Disclaimers: I don't own these characters and make no profit from my storytelling. Warning: none

Synopsis: The five pilots come together in a private school to prepare for a mission. An incident between Heero and Duo has the Deathscythe pilot questioning the other pilots' friendships. He decides to put them to the test.

A Test of Friendship - Part 4
Duo's Friendship Arc 4
by Dyna Dee

Coming slowly out of unconsciousness was not a pleasant experience. The pain in his head and the throbbing of his leg were the first things he sensed, followed by a wave of nauseousness that he managed to fight down. A slight moan escaped from his throat as he struggled to open his eyes. Feeling momentarily disoriented by his surroundings, he dully came to the conclusion that he was laying on his side in his bed in the dorm room he shared with Heero. Quatre was suddenly at his side studying him with his piercing aquamarine eyes. "Your awake." he stated the obvious, but the concern in his eyes gave way to a measure of relief. The blonde boy sat on the edge of the narrow bed and placed his small, cool hands on his face, and began to explore it as if searching for something. "Hum...You have a fever." He assessed out loud. Duo was disappointed when the cool hands were removed, they had felt really good on his flushed skin. He raised a trembling hand to the right side of his head, wincing as he touched it tenderly.

"You were flung into Sandrock when the munitions hanger blew up," Quatre explained. "and probably have a slight concussion as well as your leg injury." He paused and a look of contrition crossed his angelic features. "I'm sorry, it's my fault." he bowed his head, shaking it, his voice full of remorse. "I should have known better, but when I saw you go down I could only think of one diversion."

After a moment of self-appointed guilt, Quatre felt the fever bright, violet eyes watching him, so he looked up, meeting the half lidded gaze and continued talking. "Trowa and Wufei managed to get the bullet out of your leg. It was deeply wedged into the bone so it's a good thing you passed out as it took some effort to pry it out. We can't tell if the bone is cracked or broken without an x-ray, but Miss Poe thinks it is probably one or the other, maybe both. You'll need to stay off of it for a week or two at least. She's sending us some pain pills and penicillin," he paused to look at his watch. "which should arrive here tonight around five or six o'clock. Can you wait that long?"

Duo's reply was a lifted eyebrow and a slight shrug.

The blonde pilot looked at him in dumbfounded surprise. "You're still not speaking to us? After all this?" He motioned to Duo's battered figure on the bed. The braided boy just closed his eyes as his friend began to laugh. "You, my friend, are as stubborn as a thirsty camel with the scent of water close by."

Scratching the top of his head, the Sandrock pilot thought a moment. "If you're determined on this course, I'd suggest we work on a few hand signals to help me know what it is that you need, all right?"

Struggling to open his eyes, Duo nodded his head. Within only a few minutes they determined a simple system. When the injured boy raised his index finger, it meant he had to go to the bathroom. Two fingers indicated he was hungry or thirsty. A clenched fist meant he was in pain. Once they agreed and practiced for a moment, Duo scanned the room and noticed Heero was also in the room. He pointed to the bed on the opposite side of the room where Heero lay, apparently sleeping.

"He's all right!" Quatre answered the silent question. "He has a bullet wound to his upper arm, a mass of bruises to match yours, and a slight concussion."

Duo nodded, but his eyes still looked on questioningly. Quatre could only guess what he wanted to know, so he decided to fill him in on everything else. "Trowa and Wufei are in class but will come back at lunch time. It wouldn't do for all of us to be absent on the same day, it would look too suspicious." he explained and then sucked in and chewed on his bottom lip looking thoughtful for a moment. "Your absence will no doubt be noted by the other students. I'm not sure how we'll handle your prolonged absence yet, as you can't possibly leave your bed for several weeks."

The Deathscythe pilot sighed deeply and despondently closed his eyes. He knew he would have to leave the school with some excuse for moving on. He'd be on his own again, and probably for some time to come. He'd really looked forward to being together with his fellow pilots again, but nothing had gone right since he'd arrived. First, the incident with Heero, and then the mission. Quatre must have sensed his unhappiness about the situation because he began consoling him with words of reassurance, that everything would be alright.

