for him during those dark, hideous
nights of holding him through his nightmares. That time had almost undone
me; witnessing his pain and not being able to help him. Understanding the
horror of what had been done to him and being powerless to stop his reliving
it…powerless to punish his attackers. Having to do things for his
own sake that only incited his anger… only fueled his frustration.
When all I had wanted was to hold him and protect him… to love him
and keep him safe.
It was during those same nights that I came to hate my own
damn weak heart. I had found a tiny part of myself that reveled in holding
him. Not… not during the flashbacks; even I am not that sick. But
afterward…after it was over and he was back in the present again.
There were long minutes while he would just cling to us and I was allowed
by circumstance to hold him tight against my chest, to wrap him securely
in my arms. It was the sweetest feeling I have ever known and I loathe myself
for feeling it.
In that week; such a short period of time to have been so
long, I faced up to the fact that I loved another man. I faced up to the
fact that I loved someone I could never have. And I faced up to the cold,
hard fact that I could not… would not ever act on it, would never
speak of it. Maxwell and Yuy belonged together; I would not defile what
they had for anything in the universe.
The proximity alarms went off, jerking me out of my reverie
with a curse; see where emotional attachments got you? Distracted and caught
It was really little matter when I stopped cursing and let
myself think about it; I would not have seen the blips on the radar more
than a couple of seconds ahead of the alarms anyway. It would still take
them long minutes to overtake me, but they would overtake me, and judging
by the patterns on my screens… there were a lot of them. More than
I knew I could handle in a damaged suit, even with the ‘borrowed’
Well, at least I would die in battle out here among the stars
where I was born; it was a fitting way for a warrior to go. There wasn’t
any point in running any more. I cut my engines and turned to face the enemy.
I couldn’t help but remember a line from one of those old films that
Maxwell occasionally rented; ‘It is a good day to die’.
I began firing as soon as the suits were in range. There were
a handful of Leos accompanied by a dozen or so mobile dolls. I concentrated
on the Leos with their slower human pilots, I stood a better chance of hitting
them. Those damned dolls were almost impossibly fast and I honestly didn’t
think I was going to do much against them with one dragon fang and a couple
of beam rifles, with my suit speed so severely hampered.
‘Come on you bastards!’ I heard myself yelling.
‘It’s a good day for all of us!’
Leos just don’t stand up to beam fire well at all and
I managed to destroy two of them before they began returning fire. I evaded
the first strike but was hammered by the next two; I just didn’t have
the mobility to get out of the way. They were spreading their forces, attempting
to surround me. Their thinking was probably to prevent my escape…if
they only knew. I got off another couple of shots but the dolls were moving
to protect the Leos with their human pilots; they would overwhelm me with
sheer numbers. I snarled in disgust; if my suit had been at full capacity
I could have dealt with this small force without breaking a sweat.
I was struck from behind and my Gundam rocked harshly, the
first of the dolls was close enough now to use the dragon fang and I fired
it viciously. I think they had counted the weapon as out of commission,
because I took that first doll by surprise, managing to trap it long enough
to bring a beam rifle to bear. They were more cautious after that, their
programming making the lot of them adapt to the new information. I took
another hit and the lights in the cockpit dimmed. ‘Damn!’ I
snarled and met the glittering eyes of my suit-mate in the dim glow. ‘Looks
like this is it, Justice!’
I vowed to last long enough to get those damn Leos and concentrated
my fire there. I was struck again… and again. Somewhere over my head,
sparks flew. I saw one of the Leos explode with surprise; I hadn’t
even been aiming that way. What the hell?
Then Maxwell’s war whoop was ringing through my cockpit.
He must have been fully cloaked because I still didn’t see anything
until he powered up his scythe.
‘You guys do not know what kind of trouble you’re
in!’ he was shouting. ‘Nobody messes with the friends of the
God of Death and lives to tell about it!’
He was uncloaked now and totally in his element; mobile dolls
fell before him like he truly was the Grim Reaper. His suit is easily the
fastest of the Gundams and he flies like the thing is an extension of his
own body. If a mobile suit can be piloted in a manner that can be defined
as ‘graceful’, Maxwell manages to do it. For the space of a
heartbeat I forgot myself and just watched him on the screens, as he swept
through the ranks of the enemy in all his hellish glory. He has the soul
of a warrior; he is beautiful in that deadly grace.
