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

Notes:  Quatre follows and confronts Duo.



Choices of the Heart



Part Twenty-Three


Quatre had kept as close an eye on Duo as he could for the rest of the school day.  There had never seemed to be a good
opportunity to privately confront Duo about what he had overheard and what he suspected.  And there was no way he would
embarrass Duo by asking Duo outright, or walking up to him in the middle of a crowded hallway to ask to talk to him in private.  
Duo didn't need the rumor mill talking about him behind his back.  There was enough gossip going on about Quatre that if he
openly talked with Duo outside of a class, it would probably spread out that Duo was screwing him or some other sordid trash
that had no basis in reality.

So Quatre bided his time until the end of the school day.  He was standing under a tree in the courtyard out front, watching as
Duo approached a tall brunette.  It looked like Trowa Barton.

Movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention and Quatre turned briefly, sighing as Rasid approached him.  He smiled
wanly at the large man, his concern for Duo still eating him up inside.

Rasid seemed to pick up on the blonde's mood.  "Is something troubling you?" he asked, casually picking up Quatre's backpack
as his eyes darted around the thinning crowd of departing students.

Quatre took a deep breath and glanced over to where Duo and Trowa were talking.  Then he decided to tell Rasid a little of the
truth.  Not everything, but enough to explain his intentions for the afternoon.  After all, there was no need for Rasid to know that
Quatre suspected Duo was the thief from last night.

"I'm ... I'm worried about Duo," he said softly, nodding his head in gesture to the youth in question.  "Would it be all right if we
followed him for a little while?"  He bit his lip, contemplating whether he should continue or not.  He didn't want to mention the
drug use, or that Duo had been the one that had broken into Quatre's home.  Rasid would think less of Duo, and Quatre didn't
want that.  "I think he's in trouble."

Rasid's eyes hardened a little at first, in obvious disapproval.  Then he softened his expression, shaking his head.  "I don't see
why we cannot follow him for a short while.  It would be better to confront him though, talk to him and see if he even wants
help."

Quatre nodded, not knowing what to say.  He did want to talk with Duo about this.  He knew he had to.  But not here, not in
front of Rasid.  They needed privacy.

"Where's Heero?"

Quatre gestured toward the school.  "He has practice today.  I'm glad, too, because I don't want him to get angry with Duo for
something I don't think Duo can control."  He ducked his head, embarrassed.  "I just ... want to get the story straight and let
Duo know he can come to me for anything."  He looked up, watching as Duo began to walk away.  "Now, if only I could get
him alone somewhere.  I disapprove of what I think he's been doing, but I respect him too much to talk to him about it in
public.  I mean ... what if I'm wrong?"

Rasid chuckled slightly.  "It's good to see how kind-hearted you are."

Quatre flushed at the compliment, then shook his head.  "If we're going to follow Duo, we'd better start now before he gets out
of sight."  He just really wanted to talk to his friend and reassure Duo that he wasn't even angry at him for the robbery last
night.  He was disappointed, yes, but he knew that sometimes people did foolish things when they were desperate.

They began walking, trailing the long-haired youth at a fair distance.  Rasid set the pace, but Quatre found he could easily keep
up with it.  After a short while, he did get tired and short of breath, but Duo kept stopping so that helped the blonde keep going.

Following Duo gave Quatre a little bit more insight into the kind of person that Duo was.  The brunette stopped several times
along the way to wherever he was going.  Once, to help an elderly woman regain her precarious hold on a bag of groceries,
even going so far as to carry it to her doorstep for her.  And another time, he just stopped to play a game with two children who
looked as if they called the nearest refrigerator box their home.  They knew him by name, so Quatre guessed this was something
Duo did often.

It was difficult to reconcile this part of Duo's personality with the drug addict and suspected thief.  However, Duo's actions
along his path only solidified Quatre's resolve.  Duo was obviously a good person who was probably just going through a
difficult time.  If Quatre offered help, maybe he'd take it and still want to be friends.  Quatre could only hope so.  He liked Duo
too much to lose him.

Quatre knew Duo had reached his destination when Duo stopped in front of a pizza place.  He recognized the name from the box
Duo had brought with him that first night after he had been attacked.  This was where Duo worked.

Duo stood there outside the restaurant, closing his eyes.  He took a deep breath, then shook his head.  An instant later, he opened
his eyes and smiled.  It was an act, one that Quatre could see right through, just as he saw that the bounce to his step was
forced as he practically bounded into the pizza parlor.

Steeling his resolve, Quatre followed with Rasid close behind him.  He pulled open the door and entered, catching the last of
Duo's words as he entered the establishment.

