by: Sunhawk

Situations Or Duo Maxwell's Awful, Bad Day (cont) 

He snorted and planted his hands on his hips with a mock glare. "I thought I told you I didn't want to see you again today?"

I had to laugh out loud. "Well, I sure as hell haven't gotten a whole lot of what I was wishing for today, either!"

Around us, people were returning to their tables and I suddenly had a wall of bodies behind me. Glancing back, I found the guys all but ready to pull me into a protective huddle of ex-Gundam pilot. I could feel Heero fairly vibrating behind me and knew that were we alone, I'd be wrapped in his arms so tight there would be pain. I cast him a warm look that I hoped would hold him until we got through this.

There were a couple of more cops now, one of them talking to McMurphy by the bar and another one looking at the bullet hole in the wall of the back dining room.

Clint was shaking his head at me, looking down from his great height, "Maxwell... if I were you I'd be in a damn bunker somewhere, wearing a flak jacket and a helmet."

I planted my own hands on my hips, mocking his stance, and grinned. "I like living on the edge I guess... I dared to go out to dinner."

He laughed, moving his hands self-consciously and suddenly turned to look around. "Hold on a second kid, there's someone you have got to meet.' He caught sight of the guy in the back room and called to him, "Harris! Hey... come here a minute, Harris. This is that guy I told you about from this morning!"

While his attention was diverted for a second, getting his partner's attention, Heero moved in a little closer behind me and I turned to face him.

"Duo," he asked softly. "Are you all right? What the hell is going on here?"

I could see confusion and fear in his eyes, and a burning desire to reach out and hold me, that he was ruthlessly holding in check.

"I'm fine," I soothed, and his desire to touch communicated itself to me so strongly that it was all I could do not to throw my arms around his neck and hold on tight. I wanted in that moment, to get the hell out of there so badly I could have screamed. I covered it up with a bright smile, "I tried to warn you guys about this place."

"Well," Trowa drawled, "it has been an interesting evening."

I thought Quatre would choke to death trying not to laugh.

"Duo," Wufei interjected, giving Quatre a squelching glare, "what is the Officer talking about? What about this morning?"

I couldn't help giving him a wicked little grin. "I tried to tell you guys that I'd had a pretty damn crappy day..."

"Hey Jones!" the cop talking to McMurphy suddenly called, waving madly. "You guys made the news! Come and look at this!"

There was suddenly a crowd of people jockeying to get where they could see the television and somebody hollered for McMurphy to turn it up. I found myself standing next to Clint and his partner with the guys clustered around me like an honor guard, watching myself on the evening news. Oh joy. How... oddly mortifying.

Though people kept telling other people to shut up, you still couldn't hear a whole lot. "... city bus..." I heard, "...rush hour traffic..."

The news crew had apparently gotten there sometime after Clint, but before the rest of the cops, and the footage started with a scene of me and Clint, practically wrestling in the street. The camera zoomed in on our desperate faces, cutting for a moment to the woman on the sidewalk screaming hysterically about her baby. I noticed for the first time that she was blonde and there was blood on the side of her face. The picture cut back to Clint and me, just as I stopped fighting and pointed over his shoulder. Clint turned to look and I broke free.

On the other side of Clint, his partner, the guy name Harris, burst out laughing. "I can't believe you fell for that, Jonesy!" he teased mercilessly.

"Shut up, Harris," Clint growled at him.

On screen, the camera jerked and steadied, following my mad dash across the pavement and up the side of the bus. I saw for the first time just how close the cop had come to catching me.

I nudged him in the ribs, "You know... you're kinda fast for such a big guy."

"You shut up, too," he grinned, and went back to watching the screen.

On the television, I folded my arms across my chest, and just stepped through the smashed out bus window, dropping like a stone into the thick black smoke.

Behind me, there was a funny little gasp of sound and Heero was suddenly standing right next to me, managing in the crowd of people to press his shoulder against mine in the closest thing he would allow himself to an embrace here in front of all these strangers.

"It's all right," I murmured and then grimaced, giving him a pathetic little grin, "It's... gonna get worse here in a minute..." and leaned into his shoulder.

The camera man had to move because of the smoke and there was a cut and when the scene came back, it was Clint jerking me and the kid out of the bus like a couple of rag dolls, and throwing us to the ground. I saw the wide eyes of the kid over my own arm for a minute and shivered at the... weirdness of it all. A hand fell on my left shoulder and I glanced back to see Wufei staring at the screen, looking a little disconcerted.