‘Oh-five!’ His voice came across my speakers with
just a hint of fear in it. ‘You in one piece over there?’
I shook myself with a curse and brought the beam rifles back
into play; what in the seven bloody hells was wrong with me?
‘Just fine, Oh-two,’ I growled and fired another
I took a hard hit from the right and more sparks flared over
my head. I cursed as the lights dimmed and I realized all of a sudden that
I was losing life support. On my forward screens I saw Maxwell dispatch
the last of the Leos and turn back toward me where the last of the damn
mobile dolls were swarming around me like flies. My damaged suit wouldn’t
move fast enough to even come close to hitting them.
Three things happened then; the lights in my cockpit flared
in their final death throes and went out, there was another strike on my
Altron that jerked me in my harness so hard my breath went out in a rush,
and I heard Maxwell scream ‘Look out!’ Just a few seconds too
Then it all went to black and if I had been asked, I would
have sworn I was dead.
My next awareness was of being very cold and hurting a great
deal. Then Maxwell’s voice filtered through to my tired brain.
‘… you have to hear me, come on ‘Fei…
wake up over there. You can’t be dead; Quatre will kill me. Come on…
please answer me. You’re too Gods damn tough to die like this…you
have to hear me. Please… please answer me. Come on man; call me a
baka… tell me to shut up… anything, just wake up….’
His voice sounded thick and ragged like he’d been calling me for a
long time. I blinked my eyes open and looked around the cockpit; it wasn’t
pitch black so I still had some systems left besides the obvious communications.
But life support didn’t seem to be one of them; it was cold as an
icebox and the air was getting stuffy.
‘Maxwell?’ I moaned and listened to his almost
‘You scared the fuck outta me, man!’ he crowed,
but his voice was instantly serious again. ‘You have to get suited
up, ‘Fei. You hear me? You don’t have life support… I
have to get you out of there, understand?’
‘I… hear,’ I told him, and just concentrated
on making my trembling hands cooperate enough to get my harness off. I thought
more than once that I wouldn’t manage to get out of the harness and
into the vacuum suit; bad enough getting my battered self to move, but my
hands were very nearly numb with the cold. Maxwell kept a running monologue
going, poking at me verbally every little bit, forcing me to respond to
assure himself that I hadn’t drifted away again. He apparently had
us moving even as I worked and he talked, and he kept reassuring me that
there was a shuttle in our future if I could just get myself suited up.
‘Ya still with me over there, buddy?’ he called
when I had been quiet a little too long for his comfort.
‘Here,’ I muttered, and repressed a hiss of pain
as I eased my injured leg into the suit.
‘How ya doing? Gettin’ close to done?’ I
could tell he was agitated from the slight street burr that comes back to
his speech patterns when he is upset. I waffled between feeling badly for
frightening him and feeling…pleased that he cared enough to be worried
over me. I truly disgust myself sometimes.
‘Almost,’ I told him, and I sealed the vacuum
suit up the front. On a sudden rush of emotion, I reached out and snagged
Justice from his place on the console and stuffed him inside the front of
the suit before closing the last of the seals. I got the helmet on with
the last of my strength and collapsed back into the pilot’s seat with
a gasp. The vacuum suit’s systems kicked in and I immediately began
to warm. ‘Done,’ I panted out, and there was a whoop from Deathscythe.
‘I’m coming over to get you!’ he called,
and I just let myself go, trusting him to get me out of this mess. I realized
he had stopped our movement when some faint inner sense registered the cessation
of the faintest of g-forces. There was the almost distant sound of metal
on metal and I surmised his Deathscythe was letting go of whatever grip
it had on my Altron.
‘Can you open your hatch for me?’ he called then,
and I had to suppress a jolt of anxiety as I realized he was outside his
suit already; out in raw vacuum.
Now there is a secret that I will never confess to another
living soul. I can’t abide the feeling of being outside my Gundam
with nothing but a vacuum suit between me and the entirety of the universe.
I can’t tolerate that bizarre feeling of not knowing which way is
‘up’ and that ‘down’ is a fall that will last an
eternity. I shivered and wanted him anchored. He is completely at home in
free-fall; moves with a skill and grace that are his alone. He is so comfortable
that I have seen him go ‘outship’ without a tether line. I can’t
tell him how it makes my blood turn to ice in my veins just watching him.
