+ Part 5
Heero turned off the radio and eased from his stool. He was wearing a worn pair of blue jeans and a ragged button up shirt. His feet were bare. He seemed very young and unsure as he faced Wu Fei and said, "I don't understand why you don't want my help. Why do you want to risk hurting yourself again?"
"I won't grow strong if I don't push myself," Wu Fei replied arrogantly, while a small part of his mind was cringing. Using the toilet for him was a very embarrassing and personal thing. Voicing his intent and need for help to get there, tripled his discomfort. Knowing that Heero was hovering outside of the door, waiting for him to finish, had stopped his efforts cold more than once. In this, Wu Fei needed his independence, what ever the cost.
Heero suddenly smiled and Wu Fei glared, hoping the humor wasn't at his expense.
Heero said, "I remember saying the same thing to Trowa... when I self destructed and he was helping me recover. I didn't like having him help me in the toilet and I had trouble with a urinal... or the pan he gave me to use as one. I remember being very glad when I could do that on my own."
Wu Fei's jaw clenched and he gave back nothing to this revelation. He didn't want company in his misery. He did feel his tension relax, though, when Heero made a giving up motion and backed away. Duo took that moment to get their attention by tossing a roll of bandages from the bedroom. It hit the floor, bounced, and unwound for a foot before coming to rest.
Heero scowled as he bent to pick it up. "Duo!" he admonished as he headed for the bedroom. "This should be kept sterile!"
"We need that bell," Wu Fei grumbled, but Duo had given him his opportunity. He managed to get to his feet. It hurt like hell, and he used his arms, clasped tightly against his waist to brace his healing wounds, as he made his slow, laborious way to the bathroom.
There was a fold of carpet. Wu Fei was too intent on simply walking to notice. When it tripped him up, he didn't have time for a cry as he went down full length towards the floor. He hit something other than the floor, though, something almost as solid, but not quite. Arms closed around him and he was jolted as he came to rest against a broad chest.
"I've got you," a gentle voice soothed. "Don't struggle."
He was in Heero Yuy's arms, lying between his legs, and too stunned to even contemplate resisting, as he tried to understand how Heero had been able to catch him. The man had used his body to cushion Wu Fei's fall, he realized, taking that hard floor against his back himself.
"Heero?!" Duo's hoarse voice called.
"Don't talk!" Wu Fei and Heero shouted at the same time. "Everything's all right," Heero added and then slowly sat up, still holding onto Wu Fei firmly.
Heero's wince had Wu Fei trying to get off of his chest. "You're hurt?"
"Don't," Heero warned. "I'll get you to the bathroom. Move with me, not against me."
Heero rose and lifted Wu Fei along with him. When they were both standing, Heero said tightly, "Duo told me not to let you bully me."
Wu Fei went red. "It was the carpet," he accused hotly. "I was fine until I tripped."
"Are you all right?" Heero asked and he kept Wu Fei in the circle of his arms. He was warm and solid and he smelled like spices.
Wu Fei retorted, trying to regain his composure, "Are you all right?"
"Bruised," Heero replied and then gave him a pointed look.
Wu Fei admitted, "Right knee. I think I twisted it."
"Damn," Heero grunted. "Toilet first."
Wu Fei had to endure the humiliation of being helped in the bathroom once again, but his knee was shooting pain and he couldn't even hobble alone. Heero turned his back, keeping one hand under Wu Fei's elbow, but that hardly diminished his shame.
"Sorry," Heero said after Wu Fei was done and they were back by the futon.
Wu Fei glared as Heero helped him lie down. "For being there to help me?" Wu Fei scoffed, but then gave a small nod, the only bow he could manage in his position."Thank you."
Heero's blue eyes sparkled as he returned the small bow. He was handsome when he wasn't scowling, Wu Fei thought, and felt a small shiver at the memory of Heero's strength.
A pillow sailed out of Duo's room.
"I think he wants a report, " Wu Fei growled. "Better go before he strains his burn scars and comes out here himself."
Heero was gone as soon as the words were out of his mouth. His look of concern and worry troubled Wu Fei. He felt a momentary pang of regret and wondered at it. His wounds were making him ridiculous, he decided, and chalked up his errant interest in Heero to long, monotonous hours with nothing but the man to watch. It was hard not to appreciate someone like Heero, he told himself, but he'd be a fool to let that appreciation become anything more. Duo had Heero's interest, that was certain, and Wu Fei wondered at the sting of jealousy that assailed him at the thought of Duo with Heero.
