+ Part 4
Heero smiled slightly as he finished settling Wu Fei on a futon in the living room. "They would have killed themselves trying to escape. It was the only solution," he reasoned.
"So, instead of being in a hospital," Sally complained as she helped Heero, "and surrounded by doctors, nurses, and the best in medical equipment, they will be convalescing here, miles from emergency help. They will be attended by a man who is an expert at killing people, not healing them, and a Preventer field doctor, who will be on twenty four hour speed dial and visiting once a day."
"Yes," Heero answered shortly.
Wu Fei hissed in pain.
Sally scowled. "Don't even try to complain, Chang."
Wu Fei glared at her. "I didn't intend to, woman I am where I wish to be and well aware of the consequences of my decision."
Sally grunted sourly as she straightened. She handed Heero several prescriptions. "Make sure that Maxwell keeps taking his antibiotics. Massage that cream into his grafts three times a day. That will go a long way in reducing the scarring. As for Wu Fei, he is not, I repeat, not to do anything physical. Any stress on those wounds could cause complications. Do not hesitate to call me if you have questions or you need my help."
Heero nodded. Sally made an exasperated sound.
"Heero, this isn't the war," Sally admonished him as she gathered up her medical case. "You don't have to try and do this alone."
"I'm not," Heero assured her. "Trowa and Quatre are standing by."
"You almost put that man in the trauma unit, you realize?" Sally told him. "Quatre was frantic. You could have told him."
"He would have stopped us," Wu Fei snapped. "Now, enough. Go, with our gratitude."
Sally grunted as she headed for the door. "A thank you is not delivered with the same tone as a curse, Chang Wu Fei."
"Today, it is," Wu Fei grumbled and wasn't surprised when the door slammed shut. "She will try to mother us and then she will think better of her decision to release us from the hospital," he told Heero. "It's better to stop her before she starts."
Heero didn't look happy. "This won't work unless she helps us. Don't make her our enemy."
Wu Fei tried to ease his wound and managed it with a sigh. He was truly relieved to be free of the hospital. He should have been more gracious to the woman who had helped accomplish that. He unbent from his temper enough to say, "I will make amends when I see her next. I am... tired."
"Sleep," Heero told him, and turned down a light. "I'll be on watch."
"It's an apartment, Heero," Wu Fei slurred as sleep began to drag him under. "Lock the door and go to bed."
It only occurred to Wu Fei, as he heard the front door lock and Heero's footsteps move across the apartment to Duo's door. That there was only one place for Heero to sleep, unless he intended to use a chair.
Heero opened the door, but didn't close it again. Wu Fei heard Duo mutter something incoherent, utter a small, weak chuckle, and then go silent. Duo had a king size bed. Wu Fei had objected strenuously at the suggestion that he share it, but now... he almost wished that he hadn't. The thought disturbed him. He tried to understand it, but he couldn't stay awake long enough. He only knew, that he was jealous of Heero.
Real food cooking woke Wu Fei the next morning. Heero was seated at the kitchen bar, perched on a stool and reading a newspaper, and Sally Po was moving about the kitchen with expert ease.
"Almost done," Sally said as she spooned scrambled eggs from a skillet onto a plate. Heero moved his paper as she placed the plate near his elbow.
It felt odd, such a domestic scene. Wu Fei almost expected it to dissipate and become the sterile hospital, but it didn't and Sally soon looked over at him and saw that he was awake. She smiled, wiped her hands on a dish towel, and then came out of the kitchen to check on him.
"Sleep well?" She asked as she took his pulse.
Wu Fei nodded. "This futon is more than I'm used to in my own apartment."
"Let me guess," Sally joked as she checked his temperature and then peeled back his blankets to check his bandages. "Pallet on the floor, a few cushions, swords in a stand, and a few mementoes of your ancestors?"
She had described his apartment perfectly. "A man doesn't need more than that," Wu Fei grumbled and pulled his blankets back up.
Sally snorted as she motioned to Duo's cluttered apartment. "Duo seems to have a different opinion." She threw over her shoulder, "What does your apartment look like, Heero?"
