Author: Sunhawk

Warnings : Sap, angst, blood, implied yaoi, OOC, Duo POV, some language, and according to my spell checker; fractured sentences. Don't own a thing.
Dedicated to Oni no Yume for encouragement and other kindness.

Road Trip

Re-entry. It's always the part I hate the most. It's when you're the most vulnerable. I hate vulnerable. Everything has to be so damned precise on re-entry, and I'm not really a precise pilot. The battle had been pretty rough, and I won't say the mission was a failure, but let's just call it a draw. We weren't running away... really.

As planned, Heero was long gone, I hoped, already at the rendezvous point. I was running a little behind, but I had decided on the spur of the moment to take the remains of a Mobile Doll with me. It was making the ride in awfully bumpy, but I hoped it would be worth it.

I brought Deathscythe down a good twenty miles or so from the ocean side spot where I was supposed to meet up with Heero and liberally blew the hell out of the Doll, scattering enough debris around that I hoped I would confuse our pursuit. Then I skimmed away, so low and close to the water that I had to navigate by instrumentation.

When I arrived at the rendezvous point, I didn't see Heero, but I landed Deathscythe anyway, figuring I'd better get my Gundam out of sight as quick as I could. I unbelted what was left of my harness and climbed with difficulty out of the pilots seat and popped the hatch. My knee was jammed up pretty well and was bothering me quite a bit, and my left wrist felt sprained, but worst of all, I think I might have had a couple of cracked ribs. Felt like my guts were going to spill out every time I leaned over. I didn't get too fancy getting out of Deathscythe, none of my usual grace and charm thank you very much. Just a slow, cautious decent that left me gasping for a minute. I used the remote to seal the hatch on my Suit, and sent it walking into the surf where it would await retrieval sitting, I hoped, next to Wing, Heero's Gundam.

I just stood in the sand for a minute, watching Deathscythe disappear under the waves. God, I was tired, and ached all over. The mission had turned out to be a trap, the jaws of which we had barely escaped with our little tin behinds intact. It had turned into one hell of a dogfight.

Where was Heero? Wing hadn't looked too good the last I had seen of them, and I was suddenly stricken with a clinching fear that he hadn't made it. I pocketed the remote and turned to look up and down the narrow beach I found myself on. Twenty or thirty paces from the waters edge, there was a tangle of rocks and cliff face, sea birds wheeled overhead, answering evenings call to return to roost. The wind from the water behind me blew salty and damp and promised a chilly evening. It toyed with loose strands of my hair and caught at the edges of my clothes. Yeah, it was gonna get cold.

Then I saw Heero, making his way slowly toward me from out of the rocks. He didn't look much better than I remember his Gundam looking, and I hurried the best I could up the beach.

"What took so long?" he growled, as soon as we were close enough to hear each other over the surf and birds. His right arm hung rather limply, and he was clutching it with his left. He limped and wobbled and generally just looked pissed. Heero hates to fail even worse than I do.

"Glad to see you too!" I grinned, "I took a few minutes to leave a decoy."
I was rewarded with a surprised little grunt that I took to mean, 'good thinking', but I knew better than to wait for any verbal praise.

"We need to get under cover." I realized just how exposed we were and suddenly felt a strong urge to get off the beach.

"Up here." Was all Heero said, turning back the way he had come. He looked like he was going to fall over, and in the fading light, his color didn't look so good.

"Heero? Man, you all right?"

He just grunted again, but kind of hesitated. I moved up on his good side and offered my support. I was shocked as hell when he actually put his arm around my shoulders and let me take some of his weight. Now I was really worried, Mr. Perfect was actually letting somebody help him!

He led me back to a spot at the base of the cliffs where there was a recess under the rocks that you could crawl into. It looked like that was where he had been hiding when I arrived. I sat him down on a rock and looked back the way we had come.

"Shit." He followed my gaze and we both stared at the wide trail we had left in the sand. Heero started to struggle up.

"I'll get it." I gently pushed him back down. "Man, you look like serious crap, what's wrong?"

I didn't think he'd answer me at first because he just shook his head. "Not sure. Something internal. Harness broke. Took a hit to the head too."

I hissed in sympathy and remembered my own ordeal with only one broken strap. I knelt down as well as I could in front of him. "Turn your head toward the light."

He did as I commanded and I checked his pupils. "They look normal." I jerked my head toward the crack in the cliff. There wasn't much I could do for a concussion, anyway. "Think you can get yourself back in there?"

