The blood rushed to Wufei's
face and I was rather surprised when he didn't just storm out of the diner.
I had just about decided that Sally must really have a short leash on
his butt when I realized it was me his eyes kept flicking toward. The
woman knew her partner pretty well. He was pissed at the manipulation...
but somewhere inside, he wanted to see me. Wanted to talk to me. I just
wasn't sure that I was ready to talk to him yet.
Sally wouldn't move over to make room for him and it was an ironclad cinch
he wasn't going to sit next to me, so she gave him no choice but to pull
a chair over and sit at the end of the booth. I spared Sally a grateful
look; she, at least, understood the 'them against me' feeling that I would
have gotten if they had both sat down opposite me. I guess women really
are a little more sensitive about things like that.
When he sat down, I got a better look at the side of his face and winced.
"Damn, Chang," I muttered, finding my hands going back to playing
with my glass. "I didn't realize I hit you that hard. I... I'm sorry."
I had the strangest sense of deja vu, but couldn't figure it out.
Wufei mumbled something I couldn't quite hear. Sally poked him hard enough
to make him jump and he cleared his throat. "It wasn't your fault,"
he told me and I'm not sure if that's what he'd said the first time or
"I still shouldn't have hit you," I said, not able to look up
at either of them. I was rather sorry I'd let Sally talk me into lunch.
I'd have balked if I'd seen this coming. I wondered for a second why things
like this kept blindsiding me. I never seemed to be able to think things
through anymore, never seemed to anticipate.
There was an uncomfortable silence and I glanced up just in time to see
Sally reach out to take Wufei's hand, giving him an encouraging little
"Since we find ourselves here," Wufei said after a moment, voice
sounding oddly, almost formal. "I would like to apologize for...
my error in judgment."
I opened my mouth to tell him it was ok, but I stalled on that. It wasn't
ok. I ran through about a half a dozen responses, ranging from 'don't
worry about it' to my apparent new favorite 'eat shit and die'. None of
them seemed to fit the situation and I finally managed, staring into the
suddenly fascinating depths of my soda, "Accepted."
There was a sad little sigh from Sally, but then the waitress arrived
with our lunches and I glanced up to see that 'the usual' had meant both
Sally and Wufei's usual. All three of us just sat staring at our food.
I don't think I could have eaten the damn sandwich sitting in front of
me if my life had depended on it.
After the waitress left us alone, Sally reached to pat my arm again, maybe
offering me the same encouragement she'd offered to Wufei. I tried to
think of something to say, but kept coming up blank. Wufei and I had trouble
disagreeing about things without the level of our voices rising. This
wasn't the place for me to be asking him just what in the hell he had
thought he was doing.
"Did you..." he ventured in a very small voice. "Did you
mean what you said?"
He caught me by surprise and I wasn't at all sure what he was talking
about. "What?" I asked, completely lost.
"About... about not hitting your friends?" There was a great
deal of tension in his voice and I finally looked up at him. His dark
eyes were full of misery, and in that moment, I forgave Sally for doing
this to me. Forgave her for not being able to bear that look. And I understood
what my words, coupled with my action, had implied.
"It's not a usual habit," I ventured, not at all sure what to
say to him. That didn't seem to be the right thing, and it was his turn
to drop his gaze to the table.
"I feel as though I've damaged something that was very precious,"
he said softly, and then stood in a sudden rush. I was taken totally by
surprise, realizing that he was getting ready to pull my running away
"Wufei!" I blurted, before he had a chance to walk away, wanting
him to stop but still not sure what in the hell to say to him. He hesitated,
his back to us, and waited for a moment but he didn't turn to look at
me. It made it a little easier for me to say, "Maybe... maybe not
He seemed to shiver, turning his head to look down at me for a moment.
Then he gave me a tight little nod and left the diner.
I watched his retreating back, giving serious consideration to beating
my head against the table. Then I turned back around and found Sally Po
with tears standing in her eyes.
"Oh God," I told her. "Don't... please don't. We'll end
up sitting here bawling like babies together."
It made her grin a little bit and I watched her push it aside. "Well,"
she managed after a minute. "That went well."
I had to reward her with a bitter little laugh. It was quite the effort,
in the field of repression and I am something of an expert; I should know.
"I'm sorry, Sally," I told her. "I... didn't do a very
good job of that."
She shook her head sadly. "I thought I'd have more time to talk to
you before he got here. He's always late to lunch. He had to pick today
to damn well be on time?"
I thought for a second she was going to lose her battle with the tears
and I tried willing her to fight harder. I was almost sure that if she
started crying in earnest, that I was just fucking going to fall apart.
I reached across the table and carefully took hold of her hand.
"I am truly very sorry, M'lady," I smiled for her. "I just
didn't have time to... do more than react from the gut."
She sighed and squeezed my fingers. "No... I'm sorry for thinking
I could make it all better by shoving the two of you in each other's faces."
