(Part 9 of the Road Trip Arc)
It was another one of those out-in-the-middle-of-no-where
safe houses. A little retreat in the woods. Pleasant enough to start with
but after being stuck there for five days with Wufei, I was starting to
pray for a call to battle.
I missed Heero. I was worried about Heero. I was bored. I
was sick to death of the vegetarian meals that Wufei cooked and he wouldn’t
let me near the kitchen. I do not understand that man at all; he’ll
eat meat if somebody else cooks it but won’t cook the stuff himself.
I had prowled the house from one end to the other until I had found all
the secrets it had to hold and there weren’t very many. It wasn’t
a very old place and not very big, barely a story and a half, so had none
of the interesting quirks that houses attained with age. I had made Gundam
repairs until there was nothing left to do with the possible exception of
a wax job. I had wandered the grounds and though the area was actually rather
lovely, it was also fairly unremarkable. Read that…boring.
There was almost no electricity in the house; just one outlet
that had obviously been added years after the place had been built, not
even in the wall straight and looking terribly out of place. Cooking was
done over a wood-burning stove; light was from candles and coal-oil lanterns;
heat from a fireplace. Primitive to the extreme. Thank the Gods someone
had converted one of the upstairs closets to a small bathroom, so we at
least weren’t bathing in the damn creek. We had regulated to that
whole rising with the sun, going to bed when it got dark thing. I felt like
I should be plowing some field somewhere and butchering hogs. Or something
Wufei worked on his Gundam, did his katas, or read. I had
nothing left to do to my Gundam and had already read everything in the house.
I did wind up spending a couple of hours a day doing some of the exercises
I had been taught in therapy after my knee surgery. That left a whole lot
of empty hours, with nothing much to do but wonder where Heero was and if
he was still all right.
After a couple of days, Wufei took pity on me and hauled me
out of bed in the morning to go with him to do his kata. Or maybe he was
just curing his own boredom by torturing me. I didn’t care; it was
something to do. I think I surprised him a little with my willingness to
learn. It took me three or four repetitions but as long as I could keep
him in sight, I could fairly well follow along. There were a few moves that
I just couldn’t manage yet. Though my knee had come back to near normal
strength and seldom failed me any more; I hadn’t regained the flexibility
in it that I’d once had. When I got to the parts I couldn’t
quite handle, I stretched until I couldn’t any more and held the position
while he finished the move. I fell back into the routine on the return motion
and continued with him. I think it took him a couple times to figure out
what was going on. I caught him looking at me one of the times that I stopped
and I flushed hotly. He didn’t say anything, just letting it go. It
embarrassed me though, just driving home how much weaker I was than him
and I vowed to stick with him until he finished. I was really kind of regretting
the impulse after the first hour. At an hour and a half I was starting to
doubt I’d be able to keep the vow. I’d never really bothered
to pay much attention to Wufei when he did his exercises and sure as hell
had never timed him but at the two hour mark I was starting to suspect that
he was trying to outlast me. I swear he’d never spent this much time
out here before. But I am nothing in this world more than I am pissy-assed
stubborn and despite the fact that my scarred leg was shaking under me like
I was a newborn foal, I refused to stop. I matched him move for move, following
his lead like we were doing some strange dance together. Granted; I was
probably pretty sloppy but I was keeping up. He finally called a halt himself
and it was all I could do not to moan with relief. He picked up the towels
he had brought out and tossed one to me, using the other to wipe the sweat
from his brow. I buried my own face in the welcome softness, swiping my
sweat drenched hair off my face and tried to hide the fact that I was panting
like an asthmatic. When I looked up again, Wufei was just standing there
regarding me with a completely alien expression on his face. He caught my
eye and bowed to me slightly. I awkwardly returned the bow and must have
looked like a deer-in-headlights as he walked away. Respect. That had been
a hint of respect in his eyes; I’d almost swear to it. I’m glad
he left before he figured out that I couldn’t follow. I had to sit
down on the low stone wall for a good five minutes before my wobbling leg
would carry me back inside.
I met him on the patio the next morning without him having
to call me. I got a look of faint surprise and another grudging bow. He
didn’t go quite the full two hours again after that first day. It
became part of my morning to go out there with him. It gave me one more
thing to do and for those couple of hours each day, I could put my anxiety
over Heero out of my mind. It was quite a gift; I knew how much Wufei valued
his privacy and understood that with me there, he wasn’t quite able
to reach the same level of almost-meditation that he usually obtained. I
wished I could express my thanks, I wished that I could let him know that
I understood what he was sacrificing for me and I wondered if he knew the
dark thoughts he was helping me keep at bay.
The morning of the seventh day found me getting pretty restless.
It was a crappy, rainy day, which only furthered my feeling of entrapment.
Not even a nice thunderstorm, which will catch my attention to this day
but just a cold, drizzly, it’s-gonna-rain-forever kind of day. It
had kept us inside and there just wasn’t enough room indoors for the
katas. I guess I was pacing; I wasn’t paying that much attention.
Wufei was curled in one of the big, overstuffed armchairs in the living
room reading; had been for a couple of hours. I had started out by the window,
watching the rain but had gotten chilled and wandered over closer to the
fireplace. Once warmed, I had gone back to the window to watch outside some
more. Wufei calls this pacing.
‘Maxwell, will you settle yourself somewhere and find
something to do?’ He grumbled at me, sounding faintly irritated.
‘There isn’t a whole lot to do in this place.’
I complained in my turn, sighing heavily and leaning against the window
‘There is an entire bookcase full of books over there…find
one and sit down.’ He suggested a little testily, his own copy of
‘Great Expectations’ dropping in his lap as he looked up at
‘I’ve read them all.’ I muttered, wrapping
my arms around my shoulders for warmth. One thing’s for sure; no electricity
made for a damned chilly house.
He raised a disbelieving eyebrow, ‘All of them? We haven’t
been here that long…’
‘Not here.’ I growled, getting a little irritated
myself, ‘But I’ve read every damned book in this whole bloody
place. Trust me, I’ve looked three times.’
He stared at me for a long moment and I could see the total
lack of belief in his eyes. It pissed me off a little bit, ‘What?’
He glanced away, looking back down at his book, ‘I just
wouldn’t have expected you to be the type to read Dickens and Tolstoy
I was too moodily unhappy to work up to getting really angry
with him. I suppose I don’t exactly cultivate an aura of the learned
scholar like Wufei does or the cultured world traveler like Quatre. I am,
after all, just an orphaned street rat; what the hell do I know about the
works of Dickinson and Chekov? I closed my eyes and heard the lilting voice
of Sister Helen,
"At the time when I stood in the churchyard, reading
the family tombstones, I had just enough learning to be able to spell them
out. My construction even of their simple meaning was not very correct,
for I read ‘Wife of the above’ as a complimentary reference
to my father’s exaltation to a better world; and if any one of my
deceased relations had been referred to as ‘Below’, I have no
doubt I should have formed the worst opinions of that member of the family."
I quoted with all the bemused tonal inflection that the good
sister used to put into it. I had found that particular passage terribly
funny when she had read it to us. I still don’t really know why, it
just gives me the most vivid mental image and never fails to make me smile.
Of course, that amusement is tempered with the bittersweet pang of remembering
Sister Helen, dead these long years. I sighed, looking out at the rain again.
She had loved it when it rained; said God was doing his washing. Damn. Wufei
was right; I really needed to find something to do. Maybe I could break
something on Deathscythe just so I could fix it.
I turned from the window, deciding a trip into the woods where
the Gundams were hidden wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Rain or
no rain; I needed to get out of this cabin.
The look of total consternation on Wufei’s face as I
turned was priceless. He looked like he wanted to leaf back through the
pages to see how close I had come to getting it right. That look made up
for the earlier irritation. I grinned at him; ‘I can quote from ‘The
Summer of ‘42’ as well; the sprinkles scene, if you’d
like.’ And I breezed out of the living room, stopping in the kitchen
long enough to grab one of the long drovers coats hanging by the back door.
‘I’ll be back before dinner.’ I called and
went out the door. All I caught of Wufei’s probably caustic comment
There was a small brick patio out back, where we always worked
out and there was a stone walk leading around the cabin. At one time it
had been nicely landscaped with a lot of those big decorative rocks and
a whole bunch of different ground covers. It was gone rather wild now but
I found the effect rather pleasing. I left the stone path and headed into
the woods, the collar of the long coat turned up against the chill wind
and the drizzling rain. Once under the cover of the trees it wasn’t
as bad but I was still soaked by the time I made my way to where Deathscythe
was hidden. He seemed to be looking at me from where he was sitting in the
rocks next to Nataku, under the cover of some camo netting and a lot of
tree limbs, as if admonishing me for leaving him out here alone in the rain.
‘Hey old buddy.’ I said softly and keyed my password
into the remote, popping the hatch. I clambered up over his outstretched
‘legs’ and climbed into the open hatch. It’s funny, sometimes
getting into that pilot’s chair feels like crawling into the comfort
of the womb…and sometimes it feels like crawling into a coffin. Today,
it was more of a comfort.
I tinkered for a bit, adjusting things that didn’t need
adjusting, straightening things that were already organized to a fault.
I checked the harness for signs of strain, looked through the med-kit to
see if I needed to resupply, even though I knew I’d done that just
last week. I pulled out my handgun to check the load and finally admitted
to myself what I had come out here for.
I booted up the onboard system, calling up the internal monitor
files. I wound my way through a myriad series of folders, hunting for one
of the copies of the file I had replicated and hidden away. My recording
of Heero, sitting in Deathscythe when he didn’t know he was being
monitored. It was buried deep and password protected six ways to Sunday.
Heero would kill me if he knew I still had it.
During that first mission I had undertaken after my surgeries,
quite honestly, still recovering; Heero had taken to talking to my Gundam.
Surprised the hell out of me. I would never have guessed the level of anguish
my going off on that mission was going to cause him. I knew he was going
to be angry with me, had known he would be upset but I never in a million
years would have pictured him climbing into my Gundam and hugging my flight
suit with tears in his eyes.
I played the recording now and listened to him tell Deathscythe
how much he loved me, how much he missed me. Heard him say again how scared
he was that I wouldn’t come back to him, how he couldn’t carry
on without me.
Sounds really morbid, doesn’t it? I wasn’t listening
to the damned thing because I liked hearing the pain in his voice. I was
just listening to his voice. It was the only recording of him I had. It
wouldn’t have mattered if it were a recording of him reading the damn
New York phone book. I just needed the sound of his voice. It was a guilty
pleasure, that recording, which is why I jumped like I’d been shot
when Wufei’s voice rang through the external pick-up,
‘Maxwell! We’ve been called; we have to go!’
I scrambled to shut off the playback and popped the hatch,
climbing out to talk to him face to face.
‘Where? What’s the assignment?’ I felt a
little guilty that I was actually relieved to be heading out and getting
away from this place.
‘I’ll patch the coordinates through to you from
Nataku.’ He informed me, ‘We’re meeting up with the others
to stop a supply convoy carrying raw gundanium ore in-system.’
I couldn’t keep the grin off my face and flushed when
he answered it with a knowing smirk, ‘Take it easy going out of here,
we’re coming back to this safe house after the mission.’
I didn’t care; I was going to get to see Heero for the
first time in over a month. I just managed to keep from laughing out loud
until after I was back in the pilot’s seat and the hatch was sealed.
Then I let myself crow with delight while I powered up my Gundam.
Five hours later, the crowing had changed to cursing as I
found myself hip deep in the worst firefight I’d seen in months. Several
of my control panels were spitting sparks and there was a two second delay
in the response time from the servos controlling Deathscythe’s arms.
It was making swinging my scythe a royal pain in the ass. It was taking
every bit of my concentration to translate that delay into my own movements
just to stay in the fight.
We were all five here, out past the moons orbit, engaging
the enemy in a no-holds barred fight to the death. They were desperate to
keep this shipment intact and had devoted an unbelievably large escort to
it. We were whittling it down and it was really only a matter of time before
we broke their defenses and blew the transport but they were going to see
to it that we earned the hit, by the Gods.
I could hear Trowa warning Quatre back from a potential pinscher
maneuver, his voice sounding weary over the comm. Quatre didn’t even
take the time to answer, just blasting clear before the twin attack closed
on him. It was a rough one and we were all tired, fighting with all we had.
I took another hit on my left and heard the whine of servomotors
under stress. Damn. My two-second delay changed to something closer to five
on the left side and I was rapidly losing the ability to swing my scythe
at all. All around me, Leos were seeing my weakness and moving in to exploit
it. Damn again.
I shifted the scythe to a one handed grip and redoubled my
efforts, still fighting the two-second delay. The effectiveness of my attacks
was leaving a great deal to be desired.
‘Duo!’ I heard Heero shout, ‘What the hell’s
‘Losing sync!’ I shouted back, not having a lot
of attention to spare.
I took a hard shot from a pulse weapon, finding myself wrenched
against the harness hard enough to knock the breath out of me. Damn! I was
really getting into some trouble here.
Past the swarming mobile suits, I could see Wufei finally
break through and get a shot off at the transport. It was a perfect hit
and the shuttle went up with a lovely red and gold display. Mission accomplished.
It didn’t do a lot, however, to improve my situation.
I flailed about almost wildly; not really able to control
the scythe but managed to throw off a couple of my attackers. They had figured
out that my left side was pretty much useless and I had several suits trying
to come in on that side to get me pinned. In my left ear, the servos kicked
up their whining to a nerve-wracking scream. Five second delay or not, I
was forced to try those servos or risk getting tangled up so badly they’d
bring me down with sheer weight of numbers.
‘Hold on!’ I heard Heero shout, at the same time
I heard Quatre yell my name. I must really be in some serious shit here.
I wrenched the left ‘arm’ as hard as I could and managed to
throw off the Leo that had just gotten a grip on me. It was probably the
last thing I was going to do with that ‘arm’ though, as I heard
the motors screech into overdrive and then somewhere above me, something
gave with a grinding crack and I found myself drenched with hydraulic fluid.
It was all too fast and my eyes were flooded before I even realized what
was happening. I forgot all about the suits around me as I fought to get
the shit out of my eyes. I’m fairly certain I screamed as the burning
started and I was suddenly lost in blurry darkness. I heard Heero swearing
as Deathscythe suddenly ceased to struggle against his attackers.
It only took me a moment to scrabble around and get hold of
one of the water bottles packed in the emergency kit. I got the bottle open
and poured the whole thing over my eyes. The burning eased but the darkness
didn’t. Damn. I was really in over my head now.
I pulled my shirt up and did my best to wipe the crap off
my face. I was rocked hard by another hit. I could only guess from the feel
what was going on out there. I fumbled the second bottle of water out and
poured it over my eyes as well, a little slower and the burning backed off
a little more. That was all the water I had.
‘Guys?’ I called, trying to keep my voice from
quavering, ‘A little help here?’
I got my hands wrapped around the controls again and started
to swing the scythe but was taken with a sudden numbing fear. I didn’t
know where the others were; what if they had moved in to help me and I hit
one of them instead?
‘I…I’ve lost external sensors!’ I
yelled, not wanting to panic everyone, ‘Is anybody close to me?’
‘We’re clear!’ Quatre hollered at me and
I swung for all I was worth, feeling the weapon bite into a couple of somethings
that had to be Leos.
‘Backswing!’ I heard Wufei’s voice suddenly,
‘Eight o’clock to one o’clock!’
I complied instantly and was rewarded with a loosening of
the feeling I had of being pinned.
‘Turn 10 degrees to your right and execute move number
three!’ He yelled again and I complied the best I could, moving myself
through the now familiar kata, only having to guess at the angle. He didn’t
know, of course, that I couldn’t see my internal gages.
‘Hit thrusters!’ He shouted, ‘Three second
burn! First move; second set!’
I let him lead me in this strange dance, throwing my trust
into the sound of his voice, feeling like my guts were going to churn right
up the back of my throat.
‘Freeze!’ He was telling me, ‘Trowa’s
almost to you.’
It took all my control to stop flailing around and hold still,
trusting the guys to get me the hell out of this mess.
‘I’m here.’ Came Trowa’s calm voice
and all I could do was squeeze the pilot’s grips hard enough to bruise
the palms of my hands.
They got quiet then and I took another hard hit, feeling my
shoulder harness bite. If I lived through this, I was going to have a lovely
set of contusions.
‘Hang on, Duo.’ I heard Heero’s voice then,
trying to sound calm.
‘Somebody tell me what the hell to do?’ I pleaded,
feeling like my nerves were going to come crawling out through my skin.
‘Don’t swing the scythe, Duo.’ Wufei told
me, ‘Trowa and Heero are too close to you.’
I wished I had another bottle of water. I could feel my eyes
watering all over the place and I could only hope it was helping.
‘Duo,’ Wufei was commanding me again, ‘Power
down your weapon.’
It took a little work, finding the controls without accidentally
moving it but I suddenly felt the absence of the subtle vibration the scythe
‘We’re coming to get you.’ Trowa said quietly
and the tone of his voice told me I must be out of the woods. I heaved a
shaky sigh and waited for them.
‘I’m behind you.’ Heero said, his voice
holding relief, ‘Extend your right ‘arm’ and we’ll
guide you out of here.’
I did as he asked and heard the loud clangs as Wing made contact.
‘Can you do the same on the left?’ Trowa asked.
‘Left side’s dead.’ I told him, ‘Don’t
know if it’s seized up or not.’
My voice was shaking and I pushed down the terror trying to
claw its way up out of my stomach. Now would not be a good time to throw
‘Ok, hold on…’ He told me and after a minute
I heard the sounds of his Gundam connecting with mine. There was a complaint
from the servos over my head and then Trowa said, ‘Got it. Let’s
I had felt the buck of the pilots grip under my hand as he
had moved the ‘arm’ manually and I knew that we were moving
now, though I couldn’t feel anything yet. In my head, I could see
them on either side of me and it was a hell of a comfort. I wished for more
water and tried really hard not to think too much about my eyes. They still
stung and were watering profusely and…I still couldn’t see.
We moved in silence for a bit and we must have picked up speed,
because I started to feel the g-forces a little.
‘Status?’ Heero called after a few minutes and
I heard a quartet of ‘clears’. I hesitated; I didn’t want
to scare Heero, didn’t know how in the hell to tell him I was…I
was…didn’t know how to tell him I couldn’t see. But, it
was going to become a major issue when we got to reentry.
‘Duo?’ He called when I didn’t answer immediately
and I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. I settled on, ‘Unsure.’
And proceeded to give them a list of problems…with my Gundam.
‘Left ‘arm’ is immobile. No external sensors.’
Here came the sticky part, ‘Total black out in the cock-pit.’
There was the sound of deafening silence and then a chorus
I would have laughed, except I didn’t think I’d
get it stopped.
‘That about sums it up.’ I agreed and was pleased
that my voice had leveled out and sounded downright normal.
‘One thing at a time.’ Wufei’s voice came,
calm and cool as ever, ‘We’ll get you back to the reentry point.
Do what you can with repairs in the meantime.’
I was just thankful that no one was questioning me further.
If I had to start telling them stupid shit like, no, I don’t have
a flashlight and yes, isn’t it odd that life support is still working,
I really didn’t think this little charade would hold up. I was soaked
from pouring water all over myself and the rain earlier and was getting
cold. I unbuckled the harness, hoping I could feel my way back into it when
the time came and groped around for the drover’s coat that was still
in here somewhere. I found it and struggled into it. The shivering eased
a little but didn’t go away entirely. My blood pressure was probably
doing a decent impression of a roller coaster ride. I found that if I kept
my eyes closed, they didn’t water quite so much.
Above me, there was the beep that told me a tight beam call
was coming in. I had to very carefully feel for the communications unit
and mentally do the calculations to figure out the number of times to hit
the button to run up to Heero’s frequency. It was a small assumption
on my part but who more likely? I remembered to keep the video off.
‘Heero is that you?’ I called softly and was rewarded
with his gusty sigh. I’d got it.
‘Yes, love.’ He told me and I could almost feel
his arms around me just from the sound of his voice, ‘Are you all
‘Doin’ Ok.’ I murmured, settling back in
the pilot’s chair now that I had pulled the coat on.
‘Do you think you can get things back on-line?’
He asked and I had to sigh. I cracked an eye-lid open, only to find things
still as black as they had been.
‘No.’ I told him bluntly, ‘I really don’t
think I can.’
‘I think we need to get you out of there. We’ll
hide Deathscythe in orbit or something. Bring you across and get you dirt-side
in my Gundam…’
I had to cut him off before he got too far into the plan,
‘Heero…I’m not suited up.’ And I should have been.
We had left in such a hurry, I hadn’t bothered with it, ‘I don’t
think I can get into my vacuum suit without…in the dark.’ At
least, not without any way to test the seals before blowing the hatch and
taking a leap of faith in my ability to don one of the complex suits by
touch alone. I shivered at the thought.
