1-11-2002

Pyractomena Borealis Part 17

 

Relena and I caused quite a stir when we finally made it to the street with all the neon that I'd seen before. The amount of screaming the sight of us provoked was actually kind of gratifying, though the milling, confused crowd that seemingly materialized out of nowhere was downright annoying. I didn't bother to be polite--I was too damned tired, so I just shoved my way through until I found a blue plastic bench next to a bus stop, where I sat down with Relena still cradled in my arms. As strange as it sounds, I was actually too fatigued to even manage to let her go. As for Relena, if she even noticed we'd reached our destination, she gave no sign; she was too busy clinging to my neck. I wasn't even sure if she was still conscious.

We were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of concerned people, all of them trying to talk to me at once. I normally don't have any problem with Japanese, but it never has been my first language...with everyone trying to talk over each other, it sounded like meaningless radio chatter. One woman who looked like she was maybe a year or two older than me even reached out and held a handkerchief to my nose, which was still sluggishly oozing blood. I gave her a grateful smile, which was most likely obscured by the handkerchief, and said, as loudly as I could, "Someone please call an ambulance. We were attacked."

The response was immediate. Cel phones appeared out of nowhere -- everyone had one. There was a quick discussion on who exactly would call the ambulance, since it seemed like a bad idea to swamp the board with a bunch of calls for the same emergency. I ignored everything that was going on and concentrated on figuring out how the hell I'd get out of this. I wasn't really that hurt...just a bunch of bruises and a severely puffy nose. I didn't need to go to the hospital, and I definitely didn't want to. Being the savior of Relena Peacecraft was something that would bring me a little too much attention, thankyouverymuch.

Ambulance response was fast; just what I expected in Japan. Before I knew what hit me, Relena was pulled out of my arms and gently set on a stretcher. There seemed to be some consternation over what to do with me, so I finally stood up and said, "It's ok, I can make it under my own power." That was all I had to say; the shorter of the paramedics grabbed me by the arm and pulled me into the back of the ambulance, slamming the doors shut behind me.

"You might want to hold on now." was all he said before he turned his attention to Relena, who was now unconscious.

I didn't have a chance to sit down; the driver tromped the gas and I lost my balance. The only thing that kept me from cracking my head against the side of the ambulance was a quick grab at an overhead cabinet. The paramedic only glanced up at me to make sure that I hadn't pulled anything down on top of myself before he went back to the task at hand, namely jabbing a needle into Relena's arm. I just grimly hung on and listened to the siren wail overhead.

A couple minutes later, the driver slammed on the breaks and brought us to an abrupt halt. I managed to keep to my feet and not hit anything harder than my head. The paramedic wasn't quite as lucky; he crashed, shoulder first, into the metal wall separating us from the driver. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he yelled.

"Sorry!" the driver called back. "There's a kid in the street!"

"What?"

"There's a kid standing in the middle of the street! He just appeared out of nowhere...I had to slam the brakes or I would have hit him."

"What the hell?"

The driver leaned around the wall, worry and complete puzzlement clear on his face. "And he's still there."

That had to be my cue. I only knew one person, other than myself, that would be ballsy or stupid enough to play chicken with a speeding ambulance. I shoved off from the ambulance's side and tried to figure out how the hell to get the door open.

"Woah, kid, what are you doing?" The paramedic stood up and started toward me. "This isn't our stop."

I'd kind of hoped that he'd just let me go, but I should have known that a paramedic would be the responsible adult type. I'm not proud of what I did next, but it was all I could think of--I drew on him. He stopped in his tracks the minute he realized he was staring down the barrel of a fairly large caliber handgun. "Sorry, man," I said, "but it looks like this is mine."

He blinked, his eyes getting very wide. "Ok, let's talk about this, kid...just put down the gun. You're not going to be in trouble or anything..."

I grinned at him to show there were no hard feelings. He probably didn't notice. "No, man, you're not getting it. Just trust me...it'd be better if you forgot I was ever here. It'll keep you out of trouble." I didn't think he'd leave me out of his report--hell, I'd probably get a report of my own--but it was worth a try. The guy was just doing his job and didn't need to get Oz dropped on him. "Thanks for the lift guys. Take good care of the girl." I gave up fiddling with the door and simply kicked it open, then jumped out and slammed it shut behind me.

Before the guys inside had a chance to decide to be noble and really stupid, I ran out of the street and into a nearby alleyway. A couple seconds later, the ambulance went roaring off, siren once again in full cry, and I slumped back against the wall behind me. The brick was cool against my back, and it felt pretty good; I hurt all over, and my legs were trembling for no apparent reason.

I knew someone was in the alley with me the instant they set foot in. I also knew, without having to look, that it was Heero. Call it psychic powers or psychosis, I just had a feeling.

"Duo." he said. There was a deceptively warm edge in his voice, the same one there always was right before he started lecturing me or yelling at me. Heero was being an unhappy, angry little camper for whatever reason.

Like I gave a rat's ass.

"Heero," I cut him off, "where the fuck were you?"

"What--" he stopped, one word into his tirade. I couldn't see him in the darkness, but it was pretty easy to imagine his facial statement; wide-eyed, blinking rapidly with surprise, mouth pursed in a prissy little "o"...kind of like my history teacher when someone shot him in the back of the head with a spitwad.

