Duo had waited for Heero and Trowa to get out of the bedroom before he sat up next to Wufei and began a closer inspection of the Chinese pilot's injuries.
"So, buddy, how you doing here?" Duo asked, wishing there was a chance he might get a real answer but not expecting to be that lucky. He went to work removing the bandages yet again, first checking the sutures beneath one eye.
Violet eyes frowned in disapproval as Duo looked at the line of stitches across the high cheekbone. There had been signs of infection from almost the very beginning, but he had been trying to combat it with Neosporin and it just wasn't getting the job done.
Allowing that injury to remain open for a bit, he checked further and saw that Wufei's broken rib seemed to be progressing as well as might be expected thanks to the fact that the boy had been bed-ridden and relatively motionless for several days. The deep bruises and the other lacerations appeared to be improving, but the wounds seemed to be healing slower than they should.
Duo shook his head in annoyance as he wished once again that he could take the injured teen to a hospital. But considering the damage that he, Heero, and Trowa had done to the nearby OZ base, they simply couldn't risk discovery unless it was a matter of life or death and he was fairly certain that it had not gotten to that point just yet. He'd take whatever small favors fate was willing to give him and be thankful for them.
With a sigh, Duo applied more topical antibiotic and bandaged the injuries once more, carefully rewrapping the broken rib tightly. He silently thanked Sister Helen for insisting on his first aid training as a child. Those skills had been used a few times too many, but he was glad he could do this one service for his friends.
When he was finished, the American snuggled back down next to the silent form and held Wufei in his arms once more. Heero had done a good job of pointing a few issues out to this boy's admirer, Duo just barely avoided calling them lovers in his mind, but there was so much more that needed doing to be certain that the ShenLong pilot never felt so left out again.
"Well, now what, Wu?" Duo asked burying his face in the other's pillow and wishing he could speak directly with him instead of just having a rhetorical discussion with himself. "How are we ever gonna convince you to stay with us and accept us as your friends after this mess? You know, it really *is* true that no man is an island. How will we convince you to not run off and be Jamaica again, man?"
With a sigh, Duo closed his eyes and contemplated things further. As he lay close to Wufei, he recalled the point at which he himself had first felt the beginnings of a true friendship with the seemingly small boy he lay nestled against.
A dark night a week prior, Duo had been unable to sleep after Heero had been forced to leave on an urgent mission around midnight. That type of split second assignment was one of the more dangerous ones, so the American had stayed up and worried. That same event, however, did let Duo notice for the first time how cute the smallest pilot was when he was barely awake.
Accustomed to solitude, Wufei still found sleeping in the same house with the others a bit unnerving and he had chosen to sleep outside on the balcony. It might not have been the silence of the mountain tops he really preferred, but it was better than nothing.
Forgetting that Wufei was asleep out in the open air, Duo had walked out to greet the dawn carrying coffee and a newspaper. He'd been scanning it for news from L-2 and he wasn't exactly watching where he was walking.
"Na-nani?" A sleepy voice called out as the American's bare toes bumped into a soft object. Duo froze and looked down into soft coffee-dark eyes that blinked up at him through loose silk hair.
"Duo?" Wufei asked softly with a distinctly pained look on his face. "What are you doing out here?"
Duo smirked helplessly as he knelt down next to the sleepy Chinese boy who laid curled on a loose collection of blankets he had used to make the concrete a little more bearable. "Geez, Wu, I forgot you were out here! Sorry about that, are ya' okay?"
"Hai, I'll live," Wufei remarked with a yawn, as he pushed the loose hair out of his eyes just to have it fall back down. He looked more annoyed with his hair than he did with being kicked in the first place, a warning sign that had gone unnoticed.
"Where's my hair tie?" He looked around and didn't notice it, but Duo spotted the missing object and scooped it up.
"I've got it, Wu," Duo grabbed his own hairbrush that he'd brought out to redo the now straggly braid he had ignored since the day before. "Mind if I…?" He asked holding out both and smiling again apologetically.
Wufei looked at him distrustfully. He knew the Deathscythe pilot's tendency to joke around a bit too much but as he was preparing to refuse, the wind blew the hair free of his grip and he shrugged. "Go ahead, but be warned, it will not stay without some effort." He turned his back to the other boy and made room for Duo to sit behind him on the mound of blankets in the early morning light.
"Cool. I'll be careful." Duo settled comfortably behind him and got to work. In next to no time, the tight pony tail was once more in place and Wufei felt more in control and more awake. He turned to thank the other boy just as Duo started to unwind his own braid.
"Here, let me repay the favor," a single bronze hand was extended to take the hairbrush along with the black rubber band Duo used for the outrageously long chestnut waves.
Duo wasn't too sure about taking Wufei up on the offer, though. Ordinarily the only other person who even touched his hair was Heero, but with the Wing pilot gone, Duo thought there would be no problem and he was tired from staying up all night.
