There was a light knock on the door.
Heero carefully released Duo and rose from the bed to pad silently across the floor. Opening the door, he said in a harsh whisper, "He's asleep, no pain meds this time Barton!"
Trowa allowed himself a small smile. "Nice to see you, Heero. May I?"
The Japanese pilot stepped back to allow Trowa into the room, Quatre trailing not too far behind. The brown-haired boy paused long enough to drop his bag and give Heero a quick hug of greeting before he moved to the bedside.
Watching behind him, Heero could see the tension in Trowa's shoulders as the taller pilot stared down at his sleeping friend. Before Quatre could reach his side, though, Trowa turned back to them, green eyes glittering menacingly in his pale face. "When do we head out?"
Confusion clouded Quatre's eyes. "Trowa?"
"The monsters who did this "
"Have already paid for it, by Zechs' hand," Heero interrupted quietly. "He's going to be okay."
As Trowa turned back to the bed, Quatre went to his side. He spared the blond a smile and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him close. "I wasn't expecting "
"None of us were," Quatre said quietly, tightening his hold around Trowa's waist.
Heero climbed back up to Duo's side on the bed and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Koibito? Duo, wake up."
The braided boy's nose wrinkled. "M'sleepin. C'mere, H'ro "
A rare smiled bloomed over Heero's face as he allowed himself to be pulled down to the bed. "You have visitors, Duo."
"Really? Who'zere?" Duo asked drowsily. He turned his head and nuzzled into Heero's shoulder.
Smiling to himself, Trowa picked up the end of Duo's braid and tickled his nose with it playfully. "No One in particular, Duo." Quatre snickered and poked his lover in the side.
Blue eyes opened slowly, blinking. "Tro? Yer not No One no more " He smiled up at his friend. "Hi."
Trowa gave him a gentle smile. "Hi, yourself. How do you feel?" He released the braid and traced gentle fingers through Duo's bangs.
The braided boy grimaced a little, but managed a shrug. "I'll heal. I've felt better."
"I'll bet you have," Trowa observed, sitting down carefully, so as not to jostle his injured friend. "How *do* you manage to get yourself into these situations?"
"Must be my bright, cheery smile," Duo replied. He chuckled a little, then winced. "Ow - that still hurts."
Quatre leaned his head against Trowa's shoulder. "Don't let our God of Death fool you, Trowa. He hurts badly enough right now that we should have Sally come in and give him another painkiller. Right, Duo?"
Duo stuck out his tongue at the blond. "You know I hate drugs, Q. S'not nice to read my mind."
"Heero?" Quatre said, giving Duo a pointed look.
The Japanese boy nodded. "Agreed." He turned and gave Duo a small kiss on the cheek. "Back in a few."
"We'll watch over him for you," Trowa called after him, as Heero went to the door.
The Japanese boy stopped and turned back. "I know."
Wufei grinned as he followed Trowa and Quatre out with his eyes. "I'm glad he's here."
Treize nodded. "You five fit together in the strangest way. I can only imagine what it took to get you working together."
"We didn't always see eye to eye," Wufei admitted, shaking his head, "but none of that matters any more. We balance each other, and I respect them all as brothers."
Zechs raised an eyebrow. "Even those that drive you crazy still? I can't believe he called you Studmuffin "
Une blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
Zechs smiled easily. "Maxwell apparently has a knack for choosing nicknames for everyone.. He started calling Wufei 'studmuffin,' and then What did he call you, Puffy?"
Treize lifted an eyebrow. "Puffy? Do I even want to ask?"
Wufei rolled his eyes. "As in Puff, the Magic Dragon."
Walker chuckled, and Wufei rounded on him with flashing eyes. "What's so funny, Toady?"
Still laughing, Walker held up his hands, as though to surrender. "It just takes imagination, is all."
Treize had to agree. All in all, he'd learned a lot in one day. If Quatre Winner was the brains of the team and Heero its will, then Wufei was its conscience and Trowa its strength. And Duo was the team's beating heart.
Trowa waited until the door had closed behind Heero, then picked up Duo's chart. The more he read, the angrier he became, though he controlled his temper admirably. Vaguely, he heard Quatre talking to Duo, and the braided teen's quiet answers in the background, but his mind was concentrating on revenge.
