Reunion + Chapter 17 (cont)

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Quatre slid out of the Blazer's passenger seat, hopping carefully down to the ground. "Why Wufei got such a tall car, I don't know," he grumbled. "He's no taller than I am..."

"I don't have a problem," Trowa said innocently, closing the driver's side door.

"I'm not going to dignify that with an answer," Quatre said loftily, automatically scanning the apartment building's windows as he moved towards Relena's limo. "I-- oh..."

"What?"

"Third floor, fourth window from the left," the blond boy said in a strained voice.

Duo was standing at the window, knuckles white with tension as he clutched his braid. His eyes were wide, darting between the Blazer and the limo; then Heero climbed out from where he'd been sitting next to Pargan, opened the back door and started helping Wufei out, and Duo vanished.

Wufei looked at the windows as he straightened up. "I don't see Duo," he said, sounding worried. "Maybe he's just asleep..."

"He was there."

"Uh-oh..."

The door to the apartment building slammed open and Duo ran out, socks slipping in the snow. He skidded to a halt in front of Wufei, hands reaching out and then retreating as he saw the bruises. "'Fei?" he whispered, eyes wide. "Are you okay? What happened?!"

"Duo, you'll freeze! You're not even wearing shoes--"

"Where are you hurt? How bad is it?"

Heero sighed, not sure whether to be relieved or upset that Duo was completely ignoring him even though he was holding Wufei up. Behind him, Sally emerged from the limousine carrying a large medical kit, and yelped as she saw Duo out in the snow in a t-shirt and sweat pants.

"Duo, get back inside!"

He ignored her, too. Trowa snorted softly, taking his coat off as he walked up. "Come on, Duo, let's get Wufei inside, okay?" he said, wrapping the coat around the shivering boy. "He needs to sit down."

"...okay," Duo said, moving towards the door. "Tro? What happened? Was there an accident?"

"Trowa, pick him up!" Quatre burst out. "He shouldn't be walking through snow in his socks!"

"Jeez, QUAT-re! I'm fine!" Duo grumbled, then started coughing.

Trowa picked him up. "Sure you're fine, Duo. Just humour Quatre, okay? He's had a rough morning, and you know how he gets..."

"Hmph. Fussbudget," he muttered absent-mindedly, craning his neck to get a clear view of Wufei over Trowa's shoulder.

"Gods only know what my neighbours will think now," Wufei said, leaning heavily on Heero as he limped inside.

"Duo, where's your puffer?!" Sally yelled irritably as Duo coughed again. "You know better than to go out into sub-freezing temperatures without it..."

"Bitch bitch bitch," Duo whispered; Trowa shot a look back over his shoulder at Quatre, who was standing frozen, wide-eyed.

"He called me a fussbudget!" he whispered happily.

"He called you Quatre," Relena pointed out. "Even if it's because he's distracted by worrying about Wufei, it is a good sign."

"If we could get into the building some time today, people?" Sally called back.

"Bitch bitch bitch..." Duo whispered again.

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Wufei's small living room was unusually crowded, since no-one was willing to leave just yet.

Duo was sitting on the left end of the sofa, clutching his puffer in one hand and Wufei's left hand in the other. Wufei was sitting sideways next to him with his shirt off, leaning into the sofa cushions and wincing as Sally examined his back.

"Woman, was that absolutely necessary?" he grumbled after one particularly hard poke, then winced as she did it again.

"Yes, it was," she snapped. "Lift your right arm."

"Wang ba tan,[2]" he muttered, wincing as he obeyed.

"I should point out that I do know three dialects of Chinese," she said coldly, fingers pushing gently against the bottom of his shoulderblade as he moved. "Don't swear at the woman who's treating your wounds."

"Duo gets away with it. That hurts, you know!"

"I thought it would... Duo is cuter than you, Chang, and when he swears at me he does it with a sort of cheeky air. You sound like you mean it."

"I do mean it... OW!"

