Author: Asuka Kureru

Garou + Part 24
Big Sister

By morning, Trowa's convulsions had calmed down. He vaguely stirred for a half hour then sunk into a deeper sleep. Duo, Wufei and Heero had taken turns at his bedside and in the room where Sally had installed her lab, hoping for some good news. But she couldn't do anything; as she had told them, it was a total reconstruction of the genetic code of his every cell; it was already miraculous and more than incomprehensible for the scientist she was, that he had not died on the spot, him or the three other Weres. If she gave him anything, it could finish him off.

Each time one of them entered the bedroom, he passed Quatre, sitting on the floor in the corridor, curled up, and brooding in his corner, not daring to ignore the banishment. Each time the boys got out, hours later, and the end of their shift, the blond pilot was still there. And they all knew that when it would be time for their next shift, he'd still be there, his eyes full of tears that refused to flow.

* * * * * *

Heero rested his chin on his arm and tried to get some rest. Night would fall soon and then, the fits would come back, more violent and frequent than the day before, as it had been for now nine days. Since two days ago, they could count in minutes, not in hours, the moments between each convulsion. Heero wondered if his comrade would be dead even before the Full moon if the suffering kept on worsening at the same rhythm, in only six days... still six days. Or even if, totally exhausted by his successive attacks, he would be able to undergo the transformation without failing from pure tiredness.

"nnn..."

In a second, the werewolf was crouching at the ex-mercenary's side. Trowa looked like he was hovering on the edge of consciousness, and that was a rarity these days.

"Trowa…? How do you feel?"

"Hmm... Heero...?" the green-eyed young man whispered hoarsely.

"Yes," the Japanese pilot answered with a small relieved smile, touching his friend's arm to make him feel his presence. It was encouraging, he thought, Trowa had not been conscious even once for at least three and a half days now. Heero had begun to fear that it had been the last time.

"Ca.. Thy..."

"No, Cathy isn't here," Heero answered in a low voice, wondering if he had talked too fast.

"No, I mean..." Trowa gulped and closed his eyes again, teeth clenched. The pains were coming back with a vengeance.

"Want Cathy," he moaned. He bit his lips, and tried to curl up. A spasm of pain in his limbs took him by surprise and he gasped, struggling to keep the scream in when the liquid fire spread like a tsunami along his backbone.

"Ca... Thy... Feel... safe with her..."

Taking his decision, Heero got up and leaned over the ill boy.

"Trowa, I'm going to fetch Cathy for you, ok?"

Barton answered by a moan, which could have been an agreement, or maybe just an aborted shout of pain.

"I'm going to get Cathy," Yuy repeated, grabbing on his comrade's request to fight back his feeling of total uselessness.

He was already wondering how he was going to contact Duo or Wufei to watch over the teen when he closed the door behind him; and just when he was turning around to leave, he came face to face with a set of pissed off aquamarine eyes.

"You leaving him alone is out of the question," Quatre forbid, glaring to hide his pain.

Heero shrugged, feeling lost and disoriented. Not one of the available decisions was without risk...

"I have to go get Catherine Bloom. He wants her here."

"Oh..." Quatre breathed, strangely hurt even worse that the green-eyed boy would request her presence when he didn't want to even see him. "Stay here, I'll ask Wufei or Duo to replace you. I'll be right back."

Heero was going to accept the arrangement when he changed his mind. If he felt powerless and useless, him who could at least watch over his sleeping friend, give him water and make sure he didn't hurt himself during a convulsion, how must Quatre feel, pushed back out of their circle, not having even the possibility to approach? Quatre was burning with impatience, unable to do the first thing for the guy he loved. And it wasn't good for his mental health to stay sitting there brooding and feeling guilty all day and a big part of night.

"We need to act fast and I don't know where they are. And they need a pause anyway. Go fetch her yourself."

"But..."

"Go! We don't know how long he'll be healthy enough to see her."

'We don't know how long he'll stay alive' floated between them, unexpressed but still heard by both.

