Rebuilding + Chapter 2 (cont)

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"Hey 'Fei," Duo mumbled, wandering into the lounge room trailing a quilt. "What time is it?"

"About three," Wufei said, smiling involuntarily at the fuzzy expression on Duo's face. "Want some coffee?"

"Yeah." Duo plopped down onto the sofa and yawned. "D'we hafta go see Sally soon?"

"We went this morning. Don't you remember?"

"Um." The braided boy frowned. "Not sure."

"I'm not really surprised," Wufei said dryly, levering himself up out of his chair. "You were zombied again; I actually expected you to sleep longer."

"Oh. ...I remember something about a demolitions mission. Guess I was dreaming."

"No, that was how I got you up and moving. I told you that no explosives were involved, but you kept rewriting the mission parameters."

"Oh. Okay."

That's an awful lot of words out of Duo at one time, Wufei thought hopefully as he started the coffeemaker. Of course, he is still mostly asleep... but at least he's moving under his own power, and his eyes are open!

Two cups of coffee later, Duo was actually awake and alert, and looked interested when Wufei suggested a late lunch.

"Sandwiches?" he said tentatively. "I can make 'em..."

Wufei grimaced. "We're out of bread; if I'd been thinking, I would have got McKenzie to stop at the shops on the way home. I called Quatre, though, and he said he'd pick some up. He should be here soon."

"...oh." Duo looked down and fiddled with his mug.

He's still not sure whether he wants to encounter Quatre, I guess, Wufei thought, worried. I hope he doesn't vanish into the bedroom when he arrives...

A moment later, there was a knock on the door.

"Hi," Trowa said, pushing through the door with an amazing number of garment bags hanging off his arms as soon as Wufei opened it. "Hi, Duo."

"What the hell is all that?!" Wufei sputtered, eyes wide. "I told Quatre Duo needed underwear and socks, not--"

"Have you ever seen Quatre shop?" Trowa interrupted, heading for the bedroom.

"...no..."

"You've missed an experience. He loses all restraint when he's not shopping for himself."

"In other words, he went nuts," Wufei muttered, leaning out the door and seeing Quatre approaching, loaded down with groceries. "Quatre, you didn't need to get all this!"

"Well, I figured you could use it," Quatre said, a little defensively. "And it's not like I bought anything expensive."

Thinking about the ultra-exclusive logos he'd seen on a couple of the garment bags as Trowa carried them past, Wufei bit his tongue and just stepped aside to let him in.

"I'll just put all this away," Quatre panted, wobbling slightly as bags threatened to burst under the strain, "and then I'll do the dishes or something. Hi, Duo!"

"...hi," Duo said shakily, watching him stagger into the kitchen. A moment later, there was a slithering noise, a yelp of alarm, and then a loud clattering as tins bounced all over the floor.

"Oops! Nothing broke, don't worry..."

"Um... need a hand?" Duo called, almost sounding as if it was dragged out of him.

"No... oof! Really, I'm fine," Quatre replied. "I just have to find where everything goes. That can't be too hard."

Duo leaned forward and covered his face with his hands as another thump came from the kitchen.

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"Where do you want all this?" Trowa asked as Wufei came into the bedroom. Strangely, now that the bags were all sitting on the floor, they seemed to have multiplied...

"What did Quatre buy?" Wufei said helplessly.

"Everything he could think of," Trowa said dryly. "Except the leather pants. I managed to get him to put them back."

"Thank you. Ah... I have space in the wardrobe, and spare hangers. There are shelves in the wardrobe too, and I think we can move things around to free up a couple of drawers."

"I will move things. You will sit down and tell me where to put them."

"You've been talking to Sally, haven't you?" Wufei asked sourly.

"No. I just know you."

"Hmph." Wufei sat on the futon and pulled a couple of bags towards him, poking through the contents while Trowa opened drawers and shifted his clothes. "I was going to get Duo some clothes the day after we brought him home," he said absently, "but I got sidetracked by Sally, and somehow never... good grief. Trowa, where did you find these?!"

Glancing at the boxers Wufei was holding up, Trowa smirked. "The Sock Shop. It's a specialty shop that sells socks, ties, underwear, stuff like that. I think Quatre's secretly always wanted to buy half their stock, but never quite got up the nerve... or could never come up with a reason to. You gave him the perfect opportunity; I don't know whether to thank you or kill you."

"I take it he got some for himself?"

"Yup."

Wufei tried to imagine Quatre wearing a pair of virulent red-and-green satin boxer shorts, emblazoned with little Tequila bottles wearing sombreros and the legend 'One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor!' He couldn't. However, he found that he could easily see Duo wearing them. "I take no responsibility, Trowa," he said, putting them to one side and gingerly reaching into the bag again. "I didn't even know the shop existed. 'Cereal Killer'?!"

"That poor, innocent box of cornflakes, shot down in the prime of its life," Trowa muttered. "Wait until you get to the bubble bath one."

"...ye-ess. An interesting use for baked beans, I see. How many did he get?!"

"Every single one that made him giggle."

"I knew I should have asked Relena," Wufei sighed, peeking into another bag.

"So why didn't you?"

"Because I didn't know it until after Quatre assured me he'd do a good job. Well, Duo will certainly like them, and that's what's important... even if I have to get another chest of drawers to store them all!"

"Heh. I'm sure Quatre would be happy to help out..."

"Don't even think about it, Trowa."

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Once the clothes and groceries were all put away (and the new hairbrush and ties, and Duo's favourite brand of shampoo and conditioner, and...), Quatre made a beeline for the sink, but Trowa intercepted him before he could pour more than half a cup of dishwashing liquid into the water. "I'll do the dishes," he said. "Why don't you... uh..."

