Rebuilding + Chapter 13 (cont)

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"Duo?" Quatre tapped on the bathroom door and opened it slightly, poking his head into the steamy interior. "I have to leave. Ninke just called to let me know a couple of things have come up at WEI that need my attention."

"Now?" Duo peered around the edge of the shower curtain, squinting one eye open and wiping suds away from his face.

"Unfortunately, yes," Quatre sighed. "Normally, my people try to wait until morning before dumping problems in my lap, but it is morning where the office that is having problems is located, and the regional manager is apparently panicking. Ninke can't get him calmed down enough to get a clear idea of what's going on, but apparently the words 'warrant', 'summons', and 'Environmental Protection Agency' were mentioned."

"Oh. Okay," Duo said quietly, disappearing behind the curtain again. "Call me if you need anything at all, okay?" Quatre said earnestly, then suddenly smiled. "At least this didn't happen yesterday, or a few hours ago! One worry at a time is more than enough..." ...and I wouldn't have felt right leaving you while we were still worried about Wufei. At least now you know he's coming back safely, even if it will take a couple more days.

"Yeah. Hope it goes okay," Duo said, voice half drowned out by the splashing water.

Quatre made his goodbyes to Relena, packed up the few clothes he'd brought with him, and left, mind already turning over possible reasons for his manager's panic attack. Halfway to his office, his car phone rang.


< < Ringing your usual mobile got me your voicemail, so I thought I'd try this number next, > > Trowa said without preamble. < < Looks like it was a good guess. Going somewhere? > >

"Trowa!" he said, delighted. "I'm on my way to the office; one of my European managers apparently has a capital-P Problem. I thought you were Ninke calling in with an update."

< < Update, yes; Ninke, no, > > Trowa chuckled. < < I guess you already know that we won and we're all fine-- sorry I took so long to call you-- > >

"I do understand the concept of priorities," Quatre cut in dryly. "Somehow I don't think Une would trust you so much if you were the sort of person who would delay his after-action report to call his lover and make kissy noises down the phone."

Trowa half-choked on a laugh, then cleared his throat and continued. < < I don't think she'd trust me if I were the sort to make kissy noises over the phone at all. I can just imagine her muttering something about maudlin sentimentality... however, I didn't exactly call to discuss Lady Une's prejudices with you. Wufei didn't have time to let Duo know about the change in our plans before I threw him onto the Manguanacs' shuttle and locked the hatch behind him. He's due home tonight, not in a couple of days. > >

"Really? That's wonderful!" the blond exclaimed. "I can call Duo and tell... um... no."

< < Quatre? > >

"If Wufei just left," Quatre said slowly, thinking out loud, "even if he goes straight home from the shuttleport-- is that the plan?"

< < Yes. > >

"Even then, he can't possibly make it back before two or three in the morning. If we tell Duo he's on his way, Duo will wait up for him, but I'm fairly sure he hasn't slept since he found out that Wufei's simple little diplomatic mission had turned dangerous. Now that he knows Wufei is fine, though, he may actually get some rest tonight, and he needs it."

< < How is he? > >

"Before he stopped sleeping, his nightmares were bad enough that he gave Relena a black eye," Quatre said bluntly. "When he found out what was going on on that satellite, he was ready to walk out the door with no preparation, weapons, or backup, get up there to Wufei-- by sheer force of will, if no shuttles were available-- and go Shinigami on anyone who even looked at Wufei cross-eyed. I barely managed to talk him out of it by emphasising the fact that in his present state he'd be a hindrance rather than a help, and I was very reluctant to do that, given how low his sense of self-worth is already. Physically, he's much better than he was. Mentally... if anything happened to Wufei, I honestly think it would kill him."

< < ...That's not good. > >

"No. It's not."

< < I think we should talk to Lady Une, > > Trowa said quietly. < < For at least the next few months, or however long it takes until Duo is back on his feet, I think Heero and I should take over any out-of- town missions Wufei would otherwise be assigned to. > >

* * * * *

I hope nothing else comes up in the next few months, Wufei thought tiredly, pushing the front door shut behind him with one foot as he simultaneously stripped off his tie and began to shrug out of his coat. Or at least, nothing that can't be handled by someone else! I still think it was necessary for Duo's recovery for me to prove that I won't leave him for good if I have to go away for a few days, but that doesn't mean I want to do it again any time soon. Besides, I'm exhausted! I'm sure short missions never left me feeling this way during the war...

I can't possibly be getting too old for this, damn it! I'm only eighteen!

Leaving his bag where he'd dropped it, he walked slowly towards the bedroom, draping his coat, uniform jacket and tie over a chair on the way. I'll tidy up in the morning, he told himself, yawning. Right now, all I want to do is climb in with Duo and go to sleep-- Carefully easing the door open, he looked towards the futon and blinked as the faint moonlight filtering through the gap in the curtains revealed not one, but two heads on the pillows. Who-- Relena?! Nobody said anything about Relena being here...

He must have made some sort of noise, because one of the spooned figures shifted and yawned. Raking loose hair back out of her face, Relena looked up and saw him, expression shifting quickly from sleepy alarm to surprised recognition to delight. Quickly gesturing for him to stay quiet, she eased out of bed, patting Duo's shoulder reassuringly as the sleeping teen shifted uneasily.

"Let's talk in the lounge," she whispered, padding quietly past Wufei, an interesting sight in fuzzy flannel pyjamas and bedsocks. He almost blurted out a surprised question as he saw the impressive black eye, but got himself under control and eased the door closed, following her out.

