Author: Sunhawk

Road Trip (cont)

It all got very jumbled after that. For a while all I remember are voices, distant and disjointed, and odd sounds.

"Damn it! He's coming out from under again!"

Searing pain in my hand.

Panicked voices, somehow related to something I had done.

Wufei, yelling something. A stranger's voice, yelling back.

There was nothing but a strange beeping for a while, punctuated with bizarre, Darth Vader breathing.

Horrid, horrid pain in my chest. Something covering my face.

All very incoherent, with big gaps of nothing in between.

My next clear memory was waking up and not knowing where I was. My whole body convulsed. Damn! I was falling asleep at the wheel again! But Trowa's voice came soft and calm.

"You're in the hospital. I'm here, go back to sleep."

And I did.

Another memory of opening my eyes in the night and seeing Quatre asleep in the chair beside the bed, curled into an uncomfortable position like a cat. I tried to tell him to go home, but my voice didn't work. Then I was gone again.

The feel of something cold touching my lips, the taste of applesauce.

"Come on Duo. Just a little bit." Wufei this time. I tried to swallow, to make him happy. I sank away again before I was sure I had.

Another awakening with my body spasming in fear, struggling against the depths of sleep. Have to stay awake! Have to stay awake!

A voice beside me told me everything was all right.

It was late and the lights were dim and someone was holding my hand. I rolled my head slowly that way and found Heero sitting beside the bed in a wheel chair.

"Hey." He said softly when he saw my eyes were open.

There was a lurch in my chest, and I realized that somewhere, deep inside, I had been afraid the guys were lying to me, that Heero had died and they were trying to spare me the news.

I tried my voice, and had to settle for a grunt. He smiled at me.

"Want something to drink?" I nodded, and he let go of my hand to lift a glass of water and hold the straw to my lips. The moisture helped.

His left arm was in a full cast, and I couldn't really see anything else, but I remembered something about surgery.

I frowned, trying to remember. I think I was missing whole days. Nothing really hurt all that much, which was surprising. Not that much time could have gone by, could it? What the hell was wrong with me? I couldn't focus on anything. I felt a tiny edge of panic trying to force it's way past the fog I was in.

"Heero?" I couldn't really muster up to full panic, but there must have been a touch of fear in my voice.

"It's all right. Shhh. It's all right. It's the drugs. You're OK." He stopped holding my hand and started gently stroking my hair.

I really hate drugs, I rolled my head, looking around and saw the IV, and next to it, a box I recognized. It was automatically pumping painkillers into my system. It was stealing my focus and my control. It was muting the pain, taking away the thing I had been using to keep my center for so long.

I snarled. It had to go. I reached for the tubes, and almost had them before Heero realized what I was doing and stopped me. He might be in a wheel chair, and obviously still recovering himself, but he was still stronger than I was.

"Stop it." He was really pretty calm, for Heero, I thought he'd yell. "Duo, listen to me. Leave it alone. You need to get some rest."

"Been resting." I grumbled, getting a little irritated. After all, it was my pain and if I wanted to feel it, I should be able to feel it. Feel something anyway.

He smiled kind of sad, "No you haven't. You keep waking up, screaming."

I remembered Trowa's voice, soothing away a nightmare. "I have?" I asked dumbly.

"Yes. Just ask the poor nurse who happened to be on duty the first night."

I glanced at him, and he was still smiling gently at me. "I didn't hurt anybody, did I?"

"No. Not really. Scared her to death, maybe. They've had one of us with you since." He gently wiped something off my cheeks, they felt damp, but I couldn't figure out why.

I frowned harder, trying to digest it all. "You shouldn't be here. You should be in bed yourself." I had to struggle to keep my eyes open.

He was quiet for a bit and then said, "I insisted."

I tried to ask him why, but my voice cracked again, and there was a minute of silence while he raised the water to my lips. He looked upset.

I guess he figured what I had meant to ask, "I owe you my life. You got me through, and I repaid you by trying to kill you."

He looked away, not meeting my eyes. I reached for his hand, "You know I don't blame you."

"I blame me."

"Well stop it."

"Maybe... .if you leave the morphine alone and sleep for more than two hours at a time."

I had to laugh. I was really sorry after; even the morphine haze couldn't keep my ribs from exploding.