"I need to heal and leave this place," Wu Fei muttered, angry at himself. "Madness is setting in. I am not interested in my fellow Preventer agents."He hated how his attempt at reassuring himself felt more like a lie. Wu Fei dozed after that, the walk having exhausted him. He hated that weakness and the shame of it followed him into dreams. He wasn't surprised to find himself back in the firefight with Duo, firing round after round while Duo feverishly tried to defuse the bomb.
"Hurry, hurry!" Wu Fei shouted as he fired two shots over Duo's head, ruffling his partner's hair. He could see Duo's face in sharp relief, every bit of his attention on the electronics under his working fingers. Sweat trickled down the side of his face. He chewed on his bottom lip viciously, his brows drawn down sharply over his amethyst eyes.
Blood was running down Wu Fei's body. He could feel his life leaving him, his reactions slowing, and the kickback of his guns making his hands go numb. The enemy was flowing towards them as they rained shots down on their position, trying to overwhelm them by numbers. They stepped over dead bodies as they advanced.
"Duo!" Wu Fei shouted, but Duo wasn't done, wasn't going to be done in time before they were killed. Wu Fei had failed. He wasn't good enough. He couldn't protect the one he... Wu Fei suddenly saw Heero on his perimeter, firing a laser rifle into the enemy. The man was strong, confident, and advancing fearlessly. The man was unbeatable, skilled in more disciplines than Wu Fei could ever hope to emulate, and far and above a better soldier than he was. In any other circumstance, Wu Fei would have died rather than admit that even to himself, but Duo... Duo needed to be saved and he couldn't do that. Duo needed Heero. Time to swallow pride and do what had to be done.
"Yuy!" Wu Fei shouted. "We need you!"
Heero ignored him.
Wu Fei shouted with all of his failing strength. "Heero! You must come, now! I can't hold this position any longer!"
Heero continued to ignore him and advance into the enemy line.
"Damn you, Yuy!" Wu Fei screamed. "Duo needs you! I can't hold them back!"
"Yuy!" Wu Fei gasped out, falling to his knees. "I am too weak. I am not good enough. I have failed Duo."
Wu Fei turned to Duo and was shocked down to his core to see that his partner was dead, purple eyes wide and vacant and his body sprawled on top of a bomb that was ticking away to zero.
"Failed..." Wu Fei breathed and then began to turn the last round of one of his guns on himself.
"Shit!Fei!" Duo's hoarse voice shouted in his ear. Hands shook at Wu Fei. It hurt, but that pain brought him out of his nightmare, shuddering and breaking out in a cold sweat.
"Duo!" Heero's voice shouted in warning as Wu Fei flailed and tried to sit up.
"Got you, buddy!" Hands clasped him tight and Wu Fei finally focused on Duo on the futon with him, wrapped around his body and face close to his own.
Heero had Wu Fei tight by the shoulders. "Duo is all right," he said firmly and clearly. "He is not dead, not in any danger. He doesn't need to be saved."
Wu Fei blinked first at Heero and then at Duo as his insides threatened to turn into jelly. He shivered all over in reaction.
"Bad?" Duo croaked.
Wu Fei nodded jerkily as Heero handed him a small towel. He wiped his sweat slicked face and then realized several things at once. He levered himself away from Duo. "Your burns... you're talking... Duo..."
"So'kay, "Duo told him. He let Wu Fei go though and sat up.
"No it isn't," Wu Fei growled. "Yuy, take him back to his bed. Duo, Sally said that you weren't to speak until she signed off on it. If you strain the skin on your wounds, you could scar very badly. You know that."
Duo made an angry face, but then it softened and he leaned in close to whisper into Wu Fei's ear, "You're the best partner, Fei. You did save me."
Wu Fei blushed hotly and pulled away, not believing that for a second. He was met by Heero's irritated _expression.
"I could not have done better than you did that day," Heero told him. "My reflexes are not faster than yours. I could not have stopped a barrage of bullets from hitting Duo. Chang... we found shredded bullets all around Duo. You shot them out of mid air."
Duo grinned. 'Superman', he mouthed.
Wu Fei digested that, trying to remember the almost trance like state that he had fallen in to, the one that let him feel every vibration in the air; every flick of a fly's wings.
Heero was still looking irritated as he sat on the edge of the futon. "Chang... you are convinced that I would make a better partner for Duo, but you assume that I haven't already explored that and found it not to be true. If I had been there..." Heero paused and Wu Fei could tell that it was hard for Heero to say the next words, "I would have tried to... diffuse the bomb myself." That sentence was stilted as if he had changed what he had been about to say in mid sentence. "I'm used to working alone. I wouldn't have trusted Duo to complete the mission. You kept your position. You kept guarding him. You didn't sacrifice yourself..." Again he stopped and looked away, _expression as hard as granite.
