see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Chapter 18
I shivered and bit my tongue as the shivering set the bullet wound throbbing
even harder than it had been. Lying here on the floor of the empty room
that was our cell was damn uncomfortable but I couldn't stay sitting up
for long. It made me too dizzy and lightheaded. Didn't exactly take much
thought to figure out why; blood loss and shock were never a fun combination.
Throw in the fact that they hadn't bothered to give us anything either
to eat or drink since I'd been captured and the fact that I was lying
on bare metal and I was one thoroughly miserable individual. Not that
it was going to matter too much if we couldn't come up with a way to get
the hell out of this mess. The fact that they'd tossed me in here with
the others, unconscious and bleeding like a stuck pig, given Sally little
more than a glorified first aid kit to patch me up with, then never bothered
to come back didn't exactly say a whole lot of positive things about how
important we were to them.
Movement beside me drew my attention away from my contemplation of the
tiny air vent in the ceiling - nothing bigger than a cat was getting out
that way - and towards my companions. Sally gave me a concerned look.
"Nah, just a bit chilly," I said dismissively. No point dwelling on it,
we didn't have any blankets or anything. Unfortunately, I shivered again
and ruined the effect of my flippant response.
Sally touched my face and frowned. "Duo..."
I scowled at her. "Never mind; nothin' you can do anyway." I knew what
she was frowning about and we didn't need to be discussing my thoroughly
lousy condition. My clothing was wet enough with sweat that even the bloodstained
shirt had lost its stiffness. I was alternately burning up and freezing.
She'd gotten the bullet out and at least most of the cloth that had gone
in with it but the wound was obviously getting infected anyway. After
all the stress I'd been under - and I hadn't exactly been sleeping too
well since Heero got hurt either - my immune system probably wasn't exactly
in the best of shape. With neither antibiotics to fight the infection
nor painkillers to help lessen the shock there wasn't precisely a whole
hell of a lot that Sally could do.
Wufei growled something that sounded suspiciously like "Baka" and awkwardly
slid across the floor to my side. He eased down, careful of his own injuries,
to lie along one side of me while Sally took up position on the other.
I appreciated the gesture - their body heat was almost enough to stop
the shivering - but the situation felt damn weird. It had been one thing
to cuddle up with the guys during the war in order to keep warm in some
drafty old safehouse or cave we were hiding out in; it was a different
thing entirely to lie here between Wufei and his fiancee like this. I
knew better than to object though. "Thanks," I said simply, grateful for
the reduced shivering and the resulting reduction in the throbbing of
All three of us were silent for a while. Then Wufei asked a bit hesitantly,
"Duo? What was he like? He seemed very - different - in the pictures..."
I choked off a snort of bitter laughter. "Oh yeah, he was different alright.
He laughed and smiled. Talked to me. Was honest-to-god *happy*.
"He thought we were really married. He kissed and cuddled and complimented
me and..." I blinked rapidly and bit off the "acted like he loved me"
that wanted to slip out. "And then he started to remember." My voice wavered
and I had to stop and fight for control before I could continue, "And
he stopped doing all those things and started to push me away again. Even
before he remembered anything at all about me. Then - well, I guess he
must've remembered our first meeting. Guess he decided to even up the
score, eh, Fei? Least he only shot me once!" I was proud of the light,
half-amused tone I managed to finish with.
Well, I was until Wufei reached over to squeeze my hand gently and said
quietly, "I'm sorry, Duo." Then I was back to fighting off the urge to
just spill the whole damn sob story in all its pathetic detail to him
the way that I had years ago in that Oz prison cell. Back then, we'd barely
been friends, held apart as much by my own misconceptions of what he thought
of me as anything else.
Heero had almost seemed concerned about me when I was tossed in there
with the two of them but he'd gone right back to coldly snubbing me again
and it had frankly been a relief when Trowa came and took him away. When
he left with a cold remark, never looking back, I hadn't been able to
hold off the emotional distress any longer and it hadn't mattered that
I didn't want to look weak in front of a fellow pilot. I'd let Heero's
previous rescue of my decidedly battered self from Oz custody get my hopes
up and this latest cold shoulder - coming on top of a rather nasty beating
from Master O, which had aggravated injuries from my previous enjoyment
of Oz's hospitality that were still only partially healed - had dashed
them once and for all. The tears I'd successfully held at bay during the
beating would no longer be denied.
And instead of sneering at me the way I'd thought he would, Wufei had
massaged my sore, spasming back muscles and coaxed the whole sorry tale
out of me. Then he'd told me about his own hopeless love for a wife he'd
only begun to appreciate in time for her to die in his arms. I think his
intent was in part to even things out by exposing a painful bit of his
own life in exchange for what I'd revealed and in part an attempt to demonstrate
that people changed and I shouldn't give up hope. I'd accepted the exchange
and rejected the hope; hoping hurt too damn much, something I'd just had
proven to me all over again. But at any rate, by the time we finally escaped
from there, we were the best of friends.
If Sally hadn't been here with us, I might have gone ahead and let it
all out again. Told Wufei every damn painful detail then let him talk
me through some meditation exercises to set it all aside and start putting
my defences back up again. But she was there and despite the fact that
she was a friend as well as being engaged to Wufei, I couldn't do it.
Couldn't expose that much of myself to someone else's scrutiny. Knowing
that Fei understood how much this all hurt was almost as embarrassing
as it was comforting; I really didn't want Sally to know too.
So instead, I just squeezed his hand back in silent thanks for his sympathy
and understanding. After a moment, he said gruffly, "Try to get some rest,
Maxwell." He left unspoken the promise that I would need it to help in
our escape. I knew that I should really be trying to come up with some
sort of plan too but I just couldn't manage it. I hurt and was exhausted
so I just closed my eyes and let the unconsciousness that I'd been holding
off take me away from it all.
[chap. 17] [chap. 19] [back
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