Suddenly, his present thoughts flew from his mind as he felt his bangs brushed aside and cool lips pressed against his forehead, lingering there for a moment then lifting. "Your fevers gone up a little higher." The blonde observed frowning. "Want some aspirin?"

Startled by what had just occurred, he was glad for once that he didn't have to use words as he would probably choke on them on their way out. Duo, eyes wide, simply nodded in reply.

"Anything else?"

The injured boy smiled weakly and raising his hand showed first, his index finger, then his two fingers pressed together, and then his closed fist.

The Sandrock pilot laughed in spite of himself. "You might not want to talk, but I have an idea you're still going to be a very demanding patient."

The wounded boy raised an entirely different digit to show how amused he was. His friend continued to laugh quietly trying hard not to wake the other sleeping boy.

By lunchtime, Quatre had managed to take care of Duo's needs, with the help of Heero who, having heard him struggling while trying to get the braided boy up and out of bed and to the bathroom, got out of bed to help. Heero, having showered earlier, was fully dressed in his school uniform by the time Duo was ready to return to his bed. The Wing pilot then sat at the desk with his laptop and began imputing and analyzing the data disk they taken the night before.

After a light knock on the door, Trowa and Wufei entered the room bearing gifts in the form of three paper lunch bags from the cafeteria. Wufei handed them out, pausing to look at the American. "You don't look well." He commented as he studied his teammate's battered face and glazed eyes. Duo answered with a shrug as he slowly opened the top of the bag the Shenlong pilot had placed on his bed.

"Still not talking?" Wufei's eyebrows raised in surprise and looked to Quatre for a confirming nod before looking back to the boy in the bed. "I would never have suspected such fortitude from you, Maxwell." He stated.

"Or stupidity." Heero's disapproving voice shot out from where he sat in front of his laptop.

Wufei turned to observe Wing's pilot. The bruise on his face was covered by his shock of dark brown hair, and his bandaged arm was hidden by his attire. Heero opened his lunch bag and was soon eating his sandwich. The Shenlong pilot concluded that Heero was fine.

"There are Oz soldiers on campus as well as in the city searching for us." Trowa said and had everyone's immediate attention. He continued. "I overheard one telling the school's director that they were looking for a long haired brunette who was injured. So far, they think it's a female they're after." Normally such a statement would send Duo into a tirade, but he only inhaled sharply.

"What will we do?" Quatre questioned looking apprehensive. "They're sure to make a connection to Duo after he has been missing for a day or two. After all, how many people do you know that have his kind of hair, male or female?"

"It's obvious we need to get him out of here and soon." Heero spoke up even as his mind went over the possibilities. "But, with Oz searching for us and the mission not complete, I'm not sure its wise to move at this time.

"I'll take him to a safe house." Quatre volunteered. "That is if you don't think you need Sandrock."

Heero looked at the four all together, as a team. "The data taken last night has confirmed that the base needs to be obliterated. It's purpose is to further the war in space between the earth and the colonies. Half of the job was completed last night, and we may have to wait a couple of days to safely approach our gundams to complete the mission. I think that the three of us can probably handle the situation ourselves and you can accompany Duo to a safehouse. We can join you later."

Trowa moved to stand at the bottom of the bed where Duo lay. "We need to hide him until you can leave." he said thoughtfully. "They might be able to put enough information together enough to search this room."

"Put him in my room." Wufei spoke up. "My roommate has a job after school until 9:00 p.m. We can bring Duo back here if he returns and you haven't left by then."

Quatre looked up at Trowa. "Well, we can't leave the school until his medication arrives and the dorms quiet down." He turned his gaze to look at Duo who was slowly tearing the crust off the edge of his sandwich, something he had never seen him do before. Duo's motto was usually not to waste any type of food as he had been hungry too often in his young life. "We'll need to make sure no one see's us leave, and secure transportation."

