If I Should Die...
Post-Epilogue: Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Summary: "Dr. Cavell, what papers do I need to formally resign my internship?"

Note: Thanks to Bronze Tigress for the beta. The story is now what I would consider complete, so I am going to mark it complete. As there is definitely more to tell, I am considering a sequel. Thanks for following, everyone.

Halfway through Duo's internship at L-4 Tienen Hospital, he gets his first true trauma case: not just a broken bone or a smashed finger, but a patient with burns over 40% of his body, shot three times, with multi-organ failure. The case is presented to him like a gift, a congratulations for being so quick to correctly diagnose and prescribe correct treatment for whooping cough in a six-year-old adoptee from the L-2 cluster. Duo doesn't tell anyone how he's so familiar with the symptoms; he simply grins and winks and brags they should call him when something challenging comes along.

The day after his "present," he finds himself knocking on Dr. Cavell's door, dressed in street clothes and clutching his scarf tightly. "Dr. Cavell? Do you have a moment?"

She doesn't look up from her charting. "Dr. Maxwell," she says, and the absent curiosity in her voice is most likely due to the fact he hasn't called her anything but "Doc" or "Doc C" or "that pretty lady doctor" since she agreed to take him as a student back at Tienen-U. They have shared drinks and meals; she has seen pictures of him and Wufei, even shared meals with him and Wufei, and he has flirted outrageously with Emma, her wife. Over the years, they have fallen into a comfortable familiarity. He appreciates - more than she will ever know - her unwillingness to put up with any of his bullshit. Wufei puts up with far too much from him.

He sits in the chair across from her. "Dr. Cavell, what papers do I need to formally resign my internship?"

"What are you talking about?" She finishes scribbling and glances up. "Duo, you look awful. And you aren't wearing your scrubs."

He breathes deeply and lets it out as slowly as he's able. "I can't do this anymore. I'm sorry for letting you down. I'm sorry." He puts his head down in his hands, and the next thing he knows she's crouching next to him, one hand on his wrist, fingers on his pulse as she looks at his eyes, his face, his body.

"Your skin is ashen," she says. "Duo, what happened?"

"I tried to kill Wufei last night," he says into his hand, and his voice chokes him as he speaks. "I can't believe - I can't do this." He feels helpless, and he squeezes his eyes closed as tightly as he can.

She releases his wrist but remains next to him. "Duo, what happened?" Her voice is calm but insistent, and he thinks distantly that she has taken on her "professional doctor" voice.

"I don't know," he says. "Wufei punched me, thank God." His eye is still bruised, but he can remember Wufei's scream and anger.

"He punched you, so you tried to kill him?" Dr. Cavell asks, bewildered.

"I was tired, I fell asleep, I woke up and I had a knife, and he punched me and I woke up again." His breathing is ragged. "I thought - I don't even know what I thought. I tried to kill him and now he's afraid of me. Fuck, I'm afraid of me. I can't - I can't lose him, Doc."

She rubs his back in a way that reminds him vaguely, distantly, of Sister Helen. "Don't you think it's about time you got your PTSD treated?" she asks.

"Fuck," he whispers.

"The good news is that you won't be resigning today," she says after he catches his breath. "The bad news is that therapy is hard work and you need a lot of it."

He chokes on a teary laugh. "But Wufei left."

"Well, you did try to kill him," she points out. "He's probably going to need some therapy, too."

"You have horrible bedside manner," he says, bitter.

She strokes his hair gently, which just makes him tense up more. "But he's a strong cookie, your Wufei. And you two have a good relationship. And I'm sure he wasn't under the impression that you were completely mentally sound prior to this."

"Not helping," he warns, but thinks she kind of is.

"He and I both know you carry the war around with you constantly," she says, and strangely enough it actually is reassuring that she's saying these things. "Did you call him to see if he's alright?"

Duo shakes his head, and she rises, walking across her office. He can hear her dialing the vidphone and pouring a glass of water. "Hello, Wufei," she says calmly. Duo listens to the conversation dimly; it's brief. Afterward, she wraps his hands round the glass of water and instructs him to drink. "He's fine," she said needlessly, as if he hadn't just overheard the entire conversation. "Just shaken up. You need to talk to him tonight, obviously."

"Obviously," he says. "How do you apologize for pulling a knife on your partner? 'Oops, sorry, I thought you were trying to gut me like a fish?'"

"The war messed a lot of people up," she said patiently. It's something they've both said to their patients, and Duo had honestly thought he was over it - that the dreams were just echoes from the past.

"Right, the war." He wonders when he can stop using that as an excuse for why he's so fucked up.

"Come on," she says, and pulls him to his feet. "I'll walk you down to the trauma counselor. You can come back to work this afternoon."

"This is serious," he protests.

"I know," she says. "But you've come this far. It'd be a shame to stop now."

"...The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

- WB Yeats, "The Second Coming"