authors: Mel & Christy

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts: *Tadah!*
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Reunion + Chapter 13

"Duo?" Wufei asked tentatively, taking a slow, careful step towards the sofa. For a moment it seemed as if the braided boy hadn't heard him; then Duo wiped the tear away with one shaking hand, and held out the brush.

"...brush my hair... please?" he whispered.

Several minutes passed before Duo spoke again. As Wufei slowly pulled the brush through his hair, he gradually relaxed; his breathing evened out and some of the tension went out of his muscles. Wufei kept silent, waiting for him to settle, and pretended not to notice how often Duo wiped at his face.

Eventually, Duo whispered: "'Fei?"

"Mm?" he enquired softly, still brushing.

"Do you think... was that true? Quatre and Trowa didn't mean to... to..." Duo stuttered to a halt, then started again. "They never got my messages?"

"Quatre's never lied to me," Wufei said quietly, "and I don't think he'd start now... especially over something this important. Besides, he's a terrible actor; the only time he can fool anyone is when he's putting on his 'calm businessman' face. He can hide emotions, but he can't manufacture them... and you heard how upset he was."

"So... it was all accidents and mistakes?"

"It looks that way. I think so."

There was a long pause.

"If it was like that for them... and... Relena didn't know what her secretary was doing..." Duo swallowed. "Do you think... it was like that with Heero as well?"

"It's... very likely," Wufei said slowly. "I honestly can't imagine him doing that on purpose. Not to you."

No matter how I feel about Yui's actions, he thought grimly, he wouldn't deliberately cut Duo off. He cares about him. Of course, there's still the matter of letting eight months slip by without a word. That, Yui and the others still have to answer for. Much as I'd like to, though, I'm not about to accuse Yui of things I know he wouldn't do.

Another minute slipped by.

"I don't want to think about it," Duo said abruptly. "Not now. I... I'm too tired."

"That's all right. If you're comfortable, you can go to sleep right there. I won't stop." Wufei set the brush aside as he spoke and started running his fingers through Duo's hair once more.

He runs and he hides, he thought with a sad smile. It's all right, Duo. You can come out and face it when you feel stronger.

* * * * *

"Une?" Sally called upstairs. "Coffee's ready."

"Coming," came the reply. "Give me a moment."

Sally continued on her way into the lounge, carrying Une's mocha coffee and sipping at her own herbal tea. After a minute or so, she heard Une coming down the stairs.

"I've got to try to lower your coffee intake," Sally called out. "You know, most people can't drink it too late at night, or it stops them sleeping..."

"And drinking a minimum of one cup an hour is a Very Bad Idea, yes, I know. You've told me before," Une said calmly as she walked in. She was dressed in silk pyjamas and a warm robe, hair still damp from her shower, and carrying a large archive box.

"What's that?" Sally asked curiously.

Une flushed slightly as she set it down on the coffee table. "Souvenirs from the war... otherwise known as 'Maxwell Memorabilia'."

"He sent you more than just the roses?"

"The roses were only the beginning," Une said dryly. "In the last year of the war, I got presents for every major holiday and several minor ones... including a few I'd never heard of before."

"Go on then, open it!" Sally exclaimed, bouncing slightly with glee. "Show me! I may get jealous, though; I mean, I was on his side, and I never got anything!"

"Well," Une said, sitting down and lifting the lid of the box, "I'm sure you'll recognise this one. It wasn't actually a gift to me, but Treize-sama didn't want it, so..." She lifted out a small plastic sword with a bedraggled feather taped to the end. "I pressed one of the white roses... he sent me this little green teddy bear for Saint Patrick's Day... an orange Jack O'Lantern mug for Halloween, full of chocolates..."

"I don't see any chocolates in here," Sally teased, taking the mug and peering inside.

