- The Twenty-Second Encounter -
To say that my Christmas Day was utter hell would be
like saying that Antarctica was cold – both totally
and completely true and obvious understatements.
After Solo left and I drank profoundly more alcohol
than I should have, I woke up to nasty, evil Christmas
elves hammering away inside of my skull singing merry
songs which I later discovered to be the television
that I had left on all night. Shortly thereafter was
the hangover, the serious depression about the
situation with my brother and the need to drown myself
yet again in the nefarious fire water.
That was the extent of my Christmas. Of course, I
called my brother several times on his cell and his
land line, begging, pleading, whining for him to just
let me know that he had made it back home in one
piece. He never did pick up and so I left him
messages, many messages.
I just wanted to know that he wasn’t dead or arrested,
but I suppose my sin of having a boyfriend was too
great in Solo’s eyes for him to deign to tell me of
his well being. Why was I being so paranoid about
Solo’s health and legal status? Because I staggered
down to the garage of my apartment to arrange for
towing his car back to his home when I discovered that
it was not there. Yeah, my brother drove off after
our drinking screamfest.
Neither of us acted very intelligently, but I suppose
that since we were so damned messed up, it should be
Anyway, back to my crappy ass Christmas.. I did not
believe my Christmas could have been any worse than
back when I was fourteen and I lit the Christmas tree
on fire by sneaking a smoke underneath it, but no,
this one beat that one by a long shot. At least back
then, my brother stood up for me and tried to lie to
our dad about how it was he who had smoked, not me.
He had my back then.
Who has it now?
To make matters worse, none of my friends were
available for a talk or a rant. They were all off
with their respective families, carving the goose,
opening gifts and drinking of the nog. There was no
way that I was going to intrude upon their happy
gatherings to sniffle about my ugly situation. I am a
better person than that. But couldn’t any of them
have thought of me and called me instead?
And true to form, Heero had gone off with Relena and
her family for his torture fest. I wanted to call him
all day, just to say something, anything, hear his
damned voice for some comfort, but I knew that it
would be awkward for him if I had. I did not want to
add to his misery with my own.
Although, I must admit, it rather peeved me that he
did not call me at all. Heero had been at the dinner
and probably could have guessed the magnitude of
wrongness that would be perpetrated the moment he
left. He knew me, damn it, and knew what telling my
brother entailed. He could have at least shown some
semblance of concern and called me, even if only for a
moment, to make sure I had not ended up in a hospital
or in the morgue.
So, there it is, my Christmas in a nutshell.
Depression, self pity, bitter anger and complete
inability to deal.
I had never been so glad to be back at work the next
Since drinking would have driven me to the point of
insanity, I chose to drive myself into my work as it
was my only saving grace. Despite the fact that none
of my psychosis was any fault of my friends or even
Heero’s, I was too irrationally angry at them for not
bothering to contact me during Christmas to answer
their calls. My secretary was left to fend them off
with various versions of ‘Mr. Maxwell is in a meeting’
the entire day while I immersed myself deeper and
deeper into other people’s problems.
I stayed at my office well past midnight and when I
finally got home, I felt tired enough to drift off
into sleep immediately. I didn’t bother checking for
messages as I usually did, ignoring the possibility
that my friends and Heero were worried for me. I was
still angry, at them, at me, at Solo. More than that,
there was this bone deep depression that just.. well,
I stopped caring.
This went on until New Year’s Eve and would have
continued if my friends were not the persistent
bastards that they are.
Around ten in the evening on New Year’s Eve, I dragged
my exhausted self out of the office, lugging my
briefcase as if it weighed a ton into the busy streets
filled with revelers. People were laughing, running
off to some party or another, exuding this sense of
happiness and joyousness that contrasted too sharply
with my depressed, angry mood. They annoyed me
greatly with their sheer exuberance for life, rubbing
the fact that I was miserable into my face without
even noticing. I almost gave into the urge to swear
at all of them and drop them like flies with a
It was during this sad and bitter trudge home when I
was accosted by an angry blond who dragged me into a
shiny, red car.
For a moment, there was a thick silence as I sat in
the passenger side with a sullen grimace on my face.
Quatre had scrambled into the driver’s side as soon as
he had shoved me head first into the car, almost as if
he was afraid that I would bolt if he was not watching
closely. I might have, had I the energy.
I sat and waited for Quatre to get his breathing and
the nervous tick by his right eye under control. I
knew that I was in for a serious lecture, most likely
involving many profanities and slurs about my
personality, but I could not bring myself to be
grateful for his intervention. After all, where had
he been when I had been at my lowest?
“You,” he finally said, his voice nearly shaking with
the force of his worried anger, “what the hell is
wrong with you?”
