Chapter 1

Once again it was voices that woke him up some hours later. He crawled out of sleep slowly and only with a great appliance of will power. The voices were around the foot of his bed... good lord. Their entrance should have awoken him, but he was too drugged. He found himself hoping suddenly that Duo had been smart enough to get him to a secure hospital, or at least post a competent guard. There were people out there who would give a lot to see a terrorist like him dead. Not many, but enough. Enough to make his current weakness only that much more dangerous.
But the voices were familiar; more familiar than his own voice. Even drugged he recognized the hard tones of Heero Yuy and the gentler, more soothing ones of Quatre Winner, though he couldn't make out what they were saying. He forced his eyes open and blinked a few times to clear the fuzziness from them as he stared silently at the two teenagers hovering at the foot of the bed.
Heero noticed his return to the waking world first. He stopped talking and fixed him with a hard stare. Quatre looked at him curiously for a moment, then turned quickly to Wufei. "Oh- you're awake." The look of worry that had been there a moment ago disappeared, to be hastily replaced by a sunny smile. The look lingered in his blue eyes, however, and Wufei couldn't bear it. He turned his gaze towards Heero instead, finding some odd comfort in the cold, uncaring mask and the blank eyes.
He bit back a scowl. Duo. That idiot must have alerted the others. He hated that they were seeing him like this, broken and helpless. Duo and Quatre's pity he could do without, and almost worse than that was the scorn he knew the remaining two pilots must feel. Taken down by his own clumsiness... He wanted to hide his face in the pillow in shame, but his pride would not allow it. He met Heero's cool gaze stubbornly, adopting his own mask of arrogance. He floundered for something to say.
"Duo called," Quatre said, confirming Wufei's suspicions. "I came as soon as possible. How.. how are you feeling?"
"I'm on practically every drug known to man," Wufei pointed out flatly. "I don't feel anything." That wasn't exactly true. They'd pumped him up with drugs, all right, but that still didn't erase the pain completely. Sleep seemed to be the only real escape. The more he was awake, the higher the pain mounted. His eyes flitted towards Heero again in question.
Heero understood. "I'm here to relieve Duo."
Wufei blinked. He forced his muddled mind to think coherently; it was an effort. So he was under guard. That was something. Though he hadn't thought it would be... of all the people, why them? They were obviously the most qualified, but they had better things to do than watch over him. And Duo had looked exhausted when he'd been there earlier. Had he stayed the whole time? His eyes darted around for a clock. How long had he been out? His internal clock was totally out of sync.
Heero knew him just well enough-- they were alike in this way --to understand Wufei's confusion. "Duo went home to rest. Trowa will go with him later to finish off whatever resistance is left from your mission." Wufei winced. He even had to have other people clean up his mess. He wondered desperately when he would open his eyes and awaken from this nightmare. "He asked me to watch you," Heero was going on, voice still clipped and uncaring. "Relena seemed to think this was important enough to let me take this over as a temporary duty. The other house guards are competent enough to watch her while I'm gone."
It took a moment for this information to work its way through Wufei's foggy mind. When he understood, he had to keep himself from sitting up. He settled for a dark scowl instead. "I don't need charity, and I don't need a nursemaid," he snarled.
"Wufei, you can't be serious," Quatre protested. "You know as well as we do that it's not safe for you right now. You're vulnerable. There are people with grudges against us. They'll jump at the chance to take you out."
Vulnerable. Wufei supressed a wince, directing his glare towards Quatre. The empath flinched back, an apology flickering in his eyes.
"This isn't up for discussion," Heero stated bluntly. "Until you recover, there will be a guard outside your door."
"Then get a cop," Wufei snapped acidly.
Quatre's expression shifted into something more calm and serious. "Do you really think we would risk that?" he asked softly. "You know the kind of people that are after you. A normal officer would have little chance at keeping you safe if they attacked. They wouldn't know what to look for or expect."
Quatre, of course, was right, but Wufei's temper was only getting worse. "Do you have any idea how long it will be before I'm allowed out of this bed??" Wufei barked, even as the acknowledgement of that stung something fierce. "Before I can even be in a wheelchair, much less attempt physical therapy? The four of you have better things to do than--"
"We'll discuss this later," Heero interrupted stonily. "When you're not so excited."
Something in Wufei snapped, and this time he did try to sit up. "I'm not excited, Yuy, you rock-faced idiot! You-" He lapsed into a round of fierce Chinese at the top of his lungs. Heero took it all in silence, face expressionless, while Quatre tried to push him back down, shouting at him desperately until the nurse came. Wufei finally allowed them to push him onto his back, glaring at the wall in furious silence. His explosion wasn't really aimed at Heero. It was aimed inwardly. He'd gotten himself into this. Now he was almost beyond repair. He would be trapped in this hospital for months, useless and weak, and the thought of it made him sick to his stomach.
