Reunion + Part 3 (cont)

* * * * *

After breakfast, everyone gathered back in the study.

Quatre sat back with a sigh and flipped his pen onto the desk. "Between us, Relena and I have contacted all of Duo's known acquaintances -- including a few we didn't know about until yesterday. None of them have heard from Duo since just after the war... or, if they have, they're not talking about it."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "Do you have any reason to suspect that's the case?"

"...No. Call it wishful thinking." Quatre waved a hand at the computer terminal and piles of papers strewn over and around his desk. "In any case, I also have completely negative results from my people. None of their usual contacts have knowingly encountered Duo; I have to conclude he was deliberately avoiding them."

"Same here," Relena nodded, "except that I do have two reports from people who believe they travelled on shuttles with Duo. One trip was about six months ago, the other three; both reports state that they didn't approach him, didn't get a good enough look to be sure of his identity, and are only mentioning it because my memo said 'any knowledge, however tentative'. I've sent them over to you to cross-reference with your travel search, Trowa."

"Thank you," Trowa said, nodding. "I have rather more to report, but it's still patchy.

"Duo seems to have been doing an incredible amount of travel, under a wide range of aliases. Most seem to be based on our names -- I've found 'Trowa Yui', 'Heero Dorlian', 'Duo Schbeiker', and so on. The only one he doesn't seem to have used is Wufei's--"

Wufei winced slightly.

"--but that makes sense, as he certainly couldn't pass as a Chinese. He's only used Winner once that I know of, and never Peacecraft, presumably because they're too high profile. As we suspected, his finances are declining; his methods of travel have been getting cheaper and cheaper. The last few trips I've been able to confirm were all on standby economy fares, and there are gaps where he must have travelled -- from L4 to Earth, for example -- but I can't find any records at all that might link up. I think he's been stowing away on cargo shuttles, or working his passage.

"Since Heero can't do any more with Duo's finances, I asked him to help out by setting up searches for possible aliases. Heero?"

-takatakatakatakataka-

Heero was typing away at his laptop, face set.

"Heero?" Quatre asked tentatively.

-takatakatakatakataka-

"HEERO~!" Relena shrieked. Everyone jumped and stared at her; Heero snapped out of his focus and looked around. "Heero Yui, for the last time, I am not upset! But I will be if you don't get your head out of your ass and PAY ATTENTION instead of zoning out into your own little world of angst!" she snapped.

Jaws dropped around the room.

"Um... Trowa?" Quatre whispered. "Did Relena really just say 'ass'?"

Trowa nodded. "Sounded like it."

"That's good. I thought it was a stress-induced hallucination..."

* * * * *

There was a quiet knock on Lady Une's office door. "Come!" she called out, scowling at her computer screen.

Sally Po leaned in. "Sorry to disturb you, Une, but I just wanted to confirm something."

Une didn't even look up. "Yes. Duo Maxwell is missing."

"Ah. Thank you. That's all I wanted to know." She started to close the door.

"Sally? Drinks tonight at King O'Malley's?"

"Oh, yes. Definitely. I think I need a few."

Sally walked back to her own office, shaking her head. "Whatever he's getting into, I hope they don't expect me to patch him up afterwards. Duo is not a model patient..."

~*~*~*~

Sally paused as she reached for the door to the private room. Voices? Who's in there? I thought all the staff were avoiding him.

"--others are still busy," she heard faintly, "but I got finished earlier than expected. Here." A rustle of paper.

"All right, junk food! 'Fei, you're an absolute prince! Thanks, man."

"Hn. I figured if I didn't bring you something, I'd have to listen to you complain about hospital food."

Sally smirked, and pushed the door open.

Inside, her eyes were immediately drawn to the wall opposite the bed. "Duo, what's that? It wasn't there before--" Then she actually realised what she was seeing. Photos of several hospital staff, herself included, had been taped up on the wall... and used for target practice. With scalpels.

Where the hell did he get the photos? No, scratch that -- how did he get his hands on that many scalpels?!

He's a Gundam pilot. Why do I even ask? She turned towards the bed.

Wufei was standing stiffly by the bedside table, scowling as if he'd rather be anywhere else; Duo was sprawled on top of the rumpled bed, clutching a takeout bag and chewing hungrily on a mouthful of fries. One leg was encased from the toes up to just below the hip in white plaster, with a short 'u'-shape of metal sticking out under the foot.

"Duo," Sally said crisply, "you have a walking cast so that you can take part in gentle, supervised exercise and speed your recovery, not so you can sneak into other patients' rooms and steal their grapes, switch the charts around, harass the nursing staff and drug the goldfish in the waiting room!"

