++Chapter 7++
"A Healing Touch"

Duo fingered his citrine, staring down at its transclucent depths in silence before pocketing it, feeling the weight of it settle against his hip. He glanced over his shoulder at his companion. Gable was calmly re-packing the things he had bought from the shop the previous night, bundling them tightly and carefully before pushing them into a duffel bag. Duo felt a flush rise to his cheeks when he noticed the other boy was careful not to sit, and looked away quickly, staring down at his fists clenched on the top of the dresser. Fuck, he had such a pounding headache. Hangovers were a bitch.
Never never NEVER am I getting drunk around him again, Duo thought forcefully. Even now, he couldn't believe he had done what he had. He had been lured by the attractive boy's come-on, tempted by his looks and the lust that the drink only helped to pound into him. Gable certainly wasn't complaining, so he hadn't said anything to him about it, but inside himself he felt wrenching, painful guilt. He felt as if he had betrayed Heero in some way. OK, so maybe he wasn't technically with Heero, and the other pilot certainly didn't seem to feel anything towards him... but he had been hoping that maybe...maybe he could win the stoic boy over...
Red. He glanced up, watching Gable's reflection in the mirror, catching the glint of light that touched the red gem he was still wearing around his neck. Red for passion. He remembered it now, now that the alcohol was mostly out of his system. There was power in colors, wasn't that what the books had said? Like those white candles for Quatre: purification, protection. Red was for passion, for lust. Gable had been hoping this would happen. He sighed very quietly, closing his eyes. He had been hit on before and had laughed his way out with ease countless times before. What could possibly have come over him last night? The drink mixed with the stone? Iie... he refused to lie to himself. Those had had a part to play, but most of all he suspected it was Gable's looks and his interest in him. Maybe being brushed off by Heero for so long was beginning to take its toll on his willpower. Remember, he thought snidely to himself, *you* made the first move. You touched him.
Oh, shut up.
He turned around, plastering on a smile that had to look as fake as it felt. "Aa. Ready to go?"
The other boy held up a bottle of advil, smiling wryly. "For your hangover." He tossed it to him. "You'll need 'em. I was wondering if maybe we could take a car to the hospital? It's only about half an hour away, and I don't want to drop my stuff while you carry me with Deathscythe."
"Sure," Duo mumbled, swallowing two pills dry. "Whatever. Just let me hide Deathscythe in a more secure place."
"Hai." Gable shouldered his pack. "I'll go find a car."
Duo couldn't resist a dry grin as Gable stepped towards the door. "You gonna 'borrow' one?"
Gable just smiled sweetly before reaching up and giving him a quick kiss on the mouth, taking him off guard. "See you in a few minutes. Ja!" And he left.
Shit. Duo screwed his eyes shut, rubbing his fists into his eyes. What a fucking guilt trip.
Gable didn't know he was interested in someone else. Plus it wasn't like Duo had exactly pushed Gable away at any point last night. He couldn't blame the boy for what had happened. It had been entirely his fault. Damn horny American me, he thought sourly, snatching the hotel key from the dresser and his priest overshirt from the back of a chair before storming out. He had to tell him. Had to tell him there was someone else. He just hoped he didn't break the guy's heart or anything... he seemed pretty honest and fragile. Like a more daring version of Quatre.
I've got to tell him, he thought firmly. I've just got to wait for the right moment.

Duo offered to drive, and Gable lounged in the passenger seat watching the scenery go by, legs propped up on the dashboard of the jeep he had somehow acquired. He was all long legs and slenderness, hair ruffled by the wind, and Duo had to keep his eyes firmly on the road. Damn his libido anyway.
He cleared his throat, glancing quickly towards the boy. "Hey, Gable," he said nonchalantly, "why are you wearing that stone anyway? Were you hoping to get lucky last night when you bought it?"
Gable looked at him, startled, before flushing. "Ano..." he laughed nervously. "I forgot you aren't completely clueless about our ways..." He looked down at his lap, embarassed. "I guess I was," he said, almost too quietly to hear over the engine and the wind. He glanced sideways at Duo shyly, an intriguing look that had Duo looking at him longer than he should have. "Why? Are you mad? Do you blame me for finding you attractive, Duo?"
"Uh... no, that's not it," Duo stammered. "I just.."
"Do you regret it happening?"
Duo blinked. "Uh... Look, I have to tell you something.."
