Disclaimer: Don't own Gundam Wing, not even a little piece. Not even a smidge or a morsal!!!
So here it is, a Christmas fic! I just got a random idea for one and wrote it as fast as I could to get it out here to all of you. Yeah, five days before Christmas and I'm sitting up at 4:32 am typing. LOL. Enjoy. And do tell me how it compares to Silent Night.
Post Script: Ok, it's now January 14th and I jsut got done yesterday. How Sad Is That!?! really sad. So yeah, here is a Belated Belated Belated BBBBllllaaaattttteeeeedddd... christmas fic. SORRY!
Duo finished putting on his boot and laced it up, hurrying. He was running late, he knew it, but he'd wanted to look perfect. And looking perfect always took time when you had hair as long as he did. But the braid was now freshly woven and tied off, falling over his shoulder as he bent down to put on his boots.
His cloths were new, a fresh white shirt that draped over his frame, hanging off him and flaring round his hips. His pants fit close, but not too close. He had his cross in place, the only bit of glitter he wore tonight, and with his boots finally on he was ready.
Duo pulled on a sweater and was just reaching for his coat when the phone rang. Duo cursed and backtracked through his apartment to the cradle sitting on the bar at the kitchen and looked down at the caller ID screen. He'd been ready to ignore any name there, except for this one. This one he wouldn't ignore, couldn't.
Duo let out a sigh, a sigh he felt slightly guilty about, but allowed himself that bit of frustration before answering.
"What's wrong Ember?" Duo asked.
"I'm so sorry Duo! I'm so, so sorry! I know Quatre's Christmas party is tonight, and I know you were so looking forward to it! I'm Really Sorry!" Ember apologized as fast as she could, the words falling from her lips as fast as she could form them. But Duo could hear the desperation in her voice, the hopelessness; he put a hand to his forehead and tried to talk past her panic.
"Ember, slow down. It's all right. You know that. I'll always be here for you guys. Now, tell me what's wrong." Duo looked around at his calendar and the circled day, today. So much for the party.
"I'm sorry, and you know I wouldn't call if it wasn't an emergency! I know how much you were looking forward to Quatre's party…" Ember trailed off.
"But it's an emergency." Duo finished for her.
"I'm sorry Duo." Duo could hear the tears in her voice.
"Don't apologize. Are you at home?" Duo asked, trepidation building in his gut slightly. If they weren't at home this would be so much worse, especially with all the snow.
"Yes, I got her home about halfway through. I knew you wanted to go to the party, I know you wanted to see Heero, I thought I could get her to slow down, get her stopped on my own. But she hid a stash, when I brought her dinner she was all the way gone." Ember sighed heavily.
"I'm on my way." Duo told her, "I'll be there in fifteen."
"I'm sorry Duo." Ember said again, and even though Duo knew it was wrong to hold this against her, a little part of him did.
They hung up without saying goodbye. Duo put the phone back in its cradle, but before he grabbed his coat and ran out the door he paused to x out the date on the calendar with a black marker. Then he was out into the cold night.
Duo could hear the ruckus, the screaming and the crashes coming from the house as soon as he got out of his car. He was always so glad that Ember had decided to spring for the acre of land with few neighbors rather than a smaller house or staying at her apartment. The sounds he heard now would surly have had the neighbors calling the cops.
Duo took off for the house at a run and let himself in with a key Ember had made for him. He instantly took in the situation at hand. Luckily this time Ember had Kitty in the living room. The last time this had happened Kitty had been in the kitchen and the broken glass and porcelain had been a bitch to clean up.
This time Kitty was in the living room, throwing books, couch cushions, TV remotes, DVDs, anything she could get her hands on really. She would pick them up, attempt to throw them, Ember would intervene which would only turn Kitty's destructive force back on her and Kitty would start to try and throw it at Ember or try and beat her with whatever she had in her hand. When things got this bad Ember called on Duo who had more upper body strength than her. It was just plain truth, Duo was stronger than either Kitty or Ember alone, it was just the way he was built. So when he teamed up with Ember against Kitty they could get her calmed down pretty quickly.
Duo got between Ember and Kitty right away, seeing Kitty going for the knick-knacks. Some of those were glass and this could get really ugly really fast. Her bright green eyes were large as saucers and out of focus. Her blonde hair had fallen out of its ponytail and tangled around her like a ragged nest. He took both of Kitty's wrists in his hands and started to bring her round to the couch where they could pin her gently. It was always hard to try and do this without hurting Kitty while she was trying to hurt both of them.
Her screams and guttural yells were punctuated with kicks and twisting until Ember got a second wind and got into the fray with Duo. Now that they both were there Ember took Kitty's legs and Duo took her arms and small fists and they got her up off the floor and onto the couch.
She screamed at them, twisting and trying to get up again, but Duo pinned her there and Ember literally sat on her legs.
