Title: While You Were Sleeping
Genre: Yaoi/slash, romance, sap?
Warnings: OOC (this is an AU – I think it's a given), some swearing, lime/lemon, alternating POV, possible Australian-isms.
Feedback: Hell yeah? What I'm trying to say is that if you feel the urge to review, please indulge it. I don't even care what you say. Good, bad, it's all the same to me – just so long as I get to hear from you.
Disclaimer: Duo, Heero, Gundam Wing… they are copywrited to someone else. They are being used without permission and no money is being made. I reiterate: they aren't mine (and if you think they are you should probably take this opportunity to get your head checked). However, this story is mine and mine alone, and if you so much as think of nicking any part of it, I'll hunt you down and set my demon kitty cat on you (be afraid, be very afraid).
Notes: This story is AU so I think it's safe to say that that means there will be no mentions of Gundams, colonies or any other various fantastical science fiction-related entities. This story is also slash (or yaoi or whatever you want to call it), so if you don't like that… well, bugger off and come back when you have some taste! This fic is based on the movie While You Were Sleeping (starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman) and I don't own it either. It's a fairly loose basis – namely because I haven't seen the movie for years – and there will be movie plot mixed with my own kooky ideas.
Summary: Duo, a lonely railway ticket booth operator, is infatuated with Wufei, a complete stranger, who buys a token from his booth each evening. One night, Wufei is knocked onto the tracks and winds up in a coma. A mistake at the hospital sees Duo mistaken for his boyfriend and a tangled web of lies is woven as Duo is pulled further and further into the life of Wufei's welcoming family. To make matters worse, Duo discovers that he is beginning to fall in love with Wufei's enigmatic step-brother, Heero.
Author's Notes: Ooops, I've done it again, haven't I? The whole 'starting-a-new-fic-before-the-others-are-finished' thing. Bugger. But this little plot bunny leapt into my head, camped out in my imagination and just wouldn't leave.
I've only got the first chapter done and I'm posting it to see if the interest is there. If you guys would like me continue this fic (as well as my others, of course) let me know and I'd only be too happy too. I really like the idea, although it's probably been done before, and would like to see where this goes. Hope you agree. Please review… don't leave me hanging here!
While You Were Sleeping:
It's cold… mind numbingly cold; the sort of cold that seeps through ever layer of clothing, penetrating your very bones, making you think you'll never be warm again. Instant hypothermia. I'm not joking, it's that fucking cold. But then it is December in Chicago… should I really be surprised that I can no longer feel my arse?
So, what the Hell am I doing out in this unseasonable weather? Well, believe me, if I had any choice in the matter, I'd be lying on a beach in Southern Italy, drinking margaritas and soaking up the rays. But seeing as my Fairy Godmother took a redundancy package years ago and moved to florida, and there is a steadily growing mountain of bills waiting to be paid, I'm at work.
I work for the Chicago Transit Authority but don't be fooled by the catchy title, in reality, I sit, day in, day out, in a ticket booth in a fairly grungy inner-city subway station, selling tokens to pushy commuters. And if you're thinking 'gee, that sounds like a fairly tedious job,' well, you'd be right; although, shitty and thankless are equally valid ways of describing it.
OK, so career-wise I'm a bit of a dud, but really that aspect of my life sparkles in comparison with the others.
I live alone, in a tiny, cramped, messy apartment. The landlord is a sleazy drunk, the heating is temperamental at best, and I suspect the plumbing is being occupied by the devil or, at the very least, his equally nasty younger brother.
The only company I have is a rather disgruntled cat who, on a good day, has the personality of Attila the Hun, and on a bad day… well, trust me, you don't wanna go there. I have no family, in the conventional sense of the word, and no significant other. In fact, I can't remember the last time I went on a date, so I think it's fairly safe to say that my sex life is hanging out somewhere below nil.
So that's three from three – at nearly thirty I have failed to achieve even one of the work-home-love trifecta. And as far as I can see, it probably ain't gonna get any better… this is as good as it gets.
The tinny voice of the radio announcer reminds me to have a happy festive season and hopes that all my Christmas dreams come true. Given that I'm still no where near that Italian beach, I'd have to say that he just isn't hoping hard enough. Christ, it's still a week and a half 'til Christmas and already I'm sick of the whole damn thing; Christmas in general can go to Hell in a hand basket for all I care. Duo Maxwell: Scrooge and failure at all things life-related… yep, that's me.
There are really only two things that make my life worth living. The first is Hilde Schbeiker. She's my best friend and she works in the ticket booth next to mine. I met her first day on the job; she was new too and we bonded over some mutual bitching about the unrewarding nature of our work.
