Author: June
Rating: R
Pairings: 5xOMC, eventual 2x5x2
Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing or its characters, or Mountain Goats lyrics
Warning: A little trippy.
Notes: a big thanks to kinsugi for serious creative input for the first part of this chapter.

Reformation/Reaffirmation + Chapter 12

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"...move him when we pull him out of the coma... condition is stable..."

"...should regain... right knee... removed the damaged... very low blood pressure..."

"...okay with only... risk of future...?"

"It's too soon to..."

.

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"...are really uncomfortable. I think my ass is about..."

"Duo, please just shut..."

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"...work today?"

"We received a memo concerning clutter on our... don't even drink coffee."

"Did you finish that job for..."

"...ordering parts from East Bumblefuck. They won't come in for another week."

"You'll stay here then until..."

"Yeah, I'll stay."

.

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"I am so sorry. We should have been there."

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"BP and pulse normal. Oxygen at 95. Muscle regeneration is still holding and the new tissue appears to be knitting with the..."

"...pretty unbelievable... never seen someone lose so much blood and still... lucky the knife missed the renal..."

"What about the nerves in...said when we spoke the last time."

"We've made every effort to... He's not in any pain."

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"He's staying in our building right now; he probably knows something's up."

"...just tell him?"

"If you want to tell..."

"I don't want to tell him."

"Why not?"

"Because I wouldn't know how to do it. You should... not like we intended to keep it from..."

"Unless Duo asks and makes it his business, we're not obligated to say anything. So, I don't want to tell him either."

"If Chang can hear us now, then he knows."

"Chang is in a coma... hear us. We could fuck on the bed right... wouldn't hear us."

"I don't think we should test that theory."

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"Do you think he can hear us now?"

"I don't know. The doctors always encourage talking to coma patients."

"I never heard anything, but then, I don't think anyone ever came to see me."

"You'd been captured, smartass. We couldn't exactly waltz into an OZ hospital and hold your hand."

"I bet you could have."

"My honed infiltration skills were needed elsewhere."

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"I think his color looks better than yesterday."

"I think that's still just swelling from all the stitches in his face."

"It's a shame they don't use Regen for surface wounds. That'll scar."

"Yes, but it put his knee back together and knit up his shredded back muscle, so we should be glad our hospital has this facility."

"This may be the ass-end of the continent, but it is the capital, for cryin' out loud..."

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"I'll go with you and pick something up for dinner on the way back. Duo, are you hungry?"

"Yeah, you think they got macaroni and cheese?"

"Probably. You want to come?"

"No, I'll stay in case he wakes up."

"Duo, he just got off Regen; the doctor said they wouldn't bring him out of the coma for another twelve hours."

"Hey, he's got our constitution, so he'll be up in an hour, tops, right, buddy? Oh, get me a Coke, would ya?"

"Sure."

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"Hey, Wu, I bet you're hungry even if you don't know it. Haven't had anything in your stomach in a week. I'd give you some of my mac and cheese if you didn't have that big old tube down your throat. The doctor said he'd take it out in a couple hours, but I think it should come out now. Waking up with one of those things is no fun, believe me. It's funny, doctors never believe what our freaky bodies are capable of, do they. They're so surprised every time one of us does something miraculous, like survive losing as many pints of blood as you did. Just a good thing you've got two kidneys, though, pal. There was no saving the one with the jackknife in it. Hope you weren't too attached to it, though of course physiologically, I'm sure it was a very complex relationship. Ha. Well, that's what the other one's for anyway.

"I think Heero's right; you're definitely looking better, even with those railroad tracks in your cheek. That'll make for a mean scar, though; I'm almost jealous. Trowa's got a nice one on his eyebrow. You both look like pirates.

"Sometimes I wish we'd stayed pirates. I mean, not with the raping and pillaging part... but the "no masters, no orders" part; that'd be pretty cool. Instead of rolling over and letting you go to that awful place, we could have just pointed our headlamp toward the horizon and gone somewhere else, run until they weren't chasing us. I would still do that, you know. I'm good at running, Wu.

"Huh. It's nice being able to touch your hair and not have you bite my head off. You remember I always wanted to touch it when we lived together? If it hadn't been so shiny... Plus I figured, if you liked it, maybe you'd reciprocate. No one's touched my hair since I was little, except to yank on it during interrogations, which, I don't have to tell you, isn't the same.

