Three days had elapsed since the brutal attack on Chang Wufei, yet the Chinese boy remained silent and unresponsive.
The small pilot's skin had gained the drastic colors of deep bruises and his face looked very little like it had before the assault. Black hair cascaded loose across the surface of his pillow, yet the ethereal beauty of the exotic youth was muted by the devastation that had been wrecked on his body. The single broken rib remained tightly bound beneath a loose t-shirt borrowed from Duo's collection of assorted shirts, giving an air of comfort that simply did not exist.
There wasn't much more the three remaining pilots could do for him other than keep watch, a task Trowa Barton had taken on wordlessly.
Quatre Raberba Winner had been sent away from the others and this left the other worried teenagers to cope on their own. Duo Maxwell was almost always nearby, worrying and fretting over both of them. Heero Yuy made his presence known in the forms chosen by the classic "strong silent types" throughout history and whenever he stepped into the situation, the others heeded his words quickly.
"Need anything, Trowa?" Heero asked, sticking his head into the partially dark bedroom, finding the HeavyArms pilot simply laying beside the injured boy holding him loosely and staring into space.
A deep breath shuddered in and back out of the slender chest as Trowa realized he had to answer. Unlike Duo, Heero never walked away after asking this particular question unless he got an answer he would accept. Trowa was beside himself to think of any new answers and, as usual, he just said softly to himself, "What I need is for him to wake up, Heero. I need to know he's going to be okay." Emerald eyes were sad beyond their years as he turned to his friend with a look that would have broken anyone's heart that wasn't already accustomed to seeing it.
"That's something that *we* can't give you, Trowa, you know that." Heero shook his head with a frown. "Duo did the best he could to patch him up and now we all wait and see. But you need to..." he was cut off by a bouncing braid and a bundle of energy who swung into the room and straight to the tall boy's side.
"What *you* need is to get out of bed!" Duo grinned, tugging on Trowa's arm bringing a stubborn look of refusal as yet another argument they had shared previously was about to be repeated. Or so Trowa thought.
"No. I am *not* leaving him alone."
Duo grinned at him and let go just to walk to the other side of the bed, where he crawled across the covers and slid in next to the unconscious boy. He wrapped an arm carefully around the smaller boy's body and cuddled close. Duo reached over to disengage Trowa's hold on Wufei and then the American yawned and pretended to go to sleep, going so far as to produce a few very unrealistic snores to go with the act.
Shocked, Trowa just stared at him and opened his mouth to question these unexpected actions when Heero walked over and picked him up out of the bed bodily and turned to walk out of the room carrying Trowa with him.
"Put me down!" The lanky teen demanded, trying fruitlessly to escape from Heero's powerful arms. "Wufei needs me!"
"No, he doesn't," Heero insisted. "At least not until you get something to eat and a shower. Trowa, you won't be any good to him or yourself if you go another day without eating." 
Realizing he was defeated, Trowa went limp in the powerful arms of his friend and went along for the ride. As Heero turned once more to leave, he got a cheery wave from his own lover who went right back to snuggling protectively against the silent Chinese boy.
"You can put me down now, Heero," Trowa remarked, slightly amused as well as distinctly pleased his friend cared enough to do this for him.
"No can do," Heero shook his head. "Not until I see to that you're going to sit and eat. I spent too long convincing Duo to cook some of his special spaghetti for you for me to have to explain why the pot is still full later." He walked into the kitchen and put Trowa down directly into a chair with a look that clearly meant "stay put".
As Heero turned to serve a pair of plates of pasta, he glanced at Trowa to make sure he was going to remain where he had been placed, but the taller pilot knew better than to try anything. If Heero had traded favors to get Duo to cook the one dish Trowa never refused, then Trowa was smart enough to sit tight and eat.
The pair sat in comfortable silence and ate the tasty meal, Heero silently thanking his talented lover for providing the food while he wondered how much longer the three of them could hold things together the way they were.
As Heero was serving a second portion for them each, Trowa looked with concern back towards the bedroom they had left behind.
