When the three Gundam pilots who had been out on a group sabotage mission returned to the safehouse, none of them were prepared to walk in on a scene of bloodshed between the two comrades they had left behind that morning.
"Damn you, Wufei! Trowa is MINE!!!" Quatre was sending yet another kick to the fallen Chinese pilot who lay on the floor bleeding and apparently unconscious. "And I'm going to keep kicking you until you admit it! Or until you *die*!!!"
All three rushed in and Heero immediately wrapped arms like steel bands around the hysterical Sandrock pilot, pulling him away from the battered, motionless body.
"What the hell?!?" Duo demanded, shocked by the horrifying tableau before him.
"He can't answer you, Quatre! Settle down!" Heero shouted at the blond who struggled frantically wanting to finish what he had begun. "Damn it, Winner, calm down!!" Heero was very near to hauling off and hitting him when the other boy went limp in his arms.
The blond head hung down as Quatre gave himself over to just moaning, "Trowa's mine, he's mine, he's mine," until he fell silent.
Trowa and Duo had both rushed to Wufei's side and Duo checked for a pulse. "He's still got a heartbeat. But his breathing's erratic. Let's get Wu to a bed, Tro, and see if we can patch him up ourselves. After we did as much damage as we did at that base, we can't afford to go to a hospital, we'd get caught for sure!"
Confusion warred on Trowa's face as he wondered whether to immediately confront the deluded Arabian boy or to assist the American in caring for the injured teen. He had harbored affections for the Chinese pilot ever since the day he had accompanied Wufei and the other had recklessly confronted Treize Khushrenada. Trowa, however, had thought his fascination for the dark-eyed youth was a secret.
As he remained uncertain as to his next move, Duo threw an angry gaze at Trowa and commented, "You gonna help here or *not*, lover boy?!?"
Deep green eyes went wide as Trowa turned to stare at his friend, shocked that his inner feelings had been discovered.
"Yeah, Tro," Duo said more gently, "we know. You ain't too subtle at times, bucko. Now, gonna help me or not?"
"Certainly, Duo," he agreed and easily lifted the stricken pilot, carrying him down the hall to the double bed Wufei had been using in the smallest bedroom of the one-floor safehouse and laying him down carefully. His eyes ran quickly over the injured form Trowa's heart ached as he saw the many impact sites and deep bruises that would form as well as the blood stained torn clothing.
Between the two of them, Duo and Trowa gently stripped away the damaged tank top and silk pants revealing far greater damage as they went. If they had been a few minutes later in arriving, the blond's attack could very easily have been lethal but as it was, the damage was great.
Violet eyes hardened as Duo silently promised to wreck vengeance on the blond as soon as he got his Chinese friend stabilized. Then he looked more closely at the boy who was working beside him and he knew he had no choice but to stay close to Trowa while they did what they could for Wufei.
Trowa noticed the broken rib the smaller boy had suffered under the assault of one expensive wing-tipped shoe with a sigh of regret. The HeavyArms pilot silently reached for an Ace bandage and started to wind it tightly around the bronze chest which showed the first hints of the colors of bruises yet to be. He worked with the confidence of experience, the safety harnesses in the Gundams had a bad habit of snapping ribs during their aerial battles and he had wrapped broken ribs many times before. Somehow, though, this time it seemed so much worse. Quatre had attacked one of their own inside a "safehouse" and this seemed like the worst possible combination of things to Trowa.
//This is supposed to be a refuge for us. A place the war and all the violence can't touch us. A place we can forget the pain and sorrow for just a little while. We three left this morning, we risked our lives, and we all came back without a scratch. Yet Wufei was here with someone we thought we could trust and when we return *this* has happened to him! This is just so terribly wrong!//
"How is he?" Trowa asked as Duo brought in a basin of hot water and began sponging off more of the blood, revealing some of the more subtle injuries to the light.
"Ewwwww!" Duo grimaced as he uncovered a deep set of lacerations on the once delicate face. "Well, he ain't great, but I think he'll live. He's gonna need stitches, Tro. Get a first aid kit, okay?"
After retrieving the omnipresent first aid kit, Trowa Barton sat down and ran a single long-fingered hand gently over the bloodied skin as Duo prepared to suture closed the gaping wound across one high cheekbone.
After nearly an hour of stitching in a variety of places, Duo looked at Trowa and said apologetically, "God, Tro, I'm sorry, but there's no way to know if any of these are going to scar badly or not. He..." the voice trailed away as he added with sadness, "...he may not be as pretty as he was when this is all over."
"'Pretty'?" Green eyes stared at him in utter disbelief. "Not as 'pretty'?" Trowa choked and it was clear Duo had stumbled across a sore subject. "Did you think I cared for him because of how he looks?"
