"And a good morning to you too, Yuy," Duo snorted and glanced over his shoulder. Heero was, apparently, following him back to his office from the morning staff meeting.
"No, really, there's something wrong with you," Heero said.
"I hear that a lot, you're going to have to be specific," Duo replied with another snort.
"You couldn't even look at the donuts and you brought roughly a gallon of tea with you. You usually guzzle coffee and inhale the donuts. But more importantly, your color is off, your voice is hoarse, your movements are shaky, and your eyes don't seem to focus," Heero reported.
Well, he had asked for specifics. Why did Heero have to be so damned perceptive anyway? Not that it was a surprise after knowing him almost ten years. "Don't know what you're talking about," Duo said as he let himself into his office and went to the desk. The mountain of folders cluttering the desktop was almost big enough to hide behind.
"You should go home if you're sick."
Heero was leaning in his doorway, arms folded. Heero had grown up into the kind of guy who very nearly filled up a doorway and no matter how busy he was, Duo always had to take a moment to appreciate that. At least it momentarily eclipsed the queasy feeling in his stomach this morning. "I'm not sick," he insisted.
"You haven't taken a single sick-day in the five years we've been here," Heero said, coming into the room. "Nobody is going to look down on you for taking a day off."
Duo gave him an ugly look. "Did I wake up in the Twilight Zone this morning?" he asked sarcastically. "Why am I hearing this lecture from Heero Yuy? Jesus, this is probably the exact lecture I gave you in the hospital two weeks ago! Man, they really need to give you more to do if you've got time to follow me around and notice weird things about my 'color' and whether I eat donuts."
"Inhale donuts," Heero corrected, ignoring his tirade completely. He turned a chair around and sat on it backwards. He rested his right hand on the back of the chair, his cast scraping along the metal. "Look at me," he said.
Any other day, Duo wouldn't need an invitation to look at Heero, but he reluctantly did as Heero asked. Heero sighed.
"I'm perfectly fine!" Duo snapped. Never mind the fact that the world wouldn't stay still today.
"Let's cut the bullshit, Duo."
Heero always could see straight through him. If he was going to be persistent about this, there was no use trying to hide it from him. "Ok, ok," Duo caved, "it feels like I'm on a boat in a storm. I'll probably throw up if I eat anything. Swallowing nearly kills me. I go from sweating to shivering about every ten minutes. Happy?"
"I'd be happy if you went home," Heero told him.
"No, I have to be here today," Duo said stubbornly.
Heero was ready with further arguments, but there was a knock on the open door. "Commander Maxwell, everyone's here," an agent told Duo.
"I've got a team meeting," Duo said to Heero, glad to have an excuse to get rid of him.
Heero got up off the chair and went to the door. He turned and pointed his casted hand at Duo. "I'll be back, Maxwell," he promised ominously before leaving.
Duo sat back in relief as his team filed in. Really, he didn't need to hear any more of that shit, especially from Heero, who was notorious for refusing to take leave for even a morning. Heero had broken his hand two weeks ago on a mission gone haywire. The smuggler's warehouse had been set on fire with Heero's team inside. Duo's support team outside found them a safe exit and Heero brought up the rear with an injured man. The rest of the team made it out, but the fire finally got to the electrical system and it blew in a storm of sparks. The hydraulics controlling the heavy iron garage door failed and it slammed shut. At first, in the panic outside, nobody noticed that Heero must have dove for it and managed to get his hand under it. Nobody noticed until some ungodly strength allowed him to heave that door open. Agents who had never worked with Heero had been shocked, and even those who had seen him do crazy shit like that just stared for a moment. Hell, Duo had seen him bend steel bars with his bare hands, and still he would never forget the picture of Heero wrenching that door open and flames pouring out from behind him.
There had been no second thoughts, Heero had said when Duo sat alone with him in the hospital later. It had been an instantaneous calculated risk. He could sacrifice his hand or lose his escape route. A little later, when the drugs caught up with him and he finally fell asleep, Duo kissed his cheek and secretly wished he had some god to thank for Heero's survival. Then Duo did something he knew he shouldn't have done. Kissing Heero's lips had been a hundred-and-fifty different kinds of wrong and he immediately wished he hadn't done it. What he needed to do was get the fuck over it already. He'd tried for so long to let it go. He'd tried so many times, he'd tried with so many people, but what he wanted was right here in front of him. This guy who bent things he shouldn't be able to bend, lifted things he shouldn't be able to lift, and had some strange immunity to drugs that drove nurses batty. And the stupidest part was Duo wanted to take this indestructible guy and protect him, hold him, keep him safe and never let him go.