We just sat in silence for a while, and I started to doze. I fell asleep with the distant sound of Heero whispering to me.

"You can rest now. It's all over. Everything's OK. Sleep, Duo, just sleep... "

It finally must have soaked down to that part of me that was trapped in the endless loop of highway and I slept without waking again until morning.

Heero was gone, and Quatre was back, and when my eyes finally opened and focused, he was beaming at my like a sunrise. I was sorry Heero wasn't there, I guess I just wanted the confirmation that it hadn't been a dream, but glad to know that he was probably back in bed where he belonged.

Besides, Quatre was going to be a whole lot easier to bully than Heero would have been.

"Duo!" he greeted me, almost bubbling with his happiness. "You slept all night!"

I gave him a smile and let him feed me ice chips until I could speak.

"Feeling better." And it wasn't a lie.

You do seem better. You haven't been sleeping well." His smile faded a little, "Not since the surgery."

"Surgery?" for what?

Quatre's smile faded all together, "Your hand." He looked away, embarrassed. "You almost lost it."

I looked down at my left hand, remembering a terrible pain... and something else.

Quatre wasn't meeting my eyes at all, and I realized that Heero must have mentioned how it got so screwed up. I struggled to remember the rest.

He looked back at me, seeming a little awed, "You kept coming out from under the anesthetic." That explained the odd memory of medical personnel in a panic. I couldn't help but grin.

Quatre's smile blazed back to life. "Do you think you could eat something?"

"No, I do not." He froze, like I had suddenly turned into a two-headed monster in front of him.

"And I do not intend to until you get this damned morphine drip stopped."

He blinked at me uncertainly, probably not sure if I was fading into incoherence again.

"Duo, I can't do that." He looked upset, and I felt a little guilty, but I knew I wasn't likely to bully any of the rest of the guys like this. Bless little Quatre's sweet nature.

"Quatre. It upsets me. It's making me feel ill. I want it stopped. I can take some other pain medication."

The argument went on for a little while, but I had the high ground and eventually I won. Quatre had to go find the Doctor, and get some kind of authorization, and then an irritated looking nurse came in and took the damn box away and I rewarded Quatre with a full power Duo Maxwell grin, and ate a bowl of sloppy, green jello for him. Then I decided I'd better sleep as much as I could before the morphine completely left my system. I drifted off feeling a little bad about the fact that Heero was probably going to kill Quatre.

At the changing of the guard, I woke to the sound of Trowa and Quatre arguing in low tones. It was somewhere around noon, judging from the light and the smells. I couldn't tell you if I felt better or worse. The pain was definitely coming back, and I could feel the tightness in my knee, the throbbing in my hand and the other things I hadn't noticed before. Like the catheter. Damn, how could you not notice something like that?

But my head was feeling clearer, and that was such an immense relief, I didn't care about the rest.

I opened my eyes to see Quatre standing with his head butted against Trowa's chest, and Trowa kneading his shoulders. Those two are so sweet together. I liked the rare moments when I caught glimpses of them when they didn't know I was looking. They made me feel happy and made me ache all at the same time.

"I didn't know what else to do, Trowa, he refused to eat until I made them disconnect it."

"It's all right," Trowa murmured, kissing the top of his head, "I'm sorry I yelled at you. It'll be all right."

"It was such a close thing, for both of them... " he trailed off and Trowa enveloped him in a hug, gently swaying back and forth.

"I know. I know."

I realized Quatre was crying. Without the damn drug haze, things were starting to work in my brain, and I realized just how tired Quatre looked.

"Quatre." I called softly, and they started, moving away from each other. "Come here, Quatre." I held out my arm for him and he came to me with care. I pulled him down into a one armed hug and rubbed my cheek against his hair.

"I'm sorry, it was a mean thing to do to you." Trowa was frowning at me, coming, I think, to that same conclusion. "But, thank you, oh Gods, thank you. I can't tell you how much better I feel. I'm in control again."

He sat up and wiped at his eyes, "You do seem like yourself again. Before, it was like we were wrestling with a stranger."

I smiled sadly at him, and wanted to tell him that he had been; he'd wrestled with Shingami and that was why the drugs had to go. I didn't want them to meet Shingami face to face and realize what they were seeing.

"Trowa, get him home to bed."

