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

Notes:  Quatre returns to school for the first time since the attack.  Trowa has a friendly meeting with Meiran.



Choices of the Heart



Part Nineteen


Quatre bit into his bottom lip and clutched his books close as he walked toward the school.  He was nervous . . . bordering on
being terrified.  This was where he had been attacked . . . where he had been hurt.

“Quatre . . . if you can’t do this, tell me and I’ll call Rasid.”  Heero said, his hand settling on Quatre’s shoulder lightly.

Heero’s presence was a great comfort to Quatre.  “No . . . if I don’t do this now, it will only get harder to come back.”  Quatre
said, shaking his head.  He smiled meekly at his brother.  “But . . . I am glad that you spoke to the teachers and arranged it so
that either you or Duo would be in each of my classes . . . it’s a great comfort for me to know that I’ll have at least ONE
friendly face to turn to.”

Heero nodded once.  “You’re right, and you’re stronger than I gave you credit for.  A lesser person would have just gotten a
tutor, like Father offered last night.  You know we’re all proud of you for going on with your life.”

Quatre smiled a little at his stepbrother, warmed by the comment.  “Thanks.  I knew . . . but it is nice to hear.”  Heero smiled in
return.

For the rest of the way to his class, Quatre was quiet.  Quietly, he bid a polite thank you to Heero for escorting him to the door.  
He flushed as he entered, but forced himself to keep his head up.  He would NOT act as if he had done something shameful.  
Everyone kept telling him that what had happened to him wasn’t his fault, and Quatre was determined not to feel as if he were
less than anyone else.

A smile spread across his face when he saw Duo.  However, the expression quickly turned into a frown when he saw how
bruised his friend was . . . more so than he had been just the previous afternoon.  Quatre took his seat before the teacher could
tell him to sit down.

He would have felt self-conscious of the looks he was getting from the other classmates, if not for the fact that his thoughts
were now consumed with wondering how Duo had gotten worse in so short a time.  It was as if he’d been punched by
someone really strong.

Quatre frowned in thought.  Something about the new bruises struck a chord.  It took a moment for it to hit him.

Quatre blinked as, in his mind’s eye, he saw Heero on the burglar.  Duo and the thief were the same size . . . Quatre shook his
head.  ‘But . . . that’s not possible!  Duo would never . . . but . . .’  Quatre felt shocked to the very core.  It made so many
things fit.  The burglar had seemed to know there was an open window.  There were priceless items that had been handed down
through the generations in the upstairs hallway, but they hadn’t been touched.  His father’s wallet still held all of his credit cards,
not one was taken . . . just the loose bills.  Quatre shook his head again, not wanting to believe it.  ‘Why?  Why would he steal
from me?  If he needed money, why wouldn’t he ask?’  Then his subconscious answered for him.  ‘Because if Duo really
needed money, he wouldn’t take the risk that I’d say no.  He is just that way.’

Quatre sighed.  At lunch he was going to talk to Duo and give his friend a chance to fess up and explain things.  Maybe . . .
maybe there was another explanation.


*****


Trowa leaned against the wall, thankful that his teacher had allowed him to leave class early.  He didn’t like being pushed around
by the crowd on the way to lunch.  Actually, he didn’t like being pushed around at all.  The teachers were just concerned about
him . . . they wanted to limit his stress.  It was probably because he had been in the hospital just the other day.  He knew
Catherine had called the principal to inform him of that . . . although Trowa wished that she hadn’t.  He didn’t want to be pitied .
. . it was bad enough that he was dying.

Catherine had wanted him to stay home and rest more.  To be honest, Trowa had been tempted to do so, until Duo had
steadfastly insisted on going in just because he knew Quatre would be there.  To see his friend so eager to get back to school,
despite numerous bruises and injuries, made Trowa feel like he shouldn’t lay about in bed all day.

Thinking of Duo made Trowa worry though.  He wished that he knew what had happened to Duo.  He was deeply concerned
about the youth that he loved like a brother.  Those bruises . . . Duo hadn’t had so many earlier in the day.  True, he had been
injured that day, because of the mugging the previous night.  But he hadn’t been so hurt . . . and when he’d come home that
night he had collapsed against Trowa crying.  Knowing that Duo was in pain, physical as well as emotional, left Trowa aching to
be of help.  There was only one problem . . . Trowa simply didn’t know how he could possibly help Duo.

Trowa sighed and pushed himself away from the wall, thinking that it was time to get going.  He had to stop by the Nurse’s
Office before he could go to lunch.  Although he hated doing it, he did have to take his medication.

He had only just gotten around a corner when he spotted something that made him stop.  There was Meiran, a girl that Quatre
had introduced to him and Duo just last Thursday, along with a youth named Wufei.  She was alone this time . . . and kneeling in
front of a locker that was wide open and horribly vandalized.  She was simply sitting there, staring at something she held in her
hands.

Feeling awkward and hoping that he wasn’t intruding, Trowa moved closer.  “Umm . . . are you all right, Meiran?  It is Meiran,
right?”

The girl nodded slightly, then looked up at him with eyes that were full of pain.  “I can understand the graffiti and my books
being all but destroyed . . . but . . . this picture is irreplaceable, and they ruined it.”

Trowa frowned as he looked at the locker.  There were a couple of words, like “bitch” scrawled across the front, but there
were also a lot of phrases like “take up knitting like a good little girl” and the like.  If Trowa remembered correctly, Meiran had
said she was trying out for the wrestling team . . . it looked as if some people were against that idea.