We both had big plans back then; plans to go places, to see things, to do something… anything with our lives. She dreamed of being a dancer or a singer – a performer – and I dreamed of traveling the length and breadth of Italy, soaking up the magic of that country. But somewhere along the line, reality struck and those plans fell by the wayside, like the rest of my life. And we're still here. Secretly, deep down inside, we're both still clinging to those dreams, but I think we've pretty much accepted that they're never gonna happen.
Hilde's probably the only thing that keeps me sane in this place, which is strange given her complete lack of sanity. Just when I think I've reached the end of my tether and shoving a handful of tokens down the throat of the next person to arrive at my booth seems like a good idea, she'll flash me a wild grin or pull a ridiculous face or make a rude gesture behind the back of a customer and things will suddenly be dandy again… well OK, dandy's pushing it a little; tolerable is probably a better word.
In fact, she's grinning at me now, wiggling her eyebrows. I have to laugh. Even amidst the cold and the gathering gloom, she can make things bearable. Her next customer coughs pointedly and she turns away to serve him. As he walks away, she waggles her tongue at his back and gives him the finger. Good old, Hilde.
Number two on the list of reasons to keep breathing is slightly more complicated… you see, I don't even know his name. He's just a stranger… a perfectly wonderful stranger. He's a commuter and every weekday at 6pm he waltzes into my life and then out again on the next train; a dazzling ray of sunshine that pierces through the clouds of my humdrum life… OK, that's corny, I know, but sometimes there are just moments when sounding like a really bad greeting card seems appropriate.
My heart starts beating faster just thinking about him and it's usually leapt out of my chest and is doing acrobatic flips up and down platform 7 by the time 6pm rolls around and I get to see him again.
He's the classic tall, dark and handsome… well, OK, he's probably only medium-tall but he's got the dark and handsome bit in spades. Chinese, I'd say… all golden brown skin and pitch black hair. Lithe and elegant, he moves like a sleek black panther – all confidence and effortless grace. OK, better stop drooling.
I think I fell in love with him the moment I first saw him. I know what you're thinking, what's a cynic like me doing believing in love at first sight? But I swear that's exactly what it was, lightning bolts and everything. One moment, throwing myself under the train is a viable option and the next, there is he… standing there in all his tailored glory; it was like something out of a movie, or possibly a wet dream.
But you know, now when I imagine my perfect future, it's him and me, perfect together… we run away to Italy and live our perfect life surrounded by Italian beauty and red hot sunsets.
Hilde thinks I'm being an idiot and she's probably right. I mean, there are no fairytale endings in this world anymore. Disney staged a hostile take-over and now they are only leased out to saccharine 2-D cartoons voiced by famous Americans. But I can still dream, can't I?
I glance down at my watch. It's 5:45pm… nearly time. I turn away between customers, peering at my reflection in the glass walls of my booth. I frown. My hair is bedraggled and limp and my nose has turned an unattractive shade of red from the cold, sharp in contrast to my pasty skin. Great, he'll be here soon and I look like the 3rd ugly step-sister that was cut out of the movie because she might scare the children.
I grimace and try to make a few quick adjustments. Despite the cold, I remove my beanie (which is frightfully ugly and worn solely for warmth and comfort not style) and try to smooth my hair, tucking errant strands back into the customary braid. I look slightly less scary now… a minor improvement.
And then suddenly there is the jangle of change clattering in the metal dish and when I turn around there he is. Shit! He's early.
I'm granted a momentarily glimpse of those deep, dark eyes before he looks away. I wish I had the guts to say something… but I don't. Instead, I dumbly pass his token under the glass, watching, wide-eyed, as long, elegant fingers reach out and scoop it up. And then he's gone… disappeared into the crowd, lost until tomorrow.
I sigh dramatically and I can almost feel Hilde watching me from her booth and rolling her eyes. I purposely ignore her, turning back to my queue of rush hour commuters. They shuffle restlessly, impatient to get home. But my perfect stranger has come and gone, leaving me a bit down, and as I don't see any reason why any of these rude, pushy snobs should feel better than me, I am purposely slow. Their frustrated grumbles are something of a consolation.
That night after we've knocked off, I walk Hilde home. It's probably not strictly necessary… I mean, there are probably very few muggers out there with the balls to take on Hilde, but it's become a routine. We huddle together, arms linked as we face the cold wind; it whips past us, slicing through our multitude of layers, leaving us shivering against each other.
