Heero vaulted out of the cockpit of Wing Zero even before the hatch fully opened. Cursing eloquently under his breath in more languages than he realized he knew, he landed lightly in a battle-crouch then was up and racing towards Shinigami in a single movement so smooth and fluid, it seemed to exist only in dreams.
Scrambling lithely up the side of the Gundam, he slammed down hard on the emergency release and crouched down beside the cockpit as the hatch slowly swung open. "Duo!"
Long eyelashes fluttered weakly and the violet eyes opened, fixing dazedly on Heero's face, then the corner of the generous mouth pulled up into the familiar smirk. "Heero, I...."
"You should have stayed back, baka!" Heero gritted his teeth, relieved beyond words that Duo had survived the singularly ungraceful crash-landing of his Gundam. Leaning down and wrapping his strong arms around Duo, he started to lift his partner from the cockpit but was stalled by Duo's soft whimper of pain. "Duo?!" he hissed, "Where does it hurt?"
"Left side," Duo whispered, biting down hard on his lips as Heero's probing fingers dug into his ribcage, inhaling sharply in pain as Heero's fingers brushed lightly against his upper abdomen.
"I don't think you've broken anything," Heero told him, cobalt blue eyes narrowed slightly with concern. "Maybe they're just bruised. I'm getting you out of here."
Duo nodded tersely as Heero lifted him out; biting down on his lower lip until it bled to keep from screaming in anguish as something in him seemed to shred slowly, painfully. It was tricky, but Heero managed to get Duo down to the ground without dropping him in the process, then lowered his injured companion to the ground. "Duo?" Heero inquired again, anxiety edging into his voice now. The Shinigami pilot looked so pale, his eyelashes unnaturally dark against the paleness of his skin.
"Heero..." Slender fingers reached out, blindly grasping for Heero's hand. "Don't think it's my ribs...." the voice was so soft now, fading into silence... "Think I broke something inside...."
"Don't move," Heero murmured, gently brushing the sweat-soaked locks from Duo's fevered brow. "I'll get you safely out of here. Trust me."
"I trust you...." Duo breathed, then the violet eyes closed and the American pilot slipped into the dark comfort of unconsciousness.
He was the only person in the waiting room, had been the only one there for several hours now, when the door finally opened to admit the other three pilots. "How is he?" Quatre demanded tersely, blue eyes concerned, anxious.
Heero looked up calmly, nothing in the impassive face betraying his concern for Duo. "He's in surgery right now."
"What happened up there?
"I don't know exactly. He took a hit - it shouldn't have fazed him - but he lost control and went down."
"He hasn't been entirely well for a few days now. He hardly touched any of his meals yesterday - said he had no appetite. He complained of tiredness and muscular aches, but it wasn't unexpected - he's been overworked, as have we all."
Heero nodded in response to Quatre's remark, indicating that he too had noticed Duo's uncharacteristic behavior. "He woke up with a fever this morning, but insisted on going out on the mission. I told him to stay back; naturally he refused to listen."
Just then the door opened and the doctor looked in. "Are you friends of Duo Maxwell?"
"Yes, of course," Quatre looked up with his usual smile. "How is he, doctor?"
"Noisy. He's awake and asking for Heero. Does he always talk *that* much?"
"You have no idea, doctor," Quatre laughed softly. "You have really no idea...."
The braided American pilot was lying on the bed, partly propped up by pillows, and he smiled brightly as his team-mates trooped in. "Hey, what a crowd. All this just for me? Gee, you guys are great, coming all this way just to bring me home."
"How do you feel, Duo?" Quatre asked, smiling gently down at his friend.
"Tired," Duo chirped, "Can I go home now?"
"What's wrong, doctor?" Wufei inquired, coming up to stand by the other side of the bed.
"He has acute acquired cytomegalovirus infection."
Duo blinked. "What's that in English?"
"You have mononucleosis."
Duo blinked again.
"You have an acute viral infection. Common symptoms are fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscular aches and an enlarged spleen. The blow to your abdomen ruptured your spleen; that's why you needed surgery. Otherwise, this would have been a fairly uncomplicated infection."
"Is there any medication he can take, doctor?"
"No, unfortunately antiviral medications do not help. Your fever should break in about ten days, and you'll need to rest for a month or longer to regain full activity levels, though it's not uncommon for fatigue to linger for two to three months."
"Two or three months?!" Duo sounded outraged, "I don't have *time* to get sick."
