Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, violence, language,
"I can't understand it," Duo said, scratching his head as they waited for Quatre to finish speaking to the millionth delegate at the party. "Why would Commander Brigand ask me whether I really wanted a career in Preventers?"
Trowa hid behind his bang, smiling. "Sounds like he was questioning your dedication."
"What a dumb ass thing to do," Duo snorted. "Everybody knows that Preventers is the way I want to go."
"Maybe, our recent activities made him doubt that?" Trowa suggested.
"Oh, yeah," Duo chuckled, but then shrugged. "But that wasn't out of the ordinary for me."
"No, it wasn't," Trowa agreed.
Quatre finished and they followed him towards the elevator that led down to the parking garage, passing Preventers stationed at every point in the room. As they neared Heero, Trowa said, "Have fun."
Duo rolled eyes at him."Yeah, lots of fun. I'm dancing in a mine field later, too, so you know my whole evening is just gonna be a non stop riot."
"It's all for the cause," Trowa snickered.
"Your cause," Duo retorted.
"If you'd rather not?" Trowa growled back.
"You know I always got your back, buddy," Duo replied. He squared his shoulders. "Wish me luck and say a few Hail Marys for me."
"It won't be that bad," Trowa assured him.
Duo frowned. "You know something?"
Trowa smiled, "Maybe, I do."
"Okay, mystery man," Duo said as he veered away towards Heero. "It's your game, now."
Duo approached Heero, rubbing at his forehead and walking unsteadily. Trowa couldn't hear what he was saying, but Heero's frown, as he looked down at him, was clearly concerned. As Duo did his fainting act, and he and Quatre were going down in an elevator, he thought he was beginning to think that it wasn't just Duo who was afraid of admitting his feelings.
"This car," Trowa said as he chose a nondescript blue sedan in the parking garage.
Quatre, weary beyond thinking clearly, only nodded, without comment, and slid into the back when Trowa opened the door. There was security there as well, but they all knew and respected Trowa. They would report his movements, his deviation from using the limo, before acting, but that would give him just enough time to slip out of the garage and away into traffic.
"Why don't you take a nap?" Trowa suggested as he pulled out of the parking space and drove quickly out of the garage.
Quatre only nodded, bruised eyes already looking heavy and ready to fall closed. He leaned against the door of the car and muttered, "Where's Duo?"
"He wasn't feeling well," Trowa replied. "Those headaches again."
"He should get that looked at," Quatre said around a yawn. "He needs to have some downtime and some rest, I think."
"So do you," Trowa replied.
"No time," Quatre said around another yawn. "Too much to do."
"Well, you don't have anything to do, between here and your apartment," Trowa told him. "Sleep."
"Oookyyy," Quatre slurred and he was asleep as quickly as that, going lax and breathing evenly.
Trowa smiled, as he glanced at him in the rear view mirror, and then he was racing through traffic and taking a road out of the city. Hopefully, he wouldn't lose his position with Preventers, by kidnapping Quatre Winner, but that position wasn't as important as the young man sleeping in the back seat.
"You owe me!" Duo snarled.
Trowa snickered as he made eggs and bacon on the lodge stove and cradled the cell phone between his ear and shoulder. "Okay, I owe you. It's not that bad, though, is it?"
"He put me in the damned hospital!" Duo shouted back. "I've had so many samples removed from my body, that I'm not sure I'm me anymore! I've had every inch of my body cat scanned, and I have three bags of something attached to my wrist by big damned needles. They won't even tell me what they are!"
"Maybe you'll find out what's causing your headaches, then?" Trowa replied as he watched a confused and sleepy Quatre come into the kitchen, look at him blearily, and then sit at the small table and chairs by the stove. He was wearing Trowa's oversize pajamas, and he looked far too young to be the important man that he was.
"You're causing my headaches!" Duo shouted.
Trowa placed the food onto plates and replied, "Look, Duo, think about it. Heero put you in a hospital. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"It means that he hates my guts!" Duo replied.
"Dumb ass!" Trowa growled as he leaned to put a plate of food in front of Quatre. Quatre's big, blue eyes were frowning, now. Trowa gave him a smile as he changed his cell phone to the opposite ear. "Is Heero there, at the hospital, with you?"
"Uh.... yeah. The guy's wanting a report almost on the hour," Duo replied.
"And that means...?" Trowa prompted in exasperation.
"He likes to watch them torture me?" Duo tried.
"You are a dumb ass," Trowa sighed, but then asked, "What about the search for Quatre?"
"There isn't any," Duo told him, angry again. "Everyone says that Quatre went away, with trusted people, to get away from the press, and his duties. So, you see, my sacrifice was for SHIT!!!"
Trowa looked around at Quatre, but Quatre was concentrating on eating.
