Reading the Signs
"It's not as bad as it looks."
That's the first thing Heero says as I fall to my knees in the snow next to him and pry his hand away from his right side. His hand and sleeve are covered in the blood that soaks his shirt. He knows I don't appreciate being lied to.
"Duo, calm down."
"I am perfectly calm," I calmly say as I calmly jerk his tie off and rip open the front of his shirt, sending the little olive green indestructo-buttons of the Preventers uniform shirt flying every which way.
"It was covered in blood anyway," I say in my defense as I pull his shirt open to look for the wound.
"It's not that bad," he says weakly.
"Sure," I snort, trying to ignore how the snow around him is melted and reddened with his blood. "Did it puncture a lung?" I ask.
"No," he says evenly. "It didn't reach the lung because it ricocheted off a rib. Blew apart a couple of them, eight and nine I think."
I look at him, trying not to make a face. "How do you know this crap?" I ask disdainfully. Heero knows this kind of shit. Absolutely nothing grosses him out, and believe me, I've tried.
"I know because I felt it exit out the side. May have nicked the liver on the way," he says in monotone.
He's in pain. The way he handles it, anyone else would probably think he stubbed a toe or pulled a hangnail. It's pretty much been decided by everyone else up at HQ that Heero Yuy is Superman, but I know better. I can see it when he's in pain because I know where to look. It's in the squint of his eyes, the set of his mouth. I've been able to see it as long as we've known each other, since he took a dive out of a god damned 50 story building and set his own god damned leg. Much of the time, I suspect he's totally sick in the head.
"That's just what I wanted to hear," I gripe.
"It's better than having to remove a bullet here," he counters, and he's right. What started as a routine check up on a uranium refining facility in Russia ended up as a car chase and then a crash, and of course the subsequent foot chase. But let's not forget the suspicious shipping records, the uncooperative, downright conniving employees, and the mind numbing hours of searching log books and computer files that came in between.
I can't say I particularly enjoyed any of this mission, least of all seeing my partner take a bullet to the abdomen knowing that the Kevlar is back in the truck. Nor did it make me happy that he kept running, got shot at some more, and proceeded to tackle the bastard. I reached them a second later and subdued the guy but my partner never got up. You can bet your last dollar someone got the shit beat out of them for that and it wasn't Heero. So now we have an unconscious Russian tied up near by and I'm trying to patch Heero up in the middle of the fucking tundra. And he left his coat in the truck, too. You know, this was supposed to be the first day of my winter vacation. I should be hitting slopes in the Alps, not bandaging my partner in the middle of fucking nowhere.
"Duo, it's going to be fine, please calm down," he says.
I can tell when he's in pain, and I suppose it's the same way with me. Maybe he has similar little ways of knowing that I am really, really NOT calm right now. It's not that my hands shake, it's not that I start yammering uncontrollably and freak out. Most of the other agents would say I'm calm in emergencies and usually I am, but Heero knows where to look, much the same way I do. And besides, this is no ordinary emergency. He may be sick in the head, but I ain't much better because I'm in love with the guy.
Does he know this? Well, no. He knows he's been my best friend for the last four years. He knows I'm pretty much the only agent who will work with him. That is because he won't tolerate anyone else and other agents find him 'difficult' to work with, which is putting it mildly and he's well aware of it. He knows I like working with him best anyway.
More recently, like in the last month, he knows that I give world class head, I have a sensitive spot just behind my ear, I go crazy when he plays with my hair while I fuck him, and I tend to come pretty fast when he fucks me on my hands and knees. Those are just the highlights of the various and sundry things he knows about me now. But does he know that I love him more than anyone else in this entire god forsaken earth sphere? Uh, not exactly. I should probably tell him one of these days.
"This is not even a big deal," he's saying, "I bet I could walk."
"NO. No way, buster, no more running," I order as I pull his shirt closed. "Hold still and don't talk or the bone shards may tear something. I need to get this bleeding stopped." I think quickly about what the hell I can use. All the supplies are back in the truck. I hastily strip off my jacket and yank my sweater over my head. He grits his teeth when I press it firmly to his side.
"It's stopping already. Let me get up."
"Hey, which one of us took an EMT course here?" I ask testily.
"Duo, I took that course with you," he reminds me.
I narrow my eyes at him. Smart ass. "Didn't I tell you not to talk?" I snap.
He coughs with a grimace, and groans, "Don't make me laugh."
It's also been decided by everyone else up at HQ that Heero Yuy, a.k.a. "Superman," has no sense of humor, but they are wrong. Heero laughs. Sometimes. Ok, so it's more like a snicker and I usually only hear it when I'm not trying to be funny, but still.