"You know, I'm holding your hand right now, too, and you can't stop me. I wonder if you can even feel it. Squeeze my hand back if you can, okay? Guess I won't hold my breath, though.

"Hey, I'm sorry I couldn't come back to see you after you got over your flu, but they wouldn't let me. I was gonna have to be escorted anywhere I went, and I said 'fuck that.' Figured I'd just sneak in some time when you were on laundry duty again. That worked out pretty well before. Haha, you shoulda seen your face when you saw it was me. I thought you would club me over the head with that paddle for sure.

"You probably don't want to hear about the laundry ever again, do you. I'll wait until you're awake to give you the details, but I got some pretty bad news for ya. I'm really sorry. But you're out of there now. You're in Rome at the best hospital in the country, and you got to ride here in style. I couldn't get in until you'd already been here a few hours, but Une called Heero and Tro right away. Not really sure why she heard so fast. But they were here when you got here, and they said they got to see you before they induced a coma and put you in Regen. They said you looked like death warmed over, paler than me, even after I'd been off-planet for a year. Way to comfort your best friend, right?

"I think I hear the guys coming back now. It's chow time, though I gotta say I'm not too thrilled to be eating hospital food. I'll try and enjoy it for ya.

"We'll stay as late as we can, okay, buddy? And we'll be here when you wake up tomorrow morning."

+

"Get that thing out of him! Get it out; he's choking!"

"Mr. Maxwell, please move aside. The nurse will be here in just a moment."

"You can't take it out?"

"No, I'm the aide, but the nurse has been called."

"I'll do it myself if you won't. Come on, he's gagging on it!"

"There's nothing in his stomach, and he's not even awake yet. It's a reflex. Please calm down."

"Look! He's trying to open his eyes. He's waking up!"

"All right, out of the way, Maxwell. As much as you dislike it, I'm in charge here, so, give me some room while I take the tube out."

Nothing more than blurred images and a distant retching sound, then a firm tugging in my throat.

"We told you he'd wake up sooner than you thought!"

Hands on my shoulders when I curled forward, coughing and heaving. I blinked rapidly and felt a heavy braid on my chest and the shadow of a face very close.

"Hey, buddy, easy now, just lay back and breathe. Breathe through your nose, okay, nice and slow."

The bed started moving and I reached for the side rails by reflex.

"They're just taking you to your own room, Wu, out of intensive care. Just try and sleep, okay? Sleep it off."

+

I woke up thinking I really had to use the bathroom, realized I was already going, panicked, then saw the cath bag at the end of my bed and remembered that there was no such thing as dignity in a hospital.

I'd shoved myself into a sitting position and, after several minutes of breathing and existing and consciousness, I noticed the weakness in my lower back and lowered myself to the pillows again. I counted the number of machines attached to arm, finger, vein, legs, chest, etc. and then cataloged which parts of my body could move freely and which ones couldn't. Aside from needles and tubes, my arms were fine. The right side of my head was a mess of bandages and gauze and I felt stitches in my cheek pull when I opened my mouth. My throat felt utterly raw, like I'd either been throwing up for hours or had a breathing tube recently yanked out. When I tried to move my legs, I felt like I was only partially connected to the lower half of my body. The toes of my right foot wiggled easily, whereas I felt almost no response from my left leg. Somehow, this didn't upset me, and in a detached sort of fog, I wondered if the numbness starting above my left hip and extending downward would be permanent. I wondered if there would be wheelchairs or crutches or, if I were lucky, a cane in my future.

When I moved my right leg again, just to remind myself that I could, I realized that the knee was stiff and when I bent it upwards, it cramped and twitched. When I straightened my leg, the tendons pulled. I couldn't really get upset about this either.

I looked out the window into the nighttime city landscape, recalling from a half-remembered conversation that I was in Rome and no longer at RCNP. The night was lit up street-light orange, and I realized it was the first time I'd seen city blocks and street lights in over two years. I tried to remember more of that conversation, but all I could recall was the sound of voices with periods of dead silence in between. I had no idea how long I'd been out.

