by: Sunhawk

Deceptions (cont)

He looked relieved. He looked guilty. He looked ashamed of himself. If he had been anyone other than Chang Wufei, he probably would have burst into tears. He just stood and looked at me for a minute and I finally reached cautiously and touched his arm, duplicating the gesture he had made, trying to offer me some comfort the night he had driven me home from the restaurant. "Thank you for taking care of him... but I'm back now. You're allowed to step down."

I wasn't at all surprised to feel him stiffen under my hand. I didn't push my luck, letting go quickly and turning away to pull a chair up to the side of the bed, settling in for the duration.

He regarded me through a strained silence for several, eternally long moments. Then his shoulders seemed to slump a little, as though all the long hours were catching up to him all at once. "You are right... I let him down," he almost whispered.

I stretched a foot out and snagged the other chair, pulling it over to face mine. It took him a minute to unbend enough to sit down.

"Bullshit, Wufei," I grunted. "You aren't Superman... sometimes the bad guys get their licks in, and there's nothing you can do about it."

He glared at me. "Do you not fucking care that he almost died?"

I brought my gaze up to meet his and stared until his eyes wavered. "Of course I care. Do not be an asshole. I would take those bullets myself if I could, but I have no damn desire to eviscerate you over it. I know you well enough to know that you would have thrown yourself in front of the gun to save him. He wouldn't be in this condition if you had been able to stop it. I have no doubt of that." I watched his face flush and he suddenly hunched forward, dropping his elbows to his knees and putting his face in his hands. "All I'm saying, Wufei, is that you shouldn't beat yourself up over this, it wasn't your fault."

There was a sound from him that was almost a moan. "But it was," a voice sighed, and had he not been the only one in the room, I would not have believed it was the voice of Chang Wufei. "God help me... it was."

"Tell me about it," I commanded gently, and wondered a little bit about where all this sudden calmness was coming from.

"We went in to the building, just the two of us, to extract the hostage," he murmured, not raising his head. "He was distracted... I knew he was. I should have aborted the maneuver. I should have insisted someone else go with me." There was a pause, full of the ghosts of bad memories, before he went on. "When we made our move... I... counted on his being where he should have been. But he was off... late to take position. I don't know what happened... but when the shooting started, he wasn't under cover."

I thought about it. "This was last night?" I asked softly.

He nodded. "A member of the SWAT team even joked that we'd make it home in time for the eleven o'clock news if we hurried."

I sighed heavily and sat back. Wufei finally looked up at me. "You know something?"

"Just figuring it all out," I confirmed and rolled my sleeve up.

His eyes flew wide and I saw him begin to piece it together. I nodded, "I had to have docking assistance... "

"Which would have been recorded immediately in the Colony logs... "

"Which Heero could have tagged with an alert request keyed to my ship's name, using his Preventor's authorization."

"And set to his pager number. Damn that son of a bitch."

I chuckled darkly and watched his face trying to hide the emotional roller coaster ride he was on.

"Go the hell home, Wufei," I said quietly.

His eyes came up to search my face and I saw him flinch, looking at my jaw. "Duo... damn it, Duo... I'm so sorry."

"You needed to belt somebody," I grinned at him. "And right now, Heero's not up to it."

I meant it as a joke, but his face twisted in pain. "You make me feel like some sort of damn, vicious Neanderthal!"

I sighed and lost the grin, daring to reach out to hook him by the back of the neck, pulling him toward me. He let me rest his head against my shoulder, "Listen to me, Wufei," I whispered next to his ear. "It is over. I will never put him in that position again. It's all done and over with."

He pulled free to sit up and meet my eyes. "Duo... ?" he questioned softly, confusion plain in his eyes.

I just shook my head, refusing to sit here and discuss it. "Go home and get some rest."

He opened his mouth, not wanting to give up the questioning, but I cut him off. "No more today."

His eyes searched mine, looking for... I'm not sure what. His hand lifted as though he might touch my face where he had punched me. But then he finally nodded and pushed himself up to his feet. He wasn't even out the door before Quatre was on his way back in; they must have been standing right outside. I saw Trowa hesitate in the hall and exchange a few words with Wufei.

I wanted to stand up and politely ask them all to go to hell and leave me the fuck alone, thank you very much. I was too damn tired to deal with this anymore. Too tired to deal with them. To deal with the masks, and the smiling, and the damn reassuring. I just wanted to lay my head down somewhere and rest, just for a little while. Was that really so much to ask for?