"Kitty." Duo started talking calmly. "It's over ok. Today was just a bad day. That's all. It's over now. We're out of the war and tomorrow you can start over again, ok? It's over now." He kept talking quietly, soothingly. Uttering nonsense at the end until Kitty's stopped twisting; stopped bucking and eventually just lay there staring up at him, tears running down the side of her face.
And that was when he and Ember would speak truth to her, tell her what she needed to hear, what she needed to know.
"You're not a machine Kitty." Duo assured her.
"You were trained to kill, but you have a choice now." Ember joined in.
"You don't have to kill anymore, you're not a mindless tool, you're just Kitty, just you." Duo let up on her wrists a little, and when Kitty didn't go back to fighting, which had happened before, he let up completely and Ember crawled off her legs.
Kitty sobbed then, turned on her side and curled up as tightly as she could, whimpering like some lost child in the dark and Ember took it from there while Duo gave them privacy and started picking up the living room. Kitty knew Duo, accepted his help and support and held back punches and refrained from biting him now. But it was Ember that was her rock, her solid support.
Duo sat in a chair and waited while Ember put Kitty to bed and despite the mess around him couldn't help but think of how far they had come. When Duo had first started helping ember in her endeavor of rehabilitating Kitty it had been so much worse. Kitty hadn't pulled her punches, she'd bitten and pulled hair and really tried to hurt Duo and Ember as much as she could. Now it was just a matter of trying to keep Kitty form hurting herself; so they would take those blows instead until they could calm her down and get her sober again.
That's what this was all about. Keeping Kitty sober. She was broken from the war, a lost OZ general. Raised much like the pilots had been, but on the other side of the fence. She'd been trained to kill without a reason or purpose. She'd just followed their orders to torture and kill. Duo had actually run into her a few times during the war and had been fortunate enough not to end up at the mercy of her hands, but he'd heard first account stories and shuddered at the thought. His run-ins with her had been bad enough.
He'd flatly refused to help at first, telling Ember she was as crazy as everyone said for deciding to help this psycho. But Ember had asked that he only meet her for half an hour, talk to her when she was sober and not ordered to kill anyone. In the first five minutes Duo had been horrified to see that some semblance of a real person had survived under all of that.
So he'd agreed to help and had found that Kitty had the potential for everything that Ember spoke of, but had thought it was even more than the two of them could handle. He'd asked Heero and the other pilots for help and found that they wouldn't even meet Kitty. Not even Quatre who was usually the one to see good in others were you wouldn't expect to.
But no, all of them had flatly refused. Duo had felt a deep seed of betrayal when he'd run into that wall, but told them all where to stick it and gone back to stick it out with Ember when they told him not to. Because he saw the girl that Ember saw, saw Kitty underneath the killer.
It had taken a full year to get as far as they had now. And Kitty was so close, Duo was sure that just one more step would take her far enough from her old self that she wouldn't need the alcohol anymore. But it was days like this that felt like humongous setbacks.
Something would set Kitty off and she'd go searching for the bottom of any bottle she could get her hands on. Trying to erase the memories from her mind, trying to find sweet oblivion where there was no guilt and no pain. There were more good days than bad ones now after a year and a half of living with Ember, but her bad days were doozies.
Duo had showed up the first few months to work with lacerations, bruises and sore muscles and gotten shit from Heero and Wu Fei who kept trying to get him to quit on Kitty, to just accept that she was beyond help. But Duo knew a little bit of where Kitty was, and he knew that you didn't give up on someone just because it was hard.
He'd resented Heero and Wu Fei for a long time their insistence that all Kitty would ever be able to would be to hurt those around her. It had made his resolution that much stronger. It hadn't been until months later that he'd finally realized why the other pilots had straight up refused to help. But he'd kept that to himself and had just resolved to be there for Ember and Kitty.
Ember finally did come back down the stairs, her long black hair still in disarray and her dark green eyes dark with worry and wear. She tromped down the stairs and came to sit in the chair opposite Duo. She gave a great sigh and sunk back into the cushions.
"She got your cheek." Duo told her, seeing the scratches left from fingernails across Ember's face. Ember reached up to touch them and flinched as if they hadn't hurt until Duo had pointed them out, and maybe they hadn't.
"Yeah, well, she got your hands." Ember gestured to the back on his hands, the only part of him she'd been able to reach. Duo flexed his fist and felt the sting of the ripped flesh. They weren't deep, but washing his hair would sting tomorrow when the soap got into every little crevice.
"She'll be apologizing all day tomorrow." Ember sighed, she didn't ever want Kitty to apologize for who she was, and she insisted that it was OZ's fault, not Kitty's. She let Kitty come to terms with what had happened during the war on her own or with her therapist, but she always told Kitty that any injuries that she had Duo got during times like these were their own fault. It didn't stop Kitty from trying, but it also kept guilt from eating Kitty alive.
"So what happened?" Duo asked, checking the clock and cursed himself for the lapse when Ember noticed.
"Oh gods Duo! I'm so sorry! I really am, I know you wanted to go. You've been waiting all week, this reeks, I know. You must hate this, you should go, I bet you could still make it!" Ember started to get up to usher him out of the room, but Duo held up a hand to stop her.