The nurse was speaking angrily to his visitors. Quatre was trying to calm her, and Heero had obviously decided the conversation was over. He exited the room without a backwards glance. Wufei caught a glimpse of him seating himself at a chair outside before the door swung shut firmly.


Moonlight spilling through the window.
Odd shadows on the wall.
It must be night time. Wufei blinked groggily-- when had he fallen asleep? --and turned his head to check the room. He was alone. There was a plate of hospital food on the desk by the bed; he must have slept through dinner. He stared dully at the little plastic cup of jello, foil cover peeled back, the bowl of broth, and the cup of something that smelled sweet and was an orangy color. Liquid diet. Lovely. He turned his head away. He didn't think he could stomach food right now.
Curse these drugs, they slowed down everything: instincts, thought process.. everything important. He turned a now-suspicious glare on the food. Why was his jello...? Oh. Of course.
Trust Yuy the Paranoid to check his food for poison.
He snorted, then winced as his ribs complained. That small twinge of pain seemed to awaken other parts of his body, and he gritted his teeth as feeling slowly began to ebb throughout his arm and legs. It wasn't horrible-- he could handle it. But not for too long. Not without more drugs or sleep, anyway. He focused on ignoring the pain and reached with his good hand for the bag on the table next to the food. He pulled it onto the bed and rummaged inside with a feeling of wary resignation. Someone-- Duo or Quatre, most likely --had brought him something to do.
He pulled out a few magazines and stared at them dully. One on mechanics, another on technology, and a puzzle book. He dropped them back into the bag with a small sneer and pulled out the last item.
He stared at the object in his hands for a long moment. It was a jade dragon, big as his hand. A family heirloom he'd gotten from his grandfather. He'd kept it stowed safely in Shenlong during the war, and it had roosted on the dresser in his room-- his one and only decoration in his tiny apartment, aside from his sword rack --for the past year. Heero had been the only one to have ever seen it; he was the only one who'd ever been in Wufei's apartment, and that had only been twice, to help him with the more technical dealings of a mission. He must have suggested that Duo bring it. Unusually thoughtful for the perfect soldier.
Wufei set the dragon carefully on the table and gazed at it for another minute or two before dropping the bag onto the floor by his bed. He shifted a little, wincing as he tried to find a different position. It quickly became obvious that lying on his back was the only position he was capable of. His casted legs were up in stirrups, his broken arm across his chest, making it impossible for him to roll onto his side. He offered the ceiling a soundless snarl of frustration, then rolled his head to the side, closing his eyes in defeat. Nothing to do but sleep and read those stupid magazines. He was going to go mad.
A frown creased his brow. Was he imagining things, or was his pillow bumpier-- and harder --than it had been earlier? He reached under the pillow, and his hand wrapped around something solid. He started to pull it out, and belatedly spotted the security camera in the corner. Frown deepening in curiosity, he ran his fingers along the length of the thing, using the sensitive pads of his fingers to determine what it was.
A knife.
He withdrew his hand, shaking his head in a mix of disbelief and... Feh. He should have known. How the hell had they managed to smuggle a weapon into his room? And get it under his pillow without him waking up?
Damn drugs.
He reached under the pillow again with a sudden suspicion, raking his fingernails down the hilt. His nails caught on the carved letters in the handle, and he gave a little huff of acknowledgement. Duo. Of course. Who else would be sneaky enough to get the knife into the hospital and his room, then slide it under his pillow without disturbing him? It was the same knife he carried on his person at all times, his little "backup buddy", as he'd called it. He ran the tips of his fingers down the carved words once more, reading it like brail.
He dragged his arm out and draped it over his head instead, staring up at the ceiling. He knew that knife; he'd seen it at least a dozen times. 'Death', Duo had called it affectionately. It was six inches long, sharp as a razor blade on one side, serated on the other. A killer's knife. An illegal weapon, for that matter, just like the butterfly knife Duo kept in his back pocket whenever he wore pants too short or tight to hide the ankle sheath he kept 'Death' in. He was a little surprised that Duo had chosen to give it to him. Oh, he understood why. What Quatre had said earlier was true enough. There were plenty of people that would love to see most of them dead, and he now presented a tempting target. Guard or no guard, Wufei felt better with a weapon close at hand. But Duo could have just as easily snuck in a small gun, or some other knife. This knife had been with Duo as long-- if not longer --as Wufei had had his dragon.
Wufei closed his eyes in grumpy resignation. They were serious about this. The idiots were going to watch over him until he recovered, and there was nothing he could say that would scare them off.
He would have to wait until they grew restless or disgusted with his uselessness and returned to their own missions. The dark thing in his mind tried to bully its way to the front of his consciousness, but he shied away from it. He closed his eyes and let sleep take over.


