Author: Sunhawk
Duo POV, language, actiony sap?

AN: This goes out with a thank you dedication for all the people who indulged my LJ Bake Sale experiment. ^____^ So thanks go out tobloodywingz, colorfulshadows, darthliterate, dulziandee, merula31, ravensilver, and writerz_bloc. This one's for you, guys... though dubious be the honor! :D

Decompression

They say your life passes before your eyes when you're facing down death and pretty sure you're going to lose, but I have to say, that didn't happen. It was more like a litany of every swear word I'd ever learned. In alphabetical order.

And then there was a tiny moment of guilt over what Sister Helen used to call my 'not nice' vocabulary.

But really, I guess with Heero knocking on my hatch with only about three minutes left on his clock, I really didn't have time to think about much of anything.

'Damn it, Maxwell! Let me aboard!' he shouted over the comm, even as I hesitated over the controls, trying to think of some other way to do what had to be done, and it kind of made me get over my guilt.

'What the fucking hell did you do, you asshole?!' I shouted back, though I suppose it was pretty much a rhetorical question. I'd seen the flash, heard his own cursing, seen him blast away from his damaged trawler on the jet stream from his freaking air tank... I knew what he'd done.

'Duo!' he yelled, and it was the thread of panic that kind of made me resign myself, I guess, and I started taking breaths like I was getting ready to run a hundred yard dash for the gold.

'I'm gonna kill you, Yuy,' I snapped in between pants, hands snugging up straps and harness in preparation for the joy that was about to come.

There was nothing from my partner, and I could almost feel his total confusion, watching his clock tick down and wondering what the hell my problem was.

Course... he didn't know I wasn't exactly suited up to regulation.

Or... you know... at all.

Fucking idiot. One of us, anyway. Or both.

I didn't have the time to stop and question that it never crossed my mind not to open the hatch for him.

I wasted ten seconds sketchily crossing myself, then grabbed the controls, took one last deep breath and told him, 'Ninety seconds, Heero! You got ninety seconds... I'm in your hands buddy!'

And then I pushed the button. I only got to hear the first part of his scream of denial as he got it, and then I couldn't hear anything at all.

Ninety seconds. It's what the books say. I hoped to God they were right; never personally tested the theory. It was a damn hard thing to resist the urge to hold my breath.

Explosive decompression is kinda pretty. I remember thinking that as the air fogged away in a swirl of mist that made the bright stars shimmer and twinkle for a second.

It's damn cold too. And maybe the scariest thing I'd done this side of pushing a self-destruct button. Heero appeared in the hatch as soon as the fog cleared, and I saw the stars seem to steady around him. Kind of made a halo, or maybe that was just the edges of my vision starting to go.

It crossed my mind that I was sorry I couldn't see Heero's face.

I wondered if he was cussing at me.

I distinctly remember smiling at him, but I can't recall if I was just being an asshole or not.

Then my sight dimmed a bit more, and the last thing I remember was the feeling of the water boiling on my tongue.

+

I've lost consciousness a time or two in my day, but I have to say that waking up after that little incident was probably one of the most disorienting. I just couldn't seem to get my head together. I was cold and felt... stiff? I don't know; things felt weird. Swollen, maybe? Yeah, kind of like the swelling you get when something is infected. Only I was feeling that in odd places all over. I couldn't really seem to think about anything else for a moment; just a puzzled few minutes of trying to remember why I felt so very strange. My mouth was dry, and I had a flash of almost remembering a peculiar feeling, but couldn't quite make it come clear.

And I was cold. Did I mention I was cold? But there was something over me that was warm and oddly comforting, but I couldn't quite seem to get my head around what it was.

I blame that utter floundering for not speaking up right away when I heard the arguing. At first, I just couldn't make sense of it. And then I couldn't seem to focus enough to decide if it was something I should do anything about.

'...the hell down, Yuy!' someone said, rather loudly, actually, and I wondered who it was.

