sunhawk16: (Lev hawk)
[personal profile] sunhawk16
Ok, a bit of drama, a touch of angst, a smidge of cliche all wrapped around an ending I was never sure about... which would be why this piece has been languishing in the WIP folder for *cough* maybe a year or two.
It has been living all this time with the temporary title of 'Junk Fic', and sitting here at 8:30 at night, nothing else is coming to mind, so it will have to do for now. This is just a stand alone story that is typical Sunhawk...

Friday afternoons are one of the highlights of my week. Duo comes into town to meet me for lunch in the little diner about three blocks from Preventers headquarters. It’s not that we don’t see each other any other time, but the other guys are usually involved; group outings, group dinners and the like. There’s just something special about having him to myself for that hour. I’m not trying to imply there’s anything between us but friendship, not that I wish there wasn’t, but I just like being with Duo one-on-one. He’s somehow more open, more relaxed. When we’re all together, he seems to be under some pressure to be… something I really don’t think he is.

I like that when it’s just the two of us, he seems so much more himself. I suppose the same is probably true when he goes out with any of the others, but since I’m not there to see it… I can pretend it’s something reserved just for me.

And yes, I’m aware how lame that sounds.

I’d already placed our orders before he arrived that day, so that Duo was slipping into his seat at about the same time our respective lunches arrived at the table. He grinned at me when he saw the Caesar salad. ‘You trying to imply something about my weight, Yuy?’

I snorted, unrolling my silverware from the paper napkin, not bothering to point out that it was one of his favorites. ‘Guilty conscience?’

He rolled his eyes and stole my fork, leaving me to unwrap his silverware as well. ‘Oh yeah… those chocolate covered cashews are really catching up to me. Another couple of pounds and I’ll have to break out my fat jeans. Do you think I look fat in this? I think I look fat in this.’

I have to confess that I just blinked at him for a minute, before it clicked in my head and I chuckled. ‘Oh right. This was the week Hilde was coming to visit, wasn’t it?’

He groaned theatrically, pouring his salad dressing with one hand and reaching for his tea with the other. ‘God, Heero… toss me some testosterone! Tell me about some macho Preventer thing you did this week; anything. Just do not ask me to go shopping, watch a chick flick, or tell me one more damn time how hot your boyfriend’s ass is.’

I paused with my sandwich half way to my mouth and grimaced. ‘Even if I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t tell you the state of his ass. That sounds rather… rude. For both you and the boyfriend’s ass.’

That damn near made him choke on his tea, and when he’d gotten his mouthful swallowed, he laughed delightedly at me. ‘Now see? A nice sensible guy thought! Why can’t women understand that concept of TMI?’

‘Well,’ I ventured. ‘If Relena and Noin are any indication at all, there is no such thing as too much information.’

‘No shit,’ he muttered and then sort of seemed to sigh deeply. When he looked up from his salad again, it was with a more genuine smile on his face. ‘It’s always nice to see Hilde,’ he confessed in a low tone, as though she might actually over-hear him somehow. ‘But I can’t say I was sorry after a couple of days, to drive her back to the shuttle port.’

I smiled back, offering sympathy without words, because while I understood the sentiment, I also understood that Duo loved Hilde like a little sister, and you just don’t go around telling your best friend that you find his sister annoying.

Especially since the feelings were likely fueled by the leftover jealousy from back when I had thought there was something more between them.

‘So,’ he prompted, when I didn’t reply. ‘What have you been up to this week? Captured any really interesting bad guys? Saved the world?’

I mock glared at the old joke, chewing thoughtfully on my bite of sandwich while I reviewed the week. ‘Of the cases I can discuss, I can’t think of anything more interesting than a bomb threat that turned out to be cookie dough and some wires from the guy’s car starter.’

That made him laugh right out loud, and I smiled to watch him with the color in his cheeks and the spark of amusement in his eyes. I didn’t even mind that the few other customers in the place all looked over at us, smiling themselves, just seeing him. Duo Maxwell is somewhat… contagious.

