I Started From...
+ Part 8
He woke to a familiar sense
of disorientation. The dull throbbing of his head and fine trembling of
his fingers let him know that he'd gone a while without a fix.
Frowning slightly, he carefully disentangled himself from the long-limbed
body he was curled against. He spared his bedmate -- make that
couchmate, he corrected himself wryly -- only a cursory glance
Pretty, he thought in impersonal appraisal. He frowned at the bandages
swathing the slender body in momentary confusion and concern, then shrugged
and glanced around the small room he found himself in. Nope, definitely
not my little hole. I bet somebody actually pays rent on this place. Wonder
if they've got hot water. He sighed wistfully at the very notion,
and planted his fists on his hips as he pondered tossing the place for
Which was when he realized his fingers were painfully cramped from clutching
at a green cloth bag.
Now what the hell... ? He pulled the bag open, noting as he did
that it was actually some kind of garment being put to makeshift use.
Peering inside, he let a pleased grin spread across his face.
No wonder he'd been holding on so tight. Wouldn't want to lose that.
He glanced at the young man on the couch again. The guy was probably only
a few years older than himself, and looked like he'd been on the wrong
end of a mugging. Something about that thought didn't sit right, though,
and the boy felt a nagging sense of recognition as he studied the tall
Finally, he snorted in exasperation at himself. Well, he oughta look
familiar, if I was sleeping on top of him. I wonder how the hell I got
here, though? Not like this guy called in an order... Pondering the
mystery, he flexed his stiff fingers a few times and shoved his hand into
The wad of bills he found there quelled any further curiosity.
Hell, who the fuck cares how I got here? Whatever happened, it was
sure as hell worth my while.
Chuckling to himself in satisfaction,
he returned the money to his pocket and strolled down the short hall that
his foggy memory seemed to indicate led to a bathroom. Sure enough, he
found it, and closed the door behind him, noting the lack of a functional
lock. Oh well, I'll be quick.
After indulging in the almost
sinful extravagance of washing his face and upper body, he pulled the
tight shirt back on over the mass of ugly bruises. The sight had unsettled
him a bit, making him wonder anew at what exactly he'd been doing lately.
It was beginning to occur to him that he didn't have a very clear idea
about the recent past, and that was somewhat troublesome. But seeing the
bruises had made him aware of the pain they were causing, and that distracted
him quite nicely from his concern.
He really had to do something about the pain.
Fortunately, he was prepared for that.
He was just tying the latex strip around his biceps with a practiced twist
of his fingers, the needle prepped and waiting on the edge of the sink,
when the door swung open and a sleepy-eyed blond boy shuffled in.
Seeing him seated on the toilet, the blond immediately froze and flushed
bright red, sputtering nervously. "Oh, I'm so sorry Duo, I didn't
mean to just burst in like... oh, my... Duo, what are you doing?"
This last was delivered in a hushed, fearful whisper.
Three thoughts floated through Duo's foggy mind at the intrusion of the
vaguely familiar blond.
The first was, damn, must have been a party.
The second was, why does
he know my name?
The third was, why do I
have the feeling it should really bother me for him to be looking at me
Of course, he supposed anyone
would squirm under that teary-eyed, limpid gaze. The guy looked like a
six-year-old who'd just seen the department store Santa pull off his beard
for a quick slug of whiskey.
Confused and unsettled by his reaction to the blond, Duo slapped a cocky
grin on his face and attempted to bluster through the situation.
"Hey, I'll be done in a minute, okay, pal? D'ya mind? I'd appreciate
a little privacy."
The wide, sea-blue eyes abruptly lost the shimmer of tears and acquired
an angry spark.
"I most certainly do mind! I will not permit you to poison yourself
right in front of me," the blond declared firmly.
Duo frowned, irritated by the guy's attitude, but... he didn't want a
fight. And it was this guy's apartment... probably. And they had paid
He shrugged and snapped the latex off his arm, shoving it and the other
odds and ends he'd pulled out back into the bag. The needle he grasped
carefully in his right hand. The blond seemed to relax at his acquiescence,
smiling with gentle approval.
The smile abruptly disappeared as Duo slipped past him and moved quickly
toward the apartment's door.
