++Chapter 11++

"Are you out of your mind??"
Neo yawned, wiggling a finger in his ear. "Oi, baka, quit being so noisy, will you? I was just having fun."
"FUN?" Atreusio glared at his partner in complete baffled exasperation. "You call that FUN? Somebody could have been killed!"
"Including you," Neo pointed out, poking at his eggs with a fork. "Do these look cooked to you?"
"Heero-kun wouldn't have done that," Atreusio hissed across the diner table at his companion, "if you hadn't gone all macho like that."
"Macho?" Neo looked mildly offended. "That's harsh, squirt. I'm hurt. Really."
Atreusio ground his teeth in helpless frustration.
The two were seated at a cheap breakfast diner, having brunch. There were only two other customers, and the waitress looked too lethargic to bother anybody, much less ask them to leave for being loud.
"Why did you push Trowa-kun like that?" Atreusio demanded. "He obviously is close to Quatre. You saw how determined he was to kill you the minute he walked in that door. Why did you keep pushing him?"
"Hey, he struck first, not me," Neo said in his defense, giving up on the goopy eggs and hacking at his ham. "I was just pointing out the obvious. Not my fault I'm blunt."
"Blunt is not the word." Atreusio reached for his hot tea. "I don't know why you always think being cruelly honest is the best way to pound something into someone's head."
"I was only telling him the truth," Neo said with a little shrug, popping a piece of ham into his mouth. He promptly spit it out into his napkin. "Gah! That's it, I'm not paying for any of this shit." He wiped his mouth, turning his fathomless eyes on his partner. "He isn't going to see the kid again," he said. "I was just letting him know so he'll get the hell off our backs."
Atreusio added more cream to his tea. "Well you only made him angrier. Sometimes I think you do things like that to people to get it over with and have the person hurt all at once so that they won't go through the prolonged suffering of not knowing."
Neo glared at him over his coffee mug. "Don't be an idiot," he snarled.
Atreusio took an experimental sip of his tea. It seemed to be the only decent thing in this diner. "I know you, Neo," he said quietly. "You're so sick of being hurt you take it out on others. You shouldn't do that."
Neo banged his coffee cup down hard enough to make Atreusio jump. His eyes bore into the other boy. "And you've been hurt so often you just take it like a whipped dog," he said in a low, intense voice.
Atreusio stiffened.
Their gazes were locked for a long silent moment before Neo finally snorted and turned his attention back to his meal. "Anyway," he said flippantly, "the kid pisses me off. Who asked him to barge in, anyway? There we were, helping his stupid friend, and he gets all ruffled."
Atreusio relaxed with a visible effort, taking another sip of tea. "You dislike most people," he observed. "So OK, Trowa-kun annoyed you. Why did you have to threaten Heero-kun with the bullet?"
Neo rolled his eyes. "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me," he said with heavy sarcasm. "Next time I'll let the nice little soldier boy cut your throat."
Atreusio made a face at him. "Since when do you stick up for me?" he demanded quietly.
"We're in this together whether we like it or not, kid," Neo said brusquely, dribbling his coffee onto his meal and watching his eggs float. "Been like that since we left Silverwolf and her pathetic gaggle of tree huggers."
Atreusio lowered his eyes, falling silent as unwanted memories rose to the surface at his partner's words.
Neo flicked a glance at him and caught the sad, faraway look in his eyes. He blithely changed the subject, wiggling the fingers of his free hand under Atreusio's face. "At least I didn't kill him, right? Look, I wore my gloves."
Atreusio blinked, pulled out of his daze, and stared at the leather-gloved hand underneath his nose. "A-aa. Arigato."
"You must really respect that Quatre kid," Neo snorted, "to be so damn adament about helping his retarded friends." He raised an eyebrow mockingly. "Don't tell me you actually think Silverwolf was right about him?"
Atreusio shrugged uncomfortably, looking away. "I don't know. I just like him, I guess. He's a good person. He has a good heart."
"Did you sense anything about him?" Neo asked keenly, coffee pond forgotten.
Atreusio shook his head slowly. "I'm... not sure. I know that there's *something* I'm sensing... But I'm not sure from where. Or who."
Neo leaned back in his chair, stretching. "So," he asked casually, "disappointed that the twit with the braid wasn't at the hospital?"
Atreusio looked at him quickly. "Duo? What are you talking about?"
Neo frowned at him. "You really are pathetic," he said in disgust. "What the hell is wrong with you? You see him twice and now you think about him all the time. You must have lost your damn mind. You don't *like* him, do you?"
Atreusio shut his lips together tightly and didn't respond.
As was customary with Neo, he blurted out the first thing that came to his head in his irritation. "You think the brat wants you? No one else does."
He could tell it was a mistake the minute the words left his mouth. Atreusio flinched as if he'd been physically struck and looked away quickly, his whole body stiff.