"Of course not," Une said loftily. "They were good chocolates. I got fluffy bunny slippers for Christmas -- yes, Sally, they're very silly bunny slippers--"

Sally nearly choked on her giggles. "It's the -- oh dear -- it's the *snicker* crossed eyes on the left one, and *snicker* the carrot cigar -- oh, my, I can see why you don't use them..."

"I use the fur-lined gloves he gave me for Saint Stephen's Day, though," Une said, mock-glaring at Sally as she carefully set the leering slippers to one side. "The ones you keep trying to borrow."

"Duo gave you those?!" Sally sat up abruptly, eyes wide.

"Oh, yes. He has very good taste, when he wants to. Of course, he didn't actually pay for any of this himself; I got this note with the gloves."

"'Hey, Une-chan,'" Sally read. "'Happy St. Stephen's Day! Sorry about the slippers, but I couldn't resist. I dare you to wear them in front of Treize. I used OZ money to pay for them, after all... I don't think OZ properly appreciates you, so I'm doing my bit to redress the balance. Love ya, Duo Maxwell.' ...When is Saint Stephen's day?"

"December twenty-sixth," Une said, taking the note back.

"Boxing Day? Why didn't he just say 'Happy Boxing Day'?"

"Because that was what I expected, I think."

"...Fair enough. What else do you have in there?"

"A lot more notes. He developed a habit, when he infiltrated bases, of leaving them stuck to doors, addressed to me. If I had rooms in the base, he'd leave them there; if not, he'd stick them to the base commandant's door. With a knife, sometimes." Une displayed half a dozen wicked little knives and a sheaf of papers.

"'Saw you on TV last night; lookin' good, babe!'" Sally read, riffling through the notes. "'Hope you liked the chocolates.' 'When are you gonna dump Treize and join me and the other good guys? Come to the Light Side, Une-chan!' 'You didn't have to hit me so hard last week...' 'You owe me a paint job, Deathscythe is actually scratched...' Um... Une? An awful lot of these end with 'love ya'..."

"If you're wondering, Sally, no. I don't think he had any sort of 'crush' on me," Une said calmly. "Bear in mind that this is the same boy who kept referring to me as 'the psycho bitch from hell', and told me to my face that he'd rather face Satan, himself, than me on a bad day. Then he asked me if I had PMS. It was rather like having a bratty little cousin; frequently infuriating, and I wanted to take him apart, but amusing at the same time."

"That's a relief." Sally abruptly sputtered, holding up a sheet of paper with a Polaroid photo stapled to it. "'But soft! What light from yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Une-chan is the sun... nice PJs, babe!' He got a candid shot of you in your pyjamas?!"

"Standing at a window yawning, yes. I was not looking my best."

"'Say 'hi' to Treize and Sexy Zechsy for me'? SEXY ZECHSY?!"

Une laughed out loud. "I never actually passed that message along, though I admit I wondered..."

"I don't believe that boy," Sally said, shaking her head as she passed the notes back. "No, wait a minute; we're talking about Duo Maxwell, he who scalpeled my picture to the wall and drugged my goldfish. I believe it. And I'm jealous!" she exclaimed, reaching into the box. "I want this plushie dog!"

"Not a chance!" Une protested, grabbing it away from her. "That was my birthday present! I walked into my quarters and found it lying on my pillow. Don't ask me how he found out my birthday; we never found any sign that he'd hacked into my personal file."

"Maybe he e-mailed Treize and asked," Sally said half-seriously, pulling the box closer.

"Maybe," Une agreed, setting the floppy dog to one side with a surreptitious pat. "It would be very like Maxwell... and I can imagine Treize-sama telling him."

"What else have you got in-- ew! What's this?" Sally asked, holding up a large green pendant on a chain, staring at it in horrified fascination. "It's grotesque!"

"It's a tiki from New Zealand. Ugly little thing, isn't he? He rather grows on you after a while, though."

"So does athlete's foot," Sally muttered, tapping the grimacing little figure to make it spin. "What's it made of?"