Duo dropped the inhaler and started pulling on his braid; Wufei noticed and tried to produce a convincing smile. "I'm fine, Duo; it's just this woman being vindictive because I wouldn't let her poke at me before."

"Ha!" Sally snorted.

Quatre emerged from the bedroom, brandishing a pair of sweat socks. "Found some!" he announced triumphantly. "Duo, feet!"

Duo automatically stuck his feet out, and Quatre started pulling the wet socks off; Trowa straightened up from where he was leaning on the wall, and walked towards the bedroom. "I'll just go put everything else back."

"I didn't make a mess!" Quatre protested, rubbing one of Duo's cold feet to warm it up before he put the dry socks on.

"Oh, really?" Trowa's voice drifted out of the bedroom, along with the sound of drawers being opened and shut.

"Well... not a bad mess..."

"Not by your standards, no."

"Trowa!"

"I believe Trowa," Duo muttered. "Wufei, are you sure you're all right?"

"I'll be sore for a while, but there's nothing serious."

"Sally? Is that right?"

"Duo!" Wufei protested.

"I've seen you insist you were just fine after you've been shot, 'Fei. Sally?"

"You've done the same thing!"

"I haven't found anything worse than a cracked bone yet," Sally said. "Of course, that bone is your shoulderblade, Chang; I'm going to immobilise your right arm. Duo, could you do me a favour? If he tries to take the strapping off before I say it's okay, could you look at him?"

"I'll just go make some coffee and tea, shall I?" Relena headed for the kitchen as Wufei groaned and muttered something about 'that's not fair'.

"I'll do it!" Heero yelped, leaping forward and beating her into the kitchen; she almost pouted.

"I can boil water now, you know," she said pointedly. "I may not be able to cook a gourmet meal, but I can boil water!"

"With help," Trowa said under his breath, re-emerging from the bedroom; Quatre snickered softly, sitting on the floor in front of Duo and rubbing his feet.

Fortunately, there was a knock at the door before Relena could respond to that; she merely shot a glare in Trowa's direction and went to answer it. When she returned, Une was with her; Heero emerged from the kitchen and leaned on the wall to listen.

"All right, Chang," Une said, raising an eyebrow at the small crowd in the lounge room, "I need to get your statement to see how it matches up with the ones I got from Petrov and the others. Needless to say, they're all different... Sally, how is he?"

"Stubborn."

"We knew that already. Can I have a diagnosis of his physical condition?"

"He'll live, but if he hadn't been turning as the blow landed it might have broken his spine," Sally said, not noticing that Duo was slowly tensing up. Still warming Duo's feet in his hands, Quatre noticed the change and looked up.

Uh-oh... this may not be good!

"I haven't completed my examination yet," Sally continued, "but I think that's the worst of it. He's got a lot of bruises, of course, and I want a closer look at his right knee, but his thick skull seems to have saved him from concussion."

"Good. Chang, Petrov says Agent Anders had some sort of grudge against you, and convinced several other agents to join him in beating you up by feeding them some ridiculous story about you beating Maxwell up--"

Duo stood up, pushed Quatre out of the way, and headed for the door.

"No!" Wufei yelled, lunging to his feet and nearly falling. "Duo, it's all right, they've been taken care of! Duo!"

Heero stepped out in front of Duo and grabbed him, wrapping his arms around and holding on as Duo struggled. "Duo, no. They've been arrested. You'll just make yourself sick again if you go out after them!"

"Heero," Duo said, voice cold and angry, "Let. Me. Go. Now."

"No," Heero insisted. "Wufei needs you here. You... you're going to have to help look after him, now. Leave Anders and his friends to Une."

Saying that... effectively relinquishing Duo to Wufei for good... hurt.

He's what Duo needs, Heero told himself, cautiously relaxing his hold as Duo stopped struggling. He's what Duo's always wanted. I want Duo to be happy, so I have to accept that... and let him go.