Neo sat up straight, mentally kicking himself in the head. "Oi," he muttered, flustered, and mad that he was. "I'm just kiddin', man. Relax. Geez. I just meant.. you should forget about that kid. Besides, I thought you said it looked like he had a thing for Yuy the Wonder Boy."
Atreusio didn't respond, looking as if he hadn't even heard his companion speak.
Neo's quick temper sparked. "Hey," he growled, "quit moping. You act like you're all alone in the damn world."
Atreusio finally looked at him, and Neo's words died at the infinately sad eyes that regarded him. It made his heart clench.
"But I am," Atreusio murmured. "I was born alone, I'll die alone.. You're right, I shouldn't think about him." He rose abruptly, fishing a few dollar bills from his pocket and dropping them on the table before walking towards the exit.
Neo jumped to his feet and stuffed the money back in his own pocket- this dump didn't deserve to be paid -and hurried after him.
He caught up to him in the parking lot, grabbing him by the arm. "Hey, quit with the depressed shit, all right?" he snapped. "It creeps me out."
Atreusio stared up at him mutely with dead eyes.
"If you're so damn alone in this world," Neo said gruffly, feeling uncomfortable, "then what the hell am I doing here?"
Atreusio slowly shook his head. "I haven't figured that out yet," he said softly. He pulled away and continued walking.
After a moment, Neo followed.


Quatre looked up quickly from where he'd been silently watching the fish in the large pond behind the simple summer cottage. He straightened on the rock he was sitting on, offering a welcoming if strained smile. "Raven-san. Konnichiwa."
"Are you OK?" the elfin girl regarded him anxiously as she paused by the side of the pond, carrying a small bowl of fish food. "You've been really out of it."
"Aa, daijabou," Quatre assured her quickly, hiding his inner turmoil and smiling sunnily up at her. "Just thinking. It's a lot to take in so quickly."
"You miss your friends, right?" Raven looked sympathetic as she began scattering the fish food across the pond's surface. "I'm sorry that you can't see them."
"I just don't believe that my own friends would betray me," Quatre admitted quietly, returning his gaze to the water's surface. He let his fingers dip into the pond, smiling slightly as a fish flashed by, brushing his fingertips. "You don't know them. They would never do that."
Raven bit her lip, watching as the fish hurried to devour the food she had dropped for them. "I know that your friends must be good people," she said. "But Atreusio is never wrong. And Silverwolf backed him up on it." She glanced at him hesitantly. "You do know that she was serious, don't you? If you really honestly don't want to be here, you can go back. But it could cost you not only your life but others' as well."
Quatre was silent for a long moment, eyes glued to the water. Finally he said, "No. As much as I want to see them again, something in me is telling me to stay here. I don't know how I know, but I think Atreusio is right. Or at least partially."
Raven smiled, relieved, and tapped the bowl against the grass to get rid of the last of the food. "I'm glad. You're a nice person, Quatre-san. And if Silverwolf is right about you..." she trailed off and rose, dusting off her skirt. "Anyway, Ma'at said to tell you she's willing to teach you more about stones and oils when you're done here."
"Aa." Quatre rose. "Thanks. I guess I'll go in now."


Duo parked the jeep in the hospital parking lot and hopped out, squinting up at the large hospital. Gable climbed out of the passenger side and pulled his bag from the back seat, going over to stand with his companion. "This is it?"
"This was the hospital name on the side of the ambulance," Duo said with a nod, chewing on his lip nervously. A million questions and worries gnawed at him. Was Heero be OK? What if Davarius had come and taken care of him? What would Heero think of Gable? Would he pick up how close they were? Would he say anything about his bruises?
"Duo." Gable touched his arm. "Daijabou?"
"A-aa," he assured the other boy quickly, laughing nervously. "I guess we'd better get up there. I just hope the nurses let us see him."
"How are we going to find what room he's in?" Gable asked as they started across the parking lot towards the main entrance.
Duo took the bag from Gable, carrying it himself. He didn't notice the small smile Gable gave at his unconsciously gentleman action. "We can ask at the desk. I'll just tell them I'm his brother."
"They'll want proof," Gable insisted.
"Then I'll bust in there," Duo said, setting his jaw stubbornly. "Let's see them try to keep Shinigami out of where he wants to go."
Gable just grinned and shook his head.
The faint roar of a motorbike broke into Duo's thoughts, and he frowned. What idiot would come racing towards the hospital on a damn motorcycle? They could disturb the patients. He reached for the front door.
"Duo-" Gable gasped, seizing his arm in a death grip. "He's going to hit us!"
Duo glanced over his shoulder quickly. The bike was headed straight for them. He stood frozen for a second in disbelief. What kind of insane--
It was Heero.
Gable dove to the side.
Duo stood frozen to the spot as the bike screeched to a halt mere inches away.
