authors: Mel &
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone
waking up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>
+ Chapter 2
"Where should I put
Mr. Maxwell, sir?" Nicklaus asked, sidling in the front door of
Wufei's apartment with Duo in his arms.
"In bed, thanks," Wufei replied tiredly, limping over to the
sofa and easing himself down to sit. Sally's examination had been thorough...
and painful. She wasn't a sadist, so he was almost certain she
hadn't done it on purpose, but it was hard not to feel resentful when
his knee and the back of his head were throbbing in time to his heartbeat,
and his shoulderblade was sending stabs of pain through him every time
"Here," Leah said; he opened his eyes to see her holding out
a glass of water and some pills, and grimaced.
"Doctor's orders," she interrupted. "Major Po said, 'Take
them or else'."
"Or else what?"
"Or else she will exercise her ingenuity to make sure you regret
acting like a masochistic idiot. Apparently she thinks you have a nasty
tendency to undermedicate yourself."
"I'm surprised she trusted me to give Duo his pills, then,"
"She also said that you look after everybody else first
and best, and only neglect yourself," Leah replied, unperturbed.
"Shut up and take them, Chang. I wouldn't risk annoying
"And of course you'll tell her if I don't," he muttered sulkily,
fully aware that he sounded childish but unable to stop.
"Make my life easier, okay? Take the pills. That way I don't have
to decide whether or not to turn you in."
He sighed. "Fine. Give them here."
As Leah was taking the empty glass back to the kitchen, Nicklaus came
out of the bedroom. "He's still fast asleep, sir," he reported,
smiling. "I've got that video disk I promised you; where would
you like it?"
What-- oh. That. "Just put it next to the computer.
I'll get to it later."
"If you need anything, sir, you know you can call me or Ninke or
Karl and we'll take care of it."
"I'll keep that in mind, thank you. Ah... do the three of you pool
your information and resources?" Wufei asked tentatively.
Nicklaus grinned. "Oh, yes sir. And it's not just the three of
us; the whole family work together. Have a nice day!"
"Be seeing you, Chang," Leah said, heading for the door.
"You wouldn't object to a couple of slight detours on the way back
to HQ, would you, McKenzie?" Nicklaus asked casually as he buckled
"That depends," she replied. "Where and why?"
"The Foreign Ministry, and the local branch of Winner Enterprises,"
he said, pulling another couple of video disks out of his pocket and
grinning at her. "Like I told Chang, the Assink family members
share all their information."
Wufei levered himself painfully up off the sofa and limped across to
sit in front of the vidphone, tapping in a code one-handed.
<<Winner Enterprises, Executive Switchboard-- oh, good
afternoon, Mr. Chang!>> The receptionist smiled, then looked down
slightly and gasped, one hand going to her mouth. <<Oh dear! Are
you all right, sir?>>
"I'll live," he said wryly, glancing down at his empty sleeve
and the shirt bulging over his strapped-up arm. "It's not serious,
just annoying. Are Quatre and Trowa free?"
<<Mr. Barton is in a meeting with Mr. Assink, sir, but Mr. Winner
is in his office,>> she said, glancing to one side, <<and...
his line is free. Shall I put you through?>>
<<Get well soon, sir!>> *click*
<<Good afternoon, Wufei,>> Quatre said cheerfully, appearing
on screen. <<How are you and Duo? You saw Sally this morning,
"We're fine," Wufei replied. "Duo's asleep; Sally says
he's doing all right."
<<That's good, but what did she say about you?>>
the blond boy asked shrewdly. <<I think she was more concerned
about you than Duo on Sunday.>>
Wufei suppressed a grimace, remembering some of Sally's caustic comments
as she'd looked at his x-rays. "You just love nearly getting
crippled, don't you? If he'd hit you a little more to the left, he would
have broken your spine, and if you put too much strain on that shoulder
you could still do yourself permanent damage. Don't. "The
usual. She's just annoyed because I wouldn't let her strap me down and
x-ray me then."
Quatre didn't look convinced, but at least he had the good manners not
to call Wufei a liar to his face. <<Well, as long as you're both
getting better. Is there anything I can do for you? Anything at all?>>
"Actually... yes," the Chinese boy said reluctantly.
* * * * *
As Trowa stepped out of Ninke's office, he was nearly knocked down as
Quatre barrelled out of his own room next door.
"Oh! Trowa!" Quatre said happily. "You've finished?"
Trowa nodded, holding up a disk. "We've worked out the last set
of proposed changes to the secretarial procedures. Want to see?"
"Um, yes, but not right now. I'm going shopping, want to come?"
"For Wufei and Duo!" Quatre explained, heading for the corridors.
"Duo needs underwear and stuff, and they're running out of milk,
and Wufei isn't in any shape to go himself even if he doesn't want to
admit it, so he called me. Oh, and he also asked if I could send a maid
over, to help him tidy up around the apartment and do dishes and laundry
and stuff, but I figure I can do that too..." His voice faded as
he turned a corner, gaining speed.
