Disclaimers:  I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes:  Heero makes a phone call, then takes care of the kid.

Valentine Blues

Part Five

Heero sighed, grazing a hand over Duo’s forehead.  It was hot to the touch, but that was to be expected.  Duo did have a
fever.  He made sure that Duo was comfortable, arranging him so that he was laying down, then covered him snugly with the
blankets.  Duo groaned, his brow furrowing slightly, but he didn’t awaken.

“He gonna be okay?”  A timid voice asked from behind Heero.

Heero turned, his eyes settling on their young visitor.  The child could be no more than five and that was pushing it . . . he was
most likely somewhere around four years of age.  Heero felt sorry for the young boy, thinking that someone so young should
not know the hardships he had probably survived through already.  Living on the streets was bad enough, and at four years old
and being alone, it had to be frightening as well.

“He’ll recover, if he does as he’s told.  He doesn’t like being sick . . . it brings up bad memories of his childhood, and he hates
being stuck in one place for too long.”  Heero said, sighing as he shook his head.  “If you see Duo getting out of bed before I
say he can, you let me know, okay?”

The kid nodded.  “Okay.”

Heero rose from the bed, picking up the tray.  He turned to the boy, and held out the tray for him to take.  “You want to earn
your keep, so why don’t you carry this to the kitchen?”

“But I don’t know where it is.”  The kid frowned.

Heero smirked.  “Follow me, I have to go make a phone call anyway.”  Heero turned and left the bedroom, waiting until the
boy had followed him out, then he closed the door quietly, not wanting anything to disturb Duo’s much needed sleep.

It wasn’t long before Heero was standing next to the phone.  He pointed the child in the direction of the kitchen, telling him to
set everything on the counter by the sink.  Then Heero dialed the number for the hospital.  After going through a number of
nurses, Heero found himself hopefully talking to the person he was supposed to be speaking with.

“I’m calling to tell you that Duo Maxwell won’t be able to come in to work today.”  Heero stated calmly.

“Duo Maxwell?”  The nurse on the video-phone asked.  “The volunteer?”

Heero nodded.  “Yes.”

The woman’s face quickly contorted into an impatient expression.  “Why ever not?”  She snapped.  “We need all the help we
can get!”  She sighed, shaking her head, a sneer appearing on her face.  “Although you can’t depend on a volunteer.  Normally
they just volunteer to get a chance to warm up.”

Heero felt his eye twitch in reaction to the nurse’s ignorance.  She hadn’t even waited to hear the reason for Duo’s absence
before condemning him as nothing more than a homeless bum that had been seeking warmth the day he had volunteered to
work with them.  Heero cleared his throat, mostly to gain the woman’s attention again, but partially to keep from screaming out
his annoyance of her attitude.  “He caught a cold last night and accidentally stepped on a piece of glass.”

The nurse rolled her eyes.  “How can someone ACCIDENTALLY step on some glass?”  She asked, obviously not believing
Heero.  “Maybe you should bring him in.”

“No.  I cleaned the wound and it isn’t too deep.”  Heero replied, knowing that he was perfectly capable of tending to Duo’s
injuries.  He had done it before.

“That's not a good idea, sir.  Do you know what you’re doing?”  

“Yes.  I promise that if it looks like an infection is setting in or if his cold worsens I will bring him in.”  Heero replied, getting
pretty fed up with this woman’s attitude.

“Oh, very well.”  She shrugged, her gaze focused on something else.  “I guess this is to be expected with volunteers.”

“Thank you.”  Heero said, trying to be polite.

The nurse’s reply was coarse, her impatience clear in her voice.  “Don’t thank me.  This is going to go on Maxwell’s record.  
We don’t like it when people volunteer one day and then disappear the next.  It’s going to make it harder for him to get a steady
job if he can’t even handle being a volunteer.”

“All right.  Good bye.”  Heero said, quite irritated.

“Goodbye!”  She said, but Heero heard her muttering before she switched off the transmission, and her words sent a spike of
anger through Heero’s chest.  “Stupid punk is probably stoned or drunk . . .”

Heero lost it then.  He grabbed the phone and threw it across the room, wishing he could have done that with the ignorant
nurse.  His tirade was stopped short though, as he heard a frightened whimper from behind him.  He turned, his rage calming
when he saw the child cowering underneath a nearby table.  Heero must have frightened him.  Now he felt bad for allowing his
anger to control him like that . . . he hadn’t meant to scare the boy.

