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

Notes:  Quatre makes a decision.  Heero gets pissed off.



Choices of the Heart



Part Twenty-Four



Quatre cried out in alarm as Duo collapsed to the floor.  He hadn't meant to put so much stress on his friend, but he had needed
to know the truth.  He was disappointed in Duo, but he knew that he would have to hear Duo out before he made any judgment
calls.  People in desperate situations tended to throw common sense out the window and everything that had been stolen could
easily be replaced.

He looked up as the door flew open to see both Rasid and the old man that Duo had called Howard standing there.  "Rasid ...
help him!  We need to get him to a doctor." Quatre looked down at Duo, his own hands shaking with nervousness.  He didn't
want anything to happen to Duo.  Duo was his friend, one of his very few friends left.  Most of the others had all but abandoned
him since the attack.  Only Duo, Wufei and Meiran had bothered to contact him, to inquire about his health and even help out
when he needed it.  No one besides them and his family members showed such concern.

Duo mumbled a little as Rasid picked him up and settled him in a nearby chair.  "No hospitals.  No doctors."

Quatre blinked and looked to Rasid for help, but the taller man simply shrugged and returned his attention to Duo.  Rasid set one
large hand on Duo's cheek, tilting the teenager's chin up and frowning when a flow of blood quickly met his skin.  He shifted
Duo's hair aside with his free hand, exposing a jagged cut to the youth's forehead, just above his left eyebrow.

"We'd better take him home," Rasid stated.  "Perhaps his family can convince him to seek medical attention."

Duo sluggishly pushed Rasid's hands away and tried to get up, only to collapse into the seat again.  He shook his head, obviously
trying to regain his composure.  He still looked exhausted, but at least he was coherent now.  "No.  Cathy has her hands full.  
Trowa ... she's gotta take care of him.  Not me.  I'm not worth the trouble."  He tried to get up again, this time succeeding in his
efforts.  He shoved past Quatre and staggered toward the door, where Howard stopped him with a single hand to his shoulder.

"Kid, you need help.  You're hurt and you're hurting yourself even more by keeping up this brave front."  He ran his hand along
Duo's face, catching the brunette's tears with his thumb.  "Let someone help you."

Duo's knees buckled, his legs giving way beneath him.  He reached up, throwing his arms at Howard, if only to clasp onto
something and collapsed against him, his choked sobs making Quatre's heart ache in sympathy.  "God, Howard ... I can't take
this any more.  I'm so tired," the brunette whimpered, pressing his nose to the older man's boldly-colored shirt.

Howard's voice was full of warmth and understanding.  "I know, kid," he said, his arms running up and down along Duo's slim
back.  "You've been taking so much onto your shoulders.  It was only a matter of time before you started to feel the strain.  You
go on with your friend."

Quatre walked forward and placed a hand on Duo's shoulder.  "Duo ... please let me help you.  You're my friend and I hate to
see you hurting like this."  He bit back a gasp when Duo turned to him.  Disbelief was written all over his face.  "I mean that."

Duo whimpered and closed his eyes, slumping more heavily against Howard.  "You have no idea how much of a relief that is."

Quatre smiled kindly.  There would be time enough for them to have a heart-to-heart later.  "Come on.  You will always be
welcome in my home."

Howard looked down at the youth with a sad frown.  "Kid runs himself ragged.  If I knew why, then maybe I could find a way
to help him."  He turned his attention to Quatre, even as he ran one hand up and down along Duo's back.  "Look after him and
try to help him.  He's so proud and stubborn ... and such a low sense of self-worth.  Kid doesn't even realize that every man and
woman working here would gladly give their right arms to help him out of a jam."

Rasid came forward and took Duo into his arms, lifting him easily from the ground.  Duo was limp in the large man's arms,
clearly unconscious.  Quatre had to wonder how long it had been since Duo had last had a sound sleep if it was so easy for him
to pass out like this.

"Rasid, perhaps we'd better go.  Duo will probably rest better in a comfortable bed."  He turned to Howard and held out a hand.  
"Thank you, sir, for your use of this room and for your kindness toward my friend."