Quatre came and knelt in front of me, gently pushing to get me to turn my face into the light. I gave him a smile, but he didn't respond in kind. I sighed.

"Let's get this cleaned up before Heero wakes up and sees it," he said softly.

Trowa had finished with Wufei and followed Quatre into the room. Quatre looked up at him. "I'm going to see if I can get some ice from the nurse. Will you get him washed up?"

Trowa nodded, turning his eyes in my direction while Quatre rose and left the room.

I have trouble dealing with Trowa on his own. I always feel like he can see right through me, like there isn't a bit of the court jester act that he doesn't recognize as hollow. I turned away to check on Heero, making sure he was still asleep before I let Trowa lead me to the little bathroom.

"I assume," he drawled with a tiny smile on his face. "That despite what Quatre thinks, you are perfectly capable of washing your own face?"

It surprised a bark of laughter out of me and I grinned up at him gratefully. "I think I can manage."

"That wasn't a particularly bright thing to do, you know," he commented casually while I ran the water to warm it. "He could have broken your damn jaw."

"I thought he had," I snickered. "In retrospect... I suppose there might have been other ways to get him to own up to his own damn guilt... but you gotta admit it worked faster than anything else I could have come up with."

It was my turn to do the surprising and he chuckled lightly. "And just when did you take the somewhat... twisted psychology course?"

"Life's a psychology course, Trowa," I told him and then leaned down to gently rinse my poor, battered jaw. "Ouch," I muttered and he chuckled again.

"You didn't hurt your arm when you fell, did you?" he questioned, sounding a little embarrassed and I wondered idly if Quatre had put him up to asking.

"Nope," I told him as I finished washing up and dropped it. I really didn't need them to start in on me about what had happened. I grinned up at him. "There; will I pass Quatre's inspection?"

He eyed me critically. "Not bad. That's going to bruise like hell, you know that?"

I glanced in the mirror and sighed, it was already darkening. I should have one hell of a black and blue jaw line by tomorrow.

"What are you going to tell Heero?" he prompted gently.

I flashed him a smile that was meant to be mega-watt but only managed to achieve a low level of... wan. "Why... I got bored just watching him sleep and tilted one of those stupid chairs back on two legs and was killing time rocking back and forth, when the damn thing fell over backward and I bashed my chin on the bedside table. Took me ten minutes to clean up all the water I spilled. Wufei laughed at me every time he looked at me for the next half an hour."

"That's very... inventive," he said, and his eyes looked a little sad.

I tried for the mega-watt grin again and managed to get it turned up to... mildly amused. "It's all in the details, man."

His face did some very odd things then and I had an uncomfortable moment where I thought he was going to try taking me in his arms. I turned away to find a towel and dried my face. When I turned back, he had moved off.

I went back to my chair by Heero's bedside, I didn't want him waking up and finding no one there. Trowa took the other chair and pulled it off to the side. Quatre came back not long after with an ice pack that he insisted that I apply to the side of my face immediately.

"Calm down, Qat," I teased. "I've taken worse shots than that before."

"Not from a friend," he said coldly and I found myself shriveling under his gaze. I hunted desperately for something witty to say... something distracting, but a nurse came in then and managed to get their attention off me for the moment.

"He's asleep?" she chirped brightly with a surprised air. "Well... will miracles never cease?" Then she caught sight of me, a new face, and she grinned even wider. "You wouldn't be Duo by any chance, would you?"

I nodded. "Guilty as charged." And she laughed at my silly little joke. Did a lot for my poor laboring psyche.

"That certainly explains how you got him settled down," she nodded sagely and began checking vital signs and making notes on Heero's chart.

"Huh?" I muttered intelligently and she giggled at me.

"He's been calling for you continually since we got him in here."

I felt like flames should be licking off the tops of my ears, I was flushing so hard. She laughed out loud, shaking her head as she worked. I couldn't even look toward Trowa and Quatre.

"Did his partner go home?" she asked me, and when I nodded, gave me another one of those approving smiles. "Good. The poor thing... he had quite a time."

I ducked my head and found myself gnawing at my lip. "Uhmm... listen... on that subject; there won't be a problem with my staying the night... will there?"