"No, it's too late, besides, it's no use showing up like this. They'll all 'tsk' and start with the 'I told you so's. I'd rather not be there for that." Duo closed his eyes briefly, taking a moment to himself to imagine what Heero probably looked like tonight, his smile, his laugh as he and the other pilots enjoyed the party. He took an even shorted amount of time to imagine what they'd have talked about tonight if he had made it, but the imaginary conversation hurt him too much and he cut that thought off quickly.
"Just tell me what happened." Duo opened his eyes again and gave Ember his attention.
"A guy attacked her today, in front of the grocery. She drifted away from me while we were shopping and he recognized her." Ember covered her eyes briefly, Duo knew she was internally scolding herself.
Duo hissed in anticipation. It was never good when people recognized Kitty; it was usually a memory from the war or the news coverage from the courts after the war.
"She beat the crap out of him. There were witnesses. Even the police report says it was self-defense. All those people backed her up. But you know what it's like. She blames herself, won't hear it any other way. I tried to take her home but she slipped away in the crowd and by the time I found her three hours later she was already one bottle down." Ember rubbed her head. "I locked her in the house, got her cleaned up and sitting quietly, but when I left to make dinner she hit her stash and downed another bottle and a half before I came back up.
"Did she eat anything?" Duo suddenly feared for Kitty's blood.
"No, but she threw up most of it. I didn't have to call 911 this time for poisoning. She just started screaming again about how evil she was, about how she should be killed, put down like some rabid dog. She kept trying to convince me that she was bad."
"Shit." Duo cursed, "She hasn't done that in over a month."
"I know, she was doing so good, it's been almost a three weeks since she needed a drink." Ember looked furious now and Duo could understand it easily. He felt the same thing. Kitty would be fine if people would just leave her alone. The courts after the war had found her innocent on basis of insanity and the fact that OZ had taken her in as a child and basically raised her to be what she was. That should have been enough for people. But some people out there wanted her locked away forever, wanted her dead. They were convinced that she would kill again, go off on some sort of killing spree at any moment. What they didn't know was that it was a struggle for Kitty to get out of bed each day when she really agreed with them whole heartedly.
"I think she remembered him." Ember said quietly. That got Duo looking up at her with shocked eyes wide.
Kitty didn't remember things correctly from the war, it all ran together for her. Duo had memories of battle that were like that for him. It was just too much for the mind to hold on to, so it all just kind of blurred. It was worse for Kitty because almost all of the war was like that for her. For her to remember some specifically meant that it was probably something really bad, something that stood out in her memory because she had either tried to refuse to do it and been punished, or she had done it and laughed because that had been the only way to get through it. And memories she had held onto, memories in which she had laughed tended to be the more gory ones. Duo had sat in on a session with Kitty when Ember had been too sick to even leave the house. Duo had just been surprised that it had taken that long for Ember's body to catch up and finally tell her that she was doing too much. Ember usually offered support there on her own, but Duo had volunteered in a pinch and had come out with brand new nightmares that he didn't really want to connect to his friend. But it had also served to tell them that tasks needed to be divided up better before they both ran themselves into the ground.
For, crazy though she was, broken as she was, she was his friend. The real Kitty had a hard time with humor and didn't like big crowds, but when it was just the three of them eating together or watching a movie, it was easy to forget that Kitty wasn't just like everyone else. Well, everyone else who'd come out the other side of the war.
Duo pushed himself up out of the chair, he couldn't think about this too hard, he just wanted to make sure the two of them made it through this day, and the next one. One day at a time. Otherwise it was too overwhelming.
"Come on, let's get this place cleaned up and then we'll search the house again." Duo started picking things up. Ember nodded and followed his lead.
They found three bottles hidden in the house that night and dumped them out. Then Duo went home after quietly whispering to Kitty as she slept and giving Ember a hard hug. She held on to him just as tight and then waved him off with one last apology.
"Don't sweat it." Duo told her, giving her a smile to remember. "I'll be over day after next for Christmas dinner."
"Ok, don't forget the pie." Ember called to him as he got in his car and drove off. Back home to an empty apartment.
When Duo woke the next day he felt every bruise and strained muscle as he rolled out of bed. Kitty had been holding back, trying not to hurt him, but she was still wiry and mostly still muscle. Duo moaned and stretched, searching for his bathroom by feel and sense memory while his eyes were still blurry with sleep.
Duo took his shower, and felt the sting of the soap on the back of his hands, reminding him of last night. When he got out he braided his hair while it was still damp and took an account of every bump he'd gotten this time.
There were bruises and bumps on his shins from were Kitty had kicked until Ember had gotten hold of her legs. There were the scratches on the back of his hands and there were scratches on his right arm from where he'd run into a bookshelf at one point.
It was fairly light considering one time he'd accidentally let Kitty get behind him and she'd scratched up his back pretty good before he'd gotten her pinned.
