authors: Mel &
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: ~*~*~*~
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>
+ 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
"'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?"
"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."
"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
"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."
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."
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.