Guardian Spirits (cont)

‘We need to get going if we’re going to have time to eat,’ Wufei observed. ‘We have a meeting at eight.’

I grunted and switched off the television, grabbing my jacket as we started for the door.

‘So,’ Wufei smirked at me, ‘did you and Maxwell make up last night?’

I glowered at him. ‘Yes, thank you very much for your concern.’

‘Did the roses help?’ He couldn’t help letting his smirk widen.

‘Yes,’ I had to admit, though grudgingly. ‘Thanks for the idea.’

He chuckled lightly. ‘Well, you were obviously the one who owed the apology, because it was a completely brainless thing to do.’

I just glared at him as we stepped into the elevator. He chuckled a little more as he hit the button for the lobby. In my pocket, my cell phone vibrated to tell me I had voice mail. I frowned and pulled it out; it hadn’t rung, so I hadn’t missed a call. I punched up the message and heard the warm, teasing tones of my lover.

‘Get your damned assignment finished and get your butt home. As a bed partner, Bernie sucks.’

Beside me, Wufei couldn’t contain a horrified gasp; my partner has exceptional hearing. I laughed out loud, I’m not sure if at Duo’s message, or Wufei’s reaction.

‘Bernie is Misty’s dog,’ I informed my shocked companion. ‘Duo is babysitting Carrie this weekend.’

I entertained myself for the next couple of floors watching his face change color.

Breakfast was an awkward thing for a little bit, until Wufei got over his consternation. Then we settled down to going over reports and comparing notes. The local law enforcement offices had reason to believe that there was a serious weapons dealer working out of their jurisdiction, and had called the Preventers in when they figured out that the type of weapons were entirely out of their league. We were scheduled for a sit down meeting with them in a half an hour, despite its being a Saturday. We had split the pile of documentation last night, each of us taking half of it to read over in our rooms. We shared the information over fresh fruit and toast.

It looked like it was going to be a fairly cut and dried affair. The evidence was quite clear, the locals had done an amazing amount of digging prior to calling us in, and it was just a matter now of making the arrangements for a full scale Preventer’s raid. They really only needed us for the high-tech muscle and the armament. I personally held out hope that this was not going to take the two weeks we had originally allowed.

This stage of things, however, was nothing but meetings and talking, and by lunchtime I was entirely sick of it. I was just about ready to take a couple of handguns and Wufei and go route the nest of warmongers out by ourselves, then I could go home to Duo where I could get a decent night’s sleep.

Once, I had been forced by circumstances to go off on a week long, middle of nowhere, stake out while Duo was injured. This was back at the end of the war when missions were still missions, and the needs and wants of young soldiers mattered not one whit. After several nights of almost no sleep at all, Wufei had desperately suggested that we try sleeping in the same bed. Equally desperate, I had agreed, and actually did sleep a little better. I’m pretty sure, however that Chang Wufei slept not two minutes after I rolled over in my sleep and threw an arm around him. He didn’t offer a second night.

‘What are you smirking at, Yuy?’ he frowned at me over lunch, catching me wool gathering.

‘Just… memories,’ I informed him with a smile, not elaborating.

‘I don’t think I want to know,’ he said, and I smirked again, thinking no, you do not.

We finished our lunch just in time to rush back to a meeting with the Chief of Police and the departments’ legal advisors. Twenty minutes into the meeting, my cell phone rang and I glanced at it, seeing Duo’s number. I passed Wufei a glance to tell him to take over the conversation, muttered an apology and answered my phone. I never ignore Duo’s calls. It’s a personal rule of mine. He could call me in the middle of a firefight and I would answer the damn phone.

‘Hello?’ I couldn’t quite keep the apprehension out of my voice. Duo didn’t call me at the drop of a hat in the middle of the day like this unless it was important. He knew I would most likely be working.

I heard a shaky breath. ‘Busy?’ There was a strange quaver in his voice and I could hear the sound of laughing children in the background.

