Quatre heard the low growl issuing forth from the usually cheerful American and blinked.
" I said I'm FINE Quatre - what part of that didn't you understand?" came the cool tones through the hard wood door. Quatre lowered his hand and stepped back from the door, confusion marring his face.
" Uh...okay Duo. See you downstairs."
With that Quatre turned and went down to the kitchen. Trowa and Wufei sat at the table reading different sections of the newspaper though Trowa's face did lift long enough to greet his blond lover. Seeing the confused look on his face made him sit up and peer at him questioningly. Quatre shook his head.
" Where's Duo?" Heero appeared in the doorway, toweling the grease off his hands and dropping the cloth in a basket by the door. Quatre shrugged.
" He's upstairs - I told him to come down to eat...."
" And he wasn't right on your heels like a dog begging for scraps?" Wufei snorted, not bothering to raise his head from the paper. Quatre glared at him.
" Wufei - could you please be nice to Duo tonight?"
" Huh?" His attention caught, Wufei set the paper to one side and scrutinized the diminutive blond. " What do you mean?"
" I just heard something weird in Duo's room, that's all," Quatre shrugged uncomfortably, noting that Heero's sharp gaze had zeroed in on him. " I thought I heard glass breaking or something but he said everything was fine."
" Did he seem okay?" Heero asked, quietly. Quatre blinked - that wasn't concern he sensed from the Perfect Soldier, now was it?
" Iie...he didn't let me open the door..."
About to go and see for himself, they were saved the trip by the appearance of the braided one in the doorway. Quatre opened his mouth to greet Duo but his eyes unerringly caught a glimpse of white bandages snaking around Duo's knuckles to his hand.
" What happened to your hand?" he exclaimed in dismay. Heero, Trowa and Wufei's heads popped up and Heero stared at Duo evenly.
" What happened?"
Duo glanced down at his damaged hand and shrugged. " Had an accident." He then strode by the four of them and went directly to the fridge. Quatre and Trowa exchanged a look and shrugged. Wufei snorted.
" Klutzy American...."
Duo froze and Heero could have sworn he felt the temperature go about ten degrees colder. With deliberate casualness, Duo replaced the carton of juice he'd been about to have and firmly closed the door. Sparing Quatre a quick glance, he said, " Actually, I think I just lost my appetite. Sorry Quat."
Then he turned around and exited the kitchen without another word. Wufei stood there, open-mouthed. He'd expected the usual verbal sparring match to occur, something he secretly enjoyed though he'd never let the American know it. For all his blather, the Chinese man knew Duo Maxwell's head housed an razor-sharp mind and incredible wit. The war of words as Quatre sometimes called their lively debates, were a nightly ritual - so what had just happened here?
Heero knew something was up. Sliding a quick glance at the rest of them, he silently went after his reticent partner.
Trowa had observed everything with his normal stoic silence. He watched as Wufei sat back in his seat with an audible thump, eyes still wide with surprise.
" I..." Wufei cleared his throat, still unsure of what had just happened. Quatre rubbed his hands together nervously, one hand stealing up to rub his chest unconsciously.
" I guess he just wasn't in the mood for joking today, Wufei," he said slowly, stealing a glance at the gently swinging door. Trowa set his newspaper down and coughed slightly to get their attention. Mission accomplished, he looked calmly at the two.
" Did you see his eyes?" he asked shortly. Wufei opened his mouth, about to start into one of his Maxwell-bashing tirades when Trowa's question registered in his mind, triggering a warning. He closed his mouth, musing silently.
" His eyes..." Quatre's voice trailed off, loaded with concern. " They looked....broken."
Heero silently trailed his partner as Duo made his way towards the hangar. The look on Duo's face when Wufei had made the smart remark....the image was burned into his retina. For a split, fleeting second, Duo's eyes had shown a murderous rage, such fury and anger building to a crescendo behind violet curtains. Then the mask had arrived, smoothly slipping into place across his features, so that no one, save the Perfect Soldier of course, could tell. But the mask was wrong.
Duo usually hid behind a wall of laughter, joking his way around nervousness, anger, sadness - any emotion that drew anyone's sympathy. If there was one thing Heero knew Duo DIDN'T want, it was sympathy. Heero snorted. He may have the reputation of being emotionless, but Duo was the king of avoidance. He set his emotions aside for the good of the mission. Duo simply refused to acknowledge them at all.
Until now. Heero's eyes tracked the one swaying hand, swathed in white bandages. Something was wrong. Something had happened to Duo - something he didn't know. And Heero Yuy NEVER let a mission go unfinished. He wasn't sure when his feelings towards Duo had grown this strong - he wasn't even sure what emotion it was that he was feeling. Love? Affection? A bond had formed between them, enabling them to work together as a team, better then before. Was that love? Or was it something else - a bond of brotherhood? Comradery forged in the heat of battle?
Heero wasn't sure - but he did know that seeing Duo so quiet and upset made a small part of his chest twinge, and an almost overwhelming urge rose up within him to make that feeling go away. He found himself wanting to cradle that slim form to him, to shelter it from harm.
Plan firmly in place, Heero stalked his unsuspecting partner.