Shinigami Rises - Part 3
Duo's Friendship Arc 22
by Dyna Dee
The silent-mode helicopter landed in a vacant parking lot a block away from the building they'd pinpointed as their target. They had located the building by sighting the bicycle leaning against the front wall just as Duo had described it. The three intensely focused gundam pilots followed at a fast clip after their three grim faced agents who insisted on taking the lead.
The streets housing industrial and commercial buildings were nearly deserted as the group ran down the sidewalk, staying close to the buildings and stopping in front of the bike Duo had described. Turning down the alley, they spotted a small, older modeled car parked in the alleyway. It was unlocked and empty. The six entered the unlocked side door of the commercial building and took the stairs immediately to their right two and three at a time. As they climbed upward, the agents pulled their guns out from their hidden holsters to be ready for any action. The teens directly behind them silently wished for their own sidearms.
As they came within sight of the third floor, a shot rang out from above them and echoed throughout the building. Without pausing, the six continued upward at an even faster pace. They came to a stop at the top of the stairs on the sixth floor, with Heero in the lead, and following his silent command, everyone removed their shoes so they could proceed down the corridor in silence. The six trained fighters moved like flowing shadows down the empty hallway, listening for any sounds from the partially open door with the letters Room 621 boldly printed on the frosted glass.
Roberto, having taken back the lead, held his arm out, impeding the others from continuing. He readied his gun and quickly moved around the edge of the doorframe. The others, pressed against the wall directly behind him, heard his slight intake of breath a second before he moved completely into the room, motioning for them to follow. The six stood just within the doorway, each quickly scanning the room for any possible targets and seeing the immovable four men on the floor bathed in a large puddle of blood.
"Holy shit!" Heero's W.D., Steve, uttered in disbelief. The three gundam pilots pushed pass the momentarily stunned agents to take in the scene of carnage before them.
"Shinigami," Wufei hissed, then the three moved as one towards their downed friends. Duo was sitting on the floor holding Quatre in his arms as he slowly rocked back and forth in a comforting motion. He looked up, and his countenance shocked the newcomers. His eyes seemed glazed over and unfocused, his face was wet with tears and filled with grief. He didn't speak nor acknowledge their presence in any way as they moved towards him, but kept up the steady rocking motion. Trowa and Wufei's steps faltered as they viewed the blood all over the front of Quatre's shirt and Duo's hand as he held it over the blond boy's stomach.
"Quatre." Trowa whispered his best friend's name with fear and stumbled as he pushed himself forward to step over the dead bodies and fall down on his knees near the blond's head cradled in the crook of Duo's arm.
"Nataku, no." Wufei took in a shuddering breath as he fought back the wave of fear and dread that coursed through him.
Seeing that Duo was not responsive to their presence, Heero stepped around the bodies to come up behind his friend. Kneeling down he wrapped his arms around the long haired boy and embraced him from behind, offering what comfort he could. He reached his hand over and placed it on Quatre's neck and after a brief moment, his eyes lifted up to meet those of the other two. "He's still alive," he announced. And with those words, the agents came out of their frozen state and began to immediately use their cell phones to call for back up, police assistance, and medical help.
Trowa carefully lifted Quatre's pale, slack hand into his own and brought his fingers to rest on his wrist, needing the reassurance that Heero words were true. Feeling a weak but steady pulse under his fingertips, the Heavyarm's pilot brought his forehead down to rest it against the back of the unconscious boy's hand, praying to the God that both Quatre and Duo believed in that there was still a chance for the boy who was always so gentle and giving.
"We should get him downstairs and meet the ambulance," Wufei suggested as he knelt next to Trowa, ignoring the bloody mess in front of and surrounding them. He removed his dark blue shirt and tried to move Duo's hand to place the wadded-up fabric over the wound. Duo, reacting on instinct alone, hunkered over the unconscious Arabian in a pose of protectiveness.
"Duo, let go of Quatre so we can take care of him," Wufei said softly to the unresponsive and distressed boy.
