Sighing happily again at the thought of Duo and Laurel sleeping so peacefully, Quatre returned to his office and shut the door after asking
his administrative assistants to give him about a half-hour alone. This confused them no end, since there was a massive back-log of
market reports to go over as well as a merger offer from a major competitor, but when he told them to leave him alone they knew
something serious was going on and obeyed.
The image of the child and his friend had reminded him of something extremely important he needed to do.
He brushed a hand through his hair, finally acknowledging the headache had grown once more and took a painkiller. He hated taking so
much medication, it made him groggy and unfocused, but between his head and his empathic abilities he was in agony. After debating the
merits of a brief nap himself, he turned instead to the phone number he had waited to call, one Sakura Kinomoto, the local adoption
board representative he would deal with regarding Laurel. He had considered having Jojo take this on since he had Ashe working his tail
off on the bail issue, but thought perhaps the personal touch might help.
"Adoption Services, how may I direct your call?" came a pleasant voice from the other end of the videophone.
"Sakura Kinomoto, please. This is Quatre Raberba Winner calling."
"Oh my! Yes, Mr. Winner, let me put you through. Please wait a moment." Quatre smiled to himself that he had made the right decision
after all. If he was going to have a reputation why not use it to his advantage? Yes, he may never have attended business school, but
who would have thought the experience of being a Gundam pilot would be better than formal training as an MBA?
A lovely young woman appeared before him. "Hello, Mr. Winner, I am Sakura Kinomoto, how may I assist you?" She had a winning
smile and seemed not too overly impressed with his identity. He rather liked how this was starting. Too bad it would fall apart so soon.
Within mere moments, it became painfully obvious that a single 17 year-old boy, no matter how wealthy, was not going to be able to
easily adopt a child. Quatre argued that he was getting married relatively soon and already had a stable home environment for the girl,
but this was insufficient for the standard rules of procedure. The fact that it was a same sex marriage had no effect at all on the issue,
what seemed to matter was strictly his age, something he had no control over whatsoever. He became frustrated at the obvious waste of
time this was and politely informed Ms. Kinomoto that his lawyers would be in touch to determine what, if anything, else could be done
to change the situation.
After disconnecting, he gave up any pretense of being able to work. He called his head assistant in and told him to take over for the rest
of the day, something Quatre rarely did now that he had taken full control of the corporation. The man never questioned his employer's
request and instead went straight to work. Once Quatre was out of the room and half-way back to his bedroom, the assistant placed a
discrete call to Dr. Akheem to check up on their employer, he seemed ill and was obviously in pain. The physician appreciated the call,
but Quatre didn't particularly like being bothered when he just wanted to sleep. Luckily, Akheem kept his visit brief and had anticipated
the worsening of the headache and brought some tranquilizers and painkillers that were stronger than what he had been using. Ordinarily
Quatre would have refused but not this time, he just accepted them and slept until the following day, worrying most of his staff as well as
Interrupting Chang Wufei when he was meditating was always a bad idea, but sometimes it was a worse idea than others.
The Chinese youth had finally found a place he felt comfortable in away from the others, especially the noisy two-some who seemed to
be everywhere at once. Granted, even he had to agree that it was good to see Duo happy and being with Laurel made it that way, so
Wufei simply tried to grumble just enough to make sure they knew he was pleased for them. He was *not* comfortable with being
'Uncle Wufei' just yet, but the name was growing on him. It reminded him of how that same little pixy of a child had brought he and Sally
closer together. Far closer together than the others ever knew.
Unfortunately, the interruption today was a most unwanted phone call.
"Mr. Chang?" the voice of a certain irritating accountant was like nails on a chalkboard to Wufei.
"Yes, Fisher," he sighed in annoyance. "What do you want?"
"Just thought you'd like to know we got the paperwork straightened out on your temporary disability." Rob Fisher, over-achiever, failed
to realize how incredibly stupid this sounded to a man with one arm in a cast who was clearly not fit for duty in a paramilitary
organization like the Preventers.
"Fine. Chang out." Wufei had no patience for such inconsequential matters. "How the devil did that idiot track me down?" Wufei
grumbled. "Sally wouldn't have told him I'd be here!"
Trying to calm down enough to resume meditating was impossible and Wufei became even more frustrated. Trying to practice
left-handed with his sword didn't calm him down either. Disgusted and annoyed with things in general, and the accounting department at
headquarters in particular, he grudgingly went to find out what the Dynamic Duo were up to. How Maxwell had finally found someone
with the same level of interests was beyond him, but at least it meant that he wasn't responsible for keeping either ball of energy
entertained. The strange thing was that sometimes what those two were up to was actually fun and he enjoyed it, too, but he'd never
have admitted it.
Oh no. Chang Wufei would *never* have admitted that coloring with crayons was fun!
During the week that followed, Duo seemed to be enjoying increasingly good spirits. It had taken quite a bit to get over having the
bullet-proof glass between them, but once they had found their own ways to "talk" without speaking through the non-private phone line,
things were much better.
The days between visits were falling into a pleasant pattern as well. Duo had been sleeping on and off during the first few days, his body
rebuilding still from the surgery, but otherwise he seemed healthy. His favorite past time, however, was no longer watching videos but
rather amusing himself with his "niece". Laurel was always doing something interesting as far as Duo was concerned and since her two
"daddies" were so busy he took it upon himself to be her personal companion as much as possible. They spent hours coloring and
playing the various games that seemed to magically appear on a daily basis care of Trowa's practical application of the internet shopping
system. Who would have known there even was a "toy of the day" program to order from? Much less several, all of which brought new
surprises to the estate daily.