There was nothing for long minutes while, I’m sure,
his mind ran in circles trying to come up with another way out of this.
‘Somebody’s going to have to talk me down, Heero.’
I could tell he wasn’t happy and if truth be told, I wasn’t
really looking forward to the experience myself.
The seconds ticked by and still nothing from Heero, ‘Come
on, love.’ I teased softly, trying to make things all right, ‘I
thought you liked telling me what to do.’
I didn’t win the laugh but he finally answered me. ‘Wufei
should do it.’
‘What?’ I blurted, a little alarmed and not really
sure why. I had just assumed that Heero would be the one.
He sighed and his voice was unsteady, ‘In the battle…he
was so calm and you were able to follow his direction so…easily.’
There was a pause during which I really, really wished I could see his face,
‘I don’t think I can maintain that…detachment.’
It was my turn to sit in silence. Maybe it was just as well;
if the landing went badly…he wouldn’t be able to blame himself.
‘All right.’ I finally told him and my voice in
that great big darkness sounded very small.
‘Duo…’ His voice was thick.
‘I know.’ I told him, ‘Me too.’
We switched back to the open comm. and Heero gave Wufei his
It cost him. To ask Wufei to do this; to admit he couldn’t
do it himself. It cost him dearly and I think Wufei could hear it in his
voice as well as I could.
There was a brooding silence from Nataku and then a terse,
‘We’re almost there.’ Came Quatre’s
quiet observation, ‘Duo, are you ready?’
Gods; so soon? ‘Not strapped in.’ I told him and
scrambled to find all the buckles and straps in the dark. Trying to sort
it all out, I was positive that I had made the right decision not to try
the vacuum suit.
‘Any luck on those repairs?’ Trowa asked me gently
and I tried to crack a stinging eyelid again. I had trouble getting it open;
it felt gummy. When I managed it, things were still blurrily not there.
I was getting really scared about that.
‘Nope.’ I told him, glad that my voice wasn’t
shaking as much as my hands were.
He only grunted.
‘Maxwell?’ Came Wufei’s calm voice and I
suddenly understood Heero’s wanting him to take this job, ‘Go
to tight beam.’
I did my calculation again and punched up to his frequency,
missed it and had a panicked moment before I recalculated and landed in
the right place.
‘You there?’ I called that second time and relief
washed through me, leaving my knees weak when I heard his voice.
‘I’m here.’ He told me, making his voice
‘So…you up for this?’ I tried to make my
voice light but my quivering hands were still fighting with the straps and
buckles, trying to work the twists out of them and the trouble I was having
was making me doubt that this was going to work.
‘I am if you are.’ He told me blandly, ‘Are
you…up for this, as you say?’
I stopped everything and took a couple of quick, deep breaths,
‘Fei…I can’t even get the Gods damned harness back on.’
‘You’re panicking, Duo.’ He said quietly.
‘I’m well aware of that.’ I told him in
‘What don’t I know?’ He asked, point blank.
‘It’s not the instruments, ‘Fei.’
I told him, needing to tell this to someone, ‘It’s me. I can’t
There was a cold silence and then, ‘Son. Of. A. Bitch.’
I laughed out loud, though it came out sounding like something
different and I had trouble making the sound stop, ‘Yeah.’
‘Why…?’ He began, after a moments thought
but I cut him off.
‘Heero would have had a screaming fit.’
‘He’s still going to, when we get you grounded.’
When. I caught that careful wording. Not if…when.
‘But by that time, he’ll be able to get his hands
on me and not be stuck two Gundam widths away…not able to do anything.’
There came a soft chuckle, ‘Fair enough.’ I could
almost feel him steeling himself for this, ‘Ok. Harness first. Right
hand over your left shoulder. Find where the strap comes out of the seat...’
He walked me through it. Step by step until I was belted down
again and just the sound of his confidant, we-can-do-this voice, eased my
fears and by the time we had attained that much, I felt like I could just
maybe get through this. I couldn’t believe as the last buckle was
snugged in place that I hadn’t been able to do it on my own. He had
been right; I was letting myself think too far ahead and was spooking myself.
One step at a time was the only way.
‘Ok.’ I told him, ‘We got it. Sorry, ‘Fei…was
letting my imagination run too far. I’m ready now.’
‘It’s all right, Duo.’ He said warmly and
the use of my first name told me he was scared as well.
‘Listen, ‘Fei.’ It was an incredibly intimate
feeling, this throwing myself off the cliff, trusting him to catch me, ‘We
both know the odds of this working are pretty damned crappy…’
‘Maxwell…’ He warned me, trying to make
me shut up but I wouldn’t be deterred.
‘If I end up splattered all over creation…it’s
not…I mean…It’s going to be because I couldn’t handle
it. Understand?’ I couldn’t stand the idea that he might end
up blaming himself, when Heero hadn’t really given him a choice about
taking my salvation on.
‘We’ll get through this.’ He told me flatly
and his voice brooked no argument.
I chuckled lightly, ‘Yes, sir!’
He chuckled with me and I knew he only did it to make me feel
better, ‘What happened to your eyes?’ He asked me then.
‘Hydraulic line broke…near as I can tell. I got
fluid in them.’ I was rather proud of how clinically I was able to
‘Damn.’ He muttered, ‘Did you rinse them
‘Yeah.’ I confirmed, ‘But I only had two
bottles of water.’
‘It’s all right.’ He appeased, ‘Better
than nothing. We’ll deal with it later.’
That’s Wufei for you all over. One thing at a time;
step one, step two, step three. Everything by the numbers. I took a deep
breath and let it out slowly and made a conscious effort to throw myself
into his hands.
‘Let’s do this.’ I told him gruffly.
He had me drop back to the wide band and gave me the run down
so the others could hear it. He oriented me to my position, walked through
the plan and bade Heero and Trowa let go of my Gundam. I heard a small tap
on the right; Heero letting me know he was still close by
‘See you dirt-side, guys.’ I said flippantly,
wishing I had the time to say goodbye to each of them…just in case;
but realizing at the same time how much that would upset them.
I rolled my shoulders, took my grip and started my re-entry.
I really hate re-entry.
Wufei began calling corrections almost immediately, his voice
calm and cool, like we were strolling on the beach.
Some of it was second nature and feel told me a lot of things.
I knew from excessive vibration when I had strayed out of pitch but without
instrumentation, I needed Wufei to guide me back. I could feel when corrections
had to be made but alone I couldn’t tell what the corrections were.
My stomach was starting to knot but Wufei just kept talking to me, a steady
monologue of detailed instructions. He didn’t have to resort to kata
correlations and I found myself wishing it were that simple. Re-entry is
a little more… delicate than cleaving mobile suits. It’s all
pitch and yaw and minute adjustments. I felt like I was ready to scream,
my nerves were so raw.
Then his voice got tinged with something hard and he reminded
me of what I had forgotten in the sheer terror of the situation.
‘Ok, Duo, we’re approaching communication black-out.’
Gods…Gods…how could I have forgotten that? How in the hell could
you forget something like that? It felt like my heart clinched in my chest.
‘Duo?’ He called to me, voice worried.
‘Here.’ I told him, ashamed to admit that it had
slipped my mind, that this had taken me by surprise, ‘Feed me.’
I barked at him.
And he did, gave me everything he had; air speed, angle, descent
rate, altitude. The last several minutes we counted off the drop rate together
until I had it and then I was suddenly counting unaccompanied. I have never
in my entire life felt more alone. I knew that they were out there, all
around me, making their own landings but the sudden silence was heart stopping.
I held it steady, despite every instinct screaming for me to fucking pull
up. I held it steady and counted it out, reducing speed here. Adjusting
angle now. I was glad at the end that they couldn’t hear me. My voice,
as I continued to count out loud, was tremulous and just damned scared.
I really didn’t want to go out like this. I was supposed to die in
battle; suddenly, surprised and all at once. Not in this slow, drawn out
race with gravity, splattered like a giant bug on somebody’s windshield.
I wished I could spare a hand to turn on my music; it makes
it easier if you can’t hear the bones breaking and the flesh giving
Then I hit and I must have plowed up ground for a good half
mile. I was tossed and jerked and the harness gave. That was the last thing
I was aware of; the feel of the shoulder strap giving way and the sound
of my own voice yelling, ‘Shit!’
I woke in someone’s arms and I really hoped it was Heero,
because whoever it was, they were holding me in a way that would just be
weird if it was one of the other guys.
I could smell that strange burnt ozone smell that comes off
the Gundams after a hot re-entry and judging from the heat I could feel
on the left side of my body, we weren’t all that far from where Deathscythe
must be lying. I probably hadn’t been out long, which was a good sign.
Before I really had a chance to advertise the fact that I was coming around,
I heard Wufei’s voice,
‘Tilt his head back, Heero. Quatre, see if you can peel
his eyes open.’
I started to struggle against them; it’s a very strange
thing to wake up to people doing things to your eyes.
‘Calm down, Duo.’ Quatre was soothing and it suddenly
came back to me why they were trying to force my eyes open.
‘Ok…Ok…let me.’ I told him, wishing
I could tell where everybody was. My eyes were so crusted I couldn’t
open them. There was a moment of panic and I reached to rub at them.
‘Stop it.’ Wufei said and someone pulled my hands
away, I couldn’t even tell who, ‘Don’t rub. I’m
going to pour a little water on them…we’ll get them open.’
Even with the warning, it was still a shock when it splashed
on my face and I flinched away. The arms around me tightened and I knew
for sure it was Heero. I resisted the urge to bury my head in his chest.
Gentle fingers worked around my eyes and the lids at last
came open, it was a shock that things were still black as night.
‘All right,’ Wufei’s voice was calm and
gentle, ‘I’m going to rinse your eyes out.’
I nodded and did my best to hold still while he slowly poured
the lukewarm water over my face. It relieved the stinging a little but I
still couldn’t see.
He used three bottles before he was satisfied that any more
wasn’t going to help.
‘We have to get out of here.’ Trowa warned in
a tight voice.
‘You two go ahead, get Sandrock under cover and see
if you can come back for Deathscythe.’ Heero’s voice rumbled
in his chest where he had the side of my face pressed close. ‘I’ll
take Duo with me; we need to get him back to base.’
I heard people moving and knew that orders were being followed.
There was nothing I could do but lie in Heero’s lap and shiver. I
didn’t think I had injured anything else; other than bruises and a
slight headache, nothing hurt that hadn’t already been hurting before
I blacked out. Despite that, I clung to Heero with all my might and didn’t
even object when he rose with me in his arms and carried me like a child
towards, I assumed, Wing. I wasn’t up to thinking very hard right
now. There was a cold, hard fact that was trying to present itself to me
and I just didn’t want to have to face it.
He strapped us in together and it reminded me with a shudder
of another trip we’d made like this.
‘I’m sorry, love.’ He whispered to me, feeling
my tremor, ‘I don’t know how else to get us both in here and
still keep you safe.’
‘It’s all right.’ I murmured and did my
best to make myself small and stay out of his way. He got us back off the
ground and it really was a blessed relief to let somebody else take over
for a while. The strain of getting that Gundam landed, of completely trusting
another human being to guide me through it, had left me exhausted. I felt
completely drained; aching and sore and just fucking weak-kneed tired. Like
I was coming back from a month long bout with the flu.
Once he had us on course and was able, he let go of the left
grip and wrapped his free arm tight around me.
‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ He sighed but
there was no anger in it, as I had been afraid there would be.
‘Everyone was upset enough.’ I told him and tempered
it with a dry chuckle, ‘I needed level heads to get my ass out of
the frying pan.’
He couldn’t return the laugh, couldn’t be flippant
with me. He was scared and hurting and his arm around my waist threatened
to cut off my air. I just squeezed his hand and didn’t complain. Truth
be told, if I had been out of the harness, I’d have been wrapped around
him in a strangle hold myself. Stark, raving terror was a newfound companion
living in the back of my head along side my old buddy the impish voice with
the attitude. Said voice was explaining to me rather maliciously that I
would never see again; my piloting days were over, my time of belonging
with the guys was over, my admittedly puny efforts in the war were over.
‘I’ve got you.’ Heero told me firmly. Feeling,
I think, the tension building in my body, ‘It’s going to be
all right. I’m here.’
He soothed me and talked to me all the way back to the base.
I let him carry me off the landing strip to the infirmary, keeping my face
buried against his neck. I felt naked as the day I was born. I could feel
eyes on us but couldn’t tell who or where or anything else. It made
me feel helpless and exposed. Heero’s arms helped me ward that feeling
off with the offer of his protection.
The medics messed with my eyes some more, flushing them again,
with something more than just water, putting drops in them that took away
the pain completely and then wrapping gauze and padding over them. I discovered
that I had a slight head wound as well, obviously from the crash but it
only took a couple of stitches. They commiserated over my bruises but couldn’t
offer much more than a little Ben-gay and sympathy; though the one across
my shoulder and collarbone was bad enough they wanted an x-ray.
Emotionally, I was something of a wreck. I got anxious every
time I lost physical contact with Heero. Jumped whenever someone touched
me unexpectedly. There were so many voices, coming from people I didn’t
know, that I had trouble focusing on what anyone was saying. I had to clinch
my hands to hide how bad I was shaking. I’d have rather gone through
the damned knee surgery again than endure this. This was hell. I had a new
mantra ringing through my head like a tolling bell; I’m blind. I’m
blind. I’m blind.
The only time I had alone was when they let me use the bathroom
right before they released me. I was appalled that I had to sit down to
pee just to make sure I didn’t miss the damned toilet. Then I was
overcome with fear that I hadn’t gotten my pants back in place right
and ran my hands over the zipper and snap three times to assure myself that
I was all together. I felt my way around to the sink and took a few minutes
to splash cool water on my face. I leaned there; arms braced against the
cold porcelain for a moment and almost started giggling when I realized
that I probably looked like I was staring in the mirror.
Well, wasn’t this just a kick in the head?
I guess I should have come out of there on my own but I couldn’t
think what I would do after I opened the door. Stand there and wait for
someone to come fetch me? Yell for assistance? Yep; much rather do the knee
surgery again. Hell; I’d let ‘em do both knees if this would
just go away.
Behind me, there was a soft tap on the door and I heard it
open and close.
‘It’s me.’ Heero told me quietly and then
his arms were tight around my waist.
I usually enjoyed it when he came up behind me like this but
tonight I couldn’t bear the exposed-belly feeling it gave me and I
turned in his arms to wrap myself around him, burying my face in his shoulder
again. I had only thought I was a mess before; reaction was starting to
set in and I felt like I was turning to liquid inside…like all my
bones were gone. I could feel hysteria wanting to rip my belly open and
I clung to Heero for all I was worth.
‘Shhh…’ He soothed, though I wasn’t
making a sound, ‘It’s all right. They say it’s probably
not permanent. A couple of weeks and the bandages can come off for good.
I’ve got drops for your eyes to keep them from hurting. I don’t
have any missions right now; I’m staying with you as long as I can.
It’s going to be all right.’
I let him calm me, let the nonsense words wash over me. Truth
be told, though, all I really heard was the word ‘probably’.
He got me out of that place. It was difficult, moving together.
I clutched at the arm he gave me like it was the only thing holding me up
over a thousand-foot chasm. After awhile, my brain engaged enough that I
realized I was hurting him and I had to force my hands to ease off.
‘It’s all right.’ He told me warmly and
laid his hand over mine, ‘Hold as tight as you need to.’
It gave me something to think about…not cutting off
Heero’s blood circulation. It became my whole damn focus.
I let him lead me, gave him total control, trusting him to
get me someplace safe. There was a transport truck and a couple of uncomfortable
moments when I had to let go of Heero while he climbed in and then I had
to get myself in by feel. We must have been in the back of the truck alone,
because he sat with his arms around me and let me lean my head against his
shoulder. I couldn’t work up to conversation, my mantra just rang
in my head; I’m blind. I’m blind. I’m blind. Looking back,
I think I was in shock. I wasn’t focusing on anything and after a
long while, it hit me that I had no idea where the hell I was or where I
was going. I hadn’t been listening, hadn’t been keeping track
of anything. I didn’t even have a clue what time it was. I raised
my head for the first time in a long while and would have blinked stupidly
if it had been possible.
‘Heero?’ I whispered and I don’t know why
I couldn’t make my voice any louder, ‘I…I’m lost.’
I heard a shuddering, relieved sigh beside me and he gently
began talking to me, ‘We’re in a transport truck; they’re
taking us to a drop point near town. Trowa is going to meet us there with
a car. We’ll go from there to the safe house that you and Wufei were
using. Quatre had to go back to the mountain estate.’
‘Wufei?’ I wanted to know, suddenly unsure if
anyone else had been hurt in the fight.
‘Sent north. Will probably be away for a little while.’
I think he understood how much I needed anchors, ‘Everyone else is
I chuckled lightly for him, ‘Everybody but me again,
There was another one of those shaky sighs, ‘Everybody
but you.’ He agreed and brought the hand that wasn’t involved
with holding me tight, up to my face. He tilted my chin up and softly kissed
‘I would rather appreciate it,’ He told me quietly
when he drew away, ‘If you would never do something like that again.’
It was as close as he could come to; you scared the holy,
living crap out of me.
I smiled gently and nuzzled my head back on his shoulder,
‘Kinda scared the shit out of me too.’
We finished the trip in silence and when we got to the drop
point, Trowa was there waiting to help get me down from the back of the
truck. It was good to feel his broad shoulders under my hands as he lifted
me down, letting me know that he was all right. I needed to know that they
were all Ok; that all my little ducks were in a row. It stung that I wasn’t
going to get to ‘see’ Wufei for a while; I really wanted to
be able to thank him for getting me through…that. They braced me between
them as the truck pulled away and there was silence around me; silence that
was punctuated with something tense. I could feel them communicating without
‘Stop that.’ I snapped and they both jumped, ‘If
you’ve got something to say, damnit, say it out loud.’
‘Sorry, Duo.’ Heero murmured and then they were
getting me into a car I didn’t recognize. Trowa drove and Heero sat
in back with me, letting me curl against him. I knew I was leaning and leaning
damn hard but I wasn’t able to stop it just yet. I still felt…scattered.
It was hard to think, hard to focus. My body was still full of stress poisons
and I felt weak and shaky and exhausted.
‘Rest, love.’ Heero told me, his arm keeping me
close and I finally gave in to it and let myself slump across his lap and
sleep. It was turning into a long day.
I jerked awake more than once, taken with total panic but
Heero was there, catching my hands as I reached to tear at the bandages
around my eyes, catching at my attention with his gentle words.
right. I’m here.’
When we got to the cabin, he hauled me out in his arms again
and I didn’t fight it; didn’t object to his carrying me like
a child. Hell; I welcomed it. There was no damn reason for him to be treating
me like this, none of my injuries had anything to do with my ability to
walk but I felt like I’d come apart somehow and couldn’t seem
to get my scattered wits about me. If I’d still been a kid back on
L2, I would have gone to ground. Would have run and hid in one of the many
bolt holes we kept mapped in our heads. Wrapped in Heero’s arms was
as grounded as I could get.
I could hear Trowa moving ahead of us, getting the front door
open. Heero waited on the steps for the long minutes it took Trowa to recon
the cabin, not moving until our partner came back and declared everything
Once inside, Heero moved to take me straight upstairs and
Trowa came close, speaking softly as though he thought I was asleep,
‘Heero…we need to get some hot food into him.
Look at him; he’s pale as a ghost and his skin’s clammy and
‘I want him in bed.’ Heero said tersely, ‘See
if you can find some soup or something and bring it up.’
Trowa grunted an affirmation and I could hear him moving away.
Heero took me up the stairs. I didn’t speak; let the conversation
pass as though I hadn’t heard it. I couldn’t cope right now.
Just could not, physically, mentally, emotionally…deal with any of
it. I just let them do with me as they pleased. I was too busy listening
to the impish voice in my head telling me what life was going to be like
living in total darkness…forever. It was having a hell of a good time
listing all the things I would never see again; the sunrise, the stars,
hawks in flight, thunderstorms, roses…Heero’s eyes. All gone….forever.
Heero found the room I had been using and took me there, sitting
me down on the bed. At the last, as he put me down, I felt the tremble in
his arms that told me of fatigued muscles. Bloody hell…where was my
‘Heero…’ I began and I heard that relieved
sigh again; I was driving him to distraction with my not talking, ‘I’m
sorry…’ I told him. Sorry for scaring him, sorry for leaning
so hard, sorry for not handling this well.
‘Hush, love.’ He said and I was taken with the
urge to chuckle at him; worried when I didn’t speak…but then
arguing with me when I did.
He undid the laces on my boots and worked them off me and
then his hands came to unfasten the buttons on my shirt. I balked.
There was a frozen moment and I felt my face flame. Gods…this
was stupid; I slept with this man. I made love with him on a fairly regular
basis. He had seen me bare ass naked a score of times. But on all those
occasions…I had been able to see him as well. Have you ever lain with
someone who is fully clothed while you are completely naked? It’s
a very strange, strange feeling. It speaks of vulnerability, of exposure
on a primal level. I couldn’t handle it right now.