"I'll obtain the transportation." Trowa volunteered.

Wufei leaned against the wall. "I'll scout the campus to make sure Oz hasn't left any surveillance equipment or people."

"I'll find a safehouse." Heero said already returning to his laptop.

"Try for one not too far from here." Quatre suggested. "We don't want to be very far away from our gundams." he insisted.

Heero grunted his acknowledgment of the Sandrock pilot's request.

Without further ado, the blonde boy reached out and snatched away Duo's nearly untouched and uneaten sandwich and threw it into the paper bag. "Let's move you while the guys are here to help and the other students are at lunch."

Duo put up his two fingers. "I know your hungry" Quatre answered, "but you can finish eating in Wufei's room."

They were all grateful that the said room wasn't too far away. Trowa and Wufei carefully carried the Deathscythe pilot down the corridor, up one floor of stairs, and halfway down the hall to room 412 while Quatre went before them to make sure the way was clear of any stray inquisitive students.

Even though the others had done most of the work in carrying him to Wufei's room and bed, Duo was greatly weakened by the transfer from one room to the other and was bonelessly limp as he was set down onto the bed. Quatre immediately began to make him comfortable by propping up the pillows and covering him before handing over the lunch bag.

"I've got it!" The blonde boy announced and turned to the two who had accompanied them up. "Trowa, tell Heero to send a message to the administrator of the school saying there was a death in the family and Max left during the night to return home to grieve with the family. Because of the lateness of the hour, we were unable to go through proper channels...blah......blah.....blah..." he trailed off indicating Heero could finish it however he wished.

"And your absence?" Trowa asked with one raised eyebrow.

The blonde teen paused for just a moment before coming up with what he thought a perfect alibi. "I'll send Wufei to the nurse's office to request medicine for diarrhea. That should sound like a legitimate excuse for missing classes. After I'm gone, Heero can transfer me out stating my parents didn't like me being so close to a government instillation that had been under attack."

Wufei raised a black eyebrow at his assigned task, but nodded his acceptance. Looking at the alarm clock the two decided they had better go about their assigned task before their next class started.

Quatre turned back again to Duo who lay limply against the raised pillows with his uneaten sandwich resting in his hand. "Too tired?" Quatre guessed. Duo nodded. "Here," he took the sandwich from the slack fingers, "I'll help." He sat down on the bed next to his friend and broke the sandwich into bite-size pieces and began to feed him. The braided boy closed his heavy lidded eyes and opened his mouth when he felt another piece placed on his lips. "You need to keep up your strength." Quatre cooed.

It was a slow process, but Duo managed to eat the entire sandwich, a cut up apple, and a brownie. That completed, his blond companion helped him to ease down into a comfortable position, pulling the long braid over his shoulder, and then covering him up. The Arabian brushed the hair from his friends hot and clammy forehead before moving to the bathroom sink to prepared a cool wash cloth to placed it over the fevered brow.

"You'll feel much better once the medication comes." Quatre promised as he returned and set the cool cloth on Duo's rarely seen forehead.

Bringing his hand out from under the covers, Duo reached out to grab the other's slender wrist. "Thank you, Quatre." he said weakly, his voice husky from lack of use.

The Arabian smiled warmly at the long missed voice. "Sleep now." he urged his friend gently as he placed Duo's arm back under the covers and tuck him in again. Both boys felt a measure of contentment as Duo closed his fever bright eyes and promptly fell into a restless sleep.

It was several hours later when he awoke feeling as hot and parched as if he had been stranded in the desert. Under the blanket, his tee shirt and boxers were damp with sweat from the heat of his fevered body. His leg was throbbing. With his good leg, he kick off the covers and shivered as the cooler air penetrated his damp clothing. Turning his head, he saw Quatre through the open bathroom door wringing out a wash cloth in the sink. He quickly determined that they were alone, then called out the other's name. Quatre was immediately by his side. Finding it hard to speak, Duo held up two fingers.