"I'll talk to you later," Trowa told Duo.
"You owe me, big time!" Duo snarled.
"How about this for payment?" Trowa replied, mind only half on the man on his cell phone. "Heero loves you, and that's why he forgot about everything, to race you to the hospital That's why he hasn't left your side. Are we good now?"
There was a long silence and then Duo replied in a small voice, "We're good."
Trowa closed his cell and pocketed it into his pajama bottoms. He wasn't wearing the top. When he sat with his food, joining Quatre, Quatre glanced up and then blushed as he concentrated on his food again.
"Your intentions were good ones," Quatre finally said and then, "I used the car cell to call off the manhunt."
Trowa hadn't known that there was a cell there. "I forgot that Duo likes gadgets."
"That was Duo's car?" Quatre smiled faintly.
"One of them. He likes fixing them up," Trowa replied.
"He must be a good friend. to lend you one," Quatre said.
"He's OUR good friend," Trowa reminded him. "He was just as concerned as I was that you were working yourself to death."
"Where are we?" Quatre asked, sidestepping that particular confrontation.
"The mountains," Trowa replied. "Far from anything that might disturb you. All you have to do is sleep and watch the birds on the porch."
"For how long?" Quatre wondered.
"As long as it takes," Trowa replied firmly.
"Against my will?" Quatre wondered defensively.
Trowa frowned and then shrugged. "I'm hoping not."
"What will happen to all of the people who depend on me?" Quatre demanded and his eyes were no longer young. They were hard and edged in bitterness. "Will you answer to them?"
Trowa met that gaze unflinchingly. "Do you know what your problem is?"
Quatre blinked, startled, "What?"
"You're just like Duo," Trowa replied. "You can't see what's right in front of you."
"What can't I see?" Quatre demanded, temper rising. "Am I missing the destruction of war? Am I missing the homeless? Am I missing the hungry?"
"You're missing all of the people who want to help, too," Trowa replied harshly. "You're too pig headed to see that you can't do it all, and that there are many capable people ready and willing to take up the work. "
Quatre rubbed a hand over his face and bowed his head.
"Stop atoning for the war, Quatre," Trowa begged. "No one is demanding your life's blood."
Quatre was silent and then the sobs started. Trowa had the man in his arms, before he could reconsider and think about pride.
"I just want to rest," Quatre said, his words barely understandable. "I feel so guilty, though..."
"Let it go," Trowa urged. "Let them go on without you, just for now. Trust them."
"I... I'll try," Quatre promised.
"What are we doing here?" Quatre whispered. "Is there trouble? Who are we hiding from?"
"Shhhh," Trowa replied and pointed ahead of them to where the rising sun was just touching the mist over a meadow. Flat on their bellies, in dew damp grass, it was chilly. Getting Quatre to follow him there, without much explanation, told Trowa how much the man trusted him.
The deer slowly crept out of the forest, and began grazing, alert and nervous. A buck, with a large rack of antlers, called to the darkness. Another male, somewhere, responded in challenge. Spotted fawns swished tails and began to play, oblivious to any danger.
"Beautiful," Quatre breathed, his face hardly to be seen in the darkness of the ferns and high grass.
It grew even more beautiful as the sun slowly rose and cut through the mist and the trees. It filled the forest and the clearing with yellow light. The deer left, but foxes came out to play among butterflies and wild flowers. A hawk flew low overhead, streaking past their position, and intent on something in the forest.
The grass dried and warmed. The foxes disappeared and the meadow was left to the butterflies. Quatre rolled onto his back, smiling, and shading his eyes against the sunlight. Blue skies, and white clouds drifted by as he said, "Thank you."
Propped on one hand, and facing Quatre, Trowa smiled at the way that the light played on his golden hair. So many chances to see him, during the war, in good times and bad, and Trowa had never had the luxury to simply enjoy the sight. The smell of flowers, and sun warmed grasses and ferns, was intoxicating. The rising sound of insects and birds was their music. It seemed as if they were alone in the world, everything peaceful and for their enjoyment only. It was one of those moments that might never come again, Trowa thought. He had been a mercenary too long to squander it. He knew how quickly things could change, how beauty could be lost in a matter of heart beats.
'There's a stream, a short hike away," Trowa told him, still whispering and watching the play of shadow and light on Quatre's face as ferns swayed gently beside him in a slight breeze. "We could fish, or just relax, there."
Quatre didn't answer for a moment and then he asked, "Do you come here often?"
"Yes," Trowa replied.
"Then, this place belongs to you?" Quatre turned his head to look at him, blue eyes sparkling and curious.
Trowa shrugged. "You bought it for me, don't you remember?"
Quatre frowned, confused.
