Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.
“God, God, I hadn't hit it hard enough.”
“Enough of that, Yuy. You did the best you could.”
“Yuy, I mean it. You took the tower down. You saved Maxwell's life-”
“We don't know that yet. God, Wufei, how long was he exposed to that vacuum? How long – there's only a vague estimate
as to how long someone can be exposed without... without...”
“Yuy! You know Maxwell just as I do – he will not die. His health has improved. You must stop this. We need to
be strong for when Maxwell awakens. We need to be able to help him. Right now we are in enemy territory. We must remain strong
“I know that. I... I know that. But...”
A sigh. “I understand. I was there, too, Yuy. You are not the only one who cares for Maxwell.”
A silence. “I know. God, Wufei, I know.”
I thought about moving, but the thought alone made me tired. Giving up, I slid back into darkness.
Something pressed against my lips. A smell assaulted my nose, something sickly strong. I turned, using up all my energy, and
heaved – dry heaves. The smell left.
“He won't eat.” The voice sounded a bit anxious.
“This isn't good. It's been three days.”
“Duo, Duo... come on...”
I finished trying to hack up my lungs and simply collapsed back into sleep, exhausted once more.
“Four days, no food, hardly any water...”
“Give him time. He took some shrapnel with that vacuum-”
“I know! I know. But God-”
I tried to turn to the noise, recognizing the emotion, recognizing the voice. It was impossible to move my body – it
was lead. My tongue felt thick, my head heavy. There was a blaring headache slamming into me from all sides. My eyes felt
dry and puffy all at once, my lips swollen, my cheeks heavy. Something itched all along my scalp and neck. I was hot, but
cold all the same.
Impossible. I needed rest.
I took it.
I felt more normal when I awoke next. Pain wasn't everywhere, but instead focusing on my head and side and left arm. My tongue
still felt a bit thick, and dry, and my eyes were a bit dry, as well, though oddly not as much as before, either by healing
themselves or by human intervention.
I tested my hands first, seeing if I could move them. I could, but my left arm protested a bit.
I turned to the voice, noting Wufei's presence late in the game. I realized it was because I hadn't yet opened my eyes. I
quickly scanned the area and wondered that we were still on L2. It was definitely another storage room, but this time I think
it had been long abandoned – Heero and Wufei had obviously cleaned the place up, but there was still some mold around
the walls. A small room with a door off its hinges promised a bathroom and more mold. Boxes were piled taller than me on both
sides. Dust sifted idly in the air, illuminated by two hanging fluorescent lights. Their ominous swaying concerned me.
“Where are we?” I croaked. My voice cracked, and an itch started in the base of my throat. I proceeded to cough
up my kidneys.
Wufei quickly grabbed a canteen and unscrewed the lid, pressing it to my lips. Carefully, knowing the dangers of drinking
too fast after a long time, I sipped. I tried to lift my hand and could only touch the canteen, not actually able to hold
it. I felt weak.
I remembered the haunting sound of air gushing into space, leaving me... with nothingness. I shivered.
“Cold?” Wufei asked.
Still drinking, I could only shake my head slightly.
“We're in an abandoned – we believe – cargo bay about three kilometers from where we landed, near Hold 27.
We've been here for almost five days now. None of Harlow's men have found us, though a few have passed by. Heero is out scouting
right now. It figures you would awaken the one moment he's not by your side. He's going to be pissed.”
I let my hand fall and Wufei put the canteen aside. “How...?”
“How are you alive?” Wufei asked, always perceptive.
I nodded slowly, unwilling to test out the strength of my raging headache.
“Yuy left the hatch the moment he saw the beam coming toward the ship. I believe he found you in time to see a piece
of your ship catch your right side-” Wufei gestured at the wound I felt complaining at that very moment “-and
your helmet wobbled. He grabbed you and brought you back to the hatch, and we jetted to the station.”
“How? Wasn't the entire ship destroyed?” I felt bad for it – my faithful friend, and once again I sent him
to his death.