It is nothing but a ridiculous near-phobia on my part, ludicrous for a child
of the colonies.
‘Fei?’ His worried voice called me again and I
made my hands find the controls.
‘Sorry,’ I murmured, feeling utterly foolish.
The cabin depressurized, the hatch popped open and he was suddenly there
in front of me.
‘Come on, man.’ His voice was light again. ‘Let’s
get the hell out of here.’
I was more than a little relieved that he was not only using
a tether line, but he clipped a line onto the belt anchor of my suit, linking
the two of us together. I wondered about it; wondered if he knew how much
this was going to bother me, because the distance between our two Gundams
was no more than twenty feet. A gap that I had seen him maneuver a dozen
times without tethers.
‘Where are you hurt?’ he asked me softly as his
hands hovered over me, waiting before touching.
‘Right thigh… ribs,’ I told him tersely,
and he immediately had me by the arms, pulling me toward the hatch.
‘Looks like you took a hit to the head too,’ he
commented, his eyes roaming over my face. ‘There’s blood.’
I grunted; that would explain my passing out.
‘Hang on to me,’ he said and drew me toward his
chest so that my vision was partially obscured; I’m not sure if it
was deliberate or not. My face flamed while I wondered again if he had somehow
noticed my fear of this… nothingness between the stars.
‘We’re going to get you out of here,’ he
soothed. ‘There’s a shuttle waiting for us, we should even be
able to save your Gundam. You sure beat the hell out of it, didn’t
you? Simple infiltration mission and you just about managed to get your
ass blown up… I swear, you guys talk about my luck…’
He kept up the banter the entire time as he carefully worked
us out of Altron and across the void to the waiting, welcome hatch of his
Deathscythe. I’m not sure I breathed until his hatch was sealed and
he had me settled in the pilot’s seat.
As soon as his cabin had repressurized, he pulled off his
own helmet and then un-dogged and carefully removed mine. I looked up into
his worried face and felt a lump rise into my throat. His fingers moved
to gently inspect the side of my head and I grimaced in pain; I wondered
what in the world I had hit. He cupped my chin to bring my eyes into the
light and looked at me intently. ‘Concussion, I think,’ he murmured.
I remember grunting in some small surprise and I remember
the beginning of an alarmed look coming into his eyes and then I don’t
remember anything at all. It seemed as though I fell forward into those
gorgeous indigo eyes of his… and drowned.
I have no idea how he piloted us the rest of the way to our
safe haven with me passed out in his pilot’s chair. He may have sat
on my lap for all I know. I’m actually a little thankful I wasn’t
awake for the event, for more than one reason.
When I woke again, it was an entirely different perspective;
I was flat on my back in a medical bunk on board a ship of some sort. The
Peacemillion, I presumed, but wasn’t entirely sure. I could just detect
the faint thrum of engines through the thin mattress under me. I took a
moment to gather what information I could before opening my eyes, letting
memory sift slowly back.
I felt somewhat groggy, quickly understanding the presence
of drugs in my system. Though my leg was not hurting as much, my head was
throbbing in time with my heartbeat and I vaguely recalled Maxwell declaring
the possibility of a concussion, remembered his anxious face bent over mine.
I slit an eye open and found, to my vast relief and incredible
discomfort, that he was sitting in a chair pulled up next to my bunk. Maxwell
can’t ever just sit in a damn chair; he was slumped slightly, his
feet resting on the edge of the seat and his knees drawn up to this chest,
his stiff knee pulled in a little less tightly than his good one. He had
one arm wrapped around his legs and the other hand was idly fiddling with
little Justice, who was perched on his knee. He had the most absurdly…
pleased look on his face. Smiling gently at the little toy as though it
were imparting to him all manner of tales of our adventure together. That
thought almost made me yell at the little dragon to shut the hell up. I
must have made some small sound because Maxwell suddenly uncoiled like a
too-taut spring, his legs coming off the chair and he was leaning over me
‘Hey, buddy,’ he smiled. ‘You awake?’
