Author: Sunhawk

Obligations (cont)

"Duo!" came her alarmed call, "what the hell is going on?"

"I have passengers," I told her and knew that she would understand from that what I could and could not do.

"Well... fuck," she said dismally.

"Don't give up on me yet, Victoria Brannigan!" I snapped. "Get your outside hatch open!"

"Duo?" I heard Heero question and there was a note of fear in it. I felt guilty ignoring it.

The instant I was suited up, I pulled two of the little 'spurt' maneuvering guns down and strapped them both on.

"Heero... partner," I called to him and knew that he would realize immediately that he was hearing me over a suits radio now and not the ships comm., "I need you to do exactly as I say; you with me?"

"Damn it, Duo... " his voice came to me over the tinny suit radio with the sound of my fiddles and electric guitars.

"I need you, Heero," I told him even as I was dragging down two more vacuum suits. I keyed the sequence to open the exterior doors on the cargo bay.

"What the hell are you doing?" he asked me, trying to make his voice stern and failing miserably.

"What I have to," I told him and watched for the indicator lights to tell me the outside doors were completely open.

"Duo?" he called again and his voice was begging me not to do what he had to suspect I was getting ready to.

The light stopped flashing and went solid. I hit the inside hatch door and clutched at the extra suits for all I was worth. Explosive decompression sucked me out and I was hurtling through the cargo bay and heading for 'outship".

"Now, Heero!" I shouted. "Shut the inside cargo door!"

"Duo!" I heard his anguished scream and felt guilt kick me in the gut. I was kinda busy though and would have to deal with him later.

"Incoming!" I shouted to the Gypsy, "You guys ready over there?"

"What the hell?" Hayden yelled at me and I laughed that edge-of-control laugh I hadn't heard in a long damn time.

"Didn't you guys order a pizza?" I chortled maniacally, "I've got the right address, right?"

I could hear Toria cussing a blue streak.

"Strip to your undies and get ready to suit up!" I laughed again as I pulled out the first spurt gun and adjusted my trajectory.

Yeah; laugh your ass off Maxwell; it makes it easier not to hear the pounding of your own damn heart and your teeth chattering like castanets.

Their air-lock door was standing wide and I aimed unerringly for it, my momentum needing little help; in fact, it was necessary to use the gun to slow myself as I approached.

"Knock, knock!" I hollered and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was completely panicked. I was sweating in the suit like a stuck pig already; this was the first time I'd done zero-g since the accident. The first time back in a vacuum suit. The first time outship. Oh yeah... and this whole hurtling toward a ship that was getting ready to blow itself to hell was pretty much a first too.

Ever wonder just what in the hell a stuck pig is? I think I might have had my metaphors crossed a little bit on that one.

"Maxwell!" somebody hollered, "Yer a flamin', fuckin' idiot!"

It took me a minute to realize it was Solo. I laughed again. "That's right, rat-boy," I growled at him.

"What?" Hayden said and I could actually see their faces through the port in the inside air lock door as I touched down there. I keyed the magnetics in the boots and then had to wrestle the extra suits in with me; making absolutely sure that everything was clear of the outside hatch.

"I'm in!" I yelled and the door slid shut. They didn't wait for routine pressurization; the air lock was small but would still take a couple of minutes under a normal cycle. I saw them move away from the inside hatch and then the door opened and I was buffeted by the air rushing to fill the little space.

"Suit up!" I was yelling but Toria and Hayden were already pulling the suits out of my hands and dragging them on. I killed the magnetics now that I was within their gravity field and turned to help Hayden climb into his suit. Toria was third generation spacer and could monkey her way into a vacuum suit blindfolded, with one hand tied behind her back faster than I could unhandicapped. I'd lost a drunken bet on it once.

She's damn tall without an extra ounce on her frame, graceful as a fish in zero-g and tough as gundanium nails. Practical as all hell too, which was a damn lucky thing because her husband is a sensitive soul, a big bear of a man and a dreamer besides. A groundbounder until he'd fallen head over heels in love with the blond spacer-girl.

