To club a tiger, it takes blood brothers.
Wufei sat in the chair he'd bummed from the nurses' station, the beep of monitors punctuating his thoughts. In theory he wasn't allowed in post-ops, but after his help in the operating theater, he thought Helzman had warned the rest of the staff that both young men were something of a special case, and that, for the health of everyone concerned, Wufei should be allowed to do as he wished. As a result, he and Heero were as far away from the other patients as could be, stuck in a corner of the big recovery room, with a curtain half-drawn and the nurses with strict orders to leave them alone until summoned.
He knew the instant Heero came to, though his partner did not move and the monitors didn't get very excited about the fact. Wufei stood up and approached the bed with the caution required.
"Yuy? It's me, Chang. You're safe."
Heero was still for a few seconds, then he opened his eyes.
"Don't get agitated." The monitors beeped slowly and reprovingly at Wufei for making such a rash assumption about Heero's emotional state. Right. "You just got out of the operating theater - and you're wide awake a whole hour before they thought you would be, naturally. There wasn't-"
Heero had been staring at the ceiling, but suddenly he twisted sideways, away from Wufei.
Heero reached with practiced hand towards the monitor, unclipped a few wires the ones connecting its alarm to the nurses' station then
"Goddamn it Yuy don't-"
Wufei tried to interfere but he couldn't grab his injured partner and he couldn't quite reach the busy hands. The monitor recording air pressure and oxygenation data from the tube in Heero's throat gave an odd chuckle and then switched off.
"Yuy! You need that to-"
Heero had already pulled the tube out of his throat with a wrenching cough.
"Damn it! You-...fool! You'll rip your vocal cords out! You need that to breathe-"
Heero coughed and rasped, but the hand gesture was imperious as it flicked towards the respirator hooked to the oxygen outlet in the wall. Wufei gave him a glare that bounced right off hard blue eyes.
"Very well, sir!" Wufei snarled, jerking the mask from the wall and slipping it over his partner's head after checking the flow. "Anything else I can do for you? Sponge bath, maybe?"
Heero adjusted the strap on the mask, coughed some more. His mouth was gummy with dried blood. The look he gave Wufei was more than eloquent though. Try it and I'll break every bone in your wrist and maybe a few in your arm too.
"Oh you're going to be a joy to nurse back to health. I wish much happiness and fortune to our staff back in the Brussels clinic." Wufei growled. But he couldn't help a flicker of relief.
"When." Heero rasped, voice muffled by the mask.
"When? You'll be evacuated back to HQ as soon as you're stable."
"Yes, I know, but the staff here aren't used to dealing with stubborn, indestructible hard-asses like you and will require a little more convincing. I expect they'll be glad to get rid of you sometime tomorrow, or possibly the next day."
"Safe and back in Sanq by now. Sam said she's been calling everyone from Une to the President of ESUN to be allowed to fly back here and sit around and hold your hand but-"
"In charge of the investigation. Yuy, you really shouldn't be talking this much. They patched up your lung but you had quite a lot of damage -"
"Can move arms and legs but -" cough " - mobility compromised."
Wufei sighed. "Relax. And don't worry. There's still some swelling around your spinal cord but they put in a shunt to reduce fluid buildup. No permanent damage, they think. And I know you're off the chart when it comes to healing anyway."
"You know, if you don't shut up and rest, I'll just leave."
Heero gave him a look. No you won't. Wufei ground his teeth.
"One got away, with the help of an accomplice. Three dead, one critical, one caught trying to get out of the hotel and in custody. We have some IDs. Two were local to Berlin, one of whom was a bona fide waiter at the Maxims." The one Wufei had killed in the mezzanine. "The other was a fake; he was the one holding Relena. Ex-OZ apparently. We think they were helped by others on the hotel staff, otherwise somebody would surely have noticed an addition to the roster. Plus someone put a loop on the cameras, and there was a false alarm that distracted some of the teams downstairs...Sam is heading interrogations. We're assuming the 'waiters' smuggled in weapons before the conference started. We're still not sure-"
Where's the other one?!
We're still at war, motherfucker!
"We're still not sure what they wanted. They had exits planned and getaway vehicles but...some of them weren't really expecting to get out of there alive."
Heero stared at him but didn't ask any further questions. His breathing was still harsh, and lines of pain were starting to draw themselves around his eyes and mouth.
"This place is okay. I'll keep watch. They're letting me call the shots now, after you nearly knocked their anesthesiologist on her ass while supposedly sedated." Heero's eyes were glazed but still twitching left and right. "I should get the doctor in here to check you, and keep him from flipping out when he realizes you've extubated yourself. I'll try to keep the nursing staff around you to a minimum."
Heero tried to speak but it came out in a rasp and he licked his lips. "They...make..." His voice faded to nothing but Wufei read the words. ‘make...you...leave...'
"I'm staying right here."
Heero's lips moved again. ‘...you...'
"Don't worry about it. Just get some rest. I'll go get the doctor."