Heero shrugged without looking up from his paper. "Bed, couch, gun case, computer room."
"Room?" Sally echoed and raised an amused eyebrow. She smiled and said, "I have a teak frame bed, woven carpets, plants, a cat named Gi Gi, and an antique furniture set my grandmother left me."
"Woman," Wu Fei snorted.
Sally pursed her lips and then finished, " And a gun case full of my prize rifles and pistols."
Wu Fei was surprised into a smile and she pointed at it triumphantly before he schooled his _expression to something sterner.
"There! My treat for the day. A Chang smile," Sally chuckled as she straightened and walked back into the kitchen. She returned a moment later with a hot grain cereal and a plate of the eggs. "You're coming off the medication still, and you may experience some nausea and loss of appetite. This should be easy on your stomach." She put the food on the low coffee table. Still bent over and very close, she whispered, "If you need more medication, I can give it to you without the others knowing about it."
"Did Duo accept your offer?" Wu Fei wondered in the same whisper.
Sally frowned and then, after a long pause, she admitted, "No."
"I thought not," Wu Fei said. "We both have had enough of them."
Heero left his paper to take a tray of food to Duo.
"Is he awake?" Wu Fei asked worriedly.
"A little while ago," Sally replied. "I think he can use more sleep, though. He was still groggy. His medication was much stronger than yours. " She made a face. "You do realize what it is going to be like trying to keep that man in his bed? He won't even sit still in a meeting, let alone spend days in bed."
Heero returned with the tray still full of food. "He was asleep again," he reported in concern. "Sally-"
Sally was going into the bedroom before Heero could finish his sentence. Heero stood with the tray, staring after her. Wu Fei turned his head so that he could watch the door as well.
"How did you come to care so much for him?" Wu Fei suddenly asked, that sting of jealousy from the night before over taking him again. "I thought..."
"It's personal," Heero replied tightly.
"Did you feel this way before Duo was hurt?" Wu Fei pressed, ready to be angry on Duo's behalf. The ex pilot of Deathscythe, his partner, didn't need pity, and didn't need to be insulted by friendship born of it.
"I..." Heero glared down at the tray in his hands. "No... Yes... It doesn't matter. It's not something that I want to talk about."
He was missing something, Wu Fei felt. He was touching on a subject that was making Heero squirm and he wasn't completely certain that it was all about Duo.
"You should have been his partner, not me," Wu Fei suddenly said and he was shocked at his own words, as if someone had gained control of his mouth. He couldn't get it stopped as he accused, "He wouldn't be in there, hurt, if you had been there to protect him. I wasn't good enough."
He was accusing Heero. If the man actually felt something for Duo, even if it was just friendship, then he should have been Duo's partner. They were more suited, more in tandem with their skills. Part of it had been Heero's refusal, his insistence on being a lone operative, that had set the stage for this tragedy.
Heero was frowning blackly at Wu Fei, seething and hands fisting tightly on the tray. Wu Fei saw the metal bend. "I had my assignment... and you had yours, " he replied."We both acted with the best of our ability. You didn't fail Duo."
And there he cut to the quick and turned it all back on Wu Fei. Anger at Heero was anger at himself.
"Forgive me," Wu Fei said tightly and wasn't sure that he was really forgiving either of them. The pain was still too raw.
Sally broke the tension between them. She came out of Duo's bedroom, smiling reassuringly. "He's all right. Let him sleep as much as he can manage. He needs it."
"Don't worry," Wu Fei told her. "I'll ... We'll take care of him, " he corrected himself.
It was a relief when Sally finally left. Wu Fei could relax then and allow the pain to show on his face. Heero didn't hover and he didn't question. He had suffered enough gunshot wounds himself to know about the pain of recovery. He gave Wu Fei his dignity and kept his back mostly turned as he finished his paper, cleaned his gun, and then listened to a radio talk program.
"Politics?" Wu Fei grunted as he tucked a pillow under him to ease the pressure on one of his wounds.
Heero replied absently as he finished reassembling his gun, "I like to know what people think. It can tell you a great deal.."
"So?" Wu Fei asked curiously. "What is it telling you now?"