‘You have got to be kidding me?’ he couldn’t help asking, and I held my hand up in that universal ‘scout’s honor’ gesture.

‘Nope, and you should have seen the look on Wufei’s face when I proved it by eating some.’

‘You did not!’ he gasped out, his lunch totally forgotten, and his attention completely on me. I could see him playing the scene in his mind, and watched him find the humor where Wufei… really hadn’t.

Is it extremely unhinged that when the robbery happened, I had a split second of being pissed that the man had interrupted that precise moment?

We had both been so focused on our conversation, that damned if we hadn’t missed the entrance of what should have set off all kinds of alarm bells. I would kick myself over it for months after; I was the Preventer after all. I had been the one facing the damn door.

But we had not reacted until we heard the obviously frightened voice of the waitress in response to what must have been the silent gesturing of a gun.

We heard the voice at the same time, and the look on my face was enough to tell Duo it wasn’t good. I started to tell him to get down, but he chose that moment to turn in his seat, rising to his knees to face the scene.

‘Duo!’ I hissed, not quite able to believe what he was doing. I couldn’t tell how the gunman reacted, because Duo was blocking my sight.

‘Get down!’ he hissed back. ‘That uniform makes you a big fucking target.’

For a second, I was at an absolute loss, and one of the other customers chose that exact second to notice what was going on, and scream. From the front of the restaurant a very tense voice told them to shut up. Duo raised his hands unbidden, and I realized he was simply trying to offer me as much cover as possible. I briefly considering reaching out and jerking his ass across the damn booth, but decided that was a bad idea since my side was not really any safer than his.

‘Down on the floor!’ that tense voice shouted, and everybody scrambled to comply… everybody except for Duo.

‘Do as he fucking says!’ I whispered harshly, but Duo only spread his arms out a little wider, making his jacket swing open, covering just a bit more area.

‘He’ll see you!’ he ground back, voice strange through gritted teeth.

‘Now!’ the gunman shouted again, voice hitching up from tense to something I recognized as ‘unstable’.

‘Calm down, man,’ Duo told him, shifting ever so slowly toward the edge of his seat, making sure I had time to move with him to stay out of sight. ‘Bad knee; I’m moving! I’m moving!’

I honestly didn’t know what the hell to do. Any move I made was going to draw fire in my direction, and that meant Duo’s direction too, but I just didn’t have anywhere to go. There wasn’t enough room to seek cover under the table, and as soon as Duo slid free of the booth, I’d be exposed. He was right about the likelihood of my uniform eliciting a… less than welcome reaction. And that gun had to be trained right at Duo. Moving in his ‘shadow’, I was easing my gun out, but I couldn’t freaking see anything but Duo’s damn back.

‘Get ready,’ Duo muttered, ducking his head a little as though looking where he was going, the better to hide the fact that he was speaking. ‘I’ll drop and you…’ he began, but he never finished the plan. Never finished the sentence.

Something about his actions finally pissed off the man in the front of the restaurant.

The shots rang out like something out of a bad action movie; I swear to God they echoed in my head, and I really did hear the whistle as the first one went wide to our right.

The next two didn’t go wide of anything. Some part of ages old training kicked in at the first squeeze of that trigger, and my own gun was the rest of the way out, as I stepped clear of the cover Duo’d been giving me. The bullet I put between the son of a bitch’s eyes hit before Duo’s knees did more than buckle.

The hits sent Duo back a step and he fell almost into my arms. When he went down, I went with him, clutching him to me. I distinctly remember thinking, clear as a bell, I’m the Preventer… I’m supposed to protect him, not the other way around.

Slumped against my chest, Duo made a tiny sound of surprise, then was suddenly clutching at my arm. ‘Heero! You hit?’

‘I’m ok,’ I told him, getting him turned to where I could get my hand inside his jacket. My heart convulsed when my fingers came away slicked with blood.

