Reunion + Chapter 13 (cont)

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Later, clean and dry, Wufei wandered back out into the living room and reached for the neatly folded blanket that was sitting on the end of the couch; then he paused, frowning.

I should probably just get in with Duo as soon as I'm sure he's asleep. In an hour or two, he'll almost certainly start having nightmares again; if I'm right there next to him, I'll know straight away, and I can settle him before they get too bad. If I'm out here, I'll just lie awake listening, anyway...

...or am I making up excuses?

Silently, he crept to the bedroom door and eased it open, looking in at Duo's sleeping figure.

Is this really for Duo's benefit, or do I just want to be as close to him as I can?

Duo was lying on his back, one hand fisted around his braid, the other arm stretched out across the futon. Even while asleep, he wasn't completely relaxed; a slight frown creased his forehead, and his fingers twitched.

Wufei slowly crept closer, finally going to his knees beside the bed. Reaching out, he smoothed one finger gently across Duo's forehead; the frown melted away, and the sleeping boy sighed.

Never mind my motives, Wufei decided. Never mind whether or not I want to do this. Will it be best for Duo?

As he pulled his hand away from Duo's face, the frown returned and Duo shifted in his sleep, breath catching in his throat. "Don' go," he muttered, free hand reaching for Wufei. "Don' wanna be alone..."

Without a second thought, Wufei pulled back the covers and lay down beside Duo. As he reached out to pull Duo close, he found the braided boy already curling up around him, tucking his head in under Wufei's jaw and relaxing completely.

...All right, I think that settles it, Wufei thought dazedly, carefully easing his arms around Duo. Until Duo is a little better, I can forget about sleeping on the couch.

I'm not going to let him find out what I'm doing, though!

* * * * *

[Early Wednesday afternoon]

Still doing Amanda's job (and developing more respect for the woman by the day), Leah was busily bringing order out of chaos. In other words, she was tidying up the file room.

Again.

Considering how tough Amanda would have to be to succeed in this job, she thought grumpily, either she's fallen victim to a new super-virus, in which case we mere mortals are doomed, or she finally got fed up and is having a quiet vacation in the Bahamas. No normal bug could possibly get her down.

Slotting the last file back into place, she dusted off her hands and sneezed for the umpteenth time. Don't the cleaners ever venture in here?! Are they afraid they'll get stuck putting these damn things away?! Pulling the ever-present list out of her pocket, she scrawled a note in angry capitals.

"Oh cool, Leah, you're here," a cheerful voice said from the doorway. "Put these away for me, would you?" The smiling agent dropped his stack of files on one of the tables with a loud 'thud' and turned to go. "I've got some more back at my desk; I'll just go fetch them for you!"

"..." Leah said.

"It's really nice of you to do this," his voice floated back to her. "Should I ask around, find out if anyone else needs a hand with their filing?"

"Ohhh, no you don't... asshole! GET YOUR LAZY BUTT BACK HERE NOW!" Leah screamed at the top of her lungs, storming out after him. Framed in the doorway, she pointed an accusing finger at his back as he froze. "If you think I'm going to clean up YOUR mess, just because your parents never got around to housebreaking you, THINK AGAIN!" she roared. "This organisation does not have maids to pick up after you, idiot! We don't even have clerks! YOU are the lowest of the low, AGENT Torg, and you are NOT going to get away with pushing the boring bits of your job off on other people!

"AND THAT GOES FOR THE REST OF YOU, TOO!" She glared around at the wide-eyed Preventers in the main room. "The next time I find files dumped on the file room tables, I will NOT be putting them away. I will find out who had them last, and HUNT THEM DOWN! Have I made myself CLEAR?!"

"Yes, ma'am!" a frightened voice squeaked from the back of the room.

"GOOD! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go have a word with the cleaners while I'm in an appropriate state of mind." Leah stalked off, head high.

