+ Part 12
Duo leaned against the door jam, arms crossed over his chest as he grinned. "You mean them out there?" When Wu Fei grunted he chuckled, "Either they thought you were dead, and you're a ghost, or they heard we're all shacking up. Want to bet on which one?"
"Quatre..." Wu Fei growled dangerously.
Duo sighed and shrugged. "Doesn't matter. ... unless you're going to be weird about us? I could go out there and tell everyone the rumor is full of shit, if you want?"
Wu Fei heard the pending disappointment in Duo's voice. He refused to see it realized. "No," Wu Fei replied. "My honor is in my own keeping, not theirs. Let them talk."
Duo grinned again and darted forward. Wu Fei's back hit the desk and Duo was kissing him soundly, one hand wrapped around his tie and the other hard on his shoulder, holding him down. Since the door was still open, there were several agents who were watching, wide eyed.
Wu Fei shoved Duo off. "Maxwell!" He sat up with a glare. "I accept our relationship in it's entirety, but I'm not the kind of man who enjoys public displays... of any kind."
"Okay, okay," Duo said quickly. "I guess I'm just happy and I don't know how to deal with it right."
Wu Fei moved to close the door to his office. "Duo," he said more gently. "I do understand. This is more than I have ever hoped for. I'm just not certain how to..." He struggled to express his confusion without giving offense.
"Work with two people you love?" Duo suggested. When Wu Fei nodded Duo looked serious. "I guess we all need to find that out. I suppose every person in a relationship with a fellow agent goes through the same thing. I think I'll ask a few, to see how they dealt with it."
"That would be wise," Wu Fei agreed.
Wu Fei's vid phone beeped and he leaned over his desk to answer the call.
"Agent Wu Fei?" Une growled. "It's good to see you back at work. Now, would you kindly tell me what you've done with the real Heero Yuy?"
"Commander?" Wu Fei replied in confusion as he sat in his chair with Duo at his elbow.
"He is pleasant, smiling, and agreeable," Une told him as if the world had turned upside down.
"That's because he got so-" Duo began but Wu Fei cut him off by shoving him away with an elbow.
"Commander," Wu Fei replied. "I believe that Heero was in need of a long rest. While the circumstances were very serious, it did afford Agent Yuy a chance to have some much needed down time."
Wu Fei ignored Duo's snicker.
"I'll make certain that he receives periodic down time in the future, then," Une said and the vid phone blanked.
"Down time," Duo said and snickered again.
"Are you four years old?" Wu Fei retorted.
Duo sighed. "I'm your partner, that's what I am."
Wu Fei picked up an information chip and loaded it into his computer as he said, "Well, partner, then perhaps we should dispense with crude jokes and get to work?"
"Should we?" Duo wondered and Wu Fei looked up to see that all of Duo's humor was gone. "If this is going to be so hard for you, then maybe we should find new partners?"
That made Wu Fei feel very cold inside. It was the very thing that he had feared when they first considered a relationship. "No," he said simply, but with all of his conviction.
Duo smiled and it was warm and pleased. "Then let me be me, okay?"
Duo hadn't changed. It was Wu Fei who was overreacting to something that his partner was famous for, his humor and his irreverence. "I'm sorry," Wu Fei said with heartfelt conviction.
"S'okay," Duo replied and nodded at the screen. "What's up first, partner?"
It wasn't much of an assignment. They were both on restricted duty. It was almost a dog catcher job, but not quite. There was an element to it that could turn ugly if they didn't do it by the numbers. Wu Fei was glad that Une wasn't insulting their abilities entirely.
"Escort," Wu Fei told Duo. "A rebel insurgent being transferred to a high level security area because of concerns that his people might attempt to free him. We are to escort the guards as a backup."
A frown appeared between Duo's eyes. "I heard about this guy," he said as he read the man's criminal record. Wu Fei watched Duo's skin suddenly turn very pale. The man shut down, that was the only way to describe it. He said in a small, uncertain voice, "Uh, Fei, can we skip this one. I mean... this is your first day, and I still can't get my gun out of my holster as fast as I want to. Can you pass on it?"