‘Duo?’ He questioned me and I could hear the confusion
in his voice. I couldn’t see his face to read his expression and I
suppose with the bandages covering my eyes, he was probably having a little
trouble reading me as well.
‘I’m sorry.’ I said, ‘It just feels…strange.’
‘It’s all right.’ He reassured me but I
could tell he didn’t really understand.
‘Can you…find me something to sleep in?’
I asked softly and there was only the slightest hesitation before he told
‘Of course, love.’
He left my side to go hunt through my duffle bag for clothes
and it was the first time I had lost the skin-to-skin contact with him since
the truck. I was trembling by the time he got back and it was all I could
do not to grab him when I felt his touch again.
‘Duo…’ His voice was troubled; uncertain,
‘Tell me what to do for you?’
I really needed to get myself together; I was scaring Heero.
I took a deep, tremulous breath and tried to come outside myself, tried
to stop listening to the imp.
‘I’m sorry.’ I told him at length, ‘I
just feel so damn…helpless; so…vulnerable.’
He was quiet for a minute and I knew he was trying to put
himself in my place. That’s one of the things that I love about my
Heero; he’s so good at seeing things from my side. So good about taking
a step back and trying to truly look at things from a different angle.
He gently pulled my hands loose from the death grip they had
on the blankets, holding them in his for a moment and I imagined he was
watching them shake. Then he carefully pressed some clothes into my hands.
‘A pair of your running shorts and one of my tank tops.’
He told me gently, ‘I’m going to go help Trowa with your soup.
I won’t come back in the room without knocking first, Ok?’
I flushed hotly and nodded, wanting to apologize but his fingers
brushed my lips and his voice was full of warm understanding, ‘It’s
all right, love. I…I think I understand.’
He left the room with more noise than was usual for him and
the door closed with a noticeable click.
I was awash with sudden doubts; was I truly alone? How the
hell could I be sure? And why in the hell did it suddenly matter to me so
I bit down on it all and stripped before I had a chance to
think about it too much. It was slow, feeling the shorts until I found the
tag to discern front from back and my legs when I had to stand to pull them
up were wobbly and unsteady. The tank top was one of Heero’s and I
inhaled his scent as I pulled it on. His clothes are a little large on me
and I’m sure that’s why he had chosen it. It fit loose and comfortable
and his subtle, musky scent was a hell of a comfort. I don’t know
if he’d done that on purpose, or if it was just a bonus.
I dumped the dirty clothes beside the bed and lay down, pulling
the blankets around me. I couldn’t stop shaking. I wanted to yell
for Heero to come back. I felt so… out in the open, so vulnerable,
so helpless. If something happened, there was no way in hell I could defend
myself. Hell; if someone came into the room how was I supposed to know friend
from foe? I was so off balance, I couldn’t find any sort of anchor;
all my reference points were scattered to the four winds. How in the bloody,
stinking hell did people live like this? A couple of hours…even with
the faint, lingering hope that it wasn’t permanent and I was a quivering
wreck on the verge of a nervous break-down. It took a stronger soul than
little ol’ Duo Maxwell to cope with the end of all light in the universe.
And through it all, my personal, internal imp continued to
list all the things that were lost to me; Quatre’s bright smile, watching
Wufei do his katas, seeing Trowa’s eyes light up whenever Quatre walked
into a room, Heero….all of Heero.
‘Shut up.’ I growled to the imp and he only laughed
in evil pleasure.
By the time the knock sounded on the door, I was holding on
by my fingernails, mere minutes from howling my grief and anger to the whole
‘Come in.’ I tried to say but it came out as more
of a grunt.
The door opened with a rattle and the gentle breeze it made
in opening brought the sharp tang of tomato soup to my nose.
‘We brought your dinner.’ Heero told me gently
and I heard his steps sound as he came across the hardwood floor to the
side of the bed. Trowa was right behind him.
They were both making noise on purpose, trying to help me
work through this. Heero had spoken as soon as the door had opened, to reassure
me that it was just them. He had said ‘we’ to let me know they
were both present. They made unaccustomed sounds as they moved to let me
know where they were. It made me want to smile. It helped ease the hysteria
eating at my gut.
Heero came and helped me sit up, easing into bed behind me
to give me something to recline against. Trowa sat on the side of the bed
next to us; I could feel the mattress sag as he sat. I took hold of one
of Heero’s hands as soon as he was within reach and concentrated on
not breaking bones as I held on. There was that silence again and I could
feel communication happening around me, washing over and through me but
passing me by. I really hated that.
‘Please don’t.’ I asked of them and I felt
Heero tense behind me and somewhere in the vicinity of my hip, Trowa chuckled
‘We apparently are making eye contact too loudly, Heero.’
He said gently and it was meant to lighten things for me.
I tried a shaky chuckle of my own, ‘Clashing gazes and
all that.’ I murmured.
‘I’m sorry.’ He told me honestly, his voice
low to match the tone I had set, ‘We’re worried; you don’t…look
I quirked a grin in what I hoped was his direction, ‘That’s
good; because I don’t feel so stinking good.’
I felt him take my free hand and he was pressing a mug into
my fingers. The cup was warm, almost too hot. I became aware of just how
icy cold my hand was as it closed around the mug. It was like the storm
that happens when hot air raises to meet cold; a shudder ran through my
whole body, an almost convulsion that would have sent the soup spilling
across my lap if Trowa hadn’t still had his hands on mine.
‘Easy.’ Heero whispered near my ear. His arms
were tight around me helping to anchor me in this place. They were trying
so hard; to understand and support, to ease things for me.
‘Gomen.’ I said softly, having tired of the word
sorry. I had to let go of Heero’s hand to wrap both mine around the
‘Drink some of it.’ Trowa’s hands were still
gently holding mine, ‘Let’s get a little of that heat in you.’
He helped me raise it to my lips and I suddenly realized how
damn hard this would have been if he had put it in a bowl and I’d
had to try eating with a spoon.
‘Thank you.’ I mumbled, hoping he understood.
I almost burned my tongue on it; taking a small sip and feeling
it run all the way down into my belly like a line of fire. I had to sit
and let that small swallow settle for a few minutes before I tried another.
It helped a little, serving to warm me from the inside out. Between the
solid feel of Heero’s arm around me and the soup, the shivering that
had been wracking my body for the last couple of hours finally eased.
Trowa took his hands away after a couple of sips and I held
the mug very carefully, wary of spilling it.
‘Better?’ He asked me at one point and I nodded
There was that feel again of them speaking behind my back.
I was really starting to hate it but decided that it wasn’t worth
beating my head against the wall over it; they just couldn’t seem
to help themselves.
‘Duo?’ Trowa ventured at length, ‘ Can I
look at your shoulder?’
I realized that they thought I might accept things from Trowa
that I might get irritated with Heero over. Or at least that I might not
snap at Trowa about it. I sighed and turned my head so that he could peel
back the sleeve…strap? Whatever the hell you call that part of a tank
There was the sound of a sympathetic hiss as he got a good
look at me, the place where his fingers were holding my shirt away from
my skin was extremely sore. I could only imagine what it looked like.
‘It’s Ok.’ I told them, ‘They x-rayed
They were quiet for a while, just letting me drink my soup.
Then Trowa said, ‘You got jerked around pretty good, huh?’
‘No shit?’ I blurted before I could stop it, flushing
and instantly sorry, ‘Felt like I was plowing the whole north forty.’
I amended, trying to take back a little of the mocking tone that had been
in my voice.
‘You know,’ Trowa told me very hesitantly and
I realized that he was doing almost all the talking, ‘The infirmary
sent back some sedatives with us…just something to help you relax.
You’re…tight as a drum.’
I froze, soup half way to my lips, ‘Please…no.’
I whispered, suddenly terrified that they had drugged my food. You can hide
a lot of after-taste with the acidic bite of tomatoes. I lowered the cup
and tried to think feverishly how much I had drunk. Damn. Damn. Damn. I
was already so far gone a three-legged, one-eyed baby lamb could have taken
me out. Gods; drugged on top of everything else? I would be utterly helpless,
completely defenseless. It crossed my mind to hurl the mug across the room.
‘Duo!’ Heero’s voice was sharp, catching
at the spiraling alarm that was taking hold of me, ‘I would never
give you drugs against your will. Never.’
I wanted to believe him and I think deep down somewhere, I
knew it for the truth but in the end it was Trowa who actually eased my
mind, not with the fierceness that Heero had used but with a laugh.
His voice was light and amused and he said, ‘If I was
going to slip drugs into your food, I most certainly wouldn’t warn
you about them.’
There was another of those long silences and there was a movement
from Heero that I understood to be encouragement for Trowa to talk to me
some more. Trowa’s hand was suddenly touching my bicep. The movement
had probably not been sudden but I’d had no warning and I twitched
‘Duo,’ His voice was soothing and calm and I felt
a little irritated, as though he thought I was one of his circus animals,
‘You’re shaking like a leaf. You need to calm down…’
‘Damn it.’ I growled at them, ‘I need more
control, not less!’
There was that stony silence again. Gods, this sucked.
‘Drink your soup.’ Trowa told me wearily, ‘I
swear to you…it’s not drugged.’
I didn’t want it any more. I really, truly didn’t.
I hadn’t been all that hungry to begin with and no matter how much
I believed them, the idea of the drugs had been planted in my head and I
knew the soup was going to taste funny now. But they wanted me to eat and
were not likely to stop badgering me until I complied. I steeled myself
and raised the mug back to my lips, doing my best to get it down in gulps.
My stomach rebelled, needling me with mild nausea and I had to stop.
‘That’s enough.’ Heero sighed from behind
me and Trowa took the cup away. There was fidgeting and finally the sound
of pills rattling in a bottle.
‘I’ll leave the medicine here by the bed.’
Trowa told us and his voice sounded tired, ‘Good night.’
I felt the bed shift as he got up and somehow was left feeling
faintly guilty. My hand lifted from the blankets, almost of its own accord
and quested in that direction. Fingers caught mine and squeezed for a second.
‘Thank you.’ I mumbled, trying to turn my face
in his direction and knowing I wasn’t quite getting it. Thank you
for being here, for trying so hard, for not drugging me, for not hating
me for being so weak.
‘You’re welcome,’ He said and there was
a touch of humor in his voice, ‘you pig-headed idiot.’
I snorted and heard his steps heading for the door but the
door didn’t close immediately and I cocked my head in that direction.
‘You know…’ He said slowly and there was
some more of that electric feel of unspoken communication, ‘That was
some damned impressive piloting. I couldn’t have done what you did.’
And there was the sound of the door clicking shut. I could
hear his footsteps in the hall, going back downstairs. I would have sat
and blinked after him…if I could have.
‘Damn.’ I muttered and wasn’t sure why.
Heero’s arms loosened from around me and moved to slide
up and down my arms, kneading gently. I let him, leaning back into his embrace
and listened to my own body talk to me. Trowa was right to a certain extent;
I was so stressed and tense that my muscles were aching with it. The trembling
was part trauma reaction, part fatigue and part fear. I could feel a ghostly
impression of my pilot’s harness in the aching lines of bruises across
my chest and shoulders, along my hipbones.
I understood their wanting me to take those sedatives. I could
feel the pulse of my own heart thumping painfully in my chest; had been
aware of it for hours. It was like someone had hooked me up to an adrenaline
IV; I couldn’t settle down, it felt like my nerves were running fire.
‘Duo…love,’ Heero dared to breath next to
my cheek, ‘You’re tearing yourself apart…you have to calm
I sighed, letting my head fall back on his shoulder, drawing in a long breath
of his scent. I’d never been so aware of the musky, spicy smell of
him before. I could lose myself in that scent.
‘Come on,’ He said after a moment, ‘Lay
down and let me try to help.’
He eased out from behind me and guided me to stretch out on
my stomach. The bed shifted again as he climbed around and straddled my
thighs, his hands settling on my shoulders. He started slowly, gently; because
I was so stressed and tense that it almost hurt. I’m sure it felt
to him like he was massaging a stone. He is extremely good at this; his
hands can find the deepest knots and cramps and he almost teases them out.
When he chooses to do this for me, he can work tirelessly by the hour, seeming
to take pleasure in reducing me to a puddle of bonelessness.
He had his work cut out for him tonight. He kneaded until
he began to coerce tiny sounds of pleasure from me and then…things
subtly changed. The touch of his hands became…suggestive.
I knew what he intended. He meant to break me down. And he
could. Without a doubt. He would use his hands and his lips and that body
of his and he would drive away the last of the battered control I had left.
He would shatter me; meaning to let me cry it out, meaning to offer me release.
I couldn’t accept that offer…not tonight. I didn’t doubt
that I would break; what I doubted was my ability to pull the pieces back
‘Heero…please don’t.’ I begged him,
‘I can’t…I can’t…’
There was a heavy, heart-wrenching sigh, ‘Duo…please;
let me help you. You need to let go.’
‘I can’t let go, Heero.’ I whispered into
the darkness, ‘I’ll come apart…I’ll…I’ll...’
There were no words for what I was afraid of.
He moved to stretch out beside me, his hand continuing to
gently stroke over my rigid back muscles, ‘I don’t know what
to do.’ He finally told me.
‘Just be here.’ I turned into him, ignoring the
pull of bruised muscles, ‘Let me hold on to you just a little while
He enfolded me in his arms, pulling me close and letting me
pillow my head on his shoulder, ‘Forever, my little one.’ He
sighed against the top of my head, ‘You can hold on to me forever.’
The panic in my gut finally crested and my trembling turned
to bone jarring shudders. I couldn’t get close enough to him; he seemed
to understand and clutched me tight. I still needed more contact and ended
up crawling on top of him, burying my head against his chest, hearing his
heart pound under me. He wrapped arms and legs around me and held me while
I rode it out.
‘I’m sorry…I’m sorry…just give
me a little bit…’ I gritted out, wholly and completely ashamed
at how low this had brought me. This was a proverbial drop in the bucket
of things I had endured through my lifetime, next to nothing compared to
hurts and injuries of the past. But I couldn’t get around the possibility
that I might never see again. It changed the whole definition of my being.
Everything I had ever been, all the things that I had ever counted myself
skilled at, was turned upside-down by this new bump in the road.
I was still coming down off an adrenalin over-load; that trip
back to earth had taken every bit of control I had ever thought about owning.
You think that was nothing? You climb your ass up to the top of a fifty
story building, get up on the edge, close your eyes and trust somebody else
to guide you around a six inch wide ledge. Backwards. In high-heels. In
a high wind. When every fiber of your being is telling you that the other
person is suddenly going to go… ‘Oooops.’
The vision of little ol’ Duo sitting in a rocking chair
on the sun porch of some soldier’s retirement home somewhere was not
exactly the one I had cherished in my heart. Death in battle was my preferred
method of going out of this war; not sidelined by something this base. Not
being left behind by my lover and my friends while they went on to fight
without me, until they forgot I had ever existed. Left on the outside again.
At long last, it seemed to flood out of me and I felt muscles
begin to give in to the fatigue. I began to unwind and I made to lever myself
off poor Heero but to my surprise, he held me tight to his chest and whispered
‘Please…do you think you could sleep here…against
me?’ His voice was so tentative, so desperately needing…something.
And it felt good, damnit; I hadn’t had his arms around me for a month.
I gave in to it and relaxed back against him.
‘Let me have tonight.’ I sighed against his chest,
‘Just let me have tonight and I’ll manage better tomorrow.’
There was a small silence and then he said softly, ‘I’m
here to guard you.’ And I knew he understood. It helped ease me off
to sleep at last and his voice and his hands kept me anchored and oriented
all through the night. In my dreams, there was light and color and it made
it all the harder to wake to the darkness.
‘Time?’ I would croak whenever I roused, after
the initial twinge of panic passed and he would gently tell me. Then his
hands would stroke over my hair and back until I dozed again. But he kept
me curled on his chest, an intimate thing that made me feel watched over
When his response to my need to know the time was eight, there
didn’t seem to be much point in trying to sleep any more. He resisted
my easing off him at first but then understood that sleep was beyond me
and let me roll away. I kept his hand wrapped in mine but managed not to
clutch, found that the trembling was gone from my limbs. I turned my head
in his direction and smiled, I felt him shiver.
‘Are you all right?’ I asked warmly, ‘You
couldn’t have gotten much sleep with me sprawled all over you all
He chuckled and I felt his hand on my chin, gently turning
me to face him. I had been off by more than several inches.
‘Oh…’ I grinned, ‘There you are.’
I didn’t get the laugh.
‘How are you feeling?’ He asked me, his hand leaving
my chin to stroke gently up and down my shoulder.
I opened my mouth with the flippant answer and closed it again,
thinking that he deserved better than that after getting me through last
night. I let the grin fade to a soft smile, ‘Better. Not as shaky.
Just damned…lost.’ That last came out all on its own; I hadn’t
meant to say it.
‘I know.’ He squeezed my shoulder and my hand
moved to cover his.
‘You’re always there…to catch me.’
I sighed, letting myself lay my head on his shoulder again. What could a
few more minutes hurt?
I felt him tense under my hands, could almost hear the thoughts
whirling around in his head.
‘Stop it.’ I told him gruffly, ‘You made
the right decision…I’m here, aren’t I?’
We lay, me in the darkness and him in the early dawn for a
bit while I waited for him to sort things out in his head.
‘I could see you were coming in just a little too fast…’
He murmured, his lips finding my forehead, ‘Just a bit too steep…and
I couldn’t do anything.’
‘It was mine to do.’ I told him simply.
‘Trowa was right; it was an incredible job of flying.
I don’t know how in the hell you did it…I was…I thought…’
His arms tightened around me almost convulsively. I was scared. I thought
you were going to die. The words remained unspoken but I heard them all
the same and it was my turn to offer the comfort. I shifted up and found
him in the dark, drawing his head down to pillow on my chest. I stroked
my fingers through his hair, ‘It’s all over now. We made it
through another mess. It’s all right…’
He wouldn’t let himself stay there long but for a few
moments, he let go and allowed me to hold him, let me rock him in my arms.
It did more to bring me back to the here and now than all the rest; that
understanding that, underneath it all, Heero needed me too.
When he drew away, suddenly remembering the bruises from my
crash landing, I was ready to greet the new day. My first day of learning
to live in the dark. I had figured out, in the wee hours of the morning,
that the only way to approach this was to stop hoping it was going to go
away. The fear of it being a permanent condition was what was eating me
alive. The fear was bred from the hope; therefore I simply had to proceed
as though I already knew I was trapped in the dark forever. Had to get on
with things and figure out how to deal with it. Sure. No real problem; simple
‘So,’ I grinned, ‘Are you color coordinated
enough that you can find me some clothes?’
‘How hard is it to coordinate with black?’ He
asked, playing this game with me.
I chuckled, ‘I’m not sure I trust you; it would
be just like you to dress me in pink and green just for laughs.’ Which,
of course, wasn’t true but served to make him laugh with me.
‘Too easy.’ He told me and I could hear the strain
in his voice, so I stopped playing before I went too far.
Instead, I got out of bed and headed toward where I had last
seen my duffle bag. Moving slowly with my hands outstretched, sweeping back
and forth in that terribly clichéd, classic Hollywood I-can’t-see
gesture. There’s a nagging fear of stepping off into empty air when
you are newly blind. It is hard for the brain to adjust to the lack of input;
for some reason it accepts input from the eyes unquestioned but has trouble
trusting touch and memory. I kept expecting to kick something. I heard Heero
come up off the bed in the instant that I started across the room, I felt
him hovering behind me and knew that he was struggling with his need to
It felt like a huge miracle that I found the stupid duffle
bag and I pulled it open to feel through my clothes. I was surprised how
much I could identify by touch alone. I found the black jeans because I
knew the leather tag on the back had come loose on one corner. I felt past
the t-shirts, which I could not tell apart and found a button down shirt.
The only one of those I owned was a blue denim one. Black and blue; it seemed
appropriate. I dug out clean underwear and then stood, hesitant. There was
another of those moments and guilt came and gnawed at my underbelly. I took
a deep, determined breath and started to get undressed.
There was the sound of a small sigh very close behind me and
for a moment I felt heat on the skin of my arm as though he were going to
lay his hand there but then it was gone and he firmly told me, ‘I’m
going to go start breakfast. Call me when you’re ready.’
I felt oddly abandoned and relieved all at the same time.
‘Thank you.’ I whispered after the door had snicked closed behind
him. I returned to the bed where I could lay the clothes and sit down when
I needed to, in order to get dressed. I left the tank top and shorts lie
on the bed for future use as pajamas and struggled into my clothes.
Being fully dressed helped a tiny, infinitesimal bit with
the exposed feeling and I took a deep breath, girding my proverbial loins
for a foray into the outside world. I tried to consciously make up a new
mantra; I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. But most of my mantras
sort of come to me full-blown and this one wanted to be something closer
to; bloody hell. Bloody hell. Bloody hell.
