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

Notes:  Solo and Laurel play in the snow then go inside to play.  When Laurel discovers what Heero's been hiding, Duo
confronts his lover.

Valentine Blues

Part Nineteen

Solo smiled as he put the finishing touches on the snowman Uncle Quatre had helped him to build.  It didn't look like one of the
snowmen he had seen on the vids in the past, or the ones he had watched other kids make, but it was something he had never
done before because he'd always been too worried about getting his next meal or finding a warm place to spend the night.  The
crude figure before him was leaning slightly to the left and was wearing his scarf, had two pebbles for eyes and a pair of twigs
sticking out of him for arms.  He looked over his shoulder to where Laurel was lying in the snow, moving her arms and legs.  
She was moving her broken arm more carefully than the uninjured limb.  Solo hoped her coat was helping to keep the cast dry.

Laurel carefully pushed herself up with her good arm and smiled.  "Look!  I made an angel!"

Uncle Quatre chuckled and smiled warmly.  "It's very pretty."

Solo was glad that his uncle hadn't commented on the fact that the angel was somewhat lopsided.  But then, Quatre also hadn't
pointed out the flaws even Solo could see in the lumpy snowman they had made.

The blonde looked up as new flakes started to drift from the sky.  "We should go inside.  I don't want the two of you to get
sick, and I'm freezing out here."  He took his hat off and placed it on top of the snowman's head.  "Come on.  I'll make some
cocoa while you dry off and get into some warm and dry clothes."

The kids rushed off ahead of him, but Quatre made it to the door at roughly the same time.  His legs were longer and it wasn't
as difficult for him to slosh through the thick snow.  As they stepped inside, shaking off the fresh snow from their clothes and
taking off their outerwear, Quatre checked Laurel's cast, nodding when he saw that she hadn't gotten it wet with her activities.

"When you're done with the cocoa, why don't the two of you play hide and seek?  I'm sure Duo got Heero to relax a bit, so it
would be best to play a quiet game so he can rest."

Solo hadn't really wanted to go inside.  He was having a lot of fun, and he didn't want it to end, but he knew that he'd be able to
play in the snow again some time.  He had a home now, and parents that loved him and wanted the very best for him.  Besides,
the prospect of cocoa and a game of hide and seek sounded very good to him.

Laurel looked down at her feet, then looked up at Solo.  "Will you help me with my boots, please?"

Solo couldn't help but smile at her as he knelt on the floor.  "Give me your foot."  He barely noticed as Uncle Quatre went to
the kitchen while he helped Laurel with her boots.  When he got the second one off, he stood.  "Okay, you go in and get
changed and then I'll go in.  After we have our cocoa, we'll play hide and seek."  He winked at her.  "I'm pretty good at hiding

Laurel giggled and went on ahead as Solo went to the kitchen.

Uncle Quatre looked up from where he was pouring milk into a pot and smiled.  "Where's Laurel?"

Solo motioned toward where the bedrooms were.  "I sent her in ahead since all her stuff is in my room right now."

"That's very nice of you."  Quatre smiled, stirring the milk with one hand and glancing at the instructions on the back of the
cocoa container.

After only a few minutes, Laurel was entering the kitchen in clean clothes with a towel around wrapped around her, covering
her nearly from the top of her head to her toes almost like a cloak.  "Your turn, Solo.  Oooo!  Is the cocoa ready?"

Uncle Quatre nodded.  "Just about.  I have it on low right now while mixing the ingredients.  I'm making it for you the way
Duo taught me how to make it."  He looked in Solo's Direction.  "If you're quick, you can get back here by the time it's done."

Solo didn't need to be told twice.  He hurried from the room and quickly changed his clothes.  When he returned to the kitchen,
Uncle Quatre was pouring the hot cocoa into three mugs.