**Heero said Zechs already took care of Pokrovsk Base, but that still leaves Baikal. Duo started out there, and obviously took the first beatings there, from what Treize said. They need to pay, too...**
He jerked out of his reverie when the door opened and Heero and Sally walked in.
"You know, Duo, it's not 'unmanly' to ask for pain medication when you're hurt this badly," Sally chided the injured teen, handing him a pill and watching him as he washed it down with water. "Next time just ask for it, don't play 'Mr. Stoic Gundam Pilot'."
Duo coughed a bit, wincing, then shook his head. "S'not that, Sal," he wheezed. "Had t'take too many drugs during training... almost o.d.'d a couple times. Scared the hell out of G."
Sally winced, but kept her opinions of the scientist's training methods to herself. "I promise you, this medication you don't have to worry about. It's the same one I gave you this morning, and is safe to take every four to six hours." She smiled slightly. "You'd have to take a full bottle to overdose on this stuff, and I doubt that will happen--"
She broke off as Trowa slammed the chart in his hands down onto the table top. There was a distinct growl to his voice as he turned to face four concerned sets of eyes and said, "Those bastards! I wish they were still alive..."
Quatre and Duo exchanged concerned looks as Heero responded, "Hai, I know." Anger and the need to *do* something about it was almost flowing off of Trowa, and Heero seemed to absorb it all. He abruptly realised that he needed to be angry and he needed revenge, just as surely as he needed to see Duo's smile and hear him laugh again without wincing. He turned to Sally and asked, "When is dinner?"
Sally blinked. "At 6:30, Heero, why--"
Heero looked at Trowa and jerked his head towards the door. "Good. Plenty of time. Let's go."
Both teens stalked out the door and out of sight.
Duo rolled his eyes at Quatre. "Here we go again, Q."
The blond grabbed a second chair to use as a footrest and settled down with his feet up. "Yup. I hope they don't traumatise the locals too much..."
Zechs, Treize and Wufei slowly walked down the corridor towards Duo's room, when they were nearly trampled by two teens heading down the hallway with dark looks on their faces. One look had Wufei sighing and turning around to follow. Zechs and Treize exchanged looks, then reversed their course as well.
"Dragon, what is going on?" Treize asked, catching up to his younger lover.
"Heero and Trowa are going to attempt to beat each other into bloody piles of Gundam pilot to sate their need for bloodshed, and work some of their anger off," the Chinese teen said with a snort. "Neither will actually manage to damage the other very much, but if you would make sure there's a first aid kit around when it's over, just in case, it would be appreciated."
Zechs laughed. "You mean, because the perpetrators of Duo's condition are out of their reach, they're going to take it out on each other?"
Wufei nodded. "Correct. That and other things."
"Actually, my love," Treize broke in, "it is very logical. Each man reacts to and deals with stress, anger, and frustration in different ways. Some choose athletics, some choose mental challenges, some choose music... It seems Heero and Trowa choose a physical outlet. I remember reading about a method of emotional relief, in the twentieth century, pre-colony. People would destroy old, scrapped vehicles with sledgehammers. According to some psychologists, this worked wonders on the participants. The negative emotions were purged in a violent manner, yet no one and no valued property was harmed."
The ginger-haired man thought for a moment. "I suppose this is a similar thing. Think of it as a boxing match... or a fencing match."
Wufei chuckled and picked up his pace. "Just don't give Trowa anything remotely resembling a knife or a sword."
The three lovers turned the corner and nearly bumped into Une and Walker, leaning against the wall.
"Our apologies, Une," Zechs said, a wide smirk on his face. "Did you, by any chance, see two rabid Gundam pilots go this way?"
Une nodded. "Yes, they just went out into the compound. What is going on? Did something happen to Duo?"
"They looked ready to murder someone," Walker added.
"No, no, Duo is fine," Wufei answered. "They are just very upset by the fact that *they* didn't get to 'punish' Duo's torturers. They are going to attempt to 'punish' each other instead."
"Oh, dear," Une said, her tone indicating disapproval.
"Not to worry, my dear Lady," Treize said, amusement clear in his voice. "From what I understand they rarely manage to actually hurt each other. And if it makes them feel better..." He shrugged slightly.
"At least they're not taking it out on any of us," Walker added, chuckling.
