Trowa gave us a quick description
of the house as we were coming up the front walk and I had enough mind
left to register the location of the bathroom. I walked away from them
and headed there as soon as we were inside. I thought someone called my
name but I couldn't tell who and I really didn't care.
My heart was pounding in my chest and my vision kept going to gray. I
moved with a certain, slow deliberateness. I couldn't get the bathroom
door closed fast enough. I wanted to just fall over right there on the
floor but knew that I would probably not get back up. I rummaged around
until I found the med kit, using my elbows as much as possible to lever
the doors and drawers open. I had to use one hand to lift the med kit
down when I finally found it and thought I would weep with the pain. I
almost fell when I went to sit on the floor and had to lean back against
the wall for a minute before I could make myself open the kit and start
I forced myself to really look at the mess that had been my hands. They
were black and red and swollen and weeping liquids and... my vision faded
to gray again. I just sat until it came back, then worked the scissors
out of the med kit and taking a deep breath, began to cut away the shreds
of skin hanging... gray... gray... gray...
I came back with the scissors on the floor between my legs and my head
drooped on my chest. I reached for the scissors again.
There came a soft tap on the door, "Duo?" Quatre called softly.
"Are you in there?"
"Yeah," I croaked and the sound of my voice must have been enough,
because he just barged in. I blinked up at him; I thought I had locked
the door. I had meant to lock the door. He just stood and stared at me
for a minute and then he... screamed.
I don't know what else to call it.
"Qat!" I moaned, "be quiet! They'll hear you!" God;
what was he thinking?
He dropped down to the floor beside me and put an arm around my shoulders
to steady me but after that first shocking glimpse, kept his eyes off
"Trowa!" he yelled and I couldn't stop the tears from suddenly
breaking and washing down my face.
"Damn it, Quatre!" I sobbed, "don't let them see... I can't
be a liability... they'll think I can't handle my job!"
He moaned beside me and I distantly heard the sound of pounding feet.
Trowa appeared in the doorway.
"Quatre! What's wrong... ?" Then he saw me and went still as
I blinked up at him. "I can still pilot," I told him with all
the conviction I could muster. Shock registered on his face.
"You did this saving me, didn't you?" Quatre was suddenly saying
from his place on the floor beside me. "Oh Allah... Duo... this is
because of me!" He began to keen softly, trying to hold me but he
was shaking too hard. I heard more feet coming. Damn; I was coming into
hard focus again.
I dropped the scissors and wrapped an arm around Quatre, keeping my hand
carefully away from him, "It's all right," I soothed, rubbing
the top of his head with my cheek. "Couldn't let my kid brother get
blown to kingdom come, now could I?"
He began softly to cry and hid his face against me, "Oh Duo,"
he kept saying over and over. Behind him, Heero and Wufei appeared beside
I met Trowa's gaze squarely and calmly told him, "Get Quatre out
He nodded, his eyes hooded and closed off. He came into the room and gently
took hold of Quatre's shoulders. I wouldn't let go until I had choked
out, "Get him far away... don't let him see."
He met my eyes and firmly told me, "Duo. No one is going to hurt
I looked up at him, feeling the gray tugging at me and struggling against
it, "Trowa... you were a mercenary... you understand... " I
struggled for words, "Semper Fi. You know what I mean?" He looked
at me oddly, something in his eyes that I didn't have the strength to
read but he nodded once. My eyes flicked past him and back again, "They...
they don't get it."
He let go of Quatre for a moment and his hand came to squeeze hard on
my shoulder, "Damn it, Duo... no one will harm you... I swear it."
I let go of Quatre and Trowa led him away.
"I can still pilot," I murmured to no one in particular and
bent to retrieve the scissors, still struggling against the gray, against
the searing pain.
"Duo... " Wufei said softly and came to squat beside me.
The gentleness of his voice shocked me and I jerked my head up to look
at him. It was a mistake; the gray swirled around me and I was suddenly
When the gray receded again I was disoriented and completely confused;
I could see Wufei in front of me and I knew Trowa and Quatre were gone
but there was a warm body behind me, arms tight around me. What the hell?
Wufei saw something in my face that told him I was back from the gray
place, "Duo... let us help you," he said softly. I must have
dropped the scissors again because they were in his hand.
"I'm... fine... "I murmured and tried to sit up but the arms
wouldn't let me.