As expected, she was completely suited up before Hayden and I even had him zipped in. She came and took over from me and I gave ground without an argument; she had been muttering a continuous string of curses since I'd blown my way out of my Demon. I wasn't about to get in the woman's way.

"Duo?" Heero's voice came to us and he'd found his control; his voice was the one I remember from the war. "What's your status over there?"

"Almost ready," I told him. "Hold her steady; we're coming back the same way I got over here."

Toria's hands were slapping Hayden's helmet in place at long last just as the lights flickered around us.

"Son of a fucking bitch!" Toria's monologue hit a crescendo and I wanted to tell her to shut up before she gave Heero a heart attack.

"Come on... come on... come on... " I found myself chanting as she and Hayden were throwing the last of the helmet latches. This was going to get a whole hell of a lot harder if we lost power.

"Move!" she was suddenly yelling and move I did, back into the air lock and I felt somebody grab hold of my suit.

"Ready?" I yelled.

"Go!" She shouted and I hit the door release. Out we went on another plume of decompressing air. I imagined Toria and Hayden behind me in the strangest fucking conga line ever seen and I laughed a little hysterically again.

As soon as we were clear of their hatch, they shifted and whoever had been right behind me reached and grabbed my left hand. I almost screamed but bit back on it; it was necessary that we leave the single file formation that we had needed to get clear of the Gypsy before we touched down. Whichever one of them it was, knew I was right handed and was leaving that hand free to use the spurt gun if we needed it. It wasn't their fault I'd broken my damn left wrist.

I glanced that way and saw Hayden and realized that Toria had deliberately put him in the middle; he was far from inexperienced anymore but she still treated him like he was. I chuckled at the thought that Heero and Toria would probably get along just fine.

I had to use the gun to change our trajectory just a touch and when we were close enough, I used it again to slow us. We separated at the last moment to avoid landing in a tangle and I called to Heero as soon as we were passed the threshold, "Close the outside doors!" and was relieved to see them instantly begin to slide shut. I touched down and locked the magnetics, a second after Toria. As soon as Hayden was down I yelled again, "We're in and down! Go!"

I felt the vibration of my engines kicking in and the three of us duck-walked with our magnetic boots toward the nearest wall and the handholds to be found there. We didn't make it.

"Hold on!" Heero shouted and all we could do was hunker down and kiss our own asses. The shock wave hit in a matter of seconds and I heard Relena let loose with a strangled scream. I kinda wanted to scream myself.

Getting jerked around with your feet stuck to something is kind of bad for the knees. Toria killed her magnetics and rode the wave to the nearest wall and managed quite gracefully to catch a handhold. Hayden was crouched down on the floor holding his own ankles, not something I could manage with one hand. I ended up having to cut my own magnetic connection.

"Show off," I muttered to Toria and she actually chuckled at me.

I missed the handholds and wound up having to use the spurt guns to keep from careening off the end wall, finally managing to latch hold down there.

The shuddering of the ship finally stopped and we breathed a collective sigh.

"Duo! Status!" Heero barked at me and I grinned like a fucking loon where he couldn't see it.

"We seem to be in one piece," I informed him. "You manage to keep from wrecking my ship?"

He only grunted.

I laughed and it came out kind of shaky so I stopped. "You two Ok?" I called and was answered with one of Toria's war-whoops. She launched herself away from the wall and went kiting toward Hayden.

"We're alive, buddy-boy!" she crowed and Hayden straightened from his crouch in time to catch her. I saw them touch their helmets together and knew that they were speaking privately.

I kicked off from the wall and headed their way; I was having a little trouble drifting down there alone. "Heero,open the outside door again, would you? We're going to walk around to the air lock."

"Duo, we can pressurize... " he began and I knew he really just didn't want me back outside the ship, but bringing pressure up in the bay would take hours.