"Duo! Wait! Where are you going?" the blond called, close on
his heels. Duo instinctively dodged the hand that reached for his arm,
turning to scowl at his pursuer, his back to the door. The blond backed
off, blinking in surprise at Duo's expression.
Not so cooperative when the meter's not running, am I?
"Duo?" The tall guy
on the couch had woken up and was frowning at him in concern.
"I wish you guys would stop using my name. It's kinda weird when
I don't know yours," Duo muttered irritably. He clutched the needle
tightly in his right hand, the shirt-bag in his left, and glanced warily
back and forth between the two confused, concerned faces.
"What do you mean, Duo? Of course you know our names. It's me, Quatre,
and that's Trowa. We're your friends, your comrades... " That was
the blond, looking painfully earnest. The tall boy just stared silently,
hard green eyes coldly analyzing.
That one was Trowa.
Trowa was making Duo nervous.
"Yeah, well, nice to meet ya and all. Maybe I'll see ya around,"
Duo muttered warily, his left hand scrabbling discretely for the door
"Quatre, don't let him leave," Trowa snapped. Duo cursed silently
to himself as the blond was suddenly all business, cold and determined.
Duo wondered nervously what he'd stumbled into. These guys were nothing
like his usual customers.
Still, he was no wide-eyed innocent himself. He might be only eleven,
but that didn't mean he couldn't fight back. Quatre took a step forward,
and Duo crouched defensively, raising the needle in his hand in clear
Quatre paled and drew back at the gesture, and Duo felt a moment of triumph
as his hand finally found the doorknob. He knew he had to move fast. Quatre
might have been fooled, but he would bet Trowa would twig pretty quick
to the emptiness of the threat.
Like he was going to waste his drugs on some random jerk.
Even as he heard Trowa snapping a similar comment at the stunned Quatre,
Duo whipped open the door, intending to make a break for it...
And found himself face to face with a startled Chinese boy, hand raised
"Wufei! Take him down! And watch out for the needle!"
The Chinese boy's eyes narrowed at Trowa's command, and Duo didn't even
have time to duck before callused fingers were digging into pressure points
on the base of his neck, sending his thoughts spiraling into darkness.
His last thought before losing consciousness was, who the fuck are
these guys, and how fucking many of them are there?
Heero could hear tense, hushed voices involved in an argument from the
other side of the door. He'd finally decided he was just too damn tired
to search for Duo any longer and made his weary way back to the apartment.
It had taken him nearly an hour to skirt the mob of local cops and Oz
troops swarming around the crime scene down the street.
Heero had been cursing his own carelessness for several hours, and this
development was just the icing on the cake. Not only had he idiotically
mishandled the Duo Situation, he had also bungled the confrontation in
the alley, and there was no excuse for that.
He might not understand his emotions, or know how to deal with them, but
he damn well knew how to clean up after himself.
The damage was done now, though. Heero scowled at the door, guessing from
the intensity of the discussion that someone else had also noticed the
He knocked, and there was utter silence from within. A moment later, the
door was cracked open, and one narrowed black eye studied him through
the slit. Wufei waited for Heero to tug twice at his left earlobe, the
signal that he hadn't been followed, before dragging the Japanese pilot
Heero scowled at the treatment, but decided not to make an issue of it.
He glanced around the room and noted that yes, tensions were definitely
running high, and also that Duo was curled in a tight ball on the couch
beside Trowa, his back to the room.
Heero was unsettled by the intensity of the relief he felt at seeing the
American safely returned, but also by the troubled glances Quatre was
shooting at the braided boy, and Wufei's abstracted frown as he gazed
at Duo. Only Trowa seemed at ease with Duo's presence, but Heero could
detect small signs of worry even on that stoic face.
Obviously, something had happened.
Heero desperately wanted to go sit in the space Quatre had left between
himself and Duo on the couch. He wanted to wrap his arms around the slight
body and comfort his friend... his... lover...
But after his behavior earlier, Heero wasn't certain how Duo would react
to such attention.
So instead, he knelt beside the coffee table at Quatre's feet, where he
could keep a close eye on the braided boy without risking his anger.