"Thirsty?" the Arabian guessed. Duo nodded. He was quickly given a drink of water. The cool liquid moved chillingly down his parched throat sending a shiver through his body. Quatre eased him back down onto the pillow after he drained the glass and pulled the covers back up. Duo closed his eyes finding it easier than looking into the worried eyes above him.

Feeling his bangs pulled back, he was prepared for a cool cloth on his forehead, but a different sensation altogether happened as cool lips were pressed against the hot skin on his forehead. His eyes flew open. "W...w....what are ya doing?" he asked surprised.

"Checking your fever." Quatre answered non pulsed. "That's the way my nanny did it when I was growing up. Your fever is definitely higher."

"I could have told you that had you asked." Duo said slightly irritated, but then he weakly smiled.

"What's so funny?" Quatre asked, finding it hard to believe anyone could find humor when they were in such bad shape. But then again, this was Duo, he reminded himself. He placed the wrung-out washcloth on the other's forehead.

"I was thinking that I would love to see you try that one on Heero, your unique temperature gauging method, that is."

The blonde snorted. "Maybe the next time he feels ill or is injured, and we could wager whether he would kill me instantly or when he felt better."

Duo nodded, his eyes closed again enjoying the other's ministrations. "I'd wager instantly." he said, his voice fading.

Just then the door to the room opened and shut quickly. Both boys turned their heads to see Wufei enter and fling his book bag onto the chair by the door. He walked to the bed. "How is he?" he asked even as he observed with a frown the boy on his bed.

"His fever's up." Quatre answered, his eyes transmitting his worry to the Chinese boy.

Wufei glanced down to his watch on his left wrist. "The medicine should be here in two to three hours." he said and silently wished it would arrive sooner. He could see the worry on Quatre's face and reaching out, clasped his shoulder and smiled slightly, hoping to reassure the other boy. "Trowa went to your room to change, then he'll go out and find transportation for tonight." He informed them and then moved away shrugging off the uniform jacket and tugged at the tie. As he began to unfasten the buttons of his white shirt, he turned to address the two once again.

"Heero sent the messages as you suggested and found a safehouse about 70 miles from here. He'll gather supplies to last a few day before you go." Within moments and during his speech, Wufei had completely shed his uniform and donned black jeans and a dark blue tee shirt.

"I'll get some dinner for you after I've scouted around to see if Oz suspects anything."

The three boys jumped as a loud, bold knock sounded on the door. Wufei moved towards it and asked who was there.

"Mr. Kenton. Is that you, Mr. Chang? I'd like to speak with you." Wufei recognized the school director's voice and motioned for Quatre to move Duo under the bed.

"Yes, Mr. Kenton." he answered. "If you'll wait just a moment, I'll finish changing."

As quietly as possible he rushed to help with moving Duo. They gently placed him on the floor and pushed him under, knowing that the hurried movements brought further pain to the silent boy, but unable to do anything about it. Quatre rolled himself under the bed and pressed close to Duo as they moved back against the wall. The bedspread that draped over the side of the bed was replaced as Wufei hurriedly remade the bed, hopefully hiding their presence. A moment later the door was opened, and the highly polished black shoes were all that the two under the bed could see of the school's director as he entered the room.

After a brief greeting, the man got to the point as the two under the bed listened. "I understand Mr. Chang that two of your friends were absent today."

"Two?" Wufei sounded bemused. "Which ones?"

"Mr. Harriwell and Que Rabbab." he answered.

"Que's my friend and he had a .... ummm.... a medical problem today. I just brought him some medicine from the nurse." he explained. "The other boy I just met. Is he sick too? I hope it's not contagious" he managed to get a worried look on his face.

"No." Mr. Kenton's voice was low and patronizing as usual. "I got a message that there was a death in the family and he left during the night."

"That's too bad, but it would explain the noises in the hall was last night? I thought there was too much traffic in the halls for such a late hour." Wufei replied hoping to help justify any complaints that may have been reported as they carried a wounded Duo to his room in the wee hours of the morning.