I walked from the bed to where I thought the door was and
then had to feel around for it, when I found it, the rattle of the knob
told me my hands were shaking again.
Well; wasn’t this just enough to make you wanna toss
My little, private, stand-up comedian imp wasn’t even
talking to me anymore, just rolling around on the floor of my brain giggling
like a loon.
Ok, goal number one; bathroom. Just like Wufei would tell
me; one thing at a time, Maxwell. I could almost hear his voice. I stayed
where I could run my fingers along the right-hand wall and counted doorways
until I found the bathroom. The door was blessedly open but I still hesitated,
giving anyone who might be inside a chance to speak up and object to my
going in. Nothing was said so I went ahead, closing the door behind me and
without thinking, my fingers automatically reached for the light switch.
The imp roared; laughed so damn hard he choked.
‘Shut up, asshole.’ I growled, fighting against
the hysterical giggle that wanted to push passed my own lips. Best not let
that get started.
I did the sit down to pee thing again and then went to the
sink to find my things. Brushing my hair was difficult with the bandages
around my head but I knew if I took them loose to do it, I wouldn’t
be able to keep from opening my eyes. If there was the slightest chance
that they might heal, I wasn’t going to screw it up by doing something
stupid. That notion told me that I had not managed to squelch the hope as
much as I had thought I had. Guess it was going to take a little more work.
My hair, thank the Gods; I can do with my eyes closed, so
I managed to brush and rebraid it without a lot of trouble. I had more of
a dilemma with brushing my teeth, as I wasn’t sure which tube was
the toothpaste. I finally had to open a couple and smell them. I could only
hope I had the right toothbrush. I figured Heero wouldn’t mind if
I got it wrong but Trowa might be a little pissed.
Step two; kitchen. I left the bathroom and traced the left-hand
wall until I thought I was fairly close to the stairs. That gut-clenching
fear of stepping off into thin air was back as I felt my way slowly ahead,
just sure that I was right on top of them. We trust our eyes so much. There
are so many things we don’t bother to truly register, because we know
we’ll see it the next time we need the information. I could not, for
instance, for the life of me, remember what color the wall was I was running
my fingers along. Don’t ask me what made me suddenly realize that,
or why it bothered me. I’d been in this cabin for a full week; but
I could not tell you what color half of it was.
My sliding foot finally found empty air and I felt a thrill
of something between victory and fear. I groped out until I got my hands
on the rail and started down. When going down stairs, there is a reverse
to the fear of stepping off into nothing; the apprehension that you will
get to the bottom and step down only to encounter floor before you are expecting
it. I had not known that. I vowed on my next trip to count the treads to
help eliminate some surprises.
I was jerked to a stop by the sound of Heero’s voice,
so laced with apprehension that I feared I might be about to step on something
somebody had left sit on the stairs.
‘Duo!’ Was all he really said and then I heard
the sound of him practically running across the living room floor. I counted
his steps coming up to me, trying to judge how close I was to the bottom
and then discarded the information, realizing he probably took the stairs
two at a time. His hand closed on my elbow and I had to smile.
‘Heero;’ I told him with a hint of humor, ‘I’m
not on crutches.’
He has a thing about me on stairs when I’ve been injured.
I find it a little exasperating. It’s not like I actually fell that
time; Trowa caught me.
He helped me the rest of the way down, warning me when I got
to the last step so I didn’t look like an idiot trying to step down
on a flat surface.
He led me to the kitchen and eased me into one of the straight
back chairs, taking my hand and putting a glass of something in it. A tentative
taste told me it was orange juice. I was surprised; Wufei and I hadn’t
had any, someone had been to the store and the nearest town was five miles
away. Had to have been Trowa, of course, because Heero had been with me
except for the last twenty minutes or so. It’s a very small town with
only one little general store. He had to have been camped on their doorstep
when they opened at eight o’clock this morning to have gotten back
There was the familiar smell of cooking oatmeal and I had
to grin; Heero had found one of my very few comfort foods and plied me with
it whenever he felt I was in the need. I would have preferred something
I could have eaten with my hands but I supposed I was going to have to figure
out the secrets of eating without getting it all over myself sooner or later.
That thought, of course, hadn’t taken Heero into consideration.
I realized suddenly as he pulled a chair up next to me, so close that our
knees were touching, that he meant to feed me.
‘Heero…’ I warned, getting truly irritated,
‘Don’t be ridiculous; I have to learn to fucking feed myself.’
There was dead silence from beside me but behind me, Trowa’s
sudden chuckle made me jump.
‘Sorry Duo.’ He told me, noticing the flinch but
his voice still sounded amused, ‘Heero, don’t be an idiot.’
‘Give me the spoon and eat your own damn breakfast.’
I told him, trying to keep my tone from letting him hear how humiliated
There was a grunt and the spoon was finally in my fingers
and Heero shifted a little distance away. I felt vaguely bad.
‘It’s not that hard.’ Trowa informed him,
‘I tried it a little last night. Liquid foods are awkward and I imagine
things like peas and corn would be difficult but if we’re careful
what we fix, he shouldn’t have any trouble.’
I wanted to gawk at him. Do you know, you can’t really
do a decent gawk without use of your eyes? His chuckle told me he got the
gist of it, though.
I tried to imagine him sitting in the kitchen with his eyes
closed, eating different foods to figure out what I could handle and what
I couldn’t. When I thought about it, I realized that’s what
prompted his trip to town this morning. I was so touched, even the imp got
‘Trowa…’ I breathed, wishing I knew where
he was so I could reach out to him.
‘Eat your breakfast.’ He told me gruffly.
So I did. It wasn’t Gods awful hard but it wasn’t
automatic either. I had to think about what I was doing, had to constantly
keep in my mind where things were so I didn’t knock over the juice
or stick the spoon into the table. The toast was easy; I could pick it up
and after losing it a couple of times, I just shifted it to my left hand
and didn’t set it down between bites any more. I could do this.
Of course it started me thinking about other things and I
wondered if it would be possible to learn to cook for myself. How in the
hell would you tell when things were done? It must be possible; I knew blind
people sometimes lived alone but it was a damned daunting notion. I couldn’t
imagine it. I suppose you wouldn’t have much of an electric bill at
least. If you made sure that all your clothes were in the same color group,
so that everything mixed and matched, you couldn’t screw that up too
bad. I knew about Braille but where did you find books for the blind? I’d
never seen any in the bookstores; were there special stores for blind people?
I had never seen any of those either. How did you get around? How did you
find your way from one place to the other? Ok, you could learn a single
house, I felt fairly certain that I could get myself anywhere in this cabin
that I wanted to go without too much trouble but you couldn’t live
and never leave the house. What would you do when you needed something?
How would you get to the store? You would have to live someplace in a good-sized
town, there just wouldn’t be much choice; everything would have to
be within walking distance. But still…how long would it take to learn
your way around? I tried to imagine myself with one of those white canes
and felt ill. I suppose I could get a seeing-eye dog…
‘Duo…?’ Heero’s voice was soft but
had an edge to it. When I thought about it, I realized he had called me
more than once; I turned my head toward him to let him know that he had
‘Duo, are you all right?’ I felt his hand on my
forearm and I smiled for him.
I had stopped eating, lost in thought and had just been sitting
here…uhmmm…well; staring off into space is not exactly the right
term but you get the idea.
‘Well,’ I tried for flippant, upgrading the smile
to a cock-eyed grin, ‘I always wanted a dog.’
There was a tiny sound from Heero, an almost moan and then
I heard his chair scrape harshly across the floor and the sound of him fleeing
I let my shoulders slump and shoved breakfast away, folding
my arms on the table and letting my head fall forward on them. I jerked
upright almost immediately, sharp pain giving me a pointed reminder of the
stitches in my head. My hand bumped the empty orange juice glass and in
a sudden explosion of frustration, I grabbed it and cocked my arm back to
throw the damned thing across the room. Control kicked in at the last moment
and I sat it shakily back on the table with a heavy sigh.
‘Go ahead and throw it, if it’ll make you feel
better.’ Trowa told me softly from my right and I jumped, having almost
forgotten he was there.
‘And just how in the hell would I clean it up?’
I asked sarcastically, ‘With my luck, I’d slice myself to ribbons
trying to…’ My voice was starting to sound ragged and I just
‘I’ll clean it up for you.’ He said and
I had to laugh but it hitched a little in my throat and I stopped.
A warm hand came to rest on my back, soothing gently, ‘I’m
serious.’ He said, ‘You can throw everything on the damned table
if it’ll help.’
I swallowed the lump in my throat and sighed again, ‘It
There was a long silence while he continued to rub those gentle,
lazy circles on my back. Ever wonder why people rub in circles? Why isn’t
it ever squares, or triangles or something? Just no bloody imagination,
‘I’m sorry.’ I said after a little while,
‘I don’t know what keeps coming over me.’
His hand on my back stilled for a moment and then slid on
around me, his other arm suddenly there across my chest and he pulled me
against him in a gentle hug, ‘Damnit, Duo. You’re allowed to
give in to it now and again.’
His scent filled my head, a faint mixture of the memory of
sawdust and something essentially untamed, something primal. His chest and
arms are unbelievably strong, muscles hard and supple under the skin. I
took a breath and tried to accept a little of what he was offering, a little
of the comfort, a little of the support.
‘I can’t.’ I told him in a whisper, ‘I
The arms around me tightened for a moment but he didn’t
say anything more.
I sighed, pushing gently away, ‘I should go find Heero.’
I could hear the smile in his voice, ‘He won’t
have gone far. Want some help?’
‘I’ll manage.’ I rose and made my way to
the nearest wall, tracing a path to the doorway to the living room, where
Heero had gone. Behind me, I heard Trowa gathering the dirty dishes.
It didn’t take three steps into the living room before
Heero was there at my side, taking me by the elbow and leading me to sit
on the couch.
‘Heero…I’m sorry…’ I began,
not sure how to make this easier for him.
‘Will you stop trying so damn hard to be all right for
me?’ He growled, voice sounding thick.
‘I’m trying to be all right for me, love.’
I explained and finding the hand that held my elbow, I traced my way up
his arm until my fingers found his face. He tensed as I stroked over the
line of his jaw, the curve of his lips.
‘I…I never even got to see you.’ I breathed
softly, letting him have a tiny shard of what he wanted.
‘Duo…’ He sighed, so very close to me, I
could feel the tremor in his voice.
‘Heero, I’m still making that descent…I’m
still in that pilot’s seat.’ I wanted so badly for him to understand,
‘I have to stay in control; I have to maintain the course Wufei set
me on…I can’t pull up…no matter how much my gut is telling
He hesitated, something on his mind that needed saying. His
fingers moved to brush over my face as well, tracing the edge of my bandages.
‘Why…why can’t you let yourself believe…’
He stopped, unable to finish and I imagined his eyes searching my face.
I shivered, ‘I can’t. That hope brings…the
fear. The fear that when these come off…’ I brought my fingers
up to the gauze around my eyes, ‘The darkness will still be there.
I stopped, his pained moan told me he understood.
‘It…it feels like you’re shutting me out.’
He whispered and I wondered what it was about the darkness only I could
see, that made us all want to speak in sighs.
‘Never.’ I told him firmly, reaching carefully
for his face again, ‘You’re in here;’ I touched the center
of my chest, ‘Forever.’
He took my hands in his and eased us down on the couch, settling
himself and bringing me down to lie with my head pillowed on his stomach,
my arms around his waist.
‘Rest.’ He told me and I wanted to sigh with exasperation;
we hadn’t been out of bed for more than a couple of hours. But this
wasn’t about me right now. Heero was still coming to grips with…it…with
me. I slowly relaxed into his embrace, put all my concentration into regulating
my breathing and let him think I slept. What the hell; it wasn’t as
though I’d had plans. And if this made it easier for him…then
so be it.
Eventually, I did doze off, whether from any real need of
sleep or from simple boredom, I’ll never know.
But I woke sometime later to a whispered but somewhat heated
discussion between Heero and Trowa.
‘…not now; damn it! I can’t!’ This
from Heero and I could feel his body coiled like a steel spring underneath
‘Heero…’ Trowa’s tone held a hint
of frustration, a touch of warning, ‘I would go if I could…’
‘I can’t just leave him like this!’ There
was such anguish in his voice; my heart ached in my chest just hearing it.
‘I’ll be here.’ Trowa said softly and there
was reprimand in it.
There was nothing from Heero then and I listened to his heart
pound against my cheek for a moment before I raised my head.
‘If you have an assignment,’ I told him levelly,
‘you are going and that’s final.’
There was a relieved sigh from Trowa and he patted my shoulder
encouragingly, just before he stood up to leave the room. I tried to give
him a rueful smirk, just to let him know how much I appreciated him running
out and leaving me holding the bag but who knows if he saw it.
Heero maintained his silence and I knew him well enough to
know that he had already made the decision to take the assignment. The day
Heero Yuy turned down a mission was the day that Hell redecorated in pink
I crawled my way up his body until my fingers told me we were
almost nose-to-nose, ‘Don’t make me have to smack some sense
into you.’ I growled, shoving my own fears and apprehensions down
so hard I thought I heard something snap.
‘I don’t want…’ He began and his mouth
bit down on that before it got any further.
‘It’s never been about wants; Heero.’ I
told him, ‘We’re soldiers.’ And I tangled my fingers in
his hair, pulling him down toward me until he gave in and kissed me. It
was desperate and hungry and full of all the things we couldn’t say.
All I could think about was how I had denied him the night
before. I wished with all my being that I could go back and undo that.
He broke the kiss, pulling back only enough for him to tell
me, ‘I love you.’ Moving in again to stop whatever reply I might
have made, ‘I love you.’ He said again, punctuating each declaration
with a breath-taking kiss, as though he could drink me in and keep me safe
inside. Then finally, when I thought he might break me with this alone,
‘I have to go.’
‘So soon?’ I moaned and wanted to laugh with the
sudden reversal of our positions in the argument.
He sighed his affirmative, his fingers ghosting over my face,
touching the gauze directly over my eyes for the first time.
‘Gods,’ He groaned, ‘I wish I could see
your eyes…your beautiful eyes. They tell me the things that you can’t.’
I don’t think he had meant to say that. I would have
been able to tell if I could have seen his face. I don’t think he
knew how close he came to pushing me over the edge with that. His kisses
had brought me to the brink of that pit of despair and his words almost
took me down.
‘Listen to me.’ I told him, giving the imp a backhanded
blow and forcing my voice to steady, ‘I expect you to come back to
me; understand? I am going to be fine. Trowa is here and will watch out
for me. When you walk out that damn door, I want…I need you to put
this out of your mind. You forget me…you forget the crash…you
forget everything until the mission is over. Are we clear on that?’
He chuckled at me, a tender note in his voice and pulled me
to him until our foreheads were touching, ‘I know, love. I know.’
After he was gone, I drew myself into the corner of the couch,
pulled my knees to my chest, wrapped my arms around them and waited for
the pain to stop. It pulled at the tightness in my bad knee but I didn’t
I heard Trowa come into the room after awhile and he said
‘Not now.’ I told him, not harshly but in a tone
that I thought would brook no argument.
There was nothing for long minutes, while I listened to the
sound of him not leaving the room. He made me ask again, ‘Please,
Trowa.’ And then he did go away. I’m sure he didn’t go
far but he gave me the space I needed to get myself back together again.
It took a long while.
When I thought I could talk to him without bursting into tears,
I rose and tried for a straight line to the kitchen door. Can’t keep
following walls everywhere I go. I promptly cracked my shin on the forgotten
coffee table and cursed softly. It was only the first in the large set of
bruises I was to acquire.
I was a little more cautious after that but managed to walk
to the kitchen without resorting to feeling the wall. I even found the doorway
on the first try. Trowa was there, as I had suspected, had probably been
sitting where he could see me through the doorway. I shivered and decided
that for my next breakdown, I would go to my room and shut the door.
‘You feel like some lunch?’ Trowa asked as soon
as I was in the room with him and I’m sure he spoke just to let me
know he was there.
‘If you’re fixing something anyway.’ I told
him, having to resort to that sweeping hands thing to find the table. He
let me do it by myself and I was grateful.
So I sat at the table and listened to him heat soup and make
grilled cheese sandwiches. I considered going to the stove to see if there
was anyway I could figure out for myself how this cooking thing could be
done in the dark and decided that it really wasn’t worth the effort.
It probably wouldn’t work the same with a regular stove and I wasn’t
likely to find myself in the position of cooking over a wood-burning stove
again for some time.
I was able to identify the soup from the smell as potato before
he brought it to me. Again, in one of those mugs, to save me trying to eat
it with a spoon. I smiled up in his direction when he sat the food in front
of me and positively beamed when he moved in the direction of the refrigerator
and returned with the sound of a bottle of soda hissing open.
We settled into a routine that got us by. Things were actually
easier with just Trowa and me. There wasn’t that pressure to talk
and reassure; I wasn’t constantly having to convince him that I was
all right. He let me do pretty much as I pleased, staying close but not
hovering. He let me do things for myself. Though, admittedly, I spent most
of my time huddled in the corner of the couch. But…he let me do that
too. He is a surprisingly gentle soul; it’s hard to understand sometimes
how he can be that calm and steady and kindhearted when you consider his
mercenary background. Maybe it’s his working with animals so much.
Maybe it’s…Quatre. There were times during that week, when I
felt like some sort of wild thing myself; some almost out of control animal.
I’m glad Trowa was the one who was with me. Wufei would have been
tense and that makes him irritable. I would have felt weak and pathetic
around him and that would have made me tense. We would have yelled…a
lot. Quatre would look at me with the most horrendous hurt in his eyes and
I wouldn’t have had to see it to know it was there. He would have
made me feel as much pressure to be ‘all right’ as Heero did;
if not more. I hate to worry him; he can’t stand to not be able to
make things better. It would have been another tense situation. Things were
easy with Trowa; he was content with the silence and didn’t force
me to try to fill it. I think, somehow, that he understood how I felt more
than Heero did. He usually stayed within earshot but didn’t hang all
over me. I was eternally thankful, only wishing I could find some way to
express it to him.
As I said, I spent most of my time curled in, what had become,
‘my’ corner of the couch, just thinking. Trying to figure out
what in the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. I really didn’t
think there was much future in selling pencils out of a tin cup on the street.
Trowa generally sat in the room with me, sometimes reading,
sometimes plugging his laptop into the only outlet we had. A few days after
Heero left, he had been sitting in the big armchair reading something when
I realized from the sound of his breathing that he had dozed off. It had
been a cold and rainy day; the kind that makes you drowsy despite yourself.
I had been feeling a little lethargic myself.
Outside, the rain began to pick up and in the distance I heard
the rumble of thunder. I felt a pang; I loved thunderstorms. You don’t
have real weather in the colonies; nothing like what Mother Nature whips
up here on Earth. I had been enthralled the first time I had seen one. Would
probably have stood out in it and had my ass struck by lightning if Heero
hadn’t drug me back in the house. The sheer noise; the raw power…I
had been in awe. I love them to this day. Sitting there in my personal darkness,
I was overcome with the need to have that feeling back. I was struck with
an ache in my heart that I had lost that.
I listened carefully and decided that Trowa was still sound
asleep. The thunder was distant, rumbling low over the hills. Not close
enough to be of any real danger. I rose silently and eased out of the room.
I found my cautious way to the kitchen and opened the door onto the patio
where Wufei and I had practiced together. The air coming in was cool and
I could feel the mist of the rain blowing on my face. I have no idea why
I did what I did but I just suddenly had to be out there; if I couldn’t
see it…I wanted to feel it. I shucked off my shirt and padded out
onto the wet bricks in my bare feet. The rain was cold but not icy. I could
feel the grumble of the thunder in my bones. I wished I could see the lightening
forking across the sky in endless new patterns. I was soaked in a matter
of minutes. I found myself remembering Wufei and our hours out here together.
Without thinking about it too hard, I moved my arms through the first pattern
and froze. Could I? Heart suddenly thumping in my chest, I moved to pace
out the area of the patio. I discovered that the bricks at the edge were
a different texture than the rest, when I thought about it; I remembered
them being a different color. There was enough difference that I could feel
it instantly with my feet. I walked the area, making sure there was nothing
in it that I didn’t know about, that it was still free of furniture
or other obstructions. I counted out the space and found the center.
Hands trembling, I took my stance, imagination painting Wufei
at my side. I took the first calming breaths and began the kata. I moved
slowly at first, muscles stiff and cold and unused to exercise; the worst
of my bruises complaining mildly. I knew I was hesitant and Wufei would
have jeered at me for my clumsiness but I managed the first half of the
first set before I lost my balance and fell. Climbing to my feet, I had
to re-pace the workout area and re-find my center. I started from the beginning,
my partial success giving me confidence.