We bitch about our co-workers ("Marge reported me again, the bitch! How do you think she manages to walk around with that great fucking pole up her arse?" – Hilde) and about the customers ("This weedy bald guy called me a pansy fag so I asked him whether he was born with that dick on his forehead or if it was a recent acquirement. Do you think I'll get reported for that?" – Me) and eventually conversation turns to my perfect stranger. Well, OK, I turn the conversation to him but Hilde didn't make any attempts to stop me… I think she's learnt that it's just eaiser to listen to my lovesick grumblings rather than try to fight it.
I'm in the middle of waxing lyrical about how kind and generous he is when Hilde snorts loudly, an unattractive, elephantine snort. "What?" I ask hotly, although I know exactly what's coming – we've had this conversation before.
"Kind-hearted and passionate and gives to charity?" she laughs. "How the Hell would you know? You don't even have the guts to say hello to the guy!" She breaks off into a peel of giggles and has to cling to me to stay upright. I wait, irritably, for her finish.
"I don't need to talk to him to know he's a decent guy!" I retort. "You can tell just by looking at him!"
For some reason this makes her laugh even harder. I growl. Obviously she's got no idea! Probably never even been in love. I feel sorry for her boyfriend, Alex, to have been lumped with someone whose sense of romance is on par with the size of George Bush's brain – that is, virtually non-existent.
Finally, she pulls herself together enough to speak. "Well, you're gonna need to talk to him eventually if you want to stand a chance of getting laid," she says matter-of-factly.
I harrumph. "I will talk to him… eventually," I tell her. "I'm waiting for the right time."
"Sure you are, stud!" she laughs as we arrive outside her apartment. "You wanna come up?" she asks. It's tempting. Her heating works and if I'm lucky Alex will be there – he makes a mean lasagna. But then, I'm sure they have better things to do with their time than make pasta for a friend who misplaced his life about ten years ago.
"Nah, I'd better get home. Make sure Attila hasn't invaded any small, defenseless countries in my absence."
Hilde laughs, knowing full well that my cat would be perfectly capable of conquering most of Europe if he put his mind to it. "M'OK, I'll see you tomorrow." She leans up and kisses my cheek and then disappears into the apartment building, leaving me alone on the icy sidewalk. I smile. Hilde's like the sister I never had… which is probably why we fight so much.
As I walk home, I make a silent promise to myself. I will talk to my perfect stranger before the week it out… that gives me three days to get a set of balls. Shit, I'm trembling with nerves just thinking about talking to him. I'm so fucking pathetic, it's not even funny any more. Come on! What have I got to lose?… it's not like there are any other Prince Charmings out there waiting to sweep me off my feet. Tomorrow I will talk to him! And failing that, definitely Thursday… Friday at the latest.
Predictably, my courage takes a mid-week vacation and Wednesday and Thursday both drift past agonizingly slowly with no dazzling attempts at conversation on my part. Time seems to be moving a snails pace, which tends to happen when you work in a job as monotonous as mine, and by the time Friday rolls around (deadline day) I'm tired and grumpy; things are made even worse than usual by the fact that Hilde has taken the day off… something about being so sick with flu that she couldn't move – come on! This job doesn't exactly require much movement, I mean, dead people could do it and I doubt anyone would notice (although I'm fairly sure the union wouldn't be impressed). Her booth sits vacant, mocking me, and the only company I have is the booth on my other side, occupied by the cantankerous, overbearing Marge. She hates me and when she's not sneering derisively in my direction, she's telling the manager that I've been offending the customers again, even if all I did was blow my frigging nose. I glare at her, just for the Hell of it. She catches me and I can see her making a mental note to rat on me. Bloody Marge.
With Hilde away, I'm relying solely on my perfect stranger to get me through the day. It's only noon and suddenly six o'clock feels like it's light-years away. The day drags on and on, so slow that I start to wonder if Time is having a sick day as well. Mid-afternoon, however, just when I'm nearly unconscious with boredom, Marge gets called a fat cow by an obnoxious teenager after she gives him the wrong change and my sniggering does manage to gleefully occupy me for about ten minutes. Another mental note from Marge.
As darkness falls, the rush hour commuters pour into the station, hustling and bustling as though pushing harder will make things happen faster. I vainly search for my perfect stranger among the throng but he's disappointingly absent and I'm left feeling despondent. I wait listlessly for my shift to end so that I can go home and curl up in bed with a bottle of whiskey and watch mindless TV… Oooh, I wonder if Survivor's on?
Just as knock off time is approaching, God sees fit to shine down me (about frigging time) and suddenly that familiar face is striding towards me. Right on cue, my heart stops beating. His hair is pulled back in a neat, glossy, black ponytail and his suit oozes wealth and taste. However this evening his face is thunderous, black and foreboding like the clouds overhead, and his movements are slightly stiff with repressed anger. He looks severely pissed off but as he approaches, I see an underlying sadness in his eyes. I feel an overwhelming urge to leap out of my booth and gather him in my comforting arms.
