Glide in Green
You know, there was
a day when I got a bit of a kick out of being known as the guy who did
the explosives. I mean, I like blowing shit up as much as the next guy,
and everybody should have something they excel at. During the war, I was
the go-to man when it came to having the stuff, knowing what to do with
the stuff, and being very, very good at using the stuff.
But you know something about this peace-time thing? It puts a whole new
spin on demolitions as a hobby. Once upon a time, leveling a building
was kind of... well, to be blunt, it was kind of the point. I've brought
down hangers, dorms, fueling stations, supply stations, satellite outposts,
and on one notable occasion, an off-shore drilling rig. Talk about a flash-bang;
what a rush that had been.
But now it's all about not letting shit get blown up. Now, it's 'Duo,
can you tell what this is?' and 'Duo, can you disarm this?' and 'Duo,
come take this apart.'
Stinking pain in the ass. Explosives are a hell of a lot more fun from
an over-look half a mile away with a detonator in your hand, than they
are when the bomb in question is sitting six inches from your nuts, you've
got a screw-driver in your teeth and all the guys standing way behind
you are expecting you to 'fix it'.
I suppose there's a rush, but it's entirely not the same; I like my nuts
where they are, thank you very much.
So in the middle of an operation that was suppose to be a simple search
and seizure, the last thing I wanted to hear my partner say was, 'Duo...
come look at this.'
Especially not after already figuring out the seizure part was something
of a bust and we were already thinking 'set up'.
'Tell me you found a body, Wufei,' I growled, dutifully crossing the garage
we were in to see what there was to see.
'Afraid not,' he told me from where he was hunkered down next to the van
we had expected to find contraband weapons in, but instead had held only
an odd load of aluminum pipe. Somebody trying to make something look like
it wasn't, if you ask me.
'Then tell me you found the Hope diamond, or maybe... shit,' I muttered
as I came around the van and saw what there was to see.
'Ok,' my partner agreed amiably. 'It's a pile of shit.'
I snorted, squatting beside him and noted that we were making our other
team members nervous. 'Well, ain't this a lovely little surprise?'
'And you know how I hate surprises,' Wufei grumbled. 'Bomb squad?'
'Oh, most definitely,' I agreed, and wondered that he had even bothered
to ask for a second opinion; the thing could not have been more obviously
a bomb if Wile E. Coyote had walked in to deliver it.
Wufei rose and strode a few paces away. 'Shepherd, go outside and put
a call in for the bomb squad. Bradley, Norton, make a visual sweep of
the rest of the building. Make sure we don't have anything else in here
with us. Maintain radio silence inside the building until we know what
kind of trigger mechanism we're dealing with.'
He got a couple of those weird-ass, 'Sir! Yes, sir!' responses that sound
so damn corny to me, but you can't deny that Chang Wufei has a presence
that strikes fear into the hearts of Preventer agents everywhere.
Meanwhile, I was poking carefully around our little package, making sure
it wasn't connected in any way to anything else. There didn't seem to
be any sort of trigger mechanism involving the van, and I decided it was
sitting under there simply as cover. I wasn't real keen on that idea for
some reason and risked sliding the thing out where I could see it better.
'Maxwell!' Wufei snapped. 'What the fuck are you doing? I said look at
'Chill, Chang,' I told him distractedly. 'I am looking.'
And the more I looked, the more not happy I became. I leaned down and
sniffed lightly, running a critical eye over the casing in front of me.
'Nasty fucker, whoever he is,' I muttered to myself. It looked classic
at a first glance, right down to the spiffy little timer that Wufei hadn't
seen yet. But the bells and whistles were hiding a much more complex arrangement.
No way in hell could I disarm the thing with nothing more than the Swiss
army knife in my pocket.
Wufei and I are fairly well in tune with each other, after all the years
of working together, and he sensed that I was not a happy boy scout. 'Duo...
what is it? Should we evacuate?'
I snorted. 'Doubt it would do us any good,' I told him as I rose and began
looking around for something that might help me, my mind already mapping
and racing and kicking the adrenaline glands in the ass.
'What the fuck do you mean, Maxwell?' he growled at me, and I could feel
Bradley and Norton staring at me in dawning comprehension.
'I mean that unless you've been severely beating world records on the
track and haven't told me, you ain't outrunning this.'
