Warnings : Yaoi, angst/sap, OOC, language, and a couple of OCs, Duo POV. 
Thanks to Christy for beta reading and Aya for encouragement. (Oh; and apologies to Grover!) 
Congratulations to Lev on her two-year anniversary! 
Feed-back is a dream I have. 
And I don't own anything in this series, either.
by: Sunhawk

Situations Or Duo Maxwell's Awful, Bad Day 

Mechanic. Before you ask, that's what I ended up doing. Sounds pretty boring after owning my own ship and traveling all over the solar system, doesn't it? Well, it might have been a little more... unbearable, if the job hadn't been with the Preventors.

It was another one of those things that just kind of happened without my making any real conscious effort to pursue it. One day I was teetering on the edges of a nervous breakdown and the next I had a full time job working on the fleet of vehicles used by the network of Preventor agents. I still woke up in the morning sometimes expecting to find that it had all been some sort of surreal dream. But no, I had the closet full of polo shirts and coveralls with that six-sided, brown and gray emblem over the left breast to prove it.

I was having one of those mornings. Heero had left early to make some appointment with Wufei; an interview with a high-ranking government official concerning the case they were currently working on. The guy apparently had a schedule that read like the Earth-sphere Who's Who of noteworthy people. He had insisted that if they wanted a piece of his oh-so-important time, they had to join him on his morning jog, which he did at five a.m., on the other side of town. I had little doubt that my highly irritated lover and his equally irritated partner would run the guy's ass into the ground by way of payback, despite the half hour lecture I had given Heero about not over-doing it.

He hadn't been back on the active duty roster for all that long, since being shot on the job, I hadn't been happy about him accepting this asshole's terms. I felt like the moron could just damn well make time for them in his busy schedule or they could haul his ass downtown for questioning. Of course, that attitude of mine is probably part of why I'm a mechanic and not an agent. Go figure.

Anyway, Heero's early departure had left me without a ride to work and needing to catch the seven o'clock bus. So, of course, with this deadline looming over me, everything that could go wrong seemed to be doing so. The first shirt I grabbed out of the closet was missing a button, and I didn't notice it until I was already dressed and in the bathroom doing my hair. I changed shirts and went back to finish my hair and the first hair-tie I grabbed snapped as I was wrapping it around the end of my braid. I discovered as I was running through the kitchen, that the last minute, on-the-run breakfast of a ration bar that I had been planning, was a bust because I had run out. I didn't have time to fix anything else and dashed out the door without, having to run the whole two blocks to the bus stop and almost missing it anyway.

I threw myself into an empty seat with a sigh and just prayed that the rest of the day wasn't going to be in the same vein. I'm a mechanic now; I work on some big-ass equipment. If this morning followed me to work, I could conceivably kill myself in a variety of messy ways.

I settled myself into my seat and turned my attention to watching the houses go by. I really hate having to take the bus to work; it only takes twenty minutes when Heero drives, but the bus ride is a good forty-five minutes. The bus wasn't even half full, for which I was grateful; I don't like to share my seat.

It truly does amaze me, when I let myself think about it too hard, that I have come full circle back to this world I find myself in. With all the people I fought in the war with - the guys, Sally, Noin, Zechs, even Une. I had run from this as fast as I could run all those years ago; had tucked my tail firmly between my legs and taken off for parts unknown. It... frightened me a little bit, when I let myself dwell on it; like some fated thing that I couldn't escape. But I wasn't an agent. I wasn't really a Preventor. I was just a damn mechanic. I reminded myself of that every morning as I pulled on the clothes with that emblem on them. I do not carry a gun. I will not carry a gun. I'm just a mechanic.

Not a Preventor. Not an agent. Not a pilot or a salvage man. Only a mechanic. Mechanics do not have to shoot at people; mechanics do not have to make split-second decisions that could result in a lot of people being dead. That was how I wanted it. I sometimes wondered how Heero and Wufei did it. And sometimes... when I let myself really think about it, I had to wonder why.

A mechanic. I still had a little trouble with that... when filling out forms, not writing 'pilot' on the line that said 'employment'. It had been one hell of a major life change. But a month and a half since the sale of my ship had gone through, and I was a little more able to face that thought.