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Lady Une's office door was open, and Leah's voice carried well. Unseen by anyone, Une got up from her chair and gave her a quiet standing ovation.

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Half an hour later, a nervous group of cleaners hurried in and started to dust and vacuum the file room. Thoroughly.

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It's really easy to tell the people who usually put their own files away, Leah thought, torn between lingering annoyance and amusement. The agents who pick up after themselves keep smiling at me and saying 'thank you'. The ones who don't are trying not to meet my eyes. For example, these jerks. Arms full of files again -- giving them out instead of putting them away, this time -- she swept past Ray Anders's desk and snorted softly to herself as the now-permanent little cluster of men all looked away and Anders pointedly buried his face in a file. Then again, they could just be hoping I won't give them any more work.

As she dropped files on various desks, Leah kept one eye on Anders and his friends. I don't know what they're up to, but I'm sure they're not plotting to make a surprise donation to their favourite charity. Those guys don't have any higher feelings. So-- hm? What's up now?

Anders was suddenly agitated, hissing at his friends and shooting quick glances towards the front of the room. One by one, the other men stared in that direction and then crouched lower, muttering excitedly. Curiously, Leah took a look in that direction herself.

It's Chang! I thought he wasn't coming back in until tomorrow -- wait, who's that? The thin figure being supported by Wufei turned towards him, and a long chestnut braid flicked into view. Hey, that's the guy the APB was out on... Maxwell, that's it. I knew he'd been found, but I didn't know Chang was looking after him. No wonder Chang needed a few days off; his friend looks like he's in pretty bad condition...

Absorbed in watching the two teenagers carefully move off down the corridor that led to the infirmary, Leah almost forgot to wonder about Anders's behaviour.

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"See? I told you so!" Anders hissed, inwardly gloating in triumph. "Look at the poor kid! There's no way he got that thin and beat up in the four days he was missing. And look at his hand! He didn't have anything wrong with his hand when Chang brought him in on Saturday, but now it's bandaged up. That bastard isn't even waiting for him to heal before he starts hurting him again! You just wait and see. If we don't do something about this, as soon as Major Po stops calling him in for checkups Chang will really start in on him again. Are we gonna let that happen?"

"Damn, Ray," Ivan said as the other men shook their heads vehemently. "I thought you were just -- uh -- you know, kinda imagining things, but... damn! That kid can hardly walk!"

"So, are we gonna do it?" Anders prodded. "The way we discussed?"

Ivan nodded slowly. "Yeah. You're right. We gotta."

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Standing at the coffee machine, Noin and Zechs stared down the corridor at Wufei and Duo's retreating backs.

"Damn," Noin whispered, shocked. "I thought... when I heard he was missing... I never imagined he was in trouble! I just thought he was plotting some fantastic prank. Probably on me," she added sourly.

Zechs nodded solemnly, raising his mug for a sip. "Same here. Makes you feel guilty, doesn't it?"

"Oh yeah. Definitely." Noin winced.

"Excuse me," Sally said politely, moving in beside them to pour herself a cup.

"Um, Major Po... you're giving Maxwell a checkup, aren't you? That's why he's here?" Noin asked tentatively; Sally nodded, savouring her first mouthful. "So, um... could you let us know how he is?"

"There is the small problem of doctor-patient confidentiality," Sally pointed out; when Noin sagged, disappointed, she relented slightly. "I won't give you any specifics, but I'll let you know in general terms how he's doing. How's that?"

"Great! Thank you, Major."

"No problem. I'll see you later, Noin..." Sally dropped her voice to a low murmur as she passed Zechs, shooting him a wicked sideways glance. "...Sexy Zechsy!"

Caught taking a mouthful, Zechs choked and nearly sprayed coffee all over the wall, Oh god! he thought desperately as he coughed. Don't tell me Maxwell gave her the other disk!

"Are you okay, Zechs?" Noin asked, helpfully thumping his back. "What happened?"