Heero had two surgeries on his hand to reconnect nerves and blood vessels and tie up torn muscles. During surgery, they'd coated the bones with a substance that stimulated repair cells, but Heero still had to wear a cast for three weeks. None of this had kept him away from work, not even for a day ... even though he was ordered to stay at home to rest the strained muscles of his arms, chest, and back. His injury coincided with a larger project in another department, so Director Une decided to loan his team out to them for a few weeks to encourage Heero to take that time to rest. She quickly discovered that not even threatening to fire Heero could keep him away from work, so she gave up and tried to find some work he could do. Being that Heero typed as fast one-handed as most people typed with both hands, most of it ended up to be IT and database work. The work was so low-level compared to Heero's rank that Duo joked he was actually on probation for pissing Une off. Heero couldn't disagree that the work was boring, which meant that Duo got a lot more unexpected visits. They hadn't been unwelcome until today.
As promised, that was not the last he saw of Heero that morning. Duo held it together through the team meeting, but the nausea was getting to him afterward. In a moment of weakness, he shut his office door and rested his head on the desk. Less than five minutes later, the door swung open. He knew it had to be Heero because anyone else would have the courtesy to knock. There was a silence as Heero scanned the room for him.
"Stop the colony, I want to get off," Duo moaned from behind the stacks of folders. Heero would have found him eventually anyway. He didn't mind whining pitifully in front of Heero like that. Yuy already knew he was sick anyway. He heard footsteps as Heero came near.
"We're on Earth," Heero reminded him.
"It's a saying, Heero," Duo grumbled, not liking that smug tone one bit.
"I realize that, Duo."
"Then stop that."
"Being pedantic," Duo groused, raising his head. Heero had dragged the chair over again and was straddling the seatback, leaning forward on just two of the legs. "God, do you really have nothing better to do than sit around and poke fun at me?"
"If it's really that bad, why don't you go home?" Heero asked again.
Duo sighed. "This shouldn't be hard for you to understand. For the last time Yuy, I won't go home for the same reason you won't stay home even though you got a busted hand," he said.
Heero nodded in understanding. "Things to do," he said simply.
"That's right," Duo confirmed. "Important things to do. I got a planet to save, here, Heero. Meetings to run, paperwork to shuffle, subordinates to intimidate, phones to answer, computers to crash..."
"Duo, you sound a little loopy," Heero almost chuckled.
"And water cooler jugs to change, Heero. Water cooler jugs! You have no idea how important that is!"
Heero snickered. "So I take it the admin ladies have started asking you since I broke my hand."
"Good to know I'm next in line. Oh, and look, now you're doing part of my job for me. They never want to come in when you're visiting my office." Duo raised his voice, "Donaldson, I see you lurking. Get in here."
The young agent entered as ordered. "Sorry to interrupt," he apologized. "Commander Yuy, sir," he said as he gave Heero a nervous nod, which was coolly returned. Heero intimidated the hell out of the greater portion of the department. Some junior agents were jokingly keeping track of Heero Yuy's Superman Index, which accumulated points for any superhero-like things he did: jumping out of helicopters, diving into the line of bullet fire, crazy stunts involving motorized vehicles -- and they only knew about the unclassified incidents. Of course the Index had skyrocketed after this last incident with his hand. All this annoyed Heero but Duo knew it was just because they admired him. When ever Heero pissed him off, Duo threatened to tell the junior agents about the time Heero had set his own broken leg.
"The final stack for you, sir," Donaldson said, setting a packet on Duo's desk.
It was his second year in this position and Duo's immediate reaction was still to assume they were talking to someone else when they said 'sir.' Having his own team of people working under him had been a significant adjustment, but his leadership skills were improving. It had felt natural when he and Heero had teamed up when they first joined the Preventers, and they had both excelled in that partnership. They were both trained as independent, rogue fighters and Duo couldn't imagine anyone else working with them. He had thought it would always be just the two of them.
Director Une had other ideas. They were "rewarded" for their good work with subordinates. Both of them had been very resistant to the idea, but now Duo realized that this was the only way up in Preventers. He had to learn how to command. There had been failures but there was always somewhere to turn when they were struggling: each other. They depended heavily on one another, but Heero especially relied on him. It had been a rocky start, but things evened out over the following year. Now they had two smoothly functioning, independent teams that complimented each other very well. Both were successful field teams, but when they worked together, Duo's took on the intel and logistics role. It wasn't a matter of who was better in the field, it was a matter of who performed best in what role. If Duo had learned one thing about being a leader, it was how to capitalize on a person's strengths.