"What happened?" he asked anxiously, keeping his voice down as he gestured at her bruised cheek. He had an uncomfortable suspicion that he could name the cause, considering how he'd nearly been similarly damaged the first time he'd experienced one of Duo's nightmares.

"Duo had a nightmare, and Heero didn't warn me to duck," Relena said wryly, one hand going up to the multi-coloured swelling, "which is why he now has a matching shiner. I'm rather proud of it, actually."

"Heero has a-- you gave Heero a black eye?!" Wufei sputtered incredulously. Relena just smiled demurely and nodded, and a slow grin spread over his face. "Oh, I wish I'd seen that," he murmured.

"Unfortunately, the punch wasn't recorded," she sighed, eyes twinkling, "but I'm sure I can arrange for a few photos to be delivered to you if you don't see Heero in person before it fades. More importantly, Wufei, what are you doing back already? I thought you were going to be gone for another couple of days!"

"So did I, and I wasn't given a chance to call again before I was packed off down here," he snorted. "The surprise is mutual, by the way; nobody told me you were here."

"Well, that's silly," she muttered, shaking her head. "I can understand Duo being too distracted to tell you when you called, but Trowa and Heero don't have that excuse. I suppose they thought it wasn't important. Men!" she added acidly, then suddenly looked embarrassed. "Er-- present company excepted, of course..."

"I'm not sure I want to be excepted from the general category 'men', but I think I'll take that as a weird sort of compliment. Since you aren't a man, and you are therefore, by definition, capable of passing on non-mission-critical data, would you mind telling me why you're here?"

"The day after you left, Duo stopped answering the phone," she told him, sobering. "He was fine-- he was just screening his calls, so the number wouldn't be engaged if you tried to reach him-- but it made various people panic, myself not entirely excluded. Sally was being paranoid, Quatre was pushing for Duo to go stay with him and Trowa, and Duo was absolutely determined to stay right here until you returned, so in the end I declared that I was going to stay here too. I didn't think he needed a keeper; I did it so everyone would stop arguing and leave Duo alone."

"I take it he did need you, though?" Wufei asked quietly, glancing towards the bedroom. "At least at night?"

"He hasn't had a bad nightmare since that first night," Relena said quickly, hand going up to touch the bruise again. "And he's been fine during the day-- well, he wasn't happy when he found out about the smugglers, but that's only to be expected... He hasn't coughed much and he's been eating well. He's still quiet, but he hasn't ignored me."

"Well, that's... better than I feared, at least," Wufei sighed, rubbing wearily at his forehead. He was opening his mouth to say something else when a faint, distressed noise from the bedroom had him moving in that direction without even thinking about it.

Duo had twisted around onto his back, whimpering quietly, hands pawing at the blankets tangled around his waist. "Shh, Duo," Wufei murmured, going to his knees by the futon and reaching out to gently stroke the sleeping teen's cheek. "Shh, it's all right. I'm heeeep!"

The end of the sentence was cut off by an undignified squeak as Duo lunged up off the bed, latching onto Wufei with desperate strength and dragging him down. After a quick flurry of movement, during which Wufei instinctively tried to control the fall and not land on top of Duo or elbow him in the head, he found himself flat on his back, half on the futon, with Duo's still-sleeping form curled onto his chest, both arms wrapped around his waist and holding on like grim death.

"He did that in his sleep?" Relena whispered, tiptoeing a couple of steps into the room.

"...It certainly looks like it," Wufei whispered back, wide-eyed and rather shaken. "I, er, I don't think I'm going to be getting out of this any time soon."

"I don't think you should try," she admitted, eyeing Duo. "That looks like 'You can take my Wufei when you pry him out of my cold dead fingers' to me; you might just manage to shift his grip into a headlock."

"I'm not going to disagree with that evaluation," Wufei muttered, cautiously shifting his hips further onto the bed. Thank all the gods for bathrooms on shuttles!"Can you get the spare futon out by yourself?"

"It won't be a problem. First, though, I think you'll sleep better without these," she said, kneeling by his feet to undo his shoelaces and pull off his shoes. Then she reached for his belt buckle as well, and Duo's weight was the only thing that prevented him from levitating off the futon with a strangled yelp.

"Woman!" he hissed, keeping his voice down with an effort. "What do you think you're doing?!"

"I'm just taking your belt off, not your pants!" she hissed back. "Do you want Duo to wake up with the buckle permanently embedded somewhere? Besides, even if I did take your pants off, I'd be very surprised if you weren't wearing anything underneath. And even if you weren't, it's not as if I haven't seen it before! I mean--" she cleared her throat, suddenly embarrassed. "I mean, it's not as if I haven't seen that sort of thing before, even if I've never seen your... specific... I'm just digging myself deeper, aren't I?"

"If you stop now, I think we can pretend this conversation never happened," Wufei said grimly, aware that he was blushing as he worked his belt free one-handed and passed it to her. "Good night, Relena."

"*ahem* Good night," she whispered, quickly untangling the blankets and pulling them up.

"You can't have him," Duo muttered, arms tightening for a moment. "'M not letting go." Sighing, he relaxed again, mumbling something incomprehensible as his voice trailed off.

"...Still asleep?" Relena whispered after a short pause while they waited for any further proclamations.

"Still asleep," Wufei confirmed, stroking Duo's hair gently.

"Looks like I was right," she chuckled quietly, getting up and walking towards the door. "You're going to have to be pried loose."

"Even that wouldn't be enough," Wufei whispered, half to himself. "Duo wouldn't be the only one hanging on."

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