"Unfortunately, you already *are* sick. I strongly recommend you *take* the time to rest. Death, though uncommon, is possible in immunocompromised individuals."
Duo paled slightly. "I'll be good," he promised fervently.
"That's nice to know," the doctor smiled faintly.
"When can we take him home?" Quatre inquired.
"As soon as possible," the doctor smirked. "He's driving all of us insane with his chatter."
The braided pilot had the audacity to smirk gamely at Heero.
"You mentioned a viral infection, doctor," Wufei spoke up, "Is it infectious?"
"Yes, highly, but there's little need to worry. The infection is spread only by saliva or through sexual contact."
Duo eeped softly.
Heero blinked, rather uncharacteristically caught by surprise, then turned on Duo and gave him The Look. "Omae o korosu. Is that all you can say?" he demanded of his braided lover.
"Uh-oh?" Duo suggested meekly, then crouched down in the bed, pulling the covers over his head, acting like he wished he could disappear.
Heero's eyes narrowed slightly. He didn't seem to find it in the least bit amusing.
Quatre gave Trowa a startled glance, and the taller pilot only smiled indulgently. "Didn't you know?"
The Arabian looked back at Heero, blue eyes widening, his lower jaw dropping open in surprise. "You *and* Duo?!"
The head under the blanket nodded emphatically, then two violet eyes peeked out over the top of the covers. "Sorry, Heero?" Duo ventured timidly, then ducked back under the covers when The Look showed no signs of going away....
Quatre shook his head in disbelief, trying to absorb the startling revelations. "I think..." he murmured, sounding rather dazed, "... that we have *a lot* of trouble on our hands...."
'*A lot* of trouble' was soon registered for 'The Understatement of The Year' Award.
Duo by himself was a lot of trouble. The fever kept him dozing in bed for the better part of the ten days, but by the eleventh day he was wandering around Quatre's country estate and disturbing everyone, *including* the tame and rather expensive Mandarin ducks in the estate's large duck pond.
"They're molting, and it's not even the correct season," Quatre complained. "It's probably from stress. Duo, could you *please* stay away from them?"
Duo Maxwell, ever obliging, agreed instantly, of course. Shortly thereafter came the report from the kitchen hands that the hens had stopped laying eggs and were attacking the rooster. "Duo!"
"Sorry! I was so *bored*; I just needed something to do," Duo whined as he toyed restlessly with his braid, managing to look simultaneously hyperactive and miserable. So much for the one month of fatigue. The word probably did not even exist in his vocabulary. "Trowa threatened to put cyanide in my coffee if I stayed around him or any other human being a moment longer."
Trowa?! Gentle, silent Trowa threatened Duo?! "Do you have any idea how terrible things have to get before Trowa will threaten you?" Quatre demanded. He was the only one of the four pilots who could still talk to Duo without being seized by the irresistible urge to throttle him. "Why can't you just sit still and watch a movie?!"
"I've seen every movie disk you have, twice over! I can quote every line of conversation in all those movies backwards! And before you give me additional advice, I've read every book you own, listened to every music CD you possess, and searched out every secret door in your home. Did you know that there's a secret corridor that leads from your room to Trowa's? Besides," Duo flashed his endearing smirk, apparently not noticing that Quatre's face turned an interesting shade of pink. "The purpose of my life is to make people long for the peace of heaven."
"I'd say you're succeeding remarkably," Quatre muttered. "Though I think I'd rather prefer hell if you're headed for heaven."
Duo's next statement had little relation to the previous one, but it was simply a reflection of the fact that Duo's mind worked twice as fast as anyone else's and had already moved on to something else. "And Heero treats me like I have the plague! He won't touch me; he won't even come near me!"
Ah, so *that* was the real reason. Heero was the only one who could induce any measure of restraint whatsoever in Duo, and without his steadying presence and influence, Duo went absolutely bonkers. "He just doesn't want to catch mono from you," Quatre said, gently now, noting the muted pain in the lovely violet eyes.
"Ahh, he's the perfect soldier. He *never* falls sick."
Just then, the perfect soldier was in hospital, accompanied by Trowa. It had started out that morning with a vague ill feeling. By noon, it had turned into a fever, and Heero had privately taken Trowa aside and broken the news to him. Trowa prudently insisted on a visit to the same doctor who had diagnosed Duo's mononucleosis.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you -" the doctor placed the lab report down in front of him, then solemnly stared across the oak desk at the Wing pilot, "- that you also have mononucleosis."
