Author: Caroline
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes

The Medallion: Part the Twelfth
A Mouthful of Sock

Relena stepped into the room, completely ignoring Duo being pinned to the wall like an overgrown butterfly specimen, her eyes focused solely on Heero. While Duo concentrated simply on breathing - the lug's arm was still happily digging itself into his trachea - he saw Heero take a step away from the woman, his face as pale as it had been the night he collapsed. Relena didn't seem to notice. She latched onto Heero's arm and pressed herself to his side.

"I'm overjoyed to have found you at last," she bubbled, batting her eyelashes at him. "You have no idea what a state I was in when I found you'd been taken from me." She shot Duo a sharp glare. "But I've come to take you home."

"Glarg!" Duo struggled in the thug's grip, but where he was slight and wiry, the guy pinning him to the wall had muscles the size of large Christmas hams. He concentrated instead on trying to pry the man's arm off his throat, at least so he could breathe.

Heero managed to disentangle himself from her grasp and stepped to the side. He cleared his throat and Duo could see him regain some of his composure. "You've no hold on me now, Relena. I do not have to obey you anymore."

"Blurgle!" Duo agreed emphatically, scratching at the lug's arm, to no avail.

Relena gave Heero a crestfallen look. "But our time together was interrupted! You said yourself, you have to be with me for one month. We barely had a week!"

"It was two weeks, and that works only if you have the medallion in your possession."

Relena's face curled into a snarl. "That's not fair! I was cheated out of my time, and I want it back!"

"Then you should have kept a better eye on your possessions, witch."

"Hugar!" Duo was beginning to see spots in front of his eyes, but he couldn't help but cheer Heero on.

Relena again focused on Duo. She walked slowly over to where he was pinned to the wall. Heero moved as if to follow, his expression belaying his need to rip the thug's arms off, but Relena held her hand up to him, stopping him in his tracks.

"You know, Pookie, I wasn't sure what I'd find here. I'd been looking for this little gutter rat for weeks. I knew he'd taken you. He was the only one at the party who would have."

"Flurg!" Duo resented that. Never mind that he *had* stolen the medallion, he resented the implication that he was a thief.

"Imagine my surprise when I opened up the monthly account statements last night and found a rather expensive hotel room being charged to the personal family. Of course, knowing that neither I nor my brother had any need for such a room at present, I called the hotel. Imagine again my shock at learning the room was registered to one 'Zechs Merquise.' I wondered to myself, why would my brother need a hotel room when he had a perfectly adequate apartment downtown?"

"Let him go, Relena," Heero demanded through clenched teeth.

"Not just yet, Pookie. I'm not finished." She turned back to him, pouting. "Though I must say I'm a little surprised to see you out of the medallion. I thought only a woman could set you free." She sneered in Duo's direction. "Though I guess it was an easy mistake to make."

"Firgen!" The bitch was dead... just as soon as he could move the wall of muscle.

"Do not say such things about Duo!" Heero snarled, moving towards him again.

"