"I'm calling a helicopter," I tell him. Heero makes a face. On the rare occasion that Agent Yuy needs rescuing, he prefers that it not be done in a dramatic fashion, but it can't be helped. The truck is in a ditch, Heero should be immobile, and we've got an unconscious suspect. I unclip my radio from my belt. I call us in to the local Prev HQ, giving my name and badge number and all the vitals of our situation.
"They're a good half hour away by air," I report to my partner when I'm done.
Heero nods and clenches his jaw but he can't stop his body from shivering. In all the time I've known him, I have never seen Mr. Spandex-shorts-I-am-impervious-to-ambient-temperatures shiver. I never asked Trowa if he shivered in Antarctica, but somehow I doubt it. I'm going to chalk this incident up to the blood loss and near freezing conditions. He's lying in a slushy mess of snow and his own quickly cooling blood, and I just ripped his shirt open. Smart move Maxwell, way to kill your own boyfriend. Or, sort-of boyfriend.
When I look at him, though, he doesn't look at all afraid that he might die. He looks a little weary, very annoyed, and thoroughly put-out at having been shot. As if this was just a minor inconvenience in his day, like a long line at the bank or a traffic jam. Or maybe he's just annoyed because his partner won't let him get up. Logically, I know that he's not going to die, too. I just have to keep him warm till the cavalry gets here for the dramatic rescue. I lay my jacket next to him, open in the snow, and prompt him to move to lie on it.
"Duo, it'll get ruined," he protests as I lift his shoulders.
"Jackets are replaceable, partners are not," I tell him as I crouch next to him. Lovers with a mouth like Heero's are also irreplaceable, but now is not the time to worry about that.
"Hold the sweater," I instruct him. He does and I zip the jacket around him.
"Hey!" he grunts and squirms, unable to move his arms now that they are zipped inside my jacket.
"It's warmer this way," I say and stifle a smile. It is warmer this way, yes, but it's also highly amusing. "Let's prop you up against a tree so you're not in the snow," I suggest.
He nods and I help him move a few meters over to a thick oak tree. I get up and steal the woolen hat off of our uranium trafficker and turn it inside out before pulling it over Heero's head. He looks even more annoyed now, and even funnier with his hair squashed over his face like that. "Better?" I ask him.
He glares at me weakly.
"Ok, I'm going to the truck for more supplies. Don't move," I instruct him.
"Hey!" he says again and wiggles some more. "I can come with you, don't go off by yourself!"
"No way, don't you move, Yuy," I say sternly. "If I come back and you've moved a centimeter, there's going to be hell to pay, do you understand? The truck's not far, I'll be back in no time. Hold the helicopter for me if it gets here first," I say and wink, even though we both know it won't be getting here that fast.
It wasn't a long chase, so the truck isn't far away. When you're an out of shape uranium trafficker being pursued by Heero Yuy, you don't tend to get very far. I only remember chasing the guy for about ten or fifteen minutes. It's easy enough to find my way back to the truck by following our footprints. We can't get back into it because it's half in the same ditch our guy crashed in. It's going to have to be towed out and we are going to have to be air lifted out.
We neglected to lock the doors in our hasty exit, so I just pull the handle and it swings open with a cold metallic groan. The first thing I do is grab Heero's Preventers jacket and put it on. I was freezing my ass of out here without my coat in just my uniform shirt. The Prev authorities in these parts know how to keep their vehicles well-stocked and in the truck I find extra winter gear, blankets, a first aid kit, and all kinds of other necessities. I throw open a blanket and start tossing stuff onto it. When I've got everything I might possibly need, I wrap it up and take it with me. I even lock the truck before leaving it.
I jog back to my partner, feeling like Santa Claus with a big sack of goodies slung over my shoulder. When I get there, Heero's face isn't exactly like a kid on Christmas morning, but I think he looks happy to see me.
"Been a good boy?" I ask as I drop the bundle next to him. He just frowns and wiggles unhappily. I kneel down next to him to unload the blanket. "You look too cute like that," I tell him and give him a peck on his nose, which is a bit like kissing an ice cube. He and I are totally hands-off (and lips and everything else, for that matter) at work and in the general public, but hell, there's not a soul for miles out here.
His frown abates just a bit, but he warns me, "Wind's picking up. It might snow."
"How do you know this crap?" I ask for the second time today.
"The pressure is changing," he says simply.
"My partner, the human barometer," I say as I pull out one of the blankets. He leans away from the tree and I ease it over his shoulders and pull it around him.
"Bring one for our pal over there?" he asks.
I nod and pluck the hat off Heero's head. I move away put the hat back on its rightful owner and throw an extra blanket over our prone friend. "Guess we can't let him die until we beat some info out of him," I sigh.