Realizing he had said more than he meant to, the emerald eyes looked away in pain as he added softly, "I'm sorry, Duo, I didn't mean to blurt that out. But I do care for Wufei and it is *not* because of his appearance. It is much more than that," Trowa choked a bit as he added in a voice soft with pain, "even if I never did tell anyone that."
The emotionally distraught pilot fell silent and simply sat and stared at the boy he loved. Silent though his thoughts might have seemed to him, Trowa's feelings had gotten Wufei severely beaten just the same. The taller of the two seated pilots turned his head away as tears welled up, hot, painful and foreign to the usually stoic youth. Intensely emotional though the moment was, Trowa was not willing to leave the unconscious boy behind no matter how much he felt that he needed some privacy.
"Hey, man, I'm sorry," Duo spoke as he touched one trembling shoulder, trying to reassure and seek forgiveness at the same time. "I never meant you thought he was just a pretty face, it just seems that one word that comes to mind when I think of Wu is 'pretty'. Then again, I doubt he'd like to hear that either, but ya' know I don't lie!"
The slight reduction in frown on the other boy's face got him started on a whole new line of thought as he cleaned up the first aid materials.
"Hmm, let's see." Duo threw bloodied cloths into a trash bag and looked thoughtfully at the injured boy laying lost to them for an unknown period of time. But if he thought about that aspect of the situation, he himself would break down and cry and that would do no one any good at all.
The American briefly wondered where his lover was and with a sigh he hoped that Heero would return soon, he needed help with the pair he had taken responsibility for as both field surgeon and emotional support.
//Damn it all, Heero, why didn't I see this coming from Quatre? He'd been acting a little strangely, but this is still way off the weird scale for me! Get your cute little spandex-covered ass back here and help me out before I just fuck it up worse than this!//
He was being overly critical of himself, but Duo took his obligations to those he held dear very seriously. The Japanese pilot was handling matters from his end, but the couple would face an uphill struggle to get their two friends through this dark time.
Taking a breath, the braided boy continued his earlier thought, desperately trying to cheer up the HeavyArms pilot if nothing else. "Other words for Wu include, 'kawaii' when he's sleepy and his hair falls in his eyes. Too 'serious' for when we get caught up in a game of poker. 'Annoying' when we go too long between missions and he gets bored. 'Lousy' cook unless it's pizza, even *he* can't screw up pizza! Um, well, and there's always 'noisy'."
Duo stopped and actually laughed as he realized his own double entendre. "He gets *so* frickin' noisy when we go into battle! Shouting about 'justice' and 'nataku' and stuff! And he always bitches at *me* about yelling when I fly Deathscythe!" By this point, though, he had lost his audience as Trowa simply sat and stared at the injured face on the pillow.
"You gonna be okay, Tro?" The violet-eyed teen finally asked gently. For a non-combatant from the earlier fight, Trowa seemed to be suffering a lot more than Duo had expected. This alone told him one thing he suspected from the minute he saw Trowa's reaction to Quatre's brutality. The HeavyArms pilot had it bad for the smallest member of their team. Duo was suddenly very glad he never mentioned he was not certain Wufei returned those feelings.
//Tro, you may have made a big mistake here. I don't think Wu likes much of anyone in a romantic way to start with, much less guys. On second thought, I know he doesn't seem to like women much, all that "onna" crap he goes on about, so maybe he *does* like men? I dunno. How the hell would I even guess if he likes *you* that way? I think he's interested, but I just dunno.//
The silent pilot on the bed, however, had given Duo all the information he needed to know full well that he was *very* interested in the slender teen from L-3. Wufei had spent hours of undetected surveillance of one Trowa Barton, watching him as he went through the daily routines that made them Gundam pilots.
Whether working on his mobile suit or simply the day-to-day activities of life, Trowa's actions never ceased to fascinate the Chinese boy and Wufei had done little to conceal it beyond his usual stealth. His own fears of rejection, however, had kept him silent about his feelings and this was working against Wufei in a very serious way.
Duo had been the one to realize that the "solitary dragon" needed the other four teens more than he let on. When the American had gone to his Japanese lover about the situation, Heero had proposed a plan of action to address it. Now, though, a "mission" to bring the quiet Chinese boy into their circle more fully had gone drastically wrong and the braided boy was ill-equipped to know what was needed to overcome this unexpected setback. 
Oddly, in this moment of crisis, some very special gifts were needed.
Gifts of friendship and gifts of love.
With these gifts, Chang Wufei might very well survive and he might even flourish.
But for now, the pilot of the Gundam ShenLong lay lost and alone in the darkness. He left behind at least one young man who would have given anything to have been able to deliver the gifts that were so badly needed at that moment. Two others who would dedicate their energies to giving them both a chance at happiness and another boy who would need to search his soul if he was to ever find a place with them again.
 "Circle" is a term I've used for ages to describe the Gundam Team when the TV series timeline says that is not a term being used yet.