Heart in mouth, I serve him, my fingers shaking slightly. This is it. End of the week… time to make good on my promise. Come on, Duo, just open your frigging mouth and say something… anything!
I slide his token across to him, ready to dazzle him with my charm and wit or to console him with my compassion and depth, but I've only opened my mouth halfway when his fingers close around the token and he swings away from me, moving down to the platform. My heart sinks. Idiot, Duo!
I am in the middle of banging my head against the glass wall of the booth in frustration when a trio of hooligans come hurtling towards me. All baggy pants and chains, they take a flying leap over the barrier, just clearing it. They plunge down the platform, scattering the few people that are waiting for the next train.
My perfect stranger, who is staring into space, doesn't notice them until it's too late. He jerks away from their path but he's not quick enough and they plow into him. And suddenly everything is in slow motion. He falls backwards, his head hitting the sharp edge of the platform with an ominous crack. Gravity propels him onwards and he tumbles over the edge and down onto the tracks.
My heart skips a beat as I watch, helpless, and then rumbling in the distance, is the clattering sound of an approaching train.
In a flash, everything is moving at real time again, if not in fast-forward. A woman shrieks in horror and then there is a scramble of feet as the hooligans high tail it down the platform; a business man in a cheap suit chases after then in vain. A train whistle sounds, drawing closer and closer and before I know what I'm doing, I've flung open the door to my booth and am half way down the platform.
My perfect stranger is sprawled across the tracks, blood oozing from his head in a dark, sickly river. Adrenaline takes over and suddenly I've leaped off the platform. I land with a heavy thud on the tracks, the shock jarring my legs with pain.
Above me, there is a hoarse cry, and then pale faces are peeing down at me from the platform. One of them is saying something, yelling something, but all I can hear is that train whistle.
Now I can see the train. It's gliding towards me like a long, smooth silver snake. A sense of impending doom washes over me, rooting me to the spot. The train is scarily close now and the whistle blares again, followed by a loud, metallic screech as the brakes are applied. The sound jolts me out of my panic-induced haze and I realise that it's too late for that, it'll never slow down in time; if I don't move myself and my perfect stranger now, it'll plow right into us and we'll be nothing but mush on the tracks.
Things are back in slow motion again as though time itself is trying to slow down in synch with the train; what feels like an eternity is really only a few seconds, and still the train keeps on coming.
I grab my perfect stranger under his arms, hauling as hard as I can. For someone so lithe and sinuous, this guy weighs a fucking ton. My arms are trembling with the strain and I seem to be achieving very little.
Just as the train is bearing down on top of us, I change tactics, throwing myself down on top of him and wrapping my arms and legs around his torso. I heave his weight against me, rolling with all my might. And finally there is movement. We roll together, a tangle of limbs, until we hit the side of the platform with a dull thump.
And then the train is on top of us, rattling past like a hurricane, threatening to pull us beneath its wheels. I hang onto my perfect stranger for dear life. It's the scariest thing I've ever experienced and I'm paralyzed with fear.
And suddenly the rushing wind is fading and the deafening roar of the train has passed. I slowly relax my death grip on my perfect stranger and he rolls away from me, his head lolling to the side like a rag-doll.
I can't believe we've survived. Above me, faces are swarming in and out of focus. I feel sick… I can actually feel the bile rising in my throat. My breath comes in ragged gasps and I'm shaking so hard that I feel like I'm having a fit. I grope blindly for my perfect stranger's hand, and when I find it, I twine my fingers through his, trying to ground myself.
The next moments are a complete blur to me. Suddenly I'm on the platform again, though I'm not sure how I got here, and a paramedic is standing before me. I realise belatedly that he is trying to untangle my hand from my stranger's. I let go reluctantly.
The paramedic, John, his nametag informs me, grips me by the shoulders and stares into my eyes. "Do you want to accompany him to the hospital?" he asks me.
I nod dumbly and allow him to maneuver me into the back of the ambulance. I sit on a thin, narrow cot. My perfect stranger lies opposite me, looking even darker against the white of the sheets. I want to take his hand again, to reassure myself that he's alive, that I'm alive, but John is hovering over him, yelling something to driver… complicated medical words that I don't understand.
We pull into the ER and I'm bundled out. There are people rushing everywhere… doctors, nurses, hysterical patients. The trolley bearing my perfect stranger is hurried away by a rather formidable-looking matron and suddenly I'm alone in the crowded waiting room.