"I... I would rather not wait," I told him softly and hoped that he understood.

Now that the crisis was averted and the adrenaline rush was fading, reaction was setting in and I suddenly was just very damn tired... and I needed out of that suit. I glanced at the suits chrono and almost chuckled; hell, it wasn't even mid-morning yet. I felt like I'd been awake for days. I couldn't reconcile to the fact that I had hardly been out of bed for an hour.

The cargo bay doors began to open and I sighed in relief. "Right this way, ladies and gentlemen." I laughed and it sounded feeble even to me.

I led them out and across the hull; the air lock isn't far from the cargo bay doors but it seemed like a damned mile, walking with magnetics is damned hard on the leg muscles and I thought I was going to die before we got there. The outside door was open and ready for us and we crowded in without further adventure. We cycled through by the books; no more explosive decompression thank you very much, and it took a couple of minutes.

Heero was standing there when the air lock door opened and I didn't think he would let me get out of Toria and Hayden's way before he started undogging my helmet. Then I thought he was going to fucking deck me where I stood.

"God damn it!" he snarled in my face as soon as the helmet wasn't between us anymore. "Don't you ever do something like that again without warning me first!"

I passed up the five flippant answers that came to mind first, decided against yelling back and was trying to decide between kissing him or just saying ok, when Toria came up behind me and threw an arm around my shoulders.

"Gonna introduce us, buddy-boy?"

I caught the somewhat surprised look on Heero's face as he looked up... and up at her and then I looked up at her too and grinned. "Heero Yuy meet Victoria and Hayden Brannigan."

She stuck her still-gloved hand out and he grudgingly let go of my suit to shake it.

He growled something that might have been, 'Pleased to meet you.' or it might have been 'Go to hell.' It wasn't really coherent enough to tell.

"So you finally got yourself a second, Duo?" She grinned at me and I rolled my eyes at her. God; she was on an adrenaline rush like I'd never seen.

Behind us, Hayden called a quiet hello to Heero and then, "Torie, honey... I think you jammed one of these latches; I can't get this helmet off."

I turned to look at him before she did and he winked at me. Toria turned to help him and I mouthed my thanks to him.

My left hand was hurting so bad I was half afraid to pull it out of the suit. I barely had time to even consider how I was going to work my way free one-handed when Heero's hands came back and began undoing latches and seals; I tried to help but he only pushed my trembling hand aside. "Just let me, damn it." He was trying hard to stay angry with me but I could hear it leaving his voice. He seemed to be calming down as he worked at the suit and so I just stayed still and let him. He was gentle as hell when he got down to the left hand and we both knew the fracture was worse by the time he was done.

Hayden and Toria were unsuited long before I was and I saw them turning to watch Heero work over me. Toria had a maniacal gleam in her eye and was opening her mouth to start the teasing when Hayden settled an arm around her shoulders and said something to her that I didn't catch. Her smirk faded and the look she gave me next was calculated and a little clinical.

"Hey, buddy-boy;" she said softly, "what the hell's wrong?"

"Nothing," I said and it came out a little defensively, "I'm fine."

"Bull-shit!" she snapped. "You look like crap! You're white as a sheet and sweating like you just ran ten miles! And what's wrong with your arm?"

I was finally free of the damn vacuum suit and found myself leaning on Heero's arm a little more heavily than I had meant to. I could see Chezarina and Relena standing down the corridor near the cockpit door watching us like we were a soap opera. I felt myself flushing. This was getting to be fucking ridiculous.

"Look... " I began but Heero calmly interrupted me.

"Despite his fervent protests," he said, giving me a warning glare, "he is a long way from completely recovered from the accident and on top of that, he fractured his wrist yesterday. If you will excuse us for a few minutes I'm going to go check his arm... please make yourselves at home."

I gaped at him for a minute before responding to the tug on my arm. "Uhmmm... be right back guys," I managed. "Hayden... you know where the galley is; why don't you guys make some... coffee or something."

