"So, Quatre," Duo said suddenly, trying hard to sound casual, "where'd *you* get off to this afternoon?"
"Um," Quatre cleared his throat hesitantly, "I just went for a walk, Duo. I, uh, needed to think for awhile."
"I'm sure you did," Duo muttered darkly, just to get Heero's elbow in his ribs for his trouble. He shot an angry violet glare at his lover and added, "Did it help? Getting out and walking, I mean."
"Yeah, it did," Quatre looked at his plate and realized he had actually finished the sandwich he would have bet he would hardly eat any of. He looked up and said, "Thanks for dinner, Trowa, it was kind of you to think of us while you were out."
"No problem," Trowa answered without malice as he rose to carry his plate to the kitchen. "Let me take those," he offered, gathering up the other empty plates as Duo got the glasses together. They cleared the table in silence and ended up sitting together in the living room.
To everyone's surprise, it was Heero who broke the silence. "Tell me, Quatre, what do you plan to do now? Are you going to stay here with us or head out on your own?" He paused as he noticed the guilty look on the blonde's face. "I assumed that was what you were considering, wasn't it?"
"It was," the Sandrock pilot nodded. "I decided I'd leave it up to Wufei and Trowa. I need to apologize to you both," he looked at Trowa with lingering pain in his eyes, "But I guess I won't be able to do that fully until I can talk to Wufei."
"Of course," Trowa answered with only a mild look of annoyance. "But that may take awhile, I don't know. I'm not a doctor, but Duo has been doing the best he can and Fei seems to be recovering now. As to your safety, Quatre, I don't plan on attacking you to even the score, but Wufei might have his own opinions on things."
"I know," Quatre answered sadly, as he rubbed his cheek where Trowa had struck him previously. "I'd deserve it if he did decide to flatten me, anyway. I was way out of line and it was an unprovoked attack. I doubt I can ever make it up to him, but maybe I can try?" He looked at the others hopefully, but only Heero answered.
"You can always try, Quatre. None of us are perfect," he slid a glance at Duo who snickered softly, the "perfect soldier" nickname was wearing thin, but the American still liked it. "But maybe you can help us figure out how to convince him to trust us all as friends when he's healthy again, too."
"Is that what this is all about, Heero? Us trying to win his friendship?" Trowa was surprised. Since when did Heero Yuy even care about such things as friendship, or in his own case for the Chinese boy, Trowa would add the word "love" as well.
"Hai," Heero responded simply. "Do you recall the things I suggested before the three of us headed out on that mission? We're all here because Duo noticed that Wufei needed friends and there's a chance things are about to change in this damned war and we all need to be able to rely on each other."
"Oh, like when we all played Risk? And you paired me off with Wu, Heero?" Duo's eyes lit up. He and the Chinese boy had won the game all too handily. Between Wufei's strategy and Duo's unpredictability, they'd made an unbeatable team and not even Heero made much headway against them.
A soft laugh left Trowa's lips as he recalled it had been the shortest game of Risk the usually evenly matched Gundam pilots had ever played. The combination the others faced was unstoppable and Duo had crowed about their winning all the way to their destination after the trio left for their mission.
What no one was mentioning was how much arguing the winning team had done and how that, too, had been part of their success.
Wufei had ranted about Duo's lack of planning while Duo had chided Wufei about everything from what color game pieces he'd chosen to which part of the world to conquer next. But the American went too far at one point and said that if Wufei was in charge of OZ the Gundam pilots would all be captives and the war would have ended already. He had meant it as a compliment, but for some reason the ShenLong pilot simply closed his eyes in pain and dropped his hands into his lap, staring distantly at the board for a few awkward minutes.
At this, an uncomfortable silence had fallen over the entire game until the braided boy got Wufei a bowl of mint chip ice cream in apology and then the game had resumed in full force.
"Yeah, Risk! Great game that night, wasn't it? We whupped your butts!" Duo grinned happily and a bit of discussion arose between himself and his lover over butts getting kicked and possible rematches.
As this discussion moved along on its own, Quatre's mind called up the memory of another game which was not nearly so close but also not so nearly emotionally draining.
Before things had spiraled out of control, Quatre had tried to distract everyone with a card game. He felt uncomfortable with Wufei around, but he thought if he could at least draw him into some of their more normal activities it might get easier.
"How about poker?" the blond had suggested, shuffling his deck of Tenchi Muyo cards. "We can make cabbits wild."
"What's a 'cabbit'?" Duo asked.
"Pointless anthropomorphic creature that can turn into a starship," Wufei remarked casually, doing his best to look bored.
"Nani?!?" Trowa and Heero both answered in amazement.
"How'd you know that, Wu?" Duo asked with a sly smile, "You a closet anime fiend?"
"Hardly," the Chinese boy answered with a smirk. "I was stuck with no missions a few months ago in a safehouse in the middle of nowhere. No books to read and I was tired of surfing the net, so I turned on the TV and accidentally ran into something called 'Toonami'. The shows were in English instead of Japanese, but it was mildly entertaining."
He suddenly realized all of the others were staring at him, and Wufei asked in irritation, "What are you looking at me like that for? Don't tell me none of the rest of you have ever been stuck that way!"
"We have, Wufei," Trowa had answered with a smile, "it's just that I assumed you never even watched television, that's all."
"Ordinarily I don't, Trowa," Wufei shifted a bit nervously as he realized how very closely the emerald-eyed boy was looking at him, "but I was bored and re-reading 'The Hunt for Red October' didn't appeal to me at the time. Now, are we playing cards or analyzing what I do in my free time for this evening's entertainment?"
"Cards," Duo said with a grin. "Definitely cards, but show me one of these 'cabbit' things before we start, Q, or I might miss one."
"Sure," The blond happily displayed the three cards with images of the cat/rabbit creature. The braided boy grinned, pronouncing it overly cutesy but more recognizable than the wild card had been when they used the Speed Racer deck and it had been any racecar *other than* the "Mach Five". Granted, by the end of that night, the clever Deathscythe pilot had found five cards with images of Racer X's "Shooting Star" in them and he had won every hand because of it.
As play progressed, it became apparent that Wufei had the single worst poker face of the five and could never conceal a winning hand when he held one, leading him to complain repeatedly that he seemed to win the smallest pots.
Quatre had tried to take him aside to teach him the finer points of bluffing, but Wufei insisted such deliberate subterfuge was, to him at least, dishonorable. So it left him "too serious" by far over a simple card game where the chips were M&M's ™.
That night, the Sandrock pilot had made a concerted effort to try to understand why he felt that Wufei was his rival for Trowa's affections when there was so little physical evidence. He also tried to begin to understand the secretive Asian boy and he made almost no progress there, either. He simply could not understand the other's logic or even his emotions and the resulting confusion just made things worse in the long run.