I was more than prepared to get pissy about it. I would throw around all the weight I could muster, even if it meant appealing to Quatre's sympathies and letting him throw around the Winner name. But, it's always best to ask nice first, and save the threats for later. I had no intentions of leaving Heero alone here. They would have to have security come and haul my ass out and even then they'd have to disable me pretty damn good to keep me from just coming back in.

She looked at me for a moment, and maybe she saw some of my stubborn resolve in my eyes. "Under the circumstances... I'm sure something can be arranged. We certainly don't want a repeat of last night, after all."

Hell... I didn't even ask, that time.

"Duo... " Quatre was suddenly in front of me and I resisted the urge to ask Trowa to take his ass home and get him the hell out of me face. "Let one of us stay part of the night, you need to get some rest... "

"I'm going to be sitting on my ass in a chair, Quatre," I told him flatly. "Not running laps. I'll be fine."

His eyes flicked almost involuntarily toward my arm. "You shouldn't... " he began and I was suddenly just too tired to deal with it anymore.

"Shouldn't drink and drive. Shouldn't run with scissors. Shouldn't pet stray dogs. There's a hell of a lot of things that I shouldn't do, Quatre. Being here when Heero needs me, is not one of them."

I saw his back stiffen and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Trowa climbing to his feet. I sighed and turned back toward the bed. Somewhere in there, the nurse had disappeared. "I... I'm sorry, Qat," was the best I could manage.

There were suddenly warm, gentle arms around me and it surprised me so much, a lump the size of Detroit formed in my throat. I found the side of my head resting against his stomach and he whispered softly, "That's ok... if you can't yell at your little brother... who can you yell at?"

I choked on the beginning of a sob and had to hold very still until the tide of misery had ebbed a little. My arms went around his waist despite the fact that I told them not to... maybe it was those damn, subversive little hamsters in my head again. It felt like those days during the war... when he and I had both been so damn lonely we could have curled up and died. We had found that we got along, had found that we had a lot in common and that talking about things with each other had helped us both feel a little less alone. We had started calling each other 'brother' and had meant it, back then, with a depth of feeling only a war can spawn.

"It's all right, Duo," he sighed. "We're here for the both of you."

I took a deep, calming breath, forced my arms to let go and smiled up at him. "Thanks, little brother... but I'm fine."

A lot of things passed through his eyes then, anger... frustration... a little bit of hurt. I didn't have the strength to make it better. All I could do was turn my gaze in Trowa's direction and silently plead with him to take Quatre and go away. I was stretched as thin as I could go.

And, lo and behold, Trowa seemed to get the message.

"Quatre... " he said gently. "I think it's time we went home."

Quatre looked up sharply when his lover's hands came to rest on his shoulders. "You can't be serious!" he snapped.

"Very serious, my bright one," Trowa whispered next to Quatre's ear and I could tell he hadn't intended for me to hear it. I turned my attention toward Heero and tried not to listen to them.

"Trowa! He's in no condition to... " Quatre began but Trowa did something, I don't know what, that made him stop talking. There was that feeling of messages passing in the ether again.

Then Trowa said, "Duo needs some time alone with Heero." It seemed to be as much for my benefit as Quatre's.

I turned back to meet his steady gaze and smiled gratefully. He gave Quatre a nudge toward the door, but then turned back himself to deliver a parting shot. "You won't be doing Heero any favors if you don't take care of yourself as well."

I didn't answer. I think I was long past that. Then they were gone. I heaved a sigh of pure, unadulterated relief, pulled my chair a little closer to the bed and managed to lay my head against Heero's shoulder.

"Well, love," I whispered, "hasn't this week just sucked?"

I sat like that for most of the next couple of hours, getting a cramp in my shoulder and not really caring. I gave more than a passing thought to bawling like a little kid, but was afraid that Heero would wake and find me sniveling, so I crushed the urge under the heel of my boot with absolutely no remorse.

Little rabid thought-hamsters kept bringing me things to think about, but none of it was pleasant and I crushed a couple of those suckers too.

The next time the nurse came to check Heero's vital signs, I didn't even raise my damn head, and she only tsked at me sympathetically, patting my shoulder as she left.

He needed to rest and I was glad he was asleep. But I wanted so badly to talk to him and wished him awake. I didn't want to have to explain my face or my arm, so it was just as well he was asleep. But it frightened me to have him so totally dead to the world that he had slept through Wufei knocking me on my ass, and so I wished him awake... Damn, motherless little thought-hamsters.