"You mean, those two young men are going to attempt to inflict injury on each other, and you are just going to sit and watch?" Une nearly screeched.
When the four males smirked and nodded, she threw her hands in the air and stalked away from them towards Duo's room. "Men! Idiots! Why on earth did God even bother creating them?!"
Une walked into Duo's room, surprised to see Quatre calmly sitting at Duo's bedside, feet propped up on a second chair. Sally was seated beside him and Duo was quietly listening to their conversation.
"... last time. We gave up trying to stop them after... Hm, how many times was it, Duo?"
The braided teen wrinkled his forehead. "Wasn't it after the fourth time? That was when you had that concussion, and that Ozzie nearly gutted me. I'm just glad they *did* try to kill each other then. Can you imagine one of them stitching me up when they were that angry? No way, Q. I'd have done it myself, first. Luckily, Wuffers was there--"
Duo saw the look on Une's face, winced and tried to shrink into his mattress. "Oh, hell... don't tell me you broke up with Kev and now the Psycho Bitch is back?! Sally, Q, help! Honest, Scary, I didn't mean it, whatever it was I did..."
Une turned her flashing eyes on the blond teen. "Quatre Raberba Winner! Don't tell me you condone this ridiculous behaviour? They're teammates! Teammates *don't* attempt to kill each other!" the dark-haired woman snapped, stalking over to the blond boy. Reaching over to the shrinking form of Duo, she gently rearranged his blankets. "Duo, it's going to snow, you need to keep warm..."
She then turned her attention back to Quatre, missing the pole-axed expression on Duo's face, and Sally's attempts to muffle her snickers. Quatre just stared wide-eyed at the ranting ex-colonel.
"If they wanted violence, I could have found something for them to do! A base to blow up! A warehouse! Something! Well?! Are you just going to sit there?"
Sally finally lost her battle against laughter. "Une, calm down, please," she said, chuckling. She led the irate woman to a chair and pushed her into it. "They won't actually hurt each other. Maybe a few bumps and bruises, but nothing more. They usually land very few blows on each other. As long as..." She shot Duo a look. "Neither of them were armed, were they?" Duo quietly shook his head.
"Usually? That doesn't mean they won't hurt each other this time," Une said indignantly.
"Une, you're upsetting Duo," Sally replied, turning the topic away from from the 'fight' to something she knew would occupy Une's attention.
The lady paled. "Duo, I'm sorry. Are you all right? I didn't mean to upset you. I'm sure they'll be fine..."
Duo visibly relaxed. "No worries, Une, I'm ok... just next time, yell at Quatre outside...?"
Walker's eyes were wide as he followed Treize, Zechs and Wufei out into the courtyard. He jogged up to Wufei's side. "Shouldn't we be trying to..."
Wufei shook his head. "They need to get this out, or it will only get worse, I assure you. Winner tried that, once, and it wasn't pretty."
The four took up positions against the Infirmary wall as Heero and Trowa faced off and gave each other respectful bows. Turning to Treize, Wufei whispered, "This ought to be good."
The two teens began circling each other, eyes never leaving their targets. Wufei continued whispering, "Heero will throw the first punch - it's his turn."
Sure enough, Heero seemed to blur as he leapt into motion. Trowa blocked flawlessly, and the fight was on. Zechs looked down at Wufei to find the teen watching with an amused smirk. He shook his head as he looked back at the combatants. He'd never seen anything to match the deadly display they were witnessing, and he was happy, watching, that he'd faced Heero in a mobile suit, rather than in person.
The sounds of hard, full-out combat began to fill the air; Walker watched wide-eyed as the two teens concentrated on each other.
As people began crowding close to watch, attracted by the sound of a fight, Zechs turned to his Chinese lover and smiled. "I'll put twenty credits on Heero."
Wufei blinked, but smirked up at the blond. "You're on."
Une was fidgeting. She was paying partial attention to the conversation around her, making appropriate comments when necessary, but her mind was still contemplating the stupidity of men in general, Heero Yuy and Trowa Barton in particular... and Treize. The man was just going along with this barbaric behaviour.
Granted, it seemed his three week captivity had changed him, and for the better... mostly. He was more open. He laughed more. He was more spontaneous. Obviously, his short time with Duo had a part in that. From what she saw, the young pilot had that effect on nearly everyone he spent any time with. She'd seen Wufei change from the arrogant, self-righteous, obsessed... 'prat' to the calmer, thoughtful, more easy-going young man he was now.