With a shrug and a hope that Heero wouldn't kill both of them for this, Duo handed the brush over. He cautioned, "Might want to get some coffee first, this might take awhile."
"Hai. I shall," Wufei rose gracefully and went inside after surreptitiously gathering up Duo's now cold cup of coffee. He returned shortly and handed the braided boy a cup of coffee lightened and sweetened precisely the way Duo liked it.
After taking a cautious sip, the violet-eyed pilot looked shocked. "Wow! This is perfect!" He exclaimed happily, no one had *ever* gotten the mix of cream and sugar in his coffee just right, and god knew Heero had tried long enough without ever getting even close. But like most people who preferred their coffee black, the Wing pilot just could not relate to "ruining" the hot beverage with additives.
"How'd ya' do that, Wu? Nobody ever gets it right!" Taking a few enthusiastic sips, Duo had consumed almost half the cup as Wufei simply smiled at him with a smirk of satisfaction on his face.
"I *watch*, Maxwell. I may be an explosives expert but that doesn't mean I fail to observe." A small hidden smile crossed his face as he began the long process of brushing out the waves of hair, he felt pleased he had made the first step towards friendship successfully despite his own doubts that he could do so.
"Actually," Wufei added off-handedly, "I happen to prefer lattes but there is rarely the equipment and for some reason," he snorted in annoyance, "everyone assumes I like tea. Pointless racial stereotypes!"
"That's true!" Duo laughed, and finished the coffee enthusiastically with a grin.
For the next hour, Duo sat, eyes closed in pleasure as Wufei brushed and braided the mass of hair. Wufei, for his part, found the entire experience rather relaxing as well. He even seemed saddened when the job was finished. The sun was well into the sky and neither boy had heard the others get up and move about inside the safehouse.
Quatre and Trowa both had approached the pair on the balcony without disturbing them. The blond walked away pondering the Chinese boy's apparent deathwish to even dare to touch "the hair". The brunette, however, came close to wishing he had an excuse to join them, but his natural shyness kicked in, and Trowa followed Quatre into the kitchen for breakfast instead.
"There, Maxwell, all done." Wufei handed the brush back, startling the American out of his lazy half-sleep.
"Huh?" Duo blinked sleepily, trying to figure out just what the other boy meant and Wufei chuckled softly.
"Your hair is done, baka," Wufei smirked and nudged the other boy gently trying to wake him a bit more. "If you're sleepy, go to bed. As for me, that was most relaxing. Thank you for trusting me to do that for you. I see now why Heero takes such pleasure in doing that, it *is* a quite pleasant experience."
"Oh, yeah," Duo smiled dreamily and then frowned wondering yet again why Heero had left so abruptly without telling him more about the mission that had called him away in the night.
"Heero really likes doing that, but he never says much about it." Duo shrugged and realized it rather bothered him that he had no idea why his lover enjoyed that particular task. "I guess he finds it relaxing, too, but who knows?"
"*I* know why, but I keep my opinions to myself," a gruff voice interrupted them.
"Heero!" Wufei looked startled and more than a little afraid. Even if he hadn't been spending time with the others, he knew about this pair's rather possessive relationship and he understandably thought he had overstepped the boundaries of friendship.
Duo scrambled to his feet and embraced the other boy who had obviously just gotten in, he still smelled of ammunition. Heero looked at Wufei who was still seated on the balcony then surprised both of the others with a cock-eyed grin and an offered hand to assist the smaller boy to his feet. Still a bit tentative, Wufei accepted the lift and rose fluidly.
"Thanks, Wufei, that looks good on him," Heero smiled and pulled the braid to see if it could stand up to the usual abuse it would get in a day.
"Nani? I thought you might be angry, Heero?" Wufei asked, confusion in his eyes and tone of voice.
Heero shrugged and then turned away to head back inside, ready to go fall into bed and sleep the day away. "Ordinarily I would be, Wufei, but Duo looked like he was enjoying it and I'm too tired to do it for him this morning. You did me a favor, thanks."
"It was no trouble," Wufei looked down and smiled once more as the pair walked off hand-in-hand. Left to himself, Wufei had then spent the day working on repairing a minor electrical glitch on his Gundam, but Duo recalled it as the first day he and Wufei had really started to get to know each other. This breakthrough had been thanks to their shared preferences for coffee and hairstyles.
Odd what things could bring two souls together as friends.
As the memory faded, Duo realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that Wufei needed the closeness of friendship and probably love as well. But was it even reasonable to hope they could convince the usually anti-social pilot to give them another chance after the unexpected beating he had taken from Quatre?
Duo himself had no intention of offering more than friendship, but he hoped that Trowa's behavior indicated there was a chance for love as well for the fallen teen, something that Duo heartily approved of.