I'm really sorry to have to
report this... but I was pretty screwed up before hand. I talked to myself
before I'd ever heard of the Londonderry. I painted ghosts and cut my
own arm once a year, before Howard ever even got that job offer. I embodied
inanimate objects with personalities before... hell; before the Maxwell
church. That's just... who I am.
I pushed away from the soda machine, took another long swallow, girded
my loins and turned back toward Heero's room. Only to find him making
his unsteady way down the hall toward me, using his IV stand as an impromptu
I thought for a split second that I just might scream.
"Heero!" I yelped and rushed to his side. "What the hell
are you doing? Didn't I tell you I'd be right back?"
He looked at me, rather stricken. "No... you just said something
about damn hamsters and took off."
I repressed the urge to laugh out loud, deciding that would not do my
'I am not crazy' argument a lot of good, moved up to offer him my support
and determined that trying to explain what a thought-hamster was, would...
probably be a really bad idea.
He latched onto me like he thought I was going to disappear on him and
we headed back for his room.
"I was thirsty," I murmured, when I couldn't find anything that
rhymed with 'hamster' that I thought he would buy.
He frowned, recognizing an evasion when he saw it and switched his irritation
to something he could at least see. "You drink too much of that crap...
it's not good for you."
"Just be thankful it's not whiskey," I ground out and then immediately
was sorry when his look went from stricken to... horrified. I sighed,
feeling worn down to the bone. "Heero... you're pushing. You're pushing
so damn hard I can't hold on much longer. I thought we talked this out
yesterday. Please... we're so close to being through this. Don't do this
to me now..."
We got to the side of the bed, but instead of climbing back in it, he
sat down in the chair, letting his hand slide from my shoulder, his fingers
trailing down my arm until he could catch my hand in his. As though he
were afraid to let go of me. I sat down on my heels in front of him.
"I love you," he whispered softly. "But I don't know how
to make it be enough."
I smiled sadly at him, "It's not that you're not trying hard enough,
love; it's that you're trying too hard."
We stared at each other. I didn't know how to vanquish his fears, how
to make him stop tearing himself apart over this.
"I want this morning back," I found myself whispering. "Why
can't it just be like it was this morning?"
He blinked at me, reaching with his free hand to stroke a finger along
the corner of my mouth. "You... lost your smile."
It was my turn to blink, and I couldn't help turning my face into his
hand. "I'm sorry," I told him. "I just get so frustrated.
You guys treat me like... like a child who can't make their own damn decisions."
"Nani?" he blurted and I sighed, suddenly so weary I could have
wept. I didn't want to fight any more. I didn't have the strength to argue
I found my head lying in his lap and was not at all sure how it had gotten
there. His fingers came hesitantly to stroke over my hair. "Nobody
even asked me where I wanted to go tonight," I told him. "Do
you realize that?"
There was a bit of a silence while his hand continued to caress the side
of my head, brushing through the wisps of hair there. "We didn't,
did we?" he said at last. "Please... tell me what you wanted?
We'll call Trowa..."
"No," I said calmly. "What I want doesn't matter. It only
makes everyone worry. It's only another night or two... leave it alone."
His hand stilled. "Don't say that... of course what you want matters."
I didn't even need a hamster to supply the next line; to who?, but I didn't
say it out loud.
"God, Duo," he burst out suddenly. "I just don't know what
"Stop trying to fix everything," I told him, surprised at how
flat it came out, how worn I sounded, even to my own ears. "Just
trust me and stop treating me like a damn child."
We just sat like that for a little bit, until his dinner came and then
I helped him back into bed. He ate mechanically, not because he was hungry,
but because it was required if he wanted out of that place. I tried to
tease him about the food, tried to talk to him about nothing in particular
but he wasn't very responsive and I just gave it up. He dozed, or pretended
to, after dinner and I retreated to a chair with my sketchpad.
I didn't know what in the hell to do, and he didn't seem to know either.
His silence was like a knife in my gut. I suppose, when I thought about
it, it had only been a matter of time before this happened. Before we
couldn't hold it together any more. When I tried to look forward... I
couldn't see my way clear. Hell, I wasn't even sure any more which one
of us was right and which one of us was wrong. I wasn't sure it mattered...
if I continued to try to make my way through this; I only stood to lose
him. To lose the last thing I had left. But it felt like I was losing
myself otherwise. When did what I wanted, what I thought, cease to matter?
For the first time since I'd made the decision to make the leap and take
a chance on letting myself love again, I wasn't sure I hadn't made a mistake.