Wufei snorted softly and it was such an odd sound that it made me look
at him, he was smiling gently at me. "Oh you look just wonderful."
Maybe I stood a chance; if enough of the other guys thought I could still
do my job...
"I'm not a liability. I can still pilot," I told him with as
much intensity as I could gather.
The arms around me tightened and Wufei frowned.
"Just what is going on here, Yuy?" He was looking past me. "What
in the hell have you done to him?"
There was a surprised grunt from a voice I recognized and I had to finally
face up to who was holding me. There was nothing for a long moment while
a staring contest went on over my head.
"I... made a bad call during the mission," Heero finally said,
his voice very soft. "I made an assumption that... proved false."
"You left Quatre," I translated and was taken aback at the hint
of anger that flitted across Wufei's face.
There was a sigh from Heero, "I... left Quatre," he admitted
and I finally let myself entertain the idea that they might really be
trying to help me.
"We will discuss this later," Wufei said somewhat harshly and
then he bent to examine my hands. He turned back to the med kit and I
saw him getting out the bottle of morphine and the syringe.
"No," I said, panic taking hold of me again, "I'll be totally
When his eyes came up to meet mine they held a touch of sadness, "You
have my word that we won't leave you. We won't harm you."
I blinked at him; Wufei's word means more to him, I think, than his damn
He didn't wait for me to acquiesce but gave me the injection with an intent
look and I was just suddenly too damn tired to care. If they decided to
put me out of their misery; at least I wouldn't feel it.
Wufei gave the shot a minute to take effect and then set to work. A calloused
hand came from behind me and lay across my forehead. Heero gently but
firmly pulled my head back against his shoulder and turned my face into
his neck, 'Don't watch,' he said almost kindly and it was the last thing
I remember before the morphine mated with the gray and it all went to
It got very strange after that; I really hate morphine. It just does weird
shit to my head. I don't remember much; just sounds for a while. My own
voice groaning; echoing strangely. The sound of Quatre softly weeping.
I swam up towards the light of day once, just enough to know that I was
in a bed in a dark room.
I dreamed some very bizarre things. Not the Relena/spandex thing again,
thank God. But dark stuff; I struggled once in the arms of Jensen, feeling
him savage my lips. I thought I opened my eyes to see Solo sitting on
the foot of my bed but he only waved. It seemed I heard Trowa whisper
to me softly in the dark, 'Thank you, Duo. Thank you for bringing him
More than once I thought I woke to find Heero sitting beside me but that
only told me I must have still been dreaming.
It felt like I lost a lot of time. Morphine just wastes me; I really hate
the stuff but was not even able to get oriented enough to fight with them
over it. I was both relieved and dismayed when they began to reduce the
In my short but eventful life, I have been shot, stabbed and liberally
beat to hell. I have had both fractured and broken bones. I've had a couple
of surgeries. This was my first experience with severe burns. I think
I am in a position to make the statement that burns suck. It hurt unlike
anything I had ever experienced before or have ever experienced since.
There is no easing it. There is no getting away from it this side of consciousness.
It is a pain that encompasses your entire attention. So while I was more
than happy to leave behind the drugged half-awareness that I'd been floating
in, I was not happy to be waking up to the intense pain.
I opened my eyes to soft morning light and knew that I was truly awake
for the first time in... a while. I raised my hands and found them wrapped
like the hands of Boris Karloff in the 'Mummy'. I would have laughed if
they hadn't hurt so damn bad. I lay them carefully back down on the bed
and hissed at the jolt of pain even that small contact made.
"Do you need something for the pain?" a voice asked gently and
I jerked in surprise to find Heero sitting in a chair beside the bed.
How did he manage to keep getting inside my radar?
"No," I said and my voice came out dry and gravelly. "Please...
no more. I can't take that drifting... "
He grunted in what sounded like understanding and without any prompting,
brought a glass of water from somewhere and held the straw so I could
It eased the dry throat and I looked up at him to ask, "What are
you doing here?"
Something odd happened behind his eyes and he glanced away. "We've
been taking turns sitting with you," he murmured, looking oddly embarrassed.
"Nani?" I blurted and the strangest transformation came over
his face and he quirked a grin at me. A real one.
"Now you start speaking Japanese," he said drolly.
It surprised a bark of laughter out of me and I grinned back, forgetting
just who this was sitting beside me.