The light hurt his eyes and made his headache worse than it had already been, so the nurses were kind enough to draw heavy drapes across the window. It blocked out his view of the city, narrowing his world down to the hospital room, but it kept the headaches bearable.
Because he slept so often, and with the absence of a moon or sun, days and nights bled into each other until Wufei quickly lost track. He would awaken, unsure how long he'd been out, or even if it was morning or the middle of the night. He found he no longer cared. He managed to avoid talking to anyone by feigning sleep whenever he heard a step in the doorway. Even Duo, when he came by for another shift-- hmm, that must mean a few days had passed --tactfully left him alone. He ignored the magazines, spending his waking hours staring up at the ceiling or gazing into the tiny jade eyes of the dragon on his desk. The pain was constant, and the darkness in his mind-- the denial, the horror, the ashamed fury --roiled and fought for attention. He slept more and more often, and ignored the unsavory looking food he always found by his bed upon waking.
Everything was like a surreal dream. Sometimes he would realize, after staring at the ceiling for an hour or more, that he was unsure if he was awake or asleep. Then he would recognize the pain in his broken body and slip into slumber.
The lack of nourishment helped him sleep. His body was weak with drugs and lack of food, and he continued to skip meals in favor of the sleep it brought him. He should have known he couldn't get away with it.

Someone was staring at him.
He knew this because he had been awake long enough to hear someone enter the room, though he kept his eyes closed and his breathing steady. Usually this succeeded in making the visitor leave, but not this time. He was beginning to be annoyed.
"I know you're awake." The voice was inflectionless and familiar.
Wufei opened his eyes to glare at the man seated next to his bed. "Barton. I'm trying to sleep."
Trowa remained still, hands clasped on his knees as he gazed solemnly at his bedridden comrade. "Wake up. You're going to eat something. The nurse has informed me that you haven't eaten since they brought you in. That was almost six days ago."
Wufei managed a scowl. "I'm not hungry."
Trowa simply looked at him for a long moment, then slowly leaned forward so his face was inches from Wufei's. His tone remained steady, his face its normal expressionless mask, but there was a hint of steel to his emerald eyes. "You're going to eat, Chang, if I have to force-feed you."
Wufei gaped at him.
"Now pick up that tray and eat." Trowa leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, staring the other boy down.
Wufei sneered, but Trowa was as about as flexible as gundanium. He stared Wufei down until he couldn't stand the tension anymore. Giving in with bad grace, Wufei retrieved the tray from the desk and sullenly forced half the disgusting broth and jello into his stomach.
"All of it," Trowa intoned when Wufei made as if to put his spoon down.
"I'm not a baby, Barton-" Wufei started to growl.
"Then stop acting like one," Trowa interrupted mercilessly. "It's a liquid diet, Wufei. If you're going to be stubborn, we can always inject it through an IV. Now eat."
This was the most menacing he'd seen Trowa since the end of the war, so with a muttered curse, Wufei did as he'd been ordered. When he was finished, Trowa took the tray from him and rose to his feet. "That's from Sally," he said, nodding towards the end of the bed. Without another word, he turned and left the room.
Wufei glared at the stuffed giraffe at the end of his bed as if he could kill it by sheer will power alone. When it failed to run screaming or burst into flames, he turned his head to the side and slipped out of the waking world.

A twisting, insistant pain in his stomach woke him up some time later.
Before, hunger pangs had been easy to ignore with the rest of the pain in his body. But after the meal Trowa had practically forced down him, his body was demanding more. He tried to ignore it, but a particuarly loud grumble from his stomach settled it. He opened his eyes and checked to see if there was another tray on the table. No. He must have eaten just a few hours ago, then. His stomach gurgled. A liquid diet wasn't going to keep him full long. He could always ring the bell for the nurse and have her fetch something, but he loathed the thought of this one more thing he had to depend on others for. Bad enough that he had to allow the nurses to monitor him and sponge-bathe him, and guard duty was currently being pulled by four ex-pilots who could be using their skills for the greater good instead of sitting outside his room like immovable rocks.
Now that he was awake, and unable to go back to sleep, thanks to his cursed stomach, he found himself getting bored quickly. He was slightly more alert than usual, now that he'd gotten some food. He glanced around for something to do, something to distract the eyes, but the walls were white and bare, and he'd memorized every inch of his jade dragon by now. He remembered the magazines Duo and Quatre had dropped off, and tried to lean over a little to see if they were still on the floor.
He could just barely see the bag; it had fallen between the bed and the desk. He reached down with his good arm, but it was out of reach. He shifted, trying to scoot closer to the edge of the bed, but only earned a sharp pain in his legs from moving them about in their harnesses. He hissed at the pain, and quickly stopped all movement until it had passed. Stubborn frustration took over common sense, and he tried moving again, this time attempting to manuever just his torso.