"Take Wing," Heero shouted after Quatre who had dashed off toward the boat's storage rooms, where the Gundams were stocked.

Then the werewolf returned to his unconscious comrade and continued to look over him.

* * *

Quatre ran in the corridors as fast as was possible for him, which, being a werecheetah, was way faster than anyone would have given him credit for, even himself. He didn't even slow down to think about where he was going, letting himself be guided in the labyrinth by a mix of memories, of floating smells, and of pure instinct. Many times he ran past a stupefied Sweeper, but he didn't notice any of them more than he noticed the red fire extinguishers on the walls. Either ones made practical anchorage points for turning sharp.

The blond pilot flung himself at Heero's Gundam and climbed it in his momentum, then slid inside. He strapped himself in with a nervous hand, using the other to bring the motors on. And then, when he was going to make the suit move, he froze. He remembered well where the circus had been the last time he was there, but it was nearly six months ago already.

"Open the doors!" he demanded through the intercom, launching a search on the Net to find traces of the whereabouts of the circus.

It was situated at, approximately, a thousand miles away. With Wing in Bird Mode going as fast as it could, he'd be back in a maximum of three hours.

And too bad for the Ozzies who would try to stand in his way.

* * * * * *

Catherine Bloom was hosing the bottom of the cage of their most ancient lion, Sultan, when she felt the earth vibrate under her feet.

It was hard not to compare it to the shiver caused by a landing MS, she thought. But she hadn't seen any MS up close since the end of their problems with OZ for having sheltered a known terrorist. They had been accused of complicity and had needed months swearing their good faith, getting interrogated right and left and getting invaded in the middle of the night in surprise investigations. Finally they had managed to make the officials admit that not one of them had known that the boy was a rebel. Which was true... except for two of them.

But Catherine and the ringmaster were persuaded that they were still under surveillance. And since then Trowa forbade himself to come back, by fear of endangering them, when she had seen him open up slowly in their extended family.

She missed him, that boy who made her think of her brother so much...

The water hose nearly fell from her fingers and she started. How had she come to think about Trowa? And all that because of a vague shiver that had reminded her of an MS... Now that she thought about it, that was not the sound a Mobile Suit would have made. The vibration was of too great amplitude and there hadn't been a big racket of motors.

She finished washing the cage and opened the communication door to let the old beast come back in his place, then, impulsively, to fight off the heat, splashed some water from the hose on her face and torso.

"Miss Bloom?"

Catherine whirled around and lifted a hand to a throwing knife she luckily wasn't wearing. A blond adolescent boy was looking at her, barely a few steps away, and she hadn't heard one sound. Had she been that distracted?

Quatre held his hands up to show that he wasn't threatening her. He gave himself a mental slap for not having thought about making a minimal amount of noise so not to startle her, but he had been distracted and that way of walking was now second nature to him.

"Do you recognize me?"

Catherine snorted and lifted her chin, not answering. Of course she remembered him!! How could she forget? He was the guy who had snatched her adoptive brother away, who had taken him far away when he had just begun to adapt... She wondered a second if he hadn't in fact saved Trowa's life taking him away that day; the soldiers had raided the circus the morning after, he could have been taken prisoner. Then she shook her head. Trowa would have gotten away without him. And who said that it wasn't his visit there that had attracted OZ's attention on them? She didn't have any debts to this thin blondie.

"What do you want?" she asked curtly.

She didn't want to be impolite, but if someone saw him there, the circus people's innocence would definitely be questioned. ... Well... now that she thought about it, she had been asked about the boy Trowa had taken back to the circus one day, badly injured, the one he had accompanied for a while after he was fit enough to leave, Heero, and on the one he had briefly invited one day, a depressed-looking Chinese dude who had not even had the courtesy of telling her his name; and also on a laughing teenager with a meter-long braid she had never seen in her life; but never on the lithe blond one who had irrupted their life. Maybe they didn't have any information on him... But Trowa had known him as a Gundam pilot; so at least he wasn't a traitor she had to be wary of.