Heero Yuy was another of Duo's 'successes'. The young man who hovered over his injured lover was nothing like the cold, hard Gundam pilot who had foiled many of her ill-thought plots and had calmly self-destructed. *This* Heero Yuy could still be cold and hard and extremely violent to anyone who harmed his lover or his 'family' in any way, but he was immensely gentle and... visibly loving and supporting of Duo. Not only that, but he was openly caring about the other pilots, as well.
She wasn't sure of the impact he'd had on Quatre and Trowa, but she could certainly see their deep affection for him.
Even her own boyfriend was not unaffected by the braided teen. Walker had been in a precarious position since they had become a couple. Some people wanted to be his 'friend' to get closer to her. Others were pointedly avoiding him now, treating him as something of a freak. Once again because of *her*. He had shrugged it all off, assuring her it didn't matter, but she could see the strain he felt. He had only been truly at ease with her, Zechs, Sally and a few of Sally's people. But now... in the three days since they'd rescued Duo, and the young man had first given Kevin *his* nickname, he seemed... happier? He was more confident; he seemed so much more secure in his place, and she was glad to see it.
**He's certainly excited to be in on the planning for the attack,** she mused. **And he talks about Duo, and engineering... and he's even started talking about the future, after the war... Maybe starting a company... designing mobile suits specifically for farming, or mining... Asking my opinion...**
"How long do you think they'll try to beat each other into the ground?"
Sally's voice broke into Une's thoughts and brought her attention back to the current situation. Heero Yuy and Trowa Barton, outside, and attempting to purge themselves of their anger and frustration-- on each other.
"That's it! I can't stand this," she snapped, standing up and stalking to the door. "I'm putting an end to it now. Even if *I* have to beat them to a pulp!" Then she was gone.
Heero wiped his face on his sleeve as he pushed off the ground and was immediately back in motion. He smirked as he felt Trowa retreating under a flurry of punches.
On the far side of the small courtyard, Zechs turned to Wufei. "You see? That's why my money's on Heero."
Trowa grunted as a roundhouse kick connected with his stomach and almost knocked him down. He seemed to stumble --
Wufei shook his head. "You've never watched them spar before. Give him a moment..."
Treize laughed outright at the look on Heero's face as, with a growl of annoyance, Trowa spun out of the way and somersaulted over the Japanese teen's head. Landing behind him, he struck out hard with his elbow into the small of Heero's back. With a cry, Heero stumbled down hard onto his hands and knees.
Wufei grinned up at an open-mouthed Zechs. "I hate to say it, but..."
Treize shook his head. "Then don't. Studmuffins aren't supposed to gloat."
Walker grabbed Wufei's arm before he could make a retort. "God, look!" They all turned.
The two teens were face to face, both blocking and striking furiously as they glared at each other, seeming to know what the other would do before he did it.
Wufei smiled. "Wait for it..."
With a sudden smirk, Heero snuck inside Trowa's blows. Before the taller teen could react, Heero backhanded him, and Trowa stumbled backwards...
Zechs grinned down at his lover. "Pay up, Puff."
"That is ENOUGH!" The shock of a shot being fired was immediately followed by Une's shout, and the three Gundam pilots all reached for weapons they weren't carrying.
Une stalked forward. "Look at you! Grown boys acting like irresponsible *children*!" She practically began to growl as both Heero and Trowa stared back at her with identical smirks, completely disregarding her little lecture.
Her eyes sparking, she turned on the onlookers. "And you! You're the adults here! Can't you act like it? Standing around and betting while these two boys beat the daylights out of each other! I'm ashamed of you!"
Treize and Zechs had the good sense to at least appear ashamed. Walker didn't bother. Une glowered as he winked up at her.
She drew herself up as proudly as she could and tried unsuccessfully not to smile at her boyfriend. "It is going to start snowing soon, gentlemen, and it is almost dinner time. I suggest you come inside."
Une turned on her heel and left. Smirking at each other, the six young men turned and followed her.
Sally, Duo and Quatre all stared at the door after Une had left.
"Whoa," Duo said quietly, "that was unexpected."
