Disclaimers:  I still don’t own anything.

Notes:  No notes.  Can’t think of anything.  Have fun reading.



Christmas Memories
Part 8



Trowa glanced in the rearview mirror and saw Duo and Heero sitting in the back seat.  He didn’t know why Heero had gotten
in the back with Duo, but maybe it would be a good thing.  If Heero was the one that was in pain, Duo’s jovial personality
might be able to cheer him up.

Trowa looked down at the blonde he cradled against his body.  He just hadn’t wanted to let go of him, otherwise he would
have put Quatre in the backseat with Heero and Duo.  But he knew that Quatre couldn’t be put too close to either one of them
at the moment, not when they still were unsure about which of them was in pain.  Being so near whichever one it was, would
only cause Quatre more pain, and Trowa couldn’t allow that.  

He sighed, as he gazed at the Arabian he held so gently.  Quatre looked so pale, so exhausted, even when he was asleep.  
However, as Trowa adjusted his position in the front seat of the truck to make himself more comfortable, Quatre’s eyes slowly
opened.

Quatre glanced up at Trowa with tired eyes, and smiled.  Not saying a word, he once again rested his head against Trowa’s
chest, snuggling even closer to Trowa as he drifted back to sleep.

“Are we there yet?”  Duo whined from the back seat.

Trowa looked back, glaring slightly at the smiling ex-pilot.  He had only said that to get attention, Trowa was sure of that.  
Either that or he was just plain bored.  He did not seem unhappy, or to be in pain.  Maybe it was Heero after all.

“You know very well that we are, Maxwell.”  Wufei replied, his tone unpleasant.

Trowa just pulled Quatre closer to his body, drowning out any reply that Duo might have made.  He just wanted to enjoy the
time he spent with Quatre in his arms.  Who knew how many more opportunities he would have to feel his body against his
own, to revel in the feeling of Quatre’s arms wrapped around him.

He wasn’t sure when he had dozed off, but the next thing he knew, Wufei was shaking his shoulder.  “We are here.”  He said.

Trowa shook his head, bringing himself back to reality.  He could see Duo quickly heading for the front door of Quatre’s
mansion, could hear the muffled complaints of some of the Maguanacs getting the tree off of the top of the truck.  He turned,
when his door was opened by Heero.

“You need help?”  Heero asked.

“No, I got him, thanks.”  Trowa replied, knowing that he couldn't take the risk of letting Heero come into contact with Quatre
if he was the one in pain.  Besides, Trowa wasn’t ready to let go of the blonde beauty just yet.

As Trowa stepped out of the truck, cradling Quatre’s shivering form against his body, the Arabian opened his eyes again.  
“Huh?  Where are we?”  He asked, wearily.

“Back at the estate.”  Trowa replied, stepping up onto the porch where the others were waiting.  He didn’t know why they
didn’t just go inside without him, it wasn’t as if there was some danger between the truck and the front door.

Duo reached out, but before he could reach the knob, the door was opened.  Rasid stood there.  He stepped aside and let the
group walk into the house.  Trowa couldn’t help but notice the glare that Rasid threw his way, but he did his best to ignore it.

For some reason, the lights were turned off.  Trowa looked around the darkened room, wondering what exactly was going on.

“Rasid, why are the lights off?”  Quatre asked.

An instant later, the lights came on.  Trowa took in a deep breath, looking around at the room.  The walls were literally covered
in decorations.  Streamers of green hung around the room, red bows of varying sizes attached to it in several places.  Plants,
Trowa believed they were called poinsettias sat along several shelves.  Golden bells and other beautiful decorations filled the
room.  There was even a menorah sitting on one of the tables.  It was magnificent.  Trowa had never seen anything so
elaborately or beautifully decorated.

“It’s wonderful.”  Quatre gasped.  “But how?  When?”

Rasid stepped forward, pulling Quatre from Trowa’s arms.  Trowa let go, reluctantly.  “Mr. Barton left us some books.  He
said that the house should be decorated for a celebration such as this.”

“We found several pictures.”  Auda said, stepping forward along with Abdul and Ahmad.

“Did we do well, Master Quatre?”  Abdul asked, sounding unsure.

“I'm not sure.”  Quatre replied.  He turned to Duo.  “Duo, did they do a good job?”

Duo’s mouth was hanging open, as he stared at the wreaths and other decorations.  He stepped over to a small table, picking
up a figure from a small nativity set.  He smiled down at it.  Then Trowa noticed that his smile slipped for a moment, his eyes
taking on a vacant look, as if he was in deep thought.  But it passed so quickly, that Trowa brushed it off as his own
imagination.

“Yeah!  It’s perfect, Quatre.”  Duo said happily.

Trowa looked at Quatre, and saw his eyes drooping shut once again.  “Why don’t you go rest, Quatre?”

“But what about the tree?”  Quatre asked, obviously fighting his own exhaustion.

“The tree must be prepared before it is ready to be decorated.”  Wufei replied.  “We will come get you when it is time.”