I made pointed eye contact with Wufei and rose to leave the room. ‘Never,’ I told him firmly and didn’t speak again until I had gotten out to the hallway. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked softly.

‘Nothing really,’ he said, but that strange quality to his voice told me different. There was a brief silence and an aborted laugh that sounded strained. ‘Just needed to know what year it was.’

He didn’t sound good. ‘Duo?’ I questioned, growing truly concerned.

I heard him take a steadying 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 wasn’t at all sure what to say to him, I couldn’t for the life of me think what might be wrong. Then there was the muted chatter of Carrie’s happy voice in the background. I could hear her trying to get the phone away from Duo, and I could hear his weary voice trying to calm her.

‘It’s all right,’ I told him warmly, ‘I have a minute.’

She was talking almost before she got the phone close enough to her mouth for it to pick up. ‘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…’

This, I decided could go on all day. ‘Carrie, can you do something for me?’ I finally caught her attention.

‘Uh-huh,’ she confirmed.

‘Will you give Uncle Duo a big, hard hug and tell him it’s from… Uncle Heero?’

‘Ok. Bye,’ she told me with firm resolve and I snorted; mission accepted.

There was a long moment of silence and then I heard… something that let me know Duo was on the other end of that open line again.

‘Duo?’ I asked gently.

‘I’m here,’ he told me, sounding a little better.

‘I love you,’ I told him, trying to put as much behind it as I could on a stupid cell phone.

‘I know,’ he said, voice sounding thick. ‘I love you too.’

‘You going to be all right?’

He chuckled lightly. ‘Yeah… it’s a freaking museum, Heero. I’m fine. I just needed to… hear your voice.’ There was that strange wobble again.

‘Museum?’ I asked, trying to figure how a trip to the museum could have triggered this kind of anxiety.

‘Later, my love,’ he told him gently. ‘Get back to work.’

‘I’ll call you tonight,’ I tried again to reassure. Tried to give him whatever it was he had called needing.

‘Damn straight,’ he growled, trying to cover up that something was bothering him still. There wasn’t much I could do from here, and I chuckled softly for him, letting him think that I was fooled. We hung up.

I went back to the meeting, not able to keep the frown from my face, and Wufei caught my eye at the first opportunity. I just shook my head with a look that told him, later.

We finished the meeting by mid-afternoon, and decided to take a ‘scenic’ drive past the warehouse under suspicion.

Wufei pounced as soon as we were alone in the car together.

‘Anything wrong?’ Trying to sound casual and not really succeeding. In his own way, he worries about things almost as much as I do.

‘I’m not really sure,’ I sighed, picking up on the thread of our non-verbal conversation from earlier, even though it had been an hour since Duo’s call. ‘I think Duo took Carrie to the museum and something… seems to have upset him.’

There was a sudden, tense silence and I glanced at Wufei’s profile; saw the muscles of his jaw working hard.

‘What?’ I questioned, knowing without a doubt that he knew something.

‘You two don’t ever go down to the museum, do you?’ he queried, and not for the first time in our long relationship I wanted to throttle him.

‘Spit it out, Wufei,’ I growled and he grimaced.

‘There is a fairly new space and the colonies exhibit.’ He hesitated. ‘There’s a rather… shocking mural of…Wing.’

‘My Gundam?’ A strange chill ran up my spine. ‘Shocking how?’

‘An artist’s interpretation of the time you self-destructed.’ He chose the wrong moment to get blunt, and I almost rear-ended a car at a red light.

‘Shit,’ I blurted, the whole thing falling into place. I suddenly knew what a lee-oh was.

‘How did he sound?’ Wufei wanted to know.

‘Pretty shaken up,’ I murmured. ‘I thought at first… from the sound of his voice, that there’d been some kind of accident.’

‘It is rather… arresting,’ he told me, looking out the passenger window. ‘And I wasn’t… alone.’

There wasn’t a whole lot I could say to that, and we drove on in silence. I’m not sure what he was thinking about, I was just cursing this damned mission and wishing I could get home.