Then his face clouded as he looked down at my hands. "You could have
been killed," he said flatly and I blinked at the sudden transformation.
I tried to switch mental gears but couldn't seem to keep up.
"So could Quatre have been," I said in return.
"You let your feelings toward him effect your judgment." His
frown had deepened and there was still that strange play of thoughts behind
I sighed and looked up at him; I must have still been slightly drugged
because it suddenly didn't matter to me if he got angry. "You still
don't get it do you?" I told him sadly and realized for the first
time that he was the one to be pitied here; that he couldn't understand
this most base of things. "I would have gone back for you too. It
wasn't that it was Quatre... it was... a teammate. You never leave a teammate
"Never leave a man down," he whispered, almost to himself and
I knew that he had heard me that night.
I nodded. "That's what it's all about, Heero." And I didn't
hide from his searching gaze, "I would have gone back for any one
of you... it wouldn't have mattered if I'd had five minutes or five seconds.
You never leave a man down."
"Maxwell," came Wufei's soft voice from the doorway, "You
shame us all."
I started and looked his way; I hadn't heard him come in. He had the med-kit
in his hand, obviously come to change my dressing. I flushed and did look
away from the both of them then.
"He's awake?" I heard Quatre almost whisper and Wufei chuckled
"Apparently." He stepped aside to give our Arabian partner access
to the room... access to me.
He came to the side of the bed in a rush only to stop short and stare
down at me with wide eyes. "Duo?"
Being flat on my back with the room full of people was starting to make
me feel... strange and I tried to lever myself up with an elbow.
A strong arm slid behind me and eased me up, while Quatre rushed to put
extra pillows behind my back.
I murmured, "Thank you." to the both of them and just tried
to hide the blush.
Then Quatre demanded all of my attention, "Duo... I am so sorry...
this is all my fault."
I snorted at him. "I believe I was the one who threw the bomb, Qat."
His cheeks colored slightly but he forged ahead. "It got us out of
there. They would have shot one of us eventually if you hadn't thought
I just shook my head. "If I'd been thinking, I would have checked
the damn transmitter before the stupid elevator doors ever opened."
They both looked shocked and I had to grin at them. "Makes you feel
kind of stupid... doesn't it?"
Quatre actually chuckled but Heero couldn't seem to get the shocked expression
off his face. 'Don't sweat it, Yuy.' I grinned up at him, suddenly not
afraid of his anger anymore. "We all three forgot about it."
He didn't look reassured, only sat and frowned.
"Well, it doesn't matter now," Trowa said from the doorway and
I looked to see him standing with Wufei. "The reports are back; the
factory was completely destroyed. They're still looking over the samples
you brought back but preliminary findings indicate that was a major find.
You guys did good."
Quatre gave him a funny look and then said, "Duo did good.
All we did was sit around and listen to... "
I cut him off with a chuckle. "Quatre... enough all ready. It was
a mission and we all did our part. It wasn't your fault that your part
this time was backup."
He gave me that irritated glare that told me he was getting set to argue
with me some more, so I changed the whole course of the conversation,
'" promise... the next time we need somebody to play the part of
a hooker... you can do it."
"What?!" gasped Wufei and I thought Quatre and I would die laughing
at the look on his face.
This of course, as I had planned, led to the retelling of the Helio saga
and I embellished the crap out of it until I had them all laughing. Well...
all of them but Heero.
I caught him looking at me with an oddly appraising stare and I think
Mr. Stoic might have figured something out about the Duo Maxwell grinning
idiot façade in that moment. I'll never know, I looked away to
listen to Quatre telling Trowa about how different I looked with my hair
down and the next thing I knew, Heero was gone.
Wufei finally got around to changing my bandages and I managed to make
eye contact enough with Trowa that he gently but firmly made Quatre leave
Wufei didn't miss the exchange and quirked an eyebrow at me.
"He feels guilty enough," I growled, feeling defensive. "He
thinks it's his fault."
"Is it?" he asked simply.
"Of course not!" I snapped, looking up at him in surprise and
finding a strange half-smile on his face.
"As long as you don't think so," he said cryptically.
I grunted and watched as he unwound the last of the gauze; he hesitated.
"You might not want to look."
I just glared at him and he smiled again. "It was just a thought."
He gave me a minute to turn them back and forth, looking them over. The
palms were the worst but oddly didn't hurt much at all. The pain was all
coming from the backs of my hands and around my wrists. I frowned as I
looked; he'd done a good job of cleaning them up.