Trowa just grunted. Damn! It was contagious! And steered Quatre out of the room.

I took an inventory in the time I had to myself, now that I had my brain back. I tried to move my left hand, and realized it was restrained. What the hell? Experimentally, I tried to shift my right leg, and found it stiff and still swollen and extremely sore. I discovered that my ribs were taped; I had figured that 'roll' out of the car had changed their status from fractured to broken. I was sure I had felt it at the time. This pretty much confirmed it. I had an IV, of course, and there were several bags hanging from the hook above me. Some of them looked like more than just fluids. I was on oxygen and I was amazed I hadn't felt the stupid tube across my face before now, it was damned irritating. I probed gently at the scabs on my cheek and forehead and came away a little confused.

Trowa came back about then, and I pinned him with a frown, "Ok, just how the hell long have I been... out of it?"

He heaved a heavy sigh, pulled the straight-back chair over next to the bed and straddled it, his arms across the back.

"Tonight will make five full days."

I felt like I'd been punched. Five days?

He sighed again; I think maybe he had been hoping somebody else would have to do this part.

"Duo, you were in pretty rough shape by the time you got back. That night, you passed out in the shower, we brought you here. Your hand was a mess." He glanced down, just the way Quatre had, to avoid my eyes. "It was close to going gangrenous, and they operated immediately. But you developed pneumonia after the surgery. They think you were on the verge anyway. You were on a respirator for while. You're still on antibiotics." He nodded toward the IV that I had noted earlier.

He shut up and let me digest all that.

"Trowa," I asked carefully, "why is my hand strapped down?"

He put his forehead down on his crossed arms and totally refused to look at me.

"You kept trying to smash it on things." I barely made out the muffled words, but they were what I was half expecting to hear anyway.

I tried to think of a way to explain it so they'd stop looking at me like I was made out of glued together eggshells. I guess they must have gotten a glimpse of that other-me after all. And I scared them. Great, I was too bloody strange even for a group of stone cold killers. Great.

"How's Heero doing?" I gave up and just changed the subject. "Really doing?"

"Much better. He'll probably be released this afternoon or tomorrow."

I didn't know how to ask what I wanted to know, so I just gave it up.

"Trowa, I don't really need a baby-sitter any more. Why don't you go home to Quatre?"

That brought his head back up and he looked at me, unsure of trusting me, I think.

"I swear I'll be good." I worked up enough energy for a quirk of a grin, "cross my heart."

I could tell he was tempted. He looked as tired as Quatre had.

"Please? Go home and give Quatre a hug and tell him I am so sorry for all the trouble I caused, OK?"

He blushed furiously and he held my eyes for a bit. Something he saw there must have finally convinced him that Duo Maxwell was indeed back in the building, and he rose and started for the door, then stopped and looked back at me.

"When we thought you were dead... " He paused, working at something, and I realized that maybe I wasn't the only one who didn't know how to get things across, "It hit everybody hard, but... " He came back a step or two, as though imparting something he shouldn't be sharing.

"We almost lost Heero. Quatre thinks it was as much because of you as from the bleeding and the infection. He... just kind of gave up." And then he was gone.

Well; there was my warm fuzzy for the day. They may think I'm crazy, but they still cared.

I'm really not going to go into how I felt, happy and sick all at the same time. I will tell you I lay there all alone and grinned at the ceiling and let the tears stream down the side of my face for most of the next hour. That is bloody damn well all you need to know.

I dozed after that, off and on. The pain had come home to roost, and I really wasn't happy about it, but I was afraid if I complained, they'd drag that damn morphine back and there was no way I was making the trip back to la-la land.

A nurse checked on me around dinnertime and looked really unhappy to find me all alone.

"Where's your friend?" she said warily and I wondered if she was the one I 'scared' my first night here.

I tried to smile gently and look non-threatening, "I sent him home. I'm all better without the morphine."

She really frowned then, "Have you had any pain meds this afternoon?"

"No ma'am." I confessed, hoping she might remedy that situation. "Not since they disconnected the drip this morning."

She actually hissed in annoyance, but bustled out of the room and returned with one of those little paper cups with the pills in them and a fresh glass of water.

I took them and then looked at her with just a hint of threat in my eyes, "These will not, in any way, shape, or form, make me groggy, will they?"