I grunted an affirmative and turned my head toward him slightly,
opening my mouth but not able to get sound out around the wad of cotton
that seemed to be lodged in my throat. He grinned at me, ‘Hold on
a second,’ and reached passed me, out of my line of sight. I heard
the welcome sound of water being poured and then he was back with a plastic
cup with a straw in it. ‘Here,’ he murmured, and held the straw
to my lips while I drank, taking it away when I stopped swallowing.
He sat back down, the cup dangling from his fingers. ‘I’ll
see if I can get you something besides just water in a little bit; the stuff
just will not cut the bad taste out of your throat like something with a
little flavor to it.’ He cocked his head and looked at me. ‘You’ve
been out a couple of hours… we’re aboard the Peacemillion. I
got your Gundam aboard and Howard’s going to make arrangements to
have it worked on.’
He was answering all my questions before I had a chance to
ask them and I couldn’t help but grin at him.
‘What?’ he frowned after a moment, seeing the
look on my face.
‘Seems we finally found your specialty,’ I croaked.
He ducked his head and flushed. ‘Yeah… well; I
am kinda familiar with all the things that run through your head when you
wake up in a hospital bed.’
‘Well, I certainly can’t think of anything you’ve
‘When can you get out of here?’ he supplied and
we laughed lightly together.
‘Yes, that would be the next question,’ I sighed.
He lost a little of his smile. ‘Not for a little while
yet,’ he sympathized, and reached to lay his hand on my arm. ‘In
fact, I need to get the medic so they can look you over now that you’re
awake… they’re a little worried about that hit you took to the
I reached a hand up to probe gently at my temple. ‘I
don’t even remember getting hit,’ I mumbled.
His face took on an oddly pained expression and I blinked
up at him. ‘Duo? What’s the matter?’
His face flared hotly and he looked down at the little dragon
in his hand. ‘I just….I was almost too damn late.’ Then
he plopped Justice down on the middle of my chest and stood up abruptly.
‘I gotta go get the Doc.’ And he fairly ran out of the room.
Damn. I hadn’t meant to upset him. I wasn’t even
sure what I had said, but then, my head still felt muzzy and unfocused.
He was back fairly quickly with a gray-haired man in a lab
coat who ran through the standard concussion procedure; what’s your
name, what’s the date, follow my finger, look at the light…
we’ve all been there a dozen times. Maxwell got permission to feed
me and disappeared right after the doctor. I’m afraid I dozed back
off while he was gone.
He was sitting in that chair again when I next opened my eyes
and I frowned at him. He mistook the expression for pain.
‘You need some more pain medicine?’ he was quick
to ask, sitting forward to check on me. ‘You warm enough?’
He held the water for me until my throat was lubricated enough
to speak. ‘What are you still doing here?’ I asked, and it came
out sounding a little gruff.
‘Watching over a friend.’ He glared at me, taking
a little umbrage at the tone of my voice, and I found myself floundering.
‘I… I didn’t mean…’ I began
trying to explain myself but he cut me off.
‘You’ve watched over me often enough,’ He
frowned, standing to lean over me and lend a little weight to his words.
‘I told you…’ He reached over my head and Justice was
suddenly in the middle of my chest again, glaring at me with an expression
very like the one on Maxwell’s face. ‘You have people you can
count on too… when you’re not being so damn self-righteous that
‘Uncle.’ I grinned at him and raised my hands
in surrender; it served to shut him up before the rant could really get
started. He blinked at me and I jumped in while I had the opening to do
it. ‘I only meant that you should go and get some sleep. How long
have you been sitting in that stupid chair?’
‘Oh.’ He sat back down but left the dragon sitting
on me and I found my hand moving to fiddle with it. ‘Was just waiting
for you to wake up so I could give you your dinner.’
I glanced from the dragon to him; I had forgotten about him
going to get food. ‘I’m… sorry,’ I murmured, feeling
embarrassed. ‘I didn’t mean to fall asleep.’
His grin was back and I felt the strangest relief at not having
his irritation directed at me any more. ‘Don’t bother trying
to fight the drugs,’ he winked at me. ‘You just can’t
win. Anyway, I figured you might be asleep when I got back so I didn’t
bring anything that needed to be kept hot.’ He was up then, a damn
bundle of energy, and bustling around getting a small table jockeyed to
the side of the bed. I didn’t voice my remembrance of his own fighting
with drugs or the fact that he had very successfully fought his way clear
of them. That was a memory that neither of us would be anxious to bring
up right now. He had somehow managed to keep a bottle of his precious soda
cold and despite the fact that I never drank the stuff, I allowed him to
give me a bit of it. As promised, there is just nothing like a carbonated
drink to ‘cut the crap’ out of your throat.
