see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ 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
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
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*
"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
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
"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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