Shepherd chose that moment to walk back in to report, 'Bomb squad says
ten minutes, sir.'
I laughed mirthlessly. 'Tell them not to bother then. The bomb won't be
Wufei was trying to work out if he should be staring at me or staring
at the bomb, when I found what I was looking for and he decided staring
at me was the more interesting option.
'Perfect!' I crowed, as I ripped the tarp off a nice piece of restoration
in the form of a Harley Electra Glide. I wondered that the owner had left
it behind even as I was checking that there was gas in the tank. Someone
muttered something extremely uncomplimentary until I took a length of
pipe to the tour-pak on the back. I suspect somebody thought I was getting
ready to bug out on my own and leave the team to fend for themselves.
'God damn it, Duo!' Wufei was yelling at me. 'What in the fuck are you
'Getting ready to take our baby here for a ride,' I informed him calmly,
removing the hinges of the pak with a final swing of pipe.
'Are you even more insane than I thought you were?' he snapped, though
I noticed he wasn't getting in my way.
'Probably,' I replied. 'Though I really thought more highly of your imaginative
skills.' Everybody took an involuntary step back as I bent to pick up
the bomb. I chuckled darkly. 'We're talking city block here, guys... a
couple of feet ain't gonna do you any good.'
'Duo, the bomb squad...' Wufei began, his voice losing that edge of anger,
and starting to get a little nervous.
'We got less than seven on the timer, Fei,' I told him, settling the bomb
in the carrier, jerking my belt off to wrap around the case and anchor
'Jesus!' somebody yelped, but I couldn't tell if it was Norton or Shepherd.
'Duo,' Wufei said, his tone turning into that reasonable one he gets when
he thinks I'm being stupid. Last time I'd heard it was right before I'd
climbed onto the roof of our moving car in order to jump onto the truck
we'd been chasing. He'd been right on that one, but that was beside the
point. 'The shock from driving with it...'
'It's stable. PETNX based if I don't miss the smell,' I informed him.
'It's all in the detonator. Gotta go, buddy.'
'But where?' he demanded as I climbed on the bike. 'We're in the middle
'Bay,' I told him, and kicked the bike over. I couldn't help a grin as
it roared to life on the first try. Sweet. Shame to ditch it in the damn
ocean, but what the hell? Somebody, somewhere was going to be pissed.
I gave Wufei one last look and he tapped his headphone in question; I
nodded sharply to let him know it was ok to use the intercom. I took one
last glance at the timer, fixed the count-down in my head and then I took
off like a bat out of hell.
Why me, you ask? How come there wasn't a big, dramatic scene where we
argued over who'd do the down and dirty? Cause Wufei had a girlfriend,
Norton was raising a kid alone, and both Bradley and Shepherd had little
women they went home to at the end of the day. Me? I had a cat. He'd learn
'Hey Chang,' I said into the mic when I was out on the street and seeing
just how sweet a machine an Electra Glide was. 'I willed you my cat.'
'Damn it, Maxwell,' he snapped at me. 'Slow the hell down or you're not
going to make it out of the neighborhood, much less all the way to the
'Tell that to the clock,' I snorted, taking the bike up on the side-walk
to shave a couple seconds off a corner. 'We're looking at...' I drug the
word out until the time in my head ticked over to match. 'Five on the
'I hate cats,' he snarled at me, and I could tell from the sound of his
voice that he was on the move. Probably following me; the guys wouldn't
want to miss the big bang. I reflected as I dodged traffic through an
intersection, that it was really too bad we hadn't had time for them to
use the lights and sirens to run interference for me. I heard them in
the distance, but they'd never catch up.
Or if they did... it would be a very bad thing.
I pulled a city map up in my head and took a chance on an alley, just
to lose some traffic. Most people tend to give ground to a loon doing
eighty on the stretches, but not everybody immediately registers something
that out of the ordinary. I spared a hand to flip on the lights and the
four-way flashers, and had a momentary urge to raise my voice in imitation
of a siren the way you hear little kids do. I must have made an odd amused
sound, because Wufei's voice in my ear was slightly freaked.
'Duo, have you lost it?' he snapped, the sound of his own siren coming
through with his voice.
