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

Notes:  Wrestling tryouts are held.



Choices of the Heart



Part Twenty-One


Duo stumbled into the first restroom he came across.  Entering one of the stalls, he locked the door just seconds before he
turned and threw up in the toilet.  He was sickened by the depraved act he had committed with Dorothy.  How could he have
done that?  He couldn’t believe he had actually gone through with it.  And what made it all the worse was the fact that the only
reason he had been able to perform was because he had pretended it was Quatre below him.  That thought only caused him to
throw up again.  Quatre had been through enough.  He didn’t deserve harsh treatment from anyone, especially not from
someone as worthless and filthy as Duo was.

He set his forehead on the edge of the toilet seat after flushing and started to sob.  ‘Maybe I should just become a whore now.  I
hear they make good money, and then I could get enough for Trowa’s operation quicker.’  He sniffled and forced himself to
stand up.  ‘I can’t face Quatre now.  I just can’t.  He deserves better than to have someone like me dirtying up his life.’

He looked down at the huge pill bottle still clenched in his fist and scowled at it.  ‘No more.  This is the last bottle.  I can’t do
this anymore.  I’ve done some pretty crappy things before to get this stuff, but I will NOT become a whore for them.’  And he
knew, from Relena and Dorothy’s reactions, that the two girls wouldn’t take cash from him anymore.  He’d just have to ration
them, get himself off of them gradually.  He just hoped he could do it.


*****


Trowa waited for Duo on the steps outside the school as patiently as he could.  But he was growing concerned for his friend.  
School had just ended for the day and it wasn’t like Duo to be late for their walk home.  Duo always fretted about making
Trowa wait around, as if Trowa would collapse if he wasn’t home by a certain time every day.  As much as he loved Duo, it
was sometimes aggravating to deal with his overprotective nature.

Trowa’s worry for Duo grew when Duo finally appeared.  Duo was pale and his face held traces of tear tracks and his eyes
were bloodshot.  Combined with the numerous bruises, it made him look like hell.  “Duo, are you all right?”  Duo looked ill,
which alarmed Trowa.  “Maybe coming to school was a bad idea.  You look sick.  Maybe you should stay home tonight.  I’m
sure your boss would understand.”

Duo shook his head.  “No, Trowa . . . Cathy needs the money.  At least school is out for the day now.  You ready for the walk
home?”  He rubbed his hand across his already reddened eyes.

Trowa felt horribly guilty, but shook his head negatively.  “I was going to stick around a while and watch the wrestling tryouts.”

Duo blinked for a moment in obvious shock.  “Wrestling tryouts?  Tro . . . I thought you hated going to tryouts or even
watching games because you aren’t allowed to participate.”

Trowa smiled in gratitude.  Catherine had once told him that he couldn’t go to tryouts because he couldn’t play anymore, which
had made Trowa feel worse about the whole thing.  While he still felt bad about not being able to join in, he understood that Duo
was concerned about his emotional well-being, just as Catherine had been.  “Well, a friend is going for the team.”

Duo looked confused.  “Who?  Not that I’m complaining about you having friends, but . . .”

Trowa shook his head with a light chuckle.  “It was Meiran . . . you remember that girl we were introduced to by your friend
Quatre a couple days ago.  I met up with her on my way to the nurse’s office for my meds.  She’s been getting hassled by
some people for her decision to tryout.  I thought she could use a cheering section for a change.”

Duo grinned, looking a little like his old self.  “You’re going to cheer for Meiran?  Cool!  If I didn’t have to work, I’d go too.”

Trowa nodded, but then frowned a little as he observed Duo.  He still looked weary.  “If you’re not up to walking home by
yourself . . .”

“I’m fine, Trowa,” Duo argued, waving his hand dismissively.

Trowa wasn’t sure.  “Duo, I don’t think . . .”

Duo sighed in obvious irritation.  “Listen, I’ll ask if I can take a half day at work and get home earlier.  Howard will understand
and it’ll look better that I went in even though I feel like crap.”  Then he smiled kindly.  “You go on and cheer for Meiran and
congratulate her for me when she gets on the team.”

Trowa smiled.  It comforted him that Duo would try to not work the whole night.  It also delighted him that Duo wasn’t going
to try and talk him out of staying behind at school.  “You’re the best, Duo.”

Duo’s face fell a little before a smile was firmly in place.  “I’ll tell Catherine where you are.  She’s still going to worry, but at
least she’ll know why you aren’t home.”