I worked through the first set, falling more than once and
hitting the edge bricks a couple of times, having to stop and re-orient
myself. It took six tries before I got through it without falling or running
myself into the edge. I almost laughed out loud. I stood for a moment, arms
spread to the lashing rain, my braid heavy with it, feeling the thunder
roll in and fill me. I started again from the beginning and this time it
was smoother. I fell into the pattern of it and I swear to the Gods, for
a moment, I forgot I was blind. I could almost see the faint bend of Wufei’s
head. I almost nodded back to my phantom partner.
I swept my leg in an arc and felt for the edge bricks, found
them and paced back to the center point. I took my stance yet again and
suddenly felt eyes on me. My back stiffened and I turned my head in the
direction of the kitchen door.
I heard a faint grunt of surprise and Trowa called softly,
‘That’s enough, Duo. Heero will have my head if I let you catch
I threw my head back and laughed out loud, ‘Come on
out, Trowa…it’s glorious!’ I shouted to him over another
clap of thunder. It was close; right overhead and I felt it vibrate up through
the soles of my feet. The rain was sheeting down so hard it stung.
‘It’s fucking cold, is what it is!’ Trowa
yelled back, ‘Now get in here before you get struck by lightning!’
I didn’t want to. This was the best I had felt in days
and I wanted it to last but I could hear a touch of genuine fear in his
voice, so I used that voice to guide myself back to the kitchen door.
‘Here.’ He called a small course correction when
I got close.
He took my arm and pulled me to the side so he could get the
door shut behind me and then he was wrapping a bath towel around my shoulders.
I wondered with a jolt how long he had been watching me. I flushed, embarrassed,
thinking about how many times I had fallen. Then almost choked, realizing
that he had let me fall and had not interfered. I couldn’t help grinning
at him like some kind of madman while water ran off me in rivers.
‘That was…When did…’ He struggled
with words as he squeezed the water out of my braid with a second towel
and I chuckled at him.
‘Wufei got pissed at me for…being bored, so he
dragged me out and made me work out with him.’ I explained, before
he choked to death trying to get the questions out.
There was another surprised grunt and then he nudged me in
the direction of the living room door, ‘Go upstairs and take a hot
shower; you’re practically blue.’
And of course, now that I was inside, I was almost shivering
with cold I had not felt while I was working. I just grinned at him and
headed that way, trying for the straight route again and gaining another
bruise for my efforts.
‘Little to the right.’ Trowa called blandly, his
voice following me through the living room, ‘Straight…straight…almost
there…Ok, you’re at the steps; feel for it.’
He made it so easy; no hovering, no depression, no tiptoeing
around it. I found the bottom step and put my foot there but took a minute
to call back to him.
‘You know I…appreciate everything you’ve
‘I know.’ His voice came from the kitchen doorway,
‘You going to need any help up there?’
‘I think I can get it.’ I told him, then thought
about it, ‘Might need some help rebinding my eyes.’ I hadn’t
washed my hair in a couple of days and really needed to get it done.
I could almost see that tight little nod he gives, ‘I’ll
come up after I hear the water shut off.’
I climbed the stairs, shivering in my soggy jeans and towel
and felt my way to my room for dry clothes. Then I went to the bathroom
for that hot shower. I was very careful, as always, to make sure the room
was dark. There was no window in the bathroom and I made sure the light
switch was in the off position. I was always afraid I wouldn’t be
able to force myself to keep my eyes shut once I had the bindings off and
just wasn’t ready to open them to the darkness when there should be
light. This way, if I slipped, I wouldn’t know the difference.
The shower felt good and I just stood under the spray for
a while, gradually easing the temperature up until it was as hot as I could
stand it. The shivering went away, my muscles began to relax and I started
to feel the sting of what had to be scrapes from my many falls. I grinned
again, remembering the feeling of completing that kata without losing my
balance and falling on my ass. It had felt damn good.
I took a little extra time with my hair; I had been rushing
my showers lately, having my eyes uncovered made me uncomfortable. But somehow,
I felt more at ease with it after the workout. So I took the time to lather
it twice and used a little conditioner on the ends. When I got out, I dried
and pulled my jeans on quickly, knowing that Trowa would be on his way up.
He gave me a good five minutes and I was towel drying my hair when the tap
came on the door.
‘Just a second.’ I told him and found one of the
small hand towels to fold and cover my eyes with, ‘Ok.’ I heard
the door open and then an odd grunt.
‘I guess you wouldn’t need the light on.’
He said in a surprised voice, then there was a moments chill silence followed
by some serious back peddling, ‘Gods, Duo…I…I’m
sorry! I didn’t mean…’
I growled at him, ‘Damn it, Trowa; don’t start
that. That’s been the best part of staying with you…you haven’t
pussy-footed around me like I was going to explode if somebody accidentally
said the word ‘blind’.’
He sighed and snorted softly; there was a touch of self-deprecation
in it, ‘Sorry.’ He murmured and then, ‘Are you all right?
Why are you holding a towel over your eyes?’
I felt myself flush, ‘I…I don’t like to
have them unwrapped…in the light.’
‘Ah.’ He sighed in understanding and I heard a
faint click as the door closed, ‘There.’ He told me, ‘You
can uncover them.’
‘Thanks.’ I told him, lowering the towel but still
keeping my eyes tightly shut, ‘But isn’t this going to make
it a little hard for you to re-bandage me?’
There was the slightest hesitation and then I could hear the
timid grin in his voice, ‘I guess it’ll be like the sight impaired
leading the sight impaired.’
It shocked a sudden bark of laughter out of me and it was
like a little dam broke inside and I laughed until my sides hurt.
‘It wasn’t that funny.’ He said after a
minute, a little surprised.
‘I’m sorry.’ I gasped when I could, ‘But
I just keep seeing the look on Heero’s face if he’d heard you
It was his turn to laugh abruptly but it cut off rather quickly,
‘Damn, Duo; that’s not funny at all…he would have decked
I felt myself blushing and then remembered the room was dark
and I didn’t have to care.
‘And Wufei would have glared and said ‘Barton!’
in that tone of voice of his.’ I won a faint chuckle from him, ‘And
Quatre would have given you that look; the one that makes you feel like
you’ve just killed the Easter bunny.’
I got a real chuckle out of him with that one but then I sobered.
‘And that’s why you’ve been so great. You
make this easier; you’re not afraid of it. Not afraid of hurting me.
You…let me try things on my own.’
There was an awkward silence that he finally broke; ‘You
don’t make it easy when you pull stunts like dancing in thunderstorms.’
Here came my reprimand. I hung my head and muttered an apology,
forgetting for a moment that he couldn’t see me either.
‘I couldn’t find you for a minute.’ He told
me softly and his hands were suddenly on my shoulders, turning me around
and he was smoothing my hair out of the way in preparation to bandaging
my eyes. I suppressed a shiver at the touch and held still while he worked.
‘I’m sorry.’ I told him again, ‘I
just always loved thunderstorms…’ I didn’t know how to
tell him what was in my head.
‘I know.’ His voice sounded amused and just like
that, the scolding was over, ‘Where’s the stuff?’
I found the gauze where I had left it and handed it to him,
‘Hang on a minute and I’ll get the padding in place.’
We managed it, between the two of us, fumbling and chuckling.
I let him turn the light back on after we had a couple of turns of gauze
around my eyes and he finished quickly after that.
‘There.’ He announced, patting my shoulder, ‘Need
help with anything else?’
‘I think I can finish on my own.’ I told him,
fingers hunting for the comb on the sink.
‘Then I’ll go start dinner.’ I heard him
flick the light off when he left and I grinned.
I took to doing the kata again in the mornings; I just didn’t
do it in the rain any more. Sometimes, I could feel Trowa watching me. It
gave me back a tiny measure of control; made me feel a little less helpless
and for those couple of hours…I wasn’t thinking.
It got easier finding my way around the house; I learned to
count things out so that I knew it was six paces from the sink to the table,
eight more from the table to the doorway. I found that if I was unsure of
my surroundings, I could ‘feel’ obstacles before I ran into
them if I moved slowly enough; big things anyway, like walls. It was like
a heat coming off things, I suspect it was my own body heat coming back
I found that there were things I could do to help out; cooking
wasn’t something I did under normal circumstances anyway but I could
set the table and even do the dishes if I went slowly enough. I was even
able to help with Gundam repairs if the parts were small and detachable;
something Trowa could bring back to the cabin for me. We were all trained
to field strip and clean our weapons blindfolded and I found that with Trowa’s
help getting me started, there was a lot more I could do by feel than I
would have thought possible. It made me feel good and bad at the same time.
Good, because I felt like I was being useful, wasn’t just being a
lump sitting on the couch. Bad, because it reminded me that I probably would
not ever be working on my own Gundam again. My piloting days were gone with
And yes…I heard that word ‘probably’. I
couldn’t seem to squelch the hope completely, no matter how hard I
I was out on the patio some days later, practicing, when I
heard something. It was distant but unmistakable; the faint thrum of engines.
There was absolutely no doubt what so ever it was headed this way; there
was nothing else in the area but our cabin and from the sounds, the vehicles
were large. Probably not the pizza delivery guy. I flung myself into the
house, screaming for Trowa the whole way. He didn’t answer me immediately
and I made for the stairs, crashing into the doorway and almost falling.
I took the stairs on my hands and knees, still yelling for all I was worth
and I finally heard him coming out of the bathroom.
‘Duo, what the hell’s wrong?’ He came to
meet me and hauled me to my feet.
‘Someone’s coming, we have to get out of here!’
I pulled him with me toward my room, needing my boots if we were going to
be fleeing into the woods.
‘I don’t understand…’ He began and
I almost screamed in exasperation.
‘Move, damnit!’ I yelled at him, ‘Can’t
you hear the bloody engines?’
It got very quiet then and I knew he was listening hard. It
was faint but I could hear them even inside like this.
‘I don’t hear anything, Duo.’ He said softly
and I groped out and found his arm.
‘Trust me.’ I told him, low and level, ‘At
least two vehicles; large. Headed this way. I can hear them.’
There was no more than a heartbeat and he ran off to his room
to get his gear.
I finished with my boots, found my pack and armed myself,
strapping my knife sheath on my forearm and my pistol at my waist. It was
habit more than anything; I sure as hell didn’t know what I was going
to do with either one. I fingered the front of my t-shirt, hoping it was
a dark one at least and realized that I could feel the print on the front.
It was the one with the Japanese lettering; black but the lettering was
a rather shiny silver. Not good. I jerked it off and turned it wrong side
out before pulling it back over my head.
Trowa met me in the hall and threw an arm around my waist
to get us down the stairs as fast as possible. He’s strong; I’m
not sure my feet hit the ground again until we were off the stairs. He started
toward the kitchen door, the back way out of the house. His Heavyarms was
secured in the woods, in that same rocky cleft that we had hidden Deathscythe
and Nataku in before. We could not allow it to get captured. It was going
to be a hell of a trip through the woods. I realized suddenly how totally
ridiculous this was; that I was only going to slow him down.
‘Trowa…listen;’ I burst out, pulling him
to a stop on the patio, ‘Let me stay here; I can delay them. They’ll
He snarled at me. Actually freaking snarled, ‘We go
together or we don’t go at all!’ He snapped and started pulling
me toward the trees.
‘Trowa, I’m only going to slow you down.’
I followed, talking as we went, feeling the bite of his fingers on my upper
arm, ‘We can’t let them…’
‘Would you leave me?’ He suddenly asked and he
had me cold; I knew it and he knew I knew it. I gusted a heavy sigh.
‘Fine then; lead on.’
We were in under the trees before I was quite ready for it;
this was the first time I had been off the cabin grounds since the accident.
I had grown accustomed to the house and had gained some confidence in my
ability to get around. But that had all been level surfaces and well known
ground. Out here, every rock and root conspired to get under my feet somehow.
I was stumbling and staggering, the only thing keeping me up was Trowa’s
hand on my upper arm and that was threatening to rip my shoulder out of
I could hear the engines whine as they hit that last long
incline before the road leveled and wound its way to the cabin. I tried
to pick up my pace with a muttered curse.
‘What?’ He questioned.
‘They’re on the hill.’ I told him tersely
and there was another moments quiet.
‘Duo; I still don’t…’ He began and
I heard the sound of shifting gears, the whine increased and finally, Trowa
heard it too.
‘Damn.’ He muttered and increased our speed, throwing
an arm around my waist to lift me over a fallen log. There was no path up
to the place we had hidden the Gundams; this was rough country and all up
hill. I was struggling already.
I realized with a small jolt, that Trowa had begun this mad
dash up the mountain strictly on my say so. He had not been able to hear
the sounds that I had. It came to me then that had I not heard those engines
we would most likely have been caught totally by surprise when the trucks
pulled into the yard.
I staggered and almost fell for the third time and thought
my arm had come completely loose from my body. For a moment I was afraid
Trowa was just going to break down and try to carry me.
‘Bloody hell, Trowa…lead me; don’t drag
me.’ I panted and wrested my arm out of his vise like grip.
‘What?’ He said in confusion and we stopped for
a moment. Below us, at the cabin, I heard the engines shutting down. My
hand on his arm to orient myself, I slid around behind him, catching hold
of the hem of his shirt and gave him a nudge, ‘Go. Just warn me if
I have to climb over anything.’
He grunted and moved off again. With control of both my arms,
I was better able to keep my balance. I clung to his shirt, keeping directly
behind him, where I could take pretty much the same path he did. I only
wished I had something to hang onto that was a little longer; balance would
have been a little bit easier if I’d had a little more room.
He gradually increased our speed as he felt me keeping up
better and for a bit, I thought we might actually make it out of there unseen.
I heard distant shouting. ‘They’re coming.’
I panted out, doing my damnedest not to slow us down.
Again, he only grunted, then moments later was warning me
away from a rock in our path.
It was taking all my concentration to keep with him, to not
drag at him, to try and match my steps with his and not fall. My biggest
fear right now was twisting an ankle or a knee, something that would make
it even harder for me to run. Even so, I couldn’t help but notice
that the sound of our pursuit was getting closer.
‘Damn it,’ I muttered, ‘They’re gaining.
Trowa…you have to…’
‘Shut up.’ He barked at me, ‘I’m not
So I shut up and did my best to increase my stride. In a way,
I felt as I had when I had thrown my life into Wufei’s hands on that
heart-stopping descent to Earth. I was having to trust Trowa’s path
far more than my instincts wanted me to. My gut was consumed with that blood-freezing
fear of stepping off into nothingness; a fear that I had managed to put
aside once I had learned my way around the cabin so well. It had come back
a hundred times stronger and it was taking all my will to keep throwing
myself forward, trusting Trowa to keep me safe. The few times that I fell,
I let go of his shirt so as not to drag him down with me, levering myself
up as fast as possible. But for all my effort, it wasn’t long before
our hunters were close enough that Trowa could hear them as well as I could.
‘Trowa…’ I gasped, ‘…Getting
too close…We need to find cover.’
‘I know.’ He said tersely and stopped so suddenly
I plowed into him. The sound of our mingled panting was screamingly loud
in my ears and I took a couple of huge gulps of air; trying to force my
breathing to slow. The thin mountain air sure as hell wasn’t helping.
I could feel Trowa doing pretty much the same and it only took us a minute
before I was able to concentrate past our own sounds to listen for our pursuers.
‘Listen.’ I told him, having figured out that
somehow my hearing had become more acute than it had been and I was hearing
things he couldn’t, ‘They’ve spread out.’
A plan was forming in my head but I knew it was going to take
some convincing on my part to get Trowa to go along with it.
I drew closer to him and spoke in low tones, ‘You understand
that I’m dead without you?’
He surprised me by throwing his arm around my waist as though
he were afraid I was planning on breaking away from him, ‘Duo…’
He began but I cut him off.
‘No damn time for this.’ I growled, ‘Without
you, I can’t get off this mountain. If you shoot the guy coming up
behind us, we’ll have the whole damn squad on our asses in two seconds.’
‘I know that…’ He began again and began
to edge us toward cover.
I resisted, ‘Leave me right here. Hide. I think…’
It was his turn to cut me off, ‘I told you, I’m
not leaving you.’
‘Damn it, Trowa. I’m not planning on staying behind.
Just fucking trust me.’
There was a long minute of nothing, during which I imagined
him searching my face and I kept my blind gaze level in his direction, willing
him to do as I said. I could hear our soldier boy getting closer.
‘Trust me.’ I said again and finally felt his
arm slide away.
‘I’ll shoot if I have to.’ He hissed at
me and then he was gone.
I dropped to the ground, sprawling myself artfully, lying
so that my gun was hidden from sight. I pulled my knife and tucked it up
close to my body, holding my right arm with my left hand as though injured.
I began to moan piteously.
If I’d had more time, I would have unbound my hair.
My hunter, who had no idea he had just become the hunted;
hesitated in his crashing through the trees and began to home in on the
sounds I was making.
‘Please…is there someone there?’ I let my
voice wobble and rise and was rewarded with the sounds of soldier boy heading
my way. I listened hard for any sign that he was calling for backup and
didn’t hear it.
I whimpered…I cried…if there’s one thing
the streets will teach you, it’s how to act convincingly. He stopped
not ten yards away, I could hear him and imagined him looking me over.
‘Help me…somebody…please…’ I
cried out, deliberately not letting him see that I knew he was there. I
pulled my legs up a little, making myself look smaller and began to rock
to and fro. I heard him take a step toward me and I began to mindlessly
moan to myself. The hook was set.
The sadistic bastard didn’t say a word until he was
right on top of me, ‘What are you doing out here, boy?’
I jumped and yelped realistically, ‘Who’s there?’
I whimpered, my head turning wildly in all the wrong directions and he finally
leaned down to grab me by the front of my shirt. I said a little prayer
that he didn’t have a gun to my head and lashed out, slitting his
I let out a gust of breath when he only fell across me and
died in gurgling silence. Shit.
I heard Trowa coming back, his steps skittering frantically
across the rocks, ‘Gods…Gods…Gods…’ He was
panting and he hauled me out from under the body of my fallen prey with
hands that were shaking, ‘Don’t ask me to sit by and watch you
do that again!’ He snapped pulling me away.
‘Close your eyes next time.’ I drawled and it
stopped him in his tracks, ‘Help me clean my knife off.’ I grinned
at him and got an agitated grunt in return. But he took the minute to wipe
my blade clean so I could put it away without worrying about getting it
stuck in the sheath.
I listened hard while he worked and didn’t hear anybody
else as close on our track as this guy had been.
‘Can we hide the body?’ I queried.
‘Not quick enough.’ He told me tersely, ‘And
we can’t hide the blood.’
I grunted this time and then we were back to his moving me
with an arm around my waist. I tried to do that thing that Heero does for
me sometimes…tried to imagine Trowa lying out on the rocks and myself
in hiding while an Oz thug descended on him. I suppose it had been a little
‘You knew I was acting…right?’ I ventured
after a bit, keeping my voice low, ‘I heard him coming from twenty
He didn’t say anything for the longest time, just kept
us moving up the hill, kept me tucked in close to his side.
‘I…wasn’t sure.’ He admitted at last,
‘I don’t know what you’re capable of.’
‘Everything but sight.’ I grinned.
‘You’re damned convincing; you know that?’
He growled and I realized that I really had scared him, ‘It was all
I could do not to come running back to your rescue.’
I found myself wishing I could see his face, wondered at the
tightness of the arm around me, ‘Trowa,’ I ventured, ‘I’m
slowing us down again…’
‘Duo…’ He warned, his voice sounding weary
and almost irritated.
I sighed, ‘Just let me go.’ I told him softly,
‘Let me keep my own balance. We went faster when I could.’
He did let me go then, with an almost sheepish apology and
I took hold of his shirttail once more. We ran as well as we could and I
could tell from the feel of the wind that we were getting fairly high.
Trowa slowed us soon after that, ‘We’re getting
close.’ He told me and I knew that meant we would soon be losing the
trees. The ground was getting rockier and I was starting to have more trouble.
The very real fear of turning my ankle or twisting my knee was coming back
with a vengeance.
He slowed further and the skin on the back of my neck felt
prickly, ‘What’s wrong?’ I whispered.
‘We’re losing cover.’
I tried to picture the ground up here. The trees thinned and
the ground went to rock almost completely, there was some cover from the
boulders and a very small amount of scrub brush but we would have to stay
very low. Anybody in just the right position below us would be able to spot
us with ease. Damn it; we were so close.
I was becoming a rather large liability. We stopped moving
almost all together and Trowa pulled me down to a crouch.
‘Trowa…’ I knew there was just no arguing
with him and I’m not sure what kept compelling me to try but my stomach
was twisted up in knots thinking about it, ‘I won’t get you
killed, damn it. Please…please don’t let it come to that. Get
yourself the hell out of here first.’
He was quiet and it almost surprised me; I had expected another
angry curse, ‘It hasn’t gotten that far yet.’ He finally
said, voice calm.
It wasn’t much but oddly it made me feel a little better;
knowing that he was at least allowing himself to finally think about it.
