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 14
Home once more, Wufei settled
Duo back onto the couch. "Do you want a nap?" he asked, pushing
Duo's bangs out of his eyes with one finger.
"I'm not that tired. Can I have some juice?"
"Not a problem." Another step forward; he's asking
As he brought the glass back, Wufei hesitated for a moment, then spoke.
"Duo... may I call the others and tell them how you are? They're
worried about you."
It was Duo's turn to hesitate, swallowing and looking away. Wufei watched
as different expressions flickered across his face: hurt, doubt, a flash
of anger... Finally, he nodded very slightly.
Wufei punched Quatre's home code into the vidphone first. As he waited
for the call to be answered, he kept half an eye on Duo. I'll try not
to say anything too... um... personal? specific? in case it upsets him.
I definitely won't tell them about the nightmares!
Quatre's butler appeared on the screen. <<Winner residence --
ah, Master Wufei, good afternoon! I'm afraid Master Quatre and Master
Trowa are at Winner Enterprises today. Shall I transfer your call?>>
"Yes, thank you, Arif." Huh... if Quatre had just thought
to give Duo some of his unlisted home numbers when he left, instead of
assuming he already knew them, a lot of trouble and pain would have been
avoided. I don't think Arif's failed to pass on a message in his life!
<<Winner Enterprises, Executive Switchboard, how may I help you?>>
a pretty young woman asked sweetly.
"May I speak to either Quatre Winner or Trowa Barton?"
<<I'm afraid they're in a meeting right now, sir-->>
"Ninke Assink, then."
<<He's in the same meeting.>> The receptionist dimpled at
Wufei. <<May I take a message?>>
Duo winced slightly; Wufei raised an eyebrow. Well. Time to test the
new systems. "Could you please ask them to call Chang Wufei?
They know my--"
<<Oh, Mr. Chang! You're on the new list; I can put you right through
if you'd rather speak to them now.>>
<<Yes, sir. There's a new short list of people who are to be put
through to Mr. Winner or Mr. Barton at any time, no matter what.
If we don't pass your call through, we get fired. Isn't it great?
I can actually do my job properly now that I'm working for WEI
instead of Elite!>>
Wufei grinned. "I'm glad you approve. May I ask who's on the list?"
The smiling girl looked to one side of her screen. <<In order, it's:
Duo Maxwell, Chang Wufei, Relena Peacecraft, Heero Yui, Lady Une and Sally
Po. Congratulations, sir, you're second! Shall I put you through now?>>
"Yes, thank you." I'm happier about who's first...
Wufei looked sideways at Duo as the screen blinked to 'hold'. "Well,
she's enthusiastic about the new setup..."
Duo was blinking dazedly down at his glass of juice, held tightly in shaking
hands. "I think she took one of my calls..." he said slowly.
"She was on the main switchboard then. I remember her voice. She...
sounded upset when she asked me to leave a message..."
"If her job depended on following Taarnby's instructions, and she
was smart enough to see how stupid they were," Wufei said
dryly, "I'm not surprised. It's good to see she's been promoted."
The screen cleared and Quatre looked out. <<Wufei!>> he exclaimed.
<<Is anything wrong? Is Duo okay?>>
"Don't panic, Quatre, I'm calling to give you an update. We just
got back from Duo's checkup with Sally. I like your new switchboard procedures,
by the way."
Quatre grinned. <<So do I; we're in the middle of writing some more.
How's Duo?>> Trowa and Ninke appeared behind him; Trowa raised an
eyebrow at Ninke, who shrugged sheepishly at him, then both looked back
at the screen expectantly.
Wufei snorted, almost laughing out loud. Even I understood that. 'What
are you doing here?' 'Um... I worry, too. Besides, I'm curious.
Is that OK?' Then 'Go on, tell us!' Quatre seems to attract people who
are good at non-verbal communication...
After Wufei finished his update, Quatre sighed happily. <<Oh, good...
