It had been nearly two hours since the shocking phone call awoke the Winner estate household.
In a case of things coming full-circle, Laurel once more lay on an emergency room bed heavily swathed in bandages and an IV running
into her arm. She never regained much consciousness after passing-out at the fire station, but she was being closely watched.
Quatre, however, was in far worse shape.
The blond Arabian had been taken in immediately for a CAT scan which revealed something no one was prepared for---a brain tumor.
The small, ugly growth that Laurel had predicted was in the frontal lobe, pressing upon the optic nerve behind his left eye. He was
rushed into surgery for removal of the tumor instead of waiting as they usually would have done because it was also somehow interfering
with the regulation of his heartbeat. Even at that moment, as his friends worried and sought solace in one another, his head had been
completely shaved in preparation for the operation.
However, further analysis of the CAT scan indicated the best approach would be directly through the eye-socket, a natural opening in
the cranium, but it was a technique that might or might not leave him blinded in one eye and possibly both if there were complications.
Alternatively, to protect his sight, they could have gone in through the cranium and down to the tumor, but this strategy was dangerous
as well. There was an area controlling certain motor controls that could easily be disrupted leaving him paralyzed from the waist down
for life very near the tumor's location if they used that approach.
Being the patient's fiancÚ, Trowa Barton was faced with making this terrible choice and turned to his companions for aid. They agreed
that it was the safer risk to go through the eye-socket and hope the procedure would not leave him blinded in his left eye much less both.
The doctor, when asked, explained the sympathetic nervous system as best she could in lay-man's terms, but it was her experience that
roughly one third of those patients which lost the use of one eye because of this procedure would loose the use of the other as well.
Finally, Trowa gave his consent to going in through the eye-socket and prayed Quatre would forgive him if he had made a mistake. Then
he realized that he needed to pray even more so that his fiancÚ would even survive this horrible ordeal.
"Trowa?" a soft voice broke through his thoughts.
"Hmm? I'm sorry. Duo, were you saying something?" Trowa was lost and confused.
"I was saying, Trowa, that I think you are being very brave handling this and you needn't act as though this is not ripping you up." Duo
looked at him with deep-violet sympathetic eyes which refused to hear any untruths from him. Gathering the lanky teen into his arms,
Duo held Trowa in a hug for long minutes.
Sighing, Trowa leaned into the hug and rested his head on Duo's shoulder. //Funny, wasn't this just the other way around not too long
ago?// he thought to himself.
Heero looked nervously at the clock as if staring at it would make it go faster. He hated waiting and he hated hospitals even more. The
surgeon had been quite honest about how long this would take. The first hour after their arrival had been spent on the CAT scan and
numerous blood tests prior to actual surgery. Once the surgery began, there was no way to predict how long it would take, it was a
delicate procedure no matter what approach had been chosen and it could take over ten hours if necessary.
Stretching, Heero stood, audible snaps coming from his back as he straightened his spine. "How about some coffee, guys? I need to get
up and move around; this waiting is driving me nuts."
Trowa looked up and nodded his thanks. Duo didn't respond at all.
"Duo?" Heero asked, some of the annoyance that had grown between them resurfacing, "Do you want to give me a hand getting some
Duo looked at him as if he was insane. "No, I don't. Trowa shouldn't be left here alone to worry. If you need to get up and walk around,
go ahead, I'm staying here. Oh, and, no, I don't want any coffee. I'd rather have herb tea, Lemon Zinger if they have it."
Now Heero was surprised again. Since when did Duo drink herbal tea? Yet another of the millions of small changes Duo had undergone
that surfaced at the oddest moments.
"All right, I'll go alone. Trowa," Heero deliberately refused to pickup the fuel for another argument with Duo at such an inopportune
time. "I'll check on Laurel for you, if you'd like."
"Yes, that would help." Trowa sounded old, tired, and exhausted. "I should go do that, but right now I don't trust myself to even stand
up." Heero left the waiting area and headed for the ER to check on Laurel as promised.
Duo continued to hold Trowa who still rested his head on the braided boy's shoulder.
Sighing, Trowa wondered aloud, "Why now? He'd been in pain for so long, why wasn't this diagnosed sooner?"
"Because he wouldn't take the time, that's why." Dr. Akheem had stepped into the waiting area after conferring with the staff regarding
Quatre's recent health problems.