I nodded sharply.
‘Ok.’ I asked, ‘Now what?’
‘We have to stay down.’ His voice was troubled,
‘I’m not sure how to guide you.’
I thought about it; this was going to get difficult. I couldn’t
see the cover to stay under it. Needed to follow someone but Trowa needed
to see me to make sure I was staying out of sight. ‘Damn.’ I
‘My way for a while then.’ He murmured and his
arm came back around me and we were moving side by side, going on hands
and knees. His arm kept me low and guided me but it had to be making his
forward movement difficult, because mine with both hands was killing me.
We scrabbled over the rocks like a couple of lost crabs; I wanted to laugh
with the mental picture I had of us. But the armed soldiers at our backs
kind of took the humor out of it. That and Trowa’s knee coming down
on my hand more than once. He muttered apologies and I just bit my lip and
didn’t tell him that it was nothing compared to the pain in my bad
Our progress was ridiculously slow and I opened my mouth more
than once to tell him to go on without me but I knew he didn’t have
that kind of provocation yet. I just concentrated on not letting my knee
slow us down any more than we already were.
‘Gods, Trowa…aren’t we freaking there yet?’
I finally couldn’t keep from asking after it seemed like we had been
crawling over the rocks for hours.
‘Close.’ He whispered back, ‘I was just
thinking about making a break for it.’
We slowed to a stop while he looked the ground over and I
was just getting set to ask him for the lay of the land when I heard it.
There was someone close.
I gave the hand signal to alert him and he pulled me against
him and hunched us nearer to the rocks. We were silent while we listened
hard. I heard it again; a boot heel on rock. I gestured in the right direction
and Trowa drew us back a little. Then I heard another sound, the brush of
cloth against cloth, very close…and not in the same position. I raised
my hand and signaled the second presence and felt Trowa drawing his gun.
They didn’t have us flanked but the two sounds were fairly far apart;
no way in hell Trowa could get them both. I felt him tensing beside me,
his arm almost cutting off my air; I could feel his indecision in the air
like a tangible thing. Then I was struck with sudden inspiration. I leaned
in close until my lips were almost brushing his ear and I told him, ‘Hostage.’
I knew he understood me and I knew he didn’t like it;
but it was a plan. The seeds of which I had planted just in time. One of
our pursuers spotted us and Trowa followed my lead for lack of a better
idea. It all rode on whether these guys gave a flying fuck if a civilian
got creamed in their little conflict.
There was a shout to our right and Trowa stood and pulled
me in front of him, his grip on me turning rough and menacing.
I yelped in terror and babbled pleadingly for him not to hurt
Left soldier yelled for Trowa to put his gun down and the
mere fact that the man hesitated and didn’t just shoot us both outright
seemed to give Trowa a little confidence in my idea. He jerked me higher,
giving me a shake and snapped at me to shut up.
For my part, I tried to sag in his grasp without really putting
my weight where it would throw him off balance, while keeping my body turned
so they couldn’t see my gun. It was an awkward, twisted position.
‘Help me!’ I sobbed out to my would be rescuers
and Trowa gave me another shake.
‘Shut the fuck up!’ He snarled and I had to bite
down on the hysterical bubble that suddenly filled the back of my throat.
Right soldier must have come out of hiding then, because Trowa
began shifting the gun slightly from side to side. I heard no more sounds,
so there was just the two of them.
I whimpered pathetically again, just for good measure.
Left soldier took a step and I felt Trowa concentrate in that
direction. We had to speed this up; they would just hold us here until re-enforcements
arrived and then overpower us with sheer numbers.
I let my head drop down and brought my hand up to my face;
the one that didn’t have a knife strapped to it and whimpering some
‘We have to draw them in.’ I hissed to Trowa behind
the cover of my hand, ‘Work with me…I’m going to attack
I felt him stiffen but he couldn’t argue. I started
a keening wail and did my best to look like a man who had just reached his
I hadn’t given him much time to get ready, so I think
the surprised yelp was at least partially genuine. I turned on him, as though
going for his gun and he let us tumble to the ground. I had to work very
hard to keep myself turned so that they couldn’t get a shot off at
him, couldn’t see my weapons and couldn’t see that not only
wasn’t I actually grappling for his gun…I was working mine out
under the cover of ‘struggling’ bodies.
Trowa cursed me for all he was worth and I really think that
was genuine as well. He was shaking like a leaf under my hands.
Behind me, little soldier right and little soldier left moved
in like tigers to the meat.
‘I’m left.’ I hissed next to Trowa’s
ear and then shut up to listen hard for my quarry. It was difficult over
the pounding in my ears.
‘Now.’ Trowa breathed and we rolled apart firing
as we separated. I didn’t think I would get my hit before soldier
left got off a shot and tried my best to keep myself between him and Trowa.
Soldier boy helped me with a surprised yell when he saw the gun in my hands
and I just fired until the clip was empty. It vaguely registered that Trowa
fired a single shot and one of the two Oz guns went off.
The silence was deafening.
‘Trowa?’ I ventured into the stillness and the
panic in my voice wasn’t fake this time.
‘Here.’ He answered me gruffly and took the gun
out of my trembling hands to shove back into the holster, ‘Come on.’
We forgot stealth. We forgot caution. There wasn’t much
point anymore. It was a footrace now. We had to do it his way; the ground
was too rough and full of pitfalls for me to make my own way. I gave over
control to him completely, letting him drag me along, doing my best to run
‘Almost there.’ He panted after a bit and it gave
me the strength to redouble my efforts. I just ran; shoving down the fear
of falling and crushing it underneath the fear of getting shot. I trusted
Trowa’s arm not to let me go hurtling over a cliff or step where I
would end up breaking a leg. We were both panting like drowning men by the
time we came stumbling up to Heavyarms.
Trowa had the remote out almost before we were there and I
heard the unmistakable hissing sound of pressurized air as the hatch popped
open above us. I could have wept with relief.
‘Hang on to me.’ He told me fiercely, ‘I
need both hands for the winch cable.’
I heard it coming down and wrapped my trembling arms around
his neck, feeling him let go of me to grab hold of it.
‘Ready?’ He asked.
‘Go!’ I snapped, thinking about what sitting ducks
we were out here, like some kind of bizarre carnival game; shoot the swinging
Gundam pilot and win a prize! The hairs on the back of my neck were standing
on end again and goose flesh was prickling between my shoulder blades.
Then we were inside and Trowa was sealing the hatch. There
wasn’t a thing that a foot soldier could carry that was going to touch
us in here but we couldn’t discount that they had called for some
sort of backup, so the pressure was still on.
I hunched myself up into a ball where Trowa had shoved me
and tried to stay out of his way. Listened to the sounds of him bringing
a Gundam to life. Imagined a chorus of surprised ‘Holy shit’s!’
coming from the handful of soldiers that had been stalking us up the mountain.
Trowa was in his element here; I could feel the tension in
the air going down by degrees as he ran through the familiar routines. I
wondered if piloting made him feel as confident and in-control as it did
me. Somehow, it seemed so. I hoped he remembered to do something with me
before he took off; I didn’t relish the idea of bouncing all over
the cockpit like a stinking ping-pong ball.
As if hearing my thoughts, hands found mine and he pulled
me up, ‘If I get you behind the pilots seat, do you think you can
I was tired to the bone and honestly wasn’t sure I could.
I must have hesitated because he had a chance to think about it, ‘How
I almost laughed. Heero had taken me aboard his Gundam on
a couple of occasions now but I was not about to suggest to Trowa Barton
that he give me a ride out of here on his damned lap.
‘Behind the seat is fine.’ I reassured him and
if he wondered what I was blushing about, he didn’t mention it.
We found some straps that I was able to hold on to and I braced
myself with my legs wrapped around the base of the seat. It would have to
do. I sat and said a little prayer to whatever Gods might be listening while
Trowa belted down and then we were blasting clear of that place. I imagined
Heavyarms coursing skywards, wrapped in the camo netting and dropping tree
branches as he went.
It was one hell of a ride and I don’t recommend it in
any way, shape or form. Imagine riding in the worst roller coaster you’ve
ever been on; blindfolded…without the safety bar.
I heard Trowa contacting base on the emergency channel, hands
tapping over the keyboard, sending the encrypted codes that reported our
safe house had been compromised. I heard him scrolling through the encrypted
instructions when they finally came back. Then there was just a hard, rolling,
gut-wrenching ride. I think Trowa kind of forgot I was in there with him
and I would have paid somebody to tell me where we were and where we were
headed and just what was going on as the Gundam pitched and dove. By the
time he brought us in, I would have collapsed on the damn floor of the Gundam
if I could have uncurled my cramped fingers from around the leather strap
I had been clinging too for the last few hours. I hurt all over and just
wanted to lie down somewhere that didn’t have bolts sticking me in
the ass. My right knee was swollen and twitching and I figured that as soon
as I got my hands worked off the strap, I would have to use them to force
my leg out straight again. It crossed my mind that if I just stayed quiet
maybe he’d forget I was there.
I only got the few minutes it took him to run through his
shutdown sequence and pop the hatch. His voice held concern when it finally
came, ‘Duo…? Are you all right?’
‘Ducky.’ I grunted and really, really tried to
convince myself to put some effort into getting out of the cockpit.
There was the sound of a quiet chuckle and I heard him getting
down to squirm close enough to get to me.
‘I’ll wash your Gundam if you just let me lie
here.’ I whined and only got another chuckle. His hands came to rest
on mine and began working the stiff fingers free. There was a stinging pain
and I realized that I had cut my palms on the leather.
His breath hissed through his teeth.
‘I’m serious.’ I told him, just to keep
up the banter, ‘I’ll wax it too…top to bottom.’
He only grunted, getting my hands free and turning to work
on my legs, ‘You’d do a crappy job…wouldn’t be able
to see if it was streaked.’ He said drolly and won a sharp laugh from
Behind him I heard the sound of a shocked gasp and Quatre’s
I grinned in the general direction I thought Trowa was in,
‘Was that the sound of the Easter bunny dying?’ I asked quietly.
He laughed outright and I joined with him; it felt good.
‘Relax, Sunshine!’ I called to Quatre and began
to crawl out from behind the pilot’s seat, letting Trowa guide me
through the maze of equipment. At last he had me mostly on my feet in the
hatchway and I heard another gasp from Quatre, ‘Oh Gods; Duo! Trowa
what happened to him?’ His hands were clutching at my free arm on
the opposite side from Trowa and I could feel him shaking.
‘Quatre…’ I couldn’t figure out what
was wrong with him, ‘What is it? What’s the matter?’
‘It’s all right.’ Trowa told him gently,
‘It’s not his blood.’
Ah. I should have remembered; I must be covered in the stuff.
‘Can we get the hell out of here?’ I asked and
my voice sounded tired even to me.
‘Of course, Duo.’ Quatre told me and I sighed.
There was that damned pitying tone of voice. He meant it to be gentle but
I could ‘hear’ that look I had known he would give me.
Quatre went down first and while Trowa was running the winch
cable back up, he leaned in close and whispered, ‘I’ll talk
‘Thanks, man.’ I murmured and we shared a grin.
At least I think we did; I was grinning anyway.
I took the line from his hands when it was back up and he
didn’t even make me ask to ride it down alone. My landing wasn’t
all that graceful; Quatre didn’t think to warn me when the ground
came up. I hit a little hard and my knee threatened to buckle under me.
I hollered my all clear and stepped away. Quatre was right there with his
hand on my arm, trying to maneuver me. I sighed again and just endured it.
I made sure not to let him see my hands; he would have smacked Trowa for
letting me ride the cable down alone.
The air felt crisp and cool; I suspected a higher altitude.
There was the faint smell of pine and car exhaust. I wondered where we were
going to be heading and how we were getting there. I truly was bone tired
and just wanted a bed somewhere; anywhere. I opened my mouth to ask Quatre
where we were but was interrupted by the sound of Trowa touching down next
‘Here, Quatre,’ Trowa was saying, ‘Let go
I could feel that same electric current in the air that I
had felt when Heero and Trowa had tried to talk around me without words.
I sighed softly to myself and decided there was just no getting around some
Trowa took my hand and guided it to his shoulder, letting
me stand just off to his left and behind a pace.
‘There’s a car down the path.’ He told me,
‘gravel pathway, narrow but well tended. Slight incline. Maybe a hundred
I imagined the look he was getting from Quatre who was probably
half expecting him to carry me and grinned.
‘After you.’ I smirked and he chuckled in return.
We headed out and things would have been fine if I had done
a better job of hiding the limp.
‘Duo?’ Trowa questioned, his tone all worry and
concern and then full of sudden realization, ‘Damn. Your knee.’
‘Just a little swollen.’ I reassured them but
knew I was in trouble when they stopped walking.
I jumped at the sudden feel of Quatre’s hands on my
knee; it had to be Quatre because I still had my hand on Trowa’s shoulder.
‘A little swollen?’ He growled at me and then
to Trowa, ‘Get him off of it.’
‘Come on, you guys!’ I snapped but it did me no
good. The next thing I knew, Trowa had me swept up in his arms and he carried
me the rest of the way to the car.
‘You’re allowed to lean sometimes, Duo.’
Trowa murmured to me and mentally, I just threw my hands up in disgust.
The hell with it. I let them do with me as they pleased. What they pleased
consisted of loading me into the back seat of a car I didn’t recognize
and driving me to a safe house I didn’t know. I was taken to an unfamiliar
bathroom and left blessedly alone for a half an hour to shower. I was given
strange clothes to change into and eventually carried to a room that had
a bed in it. Aspirin was administered and my knee was packed in ice.
I didn’t argue; I was just too damn tired. I declined
food and just burrowed into a set of sheets I could only guess the color
of on a bed I had never slept in.
The imp in my head, who had been relatively quiet for the
last week, was back with a vengeance. I fell asleep listening to the sounds
of him chortling happily in my head.
I woke. I had no idea what time it was. My bladder told me
it had been a long while. I tried to think what time it might have been
when we had arrived here. Where ever the hell ‘here’ was. Probably
late afternoon or early evening. So it was most likely some Gods awful hour
of the morning. I had no idea where I was in relation to anything else in
the house. I thought hard, remembering the previous evening. We had gone
up some stairs after my shower. So I was on the second floor but the bathroom
was on the first. Bloody hell. I found myself wishing to be back in that
damn little cabin and almost laughed at myself.
‘Son of a bitch.’ I muttered in disgust and reached
to throw the covers off. Wandering around a damn strange house trying to
find the bathroom without waking up the whole rest of the world was going
‘You’re awake.’ Came a quiet voice and I
jumped so hard I cracked an elbow on the wall.
‘Shit!’ I growled and would have glared at Wufei
if I’d had more than a general idea where he was.
‘Sorry, Maxwell.’ And he really did sound contrite.
It took me a heartbeat to get over the irritation enough that
it really sank in that Wufei was there with me. I rose unsteadily from the
bed with every intention of finding him.
‘Fei? Where are you?’ I hadn’t seen him
since the crash. Hadn’t gotten to talk to him since he saved my stinking
I heard the creak of bedsprings and realized the room was
a double, ‘Here.’ He said. But then he came to me, not making
me find him in the dark.
‘I’m right here.’ He said when he was near
and his fingers came to touch me arm.
Once he was there, I didn’t know what the hell to say
and I probably looked like a damn carp gaping at him. I was moved to reach
for him but found I couldn’t bring myself to without being able to
see his face; without being able to judge his frame of mind. I wanted to
impart to him more things than I had the words to say.
There was the ghostly feel of his fingertips brushing across
my bandaged eyes and soft as a sigh, his voice sounding pained, ‘Oh,
Then he shocked the holy-ass hell out of me by embracing me.
Something unlocked inside me and I threw my arms around him
to return the tight hug, ‘Thank you.’ I breathed, ‘Gods…I
couldn’t have…I never would have been able…’
‘You’re welcome.’ He stopped my flow of
words brusquely and gently slid away from me, ‘What are you doing
I grinned sheepishly and ducked my head, ‘I have to
go the bathroom…and I don’t have a clue where it is.’
He chuckled lightly, ‘They just dumped you in here?’
I let the grin quirk wider, ‘Dumped in foreign territory
without a bloody map.’
He took my arm, ‘I’ll lead you down.’ And
his voice sounded oddly warm.
I started to follow but hesitated on a sudden thought, ‘Let’s
get one thing straight first.’ I told him firmly, ‘I am going
to limp. My knee hurts. But if you even hint that you are thinking of trying
to carry me, I’m going to throw the biggest temper tantrum that you
have ever seen.’
I won an almost chuckle, ‘Understood.’
He led me then and I did limp like hell but no comment was
forth coming. We made our way slowly, Wufei letting me feel my way so I
could learn it and giving me concise descriptions as we went. We were in
the mountains somewhere in Colorado in a house belonging to one of Quatre’s
sisters. Said sister was not in residence. It was as big as any of the Winner
estate houses we had stayed in however and I groaned thinking about how
long it was going to take me to learn my way around.
He waited for me until I was done and then helped me back
I fell back into bed, relieved to get off the knee again,
‘Thanks, Wufei.’ I sighed, crawling back under the covers.
‘No problem.’ He told me and it took him a minute
to return to his own bed, ‘I’ll be here if you need anything.’
I was a little surprised at how quickly I fell back asleep
despite all the aches and pains.
The next few days were rough. The house was monstrous and
it was taking me forever to learn my way around. Quatre blatantly hovered
and I had to wonder if Trowa had lost his nerve and never spoken with him
about it, or if this was actually toned down from what I would have dealt
with if he hadn’t talked to him.
Wufei wasn’t quite as bad but was never far and somehow,
between the two of them, Trowa just seemed to fade away all together. I
missed his calm acceptance of my need to do things for myself. With Quatre
around, I was lucky I got to shower alone.
I knew that part of my agitation was stemming from the fact
that I was quickly closing on the date when the base medic had said they
wanted to see me again. That terror of being permanently blind that I had
thought I had squelched completely was back and gnawing holes in my stomach
My focus had become not biting anybody’s head off.
The only good thing was that the swelling in my knee went
down after a day or two and it seemed I hadn’t done any real damage
to it after all. I had to wonder if the damned thing would ever stop bothering
me. The cuts on my hands were fairly superficial and bothered Quatre more
than they bothered me.
That last day, I was a bundle of tension just looking for
a place to explode. Quatre was absolutely on my last screaming nerve and
all I wanted was a little solitude. I wished Deathscythe weren’t off
in Howard’s scrap yard in hiding while he was being repaired from
the crash; I would have gone and crawled in and locked the damn hatch behind
me. In desperate fear that I was going to rip Quatre a new asshole, I fled
to the shower in the middle of the afternoon and spent an hour washing my
hair. It was the only place in the whole house that I was allowed a modicum
of privacy. Even that was subjected to a tap on the door and Quatre’s
calling, ‘Duo? Are you all right in there?’ After he felt I
had been holed up too long.
If Quatre’s sister hadn’t been a teetotaler, I
would have been tempted to go hunting for a stiff drink. Or two or three.
Instead, I had Quatre lead me to the living room where I proceeded to lie
down on the couch and pretend to take a nap. It relieved Quatre’s
mind and made him go away and leave me alone so as not to disturb me. I
just had to get through the rest of the day and in the morning I would get
dragged off to face the music at the base hospital. Lying here pretending
to sleep was getting me a touch of the solitude I so desperately wanted
but was leaving me with nothing to do but stare at the inside of my eyelids
and wonder if that’s what the world was going to look like with the
bandages off…for the rest of my life.
My mind was running in tight little corrosive circles; my
body craving some sort of activity. But I knew as soon as I admitted I was
awake, my little mother-hen society would descend again and I truly didn’t
trust myself not to explode all over them. A line from an ancient song ran
through my head, ‘…livin’ in a powder keg and givin’
off sparks!’ It was just how I felt.
‘Duo.’ I heard Wufei’s amused voice near
the doorway, ‘I know you’re awake.’
‘Don’t tell.’ I stage whispered and he chuckled
softly and I heard him coming closer.
‘Trowa was telling us about you…’ He hesitated,
‘Working out, at the cabin.’
I felt myself flushing and elbowed myself over in an effort
to hide it.
‘Not much else to do.’ I muttered.
‘We’ve found a place here…’ Again
that strange hesitation, ‘That we thought suitable…’ He
trailed off and I raised my head so I could better hear his body sounds.
He was shifting uncomfortably.
‘What kind of place?’ I ventured.
‘Large open space…level ground.’ His voice
was hesitant and I realized that this was probably Trowa’s idea and
that Wufei didn’t completely believe him.
I sighed, ‘I need some sort of…’ I thought
about it, remembering the rougher bricks that bordered the patio, ‘edge…something
to tell me when I’ve gone too far.’
‘We’ve taken care of that.’ He said and
it moved me to sit up, ‘Would you...like to go…?’ He stopped
himself before he said see it.