I sit heavily on the nearest chair, wondering if this is just all some horrible dream. Opposite me, a young girl pitches forwards and is sick all over the floor, and to my left, a young man groans, clutching his arm which it has been pierced by a screwdriver and is oozing blood everywhere. Their sounds of pain are enough to assure me that this is all real.
Slowly my brain starts to function again and the shock begins to wear off. I take a deep breath and allow my head to drop backwards to rest against the cool cream wall. I close my eyes and try to block out the sounds of the hospital around me.
Four hours later and it's fairly clear why this is called a waiting room. I'm bored and restless and it's beginning to get to me. I try to flag down a nurse but she has more important people to tend to. The man to my left has been lead away to be de-screwdrivered, but the little girl is still here; she's been given a bucket but the sound of her retching still echoes around the room, mingling with other cries of pain and frustration.
Finally, a round, cheerful nurse passes my way. She is fairly young, probably only a few years older than me, but she has a motherly face and her plump arms look like they'd be good at comforting. Her nametag reads: Nurse Jones and she is certainly more approachable than some of the other nurses wandering around, who wear expressions that wouldn't be out of place in an S&M video.
I call out to her and she moves across towards me, swerving around a middle-aged man that has turned an attractive shade of greeny-grey. "Can you help me?" I ask.
"What's your name, hon?" she asks.
I tell her automatically and watch as her gaze flickers down to the clipboard in her hand. "Duo Maxwell…" she murmurs. "I'm sorry, you're not on my list, when did you come in?"
"About four hours ago. I came in the ambulance with my friend…" I stumble over the word 'friend,' wondering if I really have the right to call a stranger my friend. "He fell onto the train tracks and hit his head," I explain. "Can you tell me what happened to him?"
She looks down at her clipboard and her face lights up in recognition and then sympathy. "Oh, yes… Wufei Chang," she says.
I'm stunned. After nearly a year of watching from afar, my perfect stranger has a name. Wufei Chang.
I realise she's speaking again. "The medics told us what you did… we all think you're terribly brave," she says warmly. Her eyes twinkle and her cheeks dimple when she smiles.
I want to tell her that it wasn't bravery at all, just pure instinct and that anyone would have done the same, but when I open my mouth, what comes out is, "Is he alright?" and then, "Can I see him?"
"He's stable," she tells me, though I'm not entirely sure what that's supposed to mean. "And I'm afraid I can only let family in at this stage."
I give her my very best pleading 'puppy dog eyes.' Sister Helen once said that I could win over even the devil with that look and it seems to be working on my friendly nurse as well; she wavers slightly, biting her lip in indecision. I move in swiftly to finish the job, grabbing her plump hand in mine and staring up at her. "Please, nurse… I need to see him… please?"
I squeeze her hand for good measure and success! She relents with a sympathetic smile. Glancing around, she turns back to me. "Alright, but just for a minute." She leads me down a stark white corridor. Doctors in white coats and surgeons in blue scrubs bustle in and out of rooms; they are occupied with being busy and don't notice a fat nurse and a skinny man furtively stealing down the passageway.
We pause outside a door and Nurse Jones rests her hand on the handle. "I really shouldn't be doing this…" she begins.
Oh no, a voice in my head says. You can't back out now! I grasp her hand again and stare into watery blue eyes. "Thank you," I whisper encouragingly. She smiles again, patting my arm with her free hand, and then pushes it open. She releases my hand and moves out of the doorway to let me pass.
My perfect stranger who's real name is Wufei Chang, is lying on the bed in the centre of the room. His head is bandaged and there are numerous tubes connecting him to various beeping machines. He looks much smaller, much more fragile than I remembered.
I swallow heavily, trying to muster up the courage to enter the room. Pathetic, huh? I can stare down a train to save this guy but I can't even go into a hospital room to see him?
Nurse Jones' hand rests comfortingly on my shoulder and I feel grounded by her reassuring presence. "He's in a coma," she tells me gently, bending close as though divulging a secret. Coma… it's a pretty fucking scary word. It lingers in the air, thick and heavy. I swallow again and it feels like something is caught in my throat.
Nurse Jones gives me a little nudge, the encouragement I needed, and I shuffle across the room to the bedside. "I'll be back in a moment," she says, understandingly, and then is gone.
I turn back to Wufei, bending at the waist so that I'm just mere inches away from him. I peer at his chest and am relieved to see the steady rise and fall of his breathing. When I take his hand in mine once more, it's warm and now I know for sure that he's definitely alive. I exhale the breath I didn't even know I was holding.
For several minutes I just stand there, holding his hand, staring down at his unconscious form. I don't really know what I'm supposed to be feeling… I feel awkward and out of place, like a stranger… which, of course, I am.