He was going to hurt me again. He... wasn't going to wait forever for
me to get my head together. And why should he? What was there in me that
was worth all this damn effort? I... I wasn't going to make it through
this. I knew that above and beyond anything else. I had known that from
the moment I had lifted the lid on the box of broken dreams. I couldn't
go through that again. That rejection... that pain. Especially not now,
on top of losing everything else. There just wouldn't be any point any
more. I couldn't even work up to being upset about that. I was just too
Something made my eyes focus on the page in front of me and I all but
gasped at the picture my hands had made without me. Sometimes I wondered
if those damn little hamsters really did exist and they sometimes crept
out when my attention wavered and they left these little gifts for me.
It was another damn self-portrait. In a surreal landscape that I don't
even want to admit had to have come out of my own head. I was walking
that path of my analogy. Or standing on it. It wound away behind me into
the distance before it crumbled and fell away into nothingness, making
retreat impossible. It narrowed as it twisted and turned ahead of me,
until it was hardly as wide as my foot. I was dressed in the ragged clothes
of my youth, barefoot, my hair loose and whipping behind me, evidence
of the winds that buffeted me. I looked emaciated and weak, shoulders
slumped and hands wrapped hopelessly around my own thin body. I looked
cold. I looked hungry. I looked... desolate.
A pace ahead of me, the path had become laced with shards of broken glass,
and I was left with no choice but to tread on it, because there was no
place else left to go.
"Shit." I hissed and slapped the cover closed on the damn thing.
I raised shaking hands to rub at gritty eyes and wondered how long I'd
been sitting there, drawing.
With a sudden start, I dropped my hands and stole a glance at Heero, but
he seemed to still be sleeping. I hurriedly shoved my supplies back in
the duffle bag, wouldn't do for him to see that little gem. Wouldn't do
for anybody to see that little gem.
I sat and watched him sleep for awhile and ached clear down to my bones
to be able to crawl up there in bed with him and rest my head on his shoulder.
But he was so angry with me... it seemed like a less than stellar idea.
George jogged by, madly waving a banner that said 'asshole', but I'm not
sure which of us he was referring to.
We were still sitting like that when Trowa showed up; me in my chair,
staring at Heero. Heero in his bed... sleeping.
It was Trowa who bent to wake him, when I hesitated.
"Heero," he said gently. "Visiting hours are over... I
came to get Duo."
I don't know if it was just my imagination that made me think that Heero
didn't look very groggy when he opened his eyes, or not. I'll be the first
one to admit I was feeling a little... sensitive.
I moved up to the side of the bed, within reach and waited to see if he
would do so. But there was no reaching... he didn't. I didn't. It was
awkward as all hell. Trowa was staring at us. LeAnn started to come in
for some check-up or other and hesitated in the doorway, probably deciding
she had picked the worst place in the whole hospital to be in that moment.
I felt like my chest was imploding. I saw Trowa's attention waver as he
turned toward the intruder in the doorway and I took the opportunity to
lean down, and whispered fiercely into Heero's ear. "I'm sorry...
I'll... be stronger. I swear."
Then I turned, grabbed my bag and fled the room. Trowa caught up to me
at the elevators and I just avoided eye contact for a bit. He didn't speak,
just kept stealing glances at me out of the corner of his eye.
My head was pounding and my back ached from sitting in that hard chair
all afternoon. I was drifting and I knew it. I needed to get myself together
and figure out what the next step was. That thought made me flash on that
new stupid portrait and I determined I should probably destroy it at the
first safe opportunity.
The ride back to the Winner estate was just about as uncomfortable as
I've been in a long while. Awkward is a word that does not even begin
to encompass the atmosphere in that car. Trowa asked if I was all right
about half way there and I just told him I had a headache. Then I stared
out the side window and thought I made it pretty damn plain I wasn't in
the mood to talk.
When we arrived, he did two fairly predictable things. Fetched me a bottle
of aspirin and took Quatre off to the side for a small, private discussion.
Wanna take bets on what the topic of conversation was? Didn't think so.
While I tried to work up to the resignation I knew I was going to have
to be feeling to get through whatever Quatre came up with, I hauled my
laptop out and went into the study to jack into the internet. I still
had an e-mail to answer.
I pulled up the message, trying very hard not to think of the poor guy
as 'the man who wants to take my ship away from me', and composed a quick
reply. I suggested a time tomorrow morning for the walk through of the
ship and tried not to cringe when I hit the send button.
Then my eyes fell on the message right above it. Shit. Toria, I had completely
forgotten about her little 'death threat to Heero' message.
I pulled it up and read it again. She was going to kill me for making
her wait this long for a reply. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten about
this, it had been... over twenty-four hours since I'd seen it. Guilt gave
me a toothy grin and began debating body parts.
I began to type.