"I asked him several times for a CAT scan to be done or at least a full exam by a neurologist, but he never allowed it." Akheem was
more than a little annoyed with his employer. "As you already know he had increased the dosage on the painkillers I'd prescribed for
him to a dangerous level without consulting me, either. So, he has a brain tumor that might have metastasized for all we know and a drug
addiction problem to deal with. He was on a variety of narcotics and combined with the wine he still drank, he is certainly fully addicted
even if he never suspected it could happen."
Trowa was angry, "Why didn't you mention this to me before, doctor?"
"Because Master Quatre told me to keep this confidential. He didn't want anyone worried over what he felt was unimportant while you
worked to obtain Heero's freedom. I felt you should be notified, but you know how difficult he had become and after he fired Sadeema
unexpectedly, we were all afraid he'd dismiss anyone not following his orders to the letter. I felt it was more crucial for me to remain
available than to risk his being unwatched."
"But, I've seen Sadeema at the estate, what are you talking about?"
The Arab sighed, not surprised that Trowa hadn't been told about the bizarre incident. "One morning, she unintentionally disturbed
Master Quatre who had ordered he be left alone for the day. He became enraged and fired her on the spot. Sadeema was shaken to the
core and by the time she went to pack her things, she found a bouquet of flowers on her bed with a note asking her to forgive him and to
please remain on the staff." Akheem was clearly bothered by this mistreatment of a good and dutiful woman. "Of course, being who she
is, she forgave him immediately and nothing more was said between them about it."
Trowa, befuddled, commented on how strange it all sounded, but then remembered the woman's strange reticence about watching over
Quatre the day before. Now, perhaps, that made some sense, she had feared he would awaken and be angry with her again.
Eventually, Heero returned, carrying a tray with two cups of coffee, some lemon herb tea, and an assortment of breakfast pastries.
Surprisingly, they all ate something and slowly felt better.
"By the way," Heero commented around a bite of blueberry muffin, "Laurel is still fast asleep, Trowa. I finally got a doctor to give me
more information on her condition. Apparently, most of the blood was from a lot of minor abrasions, but they did have to do several
rows of stitches for where the dog had clawed her so deeply. The animal is being held in confinement to be tested for rabies, but the bite
she suffered is more likely to demonstrate typical puncture wound infections."
"What about her forehead, hands, and feet?" No longer denying how deeply he felt for the child who had saved so many, Trowa
allowed his concern to be heard in his voice.
Heero continued with the information he'd gained about the girl. "Apparently, she fell over something in the darkness and landed hard on
a rough surface which sliced up her knees and hands somewhat and most likely caused the gash in her forehead as well. The hands and
knees simply needed cleansing and bandaging, but she needed nine stitches in her forehead.
"Unfortunately, the feet are a different matter entirely. She tore the soles of her feet into raw meat for the most part. She had run
barefoot from the orphanage to the fire station and encountered numerous sharp objects on the way. She even ran through broken glass
cutting it even worse; however, the greater concern about the glass is that she continued to run after going through it and a fair number of
piece became embedded. They've tried to remove as much of it as they could, but x-rays show some is still in there and there's probably
some the x-rays are not showing at all. I asked about alternative methods to determine the amount of glass in her feet, but they said none
would be very useful in this situation. They'd like to do a local anesthetic on her and go in surgically, but they can't do that until she
wakes up and they can assess any other damage."
Duo smiled comfortingly at his stricken friend. "You have a very brave 'daughter', Trowa. You must be proud of her."
"I'm *very* proud of her, Duo!" Trowa smiled for the first time since arriving. "She saved Heero's life, thereby allowing Heero to save
you and now she has saved the life of the one I hold most dear. Quatre was getting nowhere with the adoption board, but I swear that if
we can pull him through this, there *will* be a wedding, there *will* be a reception in the park, and there *will* be a successful
Duo chuckled a bit before asking, "A 'park' for your reception, Trowa? Isn't that a little, well, 'casual' for you two? After all, Quatre's a
multi-billionaire or better, right?"
Trowa laughed, "Hey, it's not my idea, it's Laurel's. You know that drawing Quatre has hung beside his office desk? She colored that for
us when she first moved in and told us it was the three of us after the wedding at a 'party' at a park, so I'm accepting it as a given."
Duo smiled indulgently at this display of paternal affection and hoped the problems vexing the child would clear up soon. Heero's
expression, however, was dark, but no one noticed.