'I didn't know!' another voice said but I couldn't figure that one out either. It was an upset voice, and hearing it made me feel funny. 'God; I didn't know! I could have killed him!'

'Do I damn well need to sedate you, you idiot?' that first voice snapped, and it was a kind of pissy snap. I decided I was curious who it was and rolled my head to find the speakers. 'He's going to be fine!'

'You don't know that!' the upset voice shouted, and I found it... him, and I knew him. 'You can't know that until he wakes up! I don't know how long it took! There could be... could be...'

Heero, I realized. That was Heero, and I felt better but couldn't think why I should.

'If you hadn't made it, he wouldn't be lying there,' the pissy one said. The pissy one was a lady and I knew it was Sally. That meant something, but... it escaped me. 'he'd be in the damn morgue. Now stop your ranting. He checks out; he should be fine.'

Somebody... somebody got hurt, I realized and I wondered who.

'Then why the fuck won't he come around?' Heero yelled, getting in her face, or as close as he could manage since he was still shorter than her and it looked funny with him fuming and pointing his finger up at her. I would have laughed, but my mouth still felt kind of funny and I realized my tongue was one of those body parts that felt swollen.

It came to me then that I was the party on the injured list.

Then Sally said, her voice changing to less than pissy. 'I think he just did.'

Heero forgot all about jabbing his finger at her and whirled toward me. Toward the bed I seemed to be in. 'Duo?' he asked and all of his bluster was gone. They both came toward me and I tracked their movements, not sure which one of them to watch.

Heero moved around the bed, staying out of Sally's way and when he found a place on my left to stand, his hands grabbed the rail of the bed and his knuckles were white.

'Maxwell,' Sally said gently, 'look at me, please.'

I turned back her way, and she shone her pen light in my eyes, her expression very serious, but somehow calm. 'Can you tell me your name?' she asked and I thought it was kind of stupid since they'd already supplied it to me, and even if I hadn't known it, they would have given it away. As a trick question, it left a lot to be desired. I nodded at her since my mouth still felt so odd.

She frowned a little and tried again, 'Do you know where you are?'

I blinked and thought about it and decided that considering the present company, I was probably in the infirmary. And considering my last memories, I was most likely aboard the 'Moon Shadow', so I nodded again.

There was a noise beside me and I rolled my head Heero's way again. The bed rail looked in danger of bending, and he looked in danger of... something else. 'Oh God...' he moaned, lowering his head as though he couldn't look at me.

'Duo,' Sally prompted, forcing my attention back her way. 'Can you speak to me, please?' A look of concern had found its way past that calm and I realized they thought I couldn't. Speak, that is.

'Hurts,' I croaked and kind of blinked at the weird sound of my own voice. It felt like I had marbles in my mouth. Sally instantly brightened, and Heero's head snapped up, his expression this painfully hopeful one.

'Here,' she said and held a drink bulb to my lips, only letting me sip at it. It made me very aware of how thirsty I was, and I would have reached for the bulb, but I didn't want to pull my arm out from under the blanket. Yes... that's what that comforting thing was; a heated blanket.

But then she took the water away and folded the blanket back anyway. I made a sound of unhappiness and for a moment I thought the two of them were going to argue over it. Heero has a rather impressive glare, but Sally can trump him when she wants to, because she has the weight of her position behind it. Really doesn't do to piss off the lady that can put things like 'psychopath' in your permanent record.

She lifted my hands up into the cold air, ignoring Heero, and smiled slightly. 'The swelling is already going down,' she told us and I couldn't help staring at my fat fingers and wondering just how bad they had been swollen, if this was improved. I flexed them experimentally and grimaced at the tightness.

I was just as glad when the blanket got pulled back into place because it was really cold. I looked from one of them to the other, trying to trace things backward and failing utterly. 'What... the hell happened?' I finally managed, feeling like a three year old just learning to talk in sentences.

Heero's face did something really odd. I would have called the look guilt-stricken, but that didn't really make sense.

'What do you remember?' Sally asked gently.