Trowa frowned disapprovingly at him, but Heero wasn't sure if that was
for his choice of seating or just leftover irritation from earlier. Trowa
seemed to have just been generally pissed off at Heero practically since
he'd regained consciousness.
Heero frowned slightly to himself as he observed Trowa's hand rubbing
gently at Duo's tense shoulder. It was unlike the quiet, reserved boy
to make such a blatantly affectionate gesture.
Perhaps Trowa's irritation had a deeper source than Heero's treatment
Perhaps the tall pilot was... jealous.
Heero scowled, sharply derailing that unproductive train of thought. They
had other things to worry about at the moment.
"I'm assuming you've noticed the activity down the street,"
he remarked flatly, noting Quatre's worried frown, Trowa's weary smirk,
and Wufei's huff of irritation.
"I saw them from the roof," the Chinese pilot muttered. "They've
been swarming down there for hours, and they don't show any signs of leaving.
It's only a matter of time before Oz starts door-to-door inquiries."
"They may not," Trowa commented with uncharacteristic optimism.
Heero shot him an incredulous glance for the comment, but found Trowa's
pensive stare locked on Duo's head, which was burrowed against his thigh.
"Violent crimes are probably not terribly uncommon in this area,
and the local law enforcement will probably recognize that Randall person.
Their take on the whole scene will probably be that he was finished off
by his competition. Such occurrences don't generally rate a very strenuous
investigation. It's more of a public service than a crime."
Heero grunted noncommittally, finding his own gaze drawn to Duo's tightly
curled body. The American had regained his tee shirt from somewhere, and
the fabric was bunched up just below his ribcage, revealing a few inches
of pale skin and knobby vertebrae. Only a few bruises were visible on
the boy's back, but Heero knew the front of his body was terribly discolored
Despite the danger he'd already put the group in by shooting the thugs
who'd hurt Duo, Heero wished he could go back and do it over again. This
time, he'd make it a lot more messy and painful.
"It doesn't matter what the local police decide on the matter. Oz
will not be restrained by their conclusions," Wufei stated flatly.
"They know we're here somewhere. They're not going to let any potential
lead go without investigating thoroughly."
"We need to get out of here," Heero concluded grimly. It was
too soon to move, really. They'd only been in hiding about a week, and
obviously surveillance was still sharply focused on the area. But if Oz
began searching every rat hole in the neighborhood, and Heero agreed with
Wufei that such thoroughness was inevitable, there was no way they could
escape discovery. Especially with Trowa and Duo, the two most likely to
be able to finesse their way around such a problem, out of commission.
Heero wasn't entirely certain what damage his thoughtless actions had
done to Duo, but it was obvious from the way Trowa was hovering over the
boy, and the occasional dirty glances he was throwing Heero, that Duo
was not in top condition at the moment.
"Our best bet is to create a distraction," Quatre murmured softly.
Heero riveted his attention on the blond boy. For all that Quatre looked
innocuous, and was occasionally bafflingly softhearted, he could be ruthlessly
pragmatic when it came to strategy. If there was a way to get them out
of this city undiscovered, Quatre could devise it. The rest of them would
just have to manage to carry out the plan.
"I can get to Nataku. That will certainly provide a distraction,"
Quatre nodded slowly, but he was still frowning. "Maybe not enough
of one, though," he murmured.
"What do you mean?" Heero demanded.
Quatre turned his pensive frown on Heero. "They know we're here.
As soon as Wufei attacks, they'll certainly divert a lot of their manpower
to defending against him, but they'll probably just clamp down harder
on the city as well. They'll expect us to try to sneak out under that
cover. What we really need... " The Arabian frowned, pondering the
problem for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice was so soft Heero
wondered if he were merely thinking aloud. "What we really need is
another attack, at the same time, somewhere completely different... "
"We could try to contact Sally Po, ask her rebels to attack simultaneously...
" Wufei offered reluctantly.
Quatre shook his head. "No, first of all, we can't take the risk
of contacting anyone, they could still trace our communications. And it
won't really do any good for an outside force to attack. They'll still
know we're here."
Heero frowned. "But all our Gundams are here. We all concealed them
within five klicks of the base, and that's two klicks from this city.