The braided teen didn't answer, but kept rocking back and forth, tears falling indiscriminately down his pale cheeks.
"Talk to him, Heero," The Chinese pilot urged, even as two of the W.D. agents moved forward to help.
"Duo," Heero began, still holding his friend and rocking back and forth with him. "Quatre's alive but he needs immediate medical help. Let him go, please."
Seeing no response at his words and realizing Duo was in shock, Wing's pilot placed his hands on Duo's wrists and slowly pried them away from Quatre's limp body. The long haired teen's only reaction to Heero's pull on his wrists was a pitiful whimper and resistance against removing his hand from his friend. When at last Quatre was finally free of Duo's grip, Trowa was right there, supporting the Sandrock's pilot's body and cautiously eased the blond into his own arms, even as Duo struggled in vain to free himself from Heero's firm grip, desperate to recapture his friend.
Seeing from the corner of his eye that Heero embraced Duo to keep him still and offer comfort, Wufei immediately put his wadded up shirt on the front of Quatre's stomach and put pressure on the bleeding wound. Roberto quickly moved behind them to help the Heavyarms pilot to his feet, with Quatre secured in his arms and Wufei at his side. The two pilots allowed their protective agents to lead them to the nearby elevator.
Agent Steve stood in the open doorway and watched as the boy who had saved the earth months earlier by destroying the falling section of the Libra, now spoke in soft, comforting tones to the traumatized boy clinging tightly to him. When Quatre had been removed from his hold, the Deathscythe pilot had broken down, and had begun to cry openly. Worrying for the boy who had battled so hard to over come depression and the side effects of the strong medications prescribed to ostensibly help him, the agent moved forward to offer whatever help the two boys would receive from him.
The events of the last few hours played over and over in Duo's mind. He was only vaguely aware of the sounds and voices around him as he replayed each step he'd taken that day. A loud siren seemed like the buzz of a mosquito vaguely bothered him, but he couldn't be distracted by it. If he ignored it, he wouldn't be reminded of what he was trying so hard for the moment to forget. There was a great pain in his heart he didn't want to acknowledge, not yet. He found some measure of comfort in his numb state by rocking back and forth with the welcomed warmth of someone holding him. That small movement and the comfort the other offered lent him a sense of security that he so desperately needed at the moment. He felt as if the bottom of his world was falling away again and his heart wanted to let go and fall into the welcoming darkness, to let it consume him so he wouldn't have to hurt anymore. But somewhere in his mind the tenacity that had always been such a dominant part of his personality grappled frantically to cling to some small part of reality, not willing to let go completely. He didn't want to face reality at the moment and, in his mind, he had found a place where the pain and horror of the day's events were dimmed. He wanted, no, needed to stay there, just for a little while. At least until he could figure out what he did wrong and why Quatre had taken a bullet for him.
The hospital's waiting room was cold, and Heero wondered why places of healing always seem so lacking in warmth. The burning in his stomach was nearly unbearable at the moment, but he could set it aside until they received word on Quatre's condition.
His focus was now on his roommate and best friend. Duo sat next to him with a blue hospital-issued blanket draped over his shoulders. His hands and neck wounds were bandaged as well as the road burn on his forearm, thigh and calf. His usual animated face was pale and blank. The normally talkative boy hadn't spoken a word since he was carried by Agent Steve out of the room littered with the bodies of the men he'd killed rescuing Quatre. He didn't speak or acknowledge the doctors in the emergency room as they stitched his open wounds and bandaged them, which concerned the Wing pilot greatly. After having witnessed the tantrum Duo threw at the end of the war when Sally wanted to give him a check up, and knowing the reason why, Heero felt the wrongness of the situation as that same boy sat, apparently unfeeling and uncaring, while doctors and nurses worked over him.