Gable straightened abruptly, staring straight ahead. "Oi," he said sharply. "What's that?"
Duo looked forward quickly. Someone was staggering into the road, waving an arm weakly, looking ready to collapse. Duo stepped on the brakes hard to avoid hitting the figure and climbed quickly out of the jeep. "Stay here," he ordered Gable, and jogged over to the woman, catching her just before she fell.
"Hey! You all right? What happened to you?"
The woman clung to him, trembling, and stared up at him, her face streaked with tears and dirt. "Oh thank goodness," she said in a wavering tone. "Someone carjacked me... I've been walking for hours..."
"Hang on, we'll take you to the next town," Duo said soothingly, straightening her. "Come on, you can ride with me and my friend."
The woman's grip tightened suddenly on his arms, painfully, and he tried to push her back, startled. "Hey-"
He ducked instinctively at Gable's shout, and heard a rush of air over his head as someone swung something heavy at him. "Shit!"
He tore the woman from him, shoving her hard, ignoring her as she landed on the road with a curse, whirling to face his attackers.
Two men were coming at him from different angles, grinning in triumph. One held a bat, the other was whirling a thick chain.
"You're overdue for an appointment with Davarius-sama," the one with the chain informed him, coming slowly closer. Duo retreated.
"Tell the jackass he can send me a business card," he growled, and dodged towards the right.
The man with the bat cut him off, swinging wildly, and he had to duck quickly to avoid getting a concussion. Then the woman tackled him from behind, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and hanging on like a monkey, nearly throwing him from his feet as he staggered under her weight. The chain snaked towards him again, and he snapped up his arms instinctively, wincing as the heavy link wrapped firmly around his arms. The man laughed and yanked.
Suddenly Gable appeared from nowhere, barrelling right into the man with the chain and knocking him to the ground, causing him to lose his grip on the chain. Duo staggered, then shook the chain off, grabbing it quickly and lashing out at the man with the bat before he could take advantage of his momentary off-balance. He reached back with his free hand and seized a fistful of the woman's hair, pulling hard and trying to ignore the pained shriek she set off right by his ear.
Gable leapt to assist, yanking the woman forcefully off of Duo and grabbing his arm. "Run!" He dragged Duo after him, dashing for the jeep, and Duo raced after him. He dove into the passenger seat just as Gable slid behind the wheel and jerked the vehicle out of park into drive and slammed on the gas. Tires squealed as the jeep shot forward, and their attackers leapt for cover shouting. They roared off, quickly leaving the group behind.
Duo sagged in his seat, panting. "Damn! That was close! Thanks, man."
Gable flicked him a sideways glance, hands gripping the steering wheel tightly. His chest rose and fell quickly. "Aa... anytime." He offered a slight grin. "You all right?" he asked after a moment.
Duo laughed, straightening and pulling on his seatbelt. "Yeah, I'm fine. What about you?"
"Daijabou." Gable relaxed slowly, his grip on the wheel easing up. "So... what was it you wanted to tell me, Duo?"
"Uh.." Duo blinked. "Oh yeah. Uh.." he hesitated, biting his lip and glancing out at the scenery, stalling. "About last night..."
"Yes?" Gable glanced at him curiously. "Do you regret it happening?" he asked quietly.
"Um... well.. Yes and no." Duo squirmed. This was harder than he'd thought it would be. Dammit. "Well, see... I was drunk, and..."
"I see." Gable's voice was very quiet.
Duo looked at him quickly.
He was staring straight ahead at the road, body tense, mouth tight. His bangs hid his face mostly, but didn't hide the hurt in his eyes. Duo immediately felt like an ass and mentally kicked himself in the head. "No, I didn't mean it like that," he said quickly. "It's just... there's.. Someone..else. Sorta."
"Someone else," Gable repeated calmly. "Sorta? I don't understand."
Duo began gnawing on the end of his braid, unable to look at the other boy any more. "Well... it's... Actually, it's the guy we're going to go help," he said meekly. "I've liked him for...a long time, actually. I'd been hoping to... you know... get with him eventually."
"Yes." Duo flushed, twisting in his seat in embarrassment. "He doesn't..seem to like anybody very much. He was trained when he was young to have very few emotions."
"You're pining after a statue," Gable said hollowly, looking as if he wished he could laugh. "That's sad."