We did a quick drive-by on the warehouse, I like to see a target first hand whenever possible, and by the time we were through there, it was getting late. We went to find someplace to eat and it was almost five before we got back to the hotel. We went our separate ways, I heard Wufei turning on his television even as I was going into my room. I only took the time to remove my jacket and tie before reaching for my phone. I was a little irritated at the sudden harsh knock on my door, even more so when Wufei burst in, wordlessly going to turn on my TV. I started to snap at him; I really just wanted a little privacy to talk to Duo. But the stricken look on his face stopped me cold. In my ear, I could hear Duo’s cell phone beginning to ring.

Wufei ruthlessly thumbed through the channels, pulling up a newscast that was showing aerial pictures of a tornado-devastated neighborhood. In my right ear, I was listening to the familiar voice of our local newscaster from back home, his report picked up by the national stations, giving times and areas. In my left ear, I was hearing the sound of un-answered ringing.

I did not recognize either Misty’s house, or her neighborhood in the pictures in front of us. There wasn’t enough left for anything to look familiar. My knees sagged and I sat down heavily on the bed. Duo’s cell phone apologized and asked if I would like to leave a message.

+


I don’t know if it was the pain, the ringing of the cell phone, or Carrie’s broken sobs that finally pulled me back to consciousness. I blinked my eyes open and had to bite down hard on an outcry. Bloody hell; having a house fall on your ass really hurts.

I tried to get my head together, and take stock of things. I was almost totally pinned to the ground. I was buried in… house from about mid-chest on down. Though my arms were free, moving my left one was causing an unbearable pain in my chest and back. Breathing was hard. I tried to shift and almost blacked out again. Couldn’t do that; couldn’t leave Carrie here alone.

‘Munchkin?’ I called softly because my voice didn’t work too well without any air behind it.

‘Unca Duo?’ I could hear the stark terror in her voice, but by the Gods she had stayed where I had put her.

‘It’s ok, sweetie,’ I told her, and tried to see my watch in the gloom to judge how long I had been out. I was able to stick my arm out toward her. ‘Can you push the button and tell me what the numbers are?’ I asked, and she seemed a little relieved to have something to do. Or maybe she was just relieved to have me talking again.

She dutifully pressed the light button, and her crying subsided a little as she bent to read me the numbers. It was just after five. I hadn’t been out more than five or six minutes. I took my arm back and let it rest on the floor.

‘That’s good, honey.’ I was left gasping from that small exertion, and I had to wonder just how badly I was hurt. ‘Are you ok?’

Uh-huh,’ she confirmed and sniffled a little bit. ‘I want my Daddy.’

‘I know,’ I reassured her. ‘It’s gonna be all right. Uncle Heero will come and get us.’

‘And my Daddy too?’ she wanted to know.

‘And your Daddy too,’ I agreed. ‘Is Bernie ok?’

She actually giggled, tears subsiding now that she had someone with her again. ‘He’s not a very good guard dog, Unca Duo. He hided behind me.’

I tried to chuckle for her, but I didn’t have the breath for it. ‘I guess I’m not a very good Guardian Spirit either,’ I said.

There was a hesitation and then she said, ‘Unca Duo?’

‘What?’

She leaned down and whispered low, as though it were a great secret, ‘I’m not a real Princess.’

I grinned, ‘I think you make a pretty good Princess. Why don’t you think you’re a Princess?’

‘Cause I’m scared.’

I managed to get my right arm shifted over enough to pat her ankle. ‘Bernie and I are a little scared too.’ I grinned, thinking about it, ‘Besides… that makes you better than just your average, everyday Princess. That makes you a smart Princess.’

‘Smart Princess?’ That puzzled her.

‘Yeah; you’ve got enough sense to be scared when a house falls on you.’

She giggled again, and it was really something of a relief.

‘And you were a smart enough Princess to stay in the cave just like I told you to.’