He just nodded, so I left him to go try to brush away our back trail. I was finally reduced to getting down on my hands and knees to brush it away as best I could by hand. My knee and wrist and especially my ribs moaned at me piteously, but I didn't have the time to listen. I got back to our little nest before the sun was completely down and had to look twice to find the opening. Heero had found an excellent hiding spot. I had to lie down and squirm sideways to get in beside Heero, but after the first foot or so, the ceiling rose a little bit and it got easier. I couldn't have sat up if I had tried, and it was a good thing there weren't three of us, because it wasn't deep enough to hold more. There was sand under us though, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

"Heero? You OK?" I was laying shoulder to shoulder with him in the dark, but I could imagine the frown. I got another of his non-committal grunts.

"What's wrong with your leg?" Now that took me by surprise. Not that he noticed; nothing escapes our little soldier boy, but that he asked.

"Ah, just some bumps and bruises." I had to put the grin into my voice since he couldn't see it, "What's with the arm?"

"Broken." He said, matter of factly. Then, "Duo? I think I'm going to pass out."
And he did. I felt him go limp and I suddenly felt as alone as I had in a very long time.

"Shit!" I muttered, and reached out to touch his face. He was breathing, but his skin felt cold. He was wearing a pair of jeans, and not, thank God, those stupid shorts, but his shirt was nothing but a tank top. I unbuttoned my black outer shirt and with a great deal of squirming and work, managed to crawl out of it and threw it over him. At least I wasn't lying on the side with the broken arm, so I wriggled as close as I could get and settled down to wait, wondering how much longer before the search teams swept through.

Despite my worry, I think I dozed a little. Until the tide crept up the beach and suddenly I was lying in a puddle of ice water. I would like to state right now that I'm rather proud of the fact that I didn't yelp, scream or otherwise give away our position. Once fully awake, I muttered several curses under my breath and quickly realized that I was the dam that was keeping Heero from getting equally soaked. Letting him get doused with icy, salty, ocean water right now didn't seem to be the wisest thing to do, so I did the only thing I could think of. I wriggled and shifted and worked and managed to roll him over on top of me. I was gasping with the effort once I was done, but I got him pulled onto my stomach, his head tucked under my chin, my arms acting as side rails to keep his arms from flopping off into the water that was lapping all around me now. Damn! But it was cold! I even managed to get his back covered with my shirt again. All this, and not a bit of response from him. I could feel his breathing against my chest though, and somehow that actually made me feel a little better. It put me in mind of running and hiding as an orphan on the streets. I'd spent many a night holed up in some damp cubby, staring into the dark and hoping not to be discovered. The water slowly rose, creeping lazily higher until I had to shift my head to keep the water out of my ears. My muscles were starting to cramp.

Then I heard the voices and the motors and saw the flash of search lights out on the beach. They were finally here. My heart got hit with an adrenaline rush and began to pound so hard it hurt. I closed my eyes and prayed to all the Gods that Heero would stay quiet. And all the while, that damned water was lapping at me, soaking into my clothes and seeping into my bones. I started to shiver.

This had really turned into a crappy day.
Outside I could start to make out bits of conversation yelled back and forth against the wind. They were sweeping the beach.
"... .spread out!"
"Nothing here!"
"... .sir, Lieutenant... "

I bit down on my tongue to keep my teeth from chattering, I would have shoved my knuckles in my mouth if my arms weren't busy holding Heero out of the water. The chill was making my muscles contract, and that was doing great things for my ribs. That, and Heero's weight. I looked down at him and found the faint glint of his eyes open and staring at me. He hadn't so much as twitched, or maybe I had been too preoccupied to notice. We lay in the darkness and stared at each other. I can't begin to tell you what a relief it was to not be alone any more. My world narrowed down to his eyes, shoring me up and offering me support without a word. Just when I thought I would shiver all my joints loose, I heard a louder voice, "Regroup! Regroup! They've found the wreckage twenty miles south of here! Move out!"

I wanted to laugh; one of my plans had actually worked! The voices receded, and the lights went away and after a bit so did the sound of motors. I finally let out a long sigh and grinned into the night. "It worked!"

Heero was trying to lever himself off me. "We have to get you out of here."

I restrained him with a hand in the small of his back, careful of the right arm. "Not yet, I can survive getting wet, I can't survive getting shot."

"Duo... " He began, but I cut him off.

"There's no point in both of us getting soaked. Besides, I think the tide might finally be going back out a little."

"Or it's going to rise and drown us." A joke from Heero Yuy!

I laughed, though softly. "You scared the hell out of me, man! Are you OK?"

A grunt, and then, "Better, I think. Not so shaky."

Wow, a civil conversation with Mr. Stoic, would wonders never cease? We waited a while longer, to make absolutely sure the area was clear of observers and then began to crawl out of our hole like a couple of crabs. The water did indeed pull back, and though the sand was wet, and there was a Duo sized pool left in the cave after we were gone, I managed to keep Heero from getting thoroughly soaked. But I only thought I was cold before; with the removal of Heero's body heat and the subsequent entry into the wind, I couldn't even speak for the shivering. There was some muscle fatigue in there too, all that time holding Heero out of the water, and I doubled over with it, dropping down to sit on the rock I had put Heero on earlier.