Duo was looking furious, but then he suddenly looked stunned. He punched Heero on the shoulder and then grabbed the man by the collar and pulled him in close. He whispered something. Heero looked uncomfortable. Duo whispered again, more insistent. Heero nodded, once, and then stood up and offered Duo his hand.
"You need to be back in bed, I'll take you there." Heero sounded stern, not someone to defy.
Duo grinned, crossed his arms over his chest, and refused to move. 'This is nice, right here,' he mouthed.'Need company.'
Heero growled and stalked away to his stool. He sat down, gave them his back, and turned up his talk radio.
Wu Fei was still recovering from his guilt and his nightmare. It was hard to deal with confusion as well. "What did you say to him?" he asked.
Duo looked uncertain and then decided something. He leaned in close and whispered, his voice going papery thin with over use. "Asked him if he would have shielded me."
And died doing it, Wu Fei finished silently. Heero had nodded yes. Wu Fei was stunned, trying to understand. That wasn't the Heero Yuy that he knew. Heero's answer, that he would have shoved Duo out of the way and diffused the bomb himself, seemed far more likely. Wu Fei had fired until the end, knowing that he was better alive and keeping the enemy from stopping Duo, even at the cost of Duo taking bullets himself. Heero had confessed that he couldn't have allowed that, that he would have been Duo's human shield. Foolishness and weakness, Wu Fei thought, outraged.
Duo tugged on his small pigtail to get his attention. He wagged a finger at Wu Fei, warning him against judging Heero. It was hard not to, though, or to not feel some relief that he had been wrong about the man. Wu Fei really was the best partner for Duo.
Duo pulled on his pigtail again and Wu Fei glared at him. Duo made a face and mouthed, 'Hard for him to say that. Don't get smug.'
Stung, Wu Fei nodded. He looked over at Heero's stiff shoulders. Duo's finger prodded him in the ribs, wanting him to say something. Instead of finding words to bring Heero back to them, though, he found himself saying, "Liar."
Heero jerked around to look at him, brows drawn down sharply over his blue eyes.
"You would have tried to diffuse the bomb yourself," Wu Fei accused. "That's the man I know, Heero Yuy from the war."
Emotions flickered over Heero's face before he turned away again. "That man wasn't really me."
"No?" Wu Fei refused to let it go.
"I... I've talked to people since then," Heero replied. "There are some things... that I can't sacrifice any longer."
Therapy? Was Heero admitting that he had sought therapy? Wu Fei exchanged looks with Duo, but Duo seemed as confused as he was. He began to prod Wu Fei again, but Wu Fei shook his head. A man needed to save some face after an admission like that. He needed some space. Duo sighed and looked pained, but he didn't insist.
"Are you feeling all right?" Wu Fei wondered. "You didn't hurt yourself coming to the futon?"
Duo snorted and shook his head as if Wu Fei was being stupid. He motioned to Wu Fei, wanting to know if he had hurt himself thrashing in his nightmare.
Wu Fei pulled up his shirt and checked his bandages.. "All right, I think," he reported as he pulled his shirt back down, but then he suddenly felt like saving some face himself. He had cried out like a child in his nightmare and they had come running to comfort him. They now knew his fear of being a failure.
Duo patted his arm and Duo's _expression told him that Duo understood what he was thinking. He pointed to his head and mouthed, 'dreams', and made a crazy motion with one finger. Meaning that nobody could control their dreams or what was in them. Duo wasn't going to take Wu Fei's dream seriously or hold it against him. Wu Fei took it very seriously, though, and he couldn't forget the feeling of horror at seeing Duo dead. It had gone far beyond what a man might feel for a fallen partner, a fallen friend, however dear. Wu Fei had been willing to end his life, in his dream, and he knew, with a shock of self realization, that he would have done the same in real life. Being the cause of Duo's death, and trying to live beyond his death, had not been an option.
Wu Fei went pale. Duo gripped his arm in concern. Wu Fei looked down at Duo's hand, feeling the strength of those fingers, and the passion of the man behind them. Wu Fei felt the rise of passion in himself and he couldn't help placing a hand over Duo's. Duo's fingers tightened and he gasped. Wu Fei was afraid to look him in the eye, afraid of what he would see there, because, somehow, he had crossed the line, the line that kept friends and partners just that and nothing more. Chang Wu Fei at last understood all of the roiling and powerful emotions within himself that he had been throttling and denying for too long. He was in love with Duo Maxwell.
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