"The worst damage is on the palms of your hands," he explained.
"They don't hurt as much because of... nerve damage. You really should
have some skin grafts." He shrugged and quirked me another gentle
smile. "But I'm just an inadequate field medic."
"You did a better job than I was doing," I muttered without
really thinking about it. My brain was rather preoccupied trying to get
itself around the fact that those were my hands doing a fair imitation
of... of... hamburger. Charred hamburger.
"That's enough," he warned me and I looked away before the uneasy
feeling in the pit of my stomach turned into something more.
Then his face got... strange and he was pinning me with those dark, intense
eyes of his. "You are never to hide an injury from us again,
do you understand me?"
I ducked my head and flushed. Somehow, after the last couple of days,
my reasoning didn't seem to stand up so well. "I'm sorry... I thought...
"I know what you thought," he told me gently, "And
I understand. But you see now that things aren't quite how you thought
they were, right?"
I nodded, still not looking up, still embarrassed. He put a hand under
my chin and forced me to look up at him. His eyes met mine with a searching
intensity that made me feel like I'd been turned wrong side out.
"Heero made a mistake," he told me firmly, his lips curving
a little. "Despite what he seems to think; it happens to the best
of us. That does not mean that we would... abandon you because you've
been hurt. Are we totally clear on that?"
He wouldn't let me get away with the nod again and I had to smile at him.
"Yes... .I think it's sunk into my thick head."
He let go of me then and bent to work on my hands. He is surprisingly
gentle; there is the spirit of something else behind the fierce warrior
front he puts on.
I whined until he grudgingly agreed to let me out of bed for a while but
he stayed close, helped me until he was sure I was steady enough on my
feet that I wouldn't fall.
"Burns are very susceptible to infection"' he warned me, holding
my elbow as I took my first wobbling steps across the room. "You
have to be very careful to keep things clean."
I marvelled at him; he had probably spoken more civil words to me in the
last hour than he had the entire rest of our acquaintance. Somehow this
mission had won me... something from Chang Wufei. Respect maybe?
I really wasn't sure.
We walked together down the hall and though I wouldn't have let it show
for a million credits, I was feeling the strain before we had gotten far
"As soon as we are cleared to leave this place," he was telling
me, "I want you in to see a real Doctor. Those hands are going to
need a lot of work."
I was trying hard to listen but found myself struggling with the gray
again. I stopped walking and waited for the light to come back into my
"Duo"' Wufei questioned, concern in his voice.
The gray was eating me one sense at a time; it had my sight already and
now my hearing was dimming. "I... I'm Ok... " I tried and even
my own voice sounded distant.
"The hell you are!" he growled at me and his arms went tight
around my waist. I'm taller than Wufei and I may actually outweigh him,
he was holding me up but couldn't do much else, "Yuy! Barton!"
He was yelling and I tried to hush him but the gray was nibbling at my
balance now and I was reeling in his arms.
"What the hell is going on!" I heard Heero very near at hand
and he sounded angry.
"Help me get him back to bed;" Wufei was saying. "He's
going to pass out... "
"I'm Ok!" I snapped but it came out sounding pretty damn lame.
"Let me have him!" Heero said tersely and just swept me up in
his arms. The sudden movement had my head spinning and though I wanted
to fight against them, all I could do was press my face against Heero's
shoulder and fight the nauseating dizziness.
I think I did fade completely into unconsciousness for a moment, because
I don't remember being laid down. I don't remember the blankets being
pulled up. But it was just for a moment, because I was aware fairly quickly
of the two of them arguing over my head.
"Why the hell did you let him get up to begin with?"
"He hides things too damn well! He seemed all right."
"You can't trust what he says; you ought to know that by now!"
"He doesn't lie... "
"He doesn't have to... he works with half truths and evasions...
you won't ever get him to admit to the pain!"
That was followed by an ironic little snort and then an angry grunt. Heero
stormed out of the room.
"I'm sorry, Wufei," I said softly. "I didn't have any warning;
it just came on me all at once."
"My fault." He smiled down at me, "You've been drugged
and flat on your back for the last thirty hours; I should have known better."
He put his fingers against the side of my neck to check my pulse and looked
long and hard into my eyes. "You need to rest; I'm going to give
you something for pain and I want you to get some sleep."