Hey spacer-girl! Listen hon, there's
been a couple of changes since we saw each other last. The chief one being,
I'm not a pilot any more. Surprise! Please do not come and kill my boyfriend;
he had nothing to do with it. In fact, I shocked him with the 'for sale'
sign as much as I shocked you.
Toria sweetie... I just finally faced up to the screaming case of spacer's-disease
that I caught out there in the belt. I'm sorry I didn't send you a message
when the ship went up on the boards, so that you wouldn't worry. I just
can't do it any more. Don't worry. I'm fine. Give Hayden my love.
It took me the better part of a half an hour to compose the damn thing.
I had it typed three times before deleting it and starting over... and
When I finally hit the send button and sailed that one off into the ether,
I was surprised to find I had another new message. An answer already from
my potential buyer. Joy. Seems the guy had a day job and would prefer
to look at the ship in the evening. This evening to be exact. Double joy.
I checked the time. I stared at the e-mail. I looked around the room and
found myself still alone. What the hell? I didn't need to ask anyone's
damn permission to make an appointment. I fired off another message and
asked if the guy could meet me at the dock's main office in an hour. He
had to have been sitting over his computer; the answer was an immediate
I would have smirked at my laptop if I hadn't been hating this whole idea
so damn much; the guy wanted the ship bad. He was not a great negotiator;
he'd already shown me at least part of his hand.
I went to the desk in the corner of the study and used the phone to call
a cab. I was not going to haul Trowa back out at this time of night just
to take me down to the docks.
Then I did the whole deep breath thing, plastered on a grin and went to
find my keepers.
As expected, Quatre was less than thrilled to hear that I had 'an appointment'
at this hour and even less so that I had already summoned a ride that
would be there any minute.
"When will you be home?" he questioned me nervously and even
Trowa had the grace to snicker at him.
"I'll try not to be too late, Mom," I teased him and made him
blush bright red. I didn't tell him that I wouldn't be home in the foreseeable
future since I didn't have one anymore. I'd destroyed it and was now about
to go engage in what felt like a little corpse selling.
The cab honked then, in the front drive and I fled before he could grill
me any more.
"Duo!" he yelled after me. "What about dinner?"
"I'll grab something on the way back!" I hollered, and climbed
into the waiting cab.
I'll spare you all the icky, boring, almost-like-selling-real-estate,
details. I don't honestly want to talk about what it was like going back
aboard that ship. It was weirdly like walking through a stranger's ship
with most of the walls stripped. The guy was all eager and excited...
looking to buy his first damn ship. I was ready to throw up just doing
the walk through. I ended up making him go stand outside when we got to
the talking part; I couldn't stand to be in there for one more minute.
I was afraid I was going to break down and run the son-of-a-bitch who
wanted my damn ship, off into the night. We did the haggling. We agreed
on a price. He had to do the loan paperwork and would get back to me.
I agreed to take the ship off the boards for the price of a small retainer
while he got his approval. We shook on it and he walked away. I locked
the ship down and I walked away.
Somewhere in the back of my head there was a bell tolling a dark, solemn
song. I found my shuffling footsteps matching the slow knell as I made
my way off the grounds. Damn. That had been a little rougher than I had
anticipated. Like some kind of really bad dream; everything so familiar
and so alien all at the same time. I blinked when I looked up from my
walking to find myself at the bus stop, and cursed. What the hell? Was
I on autopilot? If so, I'd set the wrong damn coordinates. I would have
felt like an idiot going back to the office at that point and so walked
another block until I found a pay phone where I could call a cab. Bus
doesn't run to the Winner estate.
All in all, I was delivered safe and sound back at Quatre and Trowa's
in just under two hours. They'd left the porch light on. I stood in the
drive for a minute after the cab pulled away and just looked at it. I
had to chuckle; I don't think anybody has ever left a light on for me
before. What an odd feeling.
While I stood there like a moron, the front door opened.
"Duo? Are you coming in?" Quatre called to me, holding the door
I stood and blinked at him for a moment longer before starting the hard
climb up those five or six steps. The whole thing seemed oddly surreal;
it didn't feel like I'd been gone five minutes, it was hard to get my
head around the fact that I'd just sold... the ship. Not 'my ship'. Not
'my Demon'. The ship. Keep it impersonal, Maxwell.
He looked... hesitant. Which may sound odd, but I don't know how else
to describe it. He just looked like he had a hundred things he wanted
to say and was about to choke to death trying not to say any of them.
Trowa appeared behind him and ventured, "Everything go all right?"
