Evening was approaching again and I was starting to come down from my
caffeine induced high, and coming down hard. I was shaking like a leaf
and my head was pounding. I wondered how in the world I was going to make
it through another night.
"Duo?" Came a small voice, "I have to pee."
"It's about time." I tried to keep my voice light, but I really
was relieved, I didn't think no urine output was a good thing.
"Look, Heero!" I suddenly crowed, spotting a veritable oasis
in front of us, "An honest to God rest-stop!"
"Yeah, I noticed the sign." He shifted restlessly.
I felt a twinge of guilt; he'd probably had to go for ages but just didn't
want to bother me. I should have asked.
I pulled in; it was deserted, of course, out in the middle of nowhere.
I couldn't help but wonder why they bothered to put one here, but it had
everything from rest rooms to vending machines. I pulled as close as I
could get to the shelter.
"Heero, I'd rather not try to get you out of the car if we can help
it." I fished the empty water bottle out of the back seat and waved
it at him. "Think you can manage?"
He looked dubious at the small bottle, but looked kind of relieved at
the same time. He just nodded.
I got out of the car to give him a little privacy, I had to shimmy out
sideways and use my left leg to lever myself up and then cling to the
side of the car while I literally drug my right leg out behind me. I got
the door shut and then just leaned up against the bumper and tried to
look nonchalant while I forced my knee to straighten back out. Gods, but
I felt woozy. I just stayed, watching the sun go down until I heard a
small noise from Heero indicating he was done, and then limped around
to take the bottle from him to dispose of. It was full to the top and
I held it up and grinned, getting ready to make some crack, when I froze.
The dark yellow liquid inside was tinged pink.
"Heero." I breathed, "You're pissing blood!"
I locked eyes with him, and he just sat and stared back at me, like he
just didn't have the energy to care. I was passed scared now, working
on terrified. A jolt of adrenaline shot into my system and I started to
shake again. I had to get him to help, and I had to do it fast. I dumped
the bottle out in the bushes and rinsed it out at the water fountain.
He might need it again. I splashed some water in my face while I was there,
and then made my way to the bank of vending machines, practically dragging
my right leg behind me. More soda, more chocolate; I had to keep going.
Gods, I wish I'd slept better the night before the mission. I used up
all the money I had gotten as change from the guy at the gas station.
I bought Heero more water and started chugging the first can of pop before
I got back to the car. I almost threw it back up. I slowed down to gulps
I tossed my meager bounty into the back seat and proceeded to drag my
sorry butt back into the car. Heero was still awake beside me, and the
worry was plain on his face. I grinned at him as best I could, "Don't
worry; I'll get you out of this. Promise."
He frowned, "Worried about you. You can't keep doing this to yourself.
You need some rest."
"I'm fine." I tried for more, I really did, but my mind just
couldn't process anything else and I just kept repeating "I'm fine."
While I wrapped my hands around my leg and forced my knee to bend again.
I thought about the aspirin, but decided the pain would help keep me awake.
I got us going again and stopped worrying about speed limits and back
roads. The second empty can went into the back seat and think I may have
giggled a little, wondering what 'Gus' was going to think when he finally
got his car back.
"Duo... ." I heard a trace of the normal Heero in the warning
tone. "Buckle up." Was all I said, and I followed my own advice
before popping the third can. I can do this.
My head started to buzz unpleasantly, and I quit drinking. I think I read
somewhere that it was possible to kill yourself with enough caffeine.
My heart thumped uncomfortably hard in my chest, and my stomach churned.
Yeah, that would do for now.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Heero reaching for one of the water
bottles and I snagged it for him. I had to wedge it between my knees and
take my good hand off the wheel to open it for him. I braced the wheel
with my left wrist, my left hand long passed being able to grip anything.
I handed the bottle over and was favored with a grunt.
"What's the matter with your hand?" he ventured.
"Just sprained." It was bizarre; it was like we had traded places.
He was the one getting all talkative, and I was the one resorting to grunts
and one-word sentences.
He seemed to doze off again and for a change, I was just as glad. I couldn't
take his eyes looking at me like I'd done something wrong.
My brain was starting to make these crazy leaps, putting things together
and watching to see what kind of mutant thought would come out of the
union. When Heero had reacted so strangely about my singing, was it because
he thought I was suicidal, or he was? I suddenly remembered where I had
learned that stupid song. A childhood friend, another street rat orphan,
older than me and wiser. My very own Artful Dodger, he used to sing us
little ones to sleep with it. But Solo was dead now. Funny, I'd never
felt what the song meant before. Intellectually, I guess I knew, but I'd
never felt it in my heart. I didn't want to think about him any more.