Her hand froze in the middle of handing me the water and she shook her head in the negative. I was pretty sure this must be the lady I traumatized earlier in the week.

I grinned and took the water, "Good, then we don't have a problem."

"Maxwell, you always have a problem." Wufei leaned in the doorway, wearing one of his tight little smiles. The ones that are almost not there.

My nurse seemed happy to see him, and proceeded with the job of checking all my vitals and then she bustled out.

Wufei came on into the room and took the chair lately vacated by Trowa, turning it around first. He stretched out in it, rocking back on two legs, arms behind his head.

"You are much improved from the last time I saw you."

"I finally convinced somebody to get rid of that damned morphine."

One corner of his mouth quirked up, "Convinced? I thought the term was intimidated."

I refrained from answering, since he had obviously already heard all about the incident.

"Where's Trowa?" he asked, oh so casually.

"I sent him home. And as happy as I am to see you, I'm going to send you home too."

He quirked an eyebrow at me as if to say, you and what army. But only smiled.

My dinner arrived, delivered by a lively, matronly woman who obviously knew Wufei.

"I see he's awake," she grinned at him, "See you do a better job of feeding him tonight."

She was off down the hall, letting the door shut behind her.

"Why do they keep my door shut?" I wondered out loud, former experience told me the doors in hospitals were usually open.

"You're noisy." Wufei grunted and took the lid off my dinner.

"Noisy?" I couldn't let it drop. It is an extremely uncanny feeling to find out that you have been saying and doing things and have no memory of any of it. I was thirsty to have somebody fill in the blanks. But nobody seemed to want to.

He relented, a little, as he unwrapped my utensils. "You yelled a lot. You fought against... everything. You threw things."

Gods. "I remember you yelling." I tried to dredge the memory back up.

Wufei got very busy opening a container of what turned out to be broth. "I did have an altercation with your Doctor."

"Altercation?" I prompted.

"He is a very good surgeon, but does not understand the peculiar... psychology of soldiers." He moved around to the head of the bed, "Nor did he have the proper appreciation for the strength of a Gundam pilot."

He started to raise the head of the bed, and I gasped as things... adjusted against the inside of my ribs. This was apparently, the first time I had not been flat on my back for some time.

Wufei reappeared in my line of sight, looking concerned. "Duo?"

"Oh... .my... " I managed and had to wave him to a stop as he started to put the bed back down. "It's OK, I think. Let's just do this in stages, all right?"

He came and sat back down, watching me closely. I don't think my head was a foot higher than it had been, but I was very dizzy. I chuckled and grinned sheepishly.

I reached shakily for the food tray, and Wufei just smiled. "Here, let me; it is my job, after all."

I didn't fight, just dutifully swallowed as he carefully spooned broth into my mouth. I couldn't manage even half the bowl, but Wufei seemed pleased anyway and didn't push me.

The matronly dinner lady swept back through a bit later, gathering up trays as she went. She inspected mine and gave me the flash of a bright smile. "Much better, sweetie."

Apparently I hadn't been eating at all up till now. My regular nurse came back after a while and changed the bottle my catheter was draining into, checked my IV and went away again. I noticed Wufei checking his watch and I felt bad.

"You should go home and get some sleep." I ventured, not really wanting him to go yet. I had so many more questions.

"I can't leave now," he grinned, " I want to see how your therapist deals with the real you."


"Breathing treatments. You don't remember?"

I just had time to shake my head, when the door opened and a little oriental woman with a look of firm resolve came in pushing a large contraption, followed by two orderlies.

She seemed a little relieved to see Wufei, but then kind of confused when she saw me sitting up gawking at her. I suspect I looked very like a deer in headlights.

"I don't think you'll be needing all the... reinforcements, today Miss Sorbye." His voice fairly sparkled with amusement.

She seemed dubious and looked at me again. I was starting to feel like a fungus culture under a microscope. She reserved judgment with a long suffering, "We'll see."

She handed me a pillow I didn't know what to do with, and I finally muttered, "Have we met?"

Miss Sorbye exchanged a look with Wufei, who supplied helpfully. "He has no memory of his earlier sessions."

She arched a delicate eyebrow and launched into a long explanation about pneumonia and it's causes and treatments. All I really got out of it was, it was gonna hurt.