Slowly he inched his shoulders closer to the edge of the bed, managing to keep his legs immobile, his casted arm held firmly to his chest. Just.. a little.... more... He strained, reaching down for the bag. His fingertips brushed it. He scooted over a little more. Almost... He snagged a finger in the handle of the bag and allowed himself a tiny smirk of victory. It was the most 'exercise' he'd had since he'd come to this damned place. Perhaps the puzzle book wouldn't be such a trite thing, after all. If it was a good one, it would help keep his mind sharp...
He tugged at the bag. It came up a few inches, then stopped. A corner was caught in the lip of the desk. Scowling, Wufei leaned over a little more. His left shoulder was now almost completely off the bed, his head dangerously close to the desk. He tugged again, harder. The bag jiggled around, but held firm. Impatient, he yanked at it hard.
The sudden movement tipped his already precarious balance. He made a short noise of surprise as he felt his body sliding. His heart leapt up into his throat in sudden panic, and he released the bag, clawing frantically for the desk edge to stop his head-long fall.
Too little, too late. His legs jolted in their harnesses, one of them slipping free and landing with a thump on the bed. The pain shot through his body, wrenching a cry from his lips. His shoulder knocked into the desk an instant later, jarring it. The little jade dragon teetered and fell over, and-- crack! --Wufei struck the side of the desk with his head. Pain blossomed, and for a moment he saw stars.
Hard hands were suddenly on his shoulders, yanking him away from the edge and pulling him back into the middle of the bed. Swimming in waves of red-tinged pain, Wufei could barely make out the face above him.
"Wufei," Trowa's voice was sharp and urgent. The face turned away, Trowa called for the nurse... Gods it hurt... Wufei closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, breathing hard through his nose. He would have felt very stupid if he hadn't been so busy fighting off another noise of pain.
The nurse came hurrying in quickly, babbling questions.
Trowa cut her off. "Morphine," he snapped. "Now."
She hesitated, dithering, then hustled back out. Wufei forced his eyes open and tried to focus on the face hovering over his. "Hold still," Trowa said firmly. He released Wufei's shoulders and moved to the end of the bed. "This might hurt a little," he warned. He picked up the leg that had slipped free and carefully manuevered it back into the stirrup.
A shout of agony sprung free before Wufei could stop it, though he managed to strangle off the end of it. Trowa was back at his side in an instant, the faintest hint of concern to his eyes and mouth. "Wufei?"
"Good lord, are you trying to kill him or something?"
Duo's voice in the doorway was loud and unwanted. Wufei squeezed his eyes shut-- ouch, wrong idea. His head throbbed in protest.
"Duo..." Trowa turned as the braided boy came striding into the room, wide eyes on Wufei.
"Damn, 'Fei, you been here less than a week and you're already doing escape attempts?"
"Maxwell..." Wufei snarled, though his head hurt too much to think of any threat colorful enough to run off the other boy. He really did not need Duo's overly loud voice with his current headache.
"He fell," Trowa murmured, still eyeing Duo curiously. "What are you doing here? I thought Quatre was my relief."
"Yeah, but he just got a call from his office. One of the accountants there threatened to kill the janitor. Sounded damn serious about it, which is.. well, weird. I mean, what the hell could a janitor do to piss someone off that much? Back up all the toilets?"
"Anyway, he'll swing by later and take over. I'm just here until he fixes that."
Wufei blinked a few times. The haze was lifting just enough for him to make some sense of what Duo was implying. "L4," he said, his voice weaker than he would have liked.
Two sets of eyes swung his way, one blank, the other curious.
"Huh?" Duo asked intelligently.
"I'm on... L4." Wufei closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on not concentrating on the pain.
"Yeah.." Duo scratched his nose. "Didn't you know, buddy? Well, you have been pretty out of it. This hospital is funded by the Winner Corporation. In other words, Quatre. We figured it was the safest place. Earth is a little, er, too rowdy right now for you. Turns out we pissed off a lot of people in that last little raid. Guess the guys running that operation had their sticky little fingers in all sorts of pots we weren't even aware of."
"Duo." Trowa cut off the ramble shortly.
Just then the nurse came bustling in, so Duo kept his mouth shut and stepped aside to let her do her job. As she injected the morphine into his arm, Wufei suppressed a sigh of relief.
"Get out, give him some room," the nurse ordered sternly. "Let him get some rest. As for you..." she turned a stern glare on Wufei, who, having been submitted to Heero's own dark glares, was suitably unimpressed. "You stop trying to move around. Let your body heal in its own time. You'll only make things worse if you move like that."
Wufei closed his eyes to indicate the conversation was over.
With a huff, the nurse shooed the other two boys out of the room and followed, shutting the door firmly behind herself.
Wufei lay with teeth clenched and breathing quick, waiting for the medication to kick in and make living bearable again.

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