I smooth a strand of dark hair off his forehead with my free hand. His hair is not as soft as I thought it would be, but smooth and greasy from being slicked back. I'm not sure why, but I'm slightly disappointed.
I clear my throat uncomfortably, wondering whether to leave or not. This wasn't how I'd imagined it. In the waiting room, I dreamed that his face would light up when I walked into the room. I'd run over to the bed and take him in my arms and he would thank me over and over for saving him and then would declare his undying love for me. Well, I did have four hours to come up with this.
But in reality, he's lying unconscious in a stark, alienating hospital room and I feel like an intruder, helplessly watching over him.
But I can't leave… not yet. I swallow my discomfort and shuffle closer so that my thigh is pressed against the neat white bedspread. I seem to remember hearing that you should talk to people in comas… it helps them to wake up or something. I suppose it makes sense really, but still as I open my mouth to speak to my perfect stranger for the first time, I feel a bit ridiculous.
"Hi, I'm Duo… Duo Maxwell." I wince; my voice sounds so weak and pathetic in this empty room. I bite the bullet that I never had the guts to bite before. "I'm in love with you," I whisper to him. "I'm sorry, I never told you… I was scared, I guess. But I do love you. And you have to wake up so we can run away to Venice together…" I trail off, feeling stupid. I wonder if he can hear me. God, I hope not. This is so not how I had imagined our first conversation… for starters, in my dreams, he was always conscious.
There is a muffled sniff from behind me and I whirl around. Nurse Jones is standing in the door way with tears in her eyes. Her expression is slightly dreamy. "Oh, that is so sweet!" she cries.
I'm slightly confused and I wonder how much she heard. Before I have a chance to speak, there is a sudden commotion in the hallway beyond. Nurse Jones scuttles into the room, planting herself beside me. She is followed by a short, balding doctor, dressed in a long white coat and wearing a stern expression, and a tall woman of about 35. She has long brown hair tied in two peculiar-looking bunches. Her face is pinched and she gasps when her eyes land on Wufei. She pushes past the doctor, stopping only when she sees me.
Behind her, two more figures appear. One is tall, with red-brown hair swept across his face, hiding deep green eyes. The other is shorter and blonde, with a caring face that is twisted in fear. The doctor coughs pointedly. "I'm sorry… family only!" he says.
The woman clicks her tongue. "Oh, for Christ's sake, they are family!" she snaps without turning around. Her eyes are still fixed on me. "Let them in!" she adds. The two men edge forwards into the room, flanking their companion. Their eyes fall first on Wufei and then, like the woman before them, shift to where I'm standing.
"Who are you?" the woman asks, perplexed. Behind her, the doctor's eyes are asking the same thing. His gaze turns to glare at Nurse Jones. I feel strangely protective of her, grateful for her compassion in letting me in. I move slightly in front of her.
My gaze flickers back to other three and beneath their stares, I am uncomfortably aware that I am still holding Wufei's hand. I'm trying to think of something to say when Nurse Jones speaks on my behalf. "This is Duo Maxwell, Mr Chang's boyfriend." Three sets of eyebrows rise.
And then so do mine. In fact I think my eyes might be boggling as well. I suddenly realise just how much she heard and the conclusion she reached, and now the dreamy expression is explained – she's one of those straight women who find gay men unbelievably adorable.
At the same time as this train of thought is being processed, a shrill little voice, which sounds remarkably like a pissed off Hilde, is screaming at me to correct the misassumption, tell the frigging truth now before this all gets out of hand, but I ignore it; my thoughts have shifted and now all I can think of are Nurse Jones' words. I repeat them over and over to myself, like a restless mantra… Mr Chang's boyfriend… Duo Maxwell, Mr Chang's boyfriend… It sounds so perfect, so natural… like it was meant to be! Oh, how much I wish it were true!
"I didn't know Wufei had a boyfriend." It's the short blonde who speaks. He looks confused, fine blonde eyebrows coming together above deep aqua eyes. "Sally?" he asks, turning his head slightly to the woman at his side.
The woman, who I presume must be Sally, is still staring at me when she answers. "Neither did I. He never said anything to me." She sounds vaguely hurt, like someone who is used to being confided in. She gaze flickers sadly down to Wufei and then back up to me.
Tell them the fucking truth! The voice shouts at me, sounding more and more like Hilde with every word. And of course, the disembodied voice of Hilde is right – I should just tell the truth now before this rattles out of control like a runaway train, but for some reason everything time I move to speak something lodges in my throat, preventing me. Something inside me, quite possibly my inner child, keeps holding me back. This might be my only chance to be something to this man that has been everything to me. I'm not ready to give that up yet. I can't…
Sally and the blonde both turn to the tall, dark man, oblivious to the debate raging in my head. He doesn't speak but he does give a little half shrug, his one visible green eye twinkling at me.