Trowa relented and amended, "With the money that you gave all of us, at the end of the war. Duo wasted his on sports cars. Wu Fei bought a modest home. Heero... I don't know what Heero did with his. I bought this place."
Quatre searched his face and then said, "I don't really know you, Trowa. Solitude and nature.... "
"Peace," Trowa replied. "It's something all soldiers want, when they become tired of fighting."
"It doesn't last, though," Quatre said unhappily. "It never lasts long."
"No, it doesn't," Trowa replied as he plucked a white, straw flower, and twirled it between his long fingers. "Which is why I return, to fight." He brushed the flower along Quatre's arm, liking how the sun played on the golden hairs there.
"Because no one fights as well as you," Quatre added.
"I hear a lesson," Quatre chuckled ruefully.
"It's all about balance," Trowa replied with a soft smile. "They need us, but we need to live our lives as well. We need to experience what we are fighting so hard to give others."
"I was afraid," Quatre admitted suddenly and turned to regard Trowa. With only a foot of space between them, it still seemed as if there was heat to be felt, an electricity that had everything to do with need. "I knew what I had to do. I knew that it would take years. I couldn't make you a part of that."
"Did you want to?" Trowa wondered. When Quatre nodded he sighed and almost did damage to the flower in his hand. "I could easily have hated you... but I didn't. I was angry, yes, but maybe I needed to have time to make a life for myself as well? I'm not sure that I could have found my balance in your shadow."
"In my shadow?" Quatre reached out and placed a hand over Trowa's, feeling the hard knuckles and corded muscle of a man who had spent his life doing physical things. "You have your own presence, Trowa... and you're very tall."
Trowa laughed lightly, but then released his flower, back into the grass, and sat up. A rabbit, startled, went racing away. "I don't follow," he said, more seriously. "I've always been... alone."
"Until Duo," Quatre reminded him.
Trowa nodded, looking down at Quatre and appreciating how well he had grown. Even sitting behind desks,and exhausting himself, he had still managed to keep his body lithe and lightly muscled. His own was hard from Preventer field training, and with too many new scars overlapping the ones from the war. He had never taken the easy way, the easy life. Neither had Duo.They had made a good match in their dedication and it had been Duo, who had taught him the very lesson that he was trying to teach Quatre now.
"I feel sorry for Heero," Quatre said and Trowa blinked, not understanding. Quatre explained, "He sees you together, working so well. Can't you wonder what he thinks about that?"
It had never occurred to Trowa that Heero might be jealous, that he might think that he and Duo were more than friends. It would explain his cold, hard assed attitude towards them both. "We are just friends," Trowa felt the need to insist. The thought of sex, with Duo Maxwell, felt as wrong as contemplating sex with an exasperating brother. It turned Trowa's stomach slightly.
"I kept hearing about your exploits, your brave deeds in Preventers," Quatre told him. "Of course I assumed that you had... moved on and found happiness."
"Duo doesn't make a person happy," Trowa replied sourly, "He makes you insane with his lunacy."
Quatre laughed. "That is strange, coming from a man who organized a kidnapping, just so that I could get some sleep."
Trowa laughed as well, and then he stood and reached down. Quatre stared at his hand, as if reluctant to leave, but then took it, strong and warm, and allowed Trowa to pull him to his feet.
"I can't stay here, forever," Quatre told him.
"I know," Trowa replied as he watched butterflies try to land on Quatre's golden hair. "I can't stay either."
"How long?" Quatre wanted to know as they began a slow walk back into the trees.
"How should I know?" Trowa wondered, slipping hands into his pockets, to keep them from reaching out, from touching the man beside him as they longed to.
"You are my kidnapper," Quatre reminded him.
"You'll know," Trowa told him. "You'll feel it, inside, like the tension going out of a rubber band."
"Rubber band?" Quatre repeated, amused.
Trowa nodded. "Right now, you're wound so tight, that you could shoot a space satellite into orbit."
"Can you do that, with a rubber band?" Quatre chuckled.
"Duo assures me that you can," Trowa replied.
"Trowa, why are you still interested in me?" The sun was shinning off of Quatre's hair, and sparkles from the river were making his face look fey, far too fair to be mortal. Trowa had to squint to see nicks and scars, and a play of freckles, to bring himself back to reality. Quatre was all too human, and dealing with him had to be grounded in that reality.
Trowa cast his line, played it a bit over the water, in the shade under an overhanging willow, before he replied, "When I look at you, I see what I have always lacked within myself. Something in here," he touched his chest, "Needs you like breath. Nothing you've done, or the distance you put between us, made that go away."
"I won't change," Quatre said sadly as he tugged his own line absently.
"Neither will I," Trowa replied with a sigh.
"Then this is all-"
"Not a waste of time," Trowa retorted, cutting him off. "Being with you is never a waste of time."
