It was his turn to snort softly.
‘There’s just no accounting for taste. I don’t like his attitude toward
you. He never hesitates to use you whenever he needs a babysitter or…’
‘Heero,’ I admonished softly and he quieted with a sigh, it was an old
argument. ‘Besides,’ I grinned, ‘he did so hesitate,’ and I told
him about the list of rules.
He laughed out loud then and I had to smirk. ‘I got him though; I gave
her the bear tonight.’
‘What did she think?’ he asked, and I was pleased that his thoughts were
on Carrie, and not Justin.
‘She loved it,’ I chuckled wryly. ‘She named it ‘Dirt’.’
That got me another hard laugh. ‘Children certainly know how to put things
in perspective, don’t they?’
There was a small, companionable silence and then, ‘Duo… I love you.’
I smiled up at the ceiling and scratched Bernie behind the ear. ‘I love
‘Even if I’m an asshole?’
‘Maybe because you are such an asshole,’ I teased lightly.
‘I wish I was there,’ he said softly then.
‘Hey,’ I told him, ‘you’re the one who left me, remember?’
The next silence was strained.
‘Heero?’ I ventured into it. ‘Come on, Heero; I was teasing. I got over
‘I didn’t,’ he told me gently. ‘I feel awful. I don’t even really know
why I didn’t tell you.’
‘Because,’ I informed him with a sigh, ‘you can’t stand to upset me or
make me sad. And your going away always makes me sad.’
‘That…’ Did you know you could hear someone blush? ‘That pretty much covers
it, I guess. Sounds pretty stupid when you put it that way.’
‘It sounds sweet,’ I smiled. ‘Damned annoying; but sweet all the same.’
‘I want you in my arms,’ he breathed softly, and I shivered; I could hear
his need clear across the miles.
I closed my eyes. ‘I’m there, my love.’ We just sat for a bit and listened
to nothing, just having that open line between us.
‘Hey, the roses were… a nice touch. Thank you,’ I told him and he made
a small grunt that sounded pleased. There was more comfortable silence.
‘Where are you sleeping?’ he asked after a while.
‘On the couch,’ I said dryly. ‘I can’t stand the idea of sleeping in their
bed; it’s just… weird.’
He chuckled. ‘Stay warm,’ he told me in a voice designed to raise the
‘No problem there,’ I purred. ‘I have Bernie.’
It took him almost two heartbeats. I thought I would choke to death.
‘The dog,’ he said when it finally clicked in his head.
‘Who did you think I meant?’ I asked innocently.
‘You are evil, Duo Maxwell.’ I could hear the grin.
‘Good night, love,’ I said gently.
‘Good night, my heart.’
And we hung up. Shit. I had missed the weather. So I sat up another hour
only to find out it was probably going to rain.
I lay down on the couch to sleep and decided pretty quick that Bernie
was going to be more of a liability than an asset. Warm he might have
been, but he also drooled, he was getting damned heavy, and frankly… his
I woke the next morning feeling like I’d been beaten with a stick and
decided that tonight Bernie was sleeping in the garage. On a strange whim,
I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Heero’s voice mail.
‘Get your damned assignment finished and get your butt home. As a bed
partner, Bernie sucks.’ And I hung up.
I am not foolish enough to wake a sleeping child, especially on a Saturday,
and managed a couple of peaceful hours before Carrie came wandering out
yawning and dragging Dirt behind her.
Her eyes widened in remembrance when she saw me, ‘Unca Duo!’ and I was
treated to another running tackle as though she hadn’t seen me in days.
We had cereal for breakfast and watched cartoons for an hour or so. I
could not believe that coyote still after all these years hadn’t
caught that stupid roadrunner. Go figure. I’d always had him pegged as
the brighter of the two. I guess it just goes to show that dumb luck can
take you a long way. I’d always had a certain affinity for the coyote.
But I really think he should have just sued Acme and bought himself
a good meal.