Wufei watched him as Heero's eyes closed and his body relaxed. Passed out again. He stayed by the bed, staring at the blood gumming Heero's lips beneath the mask. Then he looked around. Part of him was looking for Helzman or a nurse. The rest was just...looking. At the three other patients in the big recovery room; at the nurses quietly moving among them. At family members on the other side of the glass window, with only thoughts of their loved ones pulling through on their minds. At people moving around the hospital, trying to heal and get on with their lives.
In his mind's eyes, he could see someone pulling a gun out and bringing all of this crashing down around their ears with one wayward shot.
'We're still at war'...screams...blood and overturned tables...the bend of Relena's neck, the gun against her temple...can't shoot without hitting her...the mission...helpless...still at war...
Wufei reached for the wall-phone nearby without really looking, punched a number.
"Operator? I need to be patched through to Preventer HQ here in Berlin. Chang Wufei, I'm in post-ops. That's right. Hello? This is Agent Chang, 342PID, Brussels. Can you patch this line through to a number I give you? It's a colony number. Yes, I'll hold, but hurry please."
Night was falling. Heero was in a private room, his vital statistics having remained so disgustingly stable the staff really had no excuse to keep him in ICU. Wufei was looking out the room's window at the lights coming on in the small green area surrounding the hospital. His arms were crossed on his chest and his fingers were tapping his biceps in a slow beat.
A sound from the bed made him turn. Heero stirred, then froze as pain woke up with him.
"I'm here." Wufei said as blue eyes, now more focused, flashed around the room.
"Hn." Heero coughed and frowned, shifting his oxygen mask.
"Want a drink? Nurses said you could have one when you came to."
He handed Heero a cup with a straw attachment when his partner nodded. Heero took a small sip and swished it around his mouth before swallowing with a grimace. He shook his head at the tube Wufei held up again; that small lag in his breathing had left him panting. Wufei put down the cup and picked up the papers clipped to a chart he'd set on the bedside table.
"Here. Sign this. Right of attorney for medical decisions." Wufei slipped the papers and a pen in Heero's hands, noting the grip was firm and steady.
Heero tried to focus on the page in the dim light shining on his monitors.
"...didn't we already do this?" he rasped, "I thought I signed my release to you before-"
"You did. This is mine." Wufei leaned over and switched on the reading lamp.
Heero looked at the paper blankly. Wufei thought he knew how his partner felt; he'd been staring at the cream-colored hospital wall near Heero's bed with much the same dazed expression all afternoon.
"I never thought we'd need..." Heero's voice was a faint whisper.
"What, you thought I'd shoot you to keep you from falling into enemy hands?" Wufei asked, his voice more biting than he intended. "Despite what some may think...the war is over. We might actually make it to our majority. It came as a shock to me too." Wufei added in a mutter. It had. The biggest shock, the reason he was being sarcastic and cold right now, was the thought, every time he had looked at Heero's unconscious face today, that he might actually live to see the ripe old age of, say, thirty...alone. Though Une rather expected them to come back from their missions alive, their jobs were still dangerous.
The thought of being alone had never frightened him before; they had expected to die during the war, and the first to leave would not have had long to wait at the Gates of Hell for the others to show up. Death had been such a constant, such a certitude; almost reassuring. The Peace hadn't changed that; Death clung to their every thought like scar tissue. It was why they could fill in a Next of Kin box but not think of a medical release...Wufei chased the thought from his mind bitterly. They'd been abruptly forced to move past that this morning, with a bullet that had missed propelling them into a future they might actually live to see. Oh he knew that Death still dogged them - he'd filled in his own Next Of Kin card earlier that day, listening to its recipient's ragged breathing and the beep of monitors. But Death had spared them till now, amazingly enough. They shouldn't be counting on it. Especially if it could be avoided, thanks to some stupid paperwork or other.
We're still at war...
No, we're not. It's time to stop thinking like we were. It's time to start looking out for little details like this.
Wufei didn't fear his death, but he didn't like the idea of living while losing his rival/partner, losing the edge that made life still worth living...losing one of the few people who could understand that. From the look in Heero's eyes, in that one unguarded moment, he wasn't relishing the thought either. Though they were both uneasy with the concept of being each other's only family, the alternative was ugly enough to accept it without further posturing. This was also a necessary arrangement.
"We're idiots." Wufei said, breaking the moment as Heero handed him the signed paper. "We should have thought of this before. Here, sign this one too, it's a cleaned up version of the one you signed this morning. Without the illegible scrawl and the bloodstains. I'll have these notarized and put into the Spacenet database and Preventer files, we'll be covered in both Earth and Space from now on." He scribbled his own signature on the forms and put them away carefully.
Heero nodded as he sank back into the cushion. He was frowning, his eyes on the ceiling. Then they twitched towards Wufei's.
"Chang...what happened? How did he miss me? You couldn't shoot him with Relena in the way. The hostages-"
"There was interference." Wufei said as smoothly as possible. "It gave me the opportunity for a-"
Blue eyes narrowed. "What. Happened."
Wufei winced. So much for evasion. "Yuy, you're recovering from severe trauma, you should-" Heero's glare had been unaffected by the lung injury. Wufei was immune by now but he knew Heero would not let it rest. "...Relena managed to throw off his aim."
Wufei rolled his eyes. "She dropped her weight on his weapon arm."