Did you catch that? 'My ship'? I can say it with out gagging now... aren't you proud? I tried a little of that therapy that Wufei and Heero had wanted me so desperately to go into, and you want to know what the lady said? That I was the most grounded person she had ever met. That I knew the inside of my own head forward and backward and there really wasn't much she could do for me. She had been expecting, from the reports, to be dealing with someone in total denial, who needed help facing his phobias and inner demons. She had actually chuckled at Heero's concerns and told him that some things just took time; that she couldn't help me face things that I had already embraced with both hands. I didn't even have to do the inkblot thing; I was actually kind of disappointed.

I had probably only had a dozen sessions with her and she had been kind of helpful in giving me some insight into dealing with my occasional anxiety attacks. I had realized as she had taught me the breathing techniques and the methods of focusing inward on my own heartbeat... that the whole thing seemed damned familiar. It finally came to me one afternoon, as I was leaving her office, that it reminded me of what Trowa had done for me that day I'd thought Captain Camden had taken up residence in my closet. That made me think really hard about just where Trowa had learned it. I suppose, with the guy's 'truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth' vow of total honesty, that I'd find out one of these days. If I ever got up the nerve to ask. But, as for therapy... Dr. Webster hadn't been able to do a hell of a lot else for me, beyond lecturing me about hiding things and not speaking up when I'd had enough.

I did not, of course, try to explain about thought-hamsters, or that guilt was a thing with teeth, nor did I show her any of my more... personal artwork; though she'd had an interesting idea when she found out I could draw, about my making a portrait of what I thought the spirit of my 'Demon' looked like. I told her I'd think about it. But, you know? Since I kind of considered my Demon-girl to be... dead, that just seemed kind of... morbid.

Anyway, eight and a half months since the accident and I was finally free from physical therapy, though I still had to keep up with some of the exercises on my own. I'd done a short stint in that... other kind of therapy and been able to gleefully inform the guys that I was not crazy, with the backing of a professional. I'd gotten a job, even if it wasn't exactly what I would have chosen for myself, but it allowed me to send money off to L2 on a fairly regular basis, which helped my sense of self-worth more than just about any of the rest of it. All in all, I felt I was doing a lot better. I hadn't had a nightmare in weeks and weeks.

And I don't want to hear about the fact that I measure all passage of time from the accident. I know that. I don't care. It will always loom in my mind as a rather major event. In my youth, I measured everything from the burning of the church. Now that I am older, I have a new reference point. Get over it, it's human nature. I have the backing of a professional psychologist that says so.

If there was anything in my life right now that wasn't going so well, I suppose it was Wufei's and my search for Captain Camden's wife Anna. That little self-imposed quest, to find the woman and give her the dubious gift of her husband's last, dying words, was not going all that peachy keen. It was as though the woman had dropped off the face of the planet after the war. We were far from giving up, but the search had kind of taken a back seat to life and that nagged at me a little bit. Sometimes I imagined the half visage of the dead Captain Camden glaring at me unhappily in the dark of the night.

I'm not saying I was giddily happy all the time. I still had my darker moments, still sometimes found myself thinking about my ship and my old life with a sharp pang of loss... but it wasn't sitting on my shoulder twenty-four hours a day any more. I could sometimes go several days without something slapping me in the face and reminding me of everything I had let go of. But I was learning to just keep moving until the moment passed. Hey, I got through the last pilot's dinner without a single, solitary dramatic scene and I didn't even throw up... how's that for improvement?

There were just days sometimes that seemed to wear me down until all I wanted was to go home and go back to bed. The day I'm talking about here...? It would fall in that category.

I was rather surprised to come up out of my brooding and realize that the bus was already coming into the heavier traffic of downtown, and that I'd been sitting there wool gathering for over a half an hour. I shook my head and made a conscious effort to look around; trying not to let myself sink any further into the vague depression that I knew lurked behind every corner on days like this. There were a few more fellow passengers than there had been the last time I looked, and I realized that I had daydreamed right through several stops. I grinned at myself rather ruefully, imagining the lecture I would have gotten from Heero about inattention to my surroundings. But, you know? I hadn't had quite the problem that he had, adjusting to a civilian's thinking. I didn't still look for enemies at every turn. I wondered sometimes if Heero hadn't joined the Preventors, if he might not have quite so much of the soldier still in him.