"They were stressed!" Duo protested. "All those kids keep tapping on the glass!"

"They did not need Valium," she said calmly, as Wufei snorted and rolled his eyes.

"But Salllllllllly... I was bored! And I hate hospitals," he whined, flopping back against his pillows. "Can't I go home? Wufei'll take care of me, won't you, man?"

A brief expression of horror crossed Wufei's face.

"I wouldn't wish that fate on my worst enemy," she said seriously. "In any case, all this activity is not good for your leg; the cast is barely dry and you've already put several miles on it. In case you've forgotten, you did break it in three places! At this rate, it'll never heal. As your physician, I prescribe a minimum of twelve hours of uninterrupted rest; sleep would be best." She smiled sweetly, then spoiled the effect by adding, "Besides which, the floor nurses are saying that they'll all quit if you don't give them a break. And since we haven't managed to get a pill down you yet..." She brought out what she'd been hiding behind her back.

"AAAAAAAAAAUGH!" Duo screeched, diving sideways off the bed and taking cover behind the other boy. "Save me from the evil onna, Wufei! It's an injustice, I tell you!" He clung to Wufei with both arms and his good leg, almost climbing him like a tree.

"*ACK!*" Wufei commented intelligently, then pulled one arm away from his throat and took a breath. "Damn it Maxwell, get off me and take your injection like a man!"

"But I'm not a man! I'm a sixteen-year-old boy!" Duo howled, wrapping his arms around Wufei's chest and hanging on. "Fight, kill, blow things up, risk my life, yes! I'll do all that. Face needles?! No fuckin' way!"

"Maxwell," Wufei snapped, prying unsuccessfully at his arms, "language! And get a grip on yourself! You're acting like a woman."

Sally gave him a dirty look. "Ah, the male ego in full flight," she muttered. "Duo," she said reasonably, "if you promise me you'll stay quietly in bed until your leg has had a chance to start healing--"

"It's fine! Really! See?" He swung it around, misjudged and hit the wall, then did a creditable job of turning a yell of pain into a laugh. "AAH-- ha! Ha ha ha! See? Fine!" he grinned, teeth clenched.

His grip on Wufei had loosened; the Asian boy turned around, picked him up bodily and deposited him face-down on the bed. "I'll hold him. You stick him."

"Damnit Wufei, you traitor! See if I ever rescue you again -- I swear, next time I'll leave you in that cell until you grow mould -- OW! Sally, you could at least have done it in the arm!"

"Not with you flapping around like that. I needed a bigger target."

"It's an indignity! I have my pride!"

Wufei snorted, letting go and pulling Duo's boxers back up. "It can't be an indignity unless you've got dignity to wound."

"I'll get you all for this," Duo mumbled fuzzily, sinking into the pillows. "Nobody sticks Shinigami and gets away with it..."

As Wufei moved away from the bed, one hand groped out and caught him by the wrist.

"Don' go... don'wanna be alone in here. Hate hospital..." The hand slowly relaxed and let go.

Wufei hesitated, looking back at him; Sally sighed. "He'll be under until tomorrow morning at least," she said gently. "He won't know it if you go."

"I'll know," he growled, and sat down in the visitor's chair, settling down for a long stay. She smiled.

"Should I send anything in for you?"

"Coffee," he sighed. "Better make it a pot; it's going to be a long night."

~*~*~*~

Sally shuddered. "I am not going through that again if I can possibly avoid it. I still haven't worked out how he made it into the nurses' station and short-sheeted my cot without anyone seeing him."

She walked into her office and locked the door behind her.

* * * * *

Wufei's cellphone rang; he snatched it up and hit the button. "Chang Wufei here."

<<Uh... Captain Paul May here, from the shuttle 'Jenny'. You the right contact for this missing persons report?>>

"Yes." He tried not to expect too much; there'd been too many crank calls for that, and too many people who said they'd seen Duo 'five or six months ago. He was in Idaho/New Zealand/L1; look there.' "You've seen Duo Maxwell?"

<<If it's him, that's not the name he's using. The guy I'm thinking of looks kinda like the picture, but... well, I wouldn't have bothered you, except the hair's the same, and part of the name too. Called himself Duo Barton.>>

"That's him," Wufei snapped, hopes rising. "How long ago was this?"

<<'Bout eight hours.>>

Wufei's knuckles whitened as he clenched the phone so tightly the plastic shell creaked; Captain May continued, oblivious.

<<How old's that picture, anyway?>>

There was a short pause as Wufei struggled to remember which photo had been on the APB; then, "Ten months," he choked out. "Why?"

There was a low whistle. <<Well... he's sure changed.>>

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