But that had been easier to hide, a shirt and all he had to do was concentrate on not flinching and no one was the wiser. The backs of his hands were defiantly going to be noticed and Duo just really didn't want to have this same conversation again with either Heero or Wu Fei.
There was little choice in the end though, Duo just had to get to work and bear through another argument with his two friends. And that was exactly what happened.
Duo drove to Preventor Headquarters and walked to his office with a cup of coffee he picked up on his way past the small kitchen on their floor. He worked for the Preventors now, not as an agent like Heero and Wu Fei, he worked in close proximity to them though. He'd found that after the war he didn't really want to go right back to living on the edge with bullets flying past him…and into him. He was content to keep up information contacts and hack into databases that no one else could handle.
That wasn't to say that he hadn't allowed himself to be called in when he'd been needed. He'd done a couple of missions with Heero, and some with both him and Wu Fei, but on whole, he just shared office space with Heero, close to Wu Fei, and did a lot of paperwork and hacking.
Duo walked into the office he shared with Heero and found Wu Fei there talking with him, but both of them went silent and froze as he walked in, eyes tracking him. Duo could feel the eyes even after he'd walked past them to his desk and sat down with his coffee to boot up his system. Duo leaned back in his chair; perfectly capable of waiting both of them out, one of them would break sooner or later…probably sooner.
"I'll have those files transferred to you, I'll message if I need anything else." Wu Fei told Heero, he gave Duo a short and soft good morning which Duo acknowledged with a nod and then left. So it wasn't 'gang up on Duo' day; that was always refreshing. Instead it was going to be a nice quiet discussion between him and Heero as to why he hadn't shown up last night. Nice and quiet, yeah, right.
"We missed you last night. I called your cell phone to see if you were ok and you didn't answer." Heero had come over to stand at the corner of his desk, looking down at him with something akin to rage on his face. But Duo had seen that look once to often to really take it seriously, so since he wasn't about to be shot he focused on the implied question.
"Yeah, sorry about that, it got turned off without my noticing." Duo had gone home to find it turned off when he'd gone to recharge it, and then it'd been too late to return any of his calls, way too late. Duo was sure it had gotten turned off when he'd been wrestling Kitty around the living room.
Heero looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to finish, for him to answer the other part to his question that had really been more of a statement. But Duo just looked up at him with an equally expectant face, as if waiting for Heero to explain why he was still standing there when he'd already had his question answered.
"Duo, why didn't you show up last night? You said to meet you there, that you wanted to talk." Heero finally asked, exasperation leaking into his voice. And some disappointment, which surprised Duo.
Duo sighed, just as tired by this old argument. "Heero, give it up, we already both know why I wasn't there, so just say what you want to." Without thinking Duo put his hand up to the stationary mouse to access his main screen, forgetting that he'd been kind of hiding them under his desk from Heero.
Heero's eyes instantly found the red, red welts on Duo's hands, which Duo could have sworn hadn't looked that bad this morning. Must be the florescent lighting. It was just the trigger Heero had needed; he exploded in Duo's face.
"I don't understand how you can help her! She is OZ, the very definition. She's tried to kill both of you on numerous occasions! The war is over and she's still fighting you like it isn't. She's disturbed and can't even thank you; she'll never recover from this. There's nothing human in her left to save. All that you're doing is useless!" Heero's voice had risen, something it rarely did unless he was really angry, and even then it was usually a cold anger. This was hot, boiling hot and Heero was actually just as shocked at his own words as Duo was.
But the words served their purpose, whither Heero had truly meant them or not and they made Duo's blood boil instantly and then just as quickly turn to ice; he shoved his chair back and stood to meet Heero eye to eye. "That just goes to prove what you know about her! She is not some killing machine; she's a human being! All you have to do to understand her is look to yourself Heero! That's what scares you. She was trained as brutally as you, and when you look at her all you see is what you were steps away from! And she does thank me. She knows what we're trying to do from her. She's trying as hard as she can, but it's people like you who keep dragging her back down!"
Duo shoved Heero hard in the chest, he was yelling now, his fists opening and closing at his sides. "It's fucking Christmas! I'm not asking you to do everything I do; all I'm asking is that you stop ragging on her, stop pulling her down! You don't have to support her, don't have to visit; you don't have to talk or look at her. Just leave her alone! But I guess that's too much. I should know by now that there's no such thing as a Christmas Miracle."
They both stood there, breathing heavily and staring each other down. But unlike Duo who had some sense of righteousness filling him close to spilling over, Heero just looked stunned. His eyes a little too wide as he stared at Duo and Duo wasn't sure if it was just the idea finally registering in Heero's mind or if he had finally pushed it too far.
But they didn't have time to back up and really figure out what they'd said to each other out of anger because that was when Wu Fei returned to shut the door behind him and scold the both of them. Apparently their argument had gone from a little too loud to audible all over headquarters.
"I was clear down at the elevators, I should not have been able to hear every word the two of you just exchanged!" Wu Fei snapped, his voice low but filling the room as easily as when they'd been yelling just moment ago.
