Author: Sunhawk

Road Trip (cont)

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 after that.

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 even me.

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 little mantra.

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 lap.

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. Either way.

"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 the radio.

"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 off."

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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