Quatre nodded. "Not exactly how I pictured her a month ago. I expected, to use your words, Duo, 'The Evil Psycho Bitch from the Ninth Circle of Hell', not this... um... dare I say 'mother-type' Une..."
"Yeah," Duo replied, nodding slightly. "Treize said Walker defragged her hard drive, but simply getting a boyfriend and getting laid regularly doesn't account for this."
"Hm... it *did* help Heero," Quatre said, smirking.
"QUATRE!" Duo yelped, wincing and clutching his ribs and chest with his good arm, trying to stop his laughter.
Both teens then looked at Sally.
"Well? You're the doctor, here. What gives?" Duo asked, wheezing as he regained control. "Does sex really cure everything?"
Sally laughed and shook her head. "I'm not a psychiatrist. However, many factors contributed to Une's 'defragment', if that's even a word. According to the lady in question, it started when Heero self-destructed. Add in her own guilt and feelings of inadequecy, Wufei, Walker and a supportive relationship, and you end up with the current, healthy and happier Une."
"But we want details," Duo mock-whined.
"And you're not getting them. Doctor-patient priviledge, my dear Death. Would you like me to repeat some of the things you said while you were sedated?"
She smirked as Duo's face blossomed into a bright red blush.
"I'd like you to," Quatre said, grinning with glee at his teammate's discomfort.
"I do *not* owe you twenty credits!" Wufei snapped, as he and Zechs walked into the room a short time later. "The fight wasn't over yet. Trowa would have countered and flattened Heero. He was just setting up for it when Une just *had* to interrupt," he added, slightly sullenly.
Une, Treize and Walker followed, the two men still smirking.
"I still can't believe you stood watching! And betting on the outcome," Une said, still unhappy with them.
"Calm down, my dear Une," Treize placated, patting her arm. "It's over, and neither was hurt. I apologise for our immature behaviour." He turned his attention to Duo, and walked over to the young man's bedside.
"Good afternoon, Duo. I hope you're feeling all right. You slept well?" He asked, unconsciously reaching down and lightly brushing the bangs out of the injured teen's eyes.
Duo blinked. "Um... yeah. I'm okay. So, who won?" he asked, glancing from Treize to Une, then to Wufei and Zechs.
"Neither, for all Sexy is trying to extort money from me," Wufei said, poking his lover in the ribs. "Une broke it up and dressed them down before one of them conceded."
"They're both cleaning up before they join you for dinner," Farley said from the door, pushing in a large cart with covered plates and one bowl on it. "They should be here momentarily."
Sally smiled at her assistant. "Thanks, Farley. We appreciate it." He nodded to everyone, and went off to his own dinner.
Duo took one look at the cart and sighed. "Let me guess... soup for me? When do *I* get a steak? Or pasta? Or sesame chicken?"
Sally grinned at him. "When I feel you're recovered enough. When I'm sure you're over the infections. When I'm sure--"
Duo groaned. "Fine, I get the picture. But when you're *sure*... I want a steak. With potatoes and gravy. And maybe some garlic bread..."
"You must be feeling better after your nap and pain pills," Trowa said, walking in the door, followed by Heero. Both had minor bruises from their 'workout', but they were clearly calmer and more at ease. Looking at the broad smirks both were wearing, Une groaned and rolled her eyes, looking to Sally for sympathy. The doctor simply shrugged.
The Japanese teen took a plate, and Duo's soup, from the cart, and carefully sat on his side of the joined beds. He placed the bowl on the table in front of his lover and handed him the spoon. "Eat, Duo," he said, and started on his own meal.
That seemed to be a signal, and everyone grabbed a plate and settled down to eat.
"So, Duo, are you going to let us in on your grand plan?" Quatre asked, once the dishes were cleared away and everyone had gathered around the bed with their tea and coffee.
Duo looked away from the snow falling heavily outside the window. "Sure Q," he said, sipping his tea. He motioned to Walker. "Igor, the plans, if you please."
Walker chuckled, and laid the map on the table. "Yeth, mathter, right away, mathter," he said, chuckling, understanding the reference and going along with the teen's humour.
Une blinked. "Kevin... what...?"
Duo grinned lopsidedly at her. "I'm the mad scientist, here, and Kev is my twisted assistant," he said, then had to elaborate at her visible confusion. "It's from 'Frankenstein', only my 'monster' is my cunning plan to decimate the base... Never mind," he chuckled, seeing she still didn't understand.