I aborted the trip to the zoo, because it was threatening rain, and we
went to the museum instead. Hey, I’m not a complete waste as a Godfather;
I occasionally do educational things too. We had a blast in the dinosaur
exhibit, I got the pre-requisite picture taken of us in the mouth of the
T-Rex, we got down in the sand pit and dug for fossils, I bought us ice
cream. Then we wandered into the aerospace section and I thought somebody
had punched me in the stomach.
As you round the curved wall that separates the dinosaur exhibit from
the space section, you are greeted with a full size, floor to ceiling,
artists rendering of Wing Gundam self-destructing. The artist had done
a damned impressive job. I almost threw up. I stood and blinked up at
it, turned to stone in the middle of the aisle; an obstacle in the flow
It took Carrie tugging on my hand to bring me back to the here and now.
‘Unca Duo, come on!’ A happy, four-year-old, not all that interested
in looking at murals when more interesting things beckoned from further
I let her drag we away, but had to find a bench after a couple of minutes
because I thought my knees were going to give out.
A tiny bit of advice for you; don’t ever let one of the darkest moments
of your life turn into a piece of history.
There was a mock up, cut-away model of a Leo in the middle of the room
and I let Carrie go crawl around in it with the other kids while I tried
to put my heart back in my chest. I couldn’t believe how the years had
just melted away and hauled my ass back to the war. I looked around at
the rest of the exhibit, and decided pretty quickly that we were going
to have to leave there and get on to the botanical gardens. Soon.
But first, there was something I had to do. I felt extremely embarrassed
about it, but I didn’t bloody well care. I pulled out my cell phone and
dialed Heero’s number. I knew he was probably in the middle of something,
but I also knew he would never ignore my call.
‘Hello?’ I heard his voice, tinged faintly with concern and I felt the
iron band around my chest loosen and I was able to breathe again.
‘Busy?’ I asked softly, and I knew my voice was a little unsteady. My
eyes never left Carrie as she clambered around inside a replica of a death
machine that had tried to kill me a hundred times over.
“Never,’ he said and I could hear him moving. I knew he was probably leaving
a meeting or something and I felt vaguely bad about it.
After a few moments, his voice came again. ‘What’s wrong?’
I sighed. ‘Nothing really,’ I reassured him, and a slightly hysterical
bubble of a laugh tried to force its way passed my lips. ‘Just needed
to know what year it was.’
‘Duo?’ he questioned, his tone telling me I was scaring him.
I took a deep calming breath. ‘I’m sorry love… I’ll tell you all about
it when you come home. I just… I had to hear your voice. That’s all.’
I could tell he was still concerned and I really did start to feel guilty
for bothering him. Now that the shock of it was fading, I was starting
to feel kind of stupid. Carrie chose that moment to run over.
‘Unca Duo! Who ya talkin’ to?’ she squealed. ‘Is it Mommy?’
‘No sweetie, it’s Uncle Heero,’ I told her. ‘Just a minute…’
‘Can I talk?’ She was reaching for the phone, bouncing up and down and
I sighed heavily.
‘Not right now…’ I started to tell her, but Heero interrupted me.
‘It’s all right,’ I could hear the smile. ‘I have a minute.’
So I handed the phone to her and took that minute he was giving me to
get myself back together. I was only half hearing what she was babbling
‘I gots a new bear and his name is Dirt and we had pizza and we dug in
the sand and found old bones and I gots strawberry ice c’eam and I got
to climb on this big ‘bot called a lee-oh and…’
Kids don’t understand punctuation at all. She talked a blue streak; Wufei
liked to say that it was pretty obvious that she was my Goddaughter.
I was just thinking that I should probably take the phone away from her
and rescue Heero when she got quiet and began nodding intently, then said,
‘ok. Bye,’ and handed the phone back to me right before she threw her
arms around my neck and hugged me tight enough to make the air hiss out
of my lungs.
‘That’s from Unca Heero,’ she told me solemnly and then ran back to play
on the Lee-oh.
I raised the phone to my ear, and he must have heard me.
‘I’m here,’ I told him.