She leaned down and looked at me. ‘You’re a good Spirit too, Unca Duo,’ she told me firmly. ‘You found the cave.’

‘Too bad I couldn’t have found the stupid portal,’ I muttered.

‘Silly Unca Duo,’ she jeered at me. ‘All three of the spirits have to find the next pothole.’

I tried to laugh; were my stories that predictable? Nah. Couldn’t be. My Goddaughter was just exceptionally bright was all.

Somewhere in that effort to laugh, I finally figured out that something was rammed right through my torso; back to front. Pinning me to the floor like a bug on display. I tried really hard not to think about it. Yeah. Sure.

‘Tell me the next part of the story, Unca Duo?’ she asked.

Why not; I sure as hell wasn’t going anywhere. In my pocket, well beyond my reach, my cell phone started to ring again. I made a small effort to get at it, but the pain I caused almost made me forget where I was and I had to just lay there and listen to it ring until the voice mail kicked in and it stopped.

‘So,’ I began, ‘the great bear spirit and the great hawk spirit met up with the great and beautiful wolf spirit and set out on their quest for the third portal…’

+

We left everything at the hotel. We ran out of that room without taking the time to grab anything. I let Wufei drive to the shuttle port only so my hands were free to use the cell phone. I only got the voice mail again. I took two seconds to leave a message this time, just in case.

‘Duo, Gods damn it to hell; call me.’

Wufei was weaving us in and out of traffic, pushing the speed limit, but still pushing my patience. Faster! I wanted to yell at him.

‘He’s all right, Heero,’ Wufei ground out through gritted teeth, eyes never leaving the road. ‘He’s got that little girl to take care of.’

As though that would magically keep Duo safe as well. Fear was making me temperamental and I turned to glare at him, but his face looked like mine felt. He was damned near as scared as I was. That was just his way; always the reassuring word. As though just saying it would make it so.

I grunted. And tried the cell phone again.

‘Time it, Yuy,’ he warned me. ‘Don’t run the battery down, we may need it.’

I didn’t know whether to growl or laugh at him. How quickly we fell back on old habits; preserve supplies; guard the equipment. Being prepared meant staying alive.

We stormed the shuttle port. We started out trying to bully our way aboard a shuttle, but soon discovered that the weather had everything headed toward home grounded. I ruthlessly used our Preventer’s IDs and every intimidating expression in my arsenal and managed, finally, to commandeer a private jet. We couldn’t manage to convince the pilot to go with the plane though, and I ended up flying it myself. At lift off, I calculated we were still two hours out.

Once airborne, Wufei pulled out his own cell phone and made the call I hadn’t thought to.

‘Trowa?’ his voice was tight and clipped; there was a pause as Trowa said something. ‘Heero’s with me, we’re fine. Duo needs us. We can’t find him; he was staying with Carrie for the weekend.’ There was another pause. ‘Address….?’

He looked to me and I stared at him. Damn; I didn’t really know. ‘Somewhere in the Willowhills area,’ I told him. ‘I don’t know the exact address.’

‘Get to Willowhills,’ Wufei relayed and they hung up.

‘Try the apartment,’ I told him, needing to do something… anything. He dialed it, but got no response.

Then he started trying to deal with a swamped emergency service. We had no real proof to offer them that Duo and Carrie were injured. We couldn’t even give them an exact address. They already had more than enough to keep them busy and quite frankly, I felt like they blew us off. It was difficult to be intimidating over a phone, though Wufei tried his damnedest.

He called information, trying to get that elusive address. Of course, they had a Gods damned unlisted number.

His brain was functioning much better than mine was, and he happened to have Sally Po’s number programmed into his cell. He was able to get hold of her to see if someone could go into the office and get the exact address for Misty’s house from the payroll files.

We hit the top of the hour and I tried Duo’s phone again with the same damned frustrating results. I was starting to have mental pictures of him… I snarled at the damned phone and had to resist the urge to fling it across the plane.

+

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