I really had to think about it. 'Breakfast,' I said slowly, having that solidly in my mind and then trying to work forward from there. I distinctly remembered eating breakfast though; remembered Heero sharing the last muffin with me because I'd been running late and the only things left on the buffet had been cook's God-awful half done eggs and some sausage that had looked... questionable.

Then we'd walked down to ops and checked in with Howard. There had been something... something odd. No; something uncomfortable. Howard's second, a guy nick-named Hoss for his horsey face, though he thought it was for his size, had been teasing Heero. Yeah, Hoss had been ribbing Heero about having me for a partner and somehow managing to give the word 'partner' all kinds of under-tones. I'd wanted to kick the guy; Heero really wasn't all that used to the kind of crude teasing that went on amongst the Sweepers and the guy had made him blush. I'd never seen Heero blush before and it had bothered me. I'd wanted to have a chance to talk to him about how Hoss could be, but hadn't been able to because... because...

We were there to check in with Howard before going out ship. We'd been getting ready to suit up and...

'Duo?' Sally prompted gently and I blinked at her, mind starting to feel like it was coming un-frozen.

'Hoss can be an ass,' I blurted and it was her turn to blink. 'Out... we were going out...'

'That's right,' she soothed. 'You and Heero are here as part of the forensics team dispatched by Preventers to work with...'

'The Sweepers,' I finished, the pieces clicking into place. 'The Adam's case. We were going out to retrieve the core...'

We'd gone down to the bay to mount up, both of us piloting a Scorpio retrieval unit. I'd stopped to pull Hoss aside to warn him to lay off Heero. We'd argued for a few minutes and then Howard had yelled at me to board because they'd started the launch count already.

And...

And I hadn't taken the time to suit up.

'Son of a bitch,' I muttered. 'You wrecked the fucking Scorpio.'

'That's right!' Sally crowed, delighted with my returning cognitive skills. Heero gave her a look that was somewhat scathing.

There had been a booby-trap or something. I wasn't sure; I'd been working my own sector and there had been a sudden flash, and Heero's voice swearing over my comm. unit. I remember thinking my heart had stopped.

I glanced at him, and other than that death-grip he had on the bed-rail, he looked fine. 'You ok?' I asked him anyway and he nodded, his eyes dropping away from mine again.

'Then what the fuck were you thinking?' I blurted. 'A little warning would have been nice!'

His gaze snapped back up and his eyes narrowed, defenses kicking in. 'How the hell was I supposed to know you'd do such a stupid newbie thing like launching without your damn flight suit?'

He had a point, but damned if I'd admit to that, and it wasn't my point anyway. 'Your God damn seat of the pants planning is the issue here, Yuy...'

Sally cut into my tirade with a chuckle. 'Well, you seem to be recovering fine, Maxwell. The swelling will go down before long, and the chills won't last. I think I'll leave you two alone to work out which one of you was the bigger asshole.'

I frowned at her, just to let her know I wasn't amused by her amusement, but she just walked out, giving us a jaunty little wave as she went.

It served to interrupt the flow of the argument though, and we both just kind of petered out. Neither of us quite seemed to know what to stare at. After a couple of minutes of silence, I finally dared at glance at Heero and he was just staring after Sally like he was expecting her to come back or something.

'You sure you're ok?' I asked again, mostly just to have something to say that maybe wouldn't get us yelling at each other again.

He snorted and scrubbed a hand over his face, finally looking back to meet my gaze. He really looked rattled. I realized he was still in his flight suit and I wondered just how long I'd been out. 'I am fine,' he sighed, looking like he wanted to say something else completely.

'For the record,' I grinned, 'you look like shit.'

It surprised a little choke of a laugh from him and he shook his head, looking away again. 'You scared the fucking hell out of me.'

'You took a few years off my life too, asshole,' I replied and realized suddenly that my tongue didn't feel so damn thick anymore. I pulled a hand out of the warmth long enough to glance at it before burrowing back under the blanket. The swelling wasn't completely gone, but even I could tell it was going down.