My mind jumped off on another tangent, I thought about Deathscythe sitting
on the bottom of the ocean and wondered how long it was going to be before
I could get back to him. Yes, I thought of my Gundam as a person, OK?
Happy to hear me admit it? Did I mention that I'm just a little bit crazy?
I think you have to be to do what we do.
The miles stretched out in front of me like some unending Mobieus strip.
I glanced down and realized I was doing eighty. I slowed a little, but
not much. It was night again, and I supposed it wouldn't help our situation
any to hit some nocturnal animal at this speed. But Heero hadn't stirred
in the last hour or more and I couldn't help the hurry hurry hurry that
coursed through my veins. Or maybe it was the caffeine.
I wondered what was going on inside his body, how bad was it? Could I
keep my promise to get him out of this? Doubt. Doubt. Doubt. It ate at
me. I looked over at him and I swear, I couldn't see him breathing. I
let the car slow while I looked again, my heart thudding in my ears. Without
thinking, I reached out and pressed my fingers gently against the side
of his throat, feeling for a pulse. Then my head was nailed to the back
of the seat and my air was gone.
Instinct made me slam on the brakes and I struggled briefly, but even
backhanded, his grip was unbreakable. I rolled my eyes toward him, my
vision getting spotty and I could see his eyes wide open and staring at
me, but Heero wasn't behind them.
I somehow managed to keep control of the car even as I fought for, and
failed to gain any air. My sight was fading to black at the edges. Struggling
was pointless, I couldn't speak, and wildly, I figured I had less than
a minute left and running on instinct, I reached my hand up and gently
brushed my fingers across his cheek. My vision was reduced now to a pinpoint
of light that I fought with all my will to not let go out. Then I heard
a distant moan and someone crying my name. The air came back in a rush.
I sucked at it with all my strength, throat feeling crushed; there didn't
seem to be enough room to get the air in fast enough. I slumped forward,
the seat beat holding me up, my hand falling away from Heero's face and
landing on his leg. I sobbed air back into my chest, struggling to expand
that pinpoint of light into something I could see out of again.
"Duo! Duo! Oh Gods... Oh Gods... " I could just hear him over
the roaring in my ears, but I couldn't even begin to think about speaking.
He started struggling under my hand. I knew what this meant; this was
the 'I hate myself' part. This was the 'I'm running away' part. I wasn't
having any damn part of that. I groped out blindly and caught the front
of his shirt in a death grip. No way in hell was I running around in the
dark the way I felt, chasing him down.
My chest was on fire. My throat was burning. My head was pounding. I was
really starting to get pissed at the whole bloody damn world. I held him
pinned until my breathing slowed enough that I thought I could use some
air to get words out.
"S'ok." I croaked, the ragged sound of my own voice shocking
Beside me, Heero broke. Just freaking shattered, right before my blurry
eyes. He started to shake and then he started to sob. That tore at me
like nothing else had on this road trip to Hell. In all the time I had
known Heero Yuy, I had never seen him cry.
I let go of his shirt and had the presence of mind to shove the car into
park and flip on the emergency blinkers. Then I unbuckled and shifted
over to where I could put an arm around his neck. He sobbed hot tears
on my shoulder.
"I almost killed you." He just kept repeating it, his own twisted
I hugged him awkwardly, one handed, and tried my voice again. "My
fault." He stiffened under my arm and I knew I was going to have
to manage better than that. So despite the pain in my throat I went on.
"Never touch a sleeping soldier. How basic is that lesson? I was
stupid; I forgot."
He pulled away, wiping at his eyes, "Doesn't matter. I should have
know it was you."
"For Gods sake, Heero! You're sitting here with internal injuries,
a broken frigging arm, a stinking fever, pissing blood! Cut yourself a
little slack!" My voice cracked on that line and I had to stop. I
slid back into the drivers seat and started to put it back in drive when
I finally noticed the car that had pulled in behind us, blue lights flashing.
Shit. Our day had just gotten immeasurably worse.
The officer was just getting out of his car. I tried to straighten things
around; I flipped the blanket back across Heero and covered his arm. I
ran a hand through my hair and tried extremely hard to put the Duo Maxwell
wide-eyed, charming, 'laugh at me; I'm harmless', mask back on my face,
but for the first time in memory, I was having trouble pulling it into
place. Maybe I knew there really wasn't much point. Did I have time to
get the knife out of my boot? Didn't think so.
The man was beside the car and leaning down into the window while I was
still debating running him down.
"There a problem here, boys?" he drawled, his goggles hiding
his eyes. Goggles? He put a hand on his hip, too close to his holstered
weapon. Was that a freaking laser sight?
"No Officer," I forged ahead bravely, not really able to pull
off my usual charismatic act with hardly any voice left. "My friend
here just got a little car sick."