"That's impossible," Heero snapped, "I *never* fall sick."
"Well, you won't be able to say that anymore," the doctor shrugged it off as inconsequential. "In fact, judging from your high white blood cell count, it's entirely possible that you contracted the infection before your friend did. Your body has been trying to fight it off for quite awhile now, and has only just succumbed to the symptoms."
This was turning out to be the day of unpleasant revelations. "You're saying I could have passed mono on to Duo, instead of vice versa?!"
"I'm saying it's highly likely that's what happened," the doctor replied blandly. "The same advice applies in your case - a lot of rest and very limited activity for a month. Certainly nothing strenuous even though your symptoms will, most likely, be milder than his in view of your naturally high resistance."
Heero nodded. Trowa smacked him, hard, on the back of his head as they stepped out of the hospital.
"What the hell was that for?!"
"For inflicting a sick and bored-completely-out-of-his-mind Duo on us."
Heero glowered at him, but said nothing, his oft-believed dead conscience working him over thoroughly for being unnecessarily cruel to Duo. He was staring moodily out of the car window on the long car ride back home to Quatre's estate when some sign caught his attention. "Stop here!"
Trowa blinked, but obediently pulled into the parking lot. "I'll be back in ten minutes," Heero promised, then stepped out of the car and vanished into the crowd of humanity entering the shopping mall.
Quatre and Wufei were enjoying a rare moment of peace when Heero and Trowa finally returned from their unannounced errands in the city. "Where's Duo?" Heero demanded brusquely.
"Resting up for dinner," Wufei announced shortly. "I'm going into the city for dinner tonight. I'm hungry, and I want to eat. I have no intention of wasting all that food in another food fight with Duo."
"Duo will behave himself," Heero promised ominously, then stepped down the familiar corridors towards the bedrooms. He let himself in without knocking, then gazed silently at the slender form curled up under the blankets, back to the door. His eyes narrowed slightly, then softened at the suspiciously soft sniffling sounds under the blanket.
His light footsteps made absolutely no sound on the heavily carpeted floors, and consequently, Duo started in surprise as the blankets were thrown aside and Heero's familiar shape spooned up against his back. "He...Heero?" he breathed, pushing up onto his elbows and swiping quickly at his eyes. Had there been tears there?
Perhaps... the violet eyes were red-rimmed, the long eyelashes moist. The heart Heero would never have believed he had wrenched at the thought that he had driven this beautiful one to tears. With surprising tenderness, the Wing pilot kissed the single teardrop lingering on Duo's high cheekbone, then claimed his lover's mouth in a gentle kiss.
"Heero?" Duo stared wide-eyed up at him just as soon as Heero released his mouth.
"Did you have any plans for the one month of sick leave we both have?"
"We *both* have?" Duo echoed stupidly.
"The doctor thinks I may have given you mono."
"You gave *me* mono?!" Duo seemed incapable of doing anything except repeat the tail end of Heero's sentences.
"If you had nothing specific in mind," Heero continued smoothly, seemingly unaware that Duo was having an inordinate amount of trouble grasping the situation, "I thought we might like to spend some time together - just the both of us - by the lake. I stopped by the travel agency and made bookings for a holiday chalet at the lake. The charter flight out there leaves tomorrow afternoon. Do you think you can be packed by then?"
Duo blinked, and the expressive violet eyes that seemed to reflect to the very depths of his soul, filled with tears.
"I'm happy," Duo murmured sweetly, swiping the tears away again, then leaned down against Heero, nuzzling contentedly.
"Baka," Heero snorted, his tone warm with affection as he felt Duo smile...
"Heero has mononucleosis?!" Quatre stared in horrified disbelief at Trowa.
Trowa only nodded once, his sober expression stating all too clearly that it was not just a cruel joke.
"But he's been perfectly well, and we thought -"
"K'so!" Wufei cursed under his breath, looking up at Quatre, his dark eyes infinitely troubled. "Quatre, we drank from the same bottle of water after Heero did just this morning!"
Quatre paled visibly. "Uh-oh...."
"I did not drink from it," Trowa stated with a soft sigh of relief. By the gods, this was going to be worse than he imagined. Four pilots down....
"But I... um... kissed you before you left for the city this morning...."
Trowa stared with wide-eyed horror at his blond lover as the realization struck him like a blow of lightning.
~~ooO@ooo~~ THE END??? ~~ooO@ooo~~
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