"That Relena is still considered young and that confidence in her ability to govern is based on her elected advisors," Heero replied. "People are afraid that she will not step aside when elections are held next year."
"If she loses," Wu Fei said. "She's very popular. She may be elected again." Heero made a sound. Wu Fei tried to decipher it and then sighed. "You don't think that she should try for re- election?"
"No," Heero replied. "She became the leader because of necessity. If she tries to hold that power, even with an election, she risks looking illegitimate. People might lose faith in the process. They have to see a change of power to believe in the peace."
It was Wu Fei's turn to make an undecipherable noise. He regarded Heero's intent concentration on the radio show and then he divined, "You're worried that there might be another war."
"Yes," Heero replied heavily and then looked pained. "I don't want to fight like that anymore. I... I have other things to live for now."
Wu Fei frowned. "Is there a difference between fighting in a war and fighting crime?"
"I can clock out at the end of the day and live for myself," Heero replied. He turned up the volume of the radio, a clear signal that he didn't want to talk anymore.
Wu Fei regarded him and realized that he had often thought of Heero as one dimensional; an agent and a weapon to be used during missions. He hadn't considered what kind of life Heero lived after work. In the back of his mind, he had pictured Heero honing and refining himself diligently until he received his next orders. Heero liked politics, liked following the pulse beat of the people he had almost given up his life to free. Wu Fei wondered what else he spent his time doing.
There was a plastic parts bin next to the futon. Bored and wanting to take his mind off his pain, Wu Fei sorted through it. Under a gyro and a fuel timer, he found a stack of car magazines, a ship specs subscription, an old banana peel, a rejection letter from a shuttle firm, and a book . Wu Fei pondered over the rejection letter, before putting is aside, tossed the almost mummified banana peel onto the coffee table to be disposed of later, and then flipped through the book.
King Arthur, Wu Fei read, amused and puzzled. The book looked very worn, as if it had been lovingly read hundreds of times. It had illustrations and a book mark that was part of a news article ripped into a strip and laminated.
And they gathered together, Wu Fei read, like the knights of King Arthur, and brought justice and freedom to us all.
Wu Fei propped the book up and began to read it from the beginning.
After several hours, a pair of wadded up underwear came flying out of Duo's door.
Heero snorted and left his stool. "I think he's awake."
"We should get a bell for him to ring or he'll try using his voice," Wu Fei suggested as he made his own book mark with one of his long black hairs.
Heero grunted and went into the bedroom. He came back out again and began heating up Duo's food. "Hungry," he reported.
"I would like to see him," Wu Fei told Heero. "I should be walking anyway."
"Wait until I'm done with his food," Heero told him worriedly. "Then I can help you."
"I don't require your assistance!" Wu Fei grumbled as he put the book aside and swung his legs over the edge of the futon. Without the comforting numbness of the drugs, the pain was almost blinding. He gasped and tried not to pant until it subsided.
"Perhaps... waiting would be wise," Wu Fei amended.
Hero was wise and didn't comment. He took Duo his tray of food and then came back to help Wu Fei.
"He wants to see you," Heero told him as he put a hand under Wu Fei's elbow.
That warmed Wu Fei and it was hard not to smile. He stood on his own and Heero didn't insult him by lending support unasked for. Heero simply kept a hand ready in case Wu Fei fell. Wu Fei was determined not to suffer that humiliation.
Wu Fei was glad that Heero had thought to set up a chair near Duo's bed. He barely made it there and he tried not to notice that he needed to lean on Heero's steadying hand as he sat down.
Duo was lying back on his pillows and smiling brightly, though the shadows under his eyes and his pinched look let Wu Fei know that he was feeling pain.
"How are you feeling?" Wu Fei asked.
"Better," Duo whispered.
"Duo, use the clipboard," Heero warned.
Duo made a face. "Can talk. Just not loud... or much."
"If you don't use the clipboard," Wu Fei warned, hating how it felt as if he were talking to a child, "We won't talk to you."
"Bastards," Duo grumbled, but he dutifully picked up the clipboard and scribbled, 'I'm fine. You?'