Trowa wanted to tell Duo to drop the act, but bit his tongue to keep the peace.  The last thing he wanted was to make Duo
uncomfortable.  “You take care of yourself.”

Duo’s smile became more genuine.  “You too.  Later, Trowa!”  Then he was heading for the gate.

Trowa turned and walked back into the school.  There was still a little while before tryouts started and Trowa didn’t want to
rush and cause an episode.  He paused a moment when he heard raucous laughter from some jocks.  He ducked out of sight, not
wanting any trouble.  He was often seen as a prime target for tormenting, regardless of his frail health.  In all probability that
made it all the better for them.  After all, it wasn’t as if Trowa could fight back.

“That will show that bitch!  Girls belong in home ec.  Although it’s sexy as hell, they DON’T belong wrestling unless it involves
mud or some other substance that makes them all dirty.”  There was more laughter.  “Maybe after the tryouts, we’ll go to the
roof and untie her.  That is, if we don’t forget.”

Trowa waited until the laughter faded as the boys walked away.  He was shaking in anger, forcing himself to take deep breaths
to calm himself.  Trowa knew that those jocks had been talking about Meiran.  She was the only girl trying out for the wrestling
team as far as he knew.  In all probability, they were the same idiots who had trashed her locker earlier that day.  It sickened
Trowa to know that those close-minded idiots had done something to his friend.

Taking one more deep breath, or as deep a one as he could actually manage without having a coughing fit, he decided he’d just
have to help Meiran himself.  That thought left him sighing.  It was well-known that there was only one way to access the roof,
by use of the stairs.  Trowa didn’t deal well with stairs.  But, there was no other way, so feeling a mix of worry and
determination Trowa set off down the hallway.  He found the door just as he had expected it to be, unlocked.  The lock on the
door had been broken years ago, but the maintenance worker was just too busy with other things to get around to fixing it.  He'd
probably forgotten about it by now anyway.

He didn’t even make it halfway up before he had to stop.  He leaned heavily against the wall, perspiration running along his body
and soaking into his clothing.  He stood there, shaking and wheezing, struggling to stay calm though his mind and body
screamed at him to stop.  He waited until he could breathe more easily before he continued.  He just hoped he wouldn’t drop
dead right here on the steps.  The thought brought a dark chuckle to Trowa’s throat.  His death would probably remind the
maintenance man to fix that lock.

Trowa shook away those morbid thoughts as he finally reached the top of the stairs.  His hand was slick with sweat as he
grabbed the doorknob and unsuccessfully tried to turn it.  Wheezing and attempting valiantly to regain his breath, he wiped his
palm off on his shirt and tried again.  It turned and Trowa pushed the door open, stumbling his way out onto the roof.  He
dropped his backpack and his eyes widened at the sight of his new friend.

Meiran was tied to the flagpole.  Two strips of duct tape sealed her mouth shut, stopping her from making anything more than
loud moans and whimpers.  But what really caught Trowa’s attention was her state of dress.  Her clothing was gone.  All that
she wore was her socks, bra and panties.  The rest of her clothes lay in a heap on the rooftop not too far away from where she
was restrained.  Trowa probably would have blushed, if he weren’t flushed from the exertion of walking up all those stairs.

She saw him and made a noise that almost sounded like his name.  Trowa snapped to his senses and staggered toward her.  
“This . . . is probably . . . going to hurt,” he struggled to say as he grasped the edge of the tape covering her mouth.  He ripped
it off, hearing only a whimper from the young Asian girl as the tape was torn clear of her face.  “Are you okay?”

Meiran shook her head as Trowa moved around to work at untying her wrists.  “You shouldn’t have come up here, Trowa,” she
said, her tone full of worry.  “You can’t strain yourself like this.”

Trowa shook his head.  He was awed and deeply touched that she was thinking about his health first.  Not many people cared
enough to worry about him besides teachers and Catherine and Duo.  “They were . . . talking about leaving you up here . . . all
night,” he said as he kept working at untying her.  “I couldn’t . . . let that happen.”

Meiran still sounded deeply worried.  “But your health!  If you’ve hurt yourself, I’ll never be able to forgive myself!”

Trowa swallowed and gave Meiran a small smile as the cording that had been binding her fell away.  “Thanks.  I should be all
right, though.”  He wasn’t telling the truth, but he didn’t want her to worry even more.  He honestly didn’t know if he’d be all
right after this.  Even though his breathing had become much easier already.  At least he could talk properly now.