I tried to fathom what was going on with them and replied, "Pretty
well." I was left foundering when neither of them pressed me about
where I had been. Well... wasn't this another odd little trip to the Twilight
"Are you hungry, Duo?" Quatre asked carefully, glancing at Trowa
with an odd _expression, almost seeming to search for approval in his
"Actually," I dared, "I forgot to stop somewhere... but
please don't make anybody get up just to fix me something."
"Would you like to just go into the kitchen and poke around?"
Trowa smiled at me and I couldn't help a grin.
"If that huge woman who cooks for you guys won't kill me for invading
her domain," I snickered and Quatre flashed me a smile. I cannot
remember the woman's name, but she just freaking towered over me. I felt
like a damn dwarf in her presence.
Trowa led the way and Quatre took a step to follow, hesitated and I wondered
again what was up. "Coming, Qat?" I called, and watched him
smile in obvious relief, before he started after us.
They actually let me dig around in the refrigerator until I found the
makings of a fairly simple sandwich. Well, as simple as it was going to
get in the Winner household. This kitchen had probably never seen a loaf
of Wonder bread, but I found the strange Italian bread to be not all that
bad, and the meat was good even if I couldn't identify its source.
Then Trowa went to the second refrigerator, the one that was apparently
reserved strictly for drinks can you believe this place?
And fished me out a soda. A lovely green bottle of ice-cold Mt. Dew. They
didn't even make me pour it over ice, letting me just drink straight out
of the bottle.
Ok. Armageddon had apparently come while I was out of the house.
Quatre suggested we go sit in the study while I ate and I was more than
happy to oblige. I couldn't help but imagine Amazon-cook coming in, catching
me eating her food without her explicit permission, and gutting me where
I sat. Bet she could turn me into an interesting side dish; Maxwell over
The study is a fairly small, cozy little room, compared to most of the
rest of the massive rooms in the house. I found I rather liked it in there
and settled on one end of the small couch with an almost weary sounding
sigh. My laptop still sat there on the coffee table and I had a moment
of shock when I realized that I had just walked off and left it lie there.
"Sorry about that," I murmured to the two of them. "I guess
I forgot to put it away."
"It's not hurting anything, Duo," Quatre was quick to assure
"Who's the guy on the wallpaper?" Trowa asked casually and I
took a moment to glance up at them while I chewed a bite of sandwich.
There was the oddest feeling in the air that I couldn't quite put a name
I flashed Trowa a smile after I had swallowed. "Sisyphus. Greek mythology."
"Doomed to push his rock up the same hill for all eternity?"
"That's the guy," I agreed with an evil grin. "Got damned
to hell for tricking Death! Is that just not the most ironic thing?"
Trowa actually did chuckle, but Quatre only looked... kind of ill.
I went back to eating my sandwich. It was quiet while I chewed and swallowed
for a few minutes.
"Hamid found a plumbing problem in the room we've been using, Duo,"
Quatre said warily and I had to look up at him. He and Trowa were pointedly
looking... elsewhere. "I had our things moved to another room...
it's a little smaller, but there's a shower."
Click. I heard it, right in my head. Click. As the gears engaged.
I very gently set the rest of my sandwich back on the saucer. "You
always did lie like shit, Qat. Which one of them called you? Heero or
He went this funny shade of... pale, and tried to do my fish imitation.
I would have to remember to give that impersonation up; it wasn't very
Trowa handled it better. "Actually, they both did."
I snorted. "So, what the hell did you guys do while I was away these
last years? Drink some nasty 'I must tell every single thing I know to
my comrades' potion? Get cursed by some vagrant witch to spew every tiny
bit of information that comes your way, to each other?"
Quatre managed a look that almost bordered on frightened, but Trowa laughed
at me. "No; we just spent a very miserable year trying to hide things
from each other before we figured out that... a little support was a nice
"Sometimes that total honesty thing can border on rude," I told
him flatly. "I am a guest in your home... there is no reason I can't
eat what is put in front of me and drink what is available."
"You are our guest, and there is no reason we can't provide things
that help you feel more at ease." He gave me a shrewd glance. "You
didn't expect Relena to eat what was put in front of her on that trip
I blinked across at him, "Heero told you about that?" I was
rather incredulous; what in the hell would they care about something like
Quatre finally dared to enter back into the conversation, though his voice
was rather subdued. "Heero came to get my help to make the... supply
"You know," I ventured tentatively. "This is a large part
of why I don't feel like I can talk to you guys... every word I say is
repeated like I've been recorded. What the hell happened to confidentiality?"
Trowa gave me a very penetrating look. "Our confidentiality is ironclad.
Among the five of us."
"And what if there are things I don't necessarily want to tell Heero?"
I asked him point blank.
"Why would you keep anything from Heero that you could tell one of
us?" he chided gently. "Heero should be the one person in the
world you share everything with."
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