In the reflection of the glass, a shadowy figure entered my room, and I turned, thinking it was a nurse. I opened my mouth to ask for some ice cream, feeling a little hungry, and froze when I found Karl standing at the foot of my bed, holding out a Preventers badge like it was the snack I'd been about to request, and grinning at me, looking immensely pleased with himself.

I stared at him and couldn't panic. I could only look at him watching me, thinking that I should ask him a few questions, the two most important ones being 'Did you tell Eddy Koch to kill me?' and 'What are you doing here?' Instead I noticed things like the shine of sweat on his face, the way his hair hung limp and dirty in his face, and his clothes. He wasn't wearing a uniform. They were civilian clothes.

I sucked in a breath to try to ask him something, anything, but then I heard the night nurse speaking to a patient in the next room over and when I blinked and returned my focus to Karl, he'd disappeared like he was never there at all.

I focused on breathing and being awake and alive and wondered how long this numbness would last.

+

I woke up in the night, thankfully disconnected from all the machines except the morphine drip in my arm. I looked out the window and saw that it was raining, and that someone was sitting in a chair, their face turned away from me, watching the drops track down the glass. With that posture and the brightness of his white-blond hair, it could only be Quatre. The impossibility of it didn't seem to matter - I knew it was Quatre. I sat up in bed.

"What are you doing here?"

He didn't turn to look at me. "I wanted to make sure you were okay. You gave us quite a scare."

"It's fine. I'll be fine. How are you?"

He turned away from the window and leaned his elbows on his knees. He wore a crisp white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the top two buttons of the collar undone. His hair was a bit longer than I remembered, but it was still thick and shiny, hanging in his eyes a little.

"I'm worried about you, what's going to happen to you now. And afterward."

After she died, I saw Meiran in times of severe stress to my mind and body - most notably when I was captured and held by OZ during the first war for interrogation concerning the whereabouts of the Doctors. The drugs they gave me brought her out in watercolors, with a pink haze coming off her shoulders. She didn't say much, but stood behind my interrogators and it felt like when we were children, before we were married. She was always ready to laugh at me for whatever I did. I watched her instead of paying attention to the ways in which OZ was trying to break into my head. And on the Lunar Base, when the oxygen was about to run out, she sat beside me when we looked at the specs for our new Gundam.

So, it wasn't surprising that now, while my body was adjusting to regenerated muscle tissue and while scar tissue formed over the wounds, Quatre would be here. "Is there something you know that I don't?" I asked.

He shrugged and smiled, close-lipped. I waited and he looked down at his hands. "I've missed you."

Since I'd woken up, everything I'd felt and thought had been diluted and bland. But I recognized this thing right here as real longing. "I've missed you, too."

"You have to be so careful now, Wufei."

I looked at him strangely as he stood up and took a few steps toward me. He was so familiar in that moment - clean and neat and calm, confident and smiling - that I reached my hand out to him, wanting to touch him, wanting the feel of crisp cotton in my hand to be as real as it looked. The sight of three broken teeth in the corner of his mouth was like the sound of something tearing.

He came a step closer and he was still Quatre, but he was Karl, too. I made a strange sound - half shout, half sob - and fumbled my way out of bed, unsteady feet barely holding me upright. Karl watched me struggle and took a step back, beckoning with one hand. "You can do it," he said.

Another wordless shout and I threw myself at him, my knee and back giving out all at once and dropping me to the chilly tile floor. I gasped at a sharp pain in my arm as the IV almost tore free of the adhesive and pressed my hand over it, trying get the needle straight inside the vein. When I looked up, Karl was gone. I leaned back against the bed and counted to ten before calling the nurse.

+

I woke up and wasn't surprised to see him this time, dressed in plain dark clothes and holding a folder in one hand against his thigh. "What now?" I asked, resting against the pillows and wishing fervently that the state would pay for other painkillers for convicts besides morphine. While morphine always worked to dull the pain, it carried with it such side effects as Karl Hallucinations. "I don't want to see you ever again. You're trying to ruin my life. You tried to get me killed, and you may yet succeed at it."

"I take it you're feeling better," he said, pushing off the wall and taking a few steps closer. I sat up and pushed myself back against the pillows, surreptitiously looking for something I could use for a weapon just in case this Karl Hallucination felt realer than the others who'd visited since I'd woken up.