Heero reached out almost automatically and tucked the blanket back in place, but he didn't speak.

I sighed, starting to feel a little frustrated. 'What the hell happened, anyway?' I finally asked.

He frowned and I could tell before he told me, that he wasn't sure. 'I don't know. I was scanning my section when something just exploded. I hadn't even started the retrieval. I think it was the scan that set it off. It blew off my claw and breached the hull.'

I shivered, thinking about what would have happened if I'd been in that section myself. Skipping the flight suit really had been an asshole newbie move. Dr. G would have whacked me in the back of the head with that damn clip-board of his for it. Twice. 'But why the fuck didn't you wait for me to come and get you, Heero? What the hell were you thinking?'

He looked flustered, and I was rather shocked to see him blushing again. Damn; twice in one day? Had the world ended? He muttered something, but wouldn't look at me again and I couldn't catch it.

'Did you panic, buddy?' I asked, and his face just got redder.

'I didn't fucking panic,' he snapped, glaring again, and I think it was just whatever was embarrassing him.

'Then what the hell made you pull a stunt like that?' I had to ask, just totally not getting that part. He'd been relatively safe where he was, if he'd just waited for me.

'Three minutes should have been more than enough time...' he growled, the blush leaving him, but some weird irritation taking its place.

'That's not the damn point!' I felt compelled to tell him, and he suddenly seemed to have had enough of the argument. He threw his hands in the air with an inarticulate sound and stormed toward the door.

'God damn it, Yuy, I'm not done talking to you!' I yelled after him, and when it didn't even slow him down, I threw the blanket back and made to go after him.

Can I be forgiven for thinking for two damn seconds that the ship had come under attack and was lurching under my feet? Then I realized it was me doing the lurching. Or staggering. Or some damn thing that probably looked stupid as hell. If Sally had still been there, I'm sure she would have laughed.

But then Heero was there and he had an arm around my waist, and I clutched at him with both hands, pressing my forehead against his solid shoulder and trying to make the world stop rotating.

'Idiot,' he murmured, and the thick emotion in his voice just screwed with my balance in a whole different way. There was a strange moment, and then his other arm came around me too, in this slow slide like he was trying not to. But the arm won out and damn... he was holding me in a way that wasn't about support. Not at all.

If the room hadn't been tilting around so damn much, I'd have pulled back to look at him, but my half of the muffin was threatening to schedule a return engagement and all I could do was clutch at his suit with my eyes squeezed shut.

It took him a couple of long minutes to get around to helping me back to bed, and I was barely settled before he was gone. Out the door in a rush, leaving me with a strange headache, and an even stranger tingling feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with muffins.

Sally came back not long after, checked me over again, laughed some more and told me to get some rest. I decided that might not be such a bad idea considering, and ended up taking a three hour nap.

When I woke again, I couldn't feel any sign of the swelling, and when I ventured gingerly out of bed, was pleased to find that the deck was quite stable under my feet. The only really obvious sign of the whole escapade I had left, was a rather burning thirst, so I took myself off to the head. Sally came in when she heard me turn on the faucet, and found me sucking water out of my cupped hands.

'You could have asked,' she chuckled and I straightened when I caught her leaning to the side to get a better look at the back of my hospital gown.

'Stop that,' I groused and she laughed harder.

'I helped put your ass in that gown, Maxwell,' she grinned at me. 'Not like you have anything I haven't seen already.'

'There's a difference between duty and... ogling, so knock it off, Po,' I grumped, pulling at the gown to make sure all the pertinent parts were under cover. 'Now where are my clothes?'

'You'll have to make do with a set of scrubs,' she informed me, stepping aside so I could exit the bathroom, and I caught her watching my gait to make sure I was steady. 'I'm afraid we cut your clothes off you when Heero hauled you back in.'

I glanced where she indicted, and saw she'd laid a pair of surgical scrubs on the foot of the bed I'd been occupying. 'So I'm free to go?' I asked and she patted my shoulder.