And it did. She put a mask over my face and had me breathe some sort of medicated mist. This caused me to start coughing until I thought I would die of a brain aneurysm. The pillow, by the way, was for me to clutch to my chest to keep my lungs from exploding out of their cavity. The purpose of this whole exercise seemed to be to get me to spit up some vile fluid that made Lady Torture-person happy enough that she finally went away.

I couldn't even speak; I just lay in a pool of sweat and panted with the pillow still clutched to my chest. Try panting and not breathing deep at the same time. Wufei finally relented and but the head of the bed back down. Flat was good.

"How often does that happen?" I finally gasped out.

"Every day at the same time, right after dinner."

"Oh joy." I muttered, and Wufei laughed out loud. I tried to look indignant and failed miserably. He pulled the chair back over next to the bed, sat down and very gently leaned over and touched his forehead to mine.

"Duo Maxwell, it is so good to have you back again." He said softly.

"You have no idea how good it is to be back." I murmured.

What do you know; two warm fuzzys in one day.

He sat up, "Now, do you have any idea what comes next?"

I winced, "Oh God; no more."

He grinned at me, obviously enjoying himself, "Bath time. The question is, do you still want me to do it, or, now that you're awake, would you prefer a nurse?"

I squawked, OK? Like some kind of bizarre bird. I gaped and all that shit. Chang Wufei had been bathing me!?

"I think," I finally grated, "that a nurse will be fine."

I swear to God, this was all some kind of hideous revenge for whatever the hell I had been doing on my trip through la-la land. They were all conspiring against me.

He grinned at me and rose to go, "I'll tell the nurse on my way out."

"Wufei? When does... I mean, will... " This was going to come out sounding really needy, and I decided to just forget it.

"When will Heero be in?" He grinned at me as I flushed and nodded.

He did that same weird thing that Trowa had done; he stepped back towards the bed, as though we were co-conspirators.

"Not until after midnight. The third shift nurse is the only one he can intimidate into letting him out of his room." I just stared at him as he walked out.

Heero had been sneaking into my room at night? How bizarre was that?

The nurse did indeed show up a bit later, with, thank God, more pain meds and a basin of water. I didn't have the nerve to ask if Wufei really had been doing this chore, but the hesitant way she went about it at first, left me with very few doubts. She expertly washed me down and changed my hospital gown and somehow managed to get the dirty sheet out from under me and a clean sheet on the bed with me still in it. I even convinced her to remove the strap from my left hand. I vowed tomorrow to get rid of the damned catheter.

I meant to stay awake until Heero came, but I felt so much better after the bath and the pills, that I dozed off despite myself.

I woke in the wee hours of the night and found him sitting in the chair beside the bed. He had opened the blinds on the window and I found we had a grand view of the night sky with the moon pouring a ghostly light across the two of us. It was surreal; it cast a pallor on his skin that reminded me of the night I left him in the park. He was staring out at the moon and his face was set in hard lines that told me he was very angry.

I lay still for a bit, just looking at him, I didn't want to break the silence, because I knew what was coming and I didn't want to lay here and justify what I had done. Besides, I was a little angry myself, I had been looking forward to his visit all afternoon, he had been so tender the night before, and now he was going to change the rules again.

I guess he was doing much better himself; his instincts were back, anyway, because he felt me watching him and turned that dark glare on me.

I cringed; this wasn't what I had waited for all day. I had wanted the easy companionship that had grown between us. The gentle words and the openness. I didn't want the masks to have to go back on yet.

But he continued to stare at me, and his mask was already firmly back in place. No warm fuzzy's here. I broke first.

"What?" I snapped, get it over with; I wanted to shout at him.

"Why?" was all he said.

"So I could fucking well think, that's why!"

"You promised me."

"And I kept my promise. I slept all night last night."

"You promised you'd leave the morphine alone." The pupils of his eyes were huge in the dim light, he was scaring me a little, he looked like he had the night he almost strangled me.

"I have other medicine now." I was getting over the anger and was fading quickly into hurt, and that threw up all the automatic defenses and my mask started to fall back into place.

"Why wasn't Wufei here? He's supposed to stay until I get here."

"I'm a big boy now, Heero; he changed my diaper and ran along home." It came out in my best smart-ass tone; the one that gets me beat up nine times out of ten. I couldn't say what I wanted, with him yelling at me. I was mad and I was hurt and nothing was coming out the way it was supposed to.