I smirked to let him know I had caught that almost slip and
imagined him blushing.
‘It beats the hell out of lying around here waiting
for my head to implode.’ I grinned and allowed him to lead me there.
It was outside behind the house somewhere, because he took
me out the backdoor. Trowa and Quatre were there and I sighed, wondering
if they expected me to work with them watching me like some sort of trained
Trowa came and took my arm away from Wufei and offered me
his shoulder. I put my hand there and followed him out onto a hard surface.
I stopped and kicked my shoes off, crouching to find the edge of the concrete
and set them in the grass out of the way. Then I let Trowa ‘show’
It was some sort of tennis or basketball court or something,
level and relatively smooth. Trowa led me to where I could feel the tape
they had put down for me. I grinned up at him and he patted my hand where
it rested on his shoulder, taking me into a corner and letting me orient
‘It’s approximately a fifteen foot square.’
He told me, ‘The tape is a foot wide strip, so you shouldn’t
miss it when you hit it.’ He lowered his voice, ‘Will it do,
I grinned again, ‘That’s Mr. Murdock to you.’
And we laughed together. I wanted to ask him where the hell he’d been
for the past four days.
He left my side then and I paced out the square. It’s
fine for someone to tell you fifteen feet; but you need to feel the distance.
I counted it out, learned the surface beneath my feet and found the center.
I took a couple of deep breaths and then tilted my head in the direction
I knew they were in.
‘Quatre?’ I called quietly, half hoping he wouldn’t
answer, that they had gone back to the house.
‘What is it, Duo?’ I guess a little privacy would
have been too much to hope for.
‘I’m gonna fall on my ass.’ I told him,
‘You know that; right?’
He made a noise that let me know that he hadn’t realized
that fact but Trowa said something to him that I couldn’t hear and
I wished they’d just go away.
I rolled my shoulders, took a deep, calming breath and took
my stance. In my head, I tried to bring back the thunderstorm. Tried to
just let it all wash away and forget tomorrow, forget that they were standing
there staring at me, forget how much I wanted Heero to come back.
I began the kata, slowly at first because I hadn’t taken
the time to stretch and made it through the first six moves before I lost
my balance and fell. There was a sound from my right that I just freaking
ignored; counting on Trowa to keep Quatre from coming out to help me.
I climbed to my feet, found the tape, traced my way to a corner,
paced out to the center and started again. I was a little looser this time
and more in tune with what my still stiff knee would bear and I made it
farther. Not falling until I was almost through the first set. There was
no noise from the sidelines and I tried to convince myself that they had
gone in the house. Tried to convince myself that I was truly alone out here.
Another quick reorientation and I began again, determined
to get through the entire set without falling.
It felt good; giving my body something to do was pulling my
mind out of the yipping, panicked circle it had been running in. I could
feel myself relaxing a little, could feel some of the tension easing away.
I made it through without falling on the third try but it
was sloppy so I went back and did it again. I was able to concentrate a
little more on the details of the moves, a little less afraid of falling
and I could feel myself smoothing out. I ran through the first set four
times clean before I allowed myself to move on to the second set.
The second set is harder, naturally and requires several sudden
turns and a couple of kicks that give me trouble. Leaving the ground completely
is a little disorienting. It took me six tries to get through it without
falling on my butt. I wanted four clean, consecutive passes of the second
kata before I put the two together. Consecutive became the key word. Eventually,
I managed it and looking back; I realize that I did manage to completely
block out the rest of the world in there somewhere. I forgot the watchful
eyes, forgot to listen for Quatre’s hissing breath whenever I fell,
forgot to worry about one of them rushing out to help me to my feet. There
was just nothing but the feel of the wind and the warmth of the sun and
I started over with the first kata, determined to get through
both sets without falling all over myself. Time seemed to lose its flow,
things just seemed to hold still and I wasn’t even aware of the feel
of the wind anymore. It just came down to movement.
When the kata came to its close, I found myself in the world
again, heart pounding, skin slick with sweat but blessedly free of the anxiety
that had been worrying at me all day.
I heard the scuff of a footstep and turned to meet Wufei as
he came out to make me stop.
‘Pretty pathetic, huh, ‘Fei?’ I grinned
and found a towel pressed into my hands. If I had surprised him by guessing
it was him before he spoke, he didn’t let me know. There was a long
silence while I wiped my dripping face and when he did finally speak, his
voice held something strange.
‘You never cease to amaze me, Maxwell.’
All I could do was grunt in surprise. He didn’t take
my arm as he had before but guided my hand to his shoulder as he had seen
Trowa do and led me off the court. We stopped long enough to retrieve my
shoes and I realized that the two of us were alone. I wondered how in the
hell Trowa had gotten Quatre to go back to the house, or maybe Quatre had
just gotten tired of seeing me skin my elbows and knees. I couldn’t
help but grin. For the first time that day I felt like we might actually
get through without coming to blows.
‘How the hell long did it take you guys to tape that
off, anyway?’ I asked on the sudden realization that they had done
it on Trowa’s say-so alone, because I knew as sure as the Gods had
made bunny rabbits and rainbows that Chang Wufei had not believed I could
I was more than a little pleased that I had pulled it off;
if for no other reason than that I had backed Trowa up. I knew I had probably
looked like a drunken ox out there; but by the Gods I had done it.
‘Maybe an hour.’ He told me, voice a little subdued
and I couldn’t hide a tiny smirk, though I was slightly behind him
and he might not have seen. I waited until I was able to suppress it a little
before I told him, ‘Thank you…it helped.’
He grunted and then surprised me again, ‘We…I’m
sorry. We don’t mean to treat you disrespectfully…’
I honestly doubted what my ears were telling me and had the
wind picked up in that moment, it might well have blown me over.
‘I…I know you guys are just worried.’ I
told him and wondered which of us was blushing harder, ‘I appreciate
that. I really do…it just…’
He laughed, ‘Makes you crazy?’ He finished for
me and I laughed with him.
I could smell dinner cooking when we went into the house and
guessed that was how Trowa had connived to get Quatre away from me for five
Things were a little easier the rest of the day. Dinner was
an uncomplicated affair that Trowa had obviously put some thought into in
an effort to make things easier for me. After the work out, I needed another
shower, though I didn’t wash my hair again.
I spent the rest of the evening listening to Trowa and Wufei
play a round of chess and I made them call the moves so I could follow it.
I grinned to myself when I realized that I could see the game in my head
well enough that I saw Trowa lose two moves before he realized it.
Quatre put some music on toward the end of the game, just
a little background music; something instrumental. I liked it but it brought
to my attention just how long I’d been without my music. The cabin,
with its single outlet, had been without song the entire time we were there.
I hadn’t thought about it since I’d been here. It rather jolted
me how much it jangled my nerves. I relied on my hearing for almost all
of my input now and the stereo interfered with that. Not a lot…I could
still follow the game, could still talk with Quatre but it kept me from
hearing the subtle undercurrent of sounds that I had come to unconsciously
count on. I didn’t notice, for instance, when Quatre left the stereo
and was suddenly speaking to me ten feet from where I had thought he was.
It made me jump. I excused myself not long after and sought the quiet of
my assigned room.
I sprawled out across my bed and let myself feel the misery
that wanted to envelop me; it was just one more thing I had lost. One more
thing that would never be the same. I wanted with all my being to lie and
bawl like a baby, wanted to howl out my frustration and my despair, wanted
to scream with the terror that was eating me alive.
I heard the soft sound of Wufei’s tread. It had surprised
me when I had realized I could tell them apart from the way they walked.
‘Maxwell?’ He asked softly and I wanted to laugh;
only Wufei could make my last name come out sounding like a pet name, ‘Are
you all right?’
‘Fine.’ I told him and rolled over so he didn’t
have to talk to the back of my head.
‘You left rather suddenly.’ He observed, moving
a little farther into the room.
‘The stereo…makes it difficult to track sounds.’
I sighed and pushed up on one elbow to turn my blind eyes his way.
‘We…we didn’t realize.’ He apologized,
‘We’ll turn it off if you…’
I chuckled and it came out sounding a little edgy, ‘Don’t
worry about it. It won’t matter one way or the other after tomorrow.’
I almost bit my own tongue as soon as it was out of my mouth but it was
He came the rest of the way across the room and sat down beside
me on the bed, ‘What do you mean?’
I flopped back and let out a gust of a sigh, ‘Come on
‘Fei. Either I’m blind or I’m not. If I’m not; it
won’t matter…things will go back to normal. If I am…it
still won’t matter; I won’t be staying with you guys. I’m…kind
of a huge liability.’
He didn’t know what to say; the truth was the truth.
I felt bad for opening my damn mouth, ‘Sorry.’ I muttered and
rolled to face the wall so my back was to him and he couldn’t see
me frantically trying to piece my mask back together.
His hand came to rest on my shoulder, touching hesitantly
at first and then gripping more firmly. It was a surprise what a comfort
that simple touch was. Just a little human contact. I felt tight muscles
relaxing a little under the warmth of his hand. Neither of us spoke; I didn’t
trust my voice and I suspect he still just didn’t know what the hell
Then I heard a stride on the stairs that wasn’t Trowa
or Quatre’s. I jumped and sat up, listening harder. I didn’t
trust what I thought I was hearing. I wanted it too much, was afraid my
ears were telling me what I needed to hear.
‘Who…?’ I breathed and Wufei rose from the
bed, understanding that I wasn’t sure whose step that was. He hauled
me up by one arm and shoved me behind him and I could feel the tension in
his muscles. And I also felt when that tension melted away.
‘Yuy.’ He confirmed with a sigh, letting go of
‘What’s wrong?’ Heero wanted to know and
I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot from just the sound of his
Wufei chuckled lightly, sounding a little embarrassed, ‘Maxwell
here, can apparently tell us apart from the sound of our damn walks and
he hasn’t learned yours yet.’
There was a surprised grunt from Heero and then Wufei was
stepping away from me. I just stood where he left me, not sure what to do.
I heard him move to the other side of the room and I realized he was gathering
his things, giving way to Heero’s presence.
‘You can hear the difference in the way we walk?’
Heero questioned, sounding amused.
I grinned and ducked my head, feeling inexplicably embarrassed,
‘Uhmmm…yeah; Wufei walks real quiet…like a cat. Trowa
makes almost no sound at all unless he means to. Quatre…isn’t
noisy, exactly but you can tell he doesn’t think about it. You sort
There were twin, surprised grunts and I imagined that I would
have to study the sounds of them again tomorrow after they started thinking
about how they were moving.
It got quiet again and there was some of that feeling of communication
that didn’t involve me. I think I hated that more than anything else.
The silence dragged out and suddenly Wufei burst out with an exasperated
sigh, ‘Oh for the Gods sake, Maxwell!’ I almost jumped in surprise,
‘I got a more exuberant welcome than this!’
It shocked a bark of laughter out of me and I opened my mouth
to retort but by then he had his gear together and was leaving the room.
I heard Heero softly close the door. There was a strange moment and then
I opened my arms. He came across the room in three strides and gathered
‘Gods, I missed you.’ He breathed close to my
ear and I could feel the quiver of his emotion clear down in his chest.
I turned my face awkwardly toward his, seeking his lips with
mine and he met me in a kiss that was both tender and uncompromising, loving
and passionate; speaking to me of need long denied.
His pure, animal scent rose up around me, overwhelming in
its strength, unbelievably intoxicating.
‘How long?’ I sighed when he let me.
‘I don’t know.’ He told me vehemently, ‘But
I’m going to be with you tomorrow no matter what; I swear.’
My knees felt weak thinking about it; what had he done to
make sure he was here with me for this? What chances had he taken? What
had he rushed? It scared the hell out of me at the same time that it filled
me with an almost giddy relief. This is what I hadn’t been able to
admit even to myself; just how badly I had wanted Heero with me when I got
the answer to the question I was afraid to ask.
‘Thank you…’ I sighed, reaching for him
again, finding him in the dark, ‘I don’t think I can do this
without you…’ I shivered with the feelings running through me
and he held me tight in his arms. I came as close to breaking down as I
had since the night he left me in that cabin in the woods.
‘I’m here now.’ He crooned to me softly
and for the merest moment, it was like he had lifted a crushing weight from
my shoulders and shifted it to his own. I felt like I could breath deep
for the first time in weeks.
‘I love you so very damn much.’ I told him in
the moment I had before the weight came settling back.
‘With all my heart and soul.’ He responded, his
fingers tracing gently over my face.
A quiet knock came at the door and we both jumped, easing
away from each other with matching embarrassed chuckles.
‘Yes?’ Heero called to the closed door and Quatre’s
voice told him that they had heated his dinner up.
‘I’ll be right down.’ He answered and sighed
softly, his fingers coming back to brush across my cheek.
I laughed at him, ‘Go eat. Shower. I’ll be here
when you come back.’
When he was gone, I lay back on the bed and thought about
my refusal to make love with him that last time we had been together. I
remembered the guilt the next morning when he had gotten called away. I
didn’t mean to let that happen again.
I got up and made sure the bedroom door was closed and then
very deliberately stripped out of my clothes and crawled in under the covers
to wait for Heero to return.
I was taken with a tremulous nervousness, a strange mix of
anticipation and dread. I couldn’t refute that my body missed his;
that I wanted his hands on me, needed his touch. But there was still that
underlying feeling of being completely vulnerable and exposed, of being
stripped of all my defenses.
By the time he came back to the room a good hour later, I
was wound as tight as a cheap watch, balled up and almost shivering in the
middle of my bed. I jumped when the door opened, suddenly taken with the
fear that one of the other guys had come to check on me.
‘It’s just me.’ Heero called softly and
I heard the door close behind him. His steps took him to his side of the
room where his things were and I heard a strange hesitation. I imagined
him noticing the pile of my clothes that I had very deliberately left close
by the side of the bed, my ‘pajamas’ laying pointedly on top.
Then I heard him undressing. I was tuned to his every sound; the quiet thump
as his boots hit the floor made me jump, the rustle of his shirt being pulled
over his head made me shiver, the sound of the zipper and snap on his pants
being undone went through me like an electrical shock.
I didn’t initiate sex very often. It was still a new
and sometimes frightening thing to me and I tended to follow Heero’s
leads. He was the most gentle, patient partner I could ever have asked for.
He understood the needs of my body better than I did most of the time. Our
first time together he had guided me so carefully, had eased me gently through
it, had gotten me passed my fears and freed me from the nightmares that
had haunted me since childhood.
I had grown to love the feelings he awoke in me, had learned
to open myself to the cravings of my own body, was no longer so afraid of
giving in to the pleasure he could give me. Had found great delight in learning
how to return that pleasure.
Tonight I lay in bed, listening to him preparing to come to
me and trembled like it was our first time.
I heard the soft brush of his bare feet across the floor as
he moved and I slid to the back edge of the bed to give him room. He crawled
in beside me and though my mind and my emotions were in turmoil, my body
knew what it wanted and I sought the comfort that came from curling against
him, pillowed against his chest.
He settled beside me, drawing me into the curl of his arm,
brushing his cheek against the top of my head where it nestled against him.
‘Duo…love,’ He sighed softly, ‘You’re
so cold.’ His voice was troubled.
‘Warm me.’ I told him, my voice somewhere between
husky and trembling.
His arms tightened around me and he ignored the implied invitation,
‘What’s wrong, my heart?’
I snuggled closer to his heat, trying to banish the chill
that was making me shiver, ‘Make love to me.’ I asked and wished
I didn’t sound so desperate.
He tried to raise my face up where he could see me and I found
‘Duo…you’re hiding from me.’ His voice
held a gentle reprimand, ‘Don’t hide from me…please.’
I gave in to his touch when he tried again to lift my face.
‘Duo…’ He sighed, brushing his fingers along
the edge of the bandages around my eyes, ‘It’s still just us…it’s
‘I’m sorry…’ I couldn’t begin
to explain to him what was in my head. I felt broken inside, like something
was out of place and it was beyond my power to fix. I wanted Heero to fix
it; I wanted him to put me back together.
His voice became suddenly firm, ‘I won’t let you
slip away from me. The past months I’ve watched you…coming to
terms with…what’s growing between us.’ I could feel him
struggling with the words; ‘I won’t let your fears steal this
I didn’t know what to say to him, I felt like I was
on the edge of something beyond my ability to cope with.
‘I love to watch you when passion takes you.’
He told me in that deep, seductive voice that makes goose flesh run down
my spine, ‘Don’t take that away from me.’
He bent down to kiss me. Softly, gently but insistent all
the same, ‘I want you to make love to me.’ He said and his tone
would stand no argument.
I curled back against his chest and tried to calm my skittering
nerves. I truly didn’t understand why this was so difficult, why I
was so nervous, why my inability to see him as he saw me was making things
‘Touch me.’ He commanded gently, ‘Explore
me. Show me what you want.’
His voice became my soothing guide, an almost hypnotic call
that lead me where we both wanted to go.
I found my hand sliding over his skin, relearning the curves
and muscles of his body and the litany of words changed to sighs and quiet
moans. He let me hear his pleasure, knowing it was all I had, that I needed
to know what I was doing to him.
His sounds, his scent filled me like the thunderstorm had.
It took me over and as I had on that patio in the pouring rain, I forgot
for a small space that I was frightened, that I was blind. I rose above
him and explored his tastes, his scent, the delicious feel of him and he
finally began to touch me in return. We commenced our dance together and
it was sweet after the long separation. He let my body dictate what it needed
and when I made it plain what I wanted, he was the one who prepared us both,
stroking the oil over his length and carefully preparing me as well. But
still he left the doing of it to me, lying back and letting me impale myself
on him, letting me use his body to answer the desires of my own. It had
been so long that merely taking him inside me was almost enough to send
me into a shuddering orgasm but I didn’t want it to end so quickly
and forced myself still until the clenching rush of it eased.
He laced our fingers together and steadied me where I knelt
over his hips, groaning encouragement as I began to ride him. The sounds
he made were soft, well aware that we were not alone in the house and for
a time I tried to keep still as well. But as the end of the dance fast approached,
my body’s long neglected needs finding an answer in his, my moans
began to increase and I no longer cared what anybody thought. It no longer
mattered that I couldn’t see; the absence of my sight only served
to focus everything down to sensation, to feelings, to the slide of our
bodies together. My hips were rocking in a hard rhythm all their own and
I was completely lost in the feelings cresting in me.
I felt Heero let go of my hand and he pulled me forward, rising
to meet me, his mouth closing over mine, stifling my impassioned cries.
I felt his hips buck up to meet mine as he came deep inside me, his deep-throated
groan vibrating through me. It was all it took to send me plummeting after
him. I would have screamed with it if he had allowed me to.
I knew nothing for a time but the sound of panting breath
and the thunder of my own heart in my ears.
Heero cleaned us up and I let him, feeling as weak and wobbly
as a newborn. Then he crawled back in with me and let me curl around him
and rest my head on his shoulder.
‘How do you always know what I need?’ I asked
‘I don’t.’ He chuckled, ‘I’m
just making it up as I go along.’
I laughed and twined a little closer, ‘If I wake up
in the middle of the night, will you make something else up?’
He chuckled again and kissed the top of my head, ‘If
you think you can keep your voice down next time.’
I growled at him in mock irritation, ‘I wasn’t
being that loud.’
I thought he would laugh out right, ‘Love; as worried
as the whole house is about you right now, they would have all three come
storming in here to see what was wrong.’
I felt myself flush hotly, ‘Well, that would have been…awkward.’
His voice grew soft and tender, losing the teasing tone completely,
‘Go to sleep now my little one.’
I snorted softly at him but found myself slipping away.
‘Love you.’ I murmured.
‘Heart and soul.’ He replied.
When I did wake in the middle of the night, it was from a
dream of darkness, laced only with sound and scent. I listened to the steady
pulse of Heero’s heart beating against my ear and let it calm me.
‘Heero…’ I breathed, knowing he was asleep,
It helped, a little bit, to confess that to someone even though
I knew he didn’t hear and I drifted back off to sleep.
The morning was a blur. I went downstairs to the kitchen with
everybody else but wasn’t able to eat breakfast when Quatre sat it
in front of me.
He fussed over me until I managed some juice and I think he
would have continued to push but Trowa gently called him away.
The ride to the base was a sort of torture; I couldn’t
work up to much conversation, though the guys kept trying to draw me out.
It was two hours from Quatre’s sister’s house and I thought
I would scream waiting to get there at the same time that I wanted the ride
to never end.
I was shocked when I felt Heero’s arm slide around my
shoulders with the Gods and the whole world sitting there watching. He pulled
me close and whispered softly in my ear, ‘I’m scared too.’
I flushed, utterly appalled but let my head rest on his shoulder.
If he was going to offer this, who was I to turn him down?
I felt the change when the car slowed some time later and
I knew we were getting close. I couldn’t stifle a nervous sigh as
I raised my head, attempting to listen for clues that would tell me how
near we were. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.
A hand from my left tentatively brushed my arm and I turned
towards Trowa to let him know he had my attention.