“No, the man's aim had been faulty, thank God – the shot only hit the front of the ship. Otherwise both you and
Yuy would be dead.”
I winced. Jesus. Heero and I were going to have to talk. When the hell had he decided to risk his life for someone else while
on a mission? Damn, did the man ever think?
“Maxwell, do you think you could eat something?”
The thought of food was absolutely revolting, but I knew I had to buckle down and do it sometime – might as well face
the torture now, head on. I shrugged. “All right.”
Wufei gave me a look that plainly said he knew damn well how I felt about the subject, but he went and got the food anyway.
It ended up being, of all things, civilian ration bars. I almost laughed.
“And to think you disparaged me for eating these things,” I joked, carefully breaking off a tiny corner. I chewed
it, being careful not to swallow, testing my stomach. It heaved at the taste, just as I'd known it would, and rolled around
in fury for a while. Only when it calmed to dull loathing did I dare swallow the small bite. My stomach pouted for a bit before
deciding it actually wanted what I was offering. Still, I only managed a few small bites before pushing it away. “Later,”
I said quietly, and Wufei's severe look lessened.
A small sound came, a tap-tapping sound, like someone was moving their foot to a nonexistent beat.
“Yuy has returned,” Wufei noted.
I turned my eyes immediately to the source of the noise. I had already seen Wufei, and he hadn't suffered damage. That left
Heero – the one who'd entered Hell to get me back out.
He came in, his eyes immediately seeking my bed as he descended. He stopped cold at seeing me awake.
It was such a hesitant, hopeful sound that I found myself unable to respond. It raised the question, just as a plague would
bring a recurring fever – why? Why had he come for me, risking his life, doing everything he could to save me? Why did
I have vague, shifting fragments in my mind that all heard Heero's voice in anguished fear? What did it mean?
“You may come in, Yuy,” Wufei said dryly, and Heero jumped and flushed. I didn't have the energy to do that, so
I merely blinked and looked Heero over. Was it just me, or did Heero have a slight limp?
“Yuy, how is your leg?”
Oh, fuck! Heero really was hurt?
Heero rubbed it almost sheepishly. “Fine,” he grunted.
“Yuy,” Wufei warned.
My God. Heero had gotten hurt saving me, almost getting himself killed. My God. What would I have done if Heero had lost his
life for me?
Definitely needed to talk. Soon. Now.
“Fine,” he repeated. “It was a minor wound – I just bumped it.”
“And how, pray tell, did you manage that?” Wufei pressed.
Heero – flushed. “I helped a child cross the street.”
Wufei snorted as my eyes bugged out slightly. “Fool. She hit your leg, didn't she?”
“I didn't say it was a girl.” But Heero nodded. “Yes. She did.”
My God. It was unbelievable to see and hear this. Was this what their conversations were usually like, those multiple times
they went inside their room and closed the door, leaving the conversation between only them? Was this what Heero and Wufei
talked about when I wasn't around? Had Heero truly become... so... so freaking nice?
No, it wasn't 'become.' That wasn't the right term. Heero had always had the streak of kindness in him. He'd saved me, after
all, even when he'd had no intention of doing so. And Quatre had once said that Heero had played with dogs once. I'd snorted,
but apparently it had been true.
Was Heero really comfortable enough to help a young girl cross the street? Had that gentleness always been there? How beautiful
it would be to be privy to that side of him, that precious kindness that Heero had needed to suppress for so many years. I
was happy for him – happy that he'd finally found a chance to release that part of himself. And even more disgusted
with him, that he would throw it all away for just me.
Even though I was oddly happy that Heero had been willing to throw it all away for just me.
What a contradiction is man, I thought wryly, and looked out from myself to see Heero coming towards me.
Other than the limp, he seemed all right. But were there other injuries, injuries the unknown little girl hadn't managed to
hit in some way? Heero had always been a stoic, especially with pain. How bad was it, really?