Slowly, not wanting to frighten the kid any further, Heero approached the table.  He knelt down, turning his body until he could
see the boy clearly.  “I’m sorry.”  He said, hoping to get the child to come out of hiding.  “I didn’t mean to frighten you . . . I
just don’t like people badmouthing Duo.  I’m not angry with you.”

The kid looked warily at Heero, but he did come out of hiding, wiping a filthy hand across his face as he stood in front of
Heero.  “You sure you ain’t gonna do nuthin’ funny?”  He asked, his posture clearly stating that he would flee if he felt that he
had too.

Heero sighed, bringing a small smile to his face in the hope to soothe the boy’s fear.  “I swear that I will not harm you.”  He

“Great!  So whatcha want me ta do?  I gotta earn my keep.”  He said quite proudly.

Heero looked the child over, thinking for a minute.  “Well, I suppose you can wash those dishes for a start, then I’ll think of
something else.”  He reached out, grabbing the child’s wrist when he saw the boy turning to head into the kitchen.  “But first .
. . you need a bath.”  Heero stated.

The kid paled and visibly flinched . . . shrinking away from Heero fearfully.  “Y-You said you weren’t going ta hurt me.”  He

Heero stayed kneeling on the floor, his grip on the child’s arm gentle . . . still he wouldn’t let go, since he knew that the boy
would run the minute he did release his clasp.  “That’s right.  I did say that I would not harm you and I will stay true to my
promise.  I have given you my word and I keep my promises.”  He said, then slowly let go of the child’s wrist, showing the
boy that he could still leave if he wished.  “You’re filthy and will only get anything you mean to help me with dirty.  I’ll wash
your clothes and you can wear something of mine for the time being . . . although whatever I give you will be quite large on

The boy nodded.  “Yeah . . . I know I ain’t clean.”  He sighed.  “Where is the bathroom?”  He asked, his head hanging down in
shame.  Then he looked up at Heero, opening his mouth and blinking a few times.  “But . . . I dunno how to take a bath.  I
mean . . . I’ve seen soap commercials through the store windows where girls are in water and smiling.”

Heero nodded, understanding the dilemma.  He had never bathed before, so he had no frame of reference with the exception of
a few commercials on how to actually go about doing it.  Heero quirked a small smile.  “Do you want me to help you?”

Naturally, the child reacted with suspicion and fear.  “Why?  You wanna try something?”  He asked, backing away a few steps.

Heero shook his head.  “No.  Would it make you feel better if I kept one arm behind my back?”

The child smirked, then nodded in agreement.  “Sounds fair.”  He frowned, his eyes narrowing slightly.  “But if you do try
anything I don’t like, I’ll scream like crazy.”

“That sounds acceptable to me.”  Heero smirked, rising to his feet.  Keeping to his word, he led the boy into the bathroom,
folding his one arm behind his back as they stepped through the doorway.  “You get undressed and leave your clothes on the
floor and I’ll get everything ready for your bath.”  Heero said.

Surprisingly, the child did as instructed without arguing.  Perhaps he trusted Heero to keep to his word now.  It was a good
sign at least.  Heero kept taking short glances at the child now and then, keeping an eye out for any hesitation on his part and
examining him for signs of abuse or illness.  Despite the fact that the boy looked dehydrated and undernourished, he seemed to
be in good health.

Heero turned on the taps, allowing a moderate level of warm water fill the porcelain tub.  Soap was within easy reach of the
child, as was a washcloth.  Heero set another aside, knowing that he might still have to help the child in taking this bath.  A
towel was set on the floor.  He shut off the flow of water and motioned for the naked and shivering child to approach.  “Get
in.  Tell me if it is too warm or cold to your liking and I will adjust it for you.”  Heero said.

The child nodded.  With Heero’s help he managed to climb into the tub without falling.  He smiled as he sat in the water,
apparently enjoying the temperature.  “Feels great.”  He said, sighing deeply.  “I never knew water could be so warm without
cooking it.”  He said, then lowered his head.

“You’ll get all the baths and warm water you want here.”  Heero smirked.  He squeezed out a good amount of soap onto a
damp washcloth that he had set on the side of the tub, then lathered it up.  It was difficult to do while only using one hand, but
he managed.  He did the same with the other washcloth, handing one of them over to the child.

“May I?”  Heero asked.  When the boy nodded, Heero ran the cloth over one of the boy’s filthy arms.  “You scrub yourself
really good, like this . . . got it?”

