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

Notes:  Duo goes to work.  On his way home that night, he runs into trouble.

Choices of the Heart

Part Sixteen

Duo sighed as he watched over Trowa’s sleeping form.  He hated this feeling of uselessness, hated seeing the hopelessness in
Trowa’s eyes and the pain in Catherine’s.  These people were good to him, even though they had taken him off the street.  They
had given him a home, food, and even their love.  He cared about them as one would care about a family.  He knew that he loved
Trowa like a brother and Catherine was the protective older sister he’d never had.

“Duo, I’m ready.”  Catherine said as she stepped into the room.  Her hair was still damp, but her clothes were clean.  She smiled
fondly at Duo.  “Come on, or you’ll be late for work.”

Duo nodded and stood.  He took a brief moment to smooth out the covers over Trowa’s body, sighing as he watched Trowa
shift minutely in his sleep.  Duo knew that he had to help these wonderful people.  He would give Trowa hope and Catherine joy,
just as they had given him a home.  ‘And then maybe . . . just maybe . . . I’ll be able to stop taking those damn pills.’  He dug his
hand into his pocket, sliding his fingers over the bottle, frowning as he turned away from Trowa’s bed.

He followed as Catherine led the way out of the bedroom.  He was ready to head off to work, to earn the money that would help
pay for Trowa’s desperately needed heart operation.  However, he was quite confused when Catherine turned and went into the
kitchen instead of heading out the door.  “What’s up, Cathy . . . you hungry?”  Duo asked, keeping a cheerful smile on his face
as he leaned against the doorframe.

Catherine smiled and shook her head as she opened the door of the refrigerator.  “This isn’t for me.  It’s for you, Duo.”  She
said.  Then he looked over at him.  “And don’t argue.  I know you, Duo.  You probably didn’t have breakfast or lunch . . . I’m
not going to let you go without dinner too.”

Duo sighed, but decided not to press the issue.  There really would be no point in arguing.  As kind as Catherine was, she was
also very stubborn.  It was near to impossible to get her to change her mind once she had it set on something.

She closed the door of the fridge, apparently not finding anything suitable in there.  Moments later, she grabbed the bread out of
the breadbox and quickly fixed him a sandwich, then left the house.  Duo grabbed a couple napkins then followed her.  He ate
his sandwich while she drove him to Angelo’s.  It was delicious of course, Catherine made great sandwiches, even if it was only
peanut butter and jelly.

Nothing spectacular happened during work that night.  Catherine dropped him off, he got himself a drink of water and popped a
few pills, then he started waiting on the customers like he usually did, taking orders during the time that he was handling the

Duo waited until his break to ask Howard about getting an advance on his pay.  Luckily, it was a good night.  Howard was
always in an exceptional mood when business was good, his Duo had high hopes of getting some money from him.  Plus there
was the undeniable fact that Howard was a damn decent guy . . . he’d been helping Duo out ever since he had been on the
street, before that even.  Duo had gotten a job working for Howard when he was still living with those awful people . . . he’d
been hoping to get enough money to run away from home.  Things happened differently though . . . still Duo was happy now,
the past was the past and couldn’t be changed.  However, as much as he told himself that, it still hurt looking back on his life.

Howard was more than happy to oblige Duo’s request.  Duo could hardly keep the grin off of his face as Howard said he’d give
him as much as he needed.  Still, he wouldn’t take more than his fair share . . . it wouldn’t be right to take anything more.  

As soon as Duo’s shift was over that night, Howard handed him a wad of cash, grinning as he slapped Duo on the back.  He let
Duo out of the restaurant, locking it behind him and continuing to close the restaurant.  Duo was always the last to leave, with
the exception of Howard . . . but that was only because he had no idea how to do all that boring paperwork that Howard did.

Duo quickly headed to the cemetery, having reason to visit one of the many graves at this late hour of the night.  He had no need
to look where he was going.  He had been here countless times before and knew his way by heart.  All that he had to do was get
past the fence and watch out for open graves.  After several minutes of walking around the dark grounds, Duo fell to his knees
in front of the all-too-familiar headstone.

“Hey, Solo.”  He smiled, lovingly running his fingers over the letters of his deceased elder brother’s name.

He didn’t expect an answer, nor did he wait for one.  With a sad smile fixed on his face, he lifted the pot of flowers he had left
there a few days ago.  He always made sure there were flowers on his brother’s grave, even if he picked them himself most of
the time.  Setting the plastic pot to one side, Duo used his hands to dig in the earth just below where it had once sat.  It took him
a while, but he eventually found what he was looking for . . . a simple plastic bag.