When he had fed me all I could manage, he cleared the mess
away and came back to the bedside to fuss over me; pulling the blankets
up and checking my dressings for signs of blood. I was just fuzzy enough
to enjoy his attention without the acute humiliation I would have suffered
with if I hadn’t been pleasantly… drugged to the gills.
Then he surprised me by bringing a hand to stroke across my
forehead and down the curve of my cheek. I stiffened and turned to meet
his gaze, my heart in my throat. What…? What the hell?
‘Are you warm enough, ‘Fei?’ He frowned
down at me. ‘You look so damn pale and your skin still feels chilled.’
I nodded because I didn’t trust my voice. Of course;
what the hell had I been thinking, the classic ‘checking temperature’
gesture. I decided the next time the medic came back that I was not accepting
any more pain medication; I didn’t care what anybody said. He moved
his hand and turned to pull his chair back up to the side of the bed. I
cast about desperately for something to talk about and my eyes fell on the
black-eyed dragon smirking up at me.
My full stomach was conspiring with my medication and my words
when they came out sounded thick and ungainly. ‘You know… if
he’s supposed to remind me of my friends, he has the wrong character
on his neckerchief.’
Maxwell grinned and leaned forward to pick the thing up. ‘He
does, huh? And just what should be on there then?’
I yawned and thought about it. ‘The symbols for you
four… strength, spirit, balance and wisdom.’
He looked at me a little wide-eyed and opened his mouth to
speak but my eyes fell closed again before he had the chance.
It was the soft murmur of voices that woke me next and I realized,
feeling somewhat stupid, that the damn medication was in my IV. I wasn’t
going to be given the opportunity to refuse to take any pills. I vowed to
talk to Maxwell about having it stopped; if there was anyone in the world
who would understand not liking to feel this… out of control, it was
It soaked through that the voices I was hearing belonged to
Maxwell and Yuy.
‘… just like that.’ I had missed part of
what Maxwell was saying. ‘Thanks, Heero.’
‘Not a problem,’ came Yuy’s reply, and I
feigned sleep, trying to allow the two of them a bit more time to themselves.
They got so little time to be together since the war had gotten so…
complicated. ‘Duo, love… you look exhausted. Are you sure you’re
all right?’ There was tight concern in Yuy’s voice and I felt
badly; if Maxwell was tired it was on my account.
There was a hesitation that hung in the air and I heard a
chair scrape across the floor. I dared to crack an eyelid so that I might
see what the hell was going on. Yuy had risen from his chair where they
had been working on something at a table across the room. He was standing
over Maxwell, whose head was hanging, giving him a defeated air.
‘Come on, love,’ Yuy said gently, reaching for
his hand and giving it a tug. ‘Talk to me.’
Maxwell’s head tilted and he looked up at his partner;
I could see his face in profile, blurred slightly through the fringe of
my lashes, and he truly did look done-in. He gave in to Yuy’s gentle
cajoling in a sudden lunge upward, throwing his arms tight around Yuy’s
‘Oh Gods, Heero,’ He moaned. ‘I almost got
Yuy just seemed to enfold him, wrapping him so tight in his
arms that I half expected Maxwell to complain but it seemed to be what he
needed. I could see his trembling from clear across the room. My heart was
thumping in my chest and I thanked what ever Gods might have been paying
attention that I was not hooked up to a monitor.
‘Hush, my little one,’ Yuy was saying, and I thought
I would weep hearing the almost palpable tenderness in his voice. ‘You
saved him… you brought him back. It’s all right.’
He needn’t have bothered speaking for all the difference
it made to Maxwell. ‘I never checked his status… I just waded
right in and started fighting,’ he said, his voice cracked and thick.
‘He’s… he’s Wufei for Gods sake! He’s fucking
indestructible! I didn’t even think…’
Yuy’s hands were stroking gently over Maxwell’s
back, over his hair. ‘It doesn’t matter now; it all came out
right in the end. He’s safe… you didn’t lose him. He’s
right here…’ They were nonsense words and seemed to be washing
passed Maxwell almost unheard.