Behind them, the doctor is waiting in the wings, observing the entire interaction with a strange sense of fascination. He seems to recognize that this isn't the moment for him to start talking. Or possible he's too busy wondering how our little drama will play out.
"Oh wait, I think I remember something…" the blonde says, surveying me; those aqua-blue eyes seem to bore into me. Finally his gaze settles on my braided hair, which is hanging down over my shoulder, and then a light of remembrance shines behind his eyes. "I think I remember Wufei asking me what I thought of long hair on men..." he trails off and then all three of them are staring at my hair.
That seems to be enough to convince the blonde, and I get the impression that he's a very trusting, honest soul. Amist my lies, I feel drawn to him. "I'm Quatre Winner, by the way," he says, stepping forwards and holding his hand out to me. The other two watch this bold first move, waiting for my response.
I release Wufei's hand, lowering it gently back to the mattress. To my right, Nurse Jones signs happily, reminding me that she's still there. I step forwards crossing the brief distance between us and grip Quatre's hand instead. It's a warm, firm handshake, strong and comforting and welcoming all at the same time. He instantly makes me feel at ease and I take an immediate liking to this man.
"This is Trowa Barton," Quatre introduces me to the tall, dark who nods at me. He doesn't smile exactly, but the corners of his mouth turn upwards ever so slightly and his eyes twinkle as though they are laughing at something that only he is privy too. He strikes me as the strong, silent type but I bet there is more going on in his head than most people realise.
Quatre casts him an indulgent smile and then turns back to me. "And…" he begins.
"Sally Po," the woman interrupts. She is still staring at me, eyes slightly narrow. She's not quite convinced yet, still suspicious; still trying to put her finger on whatever it is that doesn't quite feel right about me. But in the end she sets her doubts momentarily aside and shakes my hand readily enough. "Sorry, what was your name again?" she asks.
"Duo Maxwell," Nurse Jones says for me. "He was the one who saved Mr Chang's life. Dragged him right off the tracks. Could have been killed too!" She proceeds to give them all the gory details. It sounds far more dramatic when she tells it and I almost feel like I'm listening to a good story rather than something that actually happened to me.
When she's done, Sally is looking at me with a rather peculiar expression on her face – a mixture of disbelief and gratitude. She peers deep into my eyes, searching for something. Apparently she finds it because she stands back, finally looking satisfied. A wide smile blooms on her face and she suddenly looks much younger and less harried.
She reaches out to me and grabs my hand, dragging me closer into a hug. "Thank you!" she whispers, her breath ghosting over my ear. She pulls away as suddenly as she grabbed me, looking slightly abashed at her outburst. She smoothes her shirt reflexively. "It's very nice to meet you, Duo," she says sincerely, smiling again.
And it's a smile that I can't help returning. I feel all warm and slightly fuzzy inside. And now I'm beaming at all of them, even Nurse Jones. Suddenly, even if it is only for this one brief moment, I am Duo Maxwell, Wufei Chang's boyfriend… and I almost believe it myself.
The tall, balding doctor is still standing in the corner, observing our soap-operatic antics, but now he steps forwards and clears his throat, an irritating little 'hem-hem,' the sort that sends uncomfortable shivers down your spine.
We all turn to look at him, but it is Sally's gaze that he returns, singling her out as the only true family member and ignoring the rest of us. "How is he?" she asks, bluntly.
The doctor seems a little taken aback by her directness and is momentarily unsure how to proceed. "It's complicated, Miss Po…" he begins eventually.
"It's Dr Po," Sally interrupts him, casting him a warning glance. "And I think I can handle whatever you've got." Straightforward with a low bullshit tolerance; I think I like this woman.
The doctor clears his throat again in that same irksome fashion. I get the impression that he doesn't really like dealing with women like Dr Sally Po; he finds them intimidating. "He was stabilized upon arrival, but lapsed into a coma shortly after. We're still waiting on the results of the brain scans," the doctor says, followed by a rather long stream of medical jargon. Sally nods sporadically, looking simultaneously grave and hopeful, and interrupts with a list of complicated medical terms of her own. The Doctor frowns at the challenge.
The rest of us wait in silence for them to finish their battle of words. Quatre catches my eye and I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one having difficultly following their conversation.
Finally the doctor leaves, looking slightly peeved and immensely relieved. As he disappears, Nurse Jones pats my arm and smiles at me. She departs as well, after checking Wufei's machines and generally fussing around the room a bit.
