Rebuilding + Chapter 4 (cont)

~*~*~*~

"And he was right," Sally told Une, rattling the last ice cube around the bottom of her glass. "I swear, for forty-eight hours, Duo did not open his eyes. He ate in his sleep, he drank in his sleep, he showered in his sleep-- well, Heero showered him, but you get the idea. He even went to the toilet in his sleep!"

"With guidance, I hope," Une murmured, eyes a little wider than usual.

"Definitely," Sally said, "and that's another job I wouldn't share with Heero. I told him that if he didn't help Duo to the toilet, I was going to diaper him until he woke up. He considered it for about thirty seconds, until he realised what Duo's reaction would be to waking up in a nappy."

Une nearly choked trying not to laugh out loud, but waved her hand at Sally to go on.

"Well, that lasted two days. On the third day--"

"Duo rose?" Une sputtered.

"Oh ha ha," Sally retorted, mouth twitching as she suppressed a smile. "Sort of; he was still at least half asleep. The next day he was fine. Apparently they'd been on some kind of observation mission for two weeks, that really needed four people to properly cover everything they needed to watch. They'd had about two hours of rest a night, then laid a trap and led the pursuit over a few hundred miles of nowhere in particular. Heero said Duo was fine until they reached my building and confirmed it wasn't being watched; then he just keeled over onto Heero's shoulder in the elevator."

"Heero Yui took an elevator? My goodness, he was slipping," Une said, dabbing at her teary eyes with a tissue.

"So, how was your day? Apart from busy?"

"Some parts of it were interesting, at least-- oh, yes, that reminds me. The next time you have Chang in for a checkup, I need to talk to him. We'll be ready to proceed against Anders as soon as Wufei presses charges. I was going to start the paperwork this morning, after he came back from x-ray, but I forgot."

"You forgot something?" Sally purred. "My goodness, you are slipping."

"I was distracted," Une said loftily, thinking of the moment when she'd discovered that Duo now seemed to trust her. "You've done it yourself."

"True. How is Anders? I haven't been called to the cells, so I assume he's physically well enough... more's the pity."

"Surprisingly meek and well-behaved, actually, and I don't think he's putting on an act. He twitches every time someone comes into the cells, until he sees who it is; then he relaxes. Even if it's me," Une added dryly. "Duo's little visit seems to have had a serious effect on him."

"Really? This, I have to see," Sally said, eyes sparkling. "And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy..."

"Sally, you're an evil woman sometimes."

"I try."

* * * * *

Duo was quiet again that evening; Wufei wasn't sure whether it was because he'd heard Heero and was brooding, or because he was thinking about the fact that he'd first flashed one stranger and then fallen asleep on another.

Or he could be thinking about the Yggdrasil Ring and the war, Wufei thought, watching Duo's thoughtful expression out of the corner of his eye as he pretended to read. Or the kiss...

I'm not going to ask!

Duo sighed and leaned back, nestled against Wufei's shoulder. "Fei?"

"Yes?"

"Read to me?"

Wufei blinked, then smiled, shifting around so that he could put his good arm around Duo and still hold the book. "Certainly," he said quietly, gathering Duo's braid into the hand that was still strapped to his chest as he turned back to the beginning of the volume.

----------

Later, as they were drifting off to sleep, Wufei pulled Duo close and gently rubbed his cheek against the soft bangs.

Sooner or later, we've got to discuss our... relationship, he thought, closing his eyes. Not talking about it, making assumptions, that was what screwed up our lives to begin with.

Once Duo's better. I'll tell him how I feel once he's better, and ask him... ask him if he's sure he wants me.

"Wo ai ni, Duo[1]," he whispered, so quietly that he almost didn't hear it himself.

* * * * *

Five minutes after Une sat down at her desk the next morning, her vidphone chimed.

"Une speaking-- ah, Winner. To what do I owe this call?"

She flicked a quick glance sideways at her computer clock, confirming that yes, it was only ten to eight. Quatre never calls this early; I know he works even longer hours than I do, but he doesn't like making it obvious. What's happened?

