By the end of the day, Heero and Trowa were settled into the nerve wracking
routine of espionage as they practiced it but they had the easier task of the
two groups of Gundam pilots. Back at the apartment, things were less than
"Duo? What's up with Wufei?" Quatre asked, concerned and more than a little
The braided boy regarded him cautiously before answering, "Why are you
"Well," the blond teen looked away, gazing down the short hallway where Wufei
had vanished almost immediately after eating far less of his dinner than
either of the others had expected. "I'm sure this sounds odd coming from me
after everything that's happened lately, but I'm worried about him. I may not
know Wufei very well, but even *I* can tell that this isn't normal for him."
Duo's eyes followed the look before returning, sadness in them as he nodded.
"You're right, on both counts. This *isn't* normal for him and I *am* a
little surprised that you're worried. But I am too, so what do we do about
"I'm not sure, but we can't just ignore it." Quatre sat and looked at his
hands before risking infuriating Duo by suggesting, "Think he'd get upset if
we went down to his room to see what he's up to? I'd never go there alone, I
don't want him to think I'm trying to intrude, but...?" he trailed off and
Duo snickered softly and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, "But, you
*do* want to intrude, don't you, Quatre? And for the right reasons, too." He
nodded as he saw the small hopeful smile forming on the Arabian teen's lips.
"Sure, I think that's actually a pretty good idea, but let's use a bit of
stealth, shall we? Earn that 'deadly terrorists' reputation we've got!"
The familiar Shinigami grin formed as Duo watched Quatre's confused
expression spread. Taking pity on the Arabian youth, he motioned him closer
and said in a conspiratorial tone, "Well, it *is* my room, too, ya know! Why
don't we go down there and invite ourselves in since I need to get something
from my duffel bag?"
Aquamarine eyes went wide and Quatre nodded and asked, "What is it you need,
"I dunno," the braided boy shrugged. "How does my CD case sound?"
Quatre chuckled as he stood to follow him down the hallway. "That sounds
totally believable, Duo. Um, what's my role here? Or would you rather have me
wait outside while you talk to him?"
"Ah, good point, my dear Q-Ball!" The Shinigami grin spread. "You're role is
the person who wants to borrow my music in the first place! Why else would I
go to so much trouble to search it out, right?"
"Right," he smiled as Duo knocked on the closed door and then opened it
without waiting for an answer.
"Yo, Wu, sorry to bug you, but..." Duo chattered as he entered, hoping to
distract the other boy enough that when he asked what was wrong, Wufei might
not take his interest seriously and the smaller teen might go ahead and
answer honestly in spite of everything. As he took in the sight of his friend
in the room, though, the relaxed patter fell silent.
On the floor by the bed, Chang Wufei sat lost in meditation.
The soft glow of a bed lamp illuminated the Chinese boy's figure, naked from
the waist up sitting in the painful-looking lotus position that always made
Duo cringe. But after the braided boy got past that, he took the time to stop
and observe the other boy.
Once Wufei had started to recover more from the injuries Quatre had
inflicted, Trowa had taken over the medical care aspect that Duo had
fulfilled earlier and the American felt like he had been remiss in not
checking his progress sooner. The brief glance before the poker game had
certainly not been as revealing as the view was now, and Duo took advantage
of the opportunity to exam him visually if nothing else.
The Ace bandage around the rib cage did little to conceal the greenish-yellow
bruises that covered most of the boy's torso. Higher, the bandage below the
eye was off and the line of stitches was in plain sight, allowing Duo one
piece of good news. The antibiotics had done an excellent job of clearing up
the infection finally, and now they were just waiting to see how bad the
scarring would be when the sutures were removed. Duo had told Trowa the
simple truth that day, he was a man of many talents, but avoiding a scar was
not as important to survival as keeping the skin closed. His own familiar
black priest-like garments hid a few scars of his own that spoke to this
prioritization of health care.
With a sigh, Duo glanced at Quatre only to discover that the blond had an
equally sad look on his face. He nudged the other boy with one elbow gently
and made a "smile" gesture which the other boy understood and obeyed.
After taking a breath, Duo resumed his patter from before as if he and Quatre
had not simply stood and stared at their comrade the way that they had. In a
slightly too-loud voice he said as he walked towards the Chinese teen, "Yo,
Wu, sorry to bug ya but can you come up for air there, buddy?"
He watched as Wufei's chest moved with a deep breath and then the dark eyes
opened. Blinking at the other two, Wufei looked up from the floor to greet
them. "Duo, Quatre, good evening. Did you need me for something?"
"Yeah, sure did, Wu," Duo answered brightly, scrambling mentally for a better
excuse for interrupting the other's meditation than a few missing CD's. "Um,
something's lost from the move here and I was hoping you might know where it
Quatre frowned then hid it behind a false cough as he glanced at the boy
standing beside him. That sounded phony even to him, he was certain that
Wufei would pick up on it and take the braided boy to task.
The fact that Wufei simply accepted this at face value surprised the blond
teen but Quatre said nothing about it in an effort to maintain the charade
that brought them into the room. Yet another sign of Wufei's depression had
slipped past the concerned pair and the moment for recognizing this fact was
gone almost as quickly as it had occurred.