"I was just over at Mr. Rabbab's room and his roommate didn't know where he was. Do you?" Mr. Kenton seemed satisfied with his last answer so was now going in another direction.

"Well," Wufei began slowly. "I gave him the medicine the nurse sent. Maybe he is in the showers or went to get something to drink. I cautioned him about dehydrating."

"What exactly is Mr. Rabbab's problem?" the deep voice asked, his feet shifting showing his irritation at not resolving this questions to his satisfaction.

"Diarrhea." Wufei answered ducking his head as if embarrassed to say the word.

"Very well." Mr. Kenton sounded thoughtful. "But are you sure you don't know anything about Harriwell?"

"No, should I?" Wufei smirked inwardly at the sound of innocence coming from his mouth. He was getting really good at this, must be Maxwell's influence, he mused.

The administrator's feet turned towards the door. "I guess not." he answered, then paused with his hand on the door nob.

"Anything else, Mr. Kenton?" Wufei asked.

"If you should see Mr. Rabbab, please tell him I wish to speak to him and that I hope he's feeling better."

As the door shut behind him, all three occupants of the room sighed in relief. The bed spread was lifted and Wufei's face appeared. "It's clear." he announced and moved under the bed to help Quatre move Duo out. Both boys were surprised when Duo slapped their hands away and vehemently shook his head. He showed them his fist.

"I know it hurts" Quatre acknowledged the hand signal, "but we have to get you on the bed."

Duo shook his head emphatically again, his fevered violet eyes wide in apprehension. "He doesn't want to be moved." Quatre told Wufei and he angled his body so that his face was towards Duo and his legs stuck out from under the bed.

"We can't leave him under the bed." Wufei answered indignantly, his impatience obviously growing.

"He's in a lot of pain." Quatre empathized with Duo's plea.

"I know it hurts, but can you properly treat him under the bed?" Wufei voiced sound reasoning.

Quatre paused in thought for a moment. "No, I can't." he replied, and turned looking apologetic to the injured boy. "I'm sorry Duo, but we have to move you again. We'll be as careful as we can."

That said, both boys reached their hands out with the intention of pulling the wounded boy out. They were again surprised when Duo feebly tried to fend off the two pairs of hands reaching for him, but he was too weak to make much of a protest. The two grabbed hold of him, but stopped all movement as the door to the room opened and, in their positions, no one was able to see the feet of whoever entered. For a moment, the room was completely still.

"Now this is something I don't get to see everyday." Trowa's amused voice referred to the two sets of legs coming out from beneath the bed, but the sound brought relief to those under the bed.

"Very funny." Wufei said derisively. "Come help us."

A moment later, Trowa was on the floor and pulling himself under the bed. "What's going on?" he asked smiling at the picture in his head of now six legs sticking out and looked questioningly at the others.

"We're trying to pull Duo out from under the bed." Quatre replied and then went on to explain to Trowa just exactly how they ended up in this predicament.

"All right." Trowa nodded. "The three of us should be able to pull him out without hurting him further." He studied the braided boy in the dark shadows as he pressed himself further up against the wall.

"On three." Wufei said and began to count. On three, they all grabbed hold of Duo and quickly but carefully, pulled him out from under the bed. The wounded boy made a slight moan that ended in a weak whimper as he was pulled out.

"He looks terrible!" Trowa exclaimed concerned as Duo's condition became apparent now that he was out in the light.

"On the bed." Quatre ordered.

"He's burning up!" Wufei hissed.

"Let's change the dressing on his wound." Quatre suggested quickly and the others agreed. Together the three worked with careful speed in placing Deathscythe's pilot on the bed and turned the now unprotesting and limp boy over, clipping off the bandage. The wound was red, swollen, and oozing, obviously infected. A hot cloth was placed over the wound to draw out some of the infection. During their ministrations, Duo didn't move or protest, which made the three exchange anxious looks at each other.

"We better call Miss Poe." Quatre suggested.

on to part 5

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