Meiran covered herself as best as she could with her arms once she was free.  She turned to face Trowa, a blush on her cheeks
even as she spoke.  “Listen, you should at least sit down while I’m getting dressed.  After that, I’m going to take you to the
nurse.”

Trowa shook his head.  “No, Meiran.  You’ll go to the tryouts first.  If you don’t show up, the guys who did this to you will
think they can do anything they want to.”

“But . . .”  Meiran didn’t look happy as she started pulling her clothes on.  It was just a pair of sweats and an old T-shirt, but it
was appropriate for the tryouts.

Trowa smiled.  “It if makes you feel better, you can take me after the tryouts.  But I should be fine.  My main concern was
making sure that you weren’t hurt.  I’ll just sit on the bleachers and silently cheer you on.”

Meiran sighed.  “All right, but if I, even for a moment, think you’re feeling the ill-effects of your climb, I’m taking you out of
there.”

Trowa nodded.  “Fine,” he agreed.  He looked at his watch, relieved to see there was still over a half an hour left before tryouts
began.

Meiran grasped his wrist, covering his watch with her hand as she lowered his arm.  “We’ll sit here until you’re ready.  I can be
a couple minutes late if it means you’re really ready to head back down.  You can argue all you want, but it won’t change
anything.”  She smiled, delicately reaching up to brush his sweaty hair back.  “The health of my friends is far more important to
me than a spot on the wrestling team.”

This time, Trowa did manage a blush, almost forgetting to breathe when Meiran’s soft fingers stroked a delicate line along
Trowa’s heated face.  He was awed by her, overcome by the mere idea that someone other than Duo or Catherine cared about
him.  “T-Thank you,” he croaked, feeling ashamed as a single burning tear escaped his eye.

Meiran caught it with her fingertip and she gently swept it away.  All the while, she merely smiled.  “No.  Thank you, Trowa,
for putting yourself through all of this just to make sure I was okay.”  She caressed his face lightly, brushing her thumb against
his cheek.  “You just sit back and relax now.  No more talking.  Just try and catch your breath.”

Trowa smiled and nodded.  He allowed his eyes to fall shut and leaned back against the flagpole.  Her hand stayed on his cheek
the entire time, soothing away his distress with just her presence.  Her other hand touched his and he flinched.  Trowa calmed
himself quickly though, knowing she only meant to help and returned the tender contact, softly curling his fingers around hers.

They stayed that way for several minutes, sitting in companionable silence.  Only when Trowa was breathing normally did he
open his eyes and offer Meiran a shaky smile.  “I feel okay now,” he said, slowly taking his hand from Meiran’s grasp.  “We
can head back down now.”

“You’re sure?”  Meiran asked cautiously, meeting Trowa’s gaze with a concerned scrutiny.

Trowa nodded, pushing himself to his feet.  “Yeah.  I can breathe now and my heart isn’t racing a mile a minute.”

Meiran stood, watching Trowa warily.  “Okay, if you’re certain.”

Trowa didn’t feel the need to repeat himself.  So, he simply headed for the door.  He picked up his bag from where he had
dropped it earlier, then opened the door and turned to see Meiran rush to catch up with him.  “Come on.”  He let the corners of
his mouth curl upwards.  “Going downstairs is always easier than coming up.”


*****


As they descended the stairs, Meiran kept a careful watch on her newly acquired friend.  She was worried about him.  But then,
that probably wasn’t a new thing for him.  Tons of people had to be worried about him.  The last thing he needed was another
person bugging him about how he felt and what he should or shouldn’t be doing in his condition.

She got him to stop and take a break about halfway down, not wanting to stress his body any more.  They sat for a few minutes
and Meiran engaged him in a conversation, knowing that it would be better to keep the both of them distracted from the topic of
Trowa’s poor health.  When she was certain that he was ready to continue, she stood and helped Trowa up.  Casually, she
pulled his backpack away from him and slung it over her own shoulder, offering nothing more than a smile as she clapped him
on the back and resumed her descent.

Trowa didn’t argue and soon enough they had made it back down the stairs.  She checked her watch, a smile breaking out on
her face when she saw that she still had plenty of time to get to the gym.  “Come on, I can’t wait to see those jerks’ faces when
I walk in.”

Trowa smiled back and nodded.  “Neither can I.”  He didn’t say anything more as they approached the gym.