"No more morphine, ok?" I pleaded. "I can't stand that
'out of my head' feeling."
He just chuckled at me and gave me a couple of pills to take. I was pleased
that he left the room after I swallowed them. I really didn't like the
idea that they had been taking turns sitting here watching me sleep.
The pills might not have been morphine but they were still damned strong
and I felt myself drifting away on the ebbing tide of exhaustion, despite
the wracking pain.
Jensen was leaning over me and he grabbed hold of my bandaged hands, squeezing
until I whimpered.
"Thought you could get away from me, my little Sparrow?" He
chuckled evilly and I groaned as he gave my throbbing wrists a sudden
"I wasn't done with you, my pet... "He breathed and was leaning
down to kiss me again. I struggled to get out of his grip but couldn't
seem to manage any leverage and then his lips were crushing mine, his
teeth cutting me, his breath filling me...
"Duo! Wake up! It's all right... just wake up... "
My eyes flew open to find Heero sitting on the side of my bed, his hands
on my shoulders. My breath was coming in sporadic pants and I was shaking
like a leaf.
Our eyes locked and he leaned down and whispered intently, "He's
dead. He can't touch you ever again... I won't let him. Never again; do
you hear me?"
I managed a nod, my brain reeling from the sudden wrenching twist in reality.
What the hell? The drugs were making it hard to think, I couldn't process
this. Then it hit me and I beamed up at him, "I'm still dreaming
aren't I? You're dream Heero."
He just sat and blinked down at me but then his hand moved to stroke a
sweat soaked strand of hair from my face telling me that I was right.
I relaxed under his hands and smiled happily up at him.
"I haven't dreamed about you in so long," I sighed, "I've
His face became oddly still and my smile faded. "Heero... what's
He just stared at me for the longest time, long enough that I started
to doubt myself... maybe this was the other dream Heero; the one
who yelled and cursed.
But finally he hesitantly raised his fingers to stroke gently across my
uninjured cheek, "N... nothing."
I smiled full force again, closing my eyes and turned my face into his
touch, "I like dreaming," I murmured against the palm of his
"I'm sorry... "he breathed and I opened my eyes to look up at
"The whole mess... the mission... Quatre." His eyes looked pained
and something started nagging at me again.
"I... I don't understand," I told him and I knew I was frowning.
"That wasn't you... that was the real Heero."
He was quiet for a minute. "All the same." he said at last,
"I'm sorry for... what he did. I... he let his fear for you panic
His fingers were stroking over my face with increasing boldness and I
smiled again, letting the questions just slip away. I forgot about the
strange things he was saying.
"Hold me... please?" I sighed; dream Heero loved to hold me
"Of... of course... my... love," he said and his voice was strangely
hesitant. His arms slid around me, gentle and warm and he pulled me against
his chest. It was better than any dream I had ever had. 'Don't let me
hurt you,' he whispered against the top of my head.
"You could never hurt me," I told him and felt a shiver run
I drifted out of the dream and back into deep sleep pillowed against his
imaginary warmth with a soft smile on my face.
It was the sweetest dream of him I had ever had and the harsh, morning
reality of my solitary bed damn near broke me.
I found out later that he had left the safe house sometime in the night;
against orders. Under the circumstances, the orders were lifted and Wufei
and Quatre whisked me off to the base hospital immediately. Deathscythe
was packed off to Howard for safekeeping.
I was out of action for weeks; Wufei had been right about the skin grafts
and there were other things he hadn't told me about, all of it amounting
to a lot of pain. I went back to the active duty list before the Doctor's
wanted me too, but I was learning to work through the pain and the guys
When Heero sent the message to base, he blind copied me on it. I had to
think about that for a long time and I never did completely make up my
mind what it meant. I almost showed it to Quatre once, but decided it
was a bad idea and never did tell anybody. I'm still not sure what to
"Though pilot 02 has shown himself to be a very competent agent,
the dissimilarities between his methodologies and those of pilot 01 make
their working together an impossibility. Therefore pilot 01 would like
to request that they not be assigned to any further missions together.
This request does not in any way reflect on the abilities or performance
of pilot 02."
Just like Heero; short and to the point. We crossed paths after that but
only on missions that required all of us together. We seldom spoke. I
never worked up the nerve to ask him why and I never dreamed about him
[back to Sunhawk's fic]