Howard waved that away with a smile.  "That kid's like a son to me.  If I knew what he needed, I'd help him in a heartbeat.  
Kid's too damn selfless for his own good."

Yes, from what Quatre had seen of Duo and his behavior, he knew that was the case.  It was true that Duo had stolen from him
and his family, but Quatre truly felt that Duo felt that he had no other options left open to him.

"I'll do what I can.  But I can only do so much if he won't let me help him."  He turned to Rasid, who was frowning worriedly at
Duo.  "We'd better get home."

With that said, he left the store, Rasid trailing close behind him.


*****


Trowa blinked his eyes open at the feeling of someone gently shaking him.  "Hm?  Meiran?  What's going on?"

Meiran blushed a little.  "Catherine invited me to stay for dinner.  It's just about done and I thought I'd come and wake you up."

Trowa groaned and sat up.  “Thanks.”  He got to his feet and put on a robe before he walked into the kitchen where his place at
the table was already set.  “So, what's for dinner?”

Catherine started serving.  “Chicken and rice with steamed broccoli.”  She'd just finished when the phone rang.  “I'll get that.  
You two start without me.”  She walked over and picked up the phone as Meiran sat down and they started eating.  “Hello?”  
Her pleasant smile turned into a bewildered expression.  “Yes, I'm Catherine Bloom.  Who is this?”  Her eyes lit up and she
smiled again.  “Oh, hello, Mr. Winner.  Duo's told me a lot about your son.  How is he doing?  If you're calling to talk to Duo,
I'm sorry to say he's at work.”

Trowa looked over in concern.  He'd met Quatre once at lunch, but he seemed really nice.

“What?”  Catherine frowned, her face showing more confusion and concern.  “But why do you ...”  Her face suddenly went
pale.  “I-I didn't know.  Oh, my God, is he all right?”

Those words brought true fear into Trowa's heart.  He loved Duo like a brother and the thought of something happening to that
cheerful person hurt worse than the heart condition that was slowly killing him.  “Cathy?”

“Oh!  Excuse me!”  Catherine cleared her throat and placed her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone.  “Duo's safe, Trowa.  
I'll tell you later.  It's a family matter.  Don't worry, he hasn't been attacked again.”  She turned her attention back to the phone.  
“Okay ... yes ... thank you so much for letting me know.”  She sighed and shook her head.  “I have no idea.”  Then she smiled.  
“All right.  Thank you again.  Goodbye.”  She took a deep breath as she gently set the phone down.  “Meiran, I don't mean to be
rude, but-”

Meiran herself was pale was worry, half of her dinner still on the plate in front of her.  “Is Duo alright?”

Catherine sat down and rubbed her head.  “He will be.  I hope.  I'm terribly sorry.”

Smiling, Meiran gathered up her books and shook her head.  “No, I understand.  I'm not really all that hungry right now
anyway.  Besides, I understand what it's like to get bad news about family.”

Trowa looked on as his sister got up again and bustled around in the kitchen.  In a moment she returned with a plastic
container.  “Here, no sense in letting this food go to waste.”  She quickly dished the rest of Meiran's food into the container,
sealed it with a lid and handed it over to her.  “Thank you, again, for seeing Trowa home safely.”

The Chinese girl accepted the container.  “It was nothing compared to the assistance he game me.”  She turned to Trowa.  “I'll
see you in school.”

He didn't really hear her, but he waved anyway.  “See you.”

Once Meiran was gone, Catherine took a huge breath.  “Duo is at Quatre's house.  He's safe, which is the important thing.”

Trowa nodded.  “What's wrong?”

Catherine choked a little.  “Duo's been ... taking drugs.”  Her eyes took on an anguished expression.  “I knew he was taking a lot
on himself with that job and helping me and keeping his grades up, but I never once thought-”  She wiped at her eyes.  “I feel
like I should have noticed something.”