The Emergency Room doctor wanted to admit Duo to the hospital for observation for his concussion and to be treated for shock. The other three pilots adamantly refused, declaring they were perfect capable of caring for him. In truth, they didn't want to be separated when they needed each other to face whatever might happen with Quatre. Though the doctor was reluctant, he released his patient into their care as long as they stayed within the hospital and with a promise that they would get him to take in fluids and some food. Heero was handed a small, green pair of scrubs and was told to dress his friend as his clothes were covered in blood and large holes where he'd sustained wounds that looked like he'd painfully fallen on asphalt.
The hours stretched out agonizingly slow while Quatre remained in surgery. And as time passed, the waiting room on the fourth floor, where the surgical room was located, slowly began to fill. At first, it had held only the four pilots and their three watch dogs. Not ten minutes after they settled into the room then Lady Une arrived, with several more agents flanking her. Noin and Relena came shortly after as did the school's principal, several police men and a nosey reporter.
Wufei self-appointed himself as a liaison between the pilots and the new arrivals, allowing Heero to keep an eye on the other silent two. Trowa sat in a bent position on the edge of his chair and adjacent to Duo. His forehead rested against the palms of his upraised hands, his elbows were planted on his knees. His worry over his closest friend was more than understandable and shared. Duo sat silent while staring vacantly at a burn mark on the carpet, and slowly rocked back and forth, clutching his borrowed blanket tightly to his chest.
At Wufei's determined insistence, and with Lady Une's clout, the police and reporter were forestalled from approaching Duo with their questions regarding the four dead men and details of the kidnaping. One look at the boy, bandaged and obviously still in shock, helped convince them that he wasn't ready to speak of what had happened.
Relena hovered at a distance, wanting to help, but sensing the four teens who had survived a war and many hardships together needed to work through this as a team. She timidly approached the four, two of which looked up at her, acknowledging her presence. "Can I bring you something to eat or drink?" She asked softly, not knowing what else she could do to help.
Heero raised his head, his eyes locking with hers. He noticed the girl's timid smile. She was nervous and unsure and he tried to smile back to reassure her, but his facial muscles seemed to be controlled by his aching heart and burning stomach.
"Could you bring us some juice and snacks?" he asked. "Duo likes potato chips and any kind of cookie. But nothing with raisins," he quickly added, still looking sad and thoughtful. "He doesn't like raisins."
Relena smiled sadly at the pain the four were experiencing, and put her hand on Heero's shoulder. "Is there anything in particular you would like Heero?" she asked.
"Water," he replied. "I need some water and maybe a sandwich with no mustard or spices."
With a nod she turned to leave the room, one of Lady Une's agents separated himself from the group and followed her.
Heero looked at his watch. It was going well past three hours since the surgery began. Suddenly, Trowa stood up and began to pace. Duo tightly curled his legs up against his chest and turned to face to the wall in reaction to it. Heero clutched his stomach. Things were not looking good.
Relena returned fifteen minutes later laden with a tray filled with a variety of food and drinks from the hospital's cafeteria. She and the agent who had gone with her set the two very full trays loaded with a sandwiches, juices, snacks and fruit down on the end table next to Heero's position on the couch.
The Wing pilot studied the juices, then selected the bottle filled with a cranberry apple juice and popped the top off. Turning, he held it out in front of his braided friend. "Drink this, Duo," he ordered softly.
The braided teen's response was to curl up further and tighten his hold on his blanket. After waiting for several moments for Duo to change his mind, Heero sighed and replaced the drink on the tray and frowned. The nurse from the ER who came to check on Duo every hour would not be pleased that the traumatized teen had not had anything to drink.
He looked up again as Wufei approached and stood next to Relena. He paused to observe Duo's still form and then glanced at the tray of food. His eyes then locked with Heero's and without speaking, they communicated their common worry over their friend.
The Chinese boy nodded and picked up the open bottle of juice, selected a peanut butter filled candy bar and then moved to kneel next to the American teen. "Duo, you need to drink something," he told the unresponsive teen. "It's standard procedure that we always re-hydrate after a mission."
"Mission?" Duo's dazed voice asked.