"So?" she asked again when she saw that he wasn't answering.

Quatre took a deep breath and clenched his fists to give himself some courage. He knew that Catherine didn't like him at all, and he didn't blame her. After all, he had stolen Trowa from her.

He had resented himself for a long while after that, because he had seen that, for the first time in his life probably, the taller teen was nearly happy, accepted. But he had his instructions; Trowa couldn't directly contact his mentor, so Quatre had been the one to relay the order to him. But Catherine didn't give a damn about that, and he couldn't say that he blamed her.

But he wished that her animosity would be less bubbling; his empathy was sending it back on him with full force. And he was too tired and moved to be able to erect the smallest barrier.

"I... Trowa is asking for you," the blond boy whispered, looking away and wringing his hands. "He... He's ill... very ill."

Catherine jumped as if she had been hit.

"What?!? How ill?"

"We don't know if he'll pull through," the boy admitted in a very low voice. "He's suffering so much..."

Catherine could have let her rage explode in the boy's face if he hadn't been so clearly fighting back tears. She threw the hose on the ground and caught Quatre's arm to drag him toward the direction he had come from.

"But Miss..."

"What?!"

"Aren't you warning anyone?"

"Later," she shouted. "If Trowa is in danger, he has priority! To hell with the circus!"

Quatre nodded and guided her toward the dip in the mountainside where the Gundam had been hidden in a hurry, trying not to let his eyes wander on the girl's drenched top. True, he didn't feel that sort of attraction anyway, but still, you didn't look at a girl's chest when it was molded in clothes so wet they turned see-through. Even if Catherine seemed to worry about that as much as she worried about her first ballerina shoes, or maybe she hadn't noticed.

They wedged themselves in the tight cockpit as well as they could, which was Quatre sitting on the seat and the knife throwing girl sitting with half a butt-cheek on an armrest, leaning against his shoulder not to hit her head on the ceiling. She gripped his arm as they were taking off, her face carefully inexpressive, and he didn't remark that her knuckled were turning white with clenching them so hard. Quatre wasn't in a mood to complain about some pain.

Once they reached their cruise speed, Cathy began the second Inquisition.

"How long has he been ill?" she asked, wondering how long they had hidden Trowa's state from her.

"Nine days ... but it's twice worse each day. And the crises come closer and closer."

She gulped. She had a bad feeling about this. For them to permit a security breach...

"I know that you have to stay hidden, but you do have a doctor on you side, don't you?!! Couldn't he do anything?!"

"Sadly, no ... It isn't an indexed illness... She told us many times that she couldn't give Trowa anything without risking finishing him off. She's testing things right and left, but... No one is able to do anything, apart from holding his hand when he's trying not to scream..."

Quatre sniffled and turned the auto-pilot on to search for tissues in his pockets. Cathy clenched her fists.

"What the hell do you mean, not indexed?!"

She fell silent. The only idea that would come to her was that he had been victim of an OZ experimental virus. She felt ready to scream. If her adoptive brother had been handicapped in any way from this illness, if he died of it, she swore she would leave the circus and go to the Resistance and begin a vendetta whose size would leave them reeling for years.

"It's my fault," Quatre exclaimed, bursting out in long repressed tears, Cathy's powerless furor being the last straw for his already weak control over his emotions. "My fault... Forgive me, Trowa, forgive me... I didn't want to... I didn't know..."

The knife thrower found herself caught between two impulses. On one hand, her natural compassion pushed her to help this young distraught boy... On the other hand, his accusations of "my fault" deserved an enquiry before deciding if he had a right to mercy.

"What do you mean your fault, explain?" she asked, lifting the pilot's chin up.

His eyes were full of tears. Without thinking, she reached out to wipe them off.

Before she could blink, her wrist was caught in a vice-like grip. Quatre was staring at her, looking spooked by her compassionate gesture.