"So, to make a long story short-- because I'm cold, tired and sore-- we have a three-pronged attack on the base. Shenlong will stage here--" he pointed to an 'S' on the map, then to the 'T', "and Tallgeese will wait here. Heero will take 'Scythe, under full cloak, to here..."
He didn't see the raised eyebrows between Trowa and Quatre, and Heero. Heero nodded and mouthed 'later'.
"When Studly gives the signal," the teen said, gesturing at Wufei, "Honeymuffin will drop 'Scythe's cloak, scaring the bad guys to death and getting them all to attack *him*," Duo continued, slightly disappointed that no one commented on their nicknames. "Then, Dragon Bait will move in behind the Leos and attack from the rear. At that point, Studly will take out the base communications, then head for the mobile doll hangar."
Duo leaned back against his bed and sighed. "Comments? Questions? Suggestions?"
Quatre nodded. "That seems like a solid plan. I think--" He stopped as his partner picked up the pen and wrote 'H' on the opposite side of the 'S' from the 'T'. "Trowa? Ah..."
The other pilot smirked. "Duo, while Wufei takes out the communications, I'll take the stationary batteries, then move to the hangar as well. Okay? There's no way I'm sitting this out."
Trowa sighed in relief and sagged against a wall as Quatre finally closed the door of their room that night. "Christ, I hurt."
Quatre snorted in amusement. "Poor baby! Cut the cute face, Trowa, I *know* you don't regret it!"
Trowa's sad, hurt expression immediately melted off his face as he pushed off the wall and walked across the room to fold Quatre into a hug. "I missed you."
Quatre hugged back. "It was only a few days, but I missed you, too."
Trowa smiled and kissed the top of Quatre's head before tilting the boy's face up for a gentle kiss to his lips. With a small growl, Quatre deepened the kiss--
"Ow... oh, Quatre..." Trowa pulled away a little, and the blond opened his eyes immediately. There was blood on Trowa's lips - he must have split his lip in the fight with Heero.
The blond teen's eyes sparkled with humour as he grumbled, "Damn Heero, ruins all my fun! Just because *he's* not getting any right now..."
Trowa sat down and waited patiently as Quatre fetched a small first aid kit from his bag and came back with it. He smiled at his lover. "It was a really good fight, Quatre."
"I'm sure it was. Hold still a moment," Quatre warned.
The taller boy managed not to flinch as the blond disinfected his lip and chin. As soon as Quatre put the bottle back down, though, Trowa grabbed hold of him around the waist and yanked him forward until he could rest his forehead against the Arabian's chest. "I was so angry, love. I still am."
"Me, too," Quatre said, hugging the other boy. "Duo's put on a brave face for us all, but I can feel it. He's hurting very badly."
Trowa looked up. "Can you believe he's letting Heero use Deathscythe? He hasn't even let me *near* the cockpit, and he's letting Heero *fly* it..."
Quatre laughed again as he pulled himself loose from Trowa's embrace. "If I didn't know better, Mr. Barton, I'd say you're jealous."
"Damned straight I am!" Trowa groaned as he lay back, arms stretched out over his head. "I want a cloaking device, too."
"Mecha envy," Quatre muttered, stooping to grab something from his bag. He turned back to the bed and smiled wolfishly. "Take off your shirt and lie on your stomach."
Trowa eyed his lover speculatively. "Should I be worried about an order like that?"
The blond rolled his eyes. "You never *have* been, so I see no reason to start now. No, silly! I'm going to give you a massage- you're stiff, I can see it."
A spark lit green eyes. "You bet I'm stiff..."
"Now, Trowa. You can seduce me later."
"You promise?" Trowa made a show of stripping off his shirt slowly before letting his hands fall to the fastenings of his jeans and quickly peeling them down, too, for good measure.
"Promise." Quatre watched appreciatively as Trowa settled onto the bed comfortably. Climbing up next to him, Quatre poured some lotion into his hands and slowly began to knead Trowa's back.
Groaning in pleasure and relief, Trowa cracked one green eye open and looked back over his shoulder at his boyfriend. "That feels good, Quatre. Have I told you that I love you recently?"
The blond just smiled and began trailing his hands lower.