'Only my mind,' I grinned and just missed a pedestrian by a few feet as
I shot out of the alley and had to down-shift to make the turn onto the
My internal clock supplied me with a four and I kicked the speed back
up, plotting my course and trying to balance my desire for unpopulated
with my need for direct. The sudden appearance of a van pulling into traffic
necessitated a sudden switch to the wrong side of the street and horns
began to blow. 'Shit!' I hollered, without really meaning to, but I kind
of like to make noise when I think I'm about to go splat, because it covers
up the unpleasant sounds of that breaking bone thing. That noise seriously
creeps me out.
'Duo?!' Wufei called, voice all frantic and it gave me a chill I hadn't
had before. Kind of wish he'd kept his fear to himself... I didn't really
have the time for it.
I had to leave the road again, this time having to take the curb in mid-block
and without the benefit of one of those handy little handicap ramp things;
I almost spread myself all over the side-walk. I managed not to separate
the lady standing there from the dog she was walking, speeding by so fast
I couldn't even hear the curses she was flinging at me.
Or maybe that was Wufei. 'I'm ok,' I managed, taking the bike back into
the street at the next corner and swerving madly to get back where I belonged,
which wasn't much better, but some.
I had a moment to wonder what in the hell the average Joe Citizen was
seeing as I whizzed by wearing my spiffy green Preventer jumpsuit, braid
flying, and maniacal, rictus grin of terror plastered on my face. I had
the mad urge to wave, and knew in that moment I was probably going to
'Fei, you there?' I asked, somehow finding a moment to actually think.
'Where in the fuck...' he began, but then wrestled that down. 'Yes, Duo...
It took me a minute to get a break to speak again, concentration going
to finding a non-existent lane between two semi-trucks. I actually hit
my elbow on a fender and it was the wobble from that that sent my voice
up in pitch a notch. Only that. 'Listen... this is stupid, but don't just
dump my cat, ok? At least find a good home for him. I know he's scruffy,
'I wouldn't dump your God damn cat, Maxwell,' Wufei snapped and the mic
was suddenly making his voice tinny. I hoped I wasn't going to lose him,
I wasn't overly fond of the idea of finished this run alone. 'Where are
I waited until I'd finished the cut through a gas station parking lot
and was back on the street before telling him, 'On Hyneman, just crossing
'What's your time?' he asked, voice getting terse as he shut the fear
'Three on my mark,' I said, rounding a truck and strangling a curse as
I dodged a kid on a bicycle, and then, 'Mark!'
There was a moment or two of silence on his end, before he came back and
told me, 'You're going to make it, Duo. You're six blocks out... you can
do that in three minutes.'
'Easy for you,' I growled and lost his reply in the blast of the air horn
of a truck that took exception to my cutting in front of him. Not that
it mattered, I didn't hang around to trade insults with him.
'...mother-fucking defeatist!' was all I caught of Wufei's remark, but
figured I had the gist of it.
I'm not really sure what it is about me that makes me argue shit like
that with Wufei, but I can't seem to help it. It's like I just have to
take the opposite side when it comes to the guy, even when I'm arguing
against my own survival. 'And how do you propose I'm supposed to get off
this thing, moron! I gotta have the momentum to get this fucker out into
the damn bay!'
'You can ditch...' he tried, but I think we were both imagining what I
was going to look like after jumping off a motorcycle doing eighty/ninety
miles an hour, with no protective gear.
We were both quiet for about half a block, me because I was paying more
attention to a guy in a Jaguar that thought I wanted to race, Wufei because
I think he'd run out of things to say.
But the son of a bitch had gotten me to thinking, as much as I was able,
and I suddenly blurted, 'Fei... listen, can you do something for me?'
'What?!' he asked me and I lost his voice for a moment as he seemed to
sputter in exasperation. I think my tone freaked him out. 'You want me
to stop and get you a damn burger, or what?'
I resisted the urge to laugh, because I was rapidly running out of time.
'No. A message... ok?' My head told me two minutes and I absently added,
'Mark,' knowing he'd get it.
'Duo, listen, I...' he was saying as I had to take another trip up on
the sidewalk. The bike skidded and I had to stick my leg out to keep her
up, jamming my knee, but managing to keep us on track. My snarl of pain
cut him off as effectively as anything.
'Damn!' I hollered, venting the fear. 'No time, Chang. Listen to me...
no damn big deal; I just want you to tell Heero something, ok?'