Even if we could get somebody out of the city, there's no Gundam to attack
with on the other side of the world."
"So take Deathscythe," a quiet, muffled voice offered into the
Heero's eyes immediately snapped to Duo's back, but the American hadn't
moved, although it was now obvious he was wide awake and listening to
"Duo... " Quatre murmured, concern and contempt warring on his
features. Heero was suddenly glad Duo had his back turned. "You're
not really up to piloting right now... "
"I know," Duo replied flatly to the veiled criticism. Heero
noted the tenseness of the slender shoulders. "So somebody else will
have to do it. But you'll need Deathscythe. He... It's the only Gundam
with sophisticated enough ECMs to let you slip away without being detected.
If you move at night, they'll never have a chance of seeing you. And it's
fast, it'll get you far away pretty quickly." After this speech,
another heavy silence descended on the group. Although on rare occasions,
some of them had used one another's Gundams, they were all rather irrationally
attached to their own. And Duo almost seemed to regard Deathscythe as
a partner more than a machine of destruction. For him to offer it's use
to another pilot demonstrated a great trust in them.
It would be foolish to refuse Duo's offer. Not only that, but Heero suddenly
realized that to do so would probably hurt the American just as much as,
if not more than, Heero's stupidity of that morning.
"I'll go. I'll take Deathscythe," Heero declared firmly, determined
that he would not allow any more of Duo's sacrifices to go unappreciated.
"No, you won't," Trowa told him flatly. Heero glowered at the
tall boy. What was Trowa doing? Didn't he understand... ?
Heero's glower slowly faded under that penetrating green gaze. Of course
Trowa understood. He understood Heero's desire not to let Duo's offer
be disregarded... and he understood Heero's desire to avoid the unpleasant
situation he'd created.
Heero sighed heavily, but nodded in consent to Trowa's statement.
"I'll take Deathscythe," Quatre stated. "Thank you, Duo.
That should allow me to get a considerable distance away without alerting
Oz. If we synchronize our attacks... say, five hours after we leave the
city, Wufei?" The Chinese boy nodded in acceptance of the plan. Quatre
nodded as well, to himself. He rose from his seat, glancing around the
little group. His gaze lingered on Trowa and Duo, curled together on the
couch. Heero noted a strange little downward twist to Quatre's usually
smiling mouth. That expression spoke of jealousy. Not surprising, but
possibly a dangerous factor for the future.
Wufei stood as well, his eyes resting on Duo with an expression of worried
concern. Wufei seemed to be reacting better, and with more compassion,
to Duo's pain than Quatre. That was odd. Heero filed the thought away
for later consideration.
"Trowa... and Duo... probably shouldn't be moved too far," Quatre
observed after a moment. He looked over at Heero. "My family owns
a small house in the mountains about 100 klicks east of the city. I'll
give you directions."
Heero nodded in acceptance.
"Well, it's not likely to get any easier to do this the longer we
wait," Quatre muttered, heading for his bedroom to pack. Wufei followed,
pausing briefly to lay a hand on Heero's shoulder in silent support and
commiseration. Heero found himself oddly touched by the gesture, and wondered
what had happened to the hardened soldier who would have brushed the hand
away with a scowl.
Shaking his head at himself, Heero headed for his own room. He had himself
and Duo to pack for, after all.
Heero glanced away from the winding, two-lane road at the boy slumped
beside him in the stolen car's passenger seat. A moment's assessment was
all he required, having observed Duo frequently in this state.
"He's asleep," Heero quietly informed Trowa.
The wounded pilot shifted in the darkness of the backseat, across which
he was sprawled. He grunted softly, either in acknowledgment of Heero's
statement or from jarring his wounds with the motion. Heero glanced in
the rear view mirror, but all he could see in the back was a shadow with
long, jagged bangs.
"When did he get back to the apartment?" Heero finally asked,
once it had become clear that Trowa was not going to volunteer information.