And now it's just the four of us. A heavy, uncomfortable silence develops between us, hanging in the air, broken only by the steady beeping of the heart monitor. None of us are really quite sure where to go from here.
Finally, it's Sally who speaks first. "Well, shall we all sit down, then?" she suggests, plonking herself down on the edge of Wufei's bed, nudging his legs over slightly; the movement of someone that could only be family.
Quatre smiles at the gesture. "Actually, I'm dying for a coffee," he says. It sounds suspiciously like an excuse to me; whether it's to give Sally and me some time alone together with Wufei or not, I don't know.
Quatre's tall, dark friend – Trowa, was it? – nods and sidles up behind Quatre. "I'll come with you," he says, speaking for the first time since his arrival. Quatre smiles up at him and I find myself wondering what exactly the nature of their relationship is. A moment later, a long arm snakes around Quatre's waist and Trowa drops a gentle kiss in his blonde hair.
Right… so, more than just friends. No wonder they weren't shocked by the thought of Wufei dating a man.
They leave the room together and I find myself smiling at their closeness, a warm, dreamy sensation blooming in my stomach; now I feel like Nurse Jones. I wonder if Wufei and I will be like that when he wakes… and then I stop suddenly as I remember that Wufei isn't really my boyfriend.
Reality comes crashing back around me and now the guilt is beginning to set in. But still I don't tell the truth. Somewhere deep inside me, my skewed sense of logic is telling me that if I pretend hard enough, it'll be true.
I collapse into a lumpy chair on the other side of the bed. Sally seems to mistake my guilt for melancholy because she smiles reassuring at me.
"So, how long have you known Wufei?" she asks after a moment, making a brave stab at conversation.
I'm relieved by her choice of words. It's a question I can answer without actually lying. Sure, maybe I might be omitting the odd detail but that's not exactly a lie, right? "About a year?" I say truthfully, after all, Wufei has been coming to my booth for about that long. I wonder if she can hear the quiver in my voice.
She doesn't. "And have you been together all that time?" is her next question. With someone else, this questioning thing could feel a little bit like the Spanish Inquisition, but Sally seems very laid-back; she doesn't make me feel like I'm on the stand.
"No, it's a much more recent thing," I say. Like about twenty minutes… I have to bite my tongue to keep that from slipping out.
"Oh, that's nice," she concludes, and then winces as though that hadn't really been what she had intended to say. She looks a little lost as though she wants to continue but can't quite think of what to say next.
I take pity on her and ask a question of my own. "So, are you his sister?"
She casts me a confused look, laughing. "Um… no, I'm not. Did Wufei never talk about his family?"
"No, we never talked about family," I confirm. And it's a partial truth. We did never talk about family… of course, we never talked period. I realise the lies are starting to come easier now and I'm not sure whether to be worried by that or not.
"Yes, I suppose Wufei could be rather secretive when the mood took him." Sally sounds almost wistful. "Anyway, I'm just a cousin, not a sister. But really, I might as well be. My parents died when I was very young and my uncle took me in. Wufei is the closest thing I have to a brother and the only family I have left… along with Heero, of course."
"Who's Heero?" I ask before I can stop myself. I wonder vaguely whether grilling this woman while she's sitting at her cousin's bedside is perhaps an insensitive thing to do. But she doesn't seem to mind.
"Heero is Wufei's step-brother. And mine, too, I suppose. My uncle married Heero's mother after the death of his first wife. They both died several years ago, though." I make sympathetic noises and then wait for her to continue. When she does, it's with a laugh. "We're a bit of an odd family, I suppose… Wufei and Heero and I." She smiles to herself.
"And Quatre and Trowa?" I ask, curiously.
"Wufei and Heero were at high school with Quatre. Inseparable, the three of them… And then Wufei and Trowa were room-mates at college… and of course once Quatre and Trowa met… well, it was fate, some might call it. Yes, we're a bit of an odd group, an odd little family circle."
"No, I like a broader definition of family – the people you love, who love you… not just the people you happen to share blood with…" I smile, thinking of Sister Helen and Father Maxwell and Hilde – my family… and not a shared drop of blood between us.
Sally smiles at me, looking pleasantly surprised, as though she wasn't really expecting to connect with me but is rather glad that she has. "Yes, that sounds like how it should be," she agrees and I find myself blushing.
I'm about to speak again, when suddenly the door is flung open, hitting the wall with a dramatic thud.
I turn to see a man, standing just outside the doorway. My gaze takes in the wild, chocolate-brown hair and the piercing blue eyes. I know, instinctively, that this must be Heero.
Author's Notes: Well, there we go then... chapter one down. So what do people think? Worth devoting more time too? Please review - I could probably arrange fairy bread and sparklers for those who do!