I watched the pattern the sun made, spilling through the blinds onto the floor, as it slowly crept toward the foot of the bed. I found myself counting the seconds to estimate how many floor tiles it was moving an hour and made myself quit.

"You damn well better be all right, you asshole," I murmured against Heero's rough hospital gown, just because the damn silence was eating me alive.

"You're awake?" his voice rumbled against my ear and I jerked upright in shock, finding those beautiful blue eyes open and looking at me.

"Heero?" I breathed and wondered how long he'd been lying there awake, thinking that I was sleeping.

"Hello, love," he smiled in return, and for the moment everything was right with the world again.

"You scared the crap out of me," I told him fiercely.

"You too... " he frowned, remembering. I could see that his couple of hours of sleep had eased his grogginess somewhat and knew that he wasn't going to be happy with simple 'I'm ok' reassurances for much longer.

"How are you feeling?" I asked softly and stroked his cheek with the back of my hand.

"Totally humiliated," he grinned, then his eyes clouded. "Are you hurt? What happened? Why did you have to call Emergency services?"

I sighed and tried to deflect the questions back at him. "Heero... what in the hell possessed you to... to spy on me?"

He flushed faintly but got that stubborn look on his face. "I was worried... I wasn't spying. I was just watching out for you."

"I can watch out for myself," I admonished. "You had no business going into a firefight that distracted."

His eyes took on a faintly haunted look and he couldn't meet my gaze for a second. "The timing of that page was rather... off."

I chuckled darkly. "That's one word for it."

But he was back around to thinking about what had started this whole thing again and his eyes came up to sweep over me. He finally registered the awkward angle I was sitting in, designed to keep the left side of my face turned slightly away from him and he reached out.

I sighed and drew back before he could touch the bruised side of my face. Well, he was going to have to see it sooner or later. I turned a little and looked at him dead on, quirking my best self-deprecating grin. "Watch what you're touching there, love."

He gave me the expected, horrified look. "Duo? What happened?"

I ducked my head and tried to look embarrassed and told him the story I'd practiced on Trowa. I would be boiled alive in teriyaki sauce before I would come between Heero and Wufei; he was not going to find out that his partner had decked me. I saw doubt in his eyes and I flushed a little more. "Come on, Heero... stop looking at me like that. I already got the 'stupid' lecture from Trowa." I just hoped Trowa would back me up if it came down to it.

"That does not answer the question of what happened to you on the out trip," he said suddenly and rather took me by surprise, his drugs must have completely worn off... there wasn't a bit of muzziness left in him.

He was going to know. The minute he saw the wound... he would know. I could tell him my terribly amusing air duct grate story and he might even buy it... for now. But sooner or later, he would see that cut and he would know just what it was and more or less how it got there. If I lied to him now, he would just find out later. And though I lied to him in one form or another on a fairly regular basis, he had never really caught me at it in anything major.

"Heero," I ventured. "We're not going to talk about it right now. We will... when you're better. I had some trouble docking, but I am fine now. None of that matters with you here, with two damn bullet holes in you."

"I want to know what happened," he told me, trying to sound intimidating.

I grinned down at him. "You are in no position to get all uppity with me, Heero Yuy. You are going to have some major payback for all that hovering and babying you did when it was me in the hospital bed."

"Damn it, Duo," he growled. "Stop trying to change the subject."

"I'm not trying," I toned the grin down to a warm smile. "I've already changed it. We are not going to get into it right now."

"I need to know... " he began, but I shushed him with a finger to his lips.

"You are confusing your needs and your wants," I told him. "You need to concentrate on getting better. You need to rest. You want to be stubborn and pushy." I lifted my finger and tapped the end of his nose. "Understand this. I am back and I am here to stay. No more trips... no more shipping out. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be here for you."

He subsided, though I thought he was going to rupture something doing it. The nurse came back not long after that, seeming not altogether pleased to find Heero awake already. She checked his vitals and produced a little paper cup with pills in it. Heero refused them. I threatened him. In the end the pills went down his throat and after the nurse was gone I kissed the holy hell out of him to make sure the pills went down his throat. That got me a glare so pathetic that I laughed at him. The sound seemed, oddly enough, to ease something for him and he finally relaxed a little. The nurse came back with his 'dinner' and he and I both raised an eyebrow at the tray of nothing but liquids. She grinned apologetically, "Standard issue for abdominal injuries."