Wu Fei wasn't about to go into a mission with a partner having doubts. His disappointment was keen, though. He wanted to begin work immediately. "All right, Duo," he replied. "We'll try the ranges a few times to make certain that we are really ready for an assignment before we accept one."
Duo's relief was plain."Yeah, we really need to do that, Fei. Thanks for understanding. Uhm... I'll get us some tea. Be back."
Duo left the office. Wu Fei stared after him. That had not been the Duo Maxwell that he had known. This man had looked... frightened. Wu Fei wondered if Une had felt the same chill when she had confronted Heero earlier.
Wu Fei looked down at the report on his computer screen. The man's crimes were more than a few, but the one that jumped out at Wu Fei brought his understanding into crystal clarity. The man was charged with using chemical bombs. Wu Fei sat on the obstacle course, his head hanging and sweat rolling off of his brow and dotting the ground between his knees. He had pushed himself too far, but that was only because he hadn't wanted Duo to overdo it and harm himself. His partner was stretched out on the ground, one arm flung over his eyes to block out the brutal sun, practice gun resting on his chest, and braid snaking out into the dirt. Heero was glaring at the both of them, holding a timer in one hand, his other balled into a fist.
"I called a halt four times on the com!" Heero snarled. The timer broke apart under the pressure of his angry grip. He let it fall to the dirt."You are both fools!"
Sally came pounding up, breathing hard, braids flapping and case thumping against her thigh as she hauled it with both hands. She fell to her knees beside Duo and opened it up, fumbling quickly for her scanner.
"S'okay," Duo gritted out. "Just... pulled... tired... that's all."
"I tried to stop him!" Wu Fei panted. "He laughed at me and called me a girl!"
"So you both had to finish the course then?" Sally snarled as she showed the scanner to Heero."That bit of macho shit is putting you both off duty. Heart rate is off the chart. Graft tears. Lung swelling. Did it occur to you, Agent Maxwell, that all of this blowing dust might be going into your lungs, and that it might be coating the new skin we implanted there?"
Silence, but Duo's breathing sounded both ragged and angry. Whether it was anger at himself or Sally, it was hard to be sure.
Sally pointed her scanner at Wu Fei. "Internal bleeding, Chang Wu Fei. Both of you are going to med level immediately."
Heero's face was red with fury as he snarled at Wu Fei, "You should have stopped him!"
Wu Fei lifted his head and returned Heero's glare. "He's fast. I was one step behind his whirlwind all through the course. I slipped on the third wall, and drove it into my gut, trying to at least snatch the idiot's braid. I knew what he was doing to himself! You didn't need to tell me, Yuy!"
Heero gripped at his stomach and bent over, teeth gritted, but he didn't let the pain stop him from demanding, "Why would Duo do this? Why was he trying to prove himself?"
"Ask him!" Wu Fei shouted. "He's not letting me into his heart anymore than he is you!"
"Wrong!" Duo suddenly bit out. "You're both there and I'm the idiot, not Fei...." He just breathed for a few moments as Sally called for medics."I... I was afraid. I stuck my tail between my legs and wouldn't take an assignment because the guy did explosives. I had to... get my head out of my ass, prove to myself that I was still who I thought I was, because...that guy escaped. If we had been there..."
Wu Fei hung his head, wincing. "I didn't want you to know. I knew that it would bother you."
"Une called me to read me the riot act," Duo admitted, "And she was right. We should have been there. That guy wouldn't be out blowing people up if I hadn't decided to be chicken, to worry so much about my own skin... about failing again..."
"You didn't fail," Heero argued. "It was a second bomb in a blind pocket. No one on Earth or in space would have seen it."
Wu Fei thought of his own sense of blame, his own nightmares about that day that he refused to admit to; his sense that Heero could have saved Duo, and everyone else, if he had been there in his place.
