"'Healing'?!?" Duo sobbed, after watching the videodisk. "How can he call *this* healing? I'm alive and breathing, but I feel like part of
me is still gone with him caged up like an animal!"
Laying in his hospital bed, Duo did *not* look pleased by what he'd seen in the message from Heero. Over the period since the day
when Heero had proposed and he had several heart attacks then surgery, Duo Maxwell had sunk into a deep depression. He was not
healing as expected and certainly didn't have much of a chance to replace the body mass he was rapidly loosing.
Shocked, Quatre had wanted to say any number of things about how good Heero looked and wasn't it great that he'd gotten to send a
message, but it was clear that trying to cheer up the braided boy was now out of the question. Instead, he decided on taking the direct
approach, "Duo, you have to understand that he did this for you. He often went into harm's way for you during battle why are you so
Duo's eyes flashed in fierce anger. "Because this *isn't* battle, Damnit! My life is *not* reason enough for him to have forfeited his
freedom this way! Does the baka even *know* what the sentence is for stealing a human organ, much less all the other junk he pulled?!"
Monitors attached to his body indicated a radical rise in blood pressure and heart rate; if they didn't get him calmed down quickly, this
was going to escalate completely out of control and possibly place him in danger health-wise as well.
"Duo!" Trowa commanded. "Stop this. You are being irrational and I seriously doubt that this will aid either yourself or Heero."
Duo, a bit stunned at Trowa's words, lay still a moment and considered them. His friend was right, of course, but that didn't make it any
easier to accept. "Yeah, Tro-man, you're right, this won't help." He sighed long and low. "Damnit all to Hell! I wish I'd died during the
damned war and then none of this would have ever happened."
Without warning, Quatre back-handed him sharply across the face. "Don't you dare *ever* say that again!!" He seethed. "If you are
such an idiot that you can't understand that Heero made this sacrifice willingly out of love for you, then perhaps you don't deserve it after
all! I'm sick of listening to this crap! Trowa, you can stay if you want to, but I need to get out of here---NOW!" Furious, Quatre left the
room and stormed down the hallway before collapsing on a bench. He dropped his head into his hands and let tears of frustration leave
"My God," Duo gasped, rubbing the back of his hand across his bleeding mouth. "I've never seen him do something like that! What is
going on here, Trowa?"
Trowa sighed deeply, shaking his head. "Honestly, Duo, I don't know. Quatre hasn't been himself lately, he's under a lot of pressure
between the business, you, Heero, Laurel, and even my own presence seems to add to his troubles. For some reason, he seems to be in
a great deal of pain and has been concealing it even from me. However, I finally discovered some rather strong painkillers in his
nightstand and believe he is trying to handle it alone."
"Geez, Trowa," Duo looked utterly abashed. "I had no idea things were so bad. Listen, go take care of him. You're right, I was being an
irrational jerk earlier; hell, I should have at least mentioned how much I appreciated all the trouble you guys went to just to deliver the
message to me so quickly. Tell him I'm sorry, okay?"
"Certainly, Duo," Trowa nodded then added before leaving, "I don't know if there will be any additional messages, but either way,
someone will be by to check on you as often as possible."
After Trowa was well out of earshot, Duo grumbled, "Yeah, 'check on me'. That's about all anybody can do these days, isn't it? I feel
like shit both physically and emotionally and all anyone can do is 'check on me'. Well, at least somebody cares enough to do that."
Trowa and Quatre returned to the estate in relative silence. Neither man wished to discuss what had happened nor what to do next.
Quatre headed back into his office and Trowa went in search of further assistance for the legal issues they were facing. They didn't get
much done in either effort, and Quatre left the office early in search of finding comfort in the arms of his lover. Trowa, wondering if
Quatre was even still interested in anything resembling their normal sex life was more than happy to comply and the two spent the rest of
the afternoon and evening in bed together trying to ignore the world swirling around them.
Happily, life returned to normal for several days and everyone seemed to feel much better. Then another card was added to the deck, a
joker which was more like a wild card.
Life in the Winner Estate was quiet for a few days after the calamitous video disk issue. Each day, Quatre or Trowa would travel to the
hospital to be with their friend who grew more depressed every day. Nothing they did, including more messages from Heero, had
helped in the least. As long as Heero was forbidden from receiving messages, Duo felt he had no way to tell him how he was doing and
it was painfully obvious from Heero's remarks about assuming Duo was doing so much better than he really was that the lack of
communication was destructive.
Luckily, the extra week that had been added to Duo's time in the hospital due to Jack Ryuzouji's rash behavior was finally over. A sunny
afternoon found Quatre happily escorting a much thinner and far more subdued Duo Maxwell than most had ever seen to a helicopter.