Well, if that isn’t a very bad beginning to a
conversation, I don’t know what is.
“Quat..” I said quietly, hoping to forestall the flood
of words that Quatre was about to bestow upon me. I
just was not in the mood to hear anything, whether
they be helpful or hurtful. I had finally gotten to a
point where the rage and the depression had reached a
numbing level. I could not, would not let Quatre make
me feel the sharp pain again.
For a while, Quatre just stared at me. He must have
seen how dull and dead I looked, heard the lack of
anything resembling life in my monosyllabic reply. I
did not look at him, preferring to examine my shoes.
I heard noises of people walking by the car, vaguely
saw the lights from the happily lit storefronts
gleaming on the windshield, but I refused to look at
“What happened? Why haven’t you called? Oh hell, why
haven’t you answered?”
I shrug indifferently to his queries, knowing that it
would irritate him. What could I really say at this
point anyway? He could not help me now.
“Did..” Quatre trailed off a bit, his face becoming
apprehensive, “did you really tell Solo?”
“Yep.” I said, pronouncing each letter of that short
word with exaggerated emphasis. I did not want to
talk of this right now. I just wanted to be left
alone so I could wallow in the absolute misery that
was my life.
“It didn’t go well.”
He said it like a statement rather than a question,
tacitly conveying to me that he understood how I felt.
Maybe he did since Quatre had gone through an ordeal
much like mine with his family a while back, but does
that make me feel better? Not at all.
“It went.. like a train wreck. A really big,
chemical laden train wreck.”
Unfortunately, Quatre did not laugh at my attempt at
being humorous in the face of something terrible like
losing my brother. Instead, his face filled with a
silent sympathy, his eyes brimming over with concern
“Don’t fucking look at me like that!” I screamed,
finally turning my eyes fully to his sorrowful face,
“Stop it! Why the hell do you care now anyway, huh?
Where the fuck were you when I needed you? Having a
fucking good time with your understanding family and
your goddamned lover, right?”
When I realized just what I had said to Quatre, it was
already too late to take those awful words back. I
have been told that I had a tendency to speak before
thinking when I got angry and I proved that right just
then. In all my years being friends with Quatre, I
had never, ever said anything so ugly or so unfair.
But damn it, right along side of feeling the
tremendous guilt and disgust at what I said was a sick
kind of satisfaction for making Quatre feel almost as
bad as I felt.
I guess I’m not such a nice guy after all.
The silence was nearly deafening, the echo of my ugly
words just barely fading in the car when I decided
that I had done enough damage. With a shake of my
head and a mumbled half hearted apology, I reached for
the door handle with every intention of running to my
apartment, locking the door and staying in until
Armageddon day. Unfortunately, at that exact time,
Quatre started up the car and put it into gear,
lurching into sudden motion.
“Damn it, Quat,” I yelled, panic clawing its way up my
throat, “I almost had the door open! You could have
just killed me there.”
“Well, I didn’t, did I? So shut your trap and listen
Now, that was rather blunt, don’t you think?
“Look, Duo,” Quatre began as he started maneuvering
like a madman between pedestrians and rampant traffic,
“I know how you feel. Maybe not exactly, but pretty
damned close. It’s never easy having your family
resent you for your choice in life, but you can’t just
wallow in depression for the rest of your days, okay?”
“Why not? Solo hates me. He said he didn’t know me.”
I felt perilously close to tears after I said it out
loud. I kept remembering that look of horror and
disbelief on Solo’s face as he walked out of my
apartment, maybe my life. It was a look that I had
never expected to see from anyone, least of all from
my brother. Couldn’t Quatre see that it was killing
me to talk about it, to look back on what had happened
only a few days ago?
“I know you hurt, Duo,” he continued after a short
silence, “but you can’t ignore your friends or Heero.
We want to help you, be there for you. Did you know
Heero was worried when you didn’t call him during
Christmas? Or how frantic he was when you didn’t
answer any phone calls? He called me and Trowa to see
if you were still alive.”
Yes, Quatre, since it would seem that I was not nearly
depressed enough, why not burden me with tons of guilt
so I could feel immensely worse about the whole
“Not to mention, we were all worried too. Wufei and
Meiran almost charged your office yesterday, you know?
They were ready to chain themselves to the door of
your office until you talked to them. Trowa and I
stopped them, of course, since we didn’t want to see
them in jail and we figured you still needed time.”
I shifted in the seat, slightly uncomfortable with the
level of guilt Quatre was laying on me. Maybe I could
have shuffled out of my deep depression long enough to
keep my friends from being crazy with worry. Maybe I
could have called them at some point to at least let
them know what had happened and how I was feeling.
Oh hell, so I’ve been a first class bastard, but
didn’t I have a right to be?