‘Medic! Medic! Somebody get…’ I screamed, before my brain caught up to where we were, and changed gears. ‘Somebody call an ambulance!’

I vaguely registered that the waitress seemed to be going after a phone. She got points for managing to not just stand there shrieking at the dead body at her feet.

‘S’ok Heero… s’ok…’ Duo told me, and I almost burst out laughing. ‘Ok’ wasn’t even close.

‘Damn, it, you idiot! Why didn’t you move?’ I snapped instead, shoving the hysteria down for later. ‘You had plenty of time to get the fuck out of the way!’

‘You didn’t,’ he told me quietly, his head lolling to rest against my shoulder.

It made me cold all over, that calm assurance in his tone. I hadn’t been able to see the damn robber, but Duo had. He’s not an agent any more, but he was once. He’d have been able to look at the man and know he was about to pull the trigger, as easily as I would have… if he hadn’t been shielding me.

‘You stood there and took the hit to… to… keep me from getting shot?’ I breathed, and he let out with a breathless little chuckle.

‘Couldn’t let… my lunch date get hit… now could I?’ he told me, voice trying for light and not really making it because of the almost bubbly sound to it.

‘Damn it,’ I growled, furious and afraid and twisted up in more ways than I could half have described. ‘You idiot… just shut up. Save your strength,’ I told him, my fingers finding the source of the blood and pressing against it. There was a grunt of pain, but no more objection than that. ‘Where the fuck is that damn ambulance!’ I yelled to anybody who might be listening, totally ashamed that my voice cracked like some damn rookie.

‘Hush, Heero,’ Duo soothed, his fingers still holding my forearm, his grip almost nonexistent. ‘Let it go. I… don’t think it matters.’

‘The hell. The hell!’ I snapped, clutching him more firmly against me. ‘It’s not that bad. You just… you just hang the hell on.’

‘I can tell… just looking at you, man,’ he chuckled darkly. ‘Can feel it. It’s ok. Not such a… bad way to go, I guess. Saved the White Knight… all that matters.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I demanded, not liking how his words were slurring. Not liking the sudden lack of sense. The wet flow over my fingers.

‘Hey… have to keep the White Knight... safe. The Angel… the… avenging angel…’ he murmured, and his hand fell away from my arm.

‘Shut up, Duo. Just hold on. The medics will be here soon,’ I told him, resisting the urge to shake him until he stopped letting himself be so… damn limp.

‘Nice,’ he sighed, almost seeming to nuzzle his head into the crook of my neck. ‘This will be nice… I don’t mind, Heero… this is ok.’

It… infuriated me. He sounded almost like he’d already given up. ‘What the fuck are you babbling about? This is not fucking ok! You are not going to die!’ I snarled at him, my anger jerking us until his head rolled away from me for a second and I could see that his eyes were closed.

‘Don’t mind. Here with you,’ he said, voice suddenly sounding very small. ‘I can almost… I can… this will be ok. If you… if you stay…’

It wrenched at me, the sound of his voice. He sounded so damn weak and I could almost feel him slipping away. Shock was probably setting in. My hands… God, my hands felt so wet.

‘Duo… stay with me now. You’re not making any sense. Stay focused. You have to hang on just a little longer.’

‘I… love you Heero,’ he whispered, and there was a long damn minute where I forgot how to breathe. I’m sure there were things going on around us, but damned if I could have told you what. There was just me… and Duo… and all that damned blood.

‘D… Duo? What…?’ I managed to choke out and I think my arms tightened around him because he seemed to flinch back into awareness again.

‘Sorry. Sorry,’ he stuttered, sounding almost afraid for the first time. ‘Didn’t mean… Shouldn’t have…’

‘You love me?’ I demanded, needing to hear it again. Wanting to hear it again. ‘Duo… are you still with me?’