"Based on the shape you left him in, I doubt they're going to let you do the interrogation," Heero tells me, shaking his head.
"Well, he was resisting," I huff.
Heero rolls his eyes. "Duo, you could have subdued him with one hand tied behind your back and a blindfold on."
"He fucking shot you! Nobody very well shoots my partner!"
"I get shot at all the time, it sort of comes with the job," he reminds me.
"And I'd do the same to all those guys if I could get my hands on 'em," I say, shaking a fist in the air.
"I'm truly moved, Maxwell," Heero says flatly.
"Anyway, let's hope the copter comes before it really does start to snow," I say. I come back to Heero, outfitting him with an enormous fuzzy hat with earflaps. He regards me in a long-suffering manner and I can't help snickering.
"I'm glad I can provide you with some entertainment during the wait, Duo," he says dryly.
"You'd thank me if you could see how blue your lips are," I tell him.
His eyes widen. "They are?" he asks, voice just the slightest bit alarmed. I don't tell him that they're not really blue. He is looking awfully pale, though. I don't like it.
"How's the bleeding under there?" I ask. I don't want to have to pull his layers off to check it out. "There's some hemostatic stuff in the first aid kit in case it starts again."
"Hasn't started again," he shakes his head, "but I'm pretty sure I've ruined your jacket."
"So long as you don't ruin your pants, I'll be happy," I joke.
He snorts. "All sphincters operating at one hundred percent," he reports.
"Good to hear," I nod sharply. "Need some pain meds or anything?"
He shakes his head. I kind of wish he would just take some but that's how he is. He wants to feel any changes or anything that might be wrong.
"Water?" I ask, picking up a thermos and unscrewing the top.
"Good idea," he says and I help him drink some.
As he predicted just minutes ago, it starts to snow. It's just flurries for now, but if it gets worse, the helicopter may not be able to make it out here. I glance at Heero and can tell by the look on his face that he's thinking the same thing. Still not worried at all about dying, of course. It'll just delay his surgery and he'll get a little colder and have to wear that ridiculous hat a little longer. Just another annoyance in his day. I really do love him a lot.
"Ok, you're lips aren't really blue," I admit.
"Oh," he says. "Good. Jerk."
Looking at him, I find just the barest hint of amusement in those blue eyes as they peer at me from underneath his hair and the huge, ear-flapped fur hat. If he weren't in pain and wheezing ever so slightly through those busted ribs, I'd be severely tempted to snuggle up to him right about now. He got a blanket and I didn't, after all. I just reach over and tug his ear flaps down.
After a few minutes, the snow flurries get a little heavier, fat flakes falling and sticking on the dark fur hat, the thick red blanket around his shoulders, his coffee brown hair. I want the helicopter to come, dammit. I want Heero to be in the care of people who can actually fix him.
"You did good," he says as if he can read my mind, "I'm going to be fine."
"I know, I know. Takes more than this to kill you," I reply with a wry half-smile.
"You're calmer," he observes.
Maybe he's right, but then I hear the distant din of helicopter blades and suddenly I am anything but calm. I snatch the flare gun and run a ways from the tree before shooting it straight up into the air. Then I proceed to run around like a man possessed, wearing a blaze orange vest and waving two more about wildly as I jump up and down. I am taking absolutely no chances here.
The copter touches down in a dry, snow-covered creek bed not far away and two guys jump out with a stretcher. Heero is trying to stand, but I dash back and keep him still. He grumbles and snarls as he is put on the stretcher. He hates this kind of thing and I'm thinking it was a good idea to zip his arms inside the coat or else one of our EMTs might have been belted by now. Finally, it looks like he's resigned himself to being helped. For now.
"Bullet entered front right and exited right side, two broken ribs, blood loss, likely internal bleeding and lacerations," Heero is telling them as if he's reading someone else's chart in a hospital room.
They lift him and although they are more than capable of carrying the stretcher, I grab a corner and we trot back to the chopper. I see that Heero is loaded safely before grabbing a spare agent and going back for our suspect and supplies. The MedEvac helicopter is well equipped to treat Heero on the way to the hospital and once there, he's assigned to Trauma Three, which is a relief.
I get one last glimpse of him as he's rolled down the hall and then I am dragged away to deal with the law enforcement type stuff. I give statements and brief the local branch on our discovery. There is of course a conversation with Director Une since the case was highly unusual and an agent was wounded. Unfortunately, most of our evidence is still in the truck so they send someone to recover it right away. They want to take me to HQ for the suspect's questioning and to give a more formal statement, but I refuse to go anywhere before my partner is in surgery. No one can do much without the information in the truck anyway. I talk my way out and bolt to the desk, where they tell me Heero's room number and that he is awaiting surgery. I am asked three separate times to please not run in the hallways, but I can't seem to make myself walk. I reach Heero's door and rap on it briefly before pushing it open.