I smiled distractedly at a guy who made eye contact almost by accident, and he returned the tentative smile and looked away, going back to a book in his lap. There was an older guy sitting behind him who had dozed off and I wondered if he was one of those who could wake himself up before his stop, or if he would end up being supremely surprised to find himself very far from where he was supposed to be, later on. There was a lady in front of me who looked to be balancing her checkbook and a woman in the seat opposite me who seemed to be going over a shopping list. I sighed, thinking that I should have brought something with me to do, but I didn't make this ride every day like most of these people did. I hadn't thought about it. It was a non-issue when I rode to work with Heero.

I looked out the window as the buildings flashed by and thought about how odd it was that a person who used to think of travel in terms of velocity and lift, could actually feel that this felt fast. I almost laughed; we were probably going fifty miles an hour; what the hell was that in comparison to breaking through the atmosphere? My, how the times do change.

Something killed that amused thought suddenly, nagging at me that something was wrong. I looked around me with a little more attention. My instincts were telling me that something wasn't quite right. Some inner sense was tingling warmly and telling me there was something here to be concerned with. I scanned the other passengers quickly and found nothing amiss. Nobody was even looking at me. I turned my attention back outside and saw it fairly quickly: a car that was drifting erratically in a lane just two over from the bus. Once I saw it, I zeroed in on it closer and realized the guy at the wheel had some major problems. Drunk? Maybe... though it was kind of early in the day. Heart attack? Possibly... I couldn't see the driver well enough to take a guess at his age. Falling asleep at the wheel? Another possibility... though you would have thought that would have been an 'all of a sudden' thing, unless the guy was an idiot too and was going to continue trying to drive and just fight sleep at the same time.

"Hey," I said to nobody in particular, watching that car with the narrowed vision of a man who used to pilot a fighter. Seeing it as a threat and reflex making me want to blow it out of the sky. Except I didn't have the means, it wasn't a Leo, and we were hardly in the air or in a dogfight.

The car veered rather sharply and a van in the far outside lane slammed on his breaks to avoid a collision. The 'target' vehicle lurched back into his own lane. I found my hands wanting to tighten on control grips that weren't there, and I suddenly knew the one naggy little reason that made public transit a bad idea; you have no damn control.

"Hey!" I said a little louder and got the attention of several of the other passengers. The little red car began to creep the other way now, coming closer to the truck that was between it and the bus. "Driver! On your left!" I yelled and had everybody's attention, but it was really a moot damn point and a little too late. There wasn't exactly anywhere for the bus driver to go and the red car wasn't righting itself this time.

Some calm, distanced part of my mind was calculating trajectories and speed, and making snide little estimations about the likelihood that this wasn't going to end up being one of those nasty little rush hour accidents.

"Brace for impact!" I shouted and watched helplessly as the car bumped the truck, then suddenly shot forward, trying to avoid the collision. The pickup truck driver slammed on his brakes but not before he was nudged into the side of the bus. There was the sound of metal on metal and a couple of people behind me screamed. The whole bus wobbled. I did my best to keep my eyes on the red car and watched it accelerate wildly, trying to get the hell out of the mess he'd just made. But the impact with the truck had cost him some of the little control he'd had left and all he succeeded in doing was running right straight into the path of the bus. Kind of sideways. Shit.

I was braced hard between my seat and the one in front of me, arms and legs spread wide for maximum leverage. I had a split second to register the other passengers, most of them reacting way too damn slow. The napping man surprised me, being wide awake now and braced better than anyone else I could see, barring myself. I tagged him for a fellow former soldier and that was the last thought I had time for, before the bus turned the little red sports car into something that closely resembled a dog's chew toy. No one would probably ever know what in the hell happened to the driver to cause him to veer in the first place.

"Holdonholdonholdon!" the driver was shrieking but he was barely making himself heard over the screaming of his passengers.