‘I’m here,’ he reassured, sounding a little more focused, but even more breathless. ‘Sorry. I shouldn’t have said it. But I do… s’why it’s ok… to die this way.’

‘Oh God, Duo…’ was all I could manage.

‘Heero?’ he asked then, and I couldn’t have told you how in the hell he sounded. ‘Lie to me? Just a little? Let me… let me go… feeling like… like…’

What boiled up inside me then was so damn mixed up I couldn’t figure it out. I was cold all over, but… it felt like something was on fire. I was less than happy with him on more levels than I could begin to articulate.

‘I will not lie to you,’ I ground out. ‘I would never lie to you. Not now… not ever.’

He seemed to deflate in my arms, sinking further into himself. ‘Sorry… sorry… ‘

‘You bastard; I can’t believe you’d do this to me,’ I snapped, pulling him up until his head lolled back so that I could see his face. ‘Now? You fucking tell me now? You better not die, because I’m gonna kill you!’

‘Heero?’ he questioned, blinking at me. ‘God… please don’t hate me… I can’t think so clear… I shouldn’t have said… I just… just…’

‘Moron!’ I cut him off, resisting the urge, again, to shake him until his damn teeth rattled. Distantly, I heard the sound of a siren. ‘I’ve loved you since the damn day I saw your stupid beat-up face on that news-cast during the war! Why the hell did you think I broke you out instead of killing you?’

He made the effort to look at me, blinking and fighting against the pull of unconsciousness. ‘What? You… are you…’

‘Damn serious,’ I informed him hotly. ‘I… I don’t know, I suppose I fell for you before that, but that was the moment I admitted it to myself. And I didn’t fucking break you out of an Oz prison just to have you die in some stupid robbery! Now focus, Maxwell! Stay with me!’

‘Ok. Ok, Heero,’ he said, voice wobbly with so much more than it had been. ‘I… Damn, Heero. Are you… say it again?’

‘I love you, you stupid son of a bitch,’ I told him, some part of me sorry that our first exchange of these words was… like it was. But it was a distant part, gibbering quietly behind my shield of anger. ‘I love you and if you die on me, I’m going to… to be seriously pissed off!’

‘K. Thanks, Heero,’ he mumbled, a smile on his face like none I’d ever seen before. It was beautiful in a way I never wanted to see again. ‘S’ok now… feels so nice…’

And then it felt like he just… let go. His head was a dead weight fallen to the side, and if I hadn’t been able to see the faint throb of pulse in his throat, I think I might have gone berserk.

‘Duo? Duo!’ I called, and brought bloody fingers up to press his face in against my neck again, because I couldn’t stand to see him hanging there like that. I remembered that I had heard sirens and looked up to find the waitress and the small knot of other customers clustered around the doorway, trying not to look at the body. Trying not to look at Duo. For some weird reason, they made me think of sheep and I was mad about that, though I hardly knew why. ‘Damn it!’ I shouted at them, because Duo couldn’t hear my demands any more anyway. ‘Somebody get that fucking ambulance, now!’

Like they could make it come faster.

Without Duo there to argue with and keep me distracted, reaction was starting to set in and I was appalled to find that I was starting to shake. Like some kind of damn rookie. Some newbie in the field who had never seen blood shed before.

‘Don’t you dare fucking do this to me,’ I whispered next to his ear, but it didn’t make him come back to talk to me.

When the emergency squad got there, they were efficient in their frenzy, shoving me away and swarming over Duo like strange giant ants. They cut his jacket away and I remember thinking that he’d have been pissed about that; it was his favorite, until I realized between the bullet holes and the blood… it was already pretty well ruined.

Normally, family members were taken aside and talked to in low tones so that they didn’t see things that would haunt their nights, but my uniform marked me as a different sort of ‘family’. It was assumed that I was there in a more official capacity and I wasn’t spared the sight of much of anything.

I could only draw hope from their frantic pace, knowing that it meant he was at least still alive. Nobody was working over the other guy, after all, for the rather obvious reason.