"Never do that! It transmits through contacts with body fluids..." he explained, wiping his tears off himself. "I don't know if tears could contaminate you, but I can't take such a risk."

"You have it too...?" she asked slowly.

"I was the one who contaminated him," he admitted, looking down. "I wasn't thinking, and..."

"And...?" she repeated slowly, menacing.

"We were chatting, I had been drinking, he was so nice... and then ... it just happened," Quatre whispered, nibbling at his lips.

"But WHAT?"

"I kissed him," confessed Quatre, hiding his face in his hands.

He fell silent, waiting for the Big Sister's ire.

Cathy felt her brain running on empty for a short while. It wasn't that she felt anything against homosexuals, not at all, she was open on the question; it wasn't either the fact that she was surprised someone could find her brother attractive. Even if she was totally impervious to his discrete charm, she knew all too well that he was damned attractive with his mysterious airs and his unconscious grace.

No, she just hadn't been expecting it. However, retrospectively, Quatre looks and reacting when he had come for Trowa were unveiling their whole meaning. She wondered if it was the worry for her brother that had made her that blind. For one who knew what to look for, the attraction the blond pilot was feeling was as visible as the nose in the middle of someone's face. She decided to stop letting Quatre agonize, the boy looked like he was ready to take anything she could dish out to punish him without a whisper of protest.

She made him look up and stared in his eyes.

"Was he ok with that kiss?" she asked, surprising him.

"... I don't know," Quatre admitted. "I thought he was, when it happened, but later... I was tired, so I fell asleep, and he kind of avoided me for a while. At first I was ok with that. I had been drinking and so the memory of the evening was hazy for me. I just knew that I had revealed my feelings to him, and I was more occupied with agonizing over that than over what exactly I had done. I had startled him badly, and I figured we'd just talk about it later... and then he began to hurt. When it had happened, it had felt so natural to kiss him, but later... he went through his first fit and rejected me... He told me it was my fault, and he never wanted to see me again ...!"

He burst out in tears for the second time, and vanquished by his suffering, Catherine enfolded him in her arms.

"It's gonna be ok... he didn't really think that, I'm sure he didn't think that... Pain often makes you say things you don't mean and regret later, I know that... He was hurting, he wanted to lash at something, he wasn't thinking like he usually is... You know he's nice, and he likes you, never would he be that cruel deliberately... I am sure that as soon as he feels better, you'll be friends again..."

"You think...? That he likes me..? I thought… I believed... But maybe I didn't see what I should have seen... maybe I read him wrong... He was beginning to open up... I'm so afraid I broke it all!"

"Shhh... I know he likes you a lot. I know him too. And he trusts you; not even only with his life, that he doesn't value like he should, but with his feelings. How many people can boast about that? He talks with you, by himself, without having to be pushed. He does things for you, without asking questions, just because you're the one asking. He even plays music with you. You have to know what it represents for him. It's a side of him... I only know that he can play because I heard him one evening and I wasn't supposed to..."

Quatre clung to the young woman and closed his eyes, letting her comforting words wash over him. He felt as if she had her pinch of pain when she alluded to the music... her brother hadn't thought to tell her about it.

"Hey, I'm thinking, you were ill too! Were you as bad off as he is? Or were you a healthy carrier or something?"

"No, I was ill," Quatre answered, freeing himself slowly. "But it wasn't as bad as he's got it, by far... And my heart still stopped for nearly thirty seconds for the last.... fit."

"The last fit? Crap, will I have to pull each word out of you?"

"It's... a decisive point. If he pulls through, everything will be ok, better than just ok. He'll heal wholly... kind of. If he doesn't..."

"Kind of?!"

"He'll always be a carrier, like I am. And there are some... consequences, which are irreversible. But they're not really a problem, no need to worry too much."

"An illness whose symptoms aren't a problem?" she repeated sarcastically. "I'd like to know what sort of illness that can be."

"Sally… that's our doctor... she calls it the lycanthropic virus."

* * * * * *

[cont]