"Like hell," Wu Fei replied truthfully and saw Duo start in surprise. "I know you do too." Wu Fei continued. "But it's worth being free of that place and those drugs."
Duo nodded emphatically. He patted his bed and then wrote. 'Slept like the dead. Much better here.'
"Agreed," Wu Fei replied, but then he testily added, "I would like to request better reading material though. Car magazines and King Arthur will not keep me from boredom for very long."
Duo suddenly blushed red.
"Duo?" Heero asked in alarm. "Are you feeling sick?"
Duo wrote reluctantly, 'Thought I hid that book pretty well. Guess not.'
"You shouldn't be ashamed of it," Wu Fei told him. "I wonder why you don't have more classics, if you enjoyed that one so much?"
Duo looked as if he would have liked the bed to swallow him whole. He wrote. 'I just like that one, because it was like us.'
"Like us?" Wu Fei questioned, confused.
Duo smiled wistfully then, but he was still embarrassed. Surprisingly, it was Heero who said, "Knight joining together to fight for justice and freedom." and he nodded understanding.
Duo went wide eyed, nodding back. 'Yeah,' he wrote. 'News guy wrote about it. I didn't know what he was talking about so I stole the book and read it.' He looked sheepish.
"And kept reading it," Wu Fei pointed out amused.
Wu Fei could understand Duo's obsession with the book. During the war, he had searched for his own justification, his own reasons for fighting and killing. A soldier couldn't fight without knowing what he was fighting for. Wu Fei had chosen justice. Heero had chosen duty. Quatre had chosen compassion. Trowa had fought because it was all he had ever done. Duo had chosen destiny. He had decided to believe that it was their destiny to fight and win for peace, to defeat evil, and to save the people. High ideals for a former street child of L2. It moved Wu Fei to see this unknown facet of his brash and fearless partner.
"Who was King Arthur?" Wu Fei asked.
"Quatre," Duo whispered. Embarrassed into blushing again.
"Does that make Trowa Guinevere?" Wu Fei chuckled and Duo glared. "Lancelot, then," Wu Fei amended, "without the adultery?" Duo nodded. "Who's the wise Merlin?"
"Dr, G," Duo replied, but then looked troubled.
"Merlin was the son of the devil in some versions of the tale," Wu Fei pointed out. Duo laughed silently and seemed more comfortable with the choice.
"I suppose the rest of us are the knights?" Heero interjected, arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against the wall near the bed.
Duo nodded, but he was searching Heero's face, afraid maybe that Heero was mocking him. Heero didn't say anything more, though, and both Duo and Wu Fei were left to wonder what Heero was thinking. The man could be as unreadable as a brick wall when he chose to. Wu Fei wondered why he was doing it now when Duo was so clearly worried about how the man thought of him.
"Do you need anything else, Duo?" Heero wondered, changing the subject abruptly.
Duo shook his head, but then had a thought. He scribbled on his clipboard. 'Car magazines. I want to read them.'
"I'll give you the book as well," Wu Fei told him, realizing that Duo wouldn't ask for it.
Duo mouthed, 'thanks', but wouldn't look at either of them.
Wu Fei needed to go back to his futon. He concentrated on keeping his body under his command as he stood up. "Sally will be visiting periodically. We should make use of her and give her some requests. There are things from my apartment that I would like."
"I do as well," Heero admitted.
Wu Fei caught Duo's eyes and saw that he was curious as to what that would be, too.
Hobbling out of Duo's room and to the futon, Wu Fei said to Heero in a whisper, "He worries about your respect. Did the book bother you that much?"
Heero looked sideways at Wu Fei, surprised. "No," he replied.
"Then why did you look as if it did?" Wu Fei wondered.
Heero helped him settle on the futon before he replied, "I didn't know that he thought of me like that."
Wu Fei frowned. "You two are friends?"
Heero shrugged. "We know each other. We shared like experiences. He doesn't share his thoughts or confidences with me."
Not with me either, Wu Fei thought, at least not deeper confidences and that troubled him. If Duo wasn't confiding in them, then who?
[part 3] [part 5] [back to Kracken's fic]