The best thing I could do for Duo at that point was to stay the hell out of the way. Though I’m not at all sure what I would have done when they loaded him into the ambulance for transport if Wufei hadn’t come storming into the diner just as they were putting him on the gurney.

Wufei is my partner and knew where I always ate lunch on Fridays. He’d heard the call and come running. I’m not sure if what he found was better or worse than he’d feared… he’s never said. Though the first thing he did say sounded suspiciously like a petition to some God in what I took to be Chinese. It made me stop and think, and I muttered my own ‘please God’, just for good measure.

The next part can only be described as bizarre. It was a thing of protocol and rules that I’ve been through a dozen times. I know how it’s done, I know why it’s done, I’ve done it all before. The questions, the taking of my gun, the request to see my badge. All of it should have been more familiar than the back of my morning cereal box. But it was like I couldn’t remember how any of it was done. I should have been humiliated at how Wufei had to lead me through it, but I just couldn’t be made to care.

It boiled up when one of the questioning officers suggested a breathalyzer because ‘for a hot shot Preventer’ I apparently acted like I was on something.

‘If you fucking want to charge me with something, get the hell on with it,’ I snarled at the man, getting in his face until I was sure he could feel the breath he wanted to analyze. ‘My partner is on his way to the damn hospital and I have no idea if he’s even going to make it! If you can’t understand why I’m ‘distracted’ then you’re a God damn ass and…’ Wufei cut me off with a jerk on my arm, and a look that was… a bit surprised.

‘I was under the impression that Agent Chang here was your partner,’ the officer getting on my last nerve replied, and I just sort of… lost it.

‘Life partner!’ I snapped, and would have had the man by the shirt front if Wufei hadn’t still had hold of my arm. ‘Boyfriend, fiancée, lover, whatever the fuck cutesy term you want to use for it! Now may I go, because I am fucking leaving one way or the damn other!’

On a better day, I would have taken some pride in the color the man’s face turned.

‘Yuy!’ Wufei warned, giving me a shake to get my attention on him and off the horribly embarrassed officer. When I turned his way, his voice softened and he told me, ‘Go wash up. Let me finish this and we’ll go, ok?’

It made me look down at myself for the first time, and my damn knees went weak at the sight of all the blood. ‘Oh God,’ I whispered, holding my hands out in front of me; the blood was smeared clear up my arms. It was on my shirt. Duo’s blood. Soaked into my shirt. Probably on my chest. So much of it. Duo’s.

‘Heero,’ Wufei said gently and made me look away. ‘We’ll go. Now go wash up; they have their samples and their pictures. It’s ok.’

I nodded and I went, and later I would realize it was probably the part where I’d looked like I was going to pass out, and not the cussing and yelling, that got me the hell out of there.

Wufei led me back to headquarters where we picked up his car and I suppose he should get some points for managing to make it three whole blocks before he finally had to ask. ‘So… you and Maxwell? How long has this been going on?’

I didn’t bother to look across at him, sitting in the passenger seat and staring out the window. ‘About an hour,’ I told him bluntly and there was a sound that tried to be a laugh until he got it quashed. Deciding, I suppose, that it would be in poor taste under the circumstances. I think he bit his tongue trying not to ask anything more, and the rest of the trip was made in relative silence. I was glad, because there just wasn’t anything I could have said that wasn’t going to sound defensive.

Or make me start punching the dashboard.

Duo was still in surgery when we got there and I was both relieved and even more anxious. Better there than… not there, I suppose, but it didn’t bode well that things were taking so damn long. It took the use of a badge since I had no proof that I was more to Duo than a passing stranger, to gain any information at all, and it made me worry about how hard a fight it would be to get in to see him when the time came.

Wufei was a study in unaccustomed patience while I snapped and snarled and paced. I think it was his inability to completely process this new… development, that kept him from just decking me. He kept casting me quizzical looks, as though unsure if I was really his partner or not.

