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fic: Down the Rat Hole 2/?

Down the Rat Hole 2/?
by Pink Whirlwind
Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing, Bandai does. I'm just enjoying the fandom. 
Note: This story is a bit AU. I tend to like my sci-fi and while GW is a sci-fi... most of the stuff I imagine a few years in our future wasn't even thought of when GW came out.  Duo may have given the impression that he was 28 in the last chapter... what he said was .. 
Duo muse: *looks back over the last chapter* "You made me lie. You wrote this."
Me: *scratches behind ear, purses lips* 
Duo: "Seriously. YOU wrote that I LIED. Fix it."
Me: *sighs* "Fine. You're twenty-eight. You've been with Heero for eleven years and six months."
Duo: *huge wide eyes* "YOU cost me eleven years of my life! How am I going to get those back, uh?"
Me: *shrinks back from Shinigami*
Heero:*whispers in Duo's ear*
Duo: *starts to smile*  
Heero: *whispers more, a hand sliding under Duo's braid*
Duo: *smiles brightly* "Never mind. I'm good. Those were really good years."
Heero: *smiles happily, pulls canary feather from lips*
Me: *thinks I should draw that!*
Heero: *whispers in my ear* 
Me: *blushes brilliantly* "Uh. No. Not drawing that today. Thanks."

Three Weeks Before Father Alexander Gets to L2....

"You're a crapy teacher," Bren complained, arms across his chest. "Uncle Trowa is way better at explaining things."

Duo tilted his head and glared at the all grade class of about thirty children. "Yeah? Well, he was always better at infiltration than me. Sit down, you brat. Just do your school work and stop asking questions if you don't like the answers."

Duo scowled at them all, hoping he looked intimidating enough to really quiet them down. His head hurt like Zechs on a mission to destroy the Earth and he wasn't getting what he needed until Heero got back anyway. 

The Griffindor was a small ship, mocked up with the same type of cloaking device that had hid Deathscythe thirteen years before. The name had been Catherine's doing, her last request before she died, and no one had had the nerve to change the name. It's not like it really mattered anyway, as it wasn't a legally registered ship anywhere in the Earthsphere and if they all wanted to stay alive, they really wanted to keep it that way.

"So," Herminone asked, pausing to mimic the fictional character she was named after, "You're saying that Uncles Heero, Wufei, Quatre, Trowa, Aunts Une, Relena, Noin, and Hilde, and you, of course, all WON the war and then the plague struck."

Duo propped his throbbing head against his palm, which connected to his elbow, which felt like it might bore its way through the desk under it. Imitating another character, he gave his best drool face and said, "Obviously. On your table there is a history file that that Uncle Quatre wrote and it's way more interesting than I ever will be, Miss Bloom."

"But you were there," she insisted. "It was your spouse who actually stopped the Peacemillion from impacting the Earth and," she paused. Voice lower, as if it could be a spotlight shining on the single adult in the room, "You're infected with the plague, aren't you?"

Duo shivered, wished like hell he'd brought Heero's old Preventer jacket to class with him, but he'd had know real way to know that the fever part of the symptoms would come on so fast. One eye narrowed and he glared right at the obviously too smart for her own good Miss Bloom. "I'm not contagious, if that's what you're asking. Murderous, maybe, but not contagious."

"Have you really killed people before," a little blond boy asked. He looked so much like Quatre that Duo had to keep himself from calling each of the triplets Quatre on bad days. 

"Yes," Duo said, wondering why anything mattered when his head hurt as badly as it did. "But not recently. Killing is always wrong. It makes you feel like shit."

"Is that why your contagerous?" Toby asked, huge blue Heero eyes oddly disturbing to Duo in that moment.

"No. The plague is caused by an addictive nerve agent. You have to be directly contaminated with pure toxin to become infected. You're all safe. We work very hard on making sure you're safe."

"It makes all the infected," Toby pronounced, "into zombies. Nana Dorothy said so."

"Not zombies," Duo said, feeling nauseous. "And not forever. We're all working on getting a cure to everyone. Just like we saved the world before, we're going to do it again."

"Professor Maxwell," Hermione asked, "Are you okay? You look very pale."

"Really?" Duo asked. Heero was going to freaking kill him, when Heero got back, and Duo couldn't wait. "Your lesson for today is that the choices we make are easier when we make them than they are to live with, sometimes. Do you think we could all just sit quietly for a little while?"

"You could dismiss class early," Bren suggested. "Nana Dorothy lets us go early sometimes."

Duo glared, really glared. "I always did hate that woman." The kids all looked about as scandalized as anyone he'd ever scandalized, which meant he wasn't as old as he thought he was sometimes and well, he wasn't all that good either, so nothing really bad was going to happen. It was with that sense of peace that he smiled as his vision narrowed to a fine dark nothing.