'Just take it easy for a day or so, ok?' she asked, sounding like she thought I'd be doing anything but. 'I don't think Yuy's heart could take the strain if something else were to happen to you right now.'

There was a decidedly wicked gleam in her eye, but she turned and left the room so I could change, before I managed to think of a retort.

I really don't think pastel mint green is my color, but it beat the hell out of wandering around the ship with my ass hanging out of my paisley hospital gown, and as it turned out... there was quite a bit of wandering to be done before I found my misplaced partner.

There's an observation deck down on nine that, in our current position, looks out over the debris field, and I suppose I should have thought of looking there first, but didn't. Tried his cabin, tried mine, tried the hanger bay, tried the cantina. By the time I stumbled on him, I was getting pretty tired and not a little bit cranky. Was he freaking hiding from me? Like he could just avoid me forever?

He was sitting up on the port rim, silhouetted against the stars, the edge of L4-34 just visible on the left, the chunks of the Adam's ship drifting on the right. I wondered if his damaged Scorpio was still out there, or if it had been towed in yet.

I walked over without ceremony and flopped down on the floor below him, sighing and leaning back against the wall. The room was empty accept for the two of us, and I imagined that not a lot of people would have braved the look on Heero's face to disturb his privacy. I was fiddling with opening lines when he beat me to it.

'When that charge went off right in my face, you know what the first thing was that popped into my mind?' he asked, voice sounding oddly quiet for as pissed off as he'd been earlier.

'Oh shit?' I guessed, but I didn't get the laugh. In fact, he acted like he'd not even heard me.

'I thought I was about to die, and I remember thinking... I never got to know what it felt like to have Duo Maxwell's legs wrapped around me.'

A comment like that, just for the record, is really hard to come up with a response to. Your synapses just sort of stop firing for a second and about all you're left with is a slow blush and a really strange feeling in the pit of your stomach. Still didn't have a thing to do with muffins.

I thanked God I hadn't sat down where we could see each other's faces.

'Probably pretty damn stupid,' he observed, still sounding like we were talking about the weather or the latest Preventers' employee handbook update. 'Especially considering I'd never really thought about anything like that before. It was just suddenly there... in my head. Should have been thinking about the situation. About procedures. But all I could think about was... you.'

I chuckled softly, looking out across the room and wondered if he was still looking out the port or not. 'I should have been mad as hell,' I told him. 'But I was just scared for you.' I leaned my head back against the wall and closed my eyes and that final image came back to me suddenly, of Heero's form coming toward me. The stars crystal shards all around him, sparking and flaring in the fog of decompression.

'When I realized what you risked...' he said, voice very soft, but carrying a weight of emotion in it. 'When I realized what you'd done...' There was a shuddering sigh, but he couldn't seem to finish it. I felt a movement and cracked an eye open to find his hand dangling down, hanging limp beside me.

'I know,' I told him and reached up to take his hand in mine, sliding my fingers between his. He squeezed tight and we just sat in silence for a bit.

There was a gentle tug on my hand and I tilted my head back to look up at him. He was leaning a bit, looking down at me, and I've never seen such a raw expression on his face. 'I can't begin to tell you what it felt like to realize in the same five minutes that you're in love with your partner... and you might have just killed him.'

'It didn't happen though,' I told him and smiled gently.

'I know,' he sighed, and straightened to look out the port again. I brought my own gaze back down to the far wall.

'I knew when I realized it never crossed my mind not to open that hatch,' I felt compelled to tell him after we'd been quiet for a time, and the answer he made was a funny little gulp for air, like he couldn't breathe. The tug on my hand that time wasn't so gentle and I let it draw me to my feet and into his arms.

'I...' he tried, but his voice wasn't real strong and it petered out on another of those gasps after air.

'I know,' I whispered against his hair, and we just sat there on that edge, in the glow of station light, for a very long time.

(end)

[back to Sunhawk's fic]