Or maybe he just thought I’d lost my damn mind. There were moments I wasn’t sure myself.

It took hours before they said Duo was out of surgery, and then hours more before it made a damn bit of difference as far as getting in to see him. Once we did, I suppose you could say he was awake, but I’m not sure you could say he was aware. His eyes tracked our movements, but there wasn’t much response when I sat beside his bed and spoke to him. He dosed off while I gently bathed my bloody finger-prints from his cheek.

I made Wufei stay until they threw us out, and then I made him take me home where I spent the rest of the evening, and part of the night, researching what I needed and forging documents. When I arrived at the hospital the next morning, I had the papers to prove that Duo and I were partners in every sense of the word, and got no more argument from anybody about camping at his bedside.

He woke in fits and starts, little more than the opening and closing of his eyes. He seemed to know I was there, and after the fourth or fifth time, I’m pretty sure he was actually looking for me when he roused. There wasn’t enough focus for him to speak; hell I wasn’t positive he was even really awake or not. But I spoke to him each time and wanted to believe that he took some reassurance from the sound of my voice.

And in between times I just sat and stared at him and wondered about a whole lot of things; like just how long Duo had been in love with me. Because I’d been in love with him for a very long time and it just sort of made all those wasted years seem very damn… sad.

People came and went around us, nurses and doctors mostly, but friends too; Duo’s and mine. Wufei was a presence that was there about half the time, but I vaguely remember Relena stopping in for a bit, all weepy and whispering. She kissed Duo’s cheek and might have kissed mine, I don’t really remember. Sally checked in, not so weepy, and not at all subdued, but she kissed us both too.

I just sat and held fast to Duo’s hand, trying to anticipate his needs before he needed to try and voice them. Ice chips and heated blankets, hair swept out of groggy, glazed eyes, itches to be gently rubbed away.

For his part, Duo just seemed to… hang on. He slept mostly, but when he woke, his eyes would find me and fix me with the strangest, almost melancholy look. He was drugged to the proverbial gills, but I think he was hurting still. Even well into the second day, he was disoriented and confused. Just drifting in and out, his hand sometimes laying lax in mine, and sometimes clutching desperately.

When no one else was around, I took to whispering to him softly, telling him about the things we’d do when he was better. The trip I’d take him on, and how he’d recover so much better lying in the sun on some tropical beach. Maybe Hawaii. Maybe Florida. I’d call Quatre and see what he recommended.

By the morning of the third day, I was starting to get uneasy. Duo just didn’t seem to be coming around much. I realized that he was on some very powerful pain killers, but even the doctors didn’t seem to be all that happy with his responsiveness. Not that they would let me know that, they were quick to brush aside my concerns, but I could tell. Could tell by the way they pushed Duo for responses to their questions, and exchanged glances when they didn’t get much more than slow blinks and mumbles.

Wufei stopped by at lunch, as he had been, checking on me as much as Duo I suspect. He caught me stroking Duo’s hair and gently kissing his knuckles. If Wufei was amused, he didn’t show it and I refused to be embarrassed.

‘Any change?’ he asked quietly and I had to shake my head.

‘Not really,’ I sighed. ‘He seems to be stable enough, but…’ I worked around with wording, not wanting to say any of the things out loud that really described Duo’s condition. Wasn’t responding. Wasn’t coming out of it. Wasn’t… in there.

I was saved from having to find something I was comfortable with, when Duo opened his eyes. As had become routine, there was a moment of slow blinking before his eyes tracked toward me. I smiled gently and stroked my knuckles against his cheek.

‘Hey,’ I said softly. ‘Good morning.’

He gave me the same strange look he’d been giving me, not really seeming to make any effort to say anything in return, just gazing at me.

‘What the hell do they have him on?’ Wufei wanted to know, and I could hear the frown he was wearing in the tone of voice.

‘Pain medication,’ I responded and knew I sounded frustrated. ‘But it’s not even morphine.’

