Author: Calic0cat
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Fragments + Chapter 26

I flopped down on my very own saggy, beat-up couch - it might be damn ugly but it was *comfortable* - and sighed. Despite the fact that collapsing like that made my shoulder throb, I felt better than I had in days. "Oh *god* it's good to be home..."

The door clicked shut behind the cabbie and Wufei shoved the luggage that the man had brought in for us against the wall. He turned towards me and ordered, "Alright. Now spill, Maxwell. What the hell *happened* between you and Yuy on that mission?"

I groaned. I should've known Wufei wouldn't let things go with the little that I'd already told him. He'd just been waiting till we got home and I let my guard down to nail me on this. I could either try to fob him off again with generalities or I could go ahead and actually tell him at least part of it. Well, maybe telling him would help me come to terms with things a bit better myself...

"I fucked up, Fei. That's what happened. He thought we were really Odin and Max Wells, newlyweds on their honeymoon, and I let him keep thinking that because we were under fucking *surveillance* all the time. He was so damn affectionate that I had to work damn hard at remembering none of it was *real*. And then he started to remember stuff and he was confused as hell. And he started - uh, pushing - the whole honeymoon thing. So I had to start giving him a little bit of the truth in order to keep him from blowing our cover and hope nobody overheard us. But somebody *did* overhear us plus I couldn't tell him *everything* and so he ended up remembering the wrong thing at the wrong time and..." I shrugged and swore under my breath as my shoulder protested. "But he started shuttin' me out way before he shot me. I think it's pretty obvious that he's just gone back to the same old don't-get-too-close iceman that he's always been." Yeah, I was skipping a lot of details there but, despite the fact that Fei was my best friend, that whole shower thing was just too damn personal to go into even with him.

Wufei crouched on his heels in front of the couch and met my eyes steadily. "Duo, I *know* there has to be more to it than that. You're hurting too much - *hiding* too much - for there not to be. But I think I can make a pretty good guess what kind of 'pushing' he did and what kind of response your sense of honour would have demanded you make."

The heat flooding my cheeks gave him more than enough confirmation of his guess. He sighed heavily and shook his head. "Duo, I don't think you 'fucked up' as you so elegantly put it. You didn't have very many options to work with." He hesitated, then asked, "Is that when you told him how you felt?"

I nodded silently.

Wufei's brow wrinkled slightly in thought. "He may not be sure whether you meant it, you know."

I flung myself off the couch, narrowly missing knocking Wufei over. "Look Fei, he *knows* that I don't fucking *lie*! Especially not about something that damn important! And that's when he started freezing me out again; no real surprise there. I overstepped the line for the first damn time in *years* and he did the same fucking thing as always! I think the situation's pretty damn clear!"

Standing, Wufei frowned and pointed out sternly, "He knows that *you* don't lie. Yes. But you're a damn good undercover agent, Maxwell, and if he remembers *that* he may not be too sure whether the whole thing was just part of your cover."

"Yeah, and maybe my fairy godmother will show up and make everything work out peachy-keen," I retorted irritably. I did *not* need Wufei of all people encouraging me to think positive about this. I was more than capable of building up false hope all by myself. I'd done it enough damn times in the past; I sure as hell wasn't going to do it again.

Wufei's voice softened slightly as he said, "Duo, I just think that you should keep an open mind about this. Be fair. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Is it really so surprising that he would react the same way he did during the war if he was just *remembering* all of those things?"

I shook my head silently and dropped back onto the couch. Maybe - just *maybe* - Wufei had a point. Maybe I wasn't being fair in assuming that Heero was just reverting to his old self. *Maybe*.

But I wasn't going to get my hopes up. They'd been crushed too many times before.

***

"Dammit..." I muttered in frustration. Gingerly, I lifted my arm for one more attempt and bit my lip at the stabbing pain that caused before finally admitting that there was no way I was going to be able to do a damn thing with my hair. I just didn't have that much range of movement back in my injured shoulder yet. Trying for more hurt like hell, regardless of whether I'd actually taken the prescribed painkillers or not. The wound's usual dull ache was something I'd learned to ignore but the pain that resulted from too much activity was a different story entirely. I'd managed to do a halfway decent job of washing my hair one-handed as well as getting it mostly brushed out but there was no way I could even manage a ponytail let alone a braid without both hands.