‘Doing Ok, Mr. Murdock?’ He murmured and I had
to chuckle, giving him a wide grin and reaching to squeeze his fingers.
I knew no one else in the car was going to get the comic book
reference and it made me want to laugh out loud, knowing how appalled they
would be if they had understood it.
‘Risking a kick at the Easter bunny, are we?’
I queried softly and felt Heero shifting uncomfortably next to me, realizing
that things were being said that he didn’t understand. That almost
did make me laugh outright. Turn about’s fair play; it served him
right for all those hand signals he kept using to talk around me.
We were parked and getting out of the car before I knew it,
Heero reluctantly losing the more intimate touches as we stepped out into
what amounted to ‘public’.
Gods; my freaking knees felt weak.
There was an awkward moment before Trowa took my hand, placed
it on his shoulder and the five of us began the walk inside. I ducked my
head to hide the maniacal grin I couldn’t keep off my face imagining
what we must look like. Loyal guards ranged around their prince? Glaring
security escorting a dangerous prisoner? Some sort of bizarre blind-man’s-bluff
game that had gotten out of hand?
‘Step up.’ Trowa guided me, ‘Single file
through the doorway. Carpet runner. Three steps up…’ A continual
monologue that I think was as much to keep my mind occupied, as it was to
There was a waiting room then where they sat me down and I
lost all contact with anybody as stranger’s eyes made all of us uncomfortable.
My hands were unconsciously clenched in my lap and I could feel a shudder
wanting to run its course up my spine.
I heard the sound of Wufei’s steps moving away but lost
him quickly in among all the unfamiliar sounds. I imagined him going to
tell some nurse or attendant that we were here.
I could feel Heero’s body heat, he was sitting so close
on my right and I knew he was being eaten alive with wanting to hold me.
Looking back, I think I can say that was the one time in all our years together
that I felt the faintest twinge of regret that he had problems with public
displays of affection. I wanted his arms around me in that moment more than
I ever had before or ever would again. All I could do was squeeze my own
hands and try not to think.
It was sweet Quatre, who apparently has no problems with displays
of affection in any time or place, who came and slid an arm around me.
‘Can I get you anything. Duo?’ He asked me gently,
doing that circle thing in the small of my back.
I grinned in his general direction, ‘A barf bag?’
and immediately had to make a grab for his arm as he started to leap to
his feet, ‘I’m kidding, Quatre!’
There was a stony silence that let me know that he wasn’t
amused, ‘Sorry.’ I muttered and decided to just shut the fuck
up. My nerves made me want to joke. Their nerves only served to kill whatever
sense of humor they had started out with. Not a great combination.
It was quiet then until Wufei came back. I couldn’t
pick the sound of his step out of the flood of other sounds and I jumped
when he spoke from right in front of me.
‘It won’t be long.’ He assured me and couldn’t
know how that news only set my heart to pounding harder, ‘They’ll
send someone out when the Doctor is ready for you.’
I think I muttered something but he only went and sat down.
I wished I were free to ball myself up in a corner somewhere
and hide. I could hear bodies moving around us, probably not the hundreds
of people it seemed like but more than enough to give me back that stripped
down, exposed feeling again. The imp was prodding so damn hard I was getting
a headache. My focus was in not letting myself shout that I wanted to go
home and get the hell out of this place. Now. Right fucking now. As long
as the Doctor didn’t pronounce me blind, then it wasn’t true.
I wasn’t ready for this. Even after the weeks of trying to convince
myself it was already so…I still wasn’t ready. Hope is a damn
hard thing to kill. My imp had crawled out of my head somehow and was sitting
on my lap chanting, …gonna be fucking blind… in a sing-song
I was vaguely aware that Quatre was moving away from me and
it didn’t seem by his choice. Then Trowa was sitting down beside me
and without preamble or hesitation he pulled my hands out of the strangle
hold they’d had on each other and took one in his. My left hand in
his left hand in that backward guy grip that is apparently Ok for the general
viewing public. That alone was enough to make me grin at him. I could hear
him stretching those impossibly long legs out in front of us and in my head
I could see him crossing his ankles and assuming that ‘at ease’
pose that he’s so good at.
‘There is the most drop dead gorgeous blond I have ever
seen, checking out Wufei’s ass.’ He drawled in a low voice,
just as though we were sitting on the beach somewhere and had the whole
day to do nothing but people watch.
I found myself leaning his way and couldn’t keep a delighted
grin from my face, ‘No way; where?’ He might have been making
it up but I didn’t care; it was something to think about besides what
I didn’t want to think about.
Off to our left there was an incredibly irritated growl.
‘She came in just a few minutes ago and watched him
walk back over here.’
‘Soldier or civilian?’ I wanted to know and didn’t
even care if we were playing a game or not.
‘Soldier, I think.’ He lowered his voice a little
more as though she had moved where she might hear us.
I found I was grinning like a loon, ‘Think we should
try to get her to come over here? Introduce them?’
Trowa didn’t have a chance to answer me before I got
a decidedly nasty, ‘Maxwell!’ from Wufei in a very low voice.
I almost laughed out loud when I realized we weren’t playing; there
really was a beautiful blond somewhere in the room who was interested in
our Wufei. I would have leered at him just to make him sweat if I’d
thought I could have gotten it aimed in the right direction. Leers are decidedly
ineffective when they don’t hit their mark.
‘What’s she look like?’ I turned my attention
back to Trowa, letting him distract me, letting him guide me on a different
kind of terrain.
‘Almost as tall as you are, I would guess.’ He
said slowly, as though looking her over as he considered it, ‘One
of those classic hour-glass figures…pretty face…honey blond,
shoulder length hair…’
From the chairs behind us, I felt Quatre lean down to join
us, ‘Imagine a cross between Sandra Bullock and Virginia Hey.’
He whispered in my ear and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt we weren’t
playing; Quatre can’t lie worth shit.
I opened my mouth to see just how far I could push Wufei’s
comfort level when I heard a strange woman’s voice say, ‘Mr.
My blood ran cold and I couldn’t stop my fingers from
clutching convulsively on Trowa’s.
‘That would be me.’ I admitted, though I imagine
there wasn’t that much doubt. How many blind guys could there be in
‘The Doctor will see you now.’
Now there’s a phrase that you wouldn’t think was
all that bloody scary. But there it was; my moment of truth was at hand.
Trowa gave my hand a final squeeze and Quatre reached from
behind me to pat my shoulder. I hesitated, not sure what to do. Heero had
been quiet the last while, just sitting close beside me but not joining
in the banter. I wasn’t sure if he had meant to go back with me. I
didn’t want to have to ask.
‘Mr. Maxwell,’ Came that woman’s voice again,
‘If you’ll take my arm…’
A rather cold voice from my right cut her off, ‘I’ll
be guiding him.’
I would have grinned at him if I hadn’t felt like I
was going to pee my pants.
He took my hand and brought it to his shoulder and I had to
remind myself not to clutch.
‘This way then.’ She said and the sound of her
step spoke of irritation. I don’t think Heero had been in her game
She led and we followed, it wasn’t far and she ushered
us into a room that echoed in an ugly, sterile way. She informed us the
Doctor would be there in a minute and shut the door on her way out.
I loosened my hold on Heero’s shoulder, meaning to let
go but he covered my hand with his and held it there.
‘Your hands are cold again.’ He told me.
I chuckled, ‘Stark terror always does that to me.’
‘Duo…’ He hesitated, ‘You know I love
you; no matter how this…’
The door opened and served to shut him up.
The Doctor was a breezy, cheerful man and I had to wonder
how long he’d been working with the military. He sounded middle-aged
but it was hard to tell.
He had Heero help me sit on the exam table and I could hear
the rattling sounds of equipment.
‘Now, Mr. Maxwell,’ He was telling me as he brought
that equipment closer, ‘I see this binding is fresh…have you
had your eyes uncovered since the accident?’
I quirked him a grin and stifled the first thing that wanted
to pop out of my mouth, ‘Call me Duo, Doc.’ I told him, ‘You’re
makin’ me feel like somebody’s Grandpa.’
I was successful in pulling a small chuckle from him.
‘I unwrap them to shower.’ I told him when I had
his agreement not to call me Mister anything, ‘But…I shower
in the dark.’
He grunted, ‘Well, Duo; at least you can follow simple
instructions. You’d be surprised how many people can’t.’
He was undoing the tape as he talked, ‘You may have
a little trouble getting your eyes to open at first, not so bad if you’ve
been showering and keeping them clean.’
I felt the gauze begin to fall away and realized with a start
that my hand wasn’t on Heero’s shoulder any more but was held
tightly in his. I’m not sure which one of us was gripping harder.
‘Your eyes are going to be extremely sensitive to light
at first.’ The Doctor was babbling away to me and I idly wondered
if he said that to all his eye injury patients.
‘Is that just normal Doctor optimism?’ I interrupted
and it really was like listening to a recording slip. Heero’s hand
tensed around mine. Then it felt like the man was truly talking to me for
the first time.
‘Yeah…it is. I’m sorry; you’re right.’
His voice became surprisingly gentle, ‘If your eyes have healed and
you can see at all…then, yes they will be very sensitive to light.’
I rewarded his candidness with the quirk of a grin, ‘So…I’m
blind or I’m not…nothing you do in the next ten minutes is going
to make any difference? You’re just here for the unveiling?’
He actually laughed, ‘No. No difference. Either your
eyes healed or they didn’t.’
‘Then…would you mind if I…we…had a
There was a moment of electric silence and I found myself
wondering what this man looked like.
‘That would be…understandable.’ He said
at length, ‘Keep the lights dimmed and just open the door when you’re
Then I heard him leave. Heero unwrapped the rest of the bindings
with his own hands.
‘Ready love?’ He asked me gently.
‘No.’ I told him honestly. I had thought I would
have to struggle to keep my eyes from popping open but I didn’t; and
I knew I was going to have trouble making myself open them when the time
He moved to stand in front of me, where I still sat on the
table and took me in his arms. I pressed my face into his neck. I felt oddly
naked without the gauze covering me.
‘No matter what happens,’ He told me, finishing
what he had started to say earlier, ‘I will always love you. You are
a part of me…this changes nothing.’
‘This changes everything.’ And I couldn’t
keep the pain out of my voice.
‘Not what matters. Not how I feel about you.’
He sounded so sure of himself, so firm in his conviction, I could almost
‘I won’t be able to pilot. I won’t be…what
you fell in love with.’ I sounded almost like I was trying to win
an argument; I don’t know why I was pushing so hard. Maybe I just
wanted to see if he would falter.
‘I fell in love with you, not what you do.’ He
told me and it came out sounding almost amused.
‘You fell in love with a soldier.’ I insisted,
He cut me off again, ‘You’re a soldier still.
You proved that on the mountain with Trowa. But it doesn’t matter…I
am in love with you; not some damned ideal.’
‘Heero…I won’t be able to…’
He stopped my words with a kiss, just the barest brush of
his lips over mine, ‘Are you telling me,’ He whispered, ‘That
you would stop loving me if I lost an arm or…?’
‘Of course not!’ I snapped and his wry chuckle
told me I’d fallen into his trap. He kissed me again, a little deeper,
‘Why must you always poke at the damn bear so hard, love?’
I gave it up; maybe I couldn’t conceive of a future
together in the dark but apparently he could, ‘I guess it’s
just what I do.’ I sighed and he took me by the shoulders, straightening
‘Open your eyes, Duo.’ His voice was that firm,
soothing one he uses when I need his guidance.
‘I…I love you.’ I whispered and let my fingers
trace the path up his arms to find his face. I wanted to be sure I was looking
him in the eyes.
It took more will power than I would have thought possible
but there was nothing else to say and the time was now.
‘Open your eyes.’ He commanded me again, his voice
nothing more than a sigh and I did.
They blinked shut again of their own accord from the brightness
of the dim lights.
I grinned, forcing them open again. Heero was blurry and watery
and difficult to see…but he was there.
‘Fuck you, damn imp.’ I muttered with glee and
heard Heero’s confused,
I grinned at him, ‘It hurts.’
‘It…hurts?’ His voice was a study in shivering
He jerked me off the table and into his arms and kissed me
with a rising passion that made me afraid he intended to take me right there
on the exam table.
A laugh bubbled up from somewhere deep inside me. I wrapped
myself around him, blinking furiously and returned his kisses full measure.
‘We should call the Doctor back in…we should have
‘In a minute.’ I sighed and pulled back to look
at his face. My eyes were watering profusely and I was forced to blink almost
constantly but I could see his face…I could see his eyes. I drank
him in, studied every line, every curve.
‘Gods, I missed you.’ I smiled softly, losing
His fingers came to wipe gently at the tears washing down
my face, ‘It’s good to have you back.’
Behind us the door flew open letting in a flood of light from
the hall and I heard Wufei’s agitated voice, ‘Damnit, Maxwell…what
the hell is taking…’ He stopped cold, seeing the tears on my
face I’m sure, ‘Oh…Gods…’ He murmured, horror-struck
and there was the sound of Trowa and Quatre not a step behind him. Whether
they had come with him or come to stop him, I don’t know.
I quirked a grin at Heero, ‘Do you mind, Wufei? The
light… is kinda bright.’
There was a still, dead-calm moment and then he came across
the room in a rush only to stop beside us, his face working through a score
of emotions. I turned my wet, squinting face to his and grinned.
‘You can…see?’ He asked, voice no more than
‘Yeah…’ I confirmed, ‘I can see.’
I could see in his eyes that he wanted to embrace me but he
couldn’t unbend that much with everyone standing there watching. So
he only smiled and moved to turn away. I was still floating on my little
bubble of happiness and it was in me to reach out and grab him and pull
him into a hug but I too was stopped by the awkwardness of the moment. The
best I could do was touch his arm as he turned,
‘Want…want some company in the morning?’
I asked, afraid I might be overstepping myself but he gave me one of those
rare, pleased smiles and a small incline of his head. Then he was out of
Quatre came then, not having a problem at all with delivering
a bright laugh and an exuberant hug, ‘Duo…I’m so glad.’
‘I’m sorry I was such a pain in the ass.’
I told him softly and he grinned his forgiveness.
Trowa made me come passed the others to reach him, standing
slightly off to the side, his arms folded across his chest and a tight smile
on his face.
I grinned up at him and couldn’t speak for a minute
remembering what we’d gone through together.
‘No more Mr. Murdock.’ I finally smiled.
‘No.’ He confirmed, green eyes shining brightly
down at me, ‘You won’t need me to guide you any more.’
There wasn’t time for more; the Doctor was back. They
had, after all, opened the door.
The man had to speak before I recognized him and I was rather
surprised; he didn’t look a thing like I thought he would. Mostly
just younger than I had expected; and blond where I had envisioned a gray
He was completely taken aback to find the room full of soldiers
but quickly took me back in hand, choosing to ignore their presence. I had
to endure a great deal of probing and checking, was given a list of things
not to do, mostly involving prolonged exposure to light. There were drops
that I was to use twice a day and instructions to buy myself a good pair
of sunglasses immediately. He told me the watering would probably slow down
in a couple of hours, sooner if I kept to dim lighting. He finally pronounced
me fit and released me, with assurances that my sight would be back to normal
in a few days. I felt like I was walking a foot off the ground as we left
Trowa drove on the way back and I sat between Heero and Wufei
in the backseat. I couldn’t stop smiling, I couldn’t see very
clearly yet with my eyes tearing almost non-stop but every sight I managed
to blink into focus was a miracle of it’s very own. I kept stealing
glances at Heero and Wufei and knew I probably looked like some kind of
moronic, grinning idiot. I’d never noticed that tiny scar on Wufei’s
chin before. The way that one lock of hair wanted to wisp out of the tight
ponytail. The sun streaming in through the window set the fine hairs on
Heero’s arm to golden light, making them glitter copper and bronze.
I watched the tendons shift in the back of his hand as he moved. I couldn’t
Of course they stopped at the first drug store we passed and
made me find some sunglasses but I had to admit it helped with the watering.
By the time we arrived back at the house I was able to see fairly clearly.
Things kept surprising me; I had pictured the house as a tidy white frame
and it turned out to be a massive brick and stone monstrosity. The same
decorator must furnish most of the Winner estate houses and they all have
a similar color scheme of warm, rich tones. Quatre’s sister, apparently,
did her own decorating and I was a little taken aback by the incredible
array of pastels. I had not known there were so many different shades of
sky blue and dusty rose. It was a very strange thing to wander the rooms
and halls of a place I had been living in for days but had never seen before.
It was a delight to leave the house and have no one hounding
me, no one running after me to grab my arm or ask me just where in the hell
I thought I was going. I walked the grounds mostly just because I could,
finding things to stop and look at, feeling as though I had never seen them
before. There was a rather extensive flower garden and I found myself lingering
there among the heady scents and vibrant colors. It was enough to make my
imp stop speaking to me all together; he had retreated to the back of my
head and was sulking in a very non-impish way.
There was a low stone wall reminiscent of the one at the cabin,
running around the outside edge of the gardens and I felt myself drawn to
sit there in the shade. The sunglasses muted the colors and the light but
it didn’t matter; it was all still so much more than the dark I had
been living in. The dark I had thought I would be living in forever. It
was like some kind of incredible gift; everything seemed bright and shiny
and new. I felt like I had when I had first come to Earth and realized what
a pale comparison L2 had been. I knew this would fade; that I would get
used to the colors and the sights and would begin to take things for granted
I sat with my eyes closed for a time, remembering. I let my
fingers travel over the stones, felt their rough texture, felt their coolness.
I listened to the sound of a bee buzzing not far away and imagined it dancing
between the flowers. I inhaled the rich scent of mulch and roses…and
heard the soft sound of Heero’s step on the walk. I opened my eyes
and watched him come to me, threading his way between the hedges and the
stones of the garden. Watched the light on his hair, the play of strong
muscles under smooth skin, the flash of clear, blue eyes. I smiled warmly.
‘What are you doing?’ He asked when he arrived,
his voice holding a touch of puzzlement, a hint of concern.
I cocked my head and looked up at him with a grin, ‘I
have absolutely no idea.’ I told him and let him take my hand and
draw me to my feet, ‘Nothing, I suppose.’
His fingers left mine and came to brush a lock of hair from
my face and he frowned slightly, ‘Should you be out here? Your eyes
are watering again.’
‘Not very much.’ I reassured him, ‘Not as
much as before…I just wanted a little time to myself.’
He hesitated, ‘Would you like me to leave?’
I caught at his hand, ‘No. I most definitely would not.’
He moved to slip his arms around me but I danced away and
turned to step up on the wall with a chuckle. I was more than a head above
him now and I held out my hands until he came close and wrapped his arms
around my hips. I tangled my fingers in his hair and he sighed.
‘I came to tell you dinner is almost ready.’
‘That’s nice.’ I told him, feeling lighthearted
and mischievous and I teased his head back until I could lean down and find
his lips with mine, ‘…and after dinner, my love?’
The shine in his eyes became playful, ‘What did you
have in mind?’ His arms tightened around me until he had me lifted
from my feet and he stepped away from the wall with me clutching at his
shoulders; he’d caught me by surprise and I laughed. Then he slowly
lowered me, sliding my body down the length of his until my feet were on
the ground again. I gasped with the feel of it.
‘I was thinking that we needed to find someplace…private.’
And the husky, animal sound of my own voice surprised even me.
‘Private?’ He questioned, his eyes roaming over
my face, his hands working their way up my back. I could see the astonishment
in his eyes, hearing me talk like this. Astonishment and a bit of delight.
It made me bold.
‘I want you to make love to me tonight.’ I told
him suddenly, before I lost the nerve and I felt my voice quaver, ‘And
I think I’m going to be very loud.’
His breath quickened and he pulled me close to ghost a kiss
on my collarbone, ‘Are you now?’
‘Yes,’ I sighed, letting my eyes fall closed again,
lost in the feel of his breath on my throat, ‘I am. I mean to let
you break me…and make me whole again.’
He shivered and brought our bodies tight together with a deep-throated
groan, ‘The hell with dinner….’
I laughed with amusement, leaning away from him ‘But
I’m hungry; I missed breakfast.’
‘I’m hungry too.’ He growled and there was
an electric tingle up my spine.
‘Dinner first.’ I chided and began to draw him
down the path toward the house.
‘You are such a tease.’ He grumbled and I had
to laugh at him.
‘Oh…I’m not teasing.’ I told him huskily,
stopping to turn and look him in the eye, I almost didn’t feel like
myself; I was so full of wicked abandon, ‘We are going to go eat dinner
and then we are going to go off together somewhere; just the two of us.
Maybe into town to a motel. Maybe off into the damned woods; I don’t
care. But you are going to touch me and caress me and use that body of yours
to make me scream. You are going to take me and I am going to watch your
face while you do it. I like to see your passion too.’
I shocked him and pleased him and left him completely speechless
and since he didn’t have an argument, that’s exactly what we
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