< < Lady Une, > > Quatre said, nodding politely. < < Are you available for a meeting at my estate sometime today? > >

Her eyebrows rose. "This is very short notice. How long a meeting? With whom?"

< < You, Major Po, myself, Trowa, Heero, Relena, Wufei, and possibly Duo... and as many members of the Assink family as we can get together, > > Quatre listed. < < The meeting is likely to be a long one; I'm afraid I can't narrow it down any more than that. > >

"The Assink family?"

The blond teenager nodded, one corner of his mouth twitching. < < They're the subject of the meeting. > >

"Oh?" Une's eyes narrowed and she sat back, one hand lifting to her chin as she thought. "I worked with a Captain Erik Assink during the war. We have an Agent Assink-- no two-- in the Preventers. Your new assistant is an Assink..."

< < Relena's, too, > > Quatre noted.

"It's not an enormously common name. They're all related?"

< < Brothers. > >

"And they are the subject of this proposed meeting because...?" She let the sentence trail off, looking at Quatre expectantly.

< < This is only a medium security line, > > he pointed out.

She stared at him for a moment, then reached out and pressed an intercom button. "McKenzie?"

< < Yes, ma'am? > >

"Reschedule all my afternoon appointments and meetings, please," Une said, never taking her eyes off of Quatre's image. "I will be in a different meeting, at Mr. Winner's estate, and will be leaving at 1 pm. Please inform Major Po and Agent Assink that I will be expecting them to join me." She cut the intercom and raised an eyebrow at Quatre. "The other Agent Assink is posted to L3, so we can't realistically expect him here in time to attend. I presume you'll be bringing your Assinks?"

< < Most definitely. Thank you. > >

"You've managed to get me very curious," she said dryly. "We'll be there."

* * * * *

Quatre keyed in another number and sat back, fingers tapping on the desk as it rang... and rang...

"They're not answering," he said, frowning slightly.

"Duo and Wufei?" Trowa asked, looking up from his chair. "It's barely eight o'clock and they've got no reason to get up early. They're probably still asleep."

"Well, yes, but I don't think Wufei is physically capable of sleeping in unless he's really exhausted... oh, well, I can just leave another message--"

The screen flickered, and Duo appeared.

< < Um... Quatre, > > he said quietly, looking away.

"Duo! It's good to see you again," Quatre blurted, surprised. "How are you?"

< < I'm fine. Wufei's having a bath. I'll have him call you back, > > Duo replied, reaching towards the keypad.

"No, no, don't hang up, please! Er, there's a meeting at my house at 1 pm, about the Assinks, and we'd like you to be there. You don't have to come if you really don't want to, of course," he hastened to add, "but I'd really appreciate it. Lady Une and Sally will be here. I'll send one of the Manguanacs to pick you up, if that's all right."

< < Hang on, > > Duo said, getting up and walking out of pickup range.

Quatre blinked, then a broad smile spread over his face. "He's wearing the boxers I bought him!" he said happily, leaning around the vidphone and beaming at Trowa. "The 'Salad Dressing' ones!"

Trowa snorted. "The ones with the vegetables getting dressed? And which ones are you wearing?"

"If you hadn't gone for a walk this morning, instead of taking a shower with me, like I suggested, you'd already know." Quatre said archly, tipping his nose up into the air. "You'll just have to wait to find out."

"If I'd showered with you, we'd still be in the suite," Trowa muttered.

"Would that be so bad? You keep telling me I should spend less time working, after all..."

----------

Duo tapped on the bathroom door, then opened it a little and leaned through. "Need a hand?"

"I will with my hair," Wufei grumbled, splashing slightly as he tried to handle the soap and the washcloth with only one hand. "And I want waterproof bandages! People can build Gundams and space colonies and blow huge chunks off planets! Why can't they make waterproof bandages?"

"Um... Quatre's on the phone. He wants to have a meeting about the Assinks this afternoon. Are we going?"