I'm so glad Duo's getting better. Rashid and the Manguanacs were worried,
too, they'll-- they-->> A look of horror slowly spread
over his face. <<Oh, no! Oh, Rashid's going to kill
Quatre buried his face in his hands. <<I was so upset when we found
Duo, and he was so ill and angry with us... I forgot to tell the Manguanacs
we'd found him! They're still out there looking!>>
Wufei burst out laughing.
<<It's not funny! They'll kill me!>>
"Quatre," Wufei choked out, "when did they start
<<Eight days ago,>> Quatre said miserably. <<I called
Rashid after we spoke to you, while you were on the plane. I told them
to start on L4 and work their way down. They're probably disassembling
L3 right now... they were swearing all sorts of oaths to find Duo no matter
how long it took. And then we found him, and I didn't tell
them... they'll kill me!>>
"Quatre, I don't think Trowa will let them..."
<<They'll kill him too! First! We are so dead, Trowa...>>
Trowa smirked. <<I'm safe. I didn't know you'd sent
Ninke interrupted hastily. <<Uh, Mr. Winner, perhaps if you tell
them that Mr. Maxwell has been found... and then either you don't
tell them when he was found, or else tell them while they're distracted
by finding out how he is and celebrating his return?>>
<<It'll never work,>> Trowa muttered.
<<Shut up, Trowa, it's worth a try -- especially if you
aren't going to protect me!>>
Wufei grinned. "Just tell them about Taarnby. They'll be so busy
going after him, they won't have time to tell you off."
<<Now that will work,>> Trowa nodded, one visible eye
glittering. <<I like the idea of Taarnby being hunted down, too.>>
<<Isn't that a bit... unethical?>> Ninke asked. <<If
<<Only if they get carried away.>>
"I'll talk to you later, all right?" Wufei interrupted. "I
need to call Relena now. I'm going back to part-time work tomorrow, but
Duo says he'll be fine."
<<Okay. Er...>> Quatre hesitated. <<If you think it's
a good idea... tell Duo I hope he gets better soon. I'm sorry, and I miss
Trowa nodded. <<Same here.>>
<<Tell him he can call us if he needs anything; he will get
through this time!>>
"All right. See you." *click*
Duo was looking away when Wufei glanced in his direction, refusing to
meet his eyes; Wufei sighed, punching in Relena's code.
<<Foreign Minister Peacecraft's office -- oh, hey, hi Mr.
"Georg?" Wufei blinked at the screen, surprised. "Why are
you answering Relena's phone?"
<<Somebody has to.>> Georg said glumly.
"But... you're second in command of security!"
<<She won't trust anyone else. Until we find someone with really
good secretarial and office management skills, who also meets Miss Relena's
new standards for trustworthiness and lack of snobbery, I'm stuck here
-- and the way she's feeling right now, we may never find
her a new secretary! Please, Mr. Chang, talk to her? I'm no good
"I'll see what I can do. Is she free?"
<<Uh, sure. I'll put you through, just give me a second...>>
Georg picked up a scrap of paper and peered at it, then poked carefully
at the keypad, muttering to himself. <<First hit 'hold', then-->>
The screen flicked to 'hold'.
"Poor Georg," Duo muttered.
Wufei smirked. "I hope he checked the right piece of paper; there
were a lot of little notes on-- good afternoon, Relena, I see Georg
managed to transfer the call."
<<Good afternoon, Wufei!>> Relena smiled. <<Yes, he's
learning quite fast.>>
<<How's Duo?>> Heero asked brusquely, coming into view at
the edge of the screen.
With an effort, Wufei managed not to scowl at him. "He's fine,
but Georg will be going on stress leave soon if you don't get a new secretary
and let him go back to Security."
<<He had a checkup with Sally today. What did she say?>> Heero
continued, completely ignoring the rest of Wufei's sentence.
Wufei sighed and gave in to the inevitable. "He's gained a little
weight. The ribs are healing. The cough is improving. It's going to take
a while, but he's getting better." He glanced sideways; Duo was sitting
stiffly, face blank.