Duo blinked at me like Wufei wasn’t even there, watching me like I was the only thing in the world. Beside us, Wufei stepped away to see if Duo’s nurse was around to answer the question of drugs. I kissed Duo’s hand again and squeezed his fingers.

‘Come on, love,’ I whispered to him. ‘Snap out of it…’

He just looked vaguely distressed, a faint frown marring his forehead. I sighed and pressed his hand to my face, completely at a loss. I just didn’t seem to be reaching him. It made me think about the hours he had been under anesthetic and I just felt sick to my stomach wondering about… about things I didn’t want to think about.

Wufei’s hand on my shoulder made me start; I hadn’t heard him come back in.

‘Yuy,’ he said, making no effort to keep his voice down. ‘What in the hell are you doing?’

‘What?’ I asked, confused by the sudden derisive tone of voice.

‘You’re mooning like a love-sick teenage girl!’ he snorted and damned if the man didn’t smack me in the back of the head. Not hard, mind you, but it was enough to make me let go of Duo’s hand and stand up to get in his face.

‘What the hell, you asshole?’ I snapped, the weirdly smug look on his face making me think about grabbing for a hand full of shirt.

‘I’m not even sure who you are,’ he informed me. ‘Because you sure aren’t acting like my partner.’

‘How the hell am I supposed to be acting, you son of a bitch?’ I growled, giving the chair I’d been sitting in a shove to get it out from between us.

‘The Heero Yuy I know would be flaming pissed if somebody took a bullet to protect his pansy ass, much less two! He would…’

I cut him off before I actually was moved to punch that arrogant look right off his face. ‘There will be time to be pissed after I’m sure he’s going to damn well pull through!’ I said, with probably a bit more volume than was appropriate for a hospital, and would have said more about his timing, his manners, his empathy, and probably his parentage, but stopped cold at the sound of a hoarse little,

‘H… Heero?’

I whirled away from Wufei, barely registering his wide grin, to find Duo watching us with the first focus he’d shown since that damn lunch.

He was just… there. Really there. His eyes not only tracking, but showing interest.

‘Welcome back, Maxwell,’ Wufei chuckled warmly and Duo paid some attention to him for the first time.

There was some confusion in those eyes of his, and some obvious pain, but by God he was in there looking back at us.

‘Duo?’ I asked and caught his hand up in mine again. He squeezed as much as he could, frowning faintly at me.

There was another light smack against the back of my head and Wufei said, openly amused, ‘Stop treating him like he died, you idiot.’

And then he just walked out. Guess his lunch hour was over.

I couldn’t stop staring into Duo’s eyes, almost afraid if I looked away, that the spark I saw there that was him, would fade again.

‘I’m going to kick your ass when you don’t look like death warmed over,’ I hissed, and got a twitch of his lips for the effort.

‘This is for real?’ he asked then, voice not much more than a whisper.

‘Real,’ I confirmed and kissed his forehead. ‘Damn real.’ And kissed his cheek. ‘As real as you’ll ever need.’ His chin. And his nose. And his dry, chapped lips.

And then I had to press my forehead into the pillow next to his head and fight just to breathe. He tried awkwardly to pet my hair, but couldn’t, and there was a pressure that might have been a sloppy attempt to kiss the top of my head.

When my breath stopped hitching in my throat, I raised up to meet his eyes again. ‘What were you thinking, you moron?’

He smiled wanly, his eyes trying to drift closed. ‘Was thinkin’ you need to stop flaunting that damn Preventer jacket everywhere you go.’

‘Well it was damn over-kill just to get out of paying your lunch tab,’ I scolded and he managed a grin just as his eyes closed.

‘I’ll buy next time,’ he mumbled.

‘Damn right, you will,’ I told him, though I doubt he heard.

It struck me then that we’d met over two gun shots and come together over two more. I hoped to hell it wasn’t going to become a trend.

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