You don't hit something the size of a car at fifty miles an hour and recover control, not in something the size of a city bus. It shuddered and screamed like a thing alive, the rear end impacting with something on our right, the front of the bus rising as it tried to climb over what was left of the sports car, and then... it started to tip up. It got kind of confusing after that, and I was washed back to the war years with a jolt. Memories of firefights and tumbling mobile suits flashed in my mind, and I wished fervently for that old safety harness. I wished for my own hands on the controls. I wished for a bottle of aspirin because I had a feeling I was really gonna need it in a minute.

Then it was just holding on like riding in the rodeo, while the bus bucked and kicked and tried to throw us all off. We went over and the woman in the seat opposite me was suddenly falling toward me, because I had become 'down'. I was forced to let go with one arm and catch her to keep from getting completely creamed by her flailing limbs. She latched onto me like a lifeline and I just did my best to keep us both in place. I had a feeling she'd forgotten all about her shopping list.

It was one of those things that happened so fast I couldn't really have described it... but while it was going on, seemed to last an eternity. I thought the damn bus would never stop bucking and jerking, thought the yelling and screaming would never stop. I was sure that the damn thing would slide on its side for a mile. There was the distant sound of blowing horns and screeching brakes.

And then it was over. At least that part of it, though I knew damn well we were a long way from done. Up was left and right was up and there was a hysterical woman clinging to my arm and sobbing brokenly. I saw nap-guy first, because he was suspended above me in the next row up, having managed to keep himself from falling on check-book lady.

"Status!" I croaked out, falling back on ages old training, and then almost burst out laughing, remembering that there wasn't a war on.

"Clear!" nap-guy responded automatically. He and I made sudden eye contact and I saw that same chagrined look on his face. We were both a long way from the battlefield, but some habits just died a hard death. He flashed me a sheepish grin and began to climb down from his precarious perch.

"Lady, are you all right?" I asked the woman who seemed to think I was her own personal teddy bear all of a sudden.

She just blinked at me for a minute before blurting out. "I don't know!"

I looked her over and didn't see anything wrong, so I began trying to pry her off. "Here... let me up so I can check things out." I convinced her to let go of my shirt and started trying to crawl out from under her. "Watch the glass here lady," I muttered and had to turn her so her feet were toward what had been my window just a minute or two ago. She crouched there and I crawled up to check the rest of the bus.

"Anybody hurt?" I called and got such a chorus of wails and sobs that I just sighed and decided I'd have to deal with that in a minute. It was all very disconcerting with what should have been the ceiling being on my left hand, and having a narrow 'aisle' to walk through, in what should have been above the seats. Glass crunched underfoot with every move I made.

"Hey soldier-boy," nap-guy said and I turned to find him by the driver who was hanging limply in his seat belt. "Know much about first-aid?"

I climbed up and made my way to his side over the seats. "Some," I muttered, but when I got there it didn't take long to determine that the driver was pretty much beyond aid of any kind.

Nap-guy was getting his first good look at me, and obviously not liking what he saw, but I didn't have the time to do the whole song and dance with the guy. He was middle-aged and had assumed when he had realized that I was another ex-soldier that I was his age or at least a hell of a lot closer to it.

"They drafted us a lot younger in the colonies," I growled, to forestall any lengthy conversations I wasn't in the mood for. "See if you can get that door open... he's beyond our help."

He grunted at me in some small surprise and I noticed him glance at the logo on my shirt. That got me a funny little appraising look and I didn't bother to explain to him that I worked in the motor pool. He turned to wrestle with the door control and got nowhere. He was a hell of a lot bigger than I was, and I had no doubt that if he couldn't get it, I wasn't going to have any better luck.

Some guy in back suddenly called out, "There's a truck against the back of the bus... I can't get the emergency door open."

This news was greeted with a couple of unhappy cries and I cut across it before that could get started. "Calm down, we'll just go out through the windows."

The guy that had been reading in the seat in front of nap-guy climbed up and tried the nearest one and quickly reported in a voice rising with the first stirrings of panic, "It's jammed... I can't get it!"