He thanked Donaldson and stopped him before he could leave. "You've done a great job," Duo said, "I want you to join me in the meeting."
"Do you mean that, sir?" Donaldson asked, failing to check his excitement completely.
"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it," Duo told him. "Be back here at twelve-fifty."
Donaldson readily agreed and then left.
"All joking aside, I absolutely can't go home. I can't miss the meeting with the District Attorney," Duo said to Heero.
"Oh, that's today," Heero realized. Most of the hard evidence against the smugglers had burned up in the fire, but Duo's team had meticulously chased down records and books to find alternative evidence.
"Yes, and I refuse to miss it. We've worked too hard. We need to find every charge that will stick on these guys," Duo said. Heero would understand if he put it in the context of having responsibilities and people depending on you.
"I see," Heero nodded in agreement. "So what are the chances of you going home after the meeting?"
Duo moved a stack of folders so it was too high for Heero to see him. "Zilch!" he huffed.
"Now you're just being stubborn," Heero chided.
"Well, if the pot isn't calling the kettle black!" Duo complained. He used that phrase when ever he got the chance because the first time he'd used it, back in their piloting days, Heero hadn't known what it meant. "I'm no more stubborn than you are, my friend! You came to work the afternoon after your first surgery!" Duo reminded him.
"True, but the difference is that your ailment would really benefit from a good twenty-four to thirty-six hours of sleep. Mine would not. Also, a broken hand is not contagious," Heero replied.
Duo had nothing to retort with because another wave of nausea came over him and putting his head down on the desk again seemed like a really good idea. Heero appeared above him, silently moving the folders out of the way. "I understand how important the meeting is," he said, "but you really could go home after that."
"Maybe that's not such a bad idea," Duo grumbled. He forced himself to sit up and get a grip.
"So you'll go home after the meeting?" Heero asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Duo said and then narrowed his eyes at his friend. "Wait, you're going to come and make sure I do, aren't you?"
Heero grinned at him.
Somehow, Duo made it through the meeting, even though the room spun just a bit and words on the page just wouldn't stand still. Donaldson only had to jump in once with something that had slipped his mind. He just hoped no one noticed how often he removed his jacket only to put it back on a few minutes later. Heero was not waiting in his office when he got back, so he decided to do a few things before that bully showed up and made him leave.
It wasn't long before Heero appeared. "I thought you were going home," he said, obviously displeased.
"I am, I just want to tie up a few loose ends," Duo said, not looking up from the email he was in the middle of.
"I need to brief my team. You know how it is," Duo said.
Heero folded his arms, keys jingling in his hand.
"What's with the keys? You going home?" Duo asked as he typed.
"No, I'm taking you home."
"Wait, what?" Duo asked, looking up.
"I'm driving you home. You shouldn't have driven here in the first place," Heero said.
"Now, listen Heero, I agreed to go home and I can get there myself, got it?" Duo asked sharply.
Heero didn't take kindly to his Commander voice. He came over and slammed his palm on the desk. "No, you listen, Maxwell," he growled. "I'm driving you home whether you like it or not. You always have my back and I never get a chance to return the favor. I'm taking care of you this time, got it?"
Duo was speechless.
Heero didn't know how to interpret his silence. "Stop being so damn stubborn and let me do something for you for once!" he ordered.
"Yuy, at some point we're going to have to talk about what a hypocrite you are," Duo shook his head, "but ok, you can drive me home. Let me finish this email first, ok?"
"Fine," Heero nodded.
"So does Une know you're ditching work early?" Duo teased mildly.
"Funny you should mention that," Heero said, sounding a little smug. "I told her how sick you were and requested permission to make you go home... "
"Make me go home?" Duo challenged, though he was too weak to really make it sound threatening.
"And she said," Heero continued, ignoring Duo's objections, "and I quote: 'Be my guest, think of it as a mission to get him the 'expletive' out of here. And while you're at it, take an 'expletive' day off yourself.'"
Duo laughed and looked up from his computer. "Yeah right, she doesn't swear that much."
"I think she's still mad at me," Heero smirked, eyebrows arching.
Duo shook his head and went back to his work.
Heero sat on the corner of the desk and was quiet for a minute of two before asking, "Did you send the email yet?"
"Well, I sent the one to my team, but there are some other people I need to get in contact with, so I'm just..."
He was cut off when Heero stood up and closed his laptop. Before Duo could sputter in protest, Heero leaned over the desk, reached for the base of his braid, and pulled Duo into a kiss. Duo was too shocked to say anything when he pulled away again.