"I will go back to my charities," Quatre admitted. "I will give everything I have to better the lives that need it most."
"I know," Trowa replied. He cast again, his line hitting the water with a plop. A rising wind stirred his hair and revealed his pained expression. "I can't leave Preventers to follow you. It's become my life."
A dark cloud scudded by and Quatre shaded a hand and looked at it. "Then we are in the same position that we have always been in. Our lives are not compatible. We are doomed."
Trowa shrugged and chuckled. "Compromise isn't possible? I've never known you to be so absolute."
"No?" Quatre frowned, and seemed to hunch into himself. "I remember differently. I usually gave two choices. When was there ever a third choice?"
"I never gave any choices," Trowa replied. "I hate to think that you've become so like me."
"That would be a bad thing?" Quatre chuckled.
Trowa smirked. "In this instance, yes."
They were quiet for long minutes. More clouds gathered, dark gray, and heavy with impending rain.When Quatre's line went taught, he was surprised enough to almost let go of his pole.
"What do I do?" Quatre yelped. Trowa's short lesson hadn't gone past casting. The heavy weight on the line, fighting for freedom, was in danger of being lost.
Trowa dropped his own pole and wrapped arms around Quatre. His hands locked on the pole along with Quatre's and he brought it up sharply.
"That sets the hook and brings him up," Trowa explained. "Let him fight and tire himself out, before you try pulling him in."
"O-Okay," Quatre stammered, his eyes like blue saucers as he stared at the end of the line.
Trowa melded his body to Quatre's as thunder boomed overhead and a light rain began to fall.
"Shit!" Trowa laughed. "Bad timing."
Quatre laughed as well, "If we get struck by lightning, we will have fried fish in the after life."
Their hair became plastered with rain, along with their clothing, as the rain fell harder and they continued to fight the fish. At last, Trowa signaled that they should try reeling it in. Their feet slid on the rocky river bottom, both of them staggering like drunks, as they tried to keep standing. When the line broke, the tension releasing like a cracked whip, they both fell backwards into the water in a heap.
"Damn!" Quatre swore, but then Trowa seized a kiss as the river swirled around them and the rain tried it's best to drown them.
Pulling Quatre up, then, Trowa helped him stagger to the bank. They grabbed their things and rushed through the woods back to the cabin. The storm was in high gear, by then, and they were really fearing for their lives as the lighting struck all about them. Closing the solid door on the storm, and entering the warmth of the cabin, made both of them let out sighs of relief.
They laughed as they helped each other pull off wet clothing, letting it all fall into a sodden heap at their feet. When Trowa's fingers hooked into Quatre's waistband, he hesitated, sensing that things were getting heated.Quatre's embarrassed smile gave him permission, and Trowa pulled Quatre's pants down with one, slow movement.
"Have you ever...?" Trowa wondered as his eyes took in the lean body and the stirring sex of his companion.
Quatre shrugged. "Close... with Duo... we were lonely... young... stupid... take your pic. We ended up laughing so hard, that we never did do anything, though. We just didn't think of each other that way, even when we were a little tipsy on Adul's homemade wine. You?"
Trowa felt a tightening in his gut and didn't reply.
Quatre's cold hand cupped his cheek. "Doesn't matter. The past is the past."
"Will you say that if this goes wrong?" Trowa wondered as he let his hands slide down Quatre's waist.
"How can it go wrong?" Quatre replied as his hand ghosted over a taught, brown nipple on Trowa's chest. "You are who I've always wanted. Even if we part, afterward, I won't regret any of it."
"Compromise," Trowa replied as he cupped Quatre's small, rounded ass with his long fingered hands."Stop thinking 'all or nothing.' You are smarter than that."
"I'm cold," Quatre said with a shiver, not wanting to argue. "Warm me, Trowa?"
Trowa kissed him, snagged a towel from the back of a chair, and then used it to rope Quatre. Pulling their bodies together, sharply, he said softly, "I'll make you burn."
They made it to the bed and went down, still kissing. The towel was lost as hands and mouths caressed and explored. Trowa's need grew hard and hot in Quatre's hands. Seeing the man flushed and glazed with lust, his golden hair hanging in ringlets over his passion filled, blue eyes, as he arched upward and seized kiss after kiss, was every dream that Trowa had ever had.
Trowa's body cried for completion, for the depths of the body beneath his. His hands caught at long legs and caressed them as he bent them up and open. He kissed knees and ankles, and made Quatre laugh as he teased each toe. All the while he moved into position, wanting, but not knowing the words for what was never easy to ask of another man.
"Careful," Quatre breathed, as his hand guided Trowa to the spot and prepared himself with the fluids Trowa's passion was generating in abundance.