Wufei rose to his feet as gracefully as ever, then moved to stand by the
other two asking, "Very well. What seems to be missing?" He glanced around
the room as he added, "We did pack in a bit of a rush, but most of the boxes
were unloaded already."
"I know," Duo whined a little as he tried yet again to think of a reason that
was even slightly believable, then he brightened considerably as he said,
"It's some data disks for the laptop. I usually don't have time to work on
this stuff, but I figured if I was to ever get that new remote control
security system up and running for our Gundams, I'd best get started on it,
Wufei nodded and walked towards the two boxes that had been set aside
earlier. As he began sorting through them he asked, "What kind of container
are they in? Is it any particular color? That would help to know."
His fingers brushed a hard cold object and he just pushed it away.
It was the heavy gold signet ring Quatre had worn when he attacked the
Chinese pilot. Wufei, however, didn't pay it the least bit of attention and
failed to take note of its identity as he set it aside. Trowa hadn't made a
conscious decision to keep the piece of jewelry, but when his jeans had been
tossed into the box, the ring fell from the pocket to slide deeply into their
collection of odds and ends.
The ring would remain in the box along with quite a few other things of
Trowa's since Wufei simply couldn't bring himself to try to put away the
slender teen's belongings while he was absent from his side.
"Um, they're cleverly concealed in a brown paper bag!" Duo finally answered
after thinking about the disks he had been ignoring for the last three weeks
and then moved to dig through the other box.
Quatre cast a glance at Duo as if to ask how soon they were going to talk to
the ShenLong pilot about what they had come in for and Duo just gave him a
helpless shrug in response.
"Like this one?" Wufei asked, holding up a bag that none of them recognized.
Duo frowned and reached out a hand to take it before looking in and suddenly
smiling. "Maybe the bag I need looks like this one, but this isn't it! Here,
Wu, I think this is yours," he handed the bag back to Wufei who accepted it
with a look of confusion.
Reaching in, Wufei was surprised to discover the bag contained a book.
It was a novel by Tom Clancy the Chinese teen hadn't gotten around to reading
yet and he looked at Duo, slightly puzzled. "Thank you for the gift, Duo, but
why did you get this for me?"
"I didn't," he shrugged and saw Quatre giving him a blank look similar to the
one on Wufei's face before he said, "Trowa went out and got that for you last
week after you were hurt. I had no idea he never gave it to you."
Wufei seemed to be a bit taken aback and simply stood contemplating the book
as Quatre asked, "A hidden gift, Duo? It's not like Trowa to just stash away
something like that, why didn't he just give it to Wufei when he had the
Duo frowned and wondered briefly if he'd screwed up, but decided if it wasn't
hidden better than that it wasn't meant to be a secret. "I dunno," he said
brightly, "but is that a bookmark stuck in it? I see something in between the
"Bookmark?" Wufei asked as he opened the book and something fell from inside.
Kneeling down, he scooped up a small plastic-covered card and he stood
looking at it in the partial light. Surprised and not exactly certain he
wanted to believe what his eyes were claiming, Wufei moved to flip on the
overhead light and discovered that it was no ordinary bookmark left there for
him to find.
"It's an OZ identification card," Wufei told the others. "It has a picture of
Trowa on it and it reads, 'Ensign Triton Bloom, New South Wales, Engineering
[ click here to see the image ]
Wufei looked first at Duo and then at Quatre with a look that was a mixture
of sorrow, concern, and just a hint of happiness as he asked, "Anyone have
any ideas why *that* is in a book that was meant for me? Maybe this is all a
mistake." He shook his head as he started to return the ID card to the
confines of the novel with the intentions of putting it all back in the box
when Duo held out his hand.
"May I see that, Wu?" he asked gently.
"Certainly," he handed the identification card to his friend.
Duo looked at it with a small smile on his face before he said, "That's a
real fine photo of Tro, ain't it, Quatre?" He handed the card to the blond
who looked at it as well.
A soft sigh left Quatre's lips as he returned it to Wufei. "I think this was
from a mission he and Heero went on awhile back. That's a great photo of him,
Wufei. Maybe he was planning to give it to you?"
"I rather doubt that. Why would he risk this being found if our location was
compromised?" The Chinese teen simply couldn't accept the fact that this
might just be a gift as well as the book.
Then a small smile crossed Wufei's lips as he remarked shyly, "He does cut a
dashing figure in one of their uniforms, though, does he not?"
"He sure does, Wu," Duo smiled and then remembered what they had come in to
see him about in the first place. "By the way, Wufei, got a minute to come
out and talk? Quatre and I are getting worried about you."
"Worried? Why?" Wufei picked up his long white silk over-shirt and moved to
walk out the door with them, but stopped. "What have I done to worry you?"
"It's what you *haven't* done that's got me worried, Wu," Duo answered as he
put one hand on his friend's back to guide him out the door. After a bit of
initial hesitation, Wufei gave in and went with them to sit in the small living room.