Rebuilding + 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 today.

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 his throat.

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...

No.

'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.

*Click*

< < Chang residence, > > Wufei's recorded voice said brusquely from the blank screen. < < Leave a message. > >

*Beep!*

"...Duo?" Quatre said doubtfully. "Are you there?"

Pause.

"I guess not. Um, I'm just calling to see if there's anything you need. Call me back, okay?"

*Click*

----------

"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.

Pause.

"Your turn," she told him, pushing him back towards the lock.

"I won't say 'my pleasure'," he said grimly, inserting a pick.

*Click!*

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