"You still feeling guilty over what happened, Trowa?" Heero asked knowing full-well it was that or the fact that Trowa had left Wufei for more than ten minutes for the first time since the unprovoked attack which was bothering him.
"Yeah, I am," Emerald green eyes sank down to stare at the steaming plate in front of him and it became clear that they needed to get this settled once and for all. "I still don't see why Quatre would think that I loved him to begin with, we're just friends. I've never indicated I wanted more than that from *him*! I certainly made it clear to him the first time I stayed with him in the desert that there wasn't anything between us."
The HeavyArms pilot looked pained as he added a certain remark the blond had used one day so long ago that had always irritated him. "'Friend Trowa' my ass! Some friend *he* turned out to be!"
Without thinking it over, Heero just snorted derisively. He was glad that name had never been applied to him or the Sandrock pilot might very well have not lived to see the war get to the point it was at currently.
"Look, Trowa, there's something you need to understand whether you like it or not. Quatre was just not himself the day we found them fighting. He was sleep deprived and--"
"And trying to kill a perfectly innocent person, Heero!" Trowa answered angrily. "Sleep was something Quatre had gone without because he screwed up a mission of his own and he couldn't handle it. But why should Wufei have to pay for his stupidity?"
The cobalt-eyed boy stopped to consider this briefly. Duo had wanted to kill Quatre when he had beaten Wufei based on the simple rule that no one attacks a Gundam pilot and lives, not even another pilot. But Heero had refused. The only reason he could see for the assault had been something medical and Heero pointed out that they could kill Quatre later if need be and this alone had calmed Duo's raging need for vengeance.
Heero had gotten Quatre to his sister Iria for treatment, and Trowa had been told of the diagnosis, he just didn't think it justified what the Arab had done. As it stood, Quatre would return to them in another day or two with his own load of guilt over everything and Heero wanted to control things as soon as possible. He didn't feel like training a replacement pilot if it could be avoided.
"Agreed," Heero finally answered Trowa's comment and then added, "However you already know there were extenuating circumstances and he feels like shit about all of this. When he gets back, you and he can talk it out like civilized beings, all right?"
Now it was Trowa's turn to snort in disbelief. "You expect me to be civilized with someone like that? Someone who takes their own deluded beliefs out in the form of violence on an innocent person? You and I both know Wufei wouldn't have claimed anything was going on between us, and he wouldn't have even fought back if he thought Quatre was ill, so it was probably a totally unfair fight to start with!"
"Fine!" Heero snapped, patience at an end. "It *was* unfair, I never said otherwise! And it was unwarranted, but haven't you ever screwed up before, Trowa? Have you been so perfect all your life that you never needed to ask for someone's forgiveness? Have you never made a mistake that got someone hurt before?"
Memory screamed at Trowa that he had indeed done these things and that they had, in part, resulted in the death of countless people who lost their lives throughout this war.
Nodding sadly, he gave in. "All right, Heero, you win." Trowa said quietly, "I'm as guilty as anyone else, but it still disturbs me to think he could snap again and Wufei might actually die because of it the next time. Besides," emerald locked with cobalt and held the gaze, "why would he think what he did anyway? Wufei and I aren't lovers or anything. What's there to be jealous of in the first place?"
Now it was Heero who held the gaze a moment longer to be certain that Trowa was listening when he answered this question. He had expected this since Duo pointed out an explanation which had eluded him in the first place after he, too, wondered this very thing.
"Have you never noticed the way he watches you when we're all in one place?"
"WHAT?!?" Trowa's mouth dropped open in shock. "What the hell are you talking about, Heero? He does *not* watch me!"
"Yes, he does," Heero responded blandly. He himself had questioned his lover about this rather closely, since it seemed odd until the braided boy had taken the time to point a few otherwise easily missed facts out to him. "Do you remember following him when he left to chase down Khushrenada?"
A faint blush traced up the ivory skin as Trowa silently admitted he not only remembered, he remembered this very well indeed.
"Well, yes, of course I do." He admitted slowly, then went on, "He lost that duel and it tore him up pretty badly. We went back to the circus and Catherine served us some stew and we had coffee. But nothing else happened, nothing but..."