Both men looked away, dejected and thoroughly chastised. Wu Fei looked from one to the other then spoke to both of them. "It's a few nights till Christmas, take the time we are being given to think this over. Heero, you're not mad at Duo or Kitty, you're mad that Duo keeps getting hurt and you can't do a thing about it. He's not going to stop, this is his choice and it's commendable that he is sticking to it with such conviction even if it reaps very little in the end."
Duo was shocked at Wu Fei's words, but actually looked a little smug until Wu Fei turned his eyes to him with just as much scrutiny. "Duo, you need to understand that some of what Kitty has done in the past is unforgivable, no matter how gracious you are there are always going to be people in this world who won't be able to accept her, no matter how she repents. But the both of you really need to just stop acting like petulant children and talk to each other rather than have this same argument over and over again."
Wu Fei turned and left them with his words still ringing in the air and both men watched him go, both surprised into silence and both feeling thoroughly embarrassed.
Duo ran a hand through his bangs and then put his hand back down to his side when he saw Heero's eyes following it. He sighed, "Wu Fei's right. I know that what Kitty did, even if she's sorry now, can't be undone. But she's come so far." Duo turned to face Heero with pleading eyes, he would try to meet Heero halfway on this subject, but he wasn't sure if his stubborn comrade would be willing to do the same.
Heero stared at him, a mixture of surprise and suspicion on his face. Duo just kept his hands at his sides and let his shoulders slump in the exhaustion he felt over the subject. Heero's eyes assessed him, watching closely for some crack in the mask he suspected Duo to be wearing, but the truth was there in Duo's eyes, pleading with him.
Heero finally gave him a nod and sat down on the edge of Duo's desk while Duo collapsed into his chair, letting his legs sprawl out and his arms hand limp off the chairs arms.
"I don't understand why you help her." Heero finally muttered. Duo felt his rage rising up again, but looking at Heero looking back at him he realized that this wasn't another argument; this was Heero actually admitting something to him.
Duo's anger deflated and he sighed, looking down at his feet then up again at Heero, trying to find the words to explain it. "I'm not sure how to explain it to you." Duo finally admitted verbally after fishing around his mind for a few seconds and finding nothing to start with. "I'll try, but bear with me."
Heero nodded and Duo started talking, hoping that his sudden ramble would turn into something along the way.
"Kitty was raised like we were, but under all she has become, there is the basis of a real person. Someone she would have been if the war had never happened; it's still there, and a lot of the time you can see her, can talk to her. She's smart and sweet. She has a hard time with humor and big crowds, but so do you and Wu Fei. And Trowa for that matter. She's just like us in so many ways." Duo smiled a little to himself at the thought of all those good times he had with Ember and Kitty, they far outweighed the bad times. "But, what you see are her bad days. And those are getting less and less. For all you think, she is getting better. It's taken a long time to get her here, but what good in this world isn't worth fighting for? I want to save her, want to keep that piece of her that is still just Kitty and not OZ here, and so does Ember. She's our friend."
Heero stared at Duo, fascinated at the change in him when he talked about what Heero had believed to be a raging psychotic. Duo was a smart man, wasn't taken in by facades, so was it that Kitty firmly had his support when it was he who had survived the war with him? Heero wasn't sure if Duo's words rung true, it all seemed to be a marvelous set up by a cunning OZ soldier to him. But maybe that was what Wu Fei had been trying to convey only moments ago. Maybe it wasn't that Kitty was OZ or that Duo was being deceived, maybe it was simply that he cared for Duo and couldn't keep him from harm…
"So, despite my wonderfully non-articulate ramble, do you understand at all?" Duo asked, searching Heero's face, "A little, an inkling? A hint? At least more than you did before?"
Heero couldn't help the smile. He did have an idea now, but it wasn't as strong as Duo probably hoped it was. But even a little peak into Duo's reasoning was more than he'd had up until this point.
"Well, miracles do happen, despite your assuredly pessimistic out look on ones that happen during Christmas." Heero smirked at him and Duo let out a barking laugh. Maybe he could get Heero to leave Kitty alone, at least until they got her going on more than three weeks of sobriety.
"What did you want to talk about at the party?" Heero asked suddenly. It probably wasn't the smartest of transitions, but the thought had hit him and then it had come out of his mouth, almost without conscious thought.
Duo's head snapped up and looked at him, surprise and embarrassment flying across his face. "Oh…um…" Duo stuttered, tripping over his words, his tongue seemed too big for his mouth. "I wanted to…talk to you about us…"
"What do you mean?" Heero asked, but Duo could already see understanding dawning in his eyes.
"Well I was going to suggest that we…" Duo started, fear catching in his throat and heat rising to his face, very aware of Heero's eyes on him and the tension in his body. But then his mouth snapped shut as his phone suddenly went off, shattering the silence with its crude rendition of 'Save Me'. It was Ember's ring tone. Heero had heard it before, knew what it meant as well as Duo, and they both kept staring at each other as it rang and Duo watched a transformation in Heero's face. From expectant, to sadness and suddenly to angry determination.