"Not long after you left," Trowa answered softly. Heero tapped
his foot on the brake pedal, slowing the car so he could hear Trowa over
the rush of wind through the open window. Duo might have had the skills
and knowledge to jimmy the car's door lock, but circumstances being what
they were, it had been Heero who'd gone foraging for a vehicle. And while
the Japanese pilot knew a multitude of exotic ways to kill a person, he
only knew one way to break into a car. Hence the lack of a driver's side
Not that it was entirely a bad thing, since the air conditioner didn't
work anyway. But the rushing air made it hard to hold a hushed conversation,
and Heero really didn't want to wake Duo up.
Not after the silent glares he'd received from the American until he'd
finally nodded off.
"He... was pretty shaky, then. I got him to come inside... I knew
he shouldn't leave, but... That damn bag. I knew I should have taken it
away, but I fell asleep right after he did... " Trowa shook his head
Heero frowned. "What bag?" he demanded.
The Japanese pilot could feel Trowa's hard green stare rest on him, though
he couldn't see the other boy's eyes. After a long pause, Trowa finally
answered. "He was carrying... I suppose it was your shirt, tied up
into a bundle. I could tell from the way he was hanging onto it, so tight
his hand was shaking, that it was probably trouble. And I was right."
And then, infuriatingly, Trowa fell silent again.
"What was in it? What the hell happened?" Heero finally demanded,
his grip on the cheap plastic of the wheel growing slick with nervous
sweat. Something had happened, he was sure of it now. The tension he'd
walked in on had been due to more than Oz's reappearance.
Trowa sighed again, sounding terribly weary. Which he no doubt was. But
Heero was not willing to let this topic go. He had to know what was going
"He had heroin. And all the standard paraphernalia," Trowa muttered
flatly. "He woke up before I did, and I guess I was too worn out
to be woken up by him crawling off me. Wufei wasn't back yet, and Quatre
was in his room, so... Duo went to the bathroom and... Well, if Quatre
hadn't walked in when he did, things might have gotten even more difficult
than they already are," Trowa concluded grimly.
Heero sucked air through his teeth, grimacing slightly at what Trowa's
words implied. "But... what I saw... I know he didn't choose to start
using again. That son of a bitch... Duo didn't want it, Trowa,
I know that... " Heero protested harshly.
"Yes, I agree with you on that, Heero. But... when he woke up earlier...
" Trowa paused, shaking his head and sighing heavily. "How do
I explain this? I don't really understand what happened myself, but...
When Duo woke up earlier, Heero, he... didn't, really."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Heero demanded, more
sharply than he meant to.
Trowa shifted in the back again, fairly radiating confused discomfort.
"It was... really strange, Heero. He seemed to be acting like himself,
according to Quatre, but then... Then he told us it was weird that we
kept calling him by name when he didn't know ours."
"But he knows your names," Heero argued.
Trowa sighed again. "I told you, I don't really understand what happened,
but... I really think, that at that moment, Duo didn't know us."
"How the hell could he not know you?" Heero demanded. The steering
wheel creaked ominously beneath his white-knuckled grip, and he forced
his fists to loosen. They still had a bit of distance to travel, and there
weren't any other vehicles to be found along this deserted stretch of
"I hadn't met them yet,"
Duo said quietly.
Heero bit back a curse and
barely managed to keep himself from jerking the wheel in surprise. He'd
been certain Duo was asleep.
"Duo?" Trowa asked gently, recovering from the surprise more
quickly than Heero. "What do you mean, you hadn't met us?"
Duo shifted slightly in his seat, curling into a tighter ball. After a
long silence, he murmured hesitantly, "Well... I don't really remember
the whole thing too clearly, but... what I do remember is not knowing
you or Quatre or Wu... I didn't know where I was, or how I'd gotten there...
"And?" Trowa prompted when the silence stretched.
Duo leaned his head against the window with a sigh. "And... well,
I'm pretty sure I remember thinking something about being... eleven,"
Trowa leaned back against his seat, his lips pursed nervously in the darkness.
He could see Heero's face, lit by the dashboard lights, as the Japanese
boy cast him worried glances via the rearview mirror. Heero was obviously
very confused and upset about this whole situation, but Trowa couldn't
think of anything he could say or do to reassure the Japanese boy at the
moment. At least it seemed to have not yet occurred to Heero that Duo
represented a potential danger to the mission at this point. Trowa wasn't
about to point that out.