"Not really," I muttered. "My back is killing me."

"You seem a bit sharper than before."

"You surprised me before." He now stood at the foot of the bed, tapping the folder against my chart hanging by a plastic hook. I wondered if he was going to read it to see exactly what damage he'd done. "Okay, what's in the folder?"

"This?" He looked down and grinned at it. "You're going to be very busy now that you're out. This is something for you to work on."

"What do you mean 'out?'" My hand closed around the TV remote. It was the heaviest thing I could find. "I still have ten months left on my sentence."

Karl raised an eyebrow. "You really think you're going back?"

I hated conversations that didn't make sense. I hadn't had a conversation that went from one logical step to the next in... I couldn't remember the last time. "Once again, do you know something I don't? Last time I checked, they don't let criminals go free just because they're injured. I might get protective custody or I might end up back in my cell with Onur. I most certainly will not be free to go."

"Chang, I know lots of things you don't, but since we don't have a lot of time and since you don't want to talk to me - "

"Your fuck buddies tried to kill me," I interrupted, fighting with myself to get angry. I wanted so badly to be angry with him, but hadn't been able to pull it together enough to feel it since he visited. "My roommate's not in this hospital anywhere, and as soon as I talk to Prescott, I'm pretty sure she'll tell me he's dead. If you were real and I could walk, I would break your neck."

"...I thought we'd get right to the point," he continued, after pausing for only a moment to be sure I was finished threatening him. I gritted my teeth and stayed quiet. He opened the folder and looked inside. "What I have here is our list, along with what Duo's been able to find. And..." He glanced up at me. "He's certainly been busy since you asked him to look into our case. He's got a good list of dead war vets here that he thinks could be connected to Benji, Vasil, and maybe Quatre Winner."

"What about Basker and O'Malley?" I sneered. "You know, the ones who were strangled to death and slashed up afterward?"

He shrugged. "You were right; they didn't really fit, so I didn't include them here."

He didn't look in the least bit ruffled, even though he was guilty as sin.

"Anyway, Duo's got the names and addresses of living relatives and former employers. He's even marked a few that he contacted. This is where you should pick up, Chang, when you get out of here - head to space and follow up on these people. Get their story; figure out what they were involved in when they died; learn who they were talking to."

I realized my mouth was hanging open and closed it. "Let me see that folder," I snapped. "Where did you get it? How do you know what Duo's done for us? For me," I corrected.

He handed it to me and smiled that strange, small smile he used to give only when we were alone and he was on a relatively even keel, usually after he'd slept. And even through the painkiller haze, it gave me a hard twinge, and he saw it. He looked away quickly like he didn't want me to know he'd seen it. I didn't look inside the folder and waited for him to answer me.

"Magic," he finally said. "Magic that didn't hurt anybody," he added, looking a little regretful. He sat down on the edge of the bed and it felt like we were back in his cell, planning a secret meeting at the picnic table. It felt like nothing at all had happened, like he could be on his way out of my cell after a quick hand job by the sink. Stupid and adolescent.

I looked down at the folder in my lap. "Talking to these contacts will alert whoever was responsible for the deaths of those vets, and they'll go to ground. We'll never find them."

Karl's eyes lit up. "Oh no, they won't go to ground, because you and Duo are the ones who'll be doing the looking. What better way to flush out the ones killing war leaders than to have two former Gundam pilots, two of the biggest targets, spearheading the investigation?"

I felt a little sick then. Since I was imagining him and everything he was saying, I must have thought this myself at some point, which meant I'd been willing to put myself and Duo right in the thick of it from the very beginning.

"I don't want to look at this," I said, handing the folder back to him. "First off, it's not real. Second, you tried to kill me, so I have every reason to believe that any so-called efforts to help me now, even if they are figments of my imagination, are further attempts to set me up. And on that note, please get the fuck out." My voice ended a little ragged, and it was easy to blame it on fatigue and the restless confusion that always came with too much time on pain meds.

I hadn't realized that I'd squeezed my eyes shut, but when I opened them, he was gone. I released the TV remote when I felt the ache in my fingers from holding it so tightly. I lay awake staring at the digital clock by the bed, trying to reassure myself that time and space still worked the way they were supposed to.

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