Good to his word, Dr. Limone had arranged for him to be transferred to the care of Dr. Akheem at Quatre's Estate, thereby reuniting
the three friends as well as giving new distractions for Duo.
During the flight back, Trixie flirted with Duo outrageously as per Quatre's request, simply to distract him. It didn't seem to work,
however, and Trixie apologized to Quatre about it afterwards.
"Sorry, boss," she frowned, "I tried all my best lines on him and knowing what you told me about him being easily amused, I thought it
"No, Trixie, it's okay." Quatre looked older than his years lately. "I had only a vague hope it would help, but felt it was worth a try.
Especially since we all three knew you weren't coming on to him for real."
"You are a shrewd man, Mr. Winner," she smirked. "How did you know I wasn't *really* interested?"
Quatre giggled, a bit more like his old self, then sighed. "I knew because you didn't offer to cook him lasagna like you do my other
business partners that you really *are* trying to pick-up!"
"You caught me!" She laughed, waved and returned the chopper to the hangar.
Meanwhile, Duo was going to get settled in his room in the medical wing. There really wasn't any great need for monitors or anything, it
was simply precautionary. But, Quatre had another trick up his sleeve as well for placing Duo where he did. Considered the team's
strategist during the war, the business world had taken a fine ability of the young tycoon and honed it into a very powerful weapon, a
weapon Quatre fully intended to use on one of his dearest friends. As the blond hurried to check on his new house guest, he heard
exactly what he'd hoped to hear---laughter!
Laurel, now even more bouncy than ever, had caught Duo's attention before he even made it to his assigned room. The two were sitting
side by side on her bed laughing together when Quatre walked in.
"What's so funny?" He smiled as he walked over to hug his "daughter".
"Daddy! Welcome home!" She bubbled between giggles. "Mr. Duo is here! Isn't that neat? I didn't know he was coming! Is this a
special treat for me for being good?"
Duo positively radiated happiness at the very idea that someone thought his presence was a "treat" for a change. Smiling inwardly at how
unbelievably successful this little plan was already, Quatre answered, "Well, Laurel, I thought you'd like a surprise and, yes, you have
been very good, angel, but Duo is a 'person', sweetheart, not a 'treat'! If you enjoy each other's company, however," and he looked
mock-seriously at both, "then *that's* a treat!" He grinned in spite of promising himself he wouldn't.
"Hey, there, Q-man!" Duo hadn't used the nick-name during the entire last week's painful interval, it was a relief to hear it on his lips. "If
the lovely lady thinks I'm a 'treat' then a 'treat' I am!" He laughed putting a finger against the end of her little nose, making her sneeze in
surprise. "Okee-dokie, Skokie?" He laughed at Laurel's confused expression.
Quatre laughed, too, pulling up a handy chair and sitting with the two of them. "Honey, he comes up with funny phrases all the time! If he
says something you don't understand just ask him. Of course, knowing Duo," he winked, "you may or may not get a reasonable answer,
Laurel just burst into giggles again and happily snuggled against Duo's too thin chest, the young man seemed to be in heaven being
adored by this small ball of energy. "Mr. Duo? Want to see my new 'Shinigami'?"
Duo looked shocked by the term and Quatre quickly intervened, "She had a tiny toy kitten named 'Shinigami' that got ruined at the
hospital, but Sally got her a new bigger one that she's very proud of." Duo still looked confused, then recalled the stories about the child
being shot when she had yelled 'Shinigami' and his visage darkened.
"Laurel," he asked, voice low and pained, "Is this how you kept Heero from getting shot at the hospital?"
Perceptive as always, Laurel knew where his thoughts were headed and cut them off, "It sure is! I'm so happy that Mr. Heero got
through safe, aren't you? I didn't mind getting shot since you got a new heart and everything! Besides," she smiled sweetly then added
conspiratorially, "Getting shot looks a lot worse than it really feels, but you already know that, don't you?"
Caught off-guard, both men looked at one another over this little revelation, when suddenly Quatre recalled some other revelations
worth sharing to brighten Duo's mood further. "So, Duo, how did you like the picture of Solo that Laurel drew for you?" The look of
utter shock at the memory was priceless, but Quatre forged ahead. "You should ask her about meeting him sometime. Oh, and I think
she may have met some other people you knew. Why don't you two chat about it while I speak with Dr. Akheem about your
Quatre walked away slowly, listening as Laurel happily recounted the dream and talking to Solo, Duo's dearest friend before the
Maxwell Orphanage on L2. Then she went on to talk about seeing Sister Helen and Father Maxwell which led Duo into recounting tales
of better days. Both were laughing and having fun again within mere moments.
Yes, Quatre had once again pulled off a better merger than many of his business deals and this would work out quite nicely, he was
certain of it.