“That’s so easy . . . I can do that!”  He announced, quite happily, then proceeded to do just as Heero had shown him.

“While you’re doing that, I’ll wash your back.  Then we can work on that hair of yours.”  Heero said, gently, but firmly
washing away what had to be years of dirt from the boy’s back.  He repeatedly rinsed the suds away, checking his body for
more dirt.  When they were done, the water was a murky grayish black shade.  

Heero drained the filthy water, then turned on the shower.  “It will be easier to wash your hair this way.”  He said, getting the
boy to rise to his feet and drench his hair in the water.  Even before applying the shampoo, dirt made its way down the child’s
skinny body.

Heero sighed, pouring the shampoo onto the kid’s head, then taking his hands and instructing him in the proper manner to wash
his hair.  Heero noticed that he would need a haircut, but decided that could wait until later . . . wielding sharp objects around
an already frightened boy was probably not a good idea.

It took three washes to get the child’s hair clean.  When it was done with, Heero turned off the water.  He was surprised to
find that the child had a dark blonde shade of hair . . . with the amount of dirt, it had looked to be brown.  Heero picked up the
towel from the floor, shaking it open with his one hand, then held it out to the boy, smirking as the child draped it around
himself, covering his head as well.  Heero helped the child out of the tub, gently laying his hand on the boy’s back as he led him
from the bathroom and back into the bedroom where Duo was still sleeping.

Since he was out of the bathroom, Heero felt that he was allowed to use both his arms again.  He walked over to the dresser,
picking out a T-shirt from one of the drawers.  Then he returned to where the child was patiently standing.  He knelt in front of
the boy.  “You can wear this for now.”  Heero whispered.

The boy nodded, shivering slightly.  “What about my clothes?”  He asked, just as quietly, flicking his eyes over to where Duo
was sleeping.

“Let’s worry about getting you dried and dressed first.  I’ll take care of your clothes.”  Heero said quietly, escorting the child
out of the bedroom.  He took him down to the living room and hefted him onto the sofa.  He set the shirt on the side.  Kneeling
down in front of the sofa, he gently rubbed his hands over the fabric of the towel, helping to dry and warm the child faster,
rubbing his hands over where the towel covered his hair as well.

The boy giggled a few times, apparently ticklish.  But Heero didn’t pursue the tickling, just concerned with making sure that the
boy got dressed before he caught a cold.  There was no need to have two ill people in this house.  And if the boy did decide to
leave, Heero wouldn’t want him to be sick while living out on the streets in frigid weather . . . that would be a death warrant in
such a situation.

He smiled as he pushed the towel down around the boy’s waist, picking up the shirt from where he had set it earlier.  He
guided the boy’s hands and head through the appropriate holes.  Lifting him up to a standing position on the sofa, Heero
straightened out the T-shirt, which covered him sufficiently and offered a good deal of modesty.  Heero picked up the towel,
setting the child back down on the sofa in a sitting position again.

“Now, you wait here.  I’m going to throw your clothes in the washer, and then I’ll tell you what I want you to do to earn your
keep today.  Okay?”  Heero inquired, wanting to know that the child did understand him.

The boy nodded.  “Okay.”  He said, watching Heero with a smile on his face.

Heero smiled in return, ruffling the boy’s hair as he rose to his feet.  He strode out of the living room, heading to the
bathroom.  He deposited the towel in the hamper, then picked up the boy’s few garments.  He did as he had told the boy he
would, throwing the clothes, that could just barely be called rags, into the washing machine.

When he returned to the living room, he found a surprising and yet adorable sight.  The child had fallen asleep.  He was curled
up on the sofa, his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms around one of the throw pillows that he had rested his head on.  
Shaking his head, Heero quietly strolled over to the sofa.  He pulled the blanket from the back of the sofa, gently draping it over
the boy’s body and tucking it in around him.

The child mumbled something incoherently, but remained unconscious.  He must have been exhausted, Heero thought . . .
satisfied to await the length of the child’s nap to put him to work, no matter how long he slept.  He wasn’t about to awaken
him . . . that would be too cruel a thing in Heero’s mind.  He bit his lip, giving in to a softly spoken urge in the back of his mind
and weaving his fingers through the child’s damp hair, brushing it back away from his face.  He smirked when the boy turned
toward the touch, watching as he snuggled deeper against the pillow and the comfortable sofa.  With that smile firmly fixed on
Heero’s face, he turned and left the room, feeling a need to start a new work of art.

To Be Continued . . .