+ Chapter 8 (cont)
* * * * *
A week later, Duo drove Wufei to the 'port in the Blazer. Wufei was intensely
uncomfortable, both mentally and physically, and trying not to show it.
Mentally, because despite Duo's attempts to put on a cheerful face, he
knew the braided ex-pilot was miserably unhappy. Physically, because Sally
had taken the strapping off his arm and shoulder just the day before,
and the weakened muscles hurt.
I may actually leave it in the sling as much as she wants me to,he
thought, kneading his biceps surreptitiously with his other hand. I
wouldn't be having nearly as much trouble if she'd let me get out of the
damned bandages earlier!*
...well, I wouldn't be
having this much trouble now,
he admitted to himself. I would merely have gotten it over with before
It was early enough in the morning that only a faint lightening of the
sky to the east indicated the approaching dawn, and the streetlights were
on. Turning slightly towards Duo, he watched as the passing lights alternately
illuminated his face and silhouetted him.
He won't admit it, but he really doesn't want me to go, he thought
sadly. He's got his expression under control, but the muscles around
his mouth and eyes are too tight. I saw enough genuine smiles from him
before this mission came up that I can tell the difference. I don't want
to leave either, but... he says he'll be okay, and I have to trust him.
It's the same as when I went back to work for the first time after I brought
him home. I can tell him 'I'll come back' until I'm blue in the face,
but part of him won't be able to believe it until I do it.
I can't just go, though. I have to do something to give him
more confidence in me, or he won't be able to handle this week.
They didn't speak much, sitting in the waiting area, holding hands. Wufei
was biting his tongue, forcing himself not to remind Duo to eat,
to take his medicine, to look after himself, to sleep, to call people
if he needed help... Sally gave him all the advice necessary yesterday,
he told himself firmly. I can't act as if I think he'll fall apart
without me there to look after him! He's not helpless. He's been
looking after me as much as I've been looking after him, since I got hurt...
< < Final call for shuttle flight JB73, > > came over the
speaker system. < < Could all passengers who have not yet boarded
please proceed to gate nine. Shuttle flight JB73, final call... > >
"You'd better go," Duo said quietly, managing a half-smile.
"Une'll kill you if you miss it."
"And leave herself even more short-handed?" Wufei joked. "She's
more likely to sentence me to filing duties, or training raw recruits."
"Ah. The traditional fate worse than death."
There was an awkward silence with Duo looking everywhere except at Wufei's
face, and Wufei trying desperately to think of something, anything, he
could do to make Duo feel better.
"You'd better go," Duo repeated, swallowing past the lump in
I'm going to have to say it sometime, Wufei decided abruptly.
I've been telling myself I'd do it when he got better, but... he needs
to hear this. I need to say this!
"Wo ai ni," he said softly, taking Duo's face between his hands
and making him meet his eyes. He kissed him gently, lingering, ignoring
a surprised laugh and a wolf-whistle from somewhere off to the side.
"I love you, Duo," he whispered, pulling back just far enough
to speak; then he stepped back, stroking fingertips gently down the line
of his jaw as he released him and walked through the gate, leaving Duo
staring wide-eyed after him.
* * * * *
He left. He's gone. He left me behind...
He said he loved me.
He might not come back.
Anything could happen.
'Fei doesn't lie.
He could meet someone else.
He could get tired of having me around...
'Fei loves me.
The nagging little voices
fell silent at last.
* * * * *
Duo was never quite sure how he got back to the apartment. He drove, obviously,
because the Blazer was back in the right parking spot, but he couldn't
remember the trip. He spent the rest of the morning in a blissful haze,
replaying Wufei's words over and over in his head. Even after the first
flash of joy faded and the nagging doubts and fears began creeping back,
that memory was a shield, stopping him from falling into depression.
He didn't feel like going anywhere or calling anyone. The apartment seemed
cold and empty without Wufei, but nowhere else was going to be any better.
Besides, Wufei might be able to get a call through, once he arrived
on the station, despite their bad communications... so when the vidphone
rang, just after two PM, Duo flung himself across the room and hit 'call
accept' before the first ring tone stopped.