"What the hell were you thinking?" I demanded, shoving off from the wall. "You're my partner, man. Partner. That means you're supposed to watch my back, like I watch yours. We all agreed to stick together while all this supernatural bullshit was going down, didn't we? So WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU?"

"I--"

"You were running away!" I stalked toward where he was standing, relying on my instincts to keep me from tripping in the dark. "From a girl. A normal human girl. I don't give a shit HOW much you don't like her and how freaky she is with her whole obsession thing, that still doesn't give you the right to dessert me! I was relying on you, man. Not only did I have to deal with Relena on your behalf, I also almost got killed!"

"But--"

I stopped directly in front of him. I was so close that I could feel him breathing--and unlike me, he could breathe through his nose. That little fact managed to piss me off even more. "Thanks to you leaving me in the lurch, our grand 'only hope for peace' is in the hospital, a quart low and with two holes in her neck. She was so close to getting killed that she's probably going to have rug burns from sliding down the steps toward hell!" I jabbed him in the chest with my index finger. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so angry.

"I--"

Another sharp poke in the chest stopped him before he could say another word.

"And like that's not enough, my only uniform shirt now has vampire brains splattered all over it!" My voice cracked, and I stopped, for once in my life at a complete loss for words.

"Duo." His voice was back to sounding angry.

I still couldn't think of anything to say, so I did the next best thing.

I punched him.

It could have been due to the darkness, or maybe because I subconsciously realized I was overreacting and coming perilously close to crossing the line, but I didn't hit him square on the jaw like I'd been intending. Instead, my fist struck a glancing blow to his cheek. Before I had a chance to pull back, he grabbed my wrist hard. I winced, more out of anticipation than actual pain; I'd seen him nearly crumble bricks in his bare hands a couple of times. It wouldn't take a whole lot of effort to crush my wrist. Oddly enough, though, I still didn't regret trying to hit him--if I was unhappy about anything, it was that I hadn't landed a more solid punch.

"Let go of me," I said, a little surprised at how cold my voice sounded to my own ears, "right now."

"Don't try to hit me again." he said just as coldly.

I jerked my wrist back, and, surprisingly enough, he let it go. "It depends." I said, "on if you're planning to bug out on me again or not."

He seemed at a loss; it took him a minute to come up with what he said next. "I've never deserted during a mission."

I couldn't help but feel hurt by that. "I'll remember that next time we're on a mission. It's nice to know there's some time I can trust you."

Heero took a step toward me. "Duo--"

As much as I would have liked to, I didn't want to hit him again; I had a feeling I wouldn't like what happened if I did, and as pissed as I was, shooting Heero still wasn't that appealing of a prospect. Instead, I turned on my heel and stalked out toward the street, toward where my sense of direction told me that the school was.

Heero grabbed my shoulder before I'd taken more than two steps. "Wait--" My shirt squished unpleasantly under his fingers; the blood on it was still nice and wet.

I didn't even bother looking back at him. "If you want to keep that hand, you'd better let go."

Heero relinquished his hold like I'd burned him. That was just fine with me. I stalked off back toward the school. I was tired, I was covered with blood, and all I really wanted to do was sit down for a few minutes, but my sensibilities had been terminally affronted and I'd be damned if I'd give Heero a chance to say anything to me. I didn't look back once.

Thankfully, I managed to avoid everyone on the streets. Good thing, since I really didn't feel like having to explain why exactly I looked like I'd just shot someone at point blank range. Civilians get real twitchy about that stuff. The dorms were locked and dark by the time I made it back, which wasn't a problem at all. Rather than waste the extra second picking it, I simply unlocked it with the spare I'd had made one day when I stole the janitor's key ring. Hey, you never know when you might need something like that.

As I stalked my way down the hall toward my room, Wufei poked his head out of his door. He must have been sleeping; his hair was disheveled and sticking up in odd directions. The minute he focused on me, his eyes widened and he opened his mouth to speak.

I stopped for a minute and looked at him. "Wu, you're my friend, and I say this with the utmost affection and respect, but fuck off. I don't want to talk about it."

I always said that Wufei's a wise man, as young as he is. He withdrew into his room without speaking.

I had my ruined shirt peeled off before I was even all the way into my room. It got dropped into the black plastic trash bag that Heero and I kept our more incriminating trash in. I knew I'd have to take it out pretty soon, or it'd start to stink, but I figured I could deal with that later; all I wanted right now was a nice hot shower.

Heero was smart and didn't show his face in the room until after I'd had my shower and retreated to my bed and my manga. He walked in without a word and sat down at his desk, powering up his laptop. Over the top of the manga, I could tell that what I'd said to him had hurt what feelings he showed pretty badly; he was sitting more stiffly than normal, and just by looking I could see the muscle knots starting up in his neck. Most people wouldn't have noticed. Then again, most people didn't spend as much time with Heero as I did, or spend as much energy observing him.

I'd like to think that if my day had sucked even a little less, I would have gotten up and maybe apologized, or at least talked to him, rather than letting him stare at his LCD display and wallow in a pool of self recrimination. I don't know if I would've or not. As it was, I rolled over to face the wall and refused to even look at him for the rest of the night.