Heero didn't give me time for more than that but pulled me unrelentingly toward our cabin, not saying another word until we were there and the door was closed. Then he turned on me again and I was reminded of my earlier thought that he just might deck me.

"What in the hell were you thinking?" he burst out then and I might have gotten angry if I hadn't been able to see the very really fear in his eyes.

"I couldn't let them die," I told him simply.

"Look at yourself!" he snapped, his voice rising. "You're shaking like a damn leaf! If things had gotten any rougher out there, you might have passed out!"

I bit down on the first couple of things that popped into my head and finally managed a soft, "What would you have had me do? I couldn't move in close enough to use the docking tube without complete consent from everyone onboard... "

"I should have gone across while you stayed here at the helm," he told me sternly and all I could do was blink at him.

"I couldn't ask you... " I breathed.

"Are we partners or not?" he demanded and it made my knees want to turn to water. I nodded in shock and he was suddenly beyond talking, jerking me into his arms and overriding anything I might have said with the most intense kiss he has ever given me. It was full of his frustration and his fear, tinged with a little of his anger; it told me more than words ever could just how badly I had scared the hell out of him.

"I'm sorry," I panted when he let me go, "I was afraid you'd try to stop me. I had to try... I couldn't just sit here and let them die."

He pulled me close and leaned to bury his face in my shoulder. "I know. But you have got to start trusting me, Duo. I should have been the one to go... it would have been a better tactical choice."

I gave him the small chuckle he wanted for his choice of wording. "I... I'm not sure I could have let you go," I whispered and he laughed out loud.

"But I'm supposed to sit here and let you go?" He raised his head to look at me. "You are so God damn hypocritical!"

I managed a tired grin. "I know."

He shifted me toward the bed and I let him ease me down on the welcome softness, the last couple of hours suddenly rushing up to smack me resoundingly between the eyes.

"Hayden grabbed my hand when we were coming across... " I confessed to him. "I think we made it... way worse."

His breath hissed in irritation and he bent to the job of unwrapping my wrist. I just sat back and let him work, too tired to care.

"It's swelling... " he murmured almost to himself after a few moments. "If it wasn't fractured before, it sure as hell is now."

"Hurts bad enough to be busted," I sighed and just tried to hold still while he felt it over, satisfying himself that the damn thing wasn't completely broken.

"I don't want you using it at all until we have a chance to get you to a Doctor," he commanded as he began to rebind it. "We're going to put it in a sling."

I chuckled around my grunts of pain. "Yes, Dr. Yuy."

I managed to reach past him for the med-kit and snagged the bottle of pain pills, he raised an eyebrow at me and I glared. "I don't want to risk getting sedated again."

"You need to rest," he told me flatly and I thought I would scream in frustration.

"I have to get us back on course. I have to talk to Hayden and Toria and find out what in the hell happened. I have passengers to check on. I... " He cut me off and the frustration in his voice seemed pretty damn high too.

"I am perfectly capable of setting a damn course from here to L2. Your friends' ship is long gone; what happened to it can wait a couple of hours while you rest and get your strength back. Relena and Chezarina are just fine and I will... "

"Damn it; I'm not a fucking invalid!" I snarled and kind of wished I hadn't when he flinched.

"Why can't you trust me to take care of things?" he snapped.

"Why can't you trust me to know when I need to rest?" I snapped back.

"I've never been able to trust you not to hide it when you're hurting!" he threw at me. "You've pushed yourself too damn hard for as long as I've known you!"

I opened my mouth and suddenly realized that what was about to come out was pretty damn below the belt and I would hate myself later for it. I just shut up for a second, closing my mouth and looking away from him; taking a deep breath and a step back. "Ok, how about this?" I tried again when I felt able, "You let me get up and go down to the galley to talk to the Brannigan's and I will let you take care of getting us out of here. Just let me talk to them for a little bit, let everyone see that I'm all right and I'll take a break after lunch. I promise... I won't do anything but sit and talk. Deal?"