"I swear to God," he whispered to me, "the next time you tell us you had a bad day... we'll listen."

I snickered softly and turned back to the news broadcast just in time to see the flaming piece of... bus, I guess... hit me squarely across my shoulders. It was extremely surreal watching myself catch fire. I saw Heero's hands twitch as though he would reach out towards the 'me' on the screen. I leaned into him a little harder and saw Quatre move up on his other side and murmur something I couldn't hear.

The Clint and the Sam on the screen scrambled like mad, Sam pulling the little girl from my arms, having to fight to make her let go of my braid, at the same time that Clint was smothering the flames with his jacket and his hands. I reflected that I probably owed my hair to that little kid's grip.

"Did I remember to say thanks?" I grinned up at him.

He snorted. "I don't remember."

"Thanks, man."

"You're welcome... you damn little shit."

The broadcast cut back to the studio and some red-head behind an anchor's desk said some stuff I really couldn't hear, "... Officer Clinton Jones... unknown man..."

The bar erupted in cheers. I deftly stepped away from Clint and gestured toward him with a flourish, applauding with everybody else, making him the center of attention and deflecting the spotlight from myself. He glowered at me.

"Hush up!" Harris suddenly called out. "It ain't over yet!"

We looked up at the screen. Apparently, the bus accident had been the top story of the night... followed closely by the sniper incident. I think I sighed. I know Clint sighed.

"There was a damn news crew there?" he murmured, managing to sound a little dejected.

The camera crew hadn't gotten there until late in the dealings. There was a quick warning that flashed on the screen about the following footage not being suitable for younger children. They cut right to a series of shots of the bodies on the sidewalk. The first one obviously dead, the second one twitching in a very... unsettling manner.

Then the camera closed on a little red car, behind which Clint and I were crouched.

"It was red," I muttered to no one in particular and Clint laughed at me.

"You didn't remember?" he snickered.

"It could have been a rock for all I cared," I grinned.

The crew had gotten there just as we had started our move to the black van. There wasn't any sound; the crew was too far away, using telephoto lenses from... I couldn't really figure out where. You could see Clint yelling at me, and then me yelling back before he finally relinquished his gun to me. Beside Clint, Harris snickered.

"You're gonna catch hell for that," he chuckled gleefully.

"Yeah," Clint sighed. "I was kind of hoping they didn't catch that on film." Then he glared down at me, telling his partner, "And it only gets worse."

I grinned up at him unrepentant.

A hand closed around my elbow and I glanced to find Heero beside me again, looking a little pale. "I'm all right, love," I breathed as softly as I could, and he looked at me with eyes that were demanding so much more than the bare touch that he was daring.

There was a collective gasp and I glanced back at the screen in time to see Clint finish his run to the cover of the black van. I watched myself get ready to follow him before suddenly thinking better of it. The newscast 'me' suddenly stripped his shirt off and there was a round of laughter.

"Only you, Maxwell," Smitty cat-called, "would stop to do beef-cake in the middle of a situation like that!"

I watched the scene play out and suddenly Clint was leaning down and looking at me intently, as his on-screen self was taken by surprise when I broke cover. "I meant to ask you... why in the hell didn't you warn me before you ran?"

I shrugged and gave him a cock-eyed grin. "We were only going to fool him once with that trick. Figured I had to take him by surprise... and your firing at him was only going to alert him I was getting ready to run."

He shook his head and glared at me. "You know... there was a moment there I just about arrested your ass for... for... something."

I blinked up at him, but Harris burst out laughing. "For what? Saving your sorry ass?"

"Shut up, Harris."

We looked back at the screen just in time to see me grab the gun out of his hand and make my dash across the street. On the television, Clint looked like he was about to have a coronary, but he thundered after me.

"Oh my God," Harris wheezed, laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his face. "You weren't bloody well kidding, were you? The chief is going to kill you when he sees this!"

I tried an apologetic smile, but Clint wasn't buying it.

"He's a damn Preventor!" Clint justified and I cringed. I'd kind of hoped he'd forgotten that little comment.

"He's a mechanic for the Preventor's," Wufei supplied helpfully, appearing to take great delight in watching Clint give birth to a litter of kittens right there in the bar.

"A mechanic?" Clint roared and several people shushed him. The look of total consternation that came over his face then, was kind of priceless... except for the part where he looked like he was going to kill me.