Duo heaved another unhappy sigh, and Trowa felt a sharp stab of relief
that the braided boy had revealed himself to be awake before Trowa could
go on to rehash the little... conversation he and Quatre and Wufei had
had after Wufei knocked Duo out.
Of course, he was beginning to consider the possibility that Duo had been
playing possum at that time as well. Which could lead to all sorts of
Quatre had been quite flustered and unsettled at being threatened with
a needle full of heroin by one of his best friends. Quatre had been forced
to endure several shocks to his system over the course of their little
sojourn in the slums, and this last bit of trauma had caused the pampered
blond to snap.
Not that Quatre wasn't tough, in his way. He was a good fighter, and an
excellent strategist. But the boy had grown up in the lap of luxury, the
adored, and, Trowa believed, somewhat spoiled Winner heir. No matter his
dedication to the cause, Quatre just wasn't accustomed to sharing a cramped
living space with four other boys, rationing food and water, dealing with
other people's problems and idiosyncrasies on a daily basis...
Trowa hadn't been surprised at Quatre's harsh words. Wufei, he thought,
had been somewhat surprised. The Chinese boy had stared at Quatre
in wide-eyed amazement as the little blond spat invectives at Duo's limp
body curled at Trowa's side. Trowa was also certain his own insistence
on having Duo near him, and the fact that he had been unconsciously rubbing
the smaller boy's back, had probably contributed to Quatre's ire. He didn't
know if Wufei had realized that or not. But after a few minutes of listening
to Quatre vent his spleen at the American, Wufei's sense of justice had
spurred him to defend Duo.
Trowa hadn't been bothering to say anything, because he thought Quatre
was being ridiculous, and would eventually run out of steam.
Wufei, while not willing to completely excuse Duo of all fault, was quite
firm in denying Quatre's harsher statements. While the Chinese boy was
obviously ill at ease with Duo's ‘weakness', he was at least trying to
be fair, rather than just lashing out at the most obvious target with
his own unresolved frustration. Trowa admired that.
In a last ditch effort to return some rationality to the discussion, Wufei
had abruptly shifted the topic to the police and Oz activity he'd spotted
up the street. After a moment's irritated glowering at the two who refused
to feel sympathy for the poor, beleaguered Arabian, Quatre had heaved
a mighty sigh at the unfairness of life and they'd begun wrangling over
what to do next instead of whose fault it was they were stuck in this
Trowa was pretty sure Duo had stayed unconscious until around that point.
At least, he hoped so.
Trowa shook his head wearily. At least Quatre was out of the picture for
a while. The Arabian was normally the peacekeeper among them, the one
who tried to smooth things over and make the best of a bad situation.
But right now, any more of Quatre with his soft little hands and disapproving
frown, or worse, his pleading, vapid stares, would have driven Trowa to
He shifted again in his seat, trying vainly to find a position that didn't
tug at his stitches. He knew he'd pulled several out in the arduous process
of getting down to the street and around the corner to the car. Duo had
helped him as much as possible, but the American was not in great shape
himself at the moment. They'd made it, finally, and Duo and Heero had
helped Trowa into the back seat.
Trowa had watched the two of them, working together with their customary
quiet efficiency, but an almost amusing reversal of emotional undertones.
Heero was watching Duo, radiating concern and confusion, and it was the
Japanese boy's hands that fluttered nervously, almost touching his silent
partner. Duo just kept shooting Heero angry or irritated glares, only
speaking to him once, and then only to snap at him for not focusing on
the task at hand.
Yes, under better circumstances, it might have been funny.
Trowa let his eyes slide shut, feeling exhaustion inexorably dragging
him into the darkness of sleep. A part of him fought to stay awake, wanting
to chaperone his two rather unstable companions. He wasn't certain what
sort of mayhem could ensue from leaving the two of them to talk unsupervised,
but... well, he didn't really seem to have much choice in the matter.
Still, he fought against sleep for a while, until he heard soft snores
drifting back from Duo's side of the car. A final glance at the rear view
mirror revealed Heero watching the American more than the road, an oddly
softened expression on his face.
Trowa shut his eyes again and decided to rest while the opportunity presented
[part 7] [part 9]
[back to Aoe's fic]