But his eyes were sharp and clear, and so full of such obvious relief that it hurt me to see it. “Duo, I'm so glad you're
awake.” Still I didn't speak, too shocked to hear Heero's thankful tone. He really was... glad. “Duo?”
I shook my head, feeling like I was coming up from a trance. “What happened?” I asked hoarsely.
Heero threw Wufei a sharp look. “He just awoke a bit ago, Yuy,” Wufei said, a bit defensive. “I've been
more concerned with feeding him.”
“He's fine,” I said quickly, trying to dispel the sudden tension. The last thing I needed was a riff between lovers.
“I meant... when everything exploded – what were you doing?”
Heero's face flashed far too many emotions for me to catch and name. “I was saving you.”
“Stupid,” I muttered.
Heero immediately got defensive. “Excuse me? I saved your hide!”
“I didn't ask you to! You could've been killed!” I stopped abruptly and coughed. I'd irritated the itch. Wufei
automatically grabbed the canteen and returned to my side, though he didn't seem to know who to glare at at the moment. “Yuy,
you should know better than to have a fight with Maxwell with him in this condition. And Maxwell, dammit, if he hadn't I would
have. You're a part of the team. We won't leave you behind.”
I wanted to argue with him, but I couldn't spare a moment for words. I was too busy trying to force myself inside-out.
Heero apologized. “Duo...”
I didn't want to hear it. All of Heero's kindness, I had known, was nothing more than... than some twisted form of friendship.
I had known it, but that evil imp Hope had whispered that there was more. He'd tortured me one more time, only to once again
rip it away from me. Wufei, after all, would have done the same.
I shook my head, then gulped a breath and held it. Slowly, slowly the coughs died down, and I was able to drink and ease
my throat. “No,” I managed. “No more.” Wufei pulled the water away, misunderstanding.
But Heero understood. “Duo, we won't-”
“Enough,” I growled, and I fucking snapped. “I am not 'a part of the team.' Stop saying that shit.
Stop treating me as if we're best buddies. We aren't! When I came near, the two of you went out of your way to hate my fucking
guts! Now you're suddenly being buddy-buddy – just knock it off!” I winced – my side was splitting itself
in two. I looked down, just then noticing my naked chest bandaged six ways to Sunday. I instantly felt bad – these guys
had risked their lives for me. They'd saved my life. And I was screaming at them. How ungrateful could you get?
“Maxwell.” Wufei stepped forward, his face determined. Heero was still where he'd been before, his face twisting
into several odd distortions. It would have been almost funny if it weren't for the pain etched into said distortions.
Shit. I didn't want to hear this. I hadn't meant to say that! It had just... slipped out. As usual. Gods I was stupid sometimes.
Wufei seemed to see my thoughts somehow – as usual. He smiled gently, trying to put me at ease. It put my back up. “Duo,”
Wufei sighed. “I suppose we must explain why we pushed you away.”
Not good. Wufei never gave insight into his emotions. Was he planning to kill me or something? But then why bandage
Wufei glanced sidelong at Heero. “Yuy, how about sitting down? This may take a while.”
Heero turned his eyes to Wufei and did that silent communication thing. Damn it all to hell. Like the mold and mildew around
me wasn't bad enough – now I had to deal with eye-zapping information flying over my damn head.
Heero thumped down on the nearest box and let his head fall slightly, even though his shoulders were tense. He seemed to be
fighting with himself.
Wufei nodded to himself. “I will begin,” he declared, and I thought I heard Heero sigh with relief. I couldn't
check to be sure, though, because Wufei had pierced me with his serious gaze, the one that meant business. The feeling of
impending doom returned with a vengeance. “Maxwell-”
“Look,” I interrupted quickly, “you don't have to do this. I'm fine. I just needed to get it off my chest,
“Maxwell, stop. We understand. We all had the chance to watch one another's... transformations.” I was shocked
that he'd tagged it just how I saw it. “We'd seen the changes come through – the person outside the warrior. You
were never given that chance, despite the fact that you...” Now Wufei seemed to be struggling with himself. His fists
clenched. He finally sat down, as well, on a long, rectangular box that looked old enough to collapse under Wufei's weight.