"Then, I suppose." He said icily, "I should run along home too."

He stood up and started for the door and without thinking; I made to go after him. Not really all that bright, I guess, in retrospect. They say hindsight is twenty-twenty. It went kinda like this; IV lines went tight and stuff rattled metallically over my head, the room whirled around, my sight went to black, and my ribs screamed. I personally might have made a small noise. I'm not saying I moaned or anything so crass, just a small noise. Let's leave it at that, OK?

He was there, that fast, shoring me up and keeping me from falling out of the bed. One handed, he wrestled me back into position and eased me back down flat. For my part, I got a good hold of the front of his shirt with a grip that I don't think would come loose if I freaking died, and rode out the near faint.

"Duo? Duo?" his voice sounded worried. Let him worry, damn it, I hadn't done anything that stinking wrong.

When my sight came back, and the room stopped tilting under the bed, I pressed my small advantage and whispered hoarsely into his ear, "Don't you do this to me. I kept every promise I made to you. I kept you safe and I got you home. I came back when it wasn't part of the damn game plan. I slept clear through last night, just like you wanted. But the damned drugs were making me crazy. I did things I can't remember doing, and nobody will fucking tell me what!" I let go of his shirt, mostly because my hand was getting tired.

He straightened up, worry and anger warring across his face, and I played my trump card.

"Please, don't leave me." Almost the last thing he said to me that night in the park. Right before he made me swear to come back.

He stiffened like he had been stung, and for a second, I thought I might have pushed it too far, but then he just sort of deflated, like I let the air out of him, and he sat down with a defeated sigh in the chair by the bed.

"Why are you so mad at me?" I asked after a long silence, I really didn't know, when I tried to analyze it. He seemed to be way over reacting.

He scrubbed at his face with his one good hand and just sat staring at the floor.

"You and I went through something together, Heero. I thought we got past the need for the masks we wear. At least with each other. I didn't think I had to be the Court Jester for you, and you certainly don't have to be the Stone Man for me."

He looked up at me then, searching my face intently. Then he stood up and walked around the bed to stand looking out the window. The pale moonlight tracing his profile in silver.

"The night they brought you in, the emergency room Doctor took you right into surgery to try to repair the... damage to your hand. You fought out from under the anesthetic in the middle of the operation and took a nurse hostage. They had to call Wufei in to try to talk to you. Apparently, he convinced you to let the nurse go, but then the Doctor had three orderlies try to subdue you."

I remembered Wufei yelling and a lot of people cursing and screaming, but I couldn't dredge the memory up. "Gods." I muttered.

"They managed to complete the surgery, but because of the broken ribs, you hadn't been breathing right and were in the process of coming down with pneumonia. The anesthetic complicated things and it got rather nasty for a couple of days. But through it all, we couldn't get you to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. You keep having nightmares. Until last night. They finally put you on the morphine drip."

I had to smile. "Heero, I didn't stop having nightmares because of the drugs, I stopped having nightmares because of you."

He turned away from the window, but that put his face in shadow, and I couldn't read what was there.

"Come here." I said, and waited while he returned to the chair.

"The only nightmare I was having, was falling asleep at the wheel of that damn car." I could see his face again, but I still couldn't read the expression, "I was running on... autopilot, I guess, and the mission wasn't over until I was convinced that you were safe and my job was done."

"But I was here every night after they let me know you were alive!" his voice was anguished.

"But I wasn't here to know that. Until last night, when you finally got through to me."

The silence became companionable again, and I smiled happily at the ceiling.



"Why did you keep hurting yourself on purpose?"

"Heero, What do you run on?"

"I don't understand."

"What do you use to keep yourself going when your body says it can't go any further?"

"I don't... really know."

"I run on pain... and anger. And the pain makes me mad."


"It's a leftover from the streets. Sometimes that's all you had, and you learned to turn it into a hard ball in your gut and suck on it for strength."

It was quiet again for a bit.



"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I didn't know I was going to run the car off the cliff. I really didn't. I would have warned you."




"Can we call the nurse? I think I screwed the IV up, there's blood in the tubes."


I started to laugh and it hurt like a son of a bitch, but Heero was laughing with me, and that made all the pain worthwhile.


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