“Anyway,” Quatre blithely continued, “we all decided
that today was the day we rescue you from your self
imposed depression. It’s New Year’s Eve, a day when
the old gets swept away and the new comes in. If
anything, today is the day for resolutions and
Then the car comes to an abrupt halt, the brakes
screeching and my body going lurching forward towards
the dash. With anyone else, I would have been worried
at the sudden stop, thinking that perhaps the driver
ran something or someone over. With Quatre, I knew
that he was just parking so there was no danger. At
least, that was what I thought until I looked up and
saw not my apartment, but Wufei and Meiran’s house.
“Oh no,” I say, scrabbling madly out of the car, “I am
not getting yelled at by the rest of you tonight! I’m
fucking going home.”
I had this brilliant plan of getting out of the car
and somehow running about twelve miles back to my
apartment in my dress shoes and suit, but that plan
was debunked when Trowa and Wufei latched onto my arms
as soon as I made the exit out of the car. They held
on to me as if I would put up a struggle, which I
might have had I not been so shell socked, and
literally dragged my sorry ass into the house.
I swear, this could have qualified as a kidnapping.
When they had pushed me onto the couch with a glass of
bubbly in my hands, they finally relaxed enough to put
some distance between me and their vulnerable body
parts. I glared at them all ferociously, cursing in a
low voice about the whole damned situation and their
stubborn love for me.
Eventually, however, all the pressures of the last few
days caught up with me, from the terrible good bye
with my brother to the depression that had weighed me
down. In the face of such unbreakable friendship and
love, even I could not put up a decent fight.
I ended up telling them everything that had happened,
my feelings about the whole situation and then..
I felt better.
Wonders never cease.
It warmed my heart to see Quatre sympathize with me,
to hear him tell me how it would be okay. He didn’t
know that and frankly I did not believe him, but I
felt better hearing him tell me that in such a
reassuring voice. Trowa’s silent smile and
encouraging pats to the shoulder did not feel
patronizing and Wufei’s indignant stance against Solo
for making me feel miserable was well received. Not
that I wanted him to hate my brother, gods no, but it
was nice knowing that someone was upset on my behalf.
I sound so damned strange, don’t I?
I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but I was
feeling like myself again. The depression had
retreated and I felt that I could somehow face the
world without burying my fool head into work. These
guys would be there for me and I knew that with them
so solidly behind me, I could face Solo’s disdainful
wrath and somehow make it right again.
Damn it all, I was done whimpering about my life.
“Look everyone,” Meiran cheerfully announced, “it’s
only five minutes til midnight! Everyone find a
As predicted, Meiran latched onto Wufei with a grip
that jaws of life could not have removed and Quatre
and Trowa moved nearer to each other. I instinctively
reached out for Heero when I realized that he wasn’t
I got up, sloshing champagne all over my lap as I
searched around my pockets for my cell phone. Now
that I was feeling human again, I wanted to call
Heero, apologize, get him over to Wufei’s, and kiss
him on the dot of midnight. And I only had five
minutes to do it all.
My friends watched me with a bit of humor in their
eyes as I waited for Heero to pick up the phone. I do
not want to know what my face looked like when he
picked up. I have some sense of dignity left, you
“Heero!” I began rather breathlessly, “it’s New Year’s
Eve, I’m sorry I’ve been a jackhole about the not
calling, even sorrier for making you worry like crazy,
I want to kiss you in five minutes, where are you?”
Well, let’s take stock of my fast paced babble. I
apologized, not once but twice. I admitted I wanted
to kiss him. Not too bad.
Unfortunately, the silence on the other end made me
think that perhaps my babble wasn’t as good as I
thought it had been.
“Uh, Heero?” I ventured again, vaguely disconcerted
by the lack of response, “you okay? I.. I’ll
apologize more when you get to Wufei’s, if you want..
ummm.. I.. I missed you, and I want to spend the
first day of the new year with you.. because I love
you.. you still love me, don’t you?”
And still, the silence. Me, panic? God forbid.
My friends are looking at me worriedly while the
people on the television begin counting down from
fifty nine. It was almost time, damn it. If I wasn’t
going to kiss him as the first thing in the new year,
the least I wanted was him to tell me that he wasn’t
angry and that he still loved me.
“Heero?” I say once again, knowing that I sound
really dejected, but unable to help it. The countdown
continues on television and I feel as if they are
counting until the end of my relationship.
There was a slight noise on the other end, kind of
like an indrawn breath. I tense up, waiting for the
words. Would they be ‘I love you, too’ or ‘I’m mad as
hell at you’ or what?
“Who the hell do you think you are?”
Well, out of all the things I thought I’d hear, that
had not been one of them. Wait, rewind.
That voice.. wasn’t Heero.
It was a woman.
Oh dear god.