"Let go, Heero," Duo said quietly, unconsciously echoing his thoughts. Heero dropped his arms and watched as Duo turned around and walked back to the couch to sit by Wufei.

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Eventually, everyone left. Une went first, as soon as she had Wufei's official statement on tape; Sally left after strapping up Wufei's right knee and immobilising his shoulder and arm, leaving behind bottles of painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and a parting threat or two.

"I will see both of you on Boxing Day," she said grimly. "Chang, you are not to drive, even if that chocolate-coloured Yuppiemobile of yours is an automatic; I'll send someone to pick you up. And get some sleep! I can tell you haven't been getting enough rest..."

The others left shortly after that. Duo barely seemed to notice; he'd reverted to one-word answers when Wufei, Sally or Une spoke to him, totally ignoring everyone else.

"If there's anything we can do... call us? Please?" Relena said as she left. "If you need anything... shopping, or a lift somewhere..." Wufei agreed tiredly, and then they were gone.

"Sally's right," Duo said quietly. "You look tired. I'll get out your futon..."

"No, that's okay," Wufei insisted, shifting uncomfortably to take a little more pressure off his shoulderblade. "I don't want to sleep right now; I'll be fine just resting here on the couch."

Duo just looked steadily at him for a moment, then turned and went into the bedroom, re-emerging with both of the pillows from the futon, the spare pillow from the cupboard, and two thick quilts. With these (and the other spare pillow that Wufei had been pretending to use at night), he soon had Wufei tucked up in a reasonably comfortable half-sitting position; then he went into the kitchen, bringing out the pill bottles Sally had left and a glass of water.

Wufei grimaced as Duo started opening one of the bottles. "I'd rather not..." he said weakly.

"Your knee's going to blow up like a balloon if you don't."

"Just the anti-inflammatory, then!"

"You wince every time you move. Please?"

"All right! ...They're not the sedative painkillers, are they?"

Duo shook his head, holding out the pills. "Same as mine."

"Which you haven't been taking," Wufei pointed out, swallowing the pills and making a face; Duo shrugged.

"I only wince when I move fast," he replied, then walked back into the kitchen and started running water into the sink.

Wufei settled back, wincing again -- got to control that or Duo will worry-- and closed his eyes, listening to the soft sounds Duo made as he moved around.

He's washing dishes again, he thought drowsily. He's a lot steadier on his feet now, though... it should be all right. Maybe I can ask Relena to send someone over to do them tomorrow... don't want Duo to strain himself.

Fast painkillers. Only the shoulder's really bothering me now...

...good thing they aren't sedative...

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Duo took his time with the dishes, listening intently for any sound from the lounge room. When he'd finished, he slowly dried his hands, then walked quietly out of the kitchen.

Wufei was fast asleep, mouth dropped slightly open as he breathed softly.

"'Fei?" Duo whispered, leaning close. "Wufei...?"

No response.

Maybe they weren't sedatives, Duo thought, reaching out to trace a gentle fingertip over the dark shadows below Wufei's eyes, but I thought you'd fall asleep as soon as nothing hurt... Sally was right. You've hardly been sleeping at all, have you?

His hand dropped lower, brushing across the bruise forming on Wufei's right cheekbone, then lower still, tugging the quilt down and exploring the bandages strapping his right arm to his chest. Slowly, Duo examined everything he could see without moving Wufei, memorising the position and size of every bruise; then he pulled the quilt back into place and stroked the unbruised cheek.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I know you don't want me to do this. But I have to..."

Duo leaned in and kissed Wufei gently; then he pulled back and walked towards the door, eyes cold and hard.

Nobody hurts my 'Fei.

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[1] 'zao gao' = 'shit', 'damn' etc.

[2] 'wang ba tan' = Don't ask us. We asked our Chinese-speaking contact to please tell us something for Wufei to say here, and she obliged, but she refused to translate it. All we know is that it's something you say at people, and it's not nice!

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