As Trowa Barton drifted into a peaceful slumber holding Chang Wufei, elsewhere, Duo Maxwell was celebrating by kissing his own chosen love quite a bit more forcefully and Heero Yuy did *not* complain for one moment.
When the kiss broke apart, though, the American practically danced as he proclaimed, "He's better, Heero! Wu is really better *and*" he added even more enthusiastically, "Trowa *kissed* him! FINALLY!!!"
Heero granted him one of his own rare indulgent smiles as he shared in the happiness that had suddenly overtaken the previously somber safehouse. After letting Duo bask in his moment of joy, however, he brought him crashing back to earth with a quiet comment. "You haven't forgotten that today Quatre comes back, have you?"
"Aw crap!" Duo's face fell as he considered the ramifications of the return of the pilot whose actions had set all of this into motion. "Does he have to?" He whined, looking for a moment to actually be an ordinary petulant teenager instead of an assassin.
"I'm afraid so," Heero grumbled, indicating that he, too, was none too thrilled that the blond was returning. Then a cold look crossed his face as he added, "However, if he comes back maybe we can find out just why in hell this happened in the first place, ne?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Duo glanced back at the closed bedroom door which lead to the sleeping pair and then he sighed. "Trowa needs to find out why Quatre went totally nuts like that and frankly so do I. As for Wu, hell, he still doesn't seem to have a clue what happened, but sooner or later that justice shit of his would surface and he'd want an explanation as well."
Heero merely nodded and looked at the clock, wondering just when they would face this new crisis. It was only around 9am, so there was more than enough time to worry and still no coffee.
"I'm going to Starbucks," Duo suddenly remarked, "I want a latte. You want anything?"
A smirk crossed Heero's face as he considered this and rejected it as being a straight forward remark. "Are you running, Duo?"
"Sure," Duo shrugged as he searched for his wallet in the denim jacket he had left over a chair. "I run, hide, don't lie, yada yada yada, so now I'm gonna *run* down to Starbucks and get some coffee. You want some or not?"
"Sure, get me the usual."
"Right, boring, but what else is new? Tall, black, and a plain croissant," Duo frowned as his search for the money came up dry, then he looked at his lover who stood holding the missing wallet. "Thief!" He accused with a smile as he recaptured it.
"No, pizza delivery, remember?"
"Yeah, I forgot." Duo slipped the jacket on and headed for the door, calling back as he left, "Hold the fort!"
"I'll try," Heero sighed and looked at his laptop in annoyance as he realized he did *not* want to check for mission assignments. Until the situation amongst them was settled, he preferred if the war went on without any of the five Gundam pilots.
For once, fate was kind, there was nothing worrisome in the mail. Duo brought back coffee without incident along with an assortment of irresistible treats on the off-chance Wufei might reawaken with an appetite. Time passed, and the safehouse was a perfect example of the calm before the storm.
It was around three in the afternoon when the blond Sandrock pilot returned. It would have been impossible to say who was the least thrilled about his arrival, Quatre or Duo, but Heero found it to be a relief to finally face the issue instead of waiting.
"Quatre," Duo greeted in a dead tone as the blond walked in and dropped a carry-sack in the living room.
"Um, hello, Duo," Quatre said shyly, looking at the braided boy through his bangs. He was scanning the house for the others as Duo stood arms crossed deliberately blocking his way to the bedrooms. Trowa and Wufei were still in bed of course, and Duo had asked Heero to see if Trowa was awake and wanted to speak with Quatre as soon as he arrived.
As Heero returned to his lover's side, Quatre brightened and smiled, "Hi, Heero! You look well."
"Hn." Heero stood next to Duo and mimicked his body-language. Now both the Wing and Deathscythe pilots blocked Quatre's path and the blond had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he went over and dropped down to sit dejectedly on the sofa.
"Isn't there someone *else* you should be asking about, Quatre?" Duo asked pointedly.
"How's Wufei?" the blond asked in a soft voice. Barely above a whisper he added, "Is Trowa still here?"
"Of course he's still here, you idiot!" Duo snarled moving to stand in front of Quatre, shrugging off a warning glance from Heero as he stood carefully keeping his arms still crossed just to avoid attacking the little Sandrock pilot if nothing else. "Who the hell did you think has been taking care of Wufei after you beat him senseless, huh?"
Visibly flinching, Quatre turned his eyes away and down, as if his worse fears had just been confirmed. He sat silently chewing on his lip and wondering if it wasn't too late to turn tail and run after all.
"Well?!?" Duo demanded, stepping closer and very nearly losing his resolve to at least try to let the other explain himself without resorting to violence after all.
"I didn't know," Quatre answered softly. "I didn't know how bad things were here, and I kinda guessed Trowa might leave after what I did and all."
"No," a quiet voice answered as Trowa walked into the room, alone. He had taken a few moments to get dressed and appeared far more calm in his usual jeans and turtleneck than what Duo might have predicted. "No, Quatre, I don't run away from my problems. And, as Duo indicated, I've been taking care of Wufei."
Aquamarine eyes stared up hopefully as Trowa stepped around Duo to sit in a chair facing Quatre. As the blond realized the other boy had no intention of sitting down beside him, his head dropped.