"Here." he said gruffly, and worked me out of the sopping wet, thin cotton shirt I was in, and then, one handed, began to briskly rub my back and shoulders. The warmth from the friction felt good until he drifted down and ran across the ribs. I flinched and gasped and then had to sit while he poked and prodded at me.

"Bumps and bruises?" He quirked an eyebrow at me and I had to grin. He just shook his head and then tossed my miraculously still dry outer shirt to me and I struggled into it gratefully.

"OK, Heero, my man, we need a ride." And I led the way up the beach until we found a place that would allow us both to climb up to the road. This we followed, limping and staggering like a couple of drunks, until we found a bit of civilization and I was able to exhibit one of the many talents developed in my miss-spent youth, and I hot-wired a car. With Heero settled into the passenger seat, and the heater on full blast, I started our trek inland, keeping to back roads. I estimated we had a couple of days ahead of us. Our landing site had been chosen from necessity, not proximity to our final destination.

At first, the heater was a blessed relief and nothing else mattered except we were starting to warm up a little. Then the muscle aches and other pains started to come through and I looked around the car to see what goodies we had inherited. There was some stuff in the back seat, clothes or something, some CDs on the dash, and junk just kind of crammed into all the nooks and crannies. This had to be a guy's car. I noticed Heero holding his arm again and I cursed myself for being so muddle headed.

"Hang on, man, let me get another couple of miles behind us and I'll pull over."

He kind of frowned without looking at me, "I'm fine."

My turn to grunt. I finally spotted a likely pull off spot, one of those scenic over look things, and began my inspection of the cars contents. The back seat did yield some useful items, and somebody's old work shirt with the name 'Gus' on the pocket, sacrificed itself to become a sling for Heero's arm. I found a blanket that I tucked around him and then turned my attention to the glove box. It coughed up a couple of things I was very happy to see; some black electrician's tape and a bottle of aspirin and, miracle of miracles, a map. I immediately swallowed two aspirin and spared Heero an apologetic smile.

"Sorry, Heero, but... "

"I know." We both knew aspirin was not a good idea if you suspected internal bleeding.

I tossed the bottle back into the glove box and then went around the car to change the license plate with the tape. It wouldn't pass a close inspection, but would hopefully keep us from getting pulled over. A three became an eight, and an F became an E. It was the best I could do. I went to Heero's side of the car.

"I think the seat will recline a little." I ventured, not really expecting him to except, but he gave me a grateful look and I made the adjustment, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

Then it was back on the road, and it didn't take two more miles before Heero was asleep beside me.

This was scaring the crap out of me. Mr. Perfect should just not be this damned dependent! I'd never seen him out of control before. He was almost being meek! My whole world was off its axis! I wanted to brush that unruly hair out of his eyes and tell him everything would be all right. Somehow, I didn't think he'd thank me for it. I almost snorted.

Then I settled down to the business of driving that old car through the night. There wasn't much traffic out here, we passed a few cars, but between the hour and the rural road, I could have driven down the middle most of the time without worrying about it. That was probably what saved my butt some four or five hours later when I fell asleep at the wheel. It was the feel of hitting the gravel on the wrong side of the road that snapped me back awake, and I jerked the wheel and righted us just before we went into the ditch at fifty miles per hour. Beside me, Heero mumbled in his sleep and I whispered,

"It's all right, go back to sleep." While my internal voice was screaming, 'Shitshitshitshitshit!' and my heart was hammering in my ears. Of all the stupid things! That would have been a hell of a way for a pair of Gundam pilots to end up dying!

I turned the heat down with a trembling hand and cracked the window on my side for a little fresh air. It was still a couple of hours until dawn and I wasn't sure I was going to make it. It was too damn quiet. I tried turning on the radio, but there didn't seem to be a station in this Never-land. I shuffled through the Cds on the dash and about screamed when I realized the guy was into classical music for crying out loud! I might as well have Heero sing me a lullaby.

So, I started singing to myself, anything to keep my mind awake. I sang some stupid piece that was popular right now, duh duhing through the parts I didn't know the words to, and then other pieces, older stuff, God's, I don't know what all. I hoped I wasn't bothering Heero, but I decided that running us both off a bridge would probably bother him more.

After an hour, my voice was getting a little hoarse, but it was helping, I guess just the act of working to remember the lyrics was helping to keep me awake. I faded into an old song I was rather fond of; I don't remember where I learned it.

"Black water be my lover, for lover have I none
Nor ever shall, and empty ache alone.
Black water, be my lover, for all my dreams are done
And you are kinder than what life has shown.