"You don't sound too good, yourself, son." He quirked a little
half grin. I had to wonder why he didn't have my butt out of the car doing
the spread-eagle thing. Then it dawned on my poor, sleep-deprived brain.
He was stalling. He knew exactly what he had sitting in front of him and
must know that back up was on the way. He was hoping not to have to take
us on all by his lonesome. If he had only known. I started thinking about
the knife in my boot again, hidden under my pants leg.
Then a gun went off three inches in front of my face and the big man disappeared
from the car window. Through the ringing in my ears, I heard Heero yell,
"Go!" But I had other ideas. I threw the door open and practically
fell out of the car across the legs of the dead man sprawled in the road.
I could hear Heero yelling at me, but I had seen what he had not from
the passenger seat. When I hoisted myself back into the car, I tossed
the laser-sighted gun into the back seat, and a hand-held radio into Heero's
I jammed the car in gear and sped off as fast as I could manage. It took
me longer than it had Heero to figure it out, but getting a good long
look at the radio confirmed what I suspected and Heero had known. That
had not been a real Highway Patrolman; he was Oz.
We were still hours from the pick up point. "We gotta ditch this
car." I growled, watching the blue lights shrink and then fade in
the rear view mirror.
Heero grunted, the radio braced between his knees, fiddling with it one
handed. I grinned; so we were back to that. The road was pretty straight
and flat, and I pushed it up to ninety; little fuzzy animals beware. Where
the heck had Heero had that gun hidden?
The radio squawked to life and I jumped like a scared rabbit. Mr. Dead-in-the-road's
buddies were looking for him.
"Delta Bravo five niner, report." It crackled at us. Heero chewed
his lip for a second and then replied, "This is Delta Bravo five
niner, false alarm."
There was a long pause. We couldn't be that lucky, could we? "Confirm."
They wanted some code word. Damn. "Nice try." I said, "How
about seeing if you can get that thing tuned in to our emergency frequency?"
He had to crack the case; with my help. Between us, we had one good set
of hands. I left him to it then, and concentrated on looking for another
vehicle. I got off the road we had been on as quick as I could, running
with the lights out for a little while. I began heading toward higher
traffic areas, and finally come upon a small town. This one might even
have qualified for an actual population count. It was after midnight.
I parked the car on a side street and sat for a minute observing the area.
"I'll be back in ten minutes one way or the other." I told Heero,
not looking at him, "Think you can drive if you have to?'
There was a tight silence and then a calm, "No." I wasn't sure
if it meant no he couldn't drive, or no he wasn't leaving without me.
"Guess I'd better not screw up, then, huh?" I reached up and
flipped the interior lights off so they wouldn't come on when I opened
the door. I wish I could say I slipped into the night and disappeared
like a shadow. Possibly on a good day. Tonight, I kind of staggered. Maybe
if anyone saw me, they'd take me for a drunk. I leaned back in the window,
"Make that fifteen."
Everything was completely quiet. The kind of place where nothing happens
after about ten o'clock at night. I crossed a couple of yards, avoiding
places with dogs, and went hunting for a likely source of transportation.
My first choice didn't even have a quarter of a tank of gas, and I rejected
it. Second target had a flat and looked like it had been sitting for a
while, probably wouldn't even start. Then I spotted a nice little number
parked out behind a house. That was what first drew my attention; it was
off the street and kind of out of sight. It was a smaller car than the
one we had been driving, and looked faster. That was a plus. When I pulled
the wires and supplied a little power, the gas gage rose to full. It was
an automatic transmission too, and with only one good hand, that made
it perfect. I looked it over inside, didn't want any surprises, and finally
slipped inside and started it up. Quiet engine; good, with any luck, it
would be morning before the owner missed it. I pulled slowly out, careful
not to pass near the house, and made my way back to Heero. In the end,
it was closer to twenty minutes.
I pulled up beside 'our' car and about peed myself. I didn't see Heero.
I threw myself out of the new car and limped over as fast as I could,
my heart in my throat, and jerked the door open, only to be greeted with
a gun barrel in the face. He was lying across the front seat, out of sight.
Brain engaged and calmly said, "of course".
"I thought you said fifteen minutes?" he sounded almost amused.
I just grunted at him and began to gather up the useful stuff we had accumulated
in our travels in an effort to cover up the fear I had felt when I thought
he wasn't there. Blanket, guns, radio, aspirin, the last of the bottled
water; it all went into the new car and then I went back for Heero. This
would be the first time I had tried to move him out of the car in a good
day or more. We did it slow, and he let me help him and clung to me without
a word, even though he was killing my ribs and my leg and he knew it.
Which told me just how much he couldn't help it.