"I'll vacuum."

"Er-- I'm not sure if--"

Quatre sniffed haughtily, drawing himself up to his full height. "I'll have you know that I push a mean vacuum, Trowa," he said, stalking out.

As it turned out, Quatre could vacuum without missing spots, knocking things over, or sucking up anything he didn't want to. "Nice job," Wufei commented, relaxing slightly.

"It's just like running a search pattern," he explained cheerfully, switching it off and rolling up the cord. "Duo explained it to me!"

A tiny snigger escaped from behind Duo's hands as Quatre marched into the bedroom; then Trowa came out of the kitchen. "Nothing seems damaged," he muttered, looking around with a dubious expression. "...Wait, where'd he go?"

Quatre popped back out, carrying the overstuffed laundry basket. "The washers are in the basement, right?" he asked, puffing slightly. "Don't worry, I've done this before!"

Wufei and Trowa blinked at each other for a moment as the apartment door swung shut behind him.

"Has he?"

"I have no idea," Trowa admitted. "I don't think he took any washing powder with him, though, unless you keep it in your bedroom."

Duo's shoulders started to shake. "Oh, he has," he moaned, giggling. "I had to save the poor washer from blowing up!"

"Washing powder's under the kitchen sink," Wufei told Trowa. "Go rescue the washers."

As the front door slammed again, Wufei sat down on the sofa beside Duo. "When did Quatre get his hands on a washing machine?" he asked, genuinely curious.

"You've never spent two weeks alone in a safehouse with Quatre, without Trowa automatically taking his turn at housework, have you?" Duo wheezed, wiping at his eyes. "I have! He was more than willing to do his share of the chores, but I learned which ones to keep him away from pretty quick. Do not let Quatre do laundry. Do not let Quatre do dishes. Do not let Quatre cook... He's right, though, he pushes a mean vacuum. And he can iron!"

"How did you find out which ones he can handle without dying in a domestic disaster?!"

"Well, if he can relate something to business management or piloting a Gundam, he can do it! He couldn't vacuum properly until I told him it was like running a search pattern." Duo snickered, then gave up the struggle and howled with laughter, collapsing against Wufei's shoulder.

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Downstairs, Trowa skidded into the laundry and found it almost empty, except for a pleasant-looking fiftyish woman in a long skirt and blouse, who was watching with interest as Quatre crammed the last of four loads' worth of washing into a single washer.

"Oh, good, Trowa," Quatre said, shutting the lid and peering at the washer's controls. "This isn't quite like the one I used before, and I'm not sure how to make it go."

"Um... I think you need to put coins in," the European boy said, mentally calculating how to get Quatre away from the machine without hurting his feelings.

"Really? How much?"

"Actually, it takes tokens," the woman said helpfully, pointing at a small dispenser mounted on the wall; then she winked at Trowa and stepped forward, offering her hand to Quatre. "I'm Gwennol Ptaschinski, but that's such a mouthful that everyone calls me Gwen or Mrs. P. I don't believe we've met; have you just moved in?"

"Oh no, we're just helping a friend," Quatre replied, automatically stepping away from the washer to shake hands. Behind him, Trowa mouthed 'Thank you' at her, and started pulling sheets and clothes out. "He was injured at work a couple of days ago."

"Oh, was that Mr. Chang, the Preventer? Now that I come to think of it, I saw you helping him in on Christmas Eve. I do hope he's not too badly off, especially now he's got that other lovely young man staying with him."

"He'll be fine," Quatre assured her. "He just can't use his right arm at the moment, so some things are a little awkward for him. I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself! I'm Quatre Winner, and this is my friend Trowa Barton."

"Pleasure," Trowa muttered, quickly separating the washing into whites and colours.

"That's quite all right, I can see you're a little distracted by worrying about your friend," Mrs. P. said comfortably, flicking a glance past Quatre to gauge how much longer he needed to be distracted. "I imagine that being a Preventer must be a dangerous job sometimes. Is the other young man a Preventer too?"

"No, Duo -- Duo Maxwell -- is a friend of ours from before Wufei joined the Preventers. He, uh, got hurt on L2 while he was, um, visiting to pay his respects to some, er, deceased friends."

"I see. Well, I hope he's recovering."

"Yes, and Wufei's taking very good care of him, but it may take a while."

"I certainly wish them both the best," she said, smiling at Trowa as he closed the lid on the last washer and fed tokens in, "but I see that my washing's done, and I don't want to keep you here talking when you've surely got more interesting things to do. Give my regards to Mr. Chang and Mr. Maxwell, won't you? My husband and I are in apartment 31, and we'd be only too glad to lend a hand any time they need it."

"I will, and thank you!" Quatre smiled, and turned to Trowa as Mrs. P. walked out with her basket. "She's so nice, isn't she? It's good to know Duo and Wufei have such helpful people in their building."

"Yes," Trowa agreed. "Very helpful."

"Oh, you're finished! I was going to help..."

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Back upstairs, Duo's giggles finally trailed off and he sighed, resting comfortably on Wufei's good shoulder. Without thinking, Wufei tightened his arm around Duo and turned his head, pressing a gentle kiss to Duo's hairline.

Duo froze for an instant, then slowly lifted his head to look at Wufei. Wide violet eyes met black, and they leaned closer...

...lips parted...

The apartment door crashed open, and they jerked upright as Quatre bounced in. "We met the nicest lady downstairs," he said happily. "Mrs. P. She said-- Wufei, are you all right? You look a little odd..."

"I'm fine," Wufei gritted through clenched teeth, determined that he was not going to clutch at his abused shoulderblade and fall over screeching in pain, or throw a book at Quatre's head and abuse him for incredibly bad timing.

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