"Yes, your mission to retract Quatre," he replied in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Quatre," Duo's voice hitched. He slowly released his tight grip on his blanket and held his right hand out to his view. A faint stain of blood was visible on the white bandage wrapped around his damaged palm. He brought his wounded hand up to cover his face and he began to rock back and forth once again.
Wufei moved forward and embraced him, mindful of the open juice bottle in his hand. "Have you so little faith in Quatre?" he gently chided the upset boy. "He's strong," he said with conviction, feeling Duo's body trembling with emotion.
"Why did he do it, Wufei?" Duo whispered, not pulling away or looking up.
"Do what, Duo?" Wufei asked calmly, seeing Heero and Trowa edge closer to listen. Duo hadn't spoken since they'd left that death-filled room in the warehouse.
"He took the bullet for me." He paused to sniff back the tears. "Why would he do that?"
Without any hesitation, Wufei answered him. "Because he's your friend. Here," He pulled back and held the open bottle of juice out. "Drink this and then tell us what happened."
Lifting his face from his hands, Duo let his shaking hands take possession of the offered bottle of juice and brought it to his lips. He took a few swallows then lowered it.
"More," Heero ordered, and Wufei put his hand under the bottom of the bottle, still gripped in Duo's hands, and gently guided it back up to his lips.
The braided boy meekly obeyed and drank half of the juice before lowering it and handing it back to Wufei, who then passed it to Heero to dispose of. Wufei then unwrapped the chocolate covered, peanut butter candy bar and broke it in half and offered one part to his friend.
Without a smile, Duo accepted it and popped it into his mouth, slowly chewing before swallowing and immediately accepted the second piece. The bottle of juice re-appeared to wash it down.
"Can you tell us what happened?" Trowa asked as he sat once again on the couch next to Duo's feet, on the opposite end of the couch from Heero. His piercing green eyes sought the pained blue-violet ones, needing to understand what had gone wrong.
Duo glanced up and recognized the need in his friend's eyes. He'd been going over and over every decision he'd made since Quatre had been grabbed, trying to figure out what he'd done wrong, or what he could have done differently to save him. He began quietly, and at times spoke haltingly as he related their afternoon, starting by entering the Pizza restaurant and Pete's phone call. He quickly told of Quatre's abduction and the chloroform that incapacitated him, and of his being hit on the head from behind. He then related his long ride through the city on the bumper of the van, and then on the stolen bike. He jumped over most of his search of the six floors of the building to the point of time when he'd found Quatre in the ill-fated room, and listened to the kidnappers' conversations. Then, after the phone call that stated that the Winner's would not bargain with kidnapers, he told of the one man's plan to kill Quatre in retaliation.
In a cold, small voice and in precise, detached detail, the American reported how he'd killed the first two kidnapers upon entering the room. And then, while he bent down to free the bound and drugged Arabian on the floor, he'd been attacked from behind. He told them of the wire garrote and how he'd disabled and killed that assailant, also stating that Quatre had gotten to his feet and was completely disoriented. He then related to them his coming face to face with Pete, the pizza guy, holding a gun in his hand and aimed at his chest. He choked on his words as he described how he didn't realize at first that Quatre had taken the bullet for him as he was focused on the man, the gun, and throwing the knife with extreme prejudice, taking down the immediate danger around the them.
"I looked down, and there was Quatre, bleeding from a stomach wound," he whispered, his voice reflecting his pained disbelief. "I held him in my arms and tried to stop it, but my hand was bleeding." He continued with a sniff. "Quatre said that we're now blood brothers."
Obviously fighting a losing battle to keep his composure, the traumatized boy's wide, pain filled eyes looked up to meet Trowa's sad face. "Quatre has a family, a future," he whispered as a look of bewilderment crossed his fair features. "Why would he sacrifice himself for me? I'm dispensable. Only you guys would miss me if I was killed. Why did he do it?" Duo's voice hitched as he spoke, and a slow falling tear fell unheeded from his left eye and trailed slowly down his cheek.