"Slow," Trowa agreed as his hand closed over Quatre's. Together they teased and opened Quatre, easing Trowa in with patience.
"Hurts," Quatre complained.
"A little more, and then not so much," Trowa promised. "Through the gate and then into the garden."
"Poet clown," Quatre laughed, but it was tense and short as he then said, "I think the gate is locked."
"I just need the right key," Trowa promised. He moved, in and out, shallowly, pushing and the retreating until one push sent him through.
Quatre gasped, going a little white. His hands were on Trowa's chest. as if ready to shove him off, but then they tightened as he let out an unsteady breath. "It's strange... but it hurts... less."
"I have to move," Trowa told him. "It will get better."
"Okay..." Quatre replied, unsure.
"So brave," Trowa chuckled huskily and then leaned down into Quatre's body as he began a slow thrusting in and out. Quatre made noises, pain mixed with pleasure, and then it was all pleasure as he loosened at last and allowed Trowa free movement.
As the thunder boomed and the rain beat on the roof, Trowa pumped the willing body beneath him, feeling as if he had just been given the world, and his hearts desire, and that nothing would ever be as perfect as that feeling of his lover closed around him and writhing in his own pleasure.
He came, releasing deep into Quatre and holding him down to gain every possible inch. His arms kept Quatre's legs splayed wide, his lover's body bent double, and Quatre's face in his chest, as he rode the orgasm. Quatre's groans were deep, loud and drawn out, even muffled by Trowa's heaving chest. Trowa couldn't respond to them, for a long moment, and then he was levering up, concern punching through the pleasure at last. Quatre's sweaty, flushed face greeted his eyes.
"I didn't hurt you?" Trowa asked between gasps for breath.
Quatre took Trowa's hand and placed it on the wetness on his shivering belly. "It was a good pain, so I must be some sort of masochist."
They laughed then, Trowa in relief and Quatre in nervousness, both of them embarrassed and unsure.
"This isn't a promise," Quatre said, growing serious again.
Trowa smoothed golden locks from Quatre's eyes and kissed him. "I know. I didn't ask for one."
"Then what was it?" Quatre wanted to know, hurting in his heart.
"A possibility," Trowa replied. "If you let it be one."
"Show me," Quatre begged. "Show me the answer, Trowa."
"Later," Trowa replied and smiled as his body hardened again, "after we share possibilities a few times more."
Trowa groped for his ringing cell phone, Quatre's weight on his chest a solid, warm presence, and the man's golden hair tickling his nose. He checked the number and then mumbled, "You better be dying, Duo..."
"Trowa?" Heero's voice was a shock.
Trowa sat up quickly, leaving Quatre floundering and trying to orient himself as he came awake abruptly as well.
"Heero?" Trowa almost squeaked, face burning and mind trying to work. "How?"
"I took Duo's cell and redialed," Heero explained. "I had a hunch that the call would go to you. You do realize that you will be on report when you return? Quatre may have authorized your 'vacation', but you were still required to inform everyone of-"
"Heero, is that why you called me?" Trowa interrupted, wiping at his eyes with one hand, while he tried to adjust sensitive parts, that Quatre's elbows were trying to dig into, as the man sat up next to him, eyes curious and still half asleep.
There was a pause and then Heero replied, "No. Duo's in surgery. You're his friend. I thought that you should know."
Trowa felt icy fear grip his heart. "Surgery? Did they actually find something? It was just a ruse, you realize, his fainting act?"
"He confessed," Heero replied irritably and then, with more emotion than Trowa had ever heard from him before, he said, "We talked.... about a lot of things... until the doctors came and suggested immediate surgery."
"Why would they do that?" Trowa demanded. "Heero, relationship later, important info now! What the hell is wrong with Duo?"
"Shrapnel from the war, imbedded in his skull, was causing his headaches. One of them had gone in very deep, and was going deeper," Heero replied.
"Those scars, on the back of his neck, and in his hairline," Trowa remembered, "He always joked that they were a shrapnel tattoo. He told me, during the war, that a panel of instruments had exploded behind him. He had to take the metal bits out with pliers, on the run. How serious is this?"
"The larger piece is close to the spinal cord," Heero explained.
"You'd better fucking take care of him, you hear me?!" Trowa shouted into the phone. "He is my best friend! I'll be there as soon as I can get transport out of here."
Your presence won't make any difference," Heero replied. "He'll be out of surgery in less than twenty five minutes."
"I'll be there for the recovery, then," Trowa told him as he leaned over and searched for a shirt on the floor. "I'm not letting a damned soldier maniac, stick up his ass, wouldn't know shit if it kicked him in the balls, Heero Yuy, watch over him."