"O-oh, the Well's Fargo Wagon is a-comin' down the street!" Duo would start singing for the girl whenever he heard the delivery truck.
Laurel clapped her hands and giggled at his antics. Once she even got him to track down a copy of the ancient musical "The Music
Man" just to hear the song in the original version and then she liked it even better.
Something special happened during their time together that Duo never even noticed; he talked about more serious issues far more than
he ever imagined. If asked, he would have assumed they only laughed about "Astro Boy", "Sailor Moon", "Fushigi Yuugi" or whatever
other silliness they had been up to, but it wasn't entirely true. Laurel, still a step ahead thanks to her dreams, even if they were
incomplete and not as well defined as previously, knew he needed to talk about these things and seemed to steer conversations that
way. One afternoon, after visiting Heero, she surprised him with yet another question.
"Uncle Duo?" She smiled sweetly knowing this would be too weird for him if she said it wrong and paused to think a moment longer.
"What, my darling Shinigami-chan?" He smiled back at the child.
Laurel blinked adorably in confusion. "Uncle Duo" constantly surprised her with new nick-names and funny phrases, just as her "daddy"
warned, but this was unexpected. "Um, Uncle Duo? Does this mean I'm a little god of death, too?"
Duo snorted, then laughed out right. "Wow! I never thought of it *that* way! I was thinking how cute you look, sort of like a little kitten
at times and thought of your favorite toy kitten, Shinigami. So, I thought that would be our secret way of me calling you 'kitten'!" The
little girl giggled and then he added conspiratorially, "To make it even more secret, we'll shorten it to 'Shi-chan', how's that?"
"Goody!!" She clapped her hands in delight and smiled broadly. "I like that name a lot! Thank you, Uncle Duo!" She threw her arms
around his neck and kissed him.
"Wowzers!" Duo laughed. "If I get a kiss for coming up with new names, I'll work harder to think of more! Or do you want to stick to
"Oh, all the names you give me a wonderful! But, I wanted to ask you something. Hmm. What was it?" She pretended to forget.
"I don't know, but I'll try to answer whatever you want me to, Shi-chan!" He smiled lovingly at the child.
"Well, I was wondering," she still wasn't sure how to start the topic, she just knew she needed to get the ball rolling. "Do you think Mr.
Heero will mind if I call him 'Uncle', too? After all, Uncle Wufei seemed kind of surprised when I called him that, but what about
Heero?" Ah, that seemed a safe way to start.
Duo laughed at first, then paused thoughtfully. "Well, Pumpkin, he hasn't been around kids much during his life, pretty much the same as
Wufei, so it might confuse him at first. But I'm willing to bet he'll like it a lot after awhile!" He smoothed her hair out of her eyes,
something she had trouble doing with one arm in a cast and the other busy with a crayon. "Why do you ask, Princess?"
"Oh, it's just that I don't know much about him, that's all." Laurel nearly bit her lip; no, that had not been enough to start the conversation
then an idea hit her. "Tell me how you fell in love with him, please?" Her eyes glittered knowing Duo loved talking about Heero and this
was the topic she was trying to hit and decided to risk it all and go for it directly.
"Oh-ho! You want a story, do you?" Duo laughed, a nice sound that she loved almost as much as Quatre-daddy's hugs and
Trowa-daddy's kisses. "All right, I'll tell you a story, but it's a long one! Why don't we go sit somewhere other than the floor, though?
Your leg might feel better that way and" he cracked his backbone noisily for effect, "my back hurts!"
Giggling, the girl let herself be picked up off the floor and the two settled comfortably on the overstuffed couch near the patio. Getting
them some lemonade, Duo sat down and started telling her the "story" as he called it. He never realized he was telling this small child so
much, but it was something he needed desperately. Duo talked about how they met, leaving out the part about shooting Heero, and later
fought as a team during the war. As his mind drifted down the paths of memory, he recalled other better days, too. There had been a
time when they had gotten a break from the battles and discovered the fun of playing in the snow for the first time. Laurel found it
impossible to believe he was 15 before he ever saw snow, but then remembered the "metal donut thingees", as she called the colonies,
didn't have the same weather as Earth.
Over the next hour, Duo regaled the child with stories of high adventure and intrigue. When he got to the part of the narrative where he
actually dealt with when he fell in love with Heero, he became quite introspective. Any constraints some adults might have felt about
discussing two boys falling in love were moot here since she was happy to have two "daddies" and didn't think there was any big deal in
same sex relationships. Duo did skirt the issues of when they had become sexually intimate, but recalling the good times between them
helped him immensely. Laurel was a good listener and added little comments once in awhile, but basically she knew her role was to
keep him talking and remembering.
She didn't know why, but something in her dreams told her this was very important. He needed to remember things were hard before,
but the two still loved each other and that they could get through hard times together again as well.
Eventually, lemonade gone and both feeling a bit tired, the pair just lapsed into a quiet, contented silence. Duo seemed happier now and
Laurel was glad to have helped. She never knew that Trowa had wandered by earlier and, realizing what was going on, had withdrawn
silently to let them talk.