Duo rubbed his temple. "Yeah, yeah, I know," he grumbled. "And I'm sorry if I..lead you on. But..."
"You like him." Gable looked down at his lap. "You feel like you've betrayed him, then, because of last night? Don't tell me you slept with me to forget him."
Duo yanked his braid from his mouth, sitting up straight. "No!" he said forcefully.
Gable looked over at him, startled.
Duo flushed, surprised by his own outburst. "I mean... Look, that's not it. I like you. I do. But.. I wasn't even thinking about him when.. when that happened. Last night, I mean."
Gable straightened slightly, biting his lip. "Really," he said softly.
Duo wriggled uncomfortably and looked away again.
After a long moment of silence Gable took a breath and said quietly, "Duo. I want to ask you something."
"If it doesn't work out between you and.."
"..Between you and Heero, then..." He hesitated, then rushed on, blushing. "If he doesn't want you, will you think of... of giving us a chance? You and me? I still like you, Duo. I should have asked if there was someone else before I.." He gestured helplessly to the stone around his neck, glancing shyly across at his companion. "Will you think about it?" he murmured.
Duo blinked, staring at him. Him and Gable? As a couple?
If it turned out that he was wasting his time... that Heero was completely unaffected by Duo, would he be able to be happy with Gable? God, just the thought of Heero rejecting him hurt. But.. he had to face the fact that it was a strong possibility. After all, Heero was the Perfect Soldier. He might not act too favorably to the idea of another boy falling for him.
Could he be happy with Gable if that happened?
He studied the other boy. Yes. Maybe. Well, one thing was for sure. He would be willing to give it a chance. He found himself smiling, a genuine smile. "Yes," he whispered. "I will."
Gable smiled back hesitatingly, reaching over to lay his hand over Duo's, and Duo sank into the seat, sighing quietly as he gazed out the windshield, grateful for the warm touch. It was nice to have someone care for him. To touch him, to truly care for him. When was the last time he had felt like that...?
He closed his eyes against the morning sunlight, swallowing a lump in his throat. Once. Only once before.
The Maxwell Church.
The jeep continued down the lonely road on its way to the city, its passengers silent throughout the ride.


"This is the place?" Neo squinted up at the large building.
"Hai." His companion lifted the scrap of paper, glancing at it. "This is the address the man at the station gave us."
"Fine.." Neo blew out an impatient sigh. "Let's get this over with."
Atreusio glanced up at him as they strode inside, the air conditioning feeling cold on their warm skin. "Quatre-san asked us to look after them," he reminded him quietly. "It's the least we can do."
"Hn." Neo grumbled, scowling and pressing the button to the elevator door. "This is a waste of my time. We aren't part of her stupid coven anymore, why should we be errand boys?"
"Because he trusts us." Atreusio followed his friend into the elevator and watched the numbers tick by as the elevator rose up the shaft.
"Trusts us," Neo scoffed. "We're the ones that dragged his happy ass out to Silverwolf in the first place. Why should he trust us?"
Atreusio didn't bother to voice his opinion, but remained silent until they reached the seventh floor. The pair stepped from the elevator and strode towards the reception desk. "Which room is Heero Yuy in?" Atreusio asked politely.
The nurse at the desk glanced at a clipboard on the wall by her chair. "I'm sorry, no one but family is allowed visitation," she informed him. She didn't sound sorry, Atreusio noted with mild amusement. "Are you family?"
"No." Neo leaned towards her ominously. "But I think you're going to tell us the room number anyway."
The nurse blinked, caught in his deep gaze. After a moment she raised a limp hand, pointing towards the double doors that led to the rooms. "Room 139," she said in a dead voice.
"Thank you," Neo said primly.
Atreusio frowned up at him as they hurried through the doors, already tugging his backpack from his shoulders. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you enjoyed doing things like that to people."
Neo flashed an unsettling grin. "Maybe I do," he taunted. Atreusio rolled his eyes.
"Here it is."
Neo pushed the door open with his foot and they entered. The door closed behind them without any touch, and they padded towards the bed on silent feet.
Heero was sitting up straight, back against the headboard as he carefully examined the IV tube and the bandage around his wound.
"Saa, Heero-kun," Atreusio murmured, "planning an escape?"
Heero looked up quickly, eyes narrowing on sight of Atreusio. "You."
"We meet again." Atreusio set his backpack down on a nearby chair. "You looked healthier when I saw you last."