“Yeah, Quatre!”  Duo said.  “We’ll come wake you up for the fun stuff.  Don’t worry, we wouldn’t want you to miss out on
the tree.”

Quatre nodded his assent.  Rasid turned away from Trowa and the others, once again shooting Trowa a suspicious glance.  
Trowa just watched as Rasid took Quatre up the stairs, eventually carrying him out of Trowa’s line of sight.


*****


Several hours later, Duo stood in front of the tree, admiring the beautiful pine.  It was bare, still undecorated, but it was just
lovely.  At the moment the four ex-pilots we all waiting for Quatre to be brought down, so that they could decorate.

“Here . . . you still look a bit chilled.”  Heero said.

Duo blinked.  Heero was holding a steaming mug of what looked suspiciously like hot chocolate.  “We’ve been in the house for
a while, Heero.”

Heero’s eyes narrowed slightly.  “Just take it.”

Did he suspect, Duo wondered.  But then he thought again, dismissing the entire idea.  He flashed one of his cheekiest grins.  
“Thanks Heero, my man!”  How he wished that were true as he took the mug.  Truth be told, he did still feel cold . . . a
coldness that came from being alone all the time.  Despite this, he really couldn’t force himself to drink the chocolate
beverage.  But if he didn’t, Heero would know something is up.  He was never one to pass up hot chocolate before.  With that
thought, he steeled himself and started sipping the first beverage in months that didn’t have a shot of something stronger lacing
it.  He winced as he swallowed and a different kind of burning lanced his throat.

“Too hot?”  Heero was watching him.

Duo grinned.  “Just a bit.  It’s not hot enough to scald, but it’s a tad bit hotter than I like.”  Which was true.  For an instant, he
thought that Heero was developing a soft spot.  Then he noticed that Trowa and Wufei had also been offered mugs of hot
chocolate and light sandwiches as refreshments while waiting for Quatre.  There was another hope down the drain and into the
sewers. Just where the rest of his life had gone.

He turned his head to the side, as he heard the sounds of footsteps.  Through the doorway walked several Maguanacs, each
carrying a box in his arms.  Must be decorations for the tree, Duo thought.  A moment later, Rasid walked in, carrying Quatre.

Duo frowned, seeing that Quatre looked no better.  Well, there was another reason to hate himself, Duo realized.  It was his
fault that Quatre was sick.  If he had just taken his own life long ago, when he first got the idea, Quatre wouldn’t have had to
suffer for so long.  And now, here Duo was, causing Quatre’s health to further degrade.  He would just have to keep his
distance from the blonde, to lessen his pain at least a little.

A few minutes later found the ex-pilots all waiting while Wufei struggled to untangle the mess of Christmas lights.  Quatre had
insisted that they go on first, followed by the garland.  He said it would be easier to do that way.  The others hesitantly agreed,
most likely because none of them had ever had a real Christmas before or a tree, unlike Duo.  But Duo pushed those thoughts
away for the moment, watching as Wufei cursed under his breath at the knots he fought to unravel.

Trowa, while waiting for Wufei to finish with the lights, was looking through a box of ornaments, just pulling out various bulbs
and figures to look at them.  Quatre was watching Trowa, his face and body showing nothing but weariness.  Heero was
standing against a wall, his arms folded over his chest.  And Duo was just watching everything, wishing he really belonged
there.

“Finally!”  Wufei nearly shouted.  “Here, string these superfluous lights up.”  

Trowa stood, and took the lights from Wufei.  “Duo, Heero, either of you want to help?”  Trowa asked.

“Sure, why not.”  Duo replied as he stepped forward.  

Heero merely nodded as he took a step away from the wall, letting his arms fall to his sides.

After stringing up the lights, the guys draped the garland around the tree, then began placing the ornaments on the branches.  
Even Quatre helped, with help from Wufei who held him up.  Of course he only put up a few before he once again returned to
his seat.

Duo had noticed that every time Trowa approached Quatre, Rasid would shoot a glare at Trowa.  Trowa was hanging a golden
bulb on the tree, his arm brushing against Quatre’s.  Rasid stared hard at Trowa, if it were possible he would have shot daggers
from his eyes.  Quatre swayed and both Wufei and Trowa reached out to catch him.

As they set Quatre down on a chair, the blonde turned to Rasid.  “Please leave, Rasid.”  He said, quietly.  “Your negativity
toward Trowa is too strong . . . I can feel it even though I’m trying to block it.”

“Yes, Master Quatre.”  Rasid replied, not putting up an argument as he left the room.

Duo merely watched the scene, then turned back to putting up ornaments.  Eventually, they ran out of bulbs and figures, and
all that was left was the tinsel.  Duo nearly smiled at the sight of Heero placing each silver strand on the tree one at a time,
while Duo grabbed them by the handfuls and haphazardly tossed them on, not caring where any landed.  That was the way to
do it, if he remembered correctly.

As he threw his last handful of tinsel, he looked over the tree.  A single ornament stole his attention.  His eyes fixed on that one
simple figure, and he reached out, gently wrapping his fingers around the porcelain surface.  It was a simple angel, her hands
together as if she were in prayer, her head slightly upturned.  It reminded him of Sister Helen, the way she looked whenever
she was praying.