Duo ran his fingers softly along Heero's brow, tenderly brushing the dark bangs from his face.  Heero was asleep.  Finally.  
Not that it had taken long to get Heero to lie down after he'd satisfied himself by making sure Duo was - well, satisfied - but it
had taken an unusual amount of time for him to actually settle down and get to sleep.  It was as if there was something keeping
him awake, some reason he was afraid to fall asleep.  He wished Heero would talk about it.  Maybe it would help.

Right now though, Duo was more than happy to just let Heero sleep.  He needed it.  It had been days now since he'd gotten a
proper rest.  Duo was far beyond the point of worry.  He was scared now.  Afraid that there was something wrong with
Heero, or with their relationship.  What if Heero was having second thoughts about their new family?  What if he simply didn't
love Duo anymore?  The mere thought sent a pang of hurt through Duo's chest.  He didn't know what he would do if Heero
was out of his life.  Oh, he wouldn't kill himself.  He'd promised not to try that again.  But without Heero, without the kids,
what would become of him?  He had a life now and he was happy with it.  He'd thought Heero was happy.

"What's bothering you so much, Heero?" Duo whispered, brushing his fingers through his lover's hair again.

Heero groaned in his sleep, turning his face toward the gentle touch.  For a moment, Duo worried that he had inadvertently
awakened the exhausted man, but Heero merely furrowed his brow and opened his mouth to utter something unintelligible.  He
calmed then, his features relaxing as he succumbed to sleep again.

Duo smirked, adjusting the blankets over Heero's bare body.  He curled himself against Heero, laying his head on his lover's
shoulder.  "Love you," he smiled, pressing a delicate kiss to his warm skin.

He was dozing off on Heero's shoulder, happy and content to be at his lover's side when a shrill scream ripped him back to
reality.  He sat up immediately, almost groaning in frustration when Heero did the exact same thing.  There was nothing to say
though, not when someone was screaming.  Not just anyone, but Laurel.  Without a word to each other, they both grabbed the
first pair of pants they could find and dressed as quickly as possible before running from the room to see what had happened.

They found the source of the screaming in Heero's studio.  The door to the closet was wide open.  Duo couldn't see what had
upset Laurel, but a sound from Heero told him that it had to be something really bad.  

At the moment, Quatre was sitting on the floor hugging the hysterical little girl and Solo was holding on to her good hand and
rubbing her back lightly.  A pained expression was on his face, not to mention obvious worry for his little sister.

Duo didn't pay attention as Heero moved to close the door of the closet, instead running immediately to their frightened
daughter.  "Laurel, sweetie, what happened?"  He opened his arms to her and she immediately sought sanctuary in his embrace,
sobbing as he folded his arms around her.

"W-We were p-playing hide and seek.  I w-was looking f-for Solo 'cause he was hiding, and-and ... I opened the door.  No one
told me I couldn't.  I thought S-Solo might b-be in there ..."  The little girl cut herself off with a fresh bout of sobbing, but at
least it wasn't the hysterical screaming that had caused Duo to run as if he were still in the war running from the enemy.

Duo rocked the little girl back and forth in his arms, and looked up at Heero in question.  "What's in there?"

Heero's face was filled with guilt as he looked at the children, but he said nothing in response.

Duo gently transferred Laurel into Quatre's arms after reassuring her that he wasn't leaving.  Then he took the few steps he
needed to take to open the closet door and step inside.  He closed the door behind himself and turned on the light overhead,
only to wish that he hadn't.

The closet was filled with paintings portraying nothing but death or violence.  Blood was a common theme as he flipped
through the canvases against the wall, as was the destruction of countless buildings and mobile suits.  Having seen enough, he
left the closet.  When he saw Heero, he reached out for him, only to watch as the Japanese man turned and ran from the
room.  Duo wanted to go after his lover, but Laurel had to come first.

He knelt down and took Laurel back into his arms.  "It's okay, Laurel.  They're just paintings.  They can't hurt anyone, even
though they're scary."

Laurel sniffled loudly as she clung to Duo with her good hand.  "W-Why did Daddy Heero draw those bad things?"