Wufei looked up, a faint worried crease appearing between his eyebrows. "Do you feel up to it?"

Duo shrugged one shoulder, looking away. "If you're going, I'm going."

"... All right," Wufei said slowly. "Are we being picked up?"

"Quatre said he'd send a Mangaunac, but I'd rather drive."

The Chinese teen's mouth opened, then snapped shut as he bit back an automatic objection. "Very well, if you prefer it," he said quietly. "If the meeting is tiring, we can get a lift back...?"

Duo nodded, glancing back at Wufei and smiling for just a moment. "Okay. I'll go and tell Quatre we're coming."

* * * * *

Stepping out of her car, Sally scowled up at the grey, cloudy sky. "It's going to snow again," she muttered, then raised her voice. "Did you say Duo was coming to this meeting?"

"Quatre said he might," Une told her, closing the passenger-side door.

"Well, he shouldn't. The weather's turning bad, and I doubt he's ready to see all of the other Gu-- er, boys yet." She stuttered to a halt, eyeing the third person getting out of the car.

Nicklaus straightened up and cleared his throat. "I, ah, do know that they're all Gundam pilots, ma'am."

"You do? How-- oh." Sally lightly slapped her forehead. "The security camera feed from Duo's little 'conversation' with Anders, of course. Damn."

He coughed. "Well, yes, there was that, but--"

The front door opened and Quatre came out. "Come in, out of the cold!" he called. "Heero and Relena are already here; we're just waiting for Duo and Wufei, and another Assink or two."

"Duo's coming?" Sally asked sharply, moving towards the steps. "He's supposed to be resting!"

"Well I certainly wasn't going to tell him I didn't want him to come!" Quatre replied, just as sharply. "One, it wouldn't be true. Two, this affects him just as much as the rest of us. Three, it would hardly be a step towards getting him to forgive us!"

"You've got a point," Sally muttered begrudgingly.

"I've got several points," he muttered back.

"What other Assinks are we expecting?" Une asked, raising an eyebrow at Nicklaus as they followed Sally.

"I honestly don't know, ma'am," he said. "Mr. Winner?"

"Ninke said two or three of your brothers are coming, but he's not sure which ones," Quatre said, ushering them towards the door. "I believe your father can't get away from his company just now--"

Wufei's Blazer came up the driveway and parked beside Sally's car.

"They're both determined to make themselves worse!" Sally said incredulously. "I told Chang not to drive!"

"It looks like he listened," Nicklaus observed quietly as Duo got out of the driver's side door.

"Duo!" Sally yelled. "Did you at least bring--"

Duo pulled his inhaler out of a pocket and waved it at her as he moved around to help Wufei out of the passenger's seat, and she deflated slightly.

"Well, that's something at least," she grumbled. "And he seems to be wearing properly warm clothing this time..."

----------

It was a fairly uncomfortable group that gathered around the table in the breakfast room. Duo sat next to Wufei, hands twisted around his braid in his lap, looking at the floor; he'd responded with quiet monosyllables when Quatre and Relena greeted him, then stiffened and had gone silent when Heero had ventured to say hello. As a result, Heero was sitting as far away from Duo and Wufei as the seating arrangements permitted, completely expressionless, flicking the occasional glance in their direction. Une and Sally were making polite conversation with Relena, Trowa and Quatre, pretending they hadn't noticed anything, and the three Assinks were avoiding any awkwardness by standing at the window watching for their brothers.

"Oh, here they are," Karl said with relief tinging his voice as a limousine pulled up. The sound of the car doors opening and closing could be faintly heard through the thick bulletproof glass in the windows. "There's Janne and Joost... and Erik... and--" A strangled squeak escaped him, and he took a step sideways to stand behind his taller brothers. "Oh boy. Oma's[2] here!"

Nicklaus cleared his throat and turned around, looking at Wufei. "So she is... Sir? If you remember, I said I was sure you'd get to meet my Grandmother Matilde some day? Well, today seems to be the day..."

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