Duo yanked the bag out of the ground.  He shoved the dirt back into the hole that he had made, then put the flowers back.  
“Thanks for keeping this for me, Solo.”  Duo said, opening the plastic bag and smiling at the roll of money.  

For years he had been saving up his pay from Howard, from the odd jobs that he took around town during the summer, from
just about everywhere . . . he kept it here, adding to the bundle of cash every few weeks.  There was several thousand here
now, give or take a couple hundred bucks . . . hopefully it was enough to help Catherine pay for Trowa’s surgery.  Of course,
there would be more if Duo wasn’t taking those damn pills . . . but then he wouldn’t earn so much if he didn’t take the pills to
keep himself awake.  It was a paradox of sorts.

Duo sighed, rubbing his eyes tiredly.  He was exhausted, too long since he had last taken some of his pills.  He stood, pocketing
his money as he turned and headed off to home.  Catherine would get worried if he didn’t get home soon.  He didn’t want to be
the cause of her worrying, not again anyway.

He was walking along the street, minding his own business when suddenly his arm was grabbed and he was forcefully yanked
into a dark alley.  “Well, lookie what we have here . . .”  A sickeningly familiar voice said, making Duo’s blood curdle.  Duo’s
other arm was pulled back behind him, held at a painful angle, the other arm still clutched by his unseen assailant.  Someone
grabbed his hair and Duo was forced to look up, only to see Alex staring back at him with a cruel smile on his lips.

“You fucking bastard!”  Duo hissed, trying to wrench his arm from Alex’s grip.

“Such language, Duo.”  Alex laughed, pulling his arm back and delivering a forceful blow to Duo’s stomach.

Duo collapsed around the fist, all the air knocked out of him.  Mueller pushed him to the ground, kicking him in the side as he
fell.  At least Duo thought that it was Mueller, but since he couldn’t see the other bully, he just had to guess.  Duo was trying to
regain his breath, attempting to protect himself, while Alex and Mueller delivered strike after strike to Duo’s body.  

A blow to the head, a few kicks to his frame . . . he stayed on the ground, trying to curl in on himself, attempting to keep his
injuries to a minimum.  By the time they stopped, he was beaten and bloody.  The attack left Duo dazed, blood dribbling from
broken lips as he fought off a wave of nausea and the ominous darkness that teased the edges of his vision.

Duo was barely aware as Alex dragged him to his feet, shoving him hard against a wall.  Mueller pinned him there while Alex ran
his hands over Duo’s body.  Duo weakly tried to fight him off, but didn’t think he was all that successful . . . things were just
hazy.  But then, everything became clear as Alex’s hand went deep into his pocket and pulled out his money.

“Woah, Mueller!  Look at this!”  Alex exclaimed, showing the cash to his comrade.  “Gotta be a few thousand at least!”

“Give that back!”  Duo protested, trying to grab the money.  He missed by several inches, nearly falling over as the movement
threw his balance off.  He could barely see straight, let alone make deliberate movements.

“Maybe he’s got more on him.  Perhaps we should check him over more thoroughly.”  Mueller suggested, his hands on Duo’s

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”  Alex chuckled, his voice grating on Duo’s nerves.  “He’s probably hiding more on him.”

Duo gasped, his eyes widening in fear as Alex grabbed the collar of his shirt and forcefully ripped it off.  “No!  Don’t you
fucking touch me!”  He yelled, pushing at Alex, trying to kick him away.

Mueller grabbed his arms, holding them behind his body, keeping him still as Alex worked on Duo’s pants.  Duo’s mind
screamed at him to fight back, so he struggled, despite the fact that his body angrily protested the movements he was making.  
He didn’t want to end up like Quatre, didn’t want to be so afraid, to fear contact.  He didn’t want to be hurt by these bastards.

Just as Alex shoved his hand down the front of Duo’s pants, Duo heard an angry shout echo in the night.  “Hey!”

Duo shot his eyes over to the voice, blinking as he saw those two friends on Quatre’s standing a few feet away.  If Duo
remembered correctly, their names were Wufei and Meiran.  He idly wondered what they were doing here so late at night, but
didn’t think much of it.  He had other more important matters on his mind.

Alex and Mueller took off without a word, shoving Duo down to the ground.  They fled into the night, taking Duo’s cash with
him.  Right now, Duo wished that Alex and Mueller had just killed him.  How would he ever make that money back?  How could
he help pay for Trowa’s surgery now?  He buried his face in his arms, weeping for Trowa, for the money that could have saved
his life that was now gone.  

Every hope that he had once had was dashed, crushed because of those two bastards.  He just wanted to curl up and die,
wished that Wufei and Meiran hadn’t stumbled on the scene . . . there was just nothing left, no chance in Duo’s mind of saving
his best friend’s life.

To Be Continued . . .