The job of getting that dinner down him was almost as horrendous as getting him off the subject of my latest accident. He is not a very good patient, this lover of mine.

When the nurse came back to clear away the dinner dishes, she seemed a little surprised to find everything gone. She gave me a bright, approving smile and I wondered if it was the first that Heero had eaten since he'd been here. I teased her about the vile properties of lime jell-o until I was fairly certain Heero would get a decent flavor with his next meal. I asked her for the stuff to give him a sponge bath before she left and she fairly beamed at me.

"It's just so nice to have a family member show some initiative in taking care of a patient," she explained when I laughed at the look she gave me. "We're so overworked, it's hard to get to all the things that need to be done."

"Let's just say I know how bad it sucks to be stuck lying in your own stink," I grinned, and she went off to fetch the body wash and a pan for the water.

Heero didn't say anything, but gave me an odd look. I smiled down at him, while I moved the chairs out of the way and put the side rail down. "Maybe I can figure out a way to get your hair washed too."

When the nurse, whose name turned out to be LeAnn, came back, I got a quick lecture on not getting Heero's dressing wet. She showed me where he had a drain tube and admonished me to stay clear of it. It seems he could turn onto his left side but not his right. She hung around to watch me get started, just checking to make sure I wasn't going to soak the bed, I think. Then she grinned and shook her head at us as though we were the cutest things since God invented kittens, and left us alone.

"She's nice," I murmured to Heero as I gently ran the washcloth down his arm.

I got a distracted "Uh-huh" and I chuckled at him.

"Feel good?" I smiled affectionately at him, and he gave me a grateful look.

"How did you know?" he asked ruefully. "Did I smell that bad?"

I chuckled at him. "No. I just remember how bad I hated that... sick body smell. Wherever the hell it comes from; it makes you feel all... itchy, or something."

He nodded his agreement and tilted his head up to help me reach his neck.

"Don't let me hurt," I admonished and he only smiled at me with the oddest, almost melancholy look in his eyes.

When I finished with his front, I took a break to pour the water out and get fresh; it was starting to cool. "If I put the bed down flat, do you think you can roll up on your side so I can get your back?"

He hesitated, flushing slightly. "If you help me."

We took it slow and I ended up doing most of the work. I didn't think he was going to manage to stay over until I thought to tuck a pillow under his knee to take the strain off his hip.

"That's better," he sighed when he was settled.

"You sure you're all right?" I asked once more before starting.

"I'm fine," he assured me, in the ghost of his normal voice.

I washed his back quickly, in case he wasn't able to stay up on his side for very long. But when I was done, he still seemed to be doing all right, so I got the bottle of lotion and began to massage his shoulders and the parts of his back that weren't bound around with gauze. He groaned under my hands and I chuckled at him.

"Oh God, that feels good," he sighed.

"Yeah," I teased. "Being stuck flat on your back for days on end really kills your hips and shoulders, doesn't it?"

He didn't answer, so I got quiet too, just continuing to knead at his muscles until he started showing signs of stress from staying up on his side for so long. Then I helped him lay back down and was appalled to find his face awash with tears.

"Heero? Baby... what's wrong?" I blurted, reaching to catch his hands in mine.

"I didn't know... " he mumbled. "I never thought... all those weeks you were in the hospital, you must have been hurting so bad... "

I couldn't help it; I laughed. He looked up at me with a mixture of shock and anger on his face, but didn't seem to quite know what to say to me. I raised the head of the bed back up where it had been and pulled his blanket around him, so he wouldn't chill. Then I crawled carefully up on the side of the bed and took him in my arms, pulling his head in to pillow against my shoulder.

"It's all right, love," I soothed, absolutely in a state of disbelief; I could not recollect ever seeing Heero cry before. "It's the drugs... they do it to me too. It's a side effect of the anesthesia... it just makes everything seem so overwhelming."

He just seemed to cry all the harder, sobbing as he started to struggle against it.

I stroked my knuckles over his hair, nuzzling the top of his head with my cheek. "Don't fight it... just let it go... you're going to hurt yourself... just let it out, I'm here."

"Duo... oh God, Duo. I love you so much," he wept, his voice getting thick and unwieldy. "Why can't it be enough? I don't know what to do... "

"Hush, my love," I breathed against the top of his head, and I felt the presence of that slavering beast, guilt. "It's more than enough. More than I ever dared to dream. I'm here to stay... I'm not going anywhere."

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