The camera crew seemed to have some trouble as the SWAT team arrived and tried to get them to back off, the scene cut for a minute while they must have moved. We appeared back in the frame suddenly, a dead-on shot of me standing in the middle of the sidewalk, bare chest heaving, a feral grin on my face as I sighted carefully. Clint pressed to the wall behind me, looking really damn pissed off. I blinked at myself... I'd never actually gotten to see me... in soldier mode. I looked so damn... calm, it was almost eerie. The bar had somehow fallen silent, collectively seeming to hold their breath, and I could hear the announcer lady for a minute, "...SWAT team arrived on the scene at approximately twelve thirty, just as the local authorities brought an end to the..."

Harris started to snicker.

"Shut up," Clint growled.

I could see my breathing still and I looked like a damn rock standing there, waiting for the right moment. Then the black van exploded. Beside me, Heero jerked in reaction and his hand on my elbow tightened until my arm started to feel numb.

On-screen, Clint flinched and automatically threw his arms up, ducking slightly. I never blinked, staying stock still until the shooter gave me my opening and I took my shot. The rifle actually fell through the frame, an out-of-focus blur.

I watched Clint gather me in toward his chest and take us both down to the sidewalk. Debris rained down around us like flaming hail, somehow leaving us unscathed.

After that, there was some footage of the shooter as they brought him out in cuffs. The bar was so still you could have heard a pin drop.

Into that almost awed silence, Trowa ventured, "Is that all... or should we keep watching?" It served to break the tension and generated a round of almost uncomfortable laughter.

I turned around to grin up at him gratefully. "I... think that should do it." I glanced back at Clint. "Unless you did something without me today?"

That got a bigger laugh and people finally started to move away. I felt Heero's hand slip reluctantly away from me, but he didn't go far. Clint just glared at me again.

"Jesus, Maxwell," Smitty said, his voice seeming louder than usual. "Is this like a normal day for you? Or was it some special occasion?"

"What?" I asked, all innocence. "Isn't that what everybody does on their lunch hour?"

He snorted at me and went back to his table, shaking his head the whole way.

Clint and his two buddies finished not long after that and headed out. Clint turned at the door and grinned at me. "I'm serious Maxwell... I never want to see you again as long as I live."

"The feeling is completely mutual, big guy," I replied and he gave me a jaunty little salute.

I just stood and stared after them for a minute once the door was closed, trying to gather my tired wits. I felt like someone had used my body to scrub the floor, wrung me out and dumped me here. I hadn't been this damn worn out since Heero had gotten out of the hospital. I could have gone and laid down on the stupid table and gone to sleep, without even waiting for Jess to clear the dishes. As if the rest of my day hadn't been bad enough, the thing with Jock had just served to add that last little straw, and I felt like I was trembling under the weight of it... about to go down. I took a deep, steadying breath and turned back to the guys. "Did anybody want dessert?" I asked brightly and was met with four looks of mild reproach. I swallowed, trying to see where the chink in my façade was and couldn't find it. "What's the matter?" I asked cautiously.

"Duo," Quatre said quietly, "why didn't you tell us what happened to you today?"

"Ah," I waved dismissively and felt myself blushing. "It didn't seem like a great dinner story. I'd have gotten around to it."

Heero was looking at me with hurt in his eyes and I couldn't meet that gaze. I tried looking to one of the others, but even Wufei looked... unhappy with me. So I just looked at the floor.

"Let's... take this out of here," Trowa suddenly interjected softly and I couldn't have agreed more. Well... about the 'out of there' part. I wasn't so sure about the 'let's take this' part.

I tried to settle the bill, but McMurphy wouldn't charge us anything. I tried to argue and he jeered me out of there. We got a laughing sendoff from about half the bar and then we were outside in the dark, walking toward the cars.

And frankly I was feeling like shit and wasn't even really sure why. I heard murmured talk about who was going to follow who and I realized that they were all planning on coming back to the apartment with us... presumably so we could... talk.

I sighed heavily and resisted the urge to kick the car.

"What is it, Duo?" Quatre asked gently, and all eyes were on me again.

"Look, guys," I mumbled, finding the end of my braid in my fingers, a nervous habit that I thought I'd gotten over. "Do we have to do this tonight? I'm really kind of tir..." I bit it off. Tired. That phrase I had taken to using; my little euphemism for 'total emotional shutdown'. They were looking at me with slightly frightened expressions, every damn one of them. Wondering what I was covering up. Wondering what I hadn't told them. I got... a little angry.