I could see him doing the same thing I had done; could see him taking that step back. "Take the pain pills now?" he said grudgingly.

I nodded. "No sedative though."

He finally gave me a sad little smile. "No sedative," he agreed but then his eyes narrowed. "Unless you need it later."

I chuckled darkly. "Let's quit while we're ahead."

"Agreed."

He got me some water and I took the pain pills, then we spent some time trying to find something to make a sling out of. I ended up sacrificing an old cotton work shirt to the cause and he quickly cut, tied, and put it on me.

I decided that now might not be the time to tell him that half the reason I didn't want to be left alone in the cabin in the dark was I didn't want to have all that time to lie around and think. I'm pretty sure he hadn't figured out just how completely freaked I had been the whole time I was sealed in that vacuum suit. That confession was not going to help my 'I'm all right' argument.

I needed a little bit of support to wobble my way down the corridor to the galley and we were rather taken aback to find Hayden, Toria, Chezarina and Relena settled around the table making short work of a plate full of sandwiches.

"There you are!" grinned Toria when we came into the room. "You were gone so long I was beginning to think... "

What she was beginning to think was cut off when Hayden smacked her lightly in the back of the head.

God; she was still floating around a foot off the ground on the dregs of adrenaline. Toria on a fear-induced rush was probably just as bad as Toria drunk.

Heero handed me into the seat next to Toria and then excused himself to the job of getting us underway.

"Duo?" Chezarina asked in her motherly way, eyeing the sling, "are you all right?"

"I'd be better if you'd hand me a soda out of the fridge." I grinned at her since she was sitting closest to it and she answered my grin with one of her own.

"Duo... " Hayden was looking at me hard, "you should have told me... "

I quirked a grin at him, too, as I accepted the soda bulb from Chezarina. "I kinda had a couple of more important things on my mind."

"Well, I see your accident hasn't affected your smart ass attitude any," Toria observed dryly and I chuckled at her.

"I could say the same to you, my dear." I raised my bulb of soda to her and she snorted, raising hers as well.

"To attitude," she intoned with a smirk.

"Attitude," I rejoined, "smart ass or otherwise." And we brushed our drink bulbs together.

We drank while Hayden shook his head in his long-suffering manner. Toria frowned down at the bulb sadly. "That is so much more satisfying with real glasses."

"Forget it," Hayden told her sternly. "The last time I let you two start toasting with real glasses you got drunk enough you started throwing them into the fireplace!"

"I've heard of that tradition," Chezarina asked, like the great straight-person she was. "What's so bad about that?"

"The bar didn't have a fireplace!" Hayden chuckled with a twinkle in his eye.

"That jokes getting really old, Hayden." I grinned at him.

"Funny... that's what the bar-tender said." Hayden may seem like one of those big, thick-witted guys but he's sharp and has a damn strange sense of humor. Well hell... He married Toria, didn't he?

"So;" I finally ventured, "you gonna get around to telling me what in the hell happened over there?"

There was a moment of quiet while they glanced at each other and some strange communication went between them. I've always hated that; Trowa and Quatre do it to. I suppose it's just a couple's thing and maybe that's why it's always bothered me so much.

They seemed to settle on Hayden doing the talking and he sat back with a sigh, reaching to set his drink on the table. "We're not entirely sure. Something happened during the night cycle... The hull breach alarm woke us. I don't know if we took a hit or something blew in the engine." He shook his head.

"The emergency breach doors were closed all over the damn place," Toria took the story up, "before we knew what in the hell was going on... we were trapped at one end of the ship with our suits at the other and nothing but hard vacuum in between."

I could see Relena, who hadn't spoken, at least not since I'd come into the room, developing an odd little frown and wondered just what in the hell her highness's problem was now.

"How about you, buddy-boy?" Toria suddenly asked me with her head cocked to the side in that way she has. It always makes me think of a great bird of prey trying to decide if something is edible. "How'd you manage to break your damn wrist?"