She looked at me very intently then. "I know what he did... what
they did, sucked, but he is truly and deeply sorry. I know that doesn't
erase it... doesn't make it better, but I can't tell you what your friendship
meant to him. It's killing him that he did this to himself."
I retrieved my hand because I needed it to rub across tired eyes. "I
don't... hate him, Sally," I told her, knowing that any positive
message I could give her would find it's way back to Wufei. "I was
just very... hurt and it's going to take a bit of time for me to put that
behind me. But I don't hate him, ok?"
She met my gaze and gave me a little nod, understanding that I was ok
with her telling him that.
Then I grinned at her. "Sweetheart, you won't take this the wrong
way if I just skip lunch and go back to work?"
She laughed then, and it didn't even sound forced. "No... not at
all, I'm suddenly not very hungry myself."
So she paid the bill and we left the place. I wondered what the waitress
would think when she went to clear the table and found three untouched
The whole damn thing only gave me more things to think about while I hung
over fenders that afternoon. So when quitting time rolled around, I wasn't
any closer to figuring out what I was going to say to Heero than I'd been
when I woke up that morning. Rather predictably, Heero was a couple of
minutes early getting there.
The ride home was even more tense than the ride to work had been. I couldn't
get the vision of Wufei out of my head, his eyes shining brightly and
so full of pain. I couldn't stop thinking about the whole damn mess and
wishing I could just erase it. Could go back in time and not hack into
Wufei's e-mail so that I never knew that my two dearest friends had betrayed
me. Never went on that trip and maybe messed up a woman's life. Never
had to hear those words coming out of Wufei's mouth that told me just
what my lover and his partner thought I was capable of. Having Captain
Camden back in my head would be a more than even trade to have this all
We were almost home before Heero ventured, very carefully, "Did you...
did you still want to stop and get dinner?"
I glanced across at his anxious face and realized that I hadn't spoken
two words to him since I'd gotten in the car and we'd said our hellos.
"I'm sorry," I murmured. "Yeah... we should probably get
He looked a little relieved and changed lanes while he asked, "Fish
It was our last choice before we got to the apartment without turning
around and going back the way we'd come. "That's fine," I told
him, not really caring and just sat thinking while he drove through and
ordered. I seriously doubt if I would have objected to his going through
the drive-through at the pet store and picking up dog food. Dinner was
the last damn thing on my mind.
We finished the drive in relative silence, it was miserably uncomfortable,
but I didn't know how to break it. Didn't know how to lift myself out
of this quagmire of doubt and depression.
We passed Mrs. Troy, from the first floor, out on the front walk and got
a funny little disdainful sniff. I resisted the urge to stick my tongue
out at her and Heero gave her a polite 'good evening' despite her attitude.
Looked like Mrs. Hitchcock had been out and about on the gossip circuit.
We made the climb up the stairs and I was relieved that we didn't run
into anyone else. It felt a little bit like reaching sanctuary when the
apartment door was finally closed behind us. I couldn't quite contain
the heavy sigh of relief and it got me a worried little frown from Heero.
We took our dinner into the kitchen and I pulled down plates and got the
silverware while he opened the bags and distributed the food. The familiar
routine helped a little bit and by the time we took our chairs, I was
able to force down a bite of fish without grimacing.
"Duo," Heero said gently after a couple of minutes eating in
silence. "What's happened? You seem... more upset than you were this
I sighed and let my fork fray at the edge of my fish, picking the white
insides out of the breading. "I'm sorry Heero," I told him for
what felt like the hundredth time. "Sally... tried to... she invited
me to lunch. With Wufei. Without telling either of us first."
"Ah," he said and set his fork aside.
I glanced up at him. "Ah?" I questioned.
He gave me a small, kind of sad smile. "That would explain Wufei's
shutting himself in his office all afternoon with his phone on do-not-disturb."
"Oh," I said, for lack of anything better, and just concentrated
on mashing shreds of fish with the tines of my fork.
Heero watched me for a minute before reaching out to still my hand. "How...
did it go?"
I snorted, letting him save my fish from mutilation. "Awful?"
I told him. "Hideously bad? Miserably? You name it."
He was almost crawling out of his skin with frustration, dying of curiosity
and struggling like hell to contain it. His nerves were just communicating
themselves to me, and escalating my own. "For... him, or for... you?"
he dared, tone of voice working for nonchalant and failing badly.
"Both of us?" I growled and had to struggle to contain the,
He chewed on that, hesitant as hell, and finally said, "Do you want
to... talk about it?"
Yes! I wanted to yell at him. Hell yes, I wanted to talk about it, but
how the fuck could I talk to him when all the things I might say about
Wufei applied to him as well? I couldn't say 'I am furious with Wufei'
without it being implied that 'I am furious with Heero'. I couldn't talk
about how miserable I felt for Wufei's sake without admitting that I felt
pretty damn miserable for Heero as well. But I wasn't quite ready to let
go of it all yet. Admitting those thoughts was as good as saying 'you
are forgiven' when I wasn't sure I was ready for that. I was still hurting,
damn it, maybe hurting too much to even deal with Heero yet... much less
The first clue I had that I was a hair on the wrong side of my control
was the sound of something clattering on the other side of the kitchen.