He stepped closer and looked at the picture that she was holding in her hand.  It had been a photo of Wufei proudly displaying a
trophy . . . it looked as if he had won some form of Martial Arts competition.  Now, it was torn at the waist.  Trowa bit his lip a
little, not knowing if it was his place to speak up.  Still, it was better than simply standing around looking like a fool.

“Uhh . . . this sounds bad, and I’m sorry, but . . . if you find a small frame, it won’t be as bad.  After all, it isn’t as if they tore it
lengthwise.  On the top half, you can still see Wufei’s face . . . and most of the trophy.”

Meiran shook her head a little.  “Thanks . . . it’s not the same though.  I took this picture the day Wufei won his first
tournament.”  She sighed and started picking her books up.

Trowa knelt, lending her a hand.  “But you kept the negatives, didn’t you?  You could get the picture redeveloped then.”

Meiran blinked up at him, then smiled.  She raised her hand to her forehead, letting out a breath.  “I never even thought of that.”  
She smiled, shaking her head.  “Thank you . . . Trowa, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”  He replied, rising to his feet with an armload of books and papers.

Meiran stood as well.  She kept a smile on her face as she pushed her books back into her locker, taking the things Trowa was
holding and shoving them in as well.  “I didn’t think the wrestling team would be so against me joining.  Mr. Merquise is holding
tryouts today after school . . . this isn’t going to stop me.”

“That’s good . . . you should never let a little bullying stop you from something you enjoy.”  Trowa smirked, then ducked his
head.

If Meiran meant to say anything more on the subject, she was silenced by an announcement over the speakers.  “Trowa Barton,
please report to the Nurse’s Office.”  The woman’s voice called out, then repeated the statement.

Meiran gave him a quizzical look.  “Why are you being called to the Nurse’s Office?”

Trowa frowned, his fingers clenching on the strap of his backpack.  “I . . . I have to go to get my medication.  I have . . . well .
. . a heart problem.”

Meiran’s curious expression changed to one of sadness.  “Oh . . . I do hope everything turns out all right.  Do you want me to
walk with you to the nurse?”

Trowa shook his head.  He knew that she meant well, but he didn’t want to be pitied.  “No . . . but thanks.”

He turned to leave, only to stop as a wave of dizziness suddenly crashed into him.  He blindly reached out to a wall to steady
himself but found nothing but air.  Trowa felt like he was falling . . . but he never hit the ground.  Instead, a warm pair of arms
surrounded him, keeping him from toppling over.  It was several long moments before he could focus on the face beside him,
on the gentle smile gracing a kind face.

“I think I’ll walk with you anyway.”  Meiran said, helping Trowa to lean back against the wall.  “But first, I think you should
take a few moments to reorient yourself.”

Trowa blushed slightly, yet nodded.  He knew that he’d need some time to gather himself.  These dizzy spells weren’t
uncommon, although they were quite annoying.

“So . . . how long have you been sick?”  Meiran asked, then shook her head.  “I’m sorry, it really isn’t any of my business.”

Trowa smiled.  Most people tried to avoid the topic of his illness.  No one had ever really asked him what was wrong with him .
. . people probably thought it was painful to talk about.  Sometimes though . . . sometimes he wanted to talk, to have someone
listen to him, someone to confide in.

“When I was younger, I had strep throat.  But my parents were having a tough time with work . . . Dad was out of work and
mom was working her ass off with part time jobs . . . we didn’t have any medical insurance.  So when I got sick, we couldn’t
afford to go to a doctor . . . we had to wait it through and see if I’d get better on my own.  I didn’t . . . I only got worse.”  He
sighed, closing his eyes.  “Finally, my parents did take me to a doctor . . . turned out a complication had set in with my strep
throat and I got rheumatic fever.”

Meiran kept silent, allowing Trowa to continue.

“A few years later, I started getting dizzy spells and shortness of breath when I exerted myself . . . I used to like sports.  My
sister took me to the hospital after I had passed out one day . . . Doctors told me there was a problem with my heart . . . it’s
called Aortic Stenosis . . . a problem with the aortic valve.  The doctors were amazed that it was progressing so quickly.  I
shouldn’t be this sick yet . . . now I have to take medication to prevent heart failure.  If I had insurance, or enough money . . . I
could get an operation that could correct it . . . but . . . I don’t.”

“Oh . . .”  Meiran said, looking at a loss for words.  “I wish I knew how to make you feel better, but I think that anything I
might say would only come off sounding like pity.  And I doubt you’d like that.”

“I definitely wouldn’t.”  Trowa nodded, smiling a little.  “I get enough pity from the teachers.”

Meiran smiled back at him, gently taking hold of his arm as another announcement was made calling Trowa to the Nurse’s
Office.  “Come on then, let’s get you to the nurse before they have a fit and send out a search party for you.”

“Thank you.”  Trowa said, sighing.  He was glad that Meiran didn’t immediately act as if he was about to keel over.  She just
walked beside him and talked to him.

It was nice to have someone to talk to that didn’t look at him as if he were a fragile piece of China that was on the verge of
falling from a shelf.  It felt good to have someone to talk to again . . . someone who wasn’t always around waiting on him like
Duo and Catherine were.  As much as he loved the two of them, they could get annoying at times . . . and having a friend who
didn’t know everything about him made him feel almost as if he were normal.

Trowa felt a true smile come to his lips . . . for the first time in a long time he was happy again.



To Be Continued . . .