Meiran was still concerned about Trowa, but kept it from showing on her face as they entered the gym.  She needed to show
those jerks that they didn’t intimidate her.  After all, only cowards needed to gang up on someone to ensure victory.  That
thought, in and of itself, gave her strength.  To know that she frightened them so much that they went to such an extreme to
avoid facing her, gave her the courage to walk in here.  That, and Trowa’s presence, the fact that he had risked his own health
to help her.

The group of them were laughing about something as she walked in, but the laughter died as she approached.  One or two had
the good sense to look worried.  The leader of the jocks sneered at her as she set Trowa’s backpack down by the bleachers.  
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Wufei there seated amongst the others who had come to watch the tryouts, but gave her
attention to the boys stalking over to her.

“What are you doing here?  I thought we made ourselves clear earlier,” the leader of the jocks said.

Meiran started to pull her hair back, easily securing it into a short ponytail with an elastic band she’d had around her wrist.  “You
did.  You made it perfectly clear that you are a bunch of cowards who didn’t have the guts to face me fairly.  You chose to
destroy my property and harass me in hopes that I would back down.”  She fixed the boy in front of her with a level gaze.  
“And believe me when I say that I will be going to the principal about this.”  She hated the idea of being labeled a snitch, but she
wouldn’t have her dignity suffer over the likes of these brutes.

The jock snorted.  “Like he’d believe you over me.  You should have stayed where we put you, little girl.  It would have taught
you a lesson in humility to stay tied up to that flagpole and be found by the janitor in your underwear.”

Meiran fought to keep the smile from her face, as she had seen the coach approaching.  Now, the tall blonde was right behind
the ringleader of the group and had undoubtedly heard everything that had been said.  “Excuse me, but what is all this about, Mr.
Perkins?  Why would the janitor find this young lady tied to a flagpole in her underwear?”

The jock and his lackeys spun, wide-eyed with shock.  He spluttered for a moment, caught between denial and trying to pass off
his actions as a prank.

The coach’s eyes narrowed quite a bit.  He gazed at the cluster of jocks through ice blue eyes.  “I take it from the looks on your
faces that you were all in on this.”  He shook his head sadly.  “It saddens me to do this, but you are all banned from tryouts and
I will be reporting your actions to the principal.  This school does not take kindly to sexual harassment.  Pick up your gear and
get out of this gym.”

“But sir . . .” one of the jocks started, only to be stopped by Mr. Peacecraft’s cold glare.

“No buts, Mr. Perkins.  This may be a wrestling team, but violence or cruelty toward others is not something I tolerate.  Leave
now.”  Mr. Peacecraft then turned to Meiran, looking at her cautiously.  “Are you all right, Miss Ling?  Do you need to go to the
nurse?”

“No, sir.  I’m fine sir.”  Meiran sat, smiling brightly as the jocks grudgingly left the gym.  Even if they were giving her dirty
looks, she didn’t think she had ever been happier.  They couldn’t stop her from trying out now.

“Okay.  Have a seat on the bleachers with everyone else.  The section on the left is for the students trying out.  We still have a
few minutes before tryouts begin.”  Mr. Peacecraft said, then turned and walked away, making sure that everything was set up.

“What was all that about?”  Wufei’s familiar voice called.

Meiran turned, still smiling as she found Wufei had descended the bleachers.  “Oh, nothing.  A few of the boys didn’t want me
trying out and tried to sabotage me.  But things are okay now.  Go on and sit down.”

“Okay,” Wufei said, though he looked hardly convinced that she was okay.  “Good luck.”

Meiran watched for a moment as Wufei climbed up the bleachers and took his seat.  Then she ran her eyes over the gathered
crowd, her smile widening as she found Trowa.  He hadn’t gone far.  He was sitting on the second level.  She waved to him,
then turned and sat with the other students who were trying out along with her.  She sat there tapping her feet, drumming her
fingers on the seat on either side of her, impatiently waiting for tryouts to begin.


*****


Trowa sat there on the bleachers, waiting and watching.  Tryouts had begun almost an hour ago and things were just now
starting to wind down.  There had been a lot of people wanting a place on the team.  Meiran was the only girl among them
though.  Still, she had to be one of the best ones out there.  She hadn’t lost even one of her practice matches.

He felt glad that Mr. Peacecraft allowed spectators to come watch and cheer on the people trying out.  Trowa hadn’t enjoyed
watching any type of sport in so long.  To actually know someone on a team, or a potential member, to be able to watch without
feeling an ache of remorse, left him feeling more normal.