Physically, he's getting better, Wufei thought, looking back at
the screen. Emotionally... he really doesn't want to think about
you, Yui. Losing touch with you hurt most of all.
"I just wanted to let you know he's doing all right, and--"
Wufei cut himself off, peering at the screen. "What did you do to
your hand, Yui?"
Heero flushed, shifting so that his bandaged hand was behind Relena's
chair. <<I hit something.>>
"Something or someone?" Wufei prodded.
<<We found Duo's e-mails and phone calls,>> Relena explained.
<<They were... upsetting. Heero took it out on the wall. He won,
but the wall put up a good fight,>> she added wryly.
Duo got up and walked into the bedroom.
"I see," Wufei said in a neutral voice. Now
you realise the part you played in all this, right, Yui? It's about
time... "I'm going back to work tomorrow. Part-time to start
with, then short shifts. I--"
<<You can't just leave Duo alone!>> Heero said angrily.
"He says he'll be fine."
"Back off, Yui," Wufei snapped, glaring. "Duo says
it's okay, and that's all I care about. If it doesn't work out, I'll take
more time off. I don't care whether or not you're happy
with the arrangements!" Abruptly ignoring Heero, he switched his
gaze to Relena. "Maybe you could talk to Quatre about getting a new
secretary; he just hired a special assistant, and he's replacing most
of the clerical staff at WEI. He probably has some ideas you could use."
<<Thank you, Wufei. I will ask him. Please... keep us informed?>>
Wufei nodded sharply, and disconnected. Don't tell me how to
look after Duo, Yui, he thought coldly, getting up and hurrying towards
the bedroom. You didn't do a very good job...
Duo was sitting huddled in the middle of the futon, trying to undo his
braid with shaking hands, brush lying next to him. Wufei knelt down beside
him and reached out to touch his cheek, gently urging him to look up.
"Want some help?"
Duo nodded silently, and Wufei settled down behind him. This is becoming
a regular event, he thought, picking up the brush. Well, it makes
him feel better... and I certainly don't mind.
* * * * *
The next morning, Duo clung to Wufei in his sleep when the Chinese boy
tried to sneak out of bed. It took over ten minutes of carefully disentangling
Duo's fingers and inching out from under Duo's leg, freezing every time
he seemed to be drifting closer to wakefulness, before Wufei finally made
it off the futon. At one point, he seriously considered trying to wriggle
out of his T-shirt and leave it behind; only the thought that it would
be really hard to explain stopped him.
I guess that was because part of him remembers that I'm going to work
today, he thought, slipping carefully out of the room and heading
for the bathroom. Even in his sleep... I really hope that doesn't
happen every morning from now on! The only consolation is that he didn't
wake up, and it didn't set off another nightmare.
Wufei had had a sleepless night; every time he started to doze off, Duo
started dreaming. Bad dreams, even for him. Wufei had managed to
soothe him back into peaceful sleep every time, but he was exhausted.
A cold shower wasn't going to be enough to wake him up this time.
Coffee with breakfast. Strong coffee, he thought, shivering
under the water with his forehead leaning against the chilly tile wall.
And more once I get to HQ... assuming I manage to stay conscious on
the drive in. He snorted softly, straightening up and reaching for
the soap. Dying on the way to work is not an option. Duo will
be waiting for me to come back!
Slowly coming into consciousness, Duo whimpered softly, patting at the
empty spot next to him. Something was wrong. Something was missing and
he had to get it back--
He jerked awake, heart pounding, and stared around frantically. He had
to find it, it was important... and then he came fully awake, the
feeling of panic and loss faded, and he collapsed back onto the pillow.
What was I looking for? he thought confusedly, blinking up at the
ceiling. I can't remember... did I even know what it was in the first
place, or was it just one of those panic dreams that don't make sense?
...Wufei's going to work today. Did he leave already?!
Duo sat up quickly, wincing as the sudden movement jarred his ribs again,
and listened. The soft sound of running water was coming from nearby;
he frowned, concentrating, and then sighed in relief. That's from inside
the apartment, not next door. He's still here.