Black water, final rescue; dark water, lasting peace,
Black water, keeping secrets none may know,
Black water, final rescue, bring silence and release
Black water, through the city swift... ." [1]

"Don't." The voice beside me was shocking with its harshness and my mouth snapped shut in mid chorus.

"Heero, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, I was just getting so sleepy... "

"Just stop... I... " he was looking at me really odd. I was starting to get a little peeved.

"Look, Heero, I said I was sorry. Damn it, I almost killed us about an hour ago. I can't stay awake. Come on, my voice isn't that bad!"

He just looked even more confused and upset if that's possible, " it was nice... just... not that song. OK?"

I swear, I had to stop and think about it, I'd been just driving and singing for so long, I didn't even know what song he was talking about. Then it sort of replayed in my head.
"Shit. I'm sorry man, I wasn't even paying any attention."

"You... just sounded so... so much... yearning in your voice."

I glanced at him just to make sure it really was Heero Yuy still sitting next to me.

"I swear, I'm not planning on drowning myself any time soon, OK?" I had a sudden thought and reached out to touch his forehead. "Heero, I think you're running a temperature."

He was done with conversation again, and was back to grunting.

Could an infection develop this fast? I really wished I dared drive faster.
By dawn, I needed to find a filling station; we were running on fumes and luck. Heero seemed to be awake, but had lapsed back into silence and I was afraid to go back to singing. I just jabbered for awhile about the landscape and the car and whatever else I could think of. If I was getting on his nerves, he didn't show it. Just when I was starting to panic, we came across a wide space in the road with two houses and a filling station. I tucked the blanket around Heero to hide the sling and pulled in.

It was self-serve, and I pumped the gas first before sauntering boldly into the station, I didn't have a credit to my name. I tucked my shirt in, tried to smooth my hair and hoped I didn't look too God-awful. I plastered my best, patented Duo Maxwell grin on my face and made my entrance. The clerk was an older guy, obviously bored out of his skull sitting in an old office chair and reading some magazine that he stuffed under the counter when I walked in. I looked around and grinned wider.

"Caffeine! Great! Hey do you have a bathroom?" I did my little, I gotta PEE dance for him and managed to get a corner of his mouth to quirk up. He jerked a thumb around to the side of the building and I danced off to do my business.

I came back and fished two cans of soda and a couple of bottles of water out of the cooler and deposited them on the counter in front of the man. Then I dithered over the display of chocolate bars, yeah, sugar and caffeine, that's what I needed! I slung one-liners around until I finally drug a laugh out of the guy and once we bonded, it was a fairly simple thing to lift the money I used to pay the man out of his own register.

Back on the road, I popped the top on the first can of soda and chugged it down. The noise roused Heero again and he looked at me, incredulous, as I tossed the empty can into the back seat and pulled out a chocolate bar and the second can of soda.

"What are you doing?" he muttered at me.

"Trying to stay awake." I grinned back. I leaned over him and fished the aspirin bottle out of the glove box again and washed a couple more down with some soda. Of course my screwed up knee had to be my right one and all this driving was killing me.

I pulled a water bottle out and twisted off the cap and handed it over to him. "Here, drink some of that, and I got you the closest thing to real food I could find."

When he had finished about half the bottle, I took it from him, unwrapped, and handed him a sandwich.

"It's just cheese," I grinned over at him as he looked it over, "I figured it was safer than any of the ones with meat coming from a place like that."

He actually snorted. But he ate it.

I ate another candy bar and finished the second can of soda and was starting to feel like I wouldn't sleep again this whole bloody year. Yeah, I could do this. We should get to the pick up point some time around three or four tomorrow morning. I could do this. It was starting to become a mantra.

"You're going to make yourself sick." He muttered darkly, frowning over at me.
I laughed, "Oh yeah! I am going to crash so hard it's gonna hurt!" I sobered a little, "But hopefully, not until it's all over."

The day warmed up and Heero pulled off the blanket and about mid-day we discovered that the car didn't have an air conditioner.

"Man," I muttered, "Last night, I thought I'd never be warm again. This has just not been our day."

You couldn't say traffic ever picked up, not so you would notice unless you actually counted the cars, but there were a few more than the night before. I had been weaving my way from back road to back road, avoiding the highways as much as possible, without deviating too much from my direction.

Another stop for gas in another almost-there small 'town', another risk of getting caught with my hand in the till. A lot more miles. Around mid-afternoon I finally had to break down and take a small highway that ran east, we were out in the middle of nowhere and the back roads just weren't there anymore. I was starting to suspect that Heero was not so much sleeping as he was fading in and out of consciousness. He was scaring me to death. I had no idea what to do for him. I wanted him in a hospital very badly.

[ 1 - Lyrics from 'Black Water (Suicide)' by Mercedes Lackey and C. J. Cherryh based on the Merovingen Nights book series, from the tape 'Fever Season' ]

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