"Professor Maxwell," Hermione said, jumping up, hugging her fake paper book to her chest as Duo slid from the chair to the floor, his head thwacking rather hard in her perception. "Uncle Duo! Bren! Go get Uncle Quatre. The rest of you! Read your history file like he said!" She dropped her book and ran to where Duo lay, pale, eyes still open. Shaking and pale herself, she knelt and reached out to touch this throat, which was hotter than anything she'd ever touched, certainly hotter than a human being ought to be, but he did have a pulse. "He's alive!"

The rest of the class was deadly quiet as they all waited for Quatre.

Quatre and Bren burst back through the door in what felt like hours, but was really only minutes. Quatre had grown up into a lean and powerful man, his hair a darker brown with age, lines around his eyes and mouth, across his forehead. He prayed in Arabic as he knelt down beside Duo.  

The only word that Hermione recognized was 'fool' and the kids could recognize that word in almost ten languages. 

He slipped his arms under Duo, lifting him without any effort. It had been five years since the plague had struck the Earthsphere, since Preventer Duo had been captured and come back more broken than not and infected with a wasting addiction that had killed more than its share of innocent people.
"Is he gonna be okay," Toby asked.

"Of course he is," Quatre lied with his best and most political smile. "Hermione, read the class more of The Chamber of Secrets, will you. Uncle Wufei will be along in a few minutes to help with martial arts practice."
As soon as Quatre closed the class room door, Duo held in his arms, Sally arrived. She'd lost an eye in a riot that swarmed the hospital she'd been working at the day news of a treatment for the plague came out. Wufei offered her one of his. The drama of those times nearly broke all of them apart. 

"Oh god," she said, seeing Duo, limp and visible thinner than he should be. "He didn't."

"You want to bet," Quatre snapped, lividly furious, both at Duo and himself and the world and fate and God and anything that could be named right then. "Do you know when Heero will be back?"

Sally didn't even have to answer that. No one knew. Only Heero and Trowa left the ship, right now, at least until they had a useful plan of action. From now on, it would only be Heero, and no one knew for certain that Heero was even alive, let alone coming back. If you asked Duo, he'd swear by his own life that Heero would be back, and really, Quatre expected that's what he'd literally done. 

Heero and Duo's room was sparse, tidy, at least when Heero was home. Quatre laid Duo down on the unmade bed, smoothed sweaty dark hair away from his friend's face and surveyed the room, to think where the best place would be to have treatment's secured. 

It had taken the twenty minutes between the class and Duo's room for Quatre to convince himself that Duo had enough self preservation not to give away the last treatment, no matter who else was infected. He wasn't convinced enough to search the place himself though, so Sally ransacked the room, while Quatre sat and held Duo's hand. "Did you look in the games box?"

"Yes. There's nothing in there except fifteen year old games and they're not even dusty," Sally complained. She returned to her bag, pulled out what supplies she had. "We can bring down the fever. He's got to be in pain. We can take care of those things, at least."

"This is all my fault," Quatre whispered.

"Nonsense," Sally snapped. "He made a reasonable choice. You'd have done the same for him."
"But I don't want him to do it."

"Baka," Duo teased, voice raspy, as he put up a mock struggle to keep Sally from injecting him with things. "It'll be okay. I just didn't expect to get sick this fast. Heero will be back soon. Hilde will be okay. Tro will be okay. You...  you'll be wracked with guilt forever, but there's not a damn thing I can do about that."

"Bastard," Quatre accused, holding Duo's hand with both of his. "You're my family too. I couldn't bare to lose any of you."

"I'm sick. It's not the first time. Won't be the last. I can't die. I'm death, you know."

Sally and Quatre looked at each other. Duo had stopped saying that after he'd been captured by Tuberov's son. Duo's capture had lead to the ruin of the Preventers.  Survivors had called him a traitor. Quatre hadn't been able to be near Duo for almost a year after Heero had recovered him... the dark anguish and misery had been worse for both of them than the plague would ever be. There had been a time when Quatre had been afraid that Heero won't forgive him for shutting Duo out. 

"Duo, where are the treatments kept? Why didn't you take your medicine when it was time? I know they're unpleasant."

Duo's eyes opened a bit and he smiled. "Heero's got medicine. He'll give it to me when he gets back.  Don't tell Heero, okay? I didn't mean to. I tried not to. Oh god, please, no..." Duo whined, trying to draw his hand back from Quatre. "Stop."

"Duo," Quatre said, a hand over his space heart, "You're safe. You're here with us. What happened wasn't your fault, Duo. You protected everyone more than many people could have."

"They're going to hurt Heero."

"Heero's safe," Quatre said with way more conviction than he had any right to feel. "You're safe. We love you."

"I'm going to put him under."

"No!" Duo cried. "No more drugs! I'll be good!"

"Heero better get his ass back here," Sally pronounced. 

Neither of them said what they were thinking... that Duo was sicker than he should have been, that Hilde should never have gotten sick, that somehow...the plague had changed and it was contagious now. 

Quatre pressed his hand to his chest and reached with all his will _Heero.... come home. Duo's dying._


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