see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ 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
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
"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
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
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.
[chap. 25] [chap.
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