momentary lapse of reason
Duo had bought the remnants of a 1956 Harley Davidson Panhead several months ago and had devoted nearly every weekend since then to restoring the classic bike to mint condition. Finding the necessary parts for the now more than antique cycle was not an easy task, but Duo was resourceful and unrelenting in his search. It was about to pay off.... big time.
The ride home was quiet, the silence and the motion of the vehicle lulling Duo into a light sleep. Waking with a start as the Jeep door slammed shut, Duo sat up straight, blushing as he realized he had been leaning on Heero's shoulder.
"Gomen, Heero." he was quick to apologize.
His partner merely slid across the seat to exit the car, his face slightly flushed.
"Package for you, Duo!" Quatre called from the front porch, a large brown box in his hands.
Duo smiled widely, hastily joining the others on the porch. "YESSS!!! My parts!" he exclaimed, taking the heavy package from Quatre. "Thanks, see ya later."
Duo was notably absent from the dinner table that night.
Despite the fact that they teased their braided friend about his constant chatter, Duo's conversation livened their time spent together. Mealtimes in his absence were unnaturally quiet and the four finished their meal in near silence.
During the war, the amethyst-eyed young pilot had enhanced the quality of their lives, and while no longer the precocious youth he once was, he continued to do so. On the surface it might seem that the four took Duo for granted, but nothing could have been further from the truth. He was the magnet that had pulled and continued to hold them together and despite the fact that they frequently lost their tempers with him, they never failed to recognize the importance of the former Deathscythe pilot. There wasn't one among them who would deny that Duo Maxwell was the most highly valued member of their unconventional family.
Immediately upon their return from the office, Duo hurried up to his room and changed out of his work clothes. Dressing in a pair of black jeans and a blue t-shirt, he stepped into a pair of dark blue work coveralls and disappeared into the garage. No one had seen or heard from him since.
Duo's stomach barely noticed the late hour as he sat cross-legged on the cool concrete floor of the huge garage. He was about to put the finishing touches on his six month long project.
:: There is nothing more satisfying than obsession. ::
Wiping his greasy hands on a nearby towel as he stood, Duo proudly eyed the labor of his endless hours, a gleam of pure satisfaction in his huge violet eyes.
Carefully removing his blackened coveralls, Duo sat on the bike and inserted the key into the ignition. Turning it one notch, he rotated the handle and the machine gently hummed beneath him. "That's music to my ears." he commented, a grin of self-satisfaction forming on his lips.
Turning off the engine, Duo cleaned up his mess and headed back into the house.
Acknowledging the others with only a small nod as he passed thorough the living room, Duo made his way upstairs, returning several minutes later to stand before them.
Dressed from head to toe in tight black leather, Duo held his helmet under his left arm while he slipped his hands into a pair of soft black leather gloves.
"She's done...I'm gonna take her out for a spin." Duo smiled, immediately turning to leave the room. "Don't wait up." he winked
All eyes were on the sleek leather-clad figure as it retreated.
Tucking his braid into his jacket, Duo straddled the bike and slipped his helmet on, fastening it tightly under his chin. Running his hand over the smooth chrome of the thick handlebars, Duo started the engine and smiled as the low vibration made its way through his body. Slowly backing out of the garage, Duo lowered the dark visor of his helmet and hit the gas.
It was several hours before he returned home exhausted and made his way into the kitchen.
Taking off his gloves, Duo laid them on the counter and went to the refrigerator to get himself a beer.
"So, how was it?" an unseen voice asked.
Duo turned, his eyes now adjusting to the darkness of the room.
"It was great, Heero. Runs real smooth." Duo offered, walking to the center of the room to stand beside Heero.
"I can't believe I'm done." he commented, taking another sip of his Killian's. "Need to find a new pastime now."
Heero remained silent as he watched the braided young man unzip and remove his leather jacket, draping it over the back of the chair in front of him.
"Well.... goodnight, Heero. I'm bushed...it's been a long day."
"You eat?" Heero asked.
"Yeah, caught a bite out." Duo smiled back at him. "See you in the morning."
The next morning began like most. It was 7:30 a.m. and four of the five ex-pilots were seated at the huge breakfast table. Heero rose and made his way up to Duo's bedroom. Knocking once, he called, "Duo...it's almost time to leave."
Duo opened the door clad in only his khaki work pants, his wet hair lying on a large towel draped over his bare shoulders. "You guys go on ahead. I'm going to take the bike in this morning."
Heero turned to leave "Don't be late." he warned.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Duo smiled, closing the bedroom door.
It was 9:12 when Heero looked down at his watch for the third time in the last few minutes. He scowled at the empty desk across from him, silently cursing his missing partner.
Distracted and visibly irritated by Duo's absence, Heero continued his work for only a short time before frustration finally took over and he picked up the phone's receiver.
Dialing home, Heero let the phone ring 5 times before the answering machine picked it up, nervously tapping his fingers on his desk as the recorded message played itself out. Finally hearing the tone, Heero spoke. "Duo... if you're there, pick up the damn phone. It's 10:00."
Remaining silent yet on the line, Heero waited several minutes to see if Duo would answer before slamming the phone down in annoyance.
Logging into the personnel department, Heero checked the records to see if Duo had called in sick before putting a call in to Quatre.
"Duo hasn't show up yet," he told the blonde.
"Maybe he decided to take the day off." Quatre returned.
"He didn't call." Heero replied, Quatre noting his voice held less of an air of indifference than usual.
"Want to go home and check?" he asked, recognizing the worry in Heero's voice. "Stop by and get my keys."
"Hai." Heero returned, quickly hanging up.
Quatre replaced the receiver to its cradle and looked up to find Trowa watching him.
"That was Heero. Duo's not in yet." he offered.
Trowa smiled. "He probably decided to take the day off and spend it on his bike."
Quatre shook his head. "He didn't call."
Trowa's face turned slightly concerned. "Don't worry, little one, I'm sure he's fine."
Heero entered Quatre and Trowa's office on the third floor several minutes later. Hand out in silence; the small blonde dropped the keys into his outstretched palm and Heero looked up.
"You're worried." Quatre commented, Heero only nodding slightly in response before leaving the room.
Turning into the driveway at 10:40, Heero rushed inside the house, his emotions switching back and forth between anger at Duo's irresponsibility and fear for his friend's safety. He knew one of the two feelings was appropriate, hoping it was the former.
Bounding the steps two by two, he made his way up to the second floor and to Duo's room, Heero knocked. "Duo?" Hearing no reply, he entered the room, hoping to find Duo fast asleep in bed. Scanning the room briefly with no sight of him, Heero closed the door and made his way downstairs and into the garage, the bike was gone too.
Re-entering the house and preparing to leave, Heero paused as the answering machine clicked on.
"This is Center Hill Hospital. If there is anyone there, please pick up the phone. This is an emergency."
Small goose bumps appeared on his skin and Heero's face drained of its color as he stood frozen in the center of the large room..... the message continued.
"Please call 776-1212 as soon as you get this message. We have a... Duo Maxwell here. He was admitted several hours ago following a traffic accident. We need consent to perform surgery and Mr. Maxwell remains unconscious."
Heero let it sink in for only a second before snapping back into reality and exiting the house, hurrying toward the Jeep.