Duo stroked her hair, struggling to find the words.  "I don't know, baby.  But you know, your Dad and I - and your Uncles -
we were all soldiers and we saw some really bad stuff like what your Dad drew.  People getting hurt, people dying.  I don't
know why he made those, maybe to get them out of his head, but I don't think he ever meant for you to see them."  He knew
that, had to believe that Heero had hid them to keep them from the kids.  He also knew that Heero hadn't intended to let Duo see
them either.  The fact that Heero had hidden them when he'd proudly shown off every other painting to Duo spoke volumes.

Quatre bent and rubbed a hand against Laurel's back, his other hand placed squarely over his own heart.  "Hey, I think I saw
some cookies in the cupboard while I was looking for that cocoa.  Why don't you and Solo come with me for a snack?  I think
your Daddy Duo wants to go have a talk with your Dad."

The little girl ran her arm across her teary eyes and nodded.  "Okay."  She turned around and held her arms up.  Without
hesitation, Quatre scooped her up into his arms.

"Come on, Solo," the blonde uttered, casting a worried and somewhat pained look back at Duo before he headed for the door.

Duo watched as his friend took his children out of the room.  He felt a faint worry for Quatre, hoping that he wasn't being
affected too greatly.  But Duo was far more concerned about Heero.  When Quatre and the kids were out of sight, Duo took a
deep breath and headed out of the studio as well, turning in the opposite direction when he reached the hallway.

He entered their bedroom to find Heero sitting on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.  With a soft click, Duo closed
the door behind himself and took careful steps toward his lover.  He had to know what these paintings were about.  Did they
have something to do with Heero's sleeping problems?  It would explain why he had been splattered in paint the past few
mornings by the time Duo awoke.  He must have been painting instead of sleeping.  

Duo walked over and sat on the bed beside Heero and put a hand on the other man's shoulder.  "Talk to me."

Heero didn't respond, but he stood up abruptly.  "There's nothing to talk about.  You saw the paintings."

Duo shook his head and stood as well.  He was not going to let Heero avoid the subject.  "Yes, I saw the paintings and I want
to know why you didn't just talk to me."  He held his arms out.  "Come on, Heero.  Talk to me here."

"You have your own problems, Duo.  You don't need mine."  He shook his head.  

"Your problems are my problems.  I love you.  I want to help you.  Please, let me."  Duo frowned, his eyebrows knitting
together.  "Unless you don't trust me."

Heero shook his head again.  He moved over to a set of dressers.  "I trust you.  I just ... I can't."  With a frustrated growl,
Heero yanked open the nearest drawer and got dressed as quickly as he could.  "I need to get out of here for a while."  He
slipped his feet into a pair of shoes and moved toward the door, grabbing up his car keys from the top of the dresser as he
passed by.

Duo threw out his arm and grabbed Heero's wrist.  "Don't run away from this, Heero!"

"Let me go, Duo," Heero whispered, his head hanging low.  "Please."

Hesitantly, Duo released his grasp.  He didn't want to let go.  He wanted to hold Heero and comfort him until he was able to
open up about his problems.  But he couldn't.  If he pushed, it would only end up hurting Heero more.  He had to show Heero
that he trusted him, that he would be there when he wanted to talk.

"I'll be waiting here."

He stepped back, watching his lover.  Heero didn't turn to face him, to acknowledge him at all.  He stood there for several long
seconds, taking a deep and careful breath.  Then he reached out and opened the door.  Duo could only watch as Heero walked
out, the door swinging shut softly behind his back.

Duo's breath hitched at the hushed click of the door.  His tears fell steadily at the sound of the front door opening and closing
moments later.  The starting of Heero's car broke the last strand of his hold on his tumultuous emotions.  He turned and fell to
the bed, burying his face and digging his fists in the blankets to keep himself quiet.  He didn't want the kids to hear him, didn't
want them to know the grief in his heart.  Heero was hurting and there was nothing Duo could do about it.  

Now Heero was gone.  What if he didn't come back?

To Be Continued ...