A tear escaped his eye as the memories bombarded him.  Unable to stop them from coming, he let them wash over him.


Flashback


Duo looked up at the pitiful looking tree.  Its branches were falling off, several of them already missing.  He scrutinized it
carefully, looking at the sparse amount of bulbs, the lack of garland or lights.  He had seen Christmas trees in store windows,
and all of them were beautiful.  This one was just plain pathetic.

“Why does the tree look so bad?”  Duo asked, frowning.

“It’s all we have, Duo.  You should be grateful that we have a tree at all.  It was a donation, given to the church by one of its
patrons a few years back.”  Sister Helen replied, smiling down at him.

Duo got an idea and ran up to the dormitory, and right over to his own bed.  He pulled open the drawer of the old table and
pulled out a small box.  Opening it, he glanced at the contents and smiled.  Then he ran back downstairs.

“What have you got there?”  Sister Helen asked.

“Maybe something to make it look better.”  He said, opening the box.  He pulled out a few scraps, a bit of ribbon, a piece of
paper.  Soon, he had an ornament, which he hung on one of the branches.  He repeated the process with several other pieces
of scrap, creating ornaments to hang from the tree.  Once he was done, he sat back and admired his work.  It really did make
the tree look better.

“Where did you get all of that stuff, Duo?”  The kindly nun asked.

“I saved scraps of stuff.  Guess I’m a pack rat as well as a street rat.”  Duo replied, all the time smiling at how well the tree
had come out.  Then his smile faded as he looked to Sister Helen, only to see a tear run from her eye.

“Did I do something wrong?”  Duo asked, worried.  Maybe he had hurt her feelings, or done something bad.

Sister Helen smiled.  “No, Duo.  You did a very good thing.  It’s beautiful.”  She said, wiping the tear from her eye.

Duo smiled, glad that he had made her happy.  Maybe he wasn’t as worthless as he thought if he could do something to make
Sister Helen happy.


End of Flashback


Duo shook off the memory.  He let go of the figure, glancing around the room to see if anyone had noticed the way he had just
become lost in thought.  Luckily, they all seemed to be occupied with something.  Just as well, he thought, at least they hadn’t
seen that tear escape his eye.

“Quatre, I believe the honor of putting the angel on is yours.”  Trowa said, helping Quatre to stand.

“Me, but why?”  Quatre asked.

“You are our host.  It is only right that you be allowed this honor.”  Wufei said.

Quatre blushed.  Wufei and Trowa helped Quatre to get on a ladder, keeping a very careful watch on the blonde as he placed
the angel at the top of the tree.  Then the two of them helped Quatre back down, Wufei keeping his arm around the blonde to
keep him standing.

“Well, I believe that is enough for tonight.”  Quatre said.  “Tomorrow night is the party, and I want you all well rested.”  

“Yeah  . . . I’m bushed.”  Duo said, stretching his arms over his head.  “I’m gonna go to my room and crash.”

He barely heard the mumbled agreements as he left the room, walking to the stairs.  As he stepped up a few steps, he heard
Heero’s voice behind him.  “Are you all right?”  Heero asked.

Duo shrugged without turning.  “I’m just not used to the cold weather and walking in the snow.”  He said, which was
absolutely true.

Without another word, Duo began walking again, going to his room.  This time, he made it to the bed before he collapsed,
totally spent.  And after a few moments, he drifted off to sleep.


*****


Heero walked down the hallway.  He stopped, his hand resting on his doorknob.  Then he turned, staring intently at Duo’s
door.  Something seemed off.  Something just seemed so wrong, but he couldn’t figure out what it could be.

“Mr. Yuy?”  Ahmad said, as he approached Heero and bowed respectfully.

“Yes?”  Heero asked, taking his eyes from Duo’s door for only a moment.

“Your packages have arrived.  As you requested, we set the boxes in the spare room.  Here is the key.”  He said, holding out
the small silver key.

“Thank you.”  Heero replied quietly, stuffing the key deep into one of his pockets.  As least the present he had for Duo was
finally here.

Ahmad left without another word.  Heero once again turned his attention to Duo’s door.  He reached out, grasping the handle.  
He really hated the idea of invading Duo’s privacy, but he knew that something was wrong.  He just had to check on him.

Silently, he crept into the room.  Duo was on the bed, lying on his stomach.  Heero slowly approached, and silently sighed his
relief to see that the American wouldn’t know that he was even there.  Duo was asleep.  

He frowned as Duo’s body shivered slightly.  With a smile on his face, he grabbed a blanket from the foot of the bed and
draped it over Duo’s form, being carefully not to touch him.  He knew that he was risking letting his presence be known just
by putting that blanket on him, but he just had to cover him.  At least Duo wouldn’t be cold this way.

Just as quietly as he had entered, Heero exited the room.  He turned to his own door and opened it, walking in.  Soon, he’d get
up the nerve to tell Duo how he felt.  And hopefully soon, he would find out if Duo loved him in return.



To Be Continued . . .