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

Fragments + Chapter 30

I was both relieved and disappointed when Heero left for lunch so early. Relieved because the morning had been damn awkward and uncomfortable. Disappointed because he hadn't waited to go to lunch with the rest of us. Contradictory as hell but still the way I felt.

God, I had no idea how I was going to handle having him hang around to help take care of things that I couldn't do with my shoulder in its current condition. Agreeing to that little "deal" with him had been an incredibly idiotic move on my part. I just... hadn't quite been able to make myself give up hope that he'd offered out of more than guilt. Which was really stupid; I was *not* going to let the fact that he'd been careful brushing my hair turn into some foolish idea that he cared for me as more than a friend and partner. Memories of what had happened when "Odin" brushed my hair had made it extremely difficult to sit through having Heero carry out the task. It would have been easier if he'd briskly brushed and braided it the way that I'd expected him to. The fact that he'd *hadn't* behaved that way had left me fighting with those damn crazy wishes for more.

It had taken me all morning to get rid of those notions. But they were pretty thoroughly squashed now. If I'd needed any further confirmation that things were back to normal and I was silly to think Heero might have genuinely changed, I'd gotten it when Heero had taken off on his own for lunch rather than waiting and going with the rest of us. Nobody really cared what time we took lunch at; sticking to scheduled lunch times only really mattered for the secretarial staff since *someone* had to be around to answer the phones. We went pretty much any time that we wanted over the two hour period bracketing noon. Heero could have waited and gone to lunch with the rest of us. He knew damn well that he was always welcome. Hell, even before this last mission he'd joined us sometimes.

But not today. Today, he'd cut and run as early as possible. Guess he figured having lunch didn't count as one of those things that my injured shoulder could interfere with.

Which pretty much made it obvious that he really *had* only offered to help because he still felt guilty over shooting me. Not because he wanted an excuse to spend more time with me. And the amount of hurt caused by that damn realization made it clear that despite all my good intentions, I'd let myself hope again anyway.

At least I hadn't been dumb enough to let it show this time. I was pretty sure I'd managed to stick to my decision to just be Heero's competent, reliable partner, the same as I'd been before. So at least we were just sticking to the status quo instead of me getting frozen back to distant, barely tolerated, acquaintance again.

I sighed and forced my attention back to my work. I was having a very rough time writing up the detailed report on the mission; there were a lot of things that were just too damn personal to include. And they really didn't have any bearing on the mission itself. But if I left them out and Heero put them in... Or if the surveillance of our suite turned up in the evidence... I groaned and pinched the bridge of my nose to try and banish the rapidly developing tension headache. I had been becoming far too familiar with the damn things since this whole fucked-up mission first got underway.

And the way that my shoulder was throbbing wasn't helping matters any either. I never *had* gotten around to tracking down that damn sling this morning and I'd been regretting it for the last couple of hours. I'd been trying not to show how bad it was because I didn't want to make Heero feel any guiltier but it was getting pretty hard to deal with. I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to make it through the rest of the day at work other than by taking painkillers. And if I did *that*, I'd be pretty much useless anyway since they made me groggy.

And then of course there was the fact that I hadn't exactly had a very nutritious breakfast this morning, which was only adding to the headache and general feeling of malaise... This had really *not* been a good day so far.

A firm knock on the doorframe jolted me out of my distraction. "Maxwell?"

I jumped slightly, startled, and jarred my shoulder. "*Fuck*..." escaped my mouth involuntarily at the sharp pain that caused. I turned my chair towards the door and apologized sheepishly, "Sorry, Commander Une." She really didn't like profanity in the workplace; said it wasn't good for the agency's public image and there were too many politicians and reporters in and out to risk it being overheard. So it was strictly forbidden. And one of the few rules that she would *not* waive for us "special ops" agents.

"Just this once... I didn't hear a thing," Une said calmly. She gave me a conspiratorial wink before turning more serious and asking, "How are you doing? Or do I even need to ask after what I *didn't* hear a few minutes ago..."

I grimaced and admitted, "I've been better. The shoulder aches most of the time." There was no point trying to hide it; I'd given that little tidbit away with the pained swearing when she'd startled me.

"And is that *all* that's wrong? Or is there something else?" Une pushed the door shut behind her before crossing her arms and leaning one shoulder against it. She gazed at me steadily, waiting.

I had a sudden sinking feeling that she wasn't talking about physical complications from the mission anymore. And also that I really didn't need to worry about what I should or shouldn't include in my report. I had a feeling that she already knew most of what there was to know.

"Other than the fact that being one-handed is incredibly awkward and annoying, especially with this much hair?" I really hoped that I was wrong and she *didn't* know all the squicky little details of just how fucked-up the mission had really been. Specifically, all the squicky little *personal* details.

"Yes. Other than that."

"Uh - nothing I can't deal with." 'Eventually,' I qualified silently.

Une sighed and straightened away from the door. "Duo, the surveillance tapes from your suite were among some of the first things shipped back here."

I was very glad that I was sitting down to hear this. My ears roared for a moment and the room wavered a bit before the blood rushed back to my head and I went from ice cold to burning with embarrassment. "Oh," I squeaked out.

"Noin and I are the only ones who've seen them," Une assured me hastily. "And I doubt that they will need to be brought officially into evidence; they have very little if any bearing on the actual case.

"She only watched enough to realize what they were and that they were..." Une hesitated, then continued, "rather - personal."

I was abruptly very glad that Noin was on restricted duty due to her pregnancy. If *someone* had to see those recordings, I'd rather it was her than one of the regular agents. Well, her and Une since I had the distinct impression that Une herself had viewed at least some of the surveillance. An impression that she confirmed with her next words.

"She gave them to me. I haven't watched or listened to all of the footage by any means but it's clear that there may be - repercussions - in your partnership. For a number of reasons. I don't know whether the two of you have addressed this yet but it will need to be dealt with before I consider sending you on any assignments together. Either the personal issues or the trust issues related to the shooting alone would be more than sufficient reason to reassign you both to new partners.

"Are you going to be able to keep working with him after everything that happened?" Une demanded. "After him shooting you? Will you be able to trust him again?"

"It's not quite that simple..." I answered reluctantly. I dropped my eyes to the floor and admitted softly, "The shooting's not the real issue; I can handle that. But the rest of it..." I swallowed hard and forced myself to meet her eyes and speak more firmly. "I don't know, Une. I hope so. But I honestly don't know whether I can put the rest of it behind me and work with him that closely again or not."

She nodded slightly, her head tilting quizzically. "He seemed very... different... without his memories..."

I started to laugh and choked it off. It would be too damn easy to get a little hysterical. "That's an understatement," I told her.

Une's eyes narrowed in concern and she opened her mouth to speak again. I was distinctly relieved when a knock on the door interrupted her.

"Was that all?" I asked quickly. "I'm supposed to be going for lunch with Wufei and Sally; that's probably them..."

Stepping away from the door, Une said, "That will do for now.

"Think about what we discussed. I'll need a definite decision from you but not till you're ready to come off of light duty." She opened the door and greeted Wufei and Sally before adding, "Oh and Maxwell - if that shoulder bothers you too much - *go home*. Don't overdo it on your first day back."

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