Heero stared up at him, eyes as stern and cold as always, face set in its handsome but emotionless lines. Duo stared numbly back, mouth hanging open.
"Duo," Gable rose to his feet, blinking and looking ruffled. "You..know him?"
Heero flicked a glance at the boy before throwing his leg over the seat of the bike, dismounting. His eyes skimmed Duo's face, and his jaw tightened.
Shit, he was looking at his bruises. Duo spoke quickly before the other pilot could say anything. "Hey, man, what are you doing out of the hospital? Are you nuts?? You need to heal!"
"I am healed," Heero said in clipped tones, brushing wind-swept hair back from his face and studying Duo intently. He looked as if he'd like to say something, but forced back his questions with obvious difficulty. He turned his eyes instead to the boy who stepped up beside Duo. "Who's this?"
Gable's hand reached out, tightening around Duo's wrist as he stared Heero down, chin lifted in defiance. "Who are you?" he demanded.
Heero's eyes shot down to the grip he had on Duo then back up at Gable's face. His eyes narrowed.
Duo flushed to the roots of his hair. Oh jesus. What a time for Gable to get protective. "Uh, Gable, this is Heero," he stammered, avoiding looking at Heero. "The one we're here to help. HeerothisisGable," he added in a rush.
"Charmed," Gable said with obvious sarcasm. "I thought you said he'd been shot, Duo."
"He was-"
"I'm fine," Heero said curtly. He and Gable were still locked in a stare-down.
Oh christ, this wasn't good. Duo wished he could melt into the asphalt. What the hell was Heero's problem, anyway? If he didn't know any better, he'd think Heero was jealous. But that was ridiculous. "Heero," he said loudly to get the other boy's attention, carefully easing his hand free of Gable's grip. "You said you're healed? What happened?"
Heero finally turned his piercing gaze on the Deathscythe pilot. "Atreusio healed me."
Duo blinked. "Atre.."
"He's responsible for Quatre's kidnapping," Heero told him coolly. "He said so himself."
Duo balked. "Nani?? But... but he's.." Confusion and deep disappointment whirled in him at the news.
"I'll debrief you when we get away from this hospital." He hesitated, glancing towards Gable once more.
Duo grimaced, embarrassed. Heero usually would have simply made room for Duo on the bike so they could leave quickly, but now Gable was here, and obviously determined to stay by his side.
"You're the Wiccan Trowa mentioned," Heero said suddenly. "The one who's going to help us find Quatre."
"That's right." Gable crossed his arms over his chest. "I offered my services to Duo and Trowa-kun. They saved my life." He turned and spoke to Duo as if Heero wasn't even there. "I didn't know you had such rude friends."
Heero's mouth twitched, a sign of his rising temper.
"Gable," Duo hissed, reddening. "Knock it off!" Jesus, if Gable wasn't a jealous little imp. "Uh, lead the way, Heero," he said quickly. "We've got a jeep. We'll just follow you."
"Leave him."
Duo blinked at the cold tone. "Nani? But Heero, he's helping us!"
"You trust too easily," Heero said, glaring at Duo. "As I've said before. How do you know he doesn't work for Davarius?"
"He *saved* me from Davarius," Gable snapped. "Why are you so paranoid? Do you want my help or not?"
Heero offered him a cool look. "I haven't met one of your kind yet that I can trust."
Gable stiffened, looking offended.
"Hey," Duo snapped, irritated. "That's enough. We'll follow you in the jeep. If it'll make you feel better he can wait in the car while we talk. Will you two chill out?"
Gable relaxed with a visible effort, glancing towards Duo apologetically. "Aa. Sorry, Duo."
Heero tightened his jaw and turned away abruptly, getting back on the motorcycle and kicking the bike into roaring life with a fierce kick to the pedal. He said nothing.
"Come on," Duo said, and he and Gable ran towards the jeep.
Heero's grip on the handlebars was numbing as he stared straight ahead, waiting for them to get to the jeep.
Trowa had been right-- the bruises on Duo's face were there plain as day.
Gable, though... did Trowa trust him?
His thoughts went back to Gable's possessive grip of Duo and he clenched his teeth until he thought his jaw would break. Twisting the handlebar viciously, he lifted his foot from the ground and roared off.
Duo would have to catch up to him if he wanted to talk so badly.
Why, he found himself wondering faintly, are you so mad, Heero Yuy?
Because Gable was impolite, part of him hissed furiously.
Didn't he know not to touch things that weren't his?

Back to Amiko's fics
Ch. 1
Ch. 2
Ch. 3
Ch. 4
Ch. 5
Ch. 6
Ch. 7
Ch. 8
Ch. 9
Ch. 10
Ch. 12
Ch. 13
Ch. 14
Ch. 15
Ch. 16
Ch. 17
Ch. 18
Ch. 19
Ch. 20
Ch. 21
Ch. 22
Ch. 23