Trowa stood frozen for a moment, mind racing as he considered Quatre,
and household chores, and tried to make the two pictures overlap; then
he shoved the disk in to Ninke's hand and bolted after his lover.
"Quatre, I don't think Duo needs those leather pants."
"But they'd look so good on him!"
"They're hardly convalescent clothes. Besides, he needs to gain
a lot of weight. If they fit him now, they won't fit him once he's better;
and if they don't fit him now, why buy them?"
"*sigh* Yes, Quatre."
After Quatre had raided a couple more stores with the same efficiency
and intensity he'd displayed raiding OZ bases during the war, Trowa
was eyeing the growing number of bags with trepidation.
"Exactly what did Wufei ask you to get, Quatre?"
"Socks and underwear," Quatre replied absently, holding up
two sweatshirts and comparing the colours. "But Duo needs a lot
more than that."
I'm glad this notion didn't hit him when we were looking for Duo's
Christmas present, Trowa thought privately. ...Actually, it probably
did, but he would have resisted because he wouldn't have wanted
to embarrass Wufei and Duo with a huge present. Now he's been asked
to shop for Duo, and he's just... expanding on his orders.
Quatre dropped both sweatshirts on the counter, on top of the pile of
other sweatshirts, and headed for the T-shirt racks. "Do
you think he'd like this one?" he asked, holding up a shirt that
read 'Welcome to Hell! Now GO HOME'.
"Quatre," Trowa said cautiously, "I don't think he really
"Yes he does," Quatre interrupted, quiet but intense.
"He's got nothing, Trowa. I can't make all the bad things
in his past go away, and I can't just snap my fingers and have him forgive
us, but I can get him this stuff. And maybe he'll get mad at
me, but if he does I'll apologise. I'm not going to leave him with nothing
to wear except Wufei's workout clothes just because he might yell at
me. I'll be glad if he yells at me, actually, it'll be better
than being ignored..."
There was a slight pause; then Trowa smiled. "He likes band T-shirts
too, you know."
* * * * *
"Ooh! They're new..."
"Over there." The glasses-wearing cashier jerked her chin
towards the ranks of shopping trolleys.
"Oh, wow. That blond guy is cute!"
"I like the tall one myself; he looks like the strong, silent type."
"Good! We won't have to fight over them!" They exchanged smirks.
"What food did Wufei say they needed?"
"Milk, bread and eggs, but--"
"--you're sure they need more than that, all right."
Trowa rolled his eyes, but pushed the trolley into the first aisle without
"C'mere, quick, you've got to see this!" Giggling,
the shorter cashier led her friend to the end of an aisle and peered
The blond boy was darting ahead of the trolley, grabbing things off
the shelves, chattering at top speed as he did so.
"--and I know Duo likes these, remember when he ate
a whole packet by himself? Oh, these are good--"
As packets and cans tumbled into the trolley, the taller boy calmly
examined them... and put half of them back while his friend's back was
"Juice," he said calmly. "Duo likes orange mango."
"That's right, and apple peach too..."
As they came to the end of the aisle, the two cashiers turned around
and tried to look busy. The one with glasses started to straighten the
magazines at the end of a checkout aisle, then jumped and emitted a
sort of strangled squeak as she caught sight of a face on one of the
"Excuse me," a cheerful voice said behind her. "What
aisle is fruit juice in?"
"Ah! I, um, er, I-- aisle six!" she blurted out, spinning
around with the magazine clutched behind her back. "Six, yes. Um."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," the blond apologised.
Nooooooooo, really, you can startle me any time, honest... "Um,
that's okay. Really. No problem."
"What's got into you?" her friend hissed, popping out of the
next aisle as the two boys moved away. "He spoke to you
and you totally blew it! You've squashed that magazine, too."
"I don't care, I'm going to buy it anyway," she said, flattening
it out hurriedly. "He's Quatre Winner!"
"Look, here, they've got an article on the Solar System's most
eligible bachelors, and he's in it! He's on the cover!"
"He's available," her friend pointed out, grabbing
the magazine and flipping through it. "Here he is... Quatre Raberba
Winner, CEO of Winner Enterprises... yeesh, he's only eighteen!"
"Right age for us," the other girl said happily, reading over
her shoulder. "And... oh, bugger!"
"Read that paragraph," she said mournfully, pointing. "Next
to the picture of his tall friend."
"Hmmm... 'unfailingly polite', yadda yadda, 'dress sense', yadda...
oh. 'Unfortunately, most society maidens have stopped trying to ensnare
Mr. Winner, because it seems that his constant companion Trowa Barton
is more than just a friend'."
They both sighed.
"First it was cute-and-Chinese, and his friend with the gorgeous
hair and eyes," the shorter girl said glumly. "Now these two.
All the best guys are gay and taken!"
"Back to watching, I guess," her friend agreed sadly.
* * * * *