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Relena lose the frown and turn bright red.

"Racket-ball injury," I said, sadly shaking my head and managed not to look at the dear embarrassed Princess.

I felt my engines come back to life then and used it to change the subject. "Looks like Heero managed to remember how a space ship works."

Hayden looked faintly confused. "I thought he was your second?"

Toria giggled, "I thought he was your lover."

It was my turn to blush and I managed to show Relena just how it was done; I'm sure I was red right down to my toes.

"I believe I'm still auditioning for both positions,' Heero drawled from right behind me and I just about turned the blush into a case of spontaneous combustion.

Toria threw back her head and laughed until tears started down her face. "I like him, buddy-boy!" she crowed. "Keep him!"

Hayden rolled his eyes and gave us his long-suffering, apologetic look. Shrugging as if to say what's a guy to do?

Relena... well I'm not even going to try to catalog what all ran across her face. We'll call it... shocked and leave it at that. I'm not sure if it was at Toria or Heero. Chezarina just giggled and tried not to.

Heero's hand brushed lightly down the length of my braid as he settled in the empty seat on my right. I met his gaze and he couldn't seem to stop himself from a small, satisfied grin at the look on my face. His eyes flicked to the soda I was drinking and I got the narrow eyed look that told me he didn't approve. I mock glared back at him to let him know I really didn't care; I wanted a damn soda and I was going to drink a damn soda.

I looked away from him only to find Toria and Hayden gazing at us with matching smirks. Damn. We'd just done that stupid couple's thing that I hate so much. Heero and I had just done that communication without words thing. That couple's thing. And was it not just a twisted little commentary on little ol' Duo that it gave me a warm feeling all through my chest?

"Have you eaten?" he asked quietly and I could feel his eyes watching me intently for signs of strain, for outward signs of the shakiness I was feeling.

"No, he has not," Chezarina proclaimed before I could even think to answer and Toria snickered.

"What the hell do I have here, a ship full of mother hens?" I muttered and took a sandwich from the tray in the middle of the galley table.

Toria clucked like a chicken and damn near fell off her chair laughing, righting herself and ending up with her head lying on folded arms on the table, giggling. God but I hoped she came down off this high soon. I eyed Hayden over her head. "I know I don't have any alcohol onboard... you didn't sneak any in with you did you?"

He raised his hand solemnly, "She is as sober as a stone... for once; I swear to God."

I poked her in the arm. "You're too damn big to be a chicken, spacer-girl," I teased and then looked again; I didn't think she was giggling anymore. "Toria?" I asked gently, laying my sandwich aside and reaching to push her hair away so I could see her face. She raised her head and sure enough there were tears struggling to start.

"Come on, sweetie," I murmured and held my arm out.

She almost fell into my lap; "Oh Duo... my babies... my poor babies."

There were horrified gasps from Chezarina and Relena as they jumped to a gut-wrenching conclusion and I scowled at them over Toria's head. Then I forgot the fuck about them.

"S'ok baby... " I told her gently, "we'll make it all better... I'll repaint them... every one; I swear."

She wouldn't cry here in front of the whole damn world, I knew her better than that, but she was right on the edge of it. She'd just lost her home and her livelihood and everything they owned all in one fell blow. "I can't do that again," she murmured.

I chuckled and rubbed gentle circles on her back. "You don't have to... I remember them. We'll get you to dock on L2 and contact your insurance company. As soon as your ship is replaced I swear I can redo every one of the paintings."

Her arms around my waist tightened and there was a sudden, strange stillness in the air. I looked down at her but all I could see was the back of her shaggy blond head. I looked up at Hayden and he wouldn't meet my eyes. "You... do have insurance... right?" I asked incredulous. There was more silence. "Hayden?" I asked again and he finally glanced at me, his face a furious red.

"Uhmmm... no." was all he said.

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