"Trowa, I won't let anything happen to him," Heero replied in a pained voice.He paused and then admitted softly, "I care for him, deeply. I kept that locked up, inside, because I thought that you were his lover. Now that I know that you aren't, I've stopped being an idiot. I've told Duo how I feel. I will be here for him."
"I'm still coming back," Trowa replied fiercely. "It doesn't matter how you feel, or how good you are at taking care of him, he's my best friend."
"I understand," Heero told him.
"I hope you do," Trowa replied as he put on his shirt one handed. "Duo's been wanting you all this time, and you treated him like shit. That doesn't give me a hell of a lot of confidence in you."
"I didn't know," Heero replied and his voice sounded shaky. "God! If I had..."
"He's good at covering up, I know," Trowa said as he slid out of bed and looked for his pants. "It was there in his damned eyes, though, you dumb ass. You made life hell for him."
"That's not fair," Quatre said from the bed. Trowa glared at him, pants half up. "Duo never told Heero. You can't blame, Heero."
"I want to!" Trowa snarled back.
"I know, but you can't," Quatre replied. "Stop letting your fear for Duo, make you an asshole to Heero."
Trowa took a shuddering breath, closed his eyes for a moment, and then said into the phone, "Okay, let's call that water under the bridge. Now is now. You will take complete care of Duo, until I get there."
"Roger that," Heero said, as if given the most important mission of his life.
"We should get back in five hours," Trowa told him and closed the phone with a snap.
Trowa fumbled with the buckle of his belt and then heard a hiss of pain from the bed. He turned sharply and saw Quatre, sitting up, wrapped in sheets, hair a golden, messy, halo around his head, and looking in pain.
"What's wrong?" Trowa asked, mind shifting gears as he returned to the bed in concern.
Quatre blushed in embarrassment. "My ass hurts... a lot."
Trowa froze, as he remembered their love making. He felt torn for a moment, wanting to get to Duo's side and concerned for Quatre. He sat down on the bed, suddenly, his love for Quatre winning, as he asked softly, "I was too rough?"
Quatre reached out and took his hand, smiling warmly. "I'm too new to it, that's all. You were perfect."
Trowa smiled back and promised. "Next time, I'll catch, all right?"
Quatre grimaced and winced again. "If that means, you'll be on the bottom, count on it." His had tightened on Trowa's. "Something is wrong with Duo?"
"Yes," Trowa replied and explained. Quatre was out of bed, then, pain forgotten, as he began dressing as well.
"We need to go and see him," Quatre said as he pulled on pants. "I want to make sure that he has the best care."
Trowa frowned and paused in the act of putting on a sock. "I'm doing it, too. I didn't imagine that it was so easy to think like you do."
"Think how?" Quatre asked, not pausing in dressing.
"To think that I am the only one who can make sure that Duo is all right," Trowa explained. "You're right with me, too, thinking that you need to be there to make sure that he has quality care."
"You can understand, now, then?" Quatre asked as he put on a wrinkled shirt.
Trowa nodded, jaw working, but then he said, "Still, there is being concerned and killing yourself in your concern. I'm not going to kill myself to reach Duo's side. I'm going to trust that Heero and the hospital are taking care of him as they should."
"But you're still anxious?" Quatre asked.
"Of course, but I'm going to be reasonable about it," Trowa replied.
"Reasonable is not putting two socks on the same foot and trying to dial for emergency transport at the same time," Quatre chuckled.
Trowa dropped the phone, cradled between shoulder and ear, with a snort, and pulled off a sock.
"He'll be all right," Quatre told him firmly. "He's tough."
"And Heero loves him," Trowa added as if he needed to convince himself.
"A great deal," Quatre agreed. "Though he's bad at showing it."
"So were we," Trowa reminded him as he finished putting on his shoes.
Quatre nodded sadly, but then hooked an arm around Trowa's waist and pulled him towards the door. "Leave everything. I'll drive, while you arrange transport at the nearby landing strip."
"How did you...?" Trowa wondered.
Quatre smirked, "I did ask questions when I called to tell everyone that I hadn't been kidnapped. I had our location GPS 'd." At Trowa's surprised look he glared and asked, "Do you think that I'm a dumb blonde?"
"No," Trowa replied quickly, "I thought that you were more... incapacitated."
"Once a soldier, always a soldier," Quatre chuckled.
"Maybe," Trowa replied as they climbed into the car, "and maybe not. People can change."
"I know that you're angry, Duo, but it wasn't the surgeon's fault," Heero was saying as they entered the hospital room. Heero was half seated on the edge of Duo's bed, one hand hovering and then lightly touching Duo, as he tried to calm him down. Iv's snaked from Duo's arms and he looked frail and pale in his hospital gown.