'Damn it, Maxwell...' he growled and I wished the guy could get over his
stupid aversion to any sort of emotional display; it would make communicating
with him a hell of a lot easier.
'Please man,' I begged, thinking about cats and broken bones and all the
other regrets a person has in life. 'Just tell him...'
I was nearing the dock area, and the traffic was thinning, but I was sharing
the road almost exclusively with things that were way bigger than I was.
Bigger and not at all impressed with giving ground to little old me. There
was suddenly a truck backing into the street and I totally lost the thread
of thought as I shot across three lanes and fought to keep the bike from
going down. Horns blared and I cursed enough to blister the paint on the
'Maxwell?' Wufei was screaming at me, and there were too many things vying
for my attention.
The clock in my head hit one, my knee was screaming at me as I had to
push off again, I was finally at the docks and needed to kick up the speed,
Wufei was yelling something in Chinese, and before I knew it I'd screamed,
'Tell him I loved him, ok you asshole? Just fucking tell Heero that I
That Chinese cursing escalated to a whole new level and I reached up and
ripped the mic away, not wanting Wufei to have to hear my last minute...
just in case I wimped out and screamed or something. I'd hit a straight,
flat stretch and pushed the bike for all she was worth, aiming myself
squarely at what I could see of open water.
I'm really not suicidal, you know. I wasn't just being stubborn or arguing
for the sake of argument. I really did not see any good way out of the
mess I was in. The tiger by the tail and that whole thing. Had I left
the bomb where it was, a good couple of hundred people would have died
when it went off. Not the least of which would have been my team and my
And once the tiger had been grabbed by the uh... tail, what was I to do
but see things through to the end? Not like I could have stopped at some
point and walked away; I'd have still never made it. There were enough
explosives in the package sitting five inches behind my ass, to blow up
your average sized city block. With all the attendant fall-out and debris.
Again, I'd have never made it. Nor would anyone else in the area.
Ditching bomb, bike and Duo in the damn ocean seemed to me to be the best
choice for all involved. Some things just have to be left to play out
once set in motion. That had been the plan from the moment I'd realized
just what Wufei had found under that van.
That plan had not taken into consideration what I found at the edge of
the wharf. Boxes. Lots of them. Of the empty, piled up, cardboard variety.
Not as good as a pile of a couple thousand foam mattresses, but... a hope.
A hope that I had seconds to make a decision about. At the last possible
moment, I altered the angle of my run and, as Wufei had suggested, bailed
My clock was counting the final seconds as I tumbled toward the dubious
cushion of cardboard and the bike sailed on without me, arcing gracefully
out over open water.
They say your life passes before your eyes when you're about to die, but
all I got was a vague irritation that I'd forgotten to tell Wufei that
my cat would puke for days if you gave him any milk.
And then it was impact and explosion and there was pain as I hit and bounced
and bounced again, and I did end up screaming, but it was only to cover
that sound that creeps me out so bad. I think I blacked out for a moment,
but came right back when the fountain of water hit me. But I was still
doing the landing thing and wasn't done bouncing. I was gone again on
the fourth one.
If there was any doubt; cardboard is not all that damn soft.
When I next opened my eyes, I decided it couldn't have been all that damn
long, because the fish lying six inches in front of my face was still
gasping his last. I felt his pain; I felt like I was gasping mine too.
Movement seemed... like a less than stellar idea. I couldn't really figure
out what was wrong with me, because there wasn't a part that didn't hurt.
A lot. And I was soaked with stinking sea water and couldn't even begin
to figure out if I was bleeding or not. Probably. I really didn't see
how I couldn't be.
Then I heard voices and decided to whine pathetically. It took several
minutes before somebody decided I wasn't just a stray cat hacking up a
hair ball and came to investigate.
'Fuck!' a voice yelled and I was almost giddily relieved; I'd started
to have visions of them tossing a wreath on the water and leaving without
every finding me. I'd lay here and die with the fishes. 'It's Maxwell!
Get Chang! I found Maxwell!'
There was the sound of running feet and a lot of yelling, and in the distance
I could hear more sirens. I hoped one of them was an ambulance... I was
pretty sure I needed one.
And then Wufei was there beside me and I knew I must look pretty bad,
because the first thing he said was something that sounded suspiciously
like a prayer. Or maybe it was just more cursing in Mandarin, because
then he said, 'You son of a bitch! You ditched your damn mic! You let
me think you went off the stinking wharf!'