Duo lowered his arm. "I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough... to go out and get that guy. I'm not, though. " Both of his hands came up to cover his face. "I just put myself back out of commission and he's going to go and blow up what the fuck he likes."
"No, he's not," Wu Fei ground out.
Sally heard a tone in Wu Fei's voice that she knew well. She pointed a finger at him and said forcefully, "No! You are going to medical and then you are both going home. You are off duty, as of now, and you will remain so pending my approval of your status. We have other, qualified, agents looking for the bomber."
"Woman," Wu Fei said in his most arrogant tone, "We will do as we please. For now, we please to go to medical and have ourselves examined."
"And after that?" Sally demanded.
Wu Fei looked at Heero, who was frowning but nodding, and then at Duo, who lowered his hands and looked suddenly hopeful. "We will see," Wu Fei replied and gave her nothing more than that despite her vehement demands.
"If you had lived fifteen years ago, You'd be dead now," Duo mimicked as he sat in the backseat of Heero's car and pecked at keys on his laptop.
"Was that supposed to be Sally?" Wu Fei grumbled as he tried to get comfortable. "I was the one who was subjected to laser therapy and those damn nanobots. They itch. A man cannot itch on the inside of his body."
"I had to breathe a putrid regenerative inhaler and prove to Sally that I wasn't going to rupture anything," Duo grumbled as he hurriedly made notes on a pilfered hospital pad with a pencil emblazoned with the hospital logo.
"She was doing her job and doing it well, " Heero said from the front seat. "Neither of you would be walking, if she were incompetent."
"I know you're worried, Heero," Duo said in a sympathetic tone, "but you have to admit that it was a bit much when she pre filled out toe tags for all of us."
"And started to fill out death certificates...," Wu Fei grumbled.
"Stealing her laptop wasn't?" Heero pointed out.
"We needed it," Duo replied sheepishly.
"And her pencils and prescription pad?" Heero pressed.
"Well..." Duo chewed on the end of the pencil. "I like notes."
"Her lunch?" Heero added with a raised eyebrow.
"I like ham and cheese," Duo snickered, unrepentant.
"And I like yogurt... especially the berry kind...," Wu Fei added in a smaller voice, looking guilty.
"We need our strength, " Duo argued, but then grew serious. "Okay... here he is, Mr. Paul Kiljoi... Jeez! What a name for a bomber to have. Well, we're about to kill your joy, Paul, ready or not. Can someone tell me why Preventers doesn't know the guy likes his clothes dry cleaned?"
"Is that where he is?" Heero asked.
"No, not for at least an hour, but I'm sure I can hack into the dry cleaners and get his info," Duo replied.
"It's probably false," Wu Fei pointed out.
Duo glared at him and pulled one eye wide. "Duh, Fei. I'm not in kindergarten." He went back to his screen.
"Could have fooled me," Fei said under his breath and finished his yogurt. He still felt weak and there was some residual pain, but the injuries had been minor and he was confident that he would be operational. Duo, he felt, he would need to watch. It would be like that man to once again, go beyond his abilities, especially when he thought that he had something to prove.
"There..." Duo snickered.
"What?" Heero asked sharply.
"I don't think a sixteen year old girl is going to use her credit card to dry clean three suits, a pair of men's slacks, and a designer shirt," Duo replied in triumph.
"Stolen card... good work," Wu Fei said as he put his empty container into a bag with Sally Po written on the side in pen. "Do we wait until he returns there?"
"I think we ask the owner why he took a stolen card and put the fear of jail time on him," Duo suggested.
"That would be my expertise," Heero said firmly. "I'll deal with that while you both continue to rest."
"Here," Duo added stubbornly. "You are not taking us back to the apartment. We'll wait in the car."
Heero sighed. "All right."
"And stop by a fast food joint on the way," Duo told him. "That woman doesn't eat enough to keep a bird alive."
[part 11] [part 13] [back to Kracken's fic]