"Duo?" Trowa called anxiously, and Duo's drug hazed eyes swiveled. There was a dull spark of recognition and a uneven smile that told Trowa that Duo wasn't doing well. "What happened?" Trowa demanded of Heero as he reached the bedside.
"Trowa," Quatre warned as he moved up behind Trowa and lightly reached to touch Duo's arm. "Calm down, please. There isn't a battle, yet."
"Yet," Trowa echoed.
Duo frowned and said in a weak voice, "Glad you're here. Stuff work out with Quatre?"
"Still in progress," Trowa replied shortly. "You and Heero?"
"Still in progress," Duo snorted and Heero looked embarrassed.
"Now that we're caught up, tell me what the hell is going on?" Trowa demanded. "You look like road kill."
Duo made a little salute to his forehead with his middle finger. "I'm fucked up here. The operation didn't go as planned. I won't be going back to Preventers, unless I want a desk jockey job."
"What happened?" Trowa demanded of Heero, hoping for a better answer from him.
Heero looked pained and then replied, "They saved his life, and he isn't paralyzed, but one arm isn't moving well and his eyesight, on his left side, is heavily impaired. His coordination has been compromised as well."
"Which means that I can't be trusted to shoot straight or pilot," Duo added bitterly. "My career is down the toilet. Life does suck and then you die."
Heero's hand tightened on Duo's hard. "Don't talk like that! Your life isn't over."
"Yeah," Duo sneered. "I'll collect on the malpractice and live the high life a lonely cripple. That's worth staying alive for."
Everyone was alarmed. Heero said, as if he had repeated it hundreds of times, "It wasn't the surgeon's fault, Duo. The damage was already done before the operation."
"So I'll live alone and poor, then!" Duo shot back and then closed his eyes. "Damn! I feel sick...."
Trowa grabbed Duo's chin, "Look, asshole! You are not alone and you are not going to die over stupid shit like this. I didn't know that Duo Maxwell was such a wimp."
Duo yanked his chin free and glared, "Friends are one thing, but three's a crowd, right? You have Quatre now. You'll be following after him and you won't be around to entertain the cripple. I'll be playing solitaire and -"
"Heero?" Quatre glared at the man. "You can jump in at any time, here?"
Heero took a deep breath and then let it out dejectedly, "What can I say? He's made it clear that I'm not someone who can keep him company."
Trowa swore under his breath and then snapped, "Idiot! He's drugged up and suicidal. He's not being clear about anything!"
Duo growled, eyes half closed, "Everybody go 'way, now. My head hurts like shit and you got nothin' to say... and take that Gundam with you too. He's wanting to fight in the war again and he won't shut up."
Heero started and looked to the empty space where Duo lazily pointed.
"I'll make him go away," Heero promised, paused, and then added, as he turned back to look deeply into Duo's eyes, "and I'll keep you company, I promise you."
"Yeah?" Duo sounded hopeful, but wary, "Why would you want to? I'm a gimp, now. They'll call me 'shakes', 'one eye', and 'washout'. I'm not a Preventer agent, anymore. I'm not what you were interested in."
Heero was uncomfortable from talking in front of Trowa and Quatre, but he managed to reply, "I'm interested in Duo Maxwell."
"Like he's a prize, himself, Duo," Trowa said. "If you don't take him, no one else will."
Duo snickered, and then his eyes rolled shut. "So'kay," he whispered. "Don't want anyone else to have him anyway..."
They all stared at him, for a long moment, and then Trowa said to Heero, "You better make good on that, asshole, or I'll take you apart."
Heero frowned, but nodded. Quatre sighed, threw an arm over Heero's shoulders, and gave him a brief hug. "Get some rest, Heero. Trowa and I will watch Duo until you wake up."
"I don't know..." Heero began, but Trowa took his arm, pulled him up, and shoved him towards the chair, in one corner.
"I know you can sleep anywhere," Trowa told him, "So do it. We have watch."
Heero looked reluctant, but his exhaustion was plain. He sighed, ran a hand through his already disordered hair, and went to sit in the chair. With his back to the wall, he wrapped arms around his middle, and then bowed his head. He was asleep within minutes.
Quatre smiled and whispered, "You're very good at getting people to rest, Trowa. Maybe you missed your calling in life?"
Trowa managed a chuckle, but his attention was on Duo's pale face. "Trowa Barton, sleep therapist. I think I like Preventers more." His expression became pained, "It will be different, not having Duo as my partner."
Quatre was very quiet, and then he asked tentatively, "Do you love him?"
Trowa looked up, startled, and then his expression softened, "Not like you mean. We're brothers."
Quatre nodded, reached across Duo, and took Trowa's hand. "You're very special," he said. "You should stay with Duo and help him through this. Heero loves him, but I think he has too much trouble communicating that. Duo needs reassurance now, not when Heero can work up the nerve."