'Last minute decision,' I managed with a lot of wheezing and panting.
I think I'd identified the presence of some broken ribs.
'Shut up, idiot,' he told me, voice managing worried and pissed off a
the same time. 'The ambulance is coming.' He reached out and delicately
picked up the fish in front of me, tossing it away.
'Don't give the cat milk,' I told him, having to rectify that over-sight,
but that made me think about the other regrets and I frowned at him. 'That
other thing? That was between you and me... right? Forget it.'
I expected him to scold me again, and tell me to stop trying to talk.
I expected him to get angry with me for not listening to him. I did not
expect him to drop down on his butt beside me with a sudden harsh groan.
'Duo... there's something I have to tell you.'
I blinked at him, wishing I could raise my head enough to see him better,
he was kinda fuzzy around the edges; it made it hard to read his expression.
'What?' I asked, confused. 'I wasn't dead long enough...'
Wufei growled at me. 'You are not dead, damn it! But...' his irritation
faded as quickly as it came. 'I thought... I thought we were listening
to your last minutes, damn it...'
'We?' I asked, suddenly feeling cold all over and not sure if it was the
water, the bleeding, or the shock.
'I had you on open mic, Duo,' he blurted and his hand went up to cover
his eyes while he waited for my reaction. It took me a couple of seconds
to work it around and come up with one.
'I'm going to fucking kill you,' I told him, a promise for a better day.
The asshole had the audacity to smile at me. 'Then I guess you're going
to have to live.'
'Count on it,' I snarled and was going to tell him, in great detail, what
my intentions were, but ended up blacking out again instead. Not that
he needed me to elaborate... he's a bright boy.
Waking up in the hospital, while not my idea of a good time, was actually
kind of a relief. My assurances to Wufei aside, I hadn't been a hundred
percent on that one. I've been on the receiving end of a bed pan more
than my share of times, but that had been the first time I'd been hurt
bad enough that I hadn't even been able to figure out where the boo-boos
were on my own.
It ended up reading like a laundry list from Gray's Anatomy. Broken ribs,
broken clavicle, broken arm, broken leg (two places!) and a concussion
from bouncing my head off the box padded pavement four or five times.
Not to even mention the liberal road rash up one side and down the other.
They tell me we'll talk about the knee surgery after the rest of it heals.
Oh boy... I can hardly wait.
Wufei, being my partner, got to come in to see me as soon as I woke up.
He told me there was a medal on my desk at work along with somebody's
idea of a joke in the form of a speeding ticket. What he wouldn't tell
me was how bad the rumor mill was grinding. Pissed me the hell off...
I don't like not knowing what's going on to start with, and under the
circumstances, if Heero was going to kill me, I figured he might as well
get it over with and save me the long stay in the hospital. But Wufei
was taking full advantage of my total inability to move, and refusing
to 'get into it right now'. Asshole. I entertained myself in the wee hours
by thinking up ways to get even with him.
When I wasn't lying awake wondering if things had gotten back around to
Heero yet. Because... I knew they would. People joke about women gossiping,
but they ain't got nothin' on any sort of office situation. Rumors spread
through the Preventers' building faster than a good case of the flu.
I finally got my answer the day they moved me out of ICU and into a regular
room. About two and a half minutes after. The nurse was still fussing
with my pillows and double checking that the angle of the bed was to my
When Heero came storming into the room, I thought the poor girl was going
to wet herself. She kind of squeaked and made this aborted little move,
like she was going to duck behind me, then caught herself and tried to
look firm. 'Mr. Maxwell, should I call security?' she asked me, not taking
her eyes off Heero and I had to resist the urge to tell her 'Hell, yeah!'.
'It's ok,' I assured her and she wasted no time getting out of the room.
Probably left the damn floor all together.
Ever seen one of those bull fights on TV? The way the bull just sort of
stands there with his head down, like he's sizing things up and he's about
to tap dance on the head of the guy in tights? Yeah. Heero kinda looked
like that. I cleared my throat, trying to decide between pretending I
didn't know what he was probably upset about, and pretending I was so
doped up I didn't know who he was.
Heero took the decision out of my hands in his typical straight for the
jugular fashion. 'So just when the fuck were you planning on telling me?'