Duo turned away quickly, unwilling to see what came next, if anything and answered his phone. Ember's voice was made small by technology, but Duo could hear the panic and pain through it nonetheless.
"Duo! She's gone!" Ember's voice had stopped being apologetic and gone past panic and anger to desperation and worry. Not for herself, never for herself.
"Ember, I need more." Duo replied, trying to keep worry out of his own voice. "Tell me what happened. Where are you?"
"She locked me in the closet. Forgot I had my cell phone, she shoved me in here and I heard the front door." The sounds of her trying to escape the closet followed her voice over the phone as she erratically explained the situation. "I don't know what happened, we were changing, going out to the park today and she suddenly just looked up at me and started trying to push me into the closet."
"Are you ok? Did she hurt you?" Duo asked, already walking for the door.
"No, just pushed me in, I could have gotten her under control but cloths got in my way, tripped." Ember's voice growled with frustration.
"Can you get out?" Duo asked, he was vaguely aware of Heero following him down the hall.
"Yeah, just need a minute, she did something to the knob. Just start looking, will you?" Ember asked, "She has money, I know she does, she'll be headed for the nearest liquor store, or at least one where she hasn't caused trouble before."
"I'm on it." Duo promised and hung up, he was outside now, and it was then that he really noticed Heero matching his pace. Heero was his shadow, walking with him past the parking garage and out to the street.
Duo decided to ignore him for now, Kitty was his objective right now. He didn't need his car, the Preventors building was right in the middle of the city, about a ten-minute drive from Ember's house. Kitty didn't like driving; she'd be on foot. He'd be more likely to meet her walking than looking for her from his car window.
Duo walked along the main street that ran right downtown and found that there were about three liquor stores per block. Duo gave a heavy sigh and started walking. He should have known, should have expected this. He'd done this before, he'd made mental notes of all the stores that sold liquor ages ago. Now he pulled up that mental map and started a methodical search.
He'd gone two blocks when Heero's shadowing him started to grate his nerves. He was looking everywhere Duo was, even checking twice and then catching up to Duo. It was just like work, Heero would watch him over his shoulder sometimes and start trying to correct him if he thought he knew a faster way or a better way to do the same thing Duo was doing. And usually he was wrong; always trying to do the same thing in seven steps that Duo could do in three. Not that Heero would ever admit that. It drove Duo crazy at work and it was doing worse to him now.
Usually at work Heero got fed up with Duo ignoring him and left him alone after a while, but he was unusually persistent today. Probably because this time it was someone he held a grudge against. And that just fueled Duo's anger more.
Finally, as he waited for a light change so he could get to the convenience store across the street he turned on Heero.
"Why are you even following me?" Duo demanded, shifting back from one foot to the other in impatience.
"You are the closest link I have to the criminal in question. If I follow you I have a greater chance of finding her." Heero said back in a clipped voice, watching the crossing sign across the street, never letting his eyes meet Duo's.
"Criminal in question? God! Do you even hear yourself?" Duo practically screamed in outrage. He saw the light change and walked across the street, forcing himself not to run.
Heero kept up and kept talking; Duo could feel a scream building in the back of his throat as Heero's words assailed his back.
"She is a danger to society, she'd turned on the one person determined to help her just to get her fix. She belongs in…"
"What!? Prison? Do you have any idea what prison would do to her Heero?" Duo walked back and forth in front of the convenience store, searching for Kitty's blonde ponytail and when he was sure she wasn't in there, rounded on Heero in the small parking lot.
"She belongs in a controlled environment where she is no longer free to harm those around her and no longer free to feed her addiction." Heero finished his sentence, staring down Duo, trying to make his enraged friend hear his words.
"Oh Great! An institution. Not a prison." Duo sneered, using all his height against Heero, "What's the difference Yuy!?"
"Duo, listen to me, please." Heero reached out and grabbed Duo's arm, but his friend only snapped away and backed away a few paces to turn around in place and run his hands through his bangs in frustration. "Duo, I have to arrest her, then we can get her professional help, you're working yourself to death doing this."
"She doesn't need professional help Heero, she needs my help!" Duo yelled back, his teeth gnashing as he fought not to submit to the urge to hit Heero just to get him out of the way. "She needs me!"
"But I need you too!" Heero yelled back. Both of them stood there in abrupt silence as they both realized what had come out of Heero's mouth.
"Heero…" Duo was interrupted by the sound of squealing tires as an old gremlin swerved up into the parking lot and careened into an empty spot, barely missing Duo on the trip in.
Both men backed away quickly towards the sidewalk both with nerves on end and looking around them carefully now. Duo's eyes found the driver first as he fell out of his car and then stumbled towards them. Heero's eyes found him a second later as the man pulled out the gun and leveled it at Duo.
"Gundam Fucker!" The man yelled and that got people's attention as feet started to run, scattering those around them. Yells filled the air and cell phones were pulled out all around them.