‘I should have stayed by him; I should have protected
him,’ he was murmuring and I realized that Yuy was gently rocking
their bodies to and fro. ‘I should have made sure he was all right
before I just went tearing after those damn Leos. I should have…’
Yuy suddenly chuckled darkly. ‘You are bound and determined
to kick your own ass over something that worked out all right in the end
anyway, aren’t you?’
There was finally a stop in the flood of Maxwell’s self-deprecating
words and there were a long couple of silent minutes before; faintly, ‘I
can kick my own ass if I want to.’
Yuy chuckled again but there was a note of affection in it
and Maxwell finally seemed to relax in his arms. By some mutual, unspoken
consent they unwound enough that Yuy could draw Maxwell’s face up
to his and I lay there and watched them in the throes of an almost desperate
kiss. I had to close my eyes; it was too intimate a thing to have witnessed.
I was left feeling as though I had watched them make love.
‘Oh Gods, Heero… ’ I heard after a time,
so softly it was little more than a whisper. ‘I love you so much.’
‘With all my heart and soul,’ Yuy sighed in return
and it had the feel of… ritual? Of some shared thing that meant volumes
more than was obvious on the surface.
‘Please tell me you don’t have to leave right
away?’ Maxwell asked softly after a moment and there was no answer.
Which was, of course, answer in itself. I heard him sigh heavily. ‘I
hate this,’ he growled.
‘I know,’ Yuy sighed just as heavily. ‘Someday,
love… damn it to hell; someday this will all be over.’
There was no answer and I was moved to slit my eyes open again.
They were standing close, looking deeply into each other’s faces,
and I could tell Yuy didn’t like what he was seeing. ‘Don’t,
love… stop thinking like that. We’re going to make it through…
We’re going to make a normal life together, you and I. I want to fight
with you over whose turn it is to take out the garbage. I want to be there
to nag you about your eating habits. I want us to shop for furniture and
have fights about the budget. I want…’ Maxwell shut him up with
a grudging chuckle.
‘Ok… Ok… I give.’ He smiled up at
his partner and even I could see how hard he was working to keep that cheerful
mask in place. ‘How long do you have?’ he asked then.
‘Not near long enough for what I want,’ Yuy groaned
throatily and pulled Maxwell back into an embrace.
I watched them as they danced around their emotions, each
of them turning to the teasing to cover the pain, each of them hiding their
fears behind the masks. Neither of them was fooled but they played the damn
game anyway in an effort to make the parting easier. I felt like some sort
of twisted voyeur.
Yuy hesitated in the doorway. ‘Duo, please try and get
Maxwell flashed him a cocky grin. ‘You just watch your
ass out there.’ Yuy left with a sigh and a roll of his eyes; Maxwell
never had agreed.
The mask crumbled as soon as his lover was gone from sight
and Maxwell just stood for a minute and stared after him, all the fear and
pain as plain as day on his face. Then he turned back to whatever they had
been working on together at the table across the room and I could no longer
see his face.
I closed my eyes, determined that I would not let him know
that I had witnessed their incredibly personal exchange. I let myself drift
back off to sleep, my thoughts whirling with their images, the picture of
their perfect symmetry. Yuy was the strength and Maxwell was the spirit…
but together they were something that transcended them both; the two halves
greater than the whole. I could only stand on the outside of that in awe;
they were something I could never reach for lest I mar the delicate perfection
of what they had. I dozed off feeling reassured by the strength of my freshly
reinforced resolve, under the oddly pleased gaze of little Justice.
I was completely disoriented when I woke. I’m sure that
the scarf around Justice’s neck had been powder blue when I had fallen
asleep but when I opened my eyes, he was still sitting in the center of
my chest but now the scarf was a dark, royal blue. I blinked in confusion
and then realized that there were five small Chinese characters on that
scarf; strength, spirit, balance, wisdom and justice, all in gold thread.
I turned toward the chair beside my bed and met Maxwell’s blurry,
half-lidded eyes. He was smiling at me fuzzily; pleased, I think, that I
had noticed so quickly. He had to have been stitching for hours. On the
bubble of a sudden memory I smiled in return. ‘If you do not agree
to crawl into one of these bunks and get some damn sleep, I am going to
throw the biggest temper tantrum you have ever seen.’