The deep indrawn breath whistled through Heero's lips and mask. "She...what?!"
"Breathe, Yuy. Calm down, it's over. It was instinct."
"I'll give her-...instinct!"
"She's back in Sanq-"
"Next time-...I see-"
"Yuy, she saved your life. I don't know much about women but I think you owe her dinner rather than a verbal thrashing."
Heero sagged back against the cushion, pale and visibly exhausted. "My life-...Mission-...She-...could-...have gotten..."
"I know. But she didn't. And it gave me the opportunity for a headshot. We got her and all the other VIPs out safely." Mission accomplished.
"Hn. When can you get me...out of here?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, or the day after tomorrow."
"Why not now...? Stable..."
"The hospital won't release you. Anyway, Yuy...there's something-"
Wufei turned towards the door. A doctor he didn't know was leaning in.
"You shouldn't be in here. It's past visiting hours."
"Doctor Mund gave me permission."
"But we're going to night shift." The doctor, Orwill according to his tag, came in and closed the door. "You've been here since this morning. And you're covered in blood as well! It's hardly hygienic for the patient."
Wufei frowned at his stiffened uniform. He'd discarded the flak jacket but some of the blood had leaked through. "A friend was going to bring me a spare, but he forgot, he's been busy...Can I shower and change into scrubs?"
"No!" The doctor snapped. "You should go home and rest, anyway. Were you planning on staying here all night?"
"Yes, actually." Wufei said coolly.
"Out of the question, especially in that state. The patient needs to sleep." Orwill crossed his arms on his chest. "I must insist you leave. Herr General Direktor Mund did not give you permission to be here on a permanent basis."
Wufei hesitated. He'd rather thought the hospital's director had, but since the man had probably gone home by now, he couldn't confirm it...He looked at the doctor carefully. The man stared back, hostile and resolute Wufei glanced down at Heero, catching a vulnerable flicker in the blue before the mask settled once more. The body beneath the sheet was tense. Wufei would have liked a bit more time to talk things over with him, reassure him.
"Very well." Wufei said slowly. "Give me a minute."
He waited but Orwill didn't look ready to leave. Wufei turned back towards the bed, angled his body and leaned towards Heero slightly. "I have to go, Yuy. There's something I have to do anyway."
Heero nodded. His body language was uneasy, even though it was almost trembling from the remnants of shock, anesthesia and exhaustion. He looked tired but not at all ready to let go and rest in such an unsecured location, and Wufei knew he'd be the same if the positions were reversed. The war was over but old habits died even harder than Gundam pilots.
"I'll come back tomorrow morning." Wufei said, leaning and practically sitting on the bed. "The staff here are quite efficient and there is a security system and guards." He drew his Luger from its shoulder holster beneath his uniform and slipped it into Heero's hand, the movement masked from the doctor by his body. Blue eyes widened slightly. "Try to get some sleep." Wufei leaned forward as if to pat Heero's shoulder, and helped his partner slip the gun under the pillow, making sure Heero could reach up that far despite the injury to his ribs.
'Security on. Don't shoot nurse.' He mouthed. Heero smirked.
"I'll sleep okay, Chang." Heero replied, shifting his head a bit so it rested partly against hard metal.
"Sure. See you soon."
At ten PM, Doctor Orwill entered the room again. He picked up Heero's chart, flipped through it quickly with his eyes on the monitors beeping slowly, indicating that Heero was deeply asleep. Orwill stood still for a minute, then fumbled the chart back into its holder at the foot of the bed, went to poke his head out the door and nodded.
A man dressed as an intern came in. His brown hair was short and ragged, as if recently cropped but now growing out. His face was hard, thin jaw prominent with clamped teeth, making him look older than his late twenties. "Keep an eye out." He grunted. Orwill hesitated, then cracked the door open an inch to see out in the empty hallway beyond.
The man walked slowly towards the bed, eyes narrowing at the young man's face on the pillow, pale in the darkness of the room. The dim nightlight over the monitors added shadows to the wounded features under the oxygen mask. The man nodded then drew a magnum with a silencer fitted on the end from beneath his hospital coat.
"How do I stop the monitors from going off?" He didn't have to say why they would be going off.
Orwill swallowed, still looking out into the hallway. "I'm not sure. If I switch them off it will show up on the system."
"Hm. Too bad. Get ready to run back to the lounge and look innocent, Edwin. I'll find my own way out." He flicked the security off the gun, stopped near the head of the bed, and brought it to bear slowly, as if savoring the moment. He twisted at the sound behind him, a thump and a muffled choking noise from Orwill.
The muzzle of Wufei's borrowed HK 4 touched him just at the edge between the cheekbone and the eye. "Gun. Down."
The man froze, staring at Wufei and a close-up of the gun in disbelief. Behind Wufei, Orwill choked again, trying to breathe through the punch to his solar plexus.
"How did you-"
The man's lips curled back in a snarl; he stood still, as if daring Wufei to shoot - then his eyes widened and he flinched as he felt the barrel of his silencer butted aside. He spun to see the Luger shoving his gun away. Then it was pointing straight at his head.
On to part eighteen-b. Back to part seventeen-b.