"...so I'm fine.  I'll just stay in the back and put the dough into pans so they can rise tonight.  I'll even cut the day short, but I
can't afford to skip out on the whole night.  I need the money.  Okay?"  Duo was deftly stuffing his long braid into a hair net.

The elder gentleman - who was most likely his boss - looked far from happy.  Worry was clearly written on every line of his
face.  Worry for Duo, not for how the customers would react to him.

Quatre swallowed and took a breath, unable to stop from trembling as he opened his mouth.  "Duo?  I need to speak with you
privately for a few minutes ... please?"


*****


Duo felt a wave of dread flow through him as he paused outside Howard's place.  Howard was a cool guy and might even pay
him for the day even if Duo didn't work.  But there was no way Duo was going to make Howard pay him without earning each
and every penny.  So he took a deep breath and put on a smiling face as he forced himself to act happy.  He bounced in with
what he hoped was his usual energy and called out.  "Heya, Howard!  What’s up?"

Howard blinked as Duo walked toward him, and then frowned in concern.  "Kid, you should go back home and lie down.  You
don't look too good."

Duo waved his hand as if to brush Howard's concerns aside.  "I had myself checked over at the hospital and I was cleared, so
I'm just fine.  I'll just stay in the back and put the dough into pans so they can rise tonight.  I'll even cut the day short, but I can't
afford to skip out on the whole night.  I need the money.  Okay?"  He pulled a hairnet out of the box of hairnets under the
counter and started the task of getting all his hair into it.

"Duo?  I need to speak with you privately for a few minutes ... please?"

Duo froze at that gentle voice and slowly turned.  'Oh shit!'  He swallowed nervously when he saw Quatre standing there.  The
fact that he could also see Rasid made him even more nervous.  That guy just didn't portray anything but intimidation in his
presence.  Still, Quatre looked so earnest that Duo couldn't refuse.  "Umm, sure.  Howard, I don't suppose we could use your
office for a bit?"

Howard simply motioned at him to go ahead before turning to Quatre.  "See if you can talk him into going home.  Even a half
day is too much.  Kid looks like something a cat won't even drag in."  He shook his head, sparing Duo a brief glance.  "He's been
through enough these past few days and deserves a few days of rest."  With that said, he walked away, grumbling about long-
haired idiots who never did as they were told.

Duo gave Quatre a shaky smile as the blonde asked Rasid to wait for him outside.  When he had Quatre's attention again, he
gestured toward the office.  "Umm, right over here.  It's not big, but we can talk in private."  He turned and led the way,
wincing as he heard the definite click of the door closing behind him.

Quatre walked over, moving so that Duo was forced to look at him.  He leaned on the desk, sighing.  "Duo, you know you can
come to me about anything, right?  Friends ... friends help each other in times of need, don't they?"

Duo swallowed, his heart thumping in his chest.  "I guess so," he mumbled.  "I mean ... I don't really have all that much
experience in that area."

The blonde made a soft sound of acknowledgement, as if accepting that reply.  "And friends wouldn't lie to other friends, would
they?"

A ball of ice dropped into his stomach, chilling him to the bone.  "No."

Quatre was quiet for a moment.  "Duo ... I'm going to ask you a few questions and if your answer is no, then I'll never ask
again."

Duo swallowed and nodded.  "Okay."

There was a pause before Quatre cleared his throat.  "Are you taking drugs?"

Duo was almost relieved at the question, even though he knew that his answer would only disgust Quatre.  He didn‘t have the
will to deny it.  "Yes," he answered simply.  He looked up when Quatre's hand touched his arm.  There was such sympathy in
those beautiful eyes that Duo nearly wept.

Quatre smiled warmly.  "I'll help you as much as I can, Duo.  But there is one more thing I have to ask.  I swear, if your answer
is yes, then it will never be uttered by me outside of this room."

Duo felt he knew what was coming and his heart was hammering in his chest.  "O-Okay."  He was shaking.  He couldn't stop
himself.  Sweat was steadily trickling down the sides of his face, dampening his forehead.  He couldn't remember ever being so
nervous about anything before in his life.  Quatre would hate him now.  He was certain of it.

Looking deeply into Duo's eyes, Quatre spoke.  "Are you the thief who broke into my home last night?"

This was it.  Life was over as he knew it.  Quatre would hate him.  He'd push Duo away and leave and never want to have
anything to do with him again.  He'd run off and tell Heero or Rasid ... maybe even Trowa.  Then they'd all hate him and he'd
have to leave again.  He'd have nothing.

Tears welled in his eyes, spilling forth despite his efforts to hold them back.  He could only manage a sickly nod before a
welcoming darkness engulfed him, the brief sensation of falling as Quatre screamed his name in a voice that seemed to fade into
the oblivion that overwhelmed Duo.



To Be Continued ...