It pained the other three to hear Duo speak of his own lack of self worth. Trowa thought of the many times throughout the war that Duo had taken countless chances with the belief that no one would be hurt by his death. The others had decided that was the reason for his enjoyment of life, the wonders of Earth and new sensations that were to be explored and enjoyed to the fullest by the boy from L-2 because the kid that had lost everything and everyone one he'd ever cared about never believed he'd live to see the end of the war. "Life is short, and I'm gonna burn brightly till the end," he'd said to them once, and he lived by that motto every day.
"I'm sorry, Trowa." The pained violet eyes looked at the Heavyarms pilot apologetically. "I really did try to save him from being hurt."
Trowa nodded, then turned to face the anguished boy. "You did all you could have done, Duo," he began and spoke softly. "It's not your fault that he got hurt," he said in a consoling tone. "It was Quatre's choice, and his actions prove he values you as his friend. Any one of us would have done the same thing if we were in his place."
"If he dies, I'll never forgive myself," Duo whispered, clearly not consoled by Trowa's words.
The Heavyarms pilot moved off the couch and onto his knees next to the anguished boy. He put out his arms in an invitation. Duo hesitated only a moment before he ease himself forward to settle against the taller brunet teen's shoulder and hugged him fiercely.
Soon other arms were wrapped protectively around the two. Heero, Wufei and Relena joined the supportive embrace. Not a moment later, Sally, Lady Une, Noin, and the pilots' watch dogs joined in, arms encircling the four boys who had lost so much in their short lives and were now fearful of losing someone so dear to them once again.
The group hug held for several moments when a small voice in the middle spoke up. "Uh....thanks guys," definitely Duo's voice, "but I'm feeling kinda claustrophobic here."
A slight chuckle reverberated through the group hunched down on the floor. One by one, the arms were removed and the others stood back. Heero and Wufei also stood, yet remained close as Trowa helped Duo back onto the couch. He then took his own place on the couch again, but this time he pulled Duo's slim body next to his, slinging his arm over the American's shoulders and holding him in a protective half hug.
The braided head tilted to rest upon the taller boy's offered shoulder. "I'm so tired," he muttered so faintly only Trowa could hear.
"Then rest. We'll wake you when there's news," The other boy told him quietly.
"K." The small reply accompanied with a large yawn.
"When we get the good news, we're going out to eat, and I want you to eat a lot of food." Trowa told him as he squeezed the slight shoulder and then added. "You're too thin."
"Good news," Duo murmured just before his head and body slumped as he gave into his exhaustion.
"Duo!" Trowa's voice and a shake of his shoulder aroused the slumbering teen. His eyes flew open as he moved to sit up, alarmed as the surroundings and circumstances came back to him. His eyes moved quickly to take in the room's occupants, and blinking his eyes in an effort to focus them, he began to see everyone in the room was focused on a bespeckled man with greying hair dressed in surgical scrubs. The man's face seemed a mask, lacking a show of any emotion. The surgeon's eyes scanned the room and lit on Lady Une. He immediately moved towards her as the person on top of the situation. He began to speak, but was stopped by the raise of her hand. She turned and motioned for the four pilots to join her.
Duo stood, aided by Trowa, and moved in what felt like slow motion as the pain, now registering from his wounds, made even the slight action of walking painful. He numbly moved forward, towards the doctor with the other three teens surrounding him in the mode of protection to learn of the fate of their comrade.
Still feeling groggy and strangely numb, Duo used all his will to focus on what the doctor was saying, but the detailed explanation of the damage to Quatre, the procedures in repairing the damage in the operating room were beyond his current mental capacity to fully understand. Everything happening to him and around him suddenly seemed so surreal. But Heero's firm grip on his left upper arm let him know he was awake and that the moment was indeed very real.
He chanced a look at the others and saw their faces were blank, their lips pressed firmly together as they listened to the doctor's report.