Okay, this was scary.
Heero whispered something, something like “goddammit.” But I couldn't be sure.
“So you don't understand,” Wufei finished that track and blew into the next. “Maxwell, it was never that
I did not like you. It was the opposite – you made me feel alive. On the battlefield, I felt myself become lost in the
killing, and I began to believe that all I was was a warrior. I hadn't been a soldier always, but a scholar.” Somehow,
that surprised me, though I'd always seen Wufei as a genius. “I hadn't wanted anything to do with the war, but then...”
He took a careful breath. “Events forced me into the position. You, when we spoke – argued – managed to
remind me of what I had been – what I had lost. I was afraid... of what would happen to me if I lost you. I was afraid
I would truly become nothing more than a warrior. To protect myself, I tried to push you away. You had been so persistent,
and I feared you would come too close, bring me too far from the soldier I had to be even as I wanted so very badly to be
something else... when that Dekim Barton bastard came into play, I had been alone for... a while. I felt like I had lost that
part of me that was a scholar, and I would never find him again. It took me... a very long time... to see that I had only
fought him back – and so fought you back.”
I could say nothing, shocked to my bones. I couldn't fully comprehend it – Wufei had been scared of me, of what I made
him remember? I... I had been so important to him that he'd been afraid to let me close?
“I... had the same problem, in a way,” Heero said quietly. My eyes snapped to him, still wide. His head was still
bowed, his hands twined with one another and holding his head up. His wild hair covered his face. “I needed to be emotionless.
That was how I was taught. That was how I won.”
Hearing J's indoctrination made my blood boil, just as it always did. If the man weren't dead, I would kill him.
“You were... different. Immediately, I could see it – you spoke to Relena so calmly, you joked...”
Funny that he brought up Relena, since I didn't really like the girl. Not that she wasn't bringing peace, because she was,
and for that I was very, very grateful. Still... I just couldn't like the woman.
“You even joked when you were getting me out of that Oz hospital...” I remembered that, of course. “I couldn't
understand how someone like you would be an efficient pilot.”
Yeah. I had caught that.
“At first I thought of you as a detriment to any mission we would attempt. But then you proved yourself... more than
competent. I couldn't understand why. And then... when you were around... I felt. I wasn't supposed to feel – it would
mess me up, and I wouldn't be able to win anymore. So I pushed you away, trying to save myself and... and the world. To win
the war, I needed you away from me, before I lost myself to those emotions. After the war... God, when I finally had the chance
to feel... you were gone.”
And Heero was silent.
Wufei looked away from Heero and back to me. “Maxwell, it is not that we are... 'suddenly acting buddy-buddy.'”
The term sounded almost comical coming from Wufei's mouth. “For the past three years, we have slowly come to realize
how important you were. You kept us sane – all of us. You don't understand because you've only seen how cruelly we treated
you during the war – and after it, for that short time you continued coming near us. We didn't realize... we had only
seen our own suffering. When you had opened yourself to us, we had only seen the danger of opening ourselves as well, and
hadn't noticed that you had already taken the risk.”
What could I say? It was true. I'd risked everything to create a friendship with these men – and I'd lost everything.
The Jester wanted to say I shouldn't gamble and laugh it off. Shinigami didn't give a damn. But the real me... the real me
hurt for it. And hurt to be reminded of it.
“We hadn't understood, Duo,” Wufei whispered. There was pain in his eyes now, pain I couldn't bear to see.
“We should have... it was there, just a step away from the thoughts we were already having. We should have seen, but
we chose not to.”
“Quatre, of course,” Heero spoke up now, “had seen. Quatre always sees.” It sounded almost bitter,
the way he said that. “He had been the only one to open up to you fully. Trowa had tried, a bit, following Quatre's
example, but he couldn't. He...” Heero took a deep breath. “He remembers how he reacted to you when you found
him at the circus. He remembers... that he hadn't been able to link to you, as he had with Quatre.”