"I'm not fucking allowed to be tired anymore?" I snapped, giving in to the urge and kicking the tire. "That wasn't enough? I have to be hiding something else?" It bled out of me rather quickly, that anger. I just didn't have the energy to keep it up.

It was Trowa who seemed to lose that look first, seeming to switch to my side of an argument we weren't really having. He gave me a little smile and said, "No... that was more than enough for you to be... tired. You're right... this can wait until another time." Then he grinned broadly. "But don't think you're going to get away with not telling us the whole damn story sooner or later."

I smiled at him gratefully and reflected that, sometimes, he seemed to understand me better than any one of them. I felt a tiny nip of guilt, thinking about some of the things that he had hinted at, things about his own past and his struggle with 'normal'. Hints that I had left lie and not pursued with him. It occurred to me that I needed to spend a little time getting to know him better. I think we had a lot more in common besides just that whole Gundam thing. I ducked my head and rubbed gingerly at the back of my neck.

"It'll make a much better tale when my brain isn't fried," I grinned up at him.

Quatre gave out with a somewhat exasperated sigh, looking irritated that his curiosity was going to be sent begging for now, but was quick to follow Trowa's lead. He came and gave me a gentle hug, murmuring softly, "I want to hear all about it, but for now I'm just glad you're all right."

"Thanks, Qat," I told him.

He drew away and the two of them headed for Wufei's car. "Just don't wait so long to come and see us that I have to come after you," Quatre called to me.

I snorted derisively and watched them walk away. Wufei took a second before following them to cock his head and give me an appraising stare. "You know, Maxwell," he smiled bemusedly, "you got through the entire evening without throwing up or running away."

That caught me rather flat-footed and I just blinked at him.

His smile grew a little bigger as he thought about it. "You really are getting better you know. Two months ago we'd have found you hiding under your bed or something.'

I repressed a gasp as he needled so close to my desire to crawl under the bed the way we orphans used to do when we were scared or upset. There really wasn't an answer to that, so he didn't wait for one, going to climb in the driver's seat of his car and taking them all out of there.

Then it was down to Heero and me. We just stood there for a moment, at the edge of the parking lot, neither one of us quite sure what to say.

I could see conflicting emotions running through his eyes as he stared at me. Irritation, that lingering fear, confusion still... all wrapped up in that longing that he'd been denying himself for the last hour.

"It is dark and there is no one around and I wouldn't fucking give a damn even if there was," I suddenly heard myself growling. "If you don't put your damn arms around me right now, I am going to..."

That was all it took. He reached out with a funny little moan and jerked me into his arms; pulling me so far off balance I couldn't have stood up if he hadn't been supporting us both.

"Damn it," he whispered next to my ear, "I almost lost you three God damn times today... and didn't even know it."

"I tried to tell you," I told him, trying not to let it come out sounding defensive.

"I know it, love," he murmured, dropping a kiss on the side of my face. "Damn it... I know it. But I couldn't hear you. I'm sorry... I'm so sorry."

"It's not always about that damn accident anymore, Heero," I dared. "It's getting darn close to a year ago now."

"And you're so much better," he admitted, ghosting kisses down my cheek. "I know that... you just hid things from me for so long that I... look for things that aren't there sometimes. I..."

"Hush," I growled throatily, "and just fucking kiss me already."

And he did, completely and thoroughly. Until I freakin' forgot I was supposed to be standing up and ending up hanging in his arms, whimpering helplessly.

He drew back and looked at me with the flare of that protective gleam in his eyes. "We're not going to work tomorrow," he informed me firmly.

"We're not?" I panted huskily, grinning at him, "And just what are we going to be doing?"

He smirked softly. "We are going car shopping."

It was an absurdly perfect thing for him to say and I laughed delightedly with him. Winding down to look deep into those beautiful eyes of his, I stroked my knuckles over his lips and along his jaw line. "Maybe tomorrow afternoon... I'm planning on sleeping until noon."

He snorted and smiled warmly, turning his face to kiss at my fingers. "Fair enough."

I laid my head on his shoulder with a weary sigh. "Take me home, Heero."

His arms wound around me a little tighter, and he lifted my head with gentle fingers, bringing my lips to meet his. "You're already there." 

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