The lanky HeavyArms pilot seemed far too composed and every warning system Heero Yuy had went off loudly as he reconsidered just which of these two would be the most likely to wreck havoc on the third. He moved fluidly towards his lover deciding that Duo still had the highest likelihood of going off on a moment's notice. As for Trowa, he really couldn't gauge what he might do, so he chose his strategy and went with it. Besides, he had to admit that even he wanted to see Quatre pay for his actions, and if Trowa sought retribution, he might just stay out of the way anyway.
Trowa stared at Quatre with a coolly detached look which fell away after a bit. He didn't hate him, but he was annoyed that the usually courteous boy had neglected something rather important in Trowa's mind. "Well? Aren't you even going to ask me how he is?"
Quatre's head came up quickly and he looked shocked as he asked, "What? You mean he isn't fine by now?" A slight tremor shook him as he added, "I didn't hurt him all *that* badly, did I?"
"Shit, Quatre!" Duo snarled, "You're a fucking Gundam pilot! When you want to hurt someone, you usually succeed! Or was your training sloppier than I thought?"
"Oh, I see." Sorrow painted its way across the Arab's face as he realized things were worse than he thought. "No, Duo, my training was good enough, but I couldn't remember everything that happened." He sighed and then turned to Trowa. "You're right, Trowa, I should have asked right from the start. How is Wufei?"
Trowa had glanced at Duo with a look of negation as the American seemed to be about to simply snatch the blond teen off the couch and throw him against a wall.
Turning back to Quatre, Trowa answered quietly, "He finally regained consciousness this morning. He's in pretty bad shape for a simple fist-fight. Duo had to stitch up a gash across his cheek and there's more, but what I'm wondering is why you don't have a scratch on you from him?"
Violet eyes went wide as this realization hit Duo whose mouth dropped open a bit.
Heero's surprise was less obvious, but no less profound. The Wing pilot had been so focused on preventing more bloodshed, he had missed this important detail entirely.
Duo spluttered, trying to find a way to demand answers to what Trowa had asked, but his lover cut him off with a look. "Answer the question, Winner." Heero demanded, voice cold.
"Um," Quatre looked at all three with a look that would have garnered him sympathy under other conditions, yet now it gained him nothing as he admitted, "Wufei never fought back."
The blond looked extremely uncomfortable as all three considered this new information.
"What *exactly* do you mean, Quatre?" Heero asked dangerously. He did *not* approve of anyone fighting someone who would not at least defend themselves given the chance.
Sighing as he sealed his fate, Quatre fully expected to find himself sent back to his sister's clinic within moments of revealing the truth, he pulled his fragmented memories of the conflict to mind. "I don't remember what exactly started it, but I do remember yelling at him about leaving Trowa alone and when he said he didn't know what I was talking about, I kinda lost it and hit him."
He stopped to glance at the emerald-eyed pilot who had remained silent, yet now looked as cold and angry as Heero and Duo both did. Eyes downcast, Quatre continued his tale. "Anyway, after I hit him in the face the first time, he went down and didn't get back up. I kept yelling at him and I guess he was stunned or something because he never said anything else. As best I can guess, I must have kicked him since there was blood on my shoes, too."
"'Too'?" Heero asked, the danger glinting in his eyes sending chills down the Sandrock pilot's spine.
"Um, yeah," Quatre looked away then forced himself to look back as he answered, "My signet ring had blood on it."
"Aw shit!" Duo snarled as he practically lunged at him, "I have *had* it! You were wearing that damned thing when you picked a fight with one of *us*?!? Are you fucking nuts or what?!?"
Before Quatre could say anything at all, two things happened simultaneously.
First, Heero forcibly restrained Duo as the other boy became agitated to the point that physical violence was certain to ensue. Second, Trowa rose gracefully and back-handed the blond forcefully across the face. Stunned, Quatre lifted a trembling hand to his stinging cheek and looked up at the tall pilot with watery eyes.
"That *hurt*, didn't it?" Trowa asked in a dead voice. Quatre merely nodded as tears fell from his eyes. "And I *wasn't* wearing an ounce of cut gold on my hand, was I?"
Quatre looked utterly baffled at this remark and then glanced at the embossed ring on his hand. It carried the Winner family crest in the style of a cut-design like a wax embossing ring of centuries prior and weighed far more than an ounce. Yet Trowa had made his point quite elegantly. It had hurt, a great deal, and there might be a bruise from it, but nothing like the tearing injury the ring would have caused.
Realization dawned on Quatre and he dropped his head into his hands as Trowa turned in disgust and walked away, headed towards the kitchen before returning to Wufei's bedroom.
"Trowa?" Quatre called out in a small voice, "I'm sorry."
Trowa stopped and answered flatly, "Don't tell *me* that, tell Wufei." His voice tightened on him as he added sadly, "At least, you can *try* to tell him when he comes around again, but there's no way to know when that will happen or what kind of shape he'll be in when he does."
He simply stood there, back straight, eyes closed as he wondered if the next time Wufei awoke would be the time he sent Trowa away from him. Trowa fully expected this to happen, especially after the Chinese boy got enough of his memory back to realize that he had been injured because Trowa couldn't even control his own life any better than he had.