The man started walking towards Duo, yelling at him, finally stopping five feet away. Close enough not to miss a head shot but far enough away that neither Duo nor Heero could do anything before he got a shot off.
"You should have gone to jail with the rest of them. You're nothing but Damned Terrorists. Killers! Murderers! Everyone just conveniently forgot that you destroyed whole colonies! I didn't forget!" Duo felt his pulse speeding in his wrists and throat. His eyes never left the guy, darting between his face, his hand and his body. Watching his expression, his trigger finger and his body movement.
Next to him he could practically feel the tension coming off Heero in waves. He willed Heero not to do anything, he willed himself not to move, just waited. Waited for the opening that always came, for the man to make a mistake, for something to distract him or for the police to show up.
"I know what you've done! If no one's going to serve justice, then I'll just do it myself!" The man wasn't going to trip up, wasn't going to make a mistake, was squeezing the trigger, and was going to kill him. Both Duo and Heero saw this too late and at the same time that Heero felt his heart breaking Duo heard the running feet that were so familiar.
"No!" Kitty screamed and the shot went off.
Duo jumped and Heero yelled. People around them screamed and started running and ducking. And Kitty was still moving. Duo felt pride growing in his chest as he realized the shot had gone off ten inches in front of his right shoe.
Heero watched in mesmerized wonder as Kitty took the mans right arm, which she had knocked down towards the ground and twisted it, pinching the inside of the wrist till he dropped the gun. Then she broke it in one smooth motion pulling it forward and then whipping it back behind him. She turned him towards herself and shoved the butt of her hand up into his nose, breaking that too and then kicked his knee in. He fell face first into the ground as his knee made a thick snapping sound.
Only when he lay there at her feet did Kitty stop moving and look up at Duo. Her hair was half falling out of her ponytail and she wasn't completely dressed for the weather, her thin shirt was now spattered with blood from the man's nose and her eyes were a little too wide.
Duo reached out with one hand, coaxing her too him even as people around them broke into scatter applause. "Kitty?" He asked if she was all right by just saying her name and Heero saw the most gentle look in his eyes as Kitty took a small step towards him.
Even in his confusion he still couldn't help the slight swell of jealously in his chest as he watched Duo pull Kitty into his arms. But that was quickly overridden as he caught sight of Kitty's hands shaking and the tears streaming down her face.
The small woman gave a great heave of a sob as she fell into Duo's arms and nearly fell to her knees right then and there. Heero walked over quickly to stand over them as Duo focused all his attention on Kitty.
Heero caught her words even as she sobbed into Duo's neck. "I thought he got you! I thought he got you and you were gone!"
"No Kitty, you saved me." Duo whispered back to her soothingly, "You stopped him, you did a very good thing. You stopped the bad guy."
"But I… I hurt someone again. Didn't I? I hurt him and I locked Ember in the closet!" Heero was amazed that she sounded so surprised.
"Yeah, you did. But somehow, I don't think she's gonna hold it against you." Duo laughed and Heero adrift again. Duo never talked like this with him and the other pilots anymore. He was never around anymore. He had taken all these emotions away and shared them only with these two women now. Heero could only attest that he'd been so distracted trying to figure it out that he missed the man getting a hold of his gun again.
But the movement did catch his eye and he aimed and shot before the man even got the gun aimed properly. Kitty let out a short scream at the sound and Duo cursed, pulling Kitty with him as he turned and put his back to Heero's, his own gun pulled from it's holster at the small of his back.
Both men stayed standing that way until Ember's voice broke through the crowd.
"Kitty!" She yelled, "Duo?" She ran towards them and Heero turned just in time to see Kitty break away from Duo and shove herself into Ember's body. Ember just barely kept her feet as she caught the woman and then the police arrived, sirens wailing and lights blazing.
Heero kept himself glued to Duo's side who in turn stayed close to his two charges and they fought through the next few hours with a great lot of help from witnesses and the convenience store's surveillance cameras. Heero kept a close eye on Kitty, fighting through an internal dilemma. He could feel Duo watching him, waiting him out as Heero thought it through and Heero finally came to a decision as the police started leaving, driving Mr. Kurt Trenton, the shooter, away.
Heero walked over to where Ember had Kitty sitting down on a cement parking block and kneeled in front of her. He could feel both Ember's and Duo's eyes on him, waiting to see if they needed to intervene, if they needed to save Kitty from him. He supposed he couldn't blame them.
"Kitty?" He found scared eyes looking up at him, but behind them was something fierce and Heero now saw that it wasn't insanity that looked out at him, but determination. Determination to do better, to become what Ember and Duo needed. A whole stable person they could depend on as much as she had depended on them. At least, that's how he saw it, and he was really hoping that that was what it was.
"Yes?" She asked back, watching him even as her fingers worked at the edge of her shirt, even as her foot tapped and Ember reached out to quiet it.
"I owe you an apology." Heero told her, watching surprise take over her face. Leaving fear and uncertainty behind.