‘I love you,’ his voice was that soothing one that he uses when the nightmares
‘I know,’ I told him around the lump in my throat. ‘I love you too.’
‘You going to be all right?’
I chuckled lightly. ‘Yeah… it’s a freaking museum, Heero. I’m fine. I
just needed to… hear your voice.’
‘Museum?’ he questioned, but I knew he needed to go.
‘Later, my love,’ I told him gently. ‘Get back to work.’
‘I’ll call you tonight.’
‘Damn straight,’ I growled, and he chuckled lightly for me. We hung up.
Being a part of history… sucks.
It took the lure of another dish of ice cream to get Carrie out of that
room full of ghosts and bad dreams. It took a half an hour of wandering
around in the gardens watching Carrie chase butterflies before I could
shake off that damned mental image. I took a bunch of pictures, managing
to catch a large yellow butterfly sitting in her hair and then we went
to the gift shop. I let her pick whatever she wanted, and was a little
surprised when she came to the cash register lugging a stuffed black panther
that rivaled Bernie in size.
‘Like on my blanky, Unca Duo,’ she proclaimed, and of course that touched
my heart so much that she got the three picture books, the six beanbag
tree frogs, and the coloring book she wanted as well. I couldn’t break
up a family of tree frogs, now could I? I bought her a jacket too, because
it was getting cold out and we hadn’t needed them that morning when we
left the house.
I let her pick where we ate dinner, and ended up eating burgers and fries
at this place with a guy wandering around the dining room in a giant blue
bird suit. I’ve eaten worse; just not in a lot of years.
We stopped by the disc rental place and she picked out three movies and
I bought one of those big bags of popcorn for later. It was starting to
rain by the time we got back to the house.
Bernie was ecstatic to see us, thundering around us in circles, wagging
his whole butt and barking in pure, puppy joy. When he calmed down enough,
I put some of the popcorn out in a bowl, grabbed a soda for myself and
a juice for Carrie, and the three of us settled on the couch to watch
three hours of cartoon bliss.
I was exhausted. Gods, where do kids get their energy? My legs ached all
the way up to the back of my neck. We were half way through the Charlie
Brown Christmas special, don’t ask me; I didn’t pick it, when I noticed
that Bernie was acting funny. His tail was tucked and he was kind of whiney,
and wouldn’t get off my lap no matter what I did. We had just started
Fraggle Rock when I heard the distant sound of sirens.
‘What’s that?’ Carrie wanted to know, and I had to pretend a certain nonchalance
as I turned off the disc and switched on the news.
‘I’m not sure munchkin, let’s see if there’s something about it on TV.’
We had just enough time to hear the tornado warning before the power went
‘Unca Duo?’ Her voice was high-pitched and frightened.
‘It’s ok, Sweetie,’ I lied. ‘It’s just a power failure, I’ll get a flashlight.’
I had to get her to hold on to Bernie, because he wanted to follow me,
and I was having enough trouble navigating the unfamiliar surroundings
in the dark. There was a surreal, flashback kind of moment as I moved
through the house with my arms sweeping my path, before I found a flashlight
in the kitchen and flicked it on.
My mouth was babbling on to her about the grand adventure we were going
to have, even as my hands were gathering things we might need. My brain
had kicked into that ancient ‘soldier going to ground’ mode. I was a little
shocked at how easy it came back. Necessities: water, food, warmth, shelter,
light, weapons… Oooops; wrong reality.
I got the dog leash, a couple of bottles of water out of the fridge, and
a handful of granola bars out of the cupboard.
I sent Carrie on a mission to get her jacket because it might be cold
on our ‘quest’. She came back clutching Dirt and her quilt as well.
I made sure I had my cell phone and my own jacket, clipped Bernie’s leash
on him and took us down to the basement.
It was the typical cluttered basement; boxes and tools and dirty clothes,
the laundry room was down there. I looked around for the best place to
take shelter, all too aware of the sound of the rising wind, and the sound
of Bernie’s whimpers.