Trowa's voice trailed off as his mind added unnecessarily, //...but I wanted something to happen that night. I wanted more than just setting him up to sleep on the couch in the trailer. I wanted to find him still there in the morning, but I didn't.//
The inner turmoil was easy to read and Heero nodded slowly as he knew Trowa was arriving at the same conclusions Duo and Quatre both already had.
"You know, Trowa," Heero remarked, getting up to put the spaghetti away, "For a guy who claims to not be in a relationship with someone, you sure do blush a lot when Wufei gets mentioned. Care to explain why?"
"Um, no," he looked away as he realized he was now an even darker shade of pink, "but we aren't in a 'relationship' to start with."
"Really?" Heero asked again, hoping to make one last point before marching the brunette straight to the shower he had demanded of him. "Aren't we all in 'relationships', around here, Trowa? Aren't we all at least trying to be friends if not lovers? Have you ever realized just how lonely it must get for Wufei to be excluded from so much of the time we're assigned a safehouse to share or the same boarding school to use for cover when we hide? By being given assignments away from us, he's been kept isolated. He may not even want that, but the bastards who give us our missions seem to keep it that way for a reason, so what do *you* think? Think he just might need the 'relationships' he might find with the rest of us?"
Quietly, the Wing pilot added, "Hell, I never even thought of all this stuff, but Duo did. That's why he made sure that Dr. G had Master O send Wufei to meet up with us this time around, so the guy might realize we're his friends if he wants us to be."
Trowa was stunned and sat speechless as this new idea sunk in. Like everyone but Duo, the HeavyArms pilot had thought that Wufei stayed away from them by choice, not by force of command. The very idea that he could have spent more time with the quiet Chinese pilot before this tragedy had occurred to him but he had believed it unattainable. Now that he knew the truth, he felt dreadful.
Not only was Wufei *not* avoiding them, himself especially, but Wufei just might care for him in return. Saying nothing about these revelations, though, Trowa got ready to leave the kitchen.
"Hold it!" Heero growled. "If you don't want to answer me about what Wufei wants or needs, that's fine, I won't push it. But if you think you're going to go crawl back off to lay down without a shower and fresh clothes, guess again!"
A sardonic smirk was on Trowa's face as he turned and said, "Really? Are you going to force me, Heero? What if I don't want a shower? What if I don't have any clean clothes to wear anyway? We had just gotten in when you restrained Quatre and I never washed clothes."
"You might not have, but Duo did, baka!" Heero grinned and pointed to a stack of Trowa's turtlenecks and jeans, along with a few random t-shirts and shorts from Duo's collection. The braided wonder not only had the most hair, he also carried the most clothes in his Gundam. So when Duo realized that Trowa was not about to leave Wufei unattended, he'd volunteered part of his wardrobe to the effort.
"So I see," Trowa smiled and grabbed a large cotton shirt as well as a pair of loose fitting sweat shorts and headed towards the bathroom. "By the way, Heero, tell Duo thanks for this. The lover of yours really does think of everything, you know?"
After the other boy had vanished, Heero smiled and put away the milk he had snuck a swallow from. Duo wore him out under normal circumstances and his nervousness over Wufei's condition had gone straight to the braided boy's libido.
"Oh yeah, Trowa," Heero remarked casually to himself as he planned on taking Duo's mind off things as soon as Trowa was back to relieve the Deathscythe pilot of guard duty over their fallen friend. "I am fully aware of how much Duo does indeed think of *everything*, but I'd add that he thinks of *everyone* as well!"
With a smile more tender by far than what some people believed Heero Yuy was even capable of, the Japanese pilot of the Wing Gundam went to make sure there were no new mission assignments awaiting any of them. The last thing they needed now was for their small team to be divided by command and he was relieved there were no new messages of consequence.
 Trowa is the tallest pilot on the character design sheets yet he weighs less than Wufei. Tro is 5'3", 97 lbs, and Fei comes in at 5'1", 101 lbs. Obviously, this is a bishounen who needs to eat more and this will be a theme of the arc *unless* Fei can change that!