It took a moment of pondering for me to figure out that I had just hurled
my fork across the room.
The second was the look on Heero's face.
"Do you remember when I was seeing Dr. Webster?" I blurted,
voice as steady as I could make it, staring at the table without really
I think he nodded, but realized I might not have seen it, and so murmured
a soft, "Yes."
"One of my exercises was to learn how to put myself in my 'safe place'
when I was scared or unsure of myself." I could feel my voice rising
and I looked up at him; he looked... very uncertain. "You're my safe
place Heero... in your damn arms! Do you have any idea how screwed up
it feels to have that ripped..." I almost bit my tongue in half getting
that stopped, just a little too late. I found my plate in my hands and
realized that it was about to follow the fork and had to stare at it really
hard to make sure it didn't leave the table.
Well damn. I'd been right to worry about having this conversation. I'd
been right that I wasn't to a point where I could talk rationally about
I blinked and found Heero squatting beside my chair. He gently took the
plate from my hands and wrapped my fingers in his. I just sat and stared
at him, wondering if cutting my tongue out at this point would do any
"Go on," he said gently. "Finish what you were going to
"No," I whispered. "We shouldn't talk about this yet...
I don't mean to say these things..."
"You shouldn't hold this inside," he told me intently. "It's
what you're feeling... talk to me."
"I need a little distance from it first," I said, and couldn't
believe how... pathetic my voice sounded.
He took me by the arms and pulled us both to our feet. "That's the
last thing you need... you're just pushing it down and hiding from it.
Don't do this again, Duo... talk to me."
"What is there to talk about?" I grumbled. "We both know
what happened... talking doesn't change it."
"Tell me what you're feeling," he prodded, his hands wrapped
tight around my upper arms. "Trust me to listen and separate the
"Trust you?" I cried, trying to pull free. "That's the
damn problem! You screwed with the trust when you decided I was a cold-blooded
psychopath and lied to me! Half of me wants to kick your ass all the way
down the stairs and the other half just wants to curl up in your lap like
some damn little kid! I'm hurt and I'm confused and... and..." And
apparently, completely hamsterless.
"Ah God, baby... come here," he suddenly said and pulled me,
relatively unresisting, into his arms.
"Don't call me that," I complained, wrapping my arms tight around
his neck. "I hate that."
"I know," he murmured and I swear I felt the asshole smiling.
"But you've said it too."
"Have not," I groused, hating myself for calming down just from
the feel of his body pressed warm against mine.
He made a sound that was almost a chuckle, but he squelched it. "Have
too. That day in the hospital... while I was still so drugged up."
The day he'd cried. "Ok... so maybe I did," I acknowledged,
though grudgingly. "So?"
He kissed the side of my head where it nestled on his shoulder. "So
you know the feelings that make me say it."
And I did. There was just something about seeing him like that... so open
and vulnerable, that kicked me in every protective tendency I ever owned.
That made me want to cradle him and comfort him and... and...
"I'm not hungry," I blurted. "I just want to lay with you.
I want... I want..."
He took my hands without another word and led me out of the kitchen to
the couch, neutral ground, where he settled us together. I didn't even
protest his stretching me out on top of him. I just snuggled... yeah,
snuggled, damnit, get the hell over it, against his chest and let him
pull the afghan over us both.
"I've missed this," he murmured, rubbing his cheek against the
top of my head. "I've missed you."
I closed my eyes and listened to the steady sound of his heart; a little
surprised that all the turmoil... all the anger hadn't changed how I felt
when I lay with him. Life holds very little in the way of security. If
I had any at all, despite everything, it was here. It was still right
"I love you," he said simply. "And I'm afraid of losing
you. I feel so... helpless. I'm afraid this is going to destroy us."
"I won't let it," I vowed, surprised by the vehemence in my
own voice. "Heero... God, Heero... you're all I have left. I swear;
I just need a little time to get reoriented. I won't let this..."
He cut me off, forcing my head up with a hand under my chin to meet his
gaze. His eyes searched mine intently. "Duo-love... I don't want
you here with me because... because you feel you don't have any other
I grimaced, understanding how that had sounded. "I'm sorry... that's
not what I meant. Not at all what I meant."
He leaned down and dropped a gentle kiss against my lips, shutting me
up. "I never for a minute thought that you were... were going to
go hurt that man. We were just worried about how upset you got, about
Williams, when you read that journal. We didn't know how you would take
the news that he had married Captain Camden's widow. You were finally
starting to... settle down. You seemed to be finding a kind of... of peace."
He hesitated, giving me the chance to speak if I was going to. I lay my
head back on his chest and held my tongue, just listening. He sighed.
[cont] [back to