Duo's mind tried to absorb the man's words, picking out a few to try to comprehend his friend's condition. Angle of the bullet, punctured organs, broken rib, removal of bullet, internal bleeding, and lucky boy were the words that registered.
"Is he going to be alright? Will he live?" His questions burst out of him from his need to know, and though he had not spoken loudly, he still interrupted the doctor.
The surgeon turned his dispassionate eyes to the long-haired boy who looked to be in shock, and his eyes and manner softened.
"There's a good chance he will, son," he replied. "We'll monitor his vitals closely for a week to see if the repaired organs begin to function on their own again. If they do, he'll have a full recovery. If not, well..." He gave the boy a faint smile but a look of firm resolve. "We'll take care of that as well."
The braided boy reached out his hand from under his blanket and took a step forward. Grabbing hold of the surgeon's right hand, he shook it vigorously. "Thank you, mister," he said with all sincerity.
After his initial shock at the boy's bold approach, the older man smiled. "You're welcome," he replied simply, then looked with a doctor's eye of assessment at the pale face and visual evidence of strain on the boy's features. Turning his head, he observed the other three teenage boys, their faces showing a trace of relief on their otherwise emotionless faces. His eyes lit for a moment on the dark haired Japanese boy noticing a slight grimace of pain on his face and his arm clutching his stomach. "I'd suggest all of you boys get some food and rest before you collapse," he advised them.
Sally stepped forward, putting her hands on Heero and Wufei's shoulders as she stood behind them. "I'll see to it," she told all present.
"This one's in pain," the surgeon motioned to Heero and all eyes looked at him with various expressions of shock, disbelief, and suspicion.
Sally turned Heero around to face her, her eyes narrowing as she gave him a quick visual assessment. "Is this true?" she asked, almost skeptical.
"Ulcer...I think." Heero answered softly, embarrassed at the attention he was getting.
Sally frowned. "Alright. I'm taking you guys back to the dorms. Quatre will be in intensive care for a while and there are no visitors allowed. We'll come back tomorrow."
Surprisingly, the four gundam pilots followed the good doctor as she led the docile bunch out of the hospital and to a government issued car. Une, Relena and Noin bid them goodnight at the hospital's entrance.
The late evening car ride through the darkened city to the school was a silent one, no one seemed to be in the mood for inane chatter or false levity. Sally asked the driver to please wait as she led the four to their dorm and then to their rooms. With a promise of returning shortly for medication for both boys, she turned and quickly left to run her errand.
Heero and Duo kept the light off in their room as they walked in silence straight to their beds and collapsed with care down onto them, still fully dressed, with their breathing the only sound in the room.
"It's good news, right? Quatre's gonna be fine?" Duo asked through the darkness, his voice sounding weary and unsure.
"Yes," Heero replied in a sleepy voice, then followed up with a yawn. "He's going to be fine and back with us soon."
A long pause followed, so much so that Heero thought his friend had fallen asleep. But he was wrong.
"My head really hurts." Duo moaned his quiet complaint.
"You have a concussion, it's bound to be painful."
"And my leg feels like it's been through a grater."
"It'll feel better tomorrow."
"Then cover up."
"My hand is throbbing. I think it's swelling and pulling at the stitches."
"Don't clench it."
"My stomach hurts."
"My head. I have a headache."
"Probably not as bad as mine."
"Maybe not. I'm also hungry."
"Me too. Heero?
"Duo." Heero's voice came out in a low growl of impatience.
"Promise me that when we're ninety years old and living in some rest home that we can continue this stimulating conversation."
An amused short came from the Japanese teen and a smile, which he believed unattainable after the events that occurred on such a horrible day, surprisingly grew on his face.
"So..." Duo's voice called out once again across the darkness that separated their two beds. "Where's all the food Trowa promised?"
"Che" Heero choked out as a chuckle of amusement was shared in the dark by both boys. Duo's soft laughter was music to the Wing pilot's ears. He knew from that moment on that things were going to get better, and all would be right again, just as soon as Quatre returned.