"Nothing!" he gasped hastily. "Nothing... just *kaff* went down the wrong way. Took me by surprise!"

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Sally followed Wufei and Duo into the examining room, a calm smile covering her worry. He almost looks worse! He's pale, and Wufei's nearly carrying him... "So, how are you feeling, Duo?" she asked.

Shrug.

"That's fairly non-specific. Was that a 'fine' shrug, a 'not good' shrug, or what?" Is he still not talking?

"Like Deathscythe fell on me," Duo said quietly, a faint smile quirking one corner of his mouth.

"Oh dear," Sally said automatically, inwardly heaving a sigh of relief.

"He has been better," Wufei said sourly, one hand resting gently on Duo's shoulder. "We were behind a truck that seriously needs an overhaul at an intersection; the smoke when it accelerated made Duo start coughing."

"I see; in that case, I won't ask if your ribs hurt. How about your stomach? If you've been coughing much, your abdominal muscles probably hurt too."

Duo nodded, rolling his eyes.

"Right, then. Let's see how everything else is progressing..."

Sally kept up a flow of questions and commentary as she examined Duo, making pleased noises when she discovered that he was better than he had been. "Your general condition is improving quite nicely," she said eventually, handing him back his shirt. And you're a lot more responsive than you were four days ago! she thought happily. "Progress will be slow to start with, but it has started. How much of a problem is the cough?"

"It's getting better," he said quietly.

"He hardly coughed at all yesterday," Wufei added, "and he was fine today until we ran into that damned truck."

"Good! Keep up with the antibiotics, though, and don't worry too much if you lapse back for a day or two. Bronchial infections often ease off for a little while and then come back. Other than that, all I can say is 'keep doing what you're doing'. You've already gained a little weight; it will take time, but you're recovering. And you're right, Wufei, the glass cuts on that hand are healing nicely."

Sally waited until Duo was dressed again (noting with interest the frequent almost-caressing touches from Wufei as he helped), then cleared her throat. "Well, Duo, you are well enough for Wufei to come back to work, but I'm going to recommend that we take it slowly. For the next few days, I think it would be best if Wufei only worked a half-shift in the mornings; then he can go onto a short day schedule. Say, work nine to noon, take an hour for lunch at home with you, then work from one to four in the afternoon. That can continue until I'm satisfied that you're completely recovered; and I'm sure that Wufei will be staying home on his rostered days off, not treating them like a normal work day the way he usually does. Is this acceptable?"

Both boys turned to look at each other. Duo looked unhappy; Wufei looked worried.

"It's okay with me," Duo said, looking away.

"If you're sure..." Wufei said tentatively; Duo nodded, and he sighed. "All right then -- so long as Une understands that the arrangement _will_ change if there are any problems."

"I doubt she'll argue," Sally said cheerfully. "By the way, Duo, I wanted to ask one thing. Why did you send her all those presents during the war? She's got a box full!"

"She kept them?" Duo asked, surprised.

Sally nodded. "Even that hideous little tiki-thing and the rubber turkey."

Wufei's eyes were huge; Duo shrugged. "She never looked happy," he said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "I wanted to cheer her up."

"I think you succeeded," Sally grinned.

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As they were slowly making their way out, Une's door opened and she stepped out, mug in hand. "Sally, have you-- oh, good afternoon, Maxwell. Chang. What's the verdict?"

"Plan A," Sally said calmly. "Mornings, then short shifts."

Une nodded. "Excellent. Your absence left a nasty hole in our ranks, Chang, but I'm sure we can work around it again if circumstances change. I'll see you tomorrow."

Duo was staring at the bright orange, bulbous mug in Lady Une's hand; then he leaned slightly to one side and looked past her to where a floppy toy dog was sitting on top of her filing cabinet. She shrugged, a faint blush spreading across her cheekbones. "It seemed a waste to leave it all sitting in a cupboard."

A faint grin appeared on Duo's face. "See ya, Une-chan," he said, very softly.

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