"Sarcasm does not become you, Atreusio," Neo said airily, striding over to the bed. Heero glared at them suspiciously.
"What do you want?" he demanded. His fist tightened by his leg, and Neo glanced towards it.
"Got yourself a weapon already, did you?" he clucked, looking amused. "Don't bother. You wouldn't have a chance in hell. Besides, you twit, we're not here to kill you."
"Quatre sent us," Atreusio added. "To help you."
Heero sent him a sharp look. "Quatre. What did you do with him?"
"Took him to an old friend. Quit being nosey," Neo snapped. "Oi, Atreusio. Hurry up and heal his ungrateful ass so we can go get a beer or something."
"I don't want beer," Atreusio said, unzipping his pack.
"Then you can have a milk for all I bloody care," Neo said impatiently. "I just want to hurry and get this stupid shit over with so we can leave and never have to see Silverwolf and her pack of ninnies again."
Heero started to push himself up, but Neo pinned him with a glare. Heero was startled and frustrated to discover his muscles had locked and he couldn't move an inch. "Sit still, will you? Hurry it up, Atreusio."
"How do you expect this to work with all your negativity in the room?" Atreusio demanded patiently, moving towards Heero with a clear crystal in one hand and something wet on the fingertips of his other hand. "Why don't you stand outside until I'm finished?"
"Yeah, so GI Joe here can jump your retarded ass?" Neo sneered. "Good idea."
Atreusio turned a tolerant look on the taller boy. "He won't hurt me. Because," he turned his calm gaze on Heero, "if he does, he'll have to stay in the hospital longer than usual healing, when I can just heal him quickly right now."
Heero hesitated, glancing from one to the other with obvious distrust.
"Just lie still, Heero-kun," Atreusio murmured. "We swore to Quatre-san that we would protect you, not harm you. Please trust me this one time."
"Fine, then," Neo snarled abruptly, and Heero felt his muscles suddenly loosen. He could move again. Neo strode towards the door. "But hurry it up, will ya? Geez.."
As the door shut with a click behind his him, Heero turned his piercing eyes on Atreusio. They stared at each other silently for several long moments.
"Let me heal you first," Atreusio offered quietly. "Then you can decide what you're going to do."
Heero hestiated, then very reluctantly and slowly leaned back against the headboard. "You're one of them," he stated.
"In a way." Atreusio stepped closer. "You sound as if you don't believe it."
Heero looked away, looking stonily out of the window. "I don't," he said coldly.
"Then why are you trusting me?"
"..." A muscle in Heero's jaw twitched. "..Because Duo does."

Neo poked his head in ten minutes later. "Oi," he called impatiently. "Done yet?"
"Aa." Atreusio was packing his bag again. "You're lucky it wasn't a real Wiccan that came to aid you, Heero-kun," he informed the other boy, who was carefully touching his bandaged abdomen. "Their powers would have been faster than this hospital, but by no means instantaneous."
Heero tugged at the tape and slowly pulled off the bandage.
His wound was gone.
He looked up quickly. "Who are you?" he demanded.
Neo rolled his eyes. "We didn't come here for twenty questions," he said, exasperated. "All right, our job's done. Let's get the hell out of here."
Heero rose quickly, hand closing over the knife he'd pilfered from the breakfast food tray. "Omae-- Ggg!" He stumbled, nearly falling from the bed as pain lanced from his wound.
"Idiot." Neo smirked. "The wound is still healing some from the inside. Mess with it too much and you'll just fuck it up all over again." He turned away dismissively. "Let's go, Atreusio."
Heero gritted his teeth, pushing the blankets angrily aside and rising to his feet. "Matte!"
"Neo-" Atreusio grabbed his friend's arm quickly. "Don't." Neo had turned towards Heero threateningly. "Don't."
Everyone stilled at the quiet, cold voice.
"Neo," Atreusio said, very quietly.
"You're the one...."
They turned as one to face the figure in the doorway.
"You're the one who took Quatre." Trowa was staring at Neo as if he had just run across his worst enemy. His tone was low and dangerous. "I promised I'd kill you when I found you," he said very calmly.
"Trowa," Heero growled. "What are you doing here?"
Neo smiled. "Well well well... I thought I'd killed you."

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Ch. 16
Ch. 17
Ch. 18
Ch. 19
Ch. 20
Ch. 21
Ch. 22
Ch. 23