That garnered a couple of screams.

"Don't panic!" I snapped and wished I could just smack a couple of these guys around. Let's just yell encouraging news all over the damn bus, why don't we?

I climbed up beside book-boy and give it a try myself. The window gave slightly, but the frame of the damn bus was in enough of a bind that it wouldn't open more than an inch. I growled at it, but it wasn't impressed.

I glanced around and decided that my soldier buddy was probably the tallest person in the bus. "Hey," I beckoned to him,"can you brace me?"

He looked the situation over and I saw him figure out what I had in mind almost instantly. It was actually a fairly standard technique... if you'd been in the military.

He climbed around to get below where I was wedged in the 'up' seats, helped the shopping-lady get out of the way, then planted himself firmly below me. I let myself down, upside down until we were braced shoulder to shoulder; me using his body to give myself the leverage I needed and then I kicked upward for all I was worth.

Glass and the metal window frame showered down all around us and there was a ragged cheer from the back of the bus.

Soldier-boy helped me get turned around and back on my feet, and we brushed glass off each other. He grinned at me, deciding maybe I wasn't just playing at this after all. "Sam," he told me brusquely.

"Duo," I replied and quirked him a grin. "Push or pull?"

He laughed out right, looking me over. "Pull... I think I probably got a little upper body strength on you."

I snorted and moved out of his way while he climbed up and out through the window.

I needed a little room to work, so I went ahead and passed the shopping-lady up to him first and we got another one of those ragged little cheers.

In the distance, I heard the sound of approaching sirens. Somebody muttered something that sounded like, "about damn time." But come on; it hadn't really been all that damn long. I decided to just let the crack go.

I looked the ragged little group over. "Ok people... where's the wounded?" I cringed. Injured. Where's the injured. I'd be asking for C4 and an evac-chopper next.

A guy with blood on his forehead stood up and called, "There's a lady back here who's unconscious."

I frowned. "Leave her for now... she might have back injuries. We'll wait for the professionals."

A couple of guys helped a young girl forward then. She had an obviously broken arm, was crying softly and didn't look so damn good. I met them halfway and helped her make the climb to the right seat to reach the exit. "Broken arms suck," I murmured to her, "but you can count on at least five or six weeks of not having to do the dishes."

She gave me a watery little smile through the tears and I turned my attention up to Sam. "Right arm!" I yelled out and saw him nod. I passed her up and he pulled her out. I glanced around and beckoned to book-boy.

"Come here, kid." He blinked at me for a minute, caught between wanting the hell out of there and feeling funny about going before some of the other wounded. Injured, damn it... injured. I sighed. "I need somebody else in one piece up topside to help Sam." He didn't argue with me further and I boosted him out.

It started to go a little faster, with someone else to help pull people up, and I was beginning to think that we'd all be out and sitting on the sidewalk by the time the cops got there. I should have known better... it had been one of those kinds of days.

"Fire!" somebody screamed and I turned to look where they were pointing to see that the damn red sports car, permanently mated to what was left of the front of the bus, had burst into flame.

"Shit!" I looked up imploringly at Sam. "Get me another hole!" I barked, and he nodded and moved to comply. "Watch your heads back there!" I bellowed over the yells and screams, then turned my attention back to passing checkbook-lady up to book-boy... except book-boy was gone. I cursed resoundingly for a moment, then there was suddenly a new face above me, and a blue-clad arm was pulling checkbook-girl out through the window like she was a rag doll.

The cops were there.

I flashed the guy a grin and turned to grab the next pair of hands reaching for me, lifting some young kid up until he was within reach of my new savior.

The guy was freakin' huge, the up side to that being that people were being jerked out of the bus like they were puppies. The downside being that there was no way in hell he could fit through that window to get down here and help me.

I divided my attention between watching the group at the back of the bus climb out the second exit that Sam had made, boosting people out myself, and the fire that was starting to creep around the front end of the bus. It was starting to get smoky.

Then tall, dark and blue was screaming for all the civilians to get the hell off the bus... now! And I knew I was running out of time. I cupped my hands and boosted the last man up, feeling like my shoulders were going to come right out of their sockets.

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