"If... if you get in my car in the next five minutes, I'll... I'll do that again," Heero said rapidly, like he was trying to force the words out before he thought better of it.
Duo's mouth moved silently a few times as he tried to figure out just what the hell to say in a situation like this, but as if on autopilot, he got up and put his laptop in its case. Heero went to the door and jingled his keys again. Duo followed him to the elevator, wondering what the hell had come over Heero just now. That kiss felt like he meant it. His eyes afterward looked like he meant it. Dear god, Duo thought frantically, he might have really meant it.
"Uhhh," he said, breaking the silence in the elevator, "what were you doing just now? I mean, it's not like you go randomly kissing people in their offices and seeing if that will make them listen to you. I mean maybe you do, but I've never seen you do it and let's face it, that would be weird and doesn't really seem like something you'd do anyway," Duo babbled as Heero did his impression of sheepish, which never looked all that sheepish.
"I woke up when you kissed me in the hospital room, and I heard those things you said," Heero said, looking down at the carpet.
Duo blanched as the elevator door opened. Oh, that's right. Not only did Heero lift things he was not supposed to be able to lift, he was also an expert at playing possum. Duo's face went from white to beet red. He waited until they were in the garage before asking, "So, it didn't bother you that I kissed you when you were supposed to be unconscious?"
"No," Heero shrugged.
"Not even a little?"
"It only bothered me that you waited until you thought I wouldn't know."
"Are you really any better?" Duo blustered, juggling his laptop bag. "Waiting to reciprocate until I'm so sick I can barely stand up without falling over!"
"We're the pot and the kettle again," Heero smirked. "But my point is what if I hadn't been awake?"
"You weren't supposed to be!" Duo groused, stopping them in their tracks. "That was a really dumb and embarrassing thing I did and you were never supposed to know what a stupid sap I am when it comes to you!"
"But then I never would never have gotten up the courage to kiss you back," Heero said and took his hand. He tugged a little on Duo's hand and started walking again in the direction of his car. Duo really really wished the world would stay still as he tried to piece together what was happening here.
"Well, geez Heero, if you knew I kissed you and it didn't bother you... "
"I liked it," Heero cut in.
"Ok, if you knew I kissed you and you liked it, why didn't you say anything before now?" Duo asked.
"I was... I didn't know what to do," Heero said and Duo felt his hand twitch a little.
Duo looked at him and smiled. He understood without Heero having to say anything more. Heero could throw himself head long into danger because it was only physical pain. In Heero's life, physical pain was the known, he could deal with that. But facing possible emotional pain was especially difficult for Heero, Duo knew that. Romantic relationships were completely new territory. What Heero had refused to admit just now was that it scared him. Duo squeezed his hand and Heero nearly put him in a cast too, squeezing back as hard as he did.
They got in Heero's car and Heero drove them to Duo's apartment. Duo changed into pajamas while Heero got him a big glass of water and some vitamin tablets. Duo crawled into his bed and felt overwhelming relief and gratitude. "Heero, I am so glad you made me go home," he sighed, mostly muffled by the pillow.
Heero set the glass down on the table. "I knew you'd say that," he said as he pulled the covers back and got in.
"Hey hey hey! What are you doing?" Duo asked in surprise.
"Joining you," Heero said and paused. "Do you not want me to?"
Life was so not fair. "Heero," Duo struggled, "there are only two situations I can think of in the entire world where I would tell you not to get in my bed, and me being so sick I might throw up happens to be one of them."
"And what's the other?" Heero asked, settling back against the headboard and making himself comfortable. "Just for future reference."
"If you'd been swimming in raw sewage. Seriously, Heero, this is not the best idea you've ever had," Duo warned. "I might get you sick."
"Come here," Heero said and scooted over. He threw one arm onto the headboard and with his good hand, he arranged them so Duo's head rested against his leg.
"So, did I make it to your car in five minutes?" Duo yawned.
"You can have all the kisses you want when you're better," Heero promised.
"I'm gonna hold you to that, Yuy," Duo murmured, and it seemed like he was falling asleep. Heero smoothed down some loose strands of his hair. "You know, if you get sick from me, your Superman Index is going to go down," Duo chuckled.
"Good," Heero snorted. "But you know, if they find out I managed to make you go home, it might go up."
"Well then you know what would make it go down for sure? Taking a sick day tomorrow," Duo hinted. His eyes were closed but the faintest smile curled his lips.
"Now there's an idea," Heero smiled, liking the sound of it more and more.