"Great, first day back to work and I'm going to have to go in with my hair down." I scowled irritably at the mirror. I *never* went out in public with my hair down. It was just too damn personal. Looked like this time I wasn't going to have any choice though. Sighing, I stuck a couple of elastics and a comb in my pocket. Maybe I could get one of the secretaries to fix it for me. Not that I really wanted anyone else handling my hair but I wanted to spend a whole day at work with it down even less. I wouldn't have minded getting Fei to do it for me; he had a couple of times during the war when I'd been injured. So had Quatre. But Q was at home on L4 and Fei was one-handed himself. His arm had been pretty badly broken and he was *not* supposed to be using it at *all*. I wasn't sure what he'd been doing about his own hair for the past week; while I was in the hospital, he'd left it down every day till he came to visit me then between the two of us we'd managed to get it pulled back in a tail. That had been damn awkward and he didn't have nearly as much hair as I did; I didn't think we could do the same thing with mine.

Wufei had been back at work for a week; he'd gone back on light duty as soon as we returned to Earth. We'd flown back from L3 together the day after I was released from the hospital. I'd been extremely grateful that Une had sent a Preventers shuttle to pick us up; I really hadn't been looking forward to taking public transit back home and I'd refused to impose on Q's generosity by asking him to send a shuttle to give us a lift.

Fei had either dropped by my place or called at least once every day. I knew that he would have stayed with me or I could have stayed with him while my shoulder was out of commission but he had his own injury to deal with; he couldn't really help me much nor could I help him. And frankly, I needed my space right now. Needed to nurse my emotional wounds as well as the physical one in private. My best friend knew me well enough to understand that without it even needing to be said. He made sure that I knew he was available if I needed him for any reason; made sure that I was doing okay. But he didn't hover or nag at me. Though I knew he'd be on my case in an instant if he thought I wasn't looking after myself properly.

Wufei had been keeping me up to date on the case against Mattis. Heero and Sally were due back from the resource satellite any day now. They'd finally finished the preliminary inventory of evidence. It had taken a long time because Mattis had left all the old files, office furnishings, etc. from the satellite's previous use intact and buried the weapons factory's records in the midst of all the old files. Not too bad a tactic; it might have even passed a superficial inspection. As it was, it had made one hell of a lot of work for the whole team of Preventers onsite. And it had worked against Mattis a bit too; in order to make sure that all of the evidence was destroyed he'd had to order *all* of the old files destroyed. He'd considered that a lower priority than getting the manufacturing equipment dismantled and shipped out so they'd barely begun hauling files down to the incinerator by the time the Preventers arrived.

There was no shortage of evidence, be it paper, electronic, or other. Most of the electronic records had been erased but Heero had recovered them pretty easily. And as for physical evidence... Hell, one of the ships that Heero had sabotaged was still sitting in the loading dock, fully loaded with incriminating material, when the Preventers had arrived. The other one had been limping along with only partial power from its engines and they'd had no problem catching up to it.

I wasn't entirely looking forward to Heero's return. Sally's - yes - I'd already warned Fei that I planned to take her out to a very nice restaurant for dinner as thanks for the wonderful job she'd done taking care of me. It wasn't *necessary*; I knew that. Sally was a healer at heart; she'd help anyone who needed it. And she was fiercely loyal to her friends. But I wanted to do something special for her anyway. I owed her my life several times over by now; she'd patched me and the others up many times during the war and over the years since. I just wanted to be sure she understood just how much I appreciated that fact.

Especially considering that I'd probably called her a great many very uncomplimentary things while she was cleaning my shoulder wound.

But Heero's return was going to mean facing the whole god-awful hornet's nest of feelings that the fucked-up mission had stirred up. I owed him a "thank you" too for putting his own life at risk dragging my unconscious ass out of there. Yeah, he was the one who'd put me in that condition in the first place but with his head as screwed-up from the amnesia as it was I really hadn't expected him to go out of his way to save me.

And I was going to have to figure out whether I could handle being his partner now. Whether I could lock away those memories of being kissed and caressed by "Odin" as just a foolish dream.

Whether I could deal with my cool, distant partner on a day-to-day basis without feeling like I was having my heart ripped out over and over again.

I was still keeping Wufei's comments on the subject in mind but... I just couldn't allow myself to take them too much to heart. Better to assume the worst; that way I wouldn't end up disappointed.

I managed to get my tie on though it was far from the neatest job I'd ever done and took far too long to accomplish. Glancing at the clock, I groaned in dismay. So much for getting in early and finding someone to do something with my hair before I had to report to Une. I'd known it would take forever to get ready with one arm having severely restricted movement so I'd gotten started over an hour earlier than usual but I'd used up virtually all of that extra time already and I still had to get my shoes on and call a cab.

Halfway to the phone, I stopped and groaned again as the damn doorbell rang. If that was a salesperson of some sort, they'd picked the wrong day to annoy me. On the other hand, it was vaguely, distantly possible that Wufei might have had his own cab swing by to pick me up on the way in. I would have thought he'd have called first if so but... I crossed my fingers hopefully and headed for the door.

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