He laughed and smiled at me. ‘I’m fine, ‘Fei.’
‘You do not look fine, Maxwell,’ I growled at
him. ‘You look damn tired.’
He straightened up a little bit and somehow managed to banish
the sloe-eyed look. ‘You need somebody here and the rest of the ship
is busy,’ he shrugged, as though that made his choice an unquestioned
‘I don’t need anybody to stare at me while I sleep,’
I pointed out with the slight quirk of a grin.
He raised an eyebrow. ‘I happen to be your sole source
of food, water and uhmmm… urinal, right now.’ He flushed and
glanced away, his subtle way of asking me if I had to relieve myself yet.
And of course, the minute he mentioned it, I had to.
‘Look;’ I ground out, ‘you bring me the
urinal, get me something to eat and then we will both go to sleep. I’m
obviously sleeping hours at a time; there isn’t any reason you can’t
sleep while I do.’
He looked tempted, sorely tempted. ‘But what if…’
I raised my right hand solemnly in the air. ‘I swear
if I wake up and need anything, I will call you.’
He chewed his lip while he considered it, then fetched the
urinal without really answering me. There were a damn miserable couple of
minutes while he turned his back and I fumbled with the thing. Justice had
ended up draped over the side-rail and he leered at me in high good humor,
and I had to resist the urge to tell him to shut up. I managed to complete
the task at hand without spilling things all over the bed and then thought
I would die of humiliation when Maxwell had to turn around to take the bottle
to go empty it and rinse it out. Both of our faces were slightly pink by
the time he finished and returned the empty container to the bedside table.
‘Sleep,’ I commanded.
‘Food,’ he parried and made me promise to stay
awake until he came back with a tray of hot food this time. I managed it
and was rewarded with a bowl of hot soup and a sandwich of which I managed
about half. I glared at Maxwell on a sudden thought, remembering something
Yuy had said before he left.
‘When was the last time you ate?’ I demanded,
and watched him flinch guiltily. I sighed. ‘Well, there’s no
reason to let the rest of this go to waste; I can’t finish it.’
I was able to stay awake long enough to see him eat the other
half of the sandwich and the last of the soup. ‘I’m supposed
to be taking care of you… not the other way around,’ he mumbled
as he cleared the dishes away.
‘How about,’ I yawned, ‘we just watch out
for each other?’
He chuckled and came back to stand over the bed, looking oddly
entertained by my inability to keep my eyes open. His expression was one
of fondness and it swelled my heart but somehow didn’t bring the usual
sting of pain. ‘Duo,’ I murmured. ‘Thank you.’
He blinked, looking startled, but then the tender look came
back to his eyes. ‘You’re welcome.’ He smiled down at
me and was moved to adjust my blanket again. ‘That’s what best
friends are for, you know?’
‘I didn’t know… until you taught me,’
I told him with a tongue that was becoming unwieldy, aghast at what the
drugs had let slip out.
But he only smiled. ‘Swear on your honor that you will
wake me if you need anything.’
I sighed in defeat, too tired to argue more. ‘I swear,’
I agreed and simply trusted that I would sleep long enough to let him get
He chuckled at my tone of voice, lifted Justice off the side-rail
and plopped him back down in the center of my chest. Then he turned away
and sought the closest bunk, throwing himself onto it in a boneless heap.
I’m fairly certain he was asleep before I was.
I glanced at the little toy sitting on my chest through blurry
eyes and smiled. Best friends. I could do that. I could be that. It could
I stroked a finger down the things snout and in a sudden burst
of prophetic vision I saw my little dragon following me through the rest
of my life. I saw it resting on a desk; I saw it sitting on a dresser. It
would serve as a reminder all right, but not necessarily a reminder of what
Maxwell had in mind. My own personal Jiminy Cricket; there to hiss at me
when I faltered in my resolve, when my heart grew weak. When the beauty
of what was before me drew me too close, like a moth drawn to the candle
flame, it would serve as reminder that their love was not mine. I could
learn to live with the love of friendship and it would be enough.
Justice grinned at me, beady little black eyes aglow with
pride and I dozed off with a heart that was at ease again.
Go to Chapter Eleven:Tides
Back to Chapter Nine
Fiction : GW :