The new car had bucket seats instead of the bench seat the old one had.
I settled him in and buckled him up, it was a warm night, and we were
both sweating and panting. I eased his door shut and did my little hop
thing back around the car. Then we were on the road again, and I sure
hoped the lost half hour was worth it.
He let me drive in peace for a while; he seemed wide-awake now, fiddling
with the radio again.
"What the hell scared you back there?" he asked innocently,
after a few miles. "What do you think?" I growled, knowing where
this was leading and not really feeling up to the argument.
"You should have known that's what I would do. An empty parked car
is a lot less conspicuous than a guy sitting in one."
I concentrated on keeping the car on my side of the road, and said flatly,
"I was preoccupied."
"Doesn't that tell you how tired you are?"
"No, the grit in my eyes and the ringing in my ears is telling me
how freaking tired I am." That came out harsher than I intended,
but I wasn't just tired any more, I felt like I was holding on by a thin,
raveling thread. But what the hell could I do. If I could abandon the
car, I could lose myself and they'd never find me, but Heero could barely
walk, and needed medical attention. I had no choice but to get him back
to Quatre and the others as fast as possible.
"What would you have me do, Heero?" I finally asked, and when
he didn't have an answer, that pretty much ended that conversation.
Then the radio flared to life under his hands and as though my thinking
of him had summoned his voice, I heard Quatre, "... Lost Boys, Lost
Boys, come in Lost Boys, do you read?" I almost ran off the road.
His voice sounded tired and droned as though he had been at this for days.
I laughed out loud, a sound my throat turned into a strangled cry. I snatched
the radio from Heero's hand and keyed the mike.
"Hawk's Nest, this is Lost Boys, can you hear me?" His voice
came back in a burst of incoherent joy and then I heard Wufei take over.
"Mr. Black?" he queried cautiously, and I realized they probably
didn't recognize my voice.
"Mr. Dragon, we are on our way in, I need immediate pick up at point
Delta Sly Honey." That would tell him it was me.
"Immediate?" he questioned me, worry coming through even across
"Two hours. We are extremely hot and in need of medical transport."
"Understood, Mr. Black." And I knew he had it all and they would
be there. The sound of their voices was like a salve, even across the
miles I had yet to go.
"We'll be there." I heard Quatre break in and I grinned. "Thank
you, Mr. Hawk." I sent all I could with those spare words, "Signing
I was grinning from ear to ear when I handed the radio back. Heero was
frowning at me. "Was that wise?" Meaning the part about admitting
we were injured. "We're close. Shouldn't make that much difference
now. Even if we were over heard."
He still didn't look happy. I worked my way out of town and back to the
highway where I proceeded to find out just how much faster the little
car would go. It was a sweet little thing, and I felt kind of bad about
stealing it. Somebody was going to be really pissed in the morning, and
I had a funny feeling there wouldn't be much left to tow home when I was
done with it.
We were still something like a hundred miles out, and I had some serious
time to make.
I have to give him credit, Heero didn't utter a word until I hit a hundred
and twenty, and then it was just a quiet, "Duo." I sighed and
dropped back to one ten. I said a silent thanks for the flat, straight,
relatively deserted highways in this part of the country. And a little
prayer that they were still looking for Gus's car.
Heero had gotten quiet, and I spared a quick glance to see if he had fallen
asleep again. I caught him staring at my throat. It was probably starting
to show bruising, and even if it wasn't, I'm sure his imagination was
painting it in. "Stop it."
He winced at the sound of my voice, but returned his eyes to the radio
he was fiddling with again. Having completed contacting Quatre and the
others, he was flipping through the channels trying to pick up something
from our pursuit. They knew we had the radio, and would switch away from
the channel they had been on, but would have to use something to stay
in contact. They would keep it to a bare minimum though, so all we could
do was run up and down the range.
We were getting closer to the city, and traffic was starting to pick up.
I had to drop it below a hundred and weave my way carefully in and out
of traffic. I didn't need some irate motorist calling in a traffic report.
I think I had made up enough time to get us there close to the appointed
hour. But the slow down was turning out to have a bad effect on me; I
was getting sleepy again. Apparently, driving like a maniac had been generating
enough of an adrenaline rush to keep we awake. City driving was dull.
This car, at least, had air, and I switched it on and flipped it to high.
Heero looked at me quizzically, but it was a warm night and he didn't
seem to really question it. I think he was starting to drift off again,
himself. Another couple of miles and it wasn't really working. I reached
without thinking for that last can of unfinished soda before I remembered
it had gotten left in the other car. I couldn't do this. I was going to
fall asleep at the wheel, kill us both, and it would all be over. How
long had I been driving? How long had I been awake? Two days? Three? I
didn't even know.
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