'It uh...' I stammered, caught off guard, 'wasn't exactly in the plans.'
'So what the hell was that?' he growled. 'Some kind of sick, death-bed
'Well, not bed exactly,' I told him. 'Kind of a death-cycle. Death-ride?
You know how those things are... spur of the moment?' I heard the faint
panic in my own tone and shut up.
'What are you saying?' he asked, taking a couple of steps closer to the
bed, so that he was kind of looming over me. 'You didn't mean it?'
Well, that just kind of pissed me off, to be honest, though I was surprised
to find the ability still within me. Maybe it was the morphine. 'You don't
spout shit you don't mean when you think you're about to die, idiot.'
'So you love me?' he pressed, his face utterly unreadable.
'Yeah, damn it,' I snapped. 'I do.'
He surprised me by not decking me, but when he raised a hand up to scrub
over his face, I had a moment of not being sure, and I hoped he didn't
see me flinch. 'And... you didn't think that was something I should know?'
'Fuck, Heero,' I grumbled. 'Half the Preventer organization has a crush
on you. What makes me any damn different?'
He blinked at me with this really strange, almost horrified look on his
face and said, 'What are you...' but then cut himself off with a shake
of his head, and that hand was back rubbing at his face.
It dawned on me in there somewhere that he rather looked like shit. Kind
of haggard. Unshaven, and sort of tousled more than normal. Dark circles
under his eyes, and once I started looking, his uniform looked suspiciously
like it had been in service for a couple of days. I blinked at him. 'Hey
man... are you ok?'
He made this noise then, from behind his hand. Kind of a laugh, but kind
of a choking sound too. I couldn't catalog it, and he shut it down really
quick; taking a breath and then taking another. 'Yeah. No. Hell... I don't
He was kind of freakin' me out. I just laid there and stared at him, sort
of relieved, really, that I wasn't physically capable of doing anything
else. That way I didn't have to decide what that else should be.
He dropped his hand away from his face and the expression he showed me
was really damn weird. I probably looked like the doctor has just walked
in and told me we were starting physical therapy right that minute. 'Did
it never occur to you that I might... that maybe I felt something for
you in return?'
Actually, it never had. Not once. So that's what I said, 'Uh... no.'
He laughed then, not anything huge, just this kind of helpless snicker.
'You're such an idiot,' he told me, and I frowned, thinking about that.
'Hey, asshole!' I grumbled. 'Don't climb my shit for keeping my mouth
shut. You basically just confessed to doing the same damn thing!'
He opened his mouth to argue, but then closed it again, giving me a tiny
little smile. Even had the decency to blush a bit. I was one up on him
there; if I was blushing, you couldn't tell from all the road rash. Then
he suddenly snorted. 'God; you had to confess right before doing something
that's going to keep me from touching you for months!'
I grinned and raised my somewhat undamaged left hand. 'This isn't too
bad,' I informed him and he didn't hesitate to wrap his fingers around
mine. His grip was surprisingly gentle.
Also surprising was the warm way that simple touch made me feel. I grinned
up at him like a loon. 'You know... I know my lip is split, but it doesn't
really hurt...' It was meant to just be a statement, but it came out sounding
kind of... coy, which made me wince. At least I refrained from waggling
He laughed anyway, shaking his head and smiling at me in a way that was
kind of scary in its intensity. 'It doesn't, huh?' he asked, and hesitated
only slightly more than he had when he'd taken my hand.
It wasn't anything deep and passionate, I couldn't have managed that,
and I'm sure I would have tasted like shit anyway. It was just a gentle,
cautious thing; apologies on both sides and forgiveness. Maybe a bit of
Heero's eyes stayed closed for a moment when he pulled away, and I felt
him shiver on a hard sigh. 'God... just promise me you won't do something
that fucking stupid again.'
The realization that I'd scared him, came with a funny little tingle in
my chest and I couldn't help but laugh. 'Damn... I guess this means Wufei's
gonna have to start drawing straws with me for the fun stuff.'
He blinked at me, looking confused for a second and then that smile was
back, so maybe he figured it out. But then he kissed me again, and it
didn't really matter if he got the joke or not. But he sure as hell gave
me something else to think about in the wee hours besides revenge.
[back to Sunhawk's fic]