Trowa shook his head, "No, I'm not about to be like you, Quatre. When the time is right, people rise to the occasion. Heero will take care of Duo. He's what Duo needs, not me."
"What if you're wrong?" Quatre wanted to know, brutal in his need to make Trowa understand. "How can you be certain he won't suicide? Can you take that chance with someone's life in the balance?"
Trowa leaned close to Quatre and replied, "I can't be sure, Quatre. No one can. You can only hope and trust other people to do what needs to be done. Besides, I don't have any magic to keep Duo alive. I can fail just as badly as anyone else. You and I, are not fail proof."
Quatre was stung by that, but Trowa could see him thinking about it.
Duo muttered in his sleep, "With cherries on top.... yep, love those cherries on cheesecake.."
Quatre laughed and Trowa snickered as they settled in, as comfortably as they could get, to watch over Duo.
"Don't tug on my braid, Jamie! If you want my attention, just say, 'Excuse me, Mr. Maxwell.' I'll say, 'What you need, my man?' and then you say..."
"Can this really work?" Quatre wanted to know, his expression sad.
"It's not fire fights and deep jungle missions, but maybe that wasn't his calling, in the first place?" Heero replied as he stood off to one side, under a spreading cherry tree, and watched Duo play with his charges in the Preventer daycare playground.
"What made you think of it?" Trowa wanted to know, watching his best friend wipe snot from a little girl's nose, with a kleenex, and say something that made the girl laugh.
"Didn't you notice, how he always stops and talks to children?" Heero wondered, surprised. "He always wanted to joke and play with them. He always worried about them, first,as well, if we ran into them during a mission. I heard him tell you, once, that sometimes, he seriously thought about being a teacher."
"I thought that he was shitting me," Trowa replied, disturbed that he had never seen this side of Duo, or listened to him, despite their closeness, as Heero had listened.
Duo swayed a little, on his leg braces, as a young boy wrapped around one of those legs and begged for juice to drink. "We'll have snack time in a little bit, Jerry."
They watched for a little while longer and then parted ways, Heero going back to work, and Trowa and Quatre making their way across the small park to Quatre's waiting limo. It was time for Quatre to return to his work, but it was clear that he wasn't as eager for it anymore.
"See, you worried about nothing," Trowa said. "Heero handled it like a pro."
"You were worried, as well," Quatre pointed out as he hooked an arm in Trowa's.
"I'm Duo's best friend, I'm supposed to worry," Trowa chuckled."I didn't try to manage his recovery all on my own, though. I trusted other people."
"Delegated," Quatre said and smiled. "But you did check up on Heero and Duo, constantly."
"Checking on things, is not the same as doing all the work myself," Trowa argued.
"I won't learn that in a day," Quatre lamented. "It's a hard habit to break."
Trowa turned and wrapped arms around Quatre, pulling him close, as cherry blossoms blew around them on a breeze. "You have to realize why you do it, Quatre. It's the fact that you blame yourself, for the destruction, the homelessness, the pain, of others, that makes you try to give everything you have to help them."
"That's hard to stop," Quatre said against his chest, "Because it's true. It is my fault."
"Partly," Trowa agreed, "but ask yourself, how your guilt is really helping those people? If you give everything that you have, in your causes, then you'll make mistakes out of exhaustion, or simply die, with the rest left undone, because you never trusted anyone to carry on without you."
Quatre went quiet for long minutes and then his cell phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket and put a little room between him and Trowa to answer it.
"Winner here. Yes. Yes. I understand. It should get done, right away, especially if there is that much of a need. Come myself?" Quatre took a deep breath that shuddered, and then replied, "No, my presence isn't necessary. You head the project and send me the specs and the reports on your progress. I'll check, personally, next month. Good. All right."
Quatre closed his cell and tucked it back into his pocket. His hand was shaking.
"That was hard, wasn't it?" Trowa asked softly. The emphatic nod made him pull Quatre in close again.
"I wanted to go there, but, you're right," Quatre replied. "If I don't stop making everything my personal responsibility, things will never get completed, if something should happen to me. Also... I wanted to stay with you, a little longer. Is that all right, Trowa?"
His blue eyes, looking up at Trowa, were needy. Trowa kissed him passionately and then said, "I know you can't stay with me, always, but I'll cherish every moment that you can give me."
"That means everything to me," Quatre replied, "I'm sorry that it took me so long, that I denied us, for years. I'm sorry that I hurt you."
"We both needed time, to understand what we wanted," Trowa told him. "We needed time to grow up."
"Growing is painful," Quatre sighed.
"But the rewards make it all worth it," Trowa chuckled and kissed his lover again.
Back to chapter one