Mr. Peacecraft circled the mat where Meiran and some other boy were currently practicing, critically watching each and every
move they made.  Trowa didn’t know the boy’s name, nor did he care to know.  He was only watching Meiran anyway.  She
easily slipped out of the hold the boy had tried on her.  She was graceful and fast, pinning the boy with apparent ease.  Trowa
clapped along with the other students watching as Mr. Peacecraft declared Meiran the winner of the match.

“Okay, I think that’s enough,” Mr. Peacecraft announced, waving his arm in a gathering gesture.  “I’ll post my decision in ten
minutes.”  With that, he turned and walked away, probably heading to his office.

It was well known that Mr. Peacecraft chose his team the same day as tryouts.  He didn’t like fretting over decisions, knowing
who was good enough, or would be good enough with practice, the moment he saw their moves.  In a few moments, he’d
come back with a freshly printed page of paper, listing the new members of the school’s wrestling team.  Trowa could hardly
wait to see Meiran’s name among the others.


*****


Meiran could barely contain her excitement as she waited with the others.  Several people that were also trying out had
expressed their hope for her.  They had seemed sincere and she had thanked them, wishing them good luck as well.

Her heart skipped a beat as Mr. Peacecraft returned, the innocent-looking sheet of paper held in one hand.  Well, there it was.  
That simple piece of paper could crush her hopes or bring about great joy.  Once she read it, she’d know for certain whether
she was good enough for the team.

“Thank you all for coming,” Mr. Peacecraft said.  “You all did very well.  The results will be posted on the board.  For those of
you who made the team, congratulations.  The first practice will be held here tomorrow after school.”  Nothing more needed to
be said, so nothing further was said.  He simply went to the board that was set on the wall near the door and pinned the list up.

As soon as the tall blonde stepped aside, the students practically swarmed the board, Meiran included.  She rushed over, pushing
her way through the crowd of eager students until she was at the front.  Her heart racing in excitement, she ran her finger down
the list, searching out her own name.  She bit her bottom lip, hoping, praying that she’d find it.

Michael Barrister, Joe Simmons, Peter McKinsey . . . Meiran Ling.  There were other names after hers, but she didn’t see them.  
Her finger stilled on the paper, her eyes widening as the breath caught in her throat.  She’d done it.  She had actually done it.  A
hand clapped on her back, a voice congratulating her, and she snapped to her senses, giving off an ecstatic yell as she spun and
made her way back through the crowd.

She ran to the bleachers, certain that her smile would split her face apart.  Wufei and Trowa both got up from their seats and
began moving toward her.

“I did it!” she exclaimed, grabbing the first person to reach her side, Trowa, and hugging him enthusiastically, bouncing with her
delight.

Trowa held her in return, his laughter in her ear.  “That’s wonderful,” he said, patting her gently on the back.

It was then that a hand grasped her arm and roughly pulled her away from the tall teenager.  She found herself facing a
noticeably angry Wufei.

“I am happy that you succeeded,” Wufei said curtly, then turned to cast a harsh and cold glare at Trowa.  “But who is this and
why did you hug him?”

This was the last thing Meiran needed to hear.  Why did he have to tarnish this moment with his jealousy?  Ever since they had
started dating, Wufei had gotten overly possessive and this was the last straw.  She just couldn’t take his arrogant attitude
anymore.  Not when today was supposed to be a happy day.  He had effectively ruined the moment for her and it just pissed her
off.

“Wufei, I do not need this right now,” Meiran growled, pulling her arm away from Wufei’s grasp.  “I am so sick and tired of
you trying to run my life.  I have friends.  MALE friends that I enjoy hanging around with.  And your constant sniping is getting
on my nerves.  You put me down when I told you I wanted to join the team.  You get an attitude whenever I talk with other
boys.  I’m sick of your jealousy and your chauvinistic views on how women should behave and I just don’t want to deal with it
anymore.  When you grow up, call me.”  She sighed, feeling tired as she gave her attention to Trowa.  “Come on, Trowa.  I’ll
walk you home.”

“Yeah . . . okay,” Trowa spoke quietly.

Leaving Wufei to think about what she’d said, Meiran walked over to the bleachers and picked up Trowa’s bag.  Then she left
with Trowa, hoping that Wufei would realize how much she really did want them to be together.



To Be Continued . . .