There was an old cast iron sink in the corner, Misty had told me it had
been left in the house when they moved in five years ago. It was a large,
deep, double sided thing, still there only because nobody cared enough
to break their back trying to get it hauled up the stairs. It was completely
‘Here, honey,’ I told Carrie, who was looking at my wide-eyed. Wondering,
I imagined, when the adventure was supposed to start. ‘Hold the flashlight
while I… look for the first portal.’
She giggled. ‘But Unca Duo, the bear has to find the first pothole,’
she corrected me, but held the flashlight in the right general direction.
I pulled the sink out from the wall, and wrestled it over on its side;
I used my hands to brush it free of dust and cobwebs, and beckoned Carrie
‘Look, Princess!’ I exclaimed. ‘A secret cave!’
She giggled and ran over, Bernie at her heels. ‘That’s a sink!’ she exclaimed.
‘Work with me here a little, will ya Princess?’ I laughed, and took her
quilt from her to fold and wrap around her like a cloak. ‘There; now you
look like a Princess.’
She beamed. ‘Unca Duo, you’re silly!’ She giggled some more.
I took the flashlight back, and shined it into the ‘cave’.
‘In you go my brave, adventurous Princess!’ I urged her in, trying to
keep my voice calm even as my heart was starting to pound. The wind was
Finally, she consented to get down and crawl into the secret cave.
‘It’s not a very big cave,’ she observed after she got settled.
‘It’s gonna get smaller,’ I muttered, and gave Bernie a shove toward the
shelter. He needed no urging, liking the looks of the little hidey-hole
and crawling in with her. ‘The Princess has to have her brave and loyal
guard dog!’ I smiled and then crouched down in front of the opening. I
shoved the water and food in the other ‘cave’ and grabbed hold of the
edge of the sink; turning the flashlight off and tucking in my jacket
‘Ok,’ I tried very hard to keep my voice light, but I had to raise it
a little to be heard. ‘The Princess is going to stay in the cave with
her brave guard dog no matter what, ok?’
It was starting to get through to her that this wasn’t a game any more,
and she nodded hard. ‘Unca Duo?’
‘I want my Mommy and Daddy.’ It came out sounding really scared.
‘I know, sweetie. I want Uncle Heero.’ I had to force it to come out not
That was about all we had time for. Bernie started to howl, and Carrie
clutched Dirt to her face as hard as she could, and I just did my best
to shelter the entrance to the secret cave like any good Guardian Spirit
would do. It sounded like a freight train was headed right for us.
Hang on Toto; we’re not in Kansas anymore.
I hadn’t slept well; I never do when I’m away from Duo. I woke long before
the alarm went off and just lay in the dark staring up at the ceiling
thinking about what a total idiot I could be.
I will never understand how it is that he makes me do the things he makes
me do. Not that I am saying for a minute that I thought the argument was
his fault. I just would never have done what I had done to anybody else.
I had known about this trip for a week, and had just kept putting off
telling him about it. It’s not that he gives me a hard time about them,
but he always gets this look on his face…I can’t take that look on his
face. He tries not to show it, and I don’t suppose anybody else would
see the shadow in his eyes that tells me how miserable it makes him. He
hates to be apart from me as much as I hate to be apart from him. Gods;
you’d think after all these years together we’d get over that. I think
it’s something that has roots in those days of assignments ripping us
apart, sometimes for months at a time. Living in constant fear, wondering
where the other one was. Wondering what their missions were. Wondering
when we’d manage to see each other again. Wondering if we’d manage
to see each other again. It’s just something that gets into your bones
and never really goes away.
I finally said the hell with it and just went ahead and got up, showered
and got dressed. I sat and watched the early morning news until I thought
that Wufei would be up and called his room to see if he wanted to get
breakfast. I really didn’t feel like being alone.
I left the door unlocked for him and after he was dressed and ready, he
came across the hall. We sat and finished watching the news together.
We were several hundred miles from home and though the day here seemed
to be clear, it looked like Duo and Carrie were in for some heavy rain
before the day was out.
[cont] [back to Sunhawk's