"No." Kitty insisted, shaking her hear vehemently, almost waving her hands in front of her to emphasize her words. "You don't owe me anything! I ruin lives, it's all my fault you were even outside today instead of at work. This whole thing was my fault I should be locked up, I'm a danger to society!"
Heero felt like her words, which were almost an exact match for his earlier, were a slap in the face. He looked up at Duo in surprise and was only greeted with an 'I told you' glare. Heero felt his shoulders collapse and took a deep breath.
"No, that's wrong. I was wrong. You are doing amazing; Ember and Duo are really helping you. No one could ask more, of any of you." Heero reached out and actually took her hand. He saw Ember almost move to stop him out of the corner of his eye, but he pushed on.
"I'm sorry I was hard on you. I'm sorry I refused to see you like they do."
"But I…" Kitty started to protest but Heero wouldn't let her finish.
"And I know that soon you won't even need to drink anymore. You're stronger than that." Heero smiled at her and Kitty's lip trembled as she nodded for him.
"I have to get back to work now, but I'll be waiting to hear from Duo about how good you're doing." Heero turned to smile up at Duo, he paused as he caught Duo's eyes and found something there that matched the swell in his heart. He gasped for air as he stood, hiding it as he turned to walk back to Preventors.
Kitty's voice stopped him. "Wait."
He turned back to find her standing, taking a step towards him. She stopped as he did and his eyes flicked form her to Ember to Duo behind her. Duo shrugged and Heero looked back at her, startled to see such a vibrant and light green.
"Do you… want to come to Christmas dinner?" Kitty paused and turned around to Ember. "That is… if it's ok?"
Ember smiled and nodded and Kitty turned to him smiling. Heero had never seen her smile. It reminded him of Duo's smile.
"Will you?" She asked, still looking around at all the people around them, but Heero could still remember a time when he'd done that too.
Heero felt himself hesitating, could think of a million excuses, could think of hundreds of reasons why he shouldn't go. But looking up and seeing Duo's hopeful eyes was enough to clear all those thoughts away.
"Yes. I would like to come." Heero answered and was rewarded with twin smiles and Ember cheering from behind Kitty.
"Are you sure we didn't bring too many?" Heero asked as he walked up the front path to Ember's house, he was helping Duo carry the five pies they were bringing.
"Are you kidding, they'll probably ask why we don't have blueberry or lemon meringue." Duo laughed. Heero couldn't help joining him. "Besides, if there's leftovers then that means we get some too."
Heero stopped at the bottom of the stairs, keeping himself off the threshold of the house in front of them. Duo turned when he didn't feel Heero's warmth next to him anymore. He found Heero three feet shorter than him, still down on the front path.
"What's wrong?" Duo asked, feeling his stomach twisting. Heero wasn't going to come in, he was having second thoughts, and he was regretting this.
"Duo." Heero looked up, and Duo couldn't read the expression on his face.
"Yeah?" Duo tried to reign in his panic. He'd gotten Heero here, it was just the first step, but it was an important one, especially if he was going to eventually get the other guys here too. But he really wanted Heero here, wanted to share this with him.
"You know…" Heero paused and then shoved on, not thinking, just letting the words spill out of him. "You know I only did it because she was hurting you, right?"
"Yeah Heero, come on buddy, we've already been over this…" Duo felt something gripping his stomach relax and he smiled in relief.
"Because I love you." Heero's words split the cold night and the silence was deafening to Duo. They stared at each other, which seemed to be the norm these days. Duo almost expected his phone to go off and shatter this moment too, this perfect moment. With the light falling snow glittering in Heero's hair and the dim light from the house casting the glow on the fresh snow.
"You do?" Duo finally asked. Watching Heero's face as he answered, letting the hope he'd always held close free from his arms to dance out across the night.
"Yes. I do. I always have." Heero smiled up at him, loving how uncertain Duo was, how unaware he was of how desirable he was.
"Well that's good." Duo laughed, running down the three steps to pull Heero in close to him. "I thought I was the only one."
Heero laughed and basked in the scent that came off Duo where the slope of his neck turned into shoulder and little hairs tickled him, fighting to be free of his glorious braid. He held Duo close, not caring that they were both close to dropping all the pies, not caring that the cold still bit into them through all the layers they'd put on the stave it off. Not caring that the front door had opened and Ember was yelling at them to come inside.
"I love you." Duo whispered against his ear and Heero felt a shiver run down his body that had nothing to do with the weather.
"Seriously guys! It's warmer in here and we have a spare bedroom if you're that desperate!" Ember yelled at them and Kitty's laughter rang out across the snow.
Heero and Duo broke apart, running up the stairs, laughing and unloading their pies on the women and helping each other out of their winter jackets, boots, and sweaters. Heero ducked in to give Duo a quick kiss and Duo pulled him in when he moved to break away, making it last and smiling into Heero's lips as Ember yelled at them again.
"The mistletoes over here for crying out loud!"
"Awe come on Ember," Kitty laughed and pushed her friend into the kitchen, leaving Duo and Heero on their own, "It's a Christmas Miracle, can't you hear the bells?"