I, too, remembered. “Hey, hey,” I said quickly, trying to sound flippant and just sounding... sad. And scared.
“It's fine, really. I understood. That's why I got Quatre, okay? I got it; I wasn't blind. He needed Qat. No big. And...
really... it's fine that you guys were-”
“Maxwell, will you stop for one damn minute?” Wufei growled. “We are attempting to make amends. Shut up
and let us.”
“Umm... I'm cool with it, really.” Lie, lie, lie. So much for my little mantra. “I mean, I get it. We were
at war. I should've known better.”
“Maxwell, we would not have as many scars as we do if we'd have opened up with you. And we would not have lost you.”
You never had me! I wanted to scream, but kept myself silent. They could have had me, after all. That's what
Wufei meant, I think – they lost me even before they even had me.
“Look...” They had opened themselves, so I should too, right? After all, I hated being indebted to people. I earned
my own way, every way. “I respected you guys.”
They both flinched.
I quickly changed the sentence, “respect you guys. During the war, you had such honorable reasons to fight, and
all I wanted was... revenge. You were strong. I just wanted to pack together-” Fuck, I had admitted to Heero's suspicion
that they had been my gang “-because of my own weaknesses. I knew I wasn't as strong as you guys.”
“That's not true,” Heero whispered. For the first time, he looked up and met my eyes. I was shocked as hell to
see Heero's eyes red. I didn't see any tear tracks on his face, but... “You had more strength than us, Duo. We couldn't
find the strength to do what you did, even as you fought like hell on the battlefield.”
“And got captured constantly,” I muttered. Though, dammit, I had been competent. If I hadn't been, I would
be dead right now.
“Enough of that, Maxwell. You are the best stealth operative of us all, and the best hacker. Quatre may have the best
group logic and heart, and Trowa may be a strong all-out fighter; though I have my skills in swordsmanship and pyrotechnics,
with Heero having strong strength and endurance, you have your own skills that we cannot surpass. These are our strengths.”
“Don't forget how smart you are, 'Fei,” I put in quickly. He'd given himself pretty small skills considering how
great he was.
“Fine, Maxwell,” he said with irritation. But he preened. “You have your own skills, and don't you forget
I shrugged, then winced. Damn, my left arm hurt, too. Goody. I was already injured. And so was Heero. I wasn't liking this.
“Jesus, guys,” I said suddenly, “is anyone else getting the feeling that we need back-up?” The hesitation
in the air made me narrow my eyes. “What?”
“We have already asked for assistance,” Wufei told me.
“Hell,” I muttered. “You Preventors aren't supposed to be a part of this.”
“Yes, I know. That is why we have asked for Trowa and Quatre to accompany us.”
I gaped. “But... Qat's a businessman now!” I sputtered.
“And still a pilot,” Heero put in. “He's in a meeting right now, but it will be wrapped up by tomorrow.
He'll be shipped in secretly with Trowa afterwards.”
“How secretly?” I demanded. Fear tightened my chest.
“We have no idea how.” Meaning secret as fuck.
“Thank the gods for that, at least,” I muttered. My side mocked me – I was damn tired.
“Maxwell, sleep some more. When you wake up, we'll try to get more food in you.”
I frowned. Great.
Still, I couldn't help the waves of exhaustion from roiling over me. I found myself lying back and relaxing further into the
small cot beneath me. I still needed to recover. It would be best if I got as much sleep as possible before we had to get
Heero came to stand before me, his eyes still red. “Duo,” he breathed, then paused for a second. I felt my eyes
droop and fought it. “I... I hadn't even known I was moving until... until I saw you. I had no choice but to save you.”
No choice? But the way he said it... so sad, so wistful, so... burdened...
My angel, I thought, slipping suddenly into sleep. He truly is my angel.
My mouth curved slightly. Hope... the bastard kept coming back...
Until the end of time... I would always love him.
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