On screen, Une blinked in mild surprise. < < Good afternoon, Maxwell.
I thought I'd call and-- ah-- ask if you needed anything.
Sally has to run a few errands on her way home; she said one or two more
wouldn't be a problem. > >
"I'm fine," he said automatically. "We went shopping yesterday."
< < Well... all right then, > > she said, a little awkwardly.
< < If you think of anything, though, don't hesitate to call one
of us. Ah, do you need our numbers? > >
Duo held up a good-sized piece of paper, covered with phone numbers. "And
Mrs. P is just down the hall," he said quietly, almost smiling.
"I think I can manage."
< < Yes, well, I should have guessed that Chang would remember that
sort of thing, > > Une muttered. < < I won't keep you; I just
wanted to make sure... I wouldn't have sent him if I'd had anyone else,
> > she added abruptly. < < Goodbye, Maxwell. > > *Click*
That night, Duo slept curled around Wufei's pillow, trying to pretend
that he wasn't alone in bed. He had nightmares again, and without Wufei
there to soothe them away, for the first time in weeks he woke up shaking.
Awake, he could tell himself ''Fei loves me', but that defense didn't
work against the dreams.
* * * * *
"Do you think it's too early to call Duo?" Quatre asked, eyeing
the clock doubtfully.
"Ten o'clock? I doubt it," Trowa replied.
"Well, he might be sleeping in... I don't want to risk waking him
up." The blond teen hesitated a moment longer, then took a deep breath
and typed in the number. "If he is asleep, I'll apologise,"
he muttered, tapping his fingers as it rang.
< < Chang residence, > > Wufei's recorded voice said brusquely
from the blank screen. < < Leave a message. > >
"...Duo?" Quatre said doubtfully. "Are you there?"
"I guess not. Um, I'm just calling to see if there's anything you
need. Call me back, okay?"
"Preventers, Une speaking."
< < Lady Une, have you spoken to Duo since Wufei left yesterday?
Une blinked, glancing up from her paperwork. "Winner? Yes, I called
him yesterday. He seemed fine... why?"
< < I tried to call him a couple of hours ago, and got Wufei's voice
mail, > > Quatre told her, looking worried. Trowa could be seen
at the edge of the screen, leaning on the wall behind him. < < I
left a message; I thought maybe he was in the shower, or had gone out
for brunch, but... well, he hasn't called back. I tried calling again,
just now, and got the voicemail again. > >
"I can see why that would worry you, but-- hold on, I have
another call," Une said, spotting the blinking red 'PRIORITY' light
in the corner of her screen. A couple of button pushes later, Quatre was
on hold and she accepted the new call.
"Une speaking-- ah, good morning, Minister Peacecraft."
< < Lady Une, good morning, > > Relena said, polite but seeming
tense. < < I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm concerned about Duo
Maxwell-- > >
"You tried to call him this morning and got Chang's voicemail?"
< < ...Yes. How did you know? > >
"You're not the only one," Une said dryly, switching over to
a conference call. And there's Yui lurking in the background... Perhaps
I should get Sally in to stand behind me, to complete the set? As
the picture on the screen split and Quatre reappeared, she sat back, fidgeting
with her pen. "All right, so Du-- Maxwell isn't answering
the phone," she said, trying to stay professionally calm. "What
if he's just out shopping?" But he said he didn't need anything...
< < I realise we could be overreacting, > > Quatre said earnestly,
< < but I really don't want to take any chances with Duo's
well being. He isn't completely recovered yet, we know that much. >
Relena nodded; behind her, Heero shifted uncomfortably.
"So what do you suggest we do? Go over there and break in?"
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER
"We're going to look very stupid if we kick the door in just as Maxwell
comes back from the laundry," Une grumbled.
"That's why I brought these," Heero said, crouching down in
front of the apartment door and pulling out a set of lockpicks.
Relena sighed and gently pulled him away. "Let's try the legal way
first, shall we?" she said, knocking firmly.
"Your turn," she told him, pushing him back towards the lock.
"I won't say 'my pleasure'," he said grimly, inserting a pick.
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