He's lying in the bed looking pale, but much more comfortable. Even the hospital gown has to be better than a cold sticky shirt with the buttons mysteriously missing and a sweater tied around his middle. Oh my god, the way he perks up when he sees me, I almost melt on the spot.
"Hey partner," I say as I shut the door and take the chair next to the bed.
"Hey," he says.
"Warm enough?" I ask, smoothing the blankets out next to him.
"Yes," he says appreciatively.
I spot a familiar black fur hat on the table. I laugh and he smirks a little.
"The nurses insisted I keep it," he tells me.
"Good. You could really pull off that look," I nod.
"No way in hell," he says. "Just a souvenir."
I nod to the plastic bag on the stand, which drips clear liquid into the tube connected to his IV. "They got you all drugged up yet?"
"No," he answers, "just fluids for now."
I nod. I don't have much to say, I just wanted to be here next to him.
He frowns a little and looks like he's gnawing on something he wants to say. "I'm sorry you missed your flight to Switzerland," he says. "You should still go on your vacation."
"Nah," I say casually, "I was thinking taking care of you could be a fun vacation."
"You can't be serious."
"Ok, I'm not. Une said I could take personal time if I promised to keep you in line during recovery and then take my vacation time later."
"Personal time? Duo, are you sure you want to do that?"
"Yeah! People get to take days off when their kids are home sick, why should this be any different?"
"How about you promise to wear those sweatpants," I suggest, probably not as slyly as I imagine.
"Yeah, the grey ones you always wear when you're not wearing underwear."
He ponders this for a moment and then regards me. His expression is a watered down Yuy version of surprise. Yes, Heero, be shocked. Be shocked that I figured this out before we were even sleeping together. That was when I was able to confirm my suspicions.
His mouth moves once without a sound and then he asks, "How did you know that?"
"What? My own partner, doubting my powers of observation?" I gasp and then grin. "See? I have unique skills too. You can tell when it's going to snow, but I can tell when you're commando, my friend. I will refrain from telling you which one I tend to think is more useful."
He smiles despite himself. "Are you sure this is ok?" he asks. "You really don't have to look after me. It'll probably be boring for you. If I'm to be recuperating like I'm supposed to, I don't think I'll be real active, if you know what I mean."
I smile a little. I know what he means, it's a given and I knew it when I offered. I'm not in this just for sex though, and it's high time he know that. I stand and move to sit on the edge of his bed. "It's ok, Heero," I say, "I want to take care of you because... I love you."
His drowsy smile is back. "I know."
"You know?" I blink.
"It's nice to hear you say it, but yeah, I know."
"H-how did you know?"
He's still smiling at me. "It was here," he says and slowly raises a hand. I gently take hold of his wrist to try and stop him from accidentally pulling the IV out of his arm, but he reaches until he touches my forehead, right between my eyebrows. "That little pucker between your eyebrows when you got all worried about me today, that's new," he says softly. So softly, especially for Heero Yuy, who rarely does anything softly.
"R-really?" I stammer.
"It's been a couple of months, hasn't it?" he continues.
He interlaces our fingers, saying, "The way you touched me changed. It was months ago. Simple things like your hand on my shoulder or our elbows touching. It felt different."
I am speechless. And I think I'm in serious danger of exploding here. Is he sure they didn't drug him already?
"I've been in love with you for the better part of a year. Did you know that?"
"You... you have?!" I burst out. "Why the heck didn't you ever say anything when you knew how I felt?"
"I'd waited so long already, Duo, I thought it wouldn't be so bad to wait for you to tell me."
His eyes are tired and rimmed, and he's ghastly pale from the blood loss. He looks like shit but I've never loved him more. I gently hug the hell out of him, which ends up with us kissing before I know it. I'm not good with the whole self-control thing, especially where Heero is concerned, so I have to release him.
"Maybe we could take our vacations together?" he suggests. My vacation plans were made before Heero and I decided that going back to my place and banging after missions was a good idea, so he wasn't exactly included.
"That could be arranged," I answer as I tuck a rogue lock of hair behind his ear. He's still holding onto my other hand. "When you're better again."
He's just looking at me with those blue eyes. People tell me I have beautiful eyes, but in my opinion, I got nothing on Heero.
"I know you like to snowboard, but maybe we could go somewhere warm? I think I've had enough snow to last me a while," he hints.
"You in a bathing suit, I'm liking this idea more and more," I grin. I'm about to kiss him again when two nurses knock and enter to take him to surgery. He reluctantly lets my hand go and I get up off his bed. He'll just have to owe me that kiss. Looks like I'll have plenty of time to collect.