Trowa felt as if the floor had been yanked out from under his chair.  “Duo?  No way.  No.  He always seemed to have it
together.”  He didn't want to believe that his friend was taking drugs.  But little by little, it began to make sense.  There were
something things that had always seemed a little off.  Nothing huge, but maybe they were signs that's he'd never thought to
investigate.  “What's going to happen to him?”

His sister knelt in front of his chair and set her hands on his knees.  “Quatre and his father is going to see to it that he gets the
help he needs.  That's the important thing.  He's going to get help.”

While Trowa had to admit the truth of his sister's statement, it didn't negate the fact that he felt almost betrayed.  Why hadn't
Duo come to them?  Didn't he know that they cared about him?  No, that they loved him just as if he was their brother?  Trowa
would have done anything to have been the one to help.  Was he that useless?  More than ever, he hated his condition.  If only
he had been stronger, healthier, he would have been there when his best friend needed him.

Catherine seemed to see his distress and placed a hand on his arm.  "I know.  I wish he had come to us, too.  All we can do
right now is wait and support him when he comes home.  I didn't know this about Duo, but I do know that he's going to expect
us to turn our backs on him.  We'll prove him wrong.  We'll teach him that there are people out there who will love and accept
him even when he makes a colossal mistake.  Right?"

Trowa smiled a little at her.  He couldn't help but feel better listening to his sister's words ... which made a lot of sense.  "Right.  
If I see Quatre in school, I'll make sure he knows to tell Duo that we're here for him if he needs us, just like he's always there
for us."  He sat there and nodded, if only to himself.  There was nothing more to be said.  He only hoped that Duo would accept
the help offered to him.



*****



Practice had been quite productive as far as Heero was concerned as he walked to the door of his house.  All in all it had been a
good day.  Then he opened the door and walked in to the sound of someone vomiting.  He looked around and was surprised that
his father was home so early.  "What's going on?"

Although the question was asked at large, Quatre was the one who came in and answered, though he hadn't been in the room to
hear the question.  "Oh!  Heero!  Welcome home!  Uhm ... Duo's here and he's not feeling too well."  Over to the side where
their father was on the phone, Rasid snorted lightly.  In response, Quatre sighed.  "Duo ... Duo has a problem and father agreed
to see to it that he gets help."  He looked so lost for a moment before shaking his head.  "He's been so nice to me and he needs
help."

Heero narrowed his eyes.  "What kind of problem?"

Quatre bit his lip a moment as if he didn't want to answer before letting out a breath.  "He's been ... he's been taking drugs."

He waited for the moment for Quatre to tell him he was joking, even though Heero knew it would never come.  Anger started to
stir within his heart.  Something about Duo had pretty much always rubbed him the wrong way.  "So ... we have a drug addict
in our house?  Why?  I want him out and I want you to not have anything to do with him ever again."

Their father approached.  "Heero, whether Duo leaves or stays is not up to you.  Nor is it up to you to tell Quatre who his
friends are.  Duo is in a bad situation, but he's an otherwise good kid."

Heero clenched his fists in agitation, wanting to punch someone.  "You're too trusting of this total stranger after what happened.  
We were just robbed and the LAST thing we need in this house is some druggie who will probably clean us out of everything
else.  Duo's been here many times before ... probably casing the place to get money for whatever it is he takes."

"Duo's NOT like that!"  Quatre blushed as soon as he blurted it out ... meaning he had witnessed something.  "If he were
someone who stole things for a living, he wouldn't have his part time job."

"So what?  He's a drug addict and that's bad news and I don't want him around you."  Heero ran a hand through his hair.  
"You've already been hurt, and I hate to think of it happening again."

Quatre looked like he had swallowed something sour.  "Duo wouldn't hurt me.  He'd hurt himself first."

Far from being reassured, Heero snorted.  "And taking drugs isn't hurting him?"  He made a flippant sound and turned to walk
away.  "I'm going to my room.  Call me when he's gone."  His stepfather called out to him, but he didn't stop.  He didn't want to
hear it.




To Be Continued ...