"Greenstone."

"I can see that. What's the stone called?"

"Greenstone!" Une insisted. "New Zealand greenstone is a type of nephrite. Jade, Sally. It's just harder and darker than most northern-hemisphere jade."

"...Right. So, what occasion does this little horror represent?"

"February sixth, Waitangi Day. It celebrates a treaty signing, or something like that."

"Duo did find obscure holidays to celebrate, didn't he?" Sally mused, setting the tiki down with a mild shudder.

"Oh, yes. And not so obscure ones. On Bastille Day, he sent me this little miniature scythe and apologised for it not being a guillotine. Australia Day was a little chunk of red rock. For Thanksgiving, I got this." Une brandished a rubber turkey. "Valentine's Day, I got a balloon bouquet and a bag full of candy hearts. For Secretaries' Day, I got a nice pen set and a note saying, 'Please don't take the whole secretary thing as an insult. I know you're not a secretary, but unfortunately there's no such thing as Henchpersons' Day. Maybe we should start a new tradition?' For O-Bon, the Japanese day of the dead, he sent me sweet rice cakes and a little lantern on a boat; and on the Fourth of July, he shot up the base I was at with modified shells. The explosions were very pretty."

Sally laughed, delighted, as Une pulled object after object out of the box. "That's Duo, all right. What about that little stone plaque? What's that for?"

"Aztec New Year."

"You're kidding!"

"I'm serious! He may have been kidding, though."

* * * * *

Wufei finished the dinner dishes and walked out of the kitchen, wiping his hands. Duo was sitting on the sofa, technically awake but nodding sleepily.

"Duo, why don't you go to bed? You look tired... and don't forget, Sally wants to give you another checkup tomorrow. If you're going to be travelling, you need to be rested."

"...okay."

And the day after tomorrow, if Sally says Duo's well enough to be left on his own, I go back to work, Wufei thought unhappily as he helped Duo stand. I want him to get better soon... but I don't want to leave him alone all day! Especially if he's going to be worrying that I might not come back! And yet... if I do go back to work, having me come back every afternoon might eventually reassure him that I'll keep coming back. I have to go sooner or later; the only real question is, 'how soon is too soon?'

Carefully helping Duo settle onto the futon, Wufei reached out to brush his fingers through the messy bangs, but pulled his hand back and awkwardly tugged the blankets a little higher instead. "Are you comfortable? Warm enough? I can turn the thermostat up..."

"I'm fine," Duo said quietly, almost shutting his eyes but watching Wufei through his lashes.

"Good. I'm going to have a shower before I go to sleep, okay? If you need me, just call or bang on the door."

"Okay."

Reluctantly, Wufei left for the bathroom.

That was stupid, he berated himself as he turned the water on and quickly undressed. What if he'd misunderstood? Thought I was trying to start something? I've got to control myself better than that. I can't stroke his hair or touch him whenever I feel like it. I don't want him to get the wrong idea and feel pressured!

Stepping into the water, he froze as another thought presented itself. That's not the only possible misunderstanding. What if I do control myself, and I don't touch him... and he feels rejected? He could end up thinking I don't really want him around!

I think... that would be worse.

"Much worse," he muttered, scrubbing at his face with wet hands. He blew water away from his lips, blinked his eyes clear, and reached for the soap as he continued.

Duo's a very... physically affectionate person, he thought slowly. All through the war, if he hadn't seen us for a few days, we'd almost get tackled to the ground when he charged in for a hug. He'd ruffle Quatre's hair, flip Trowa's bangs, tug my ponytail... no matter how badly I reacted when he touched me, he never stopped. He needs to be touched when he's hurt or upset; it soothes him out of nightmares, and brushing his hair calmed him down today.

...Right. He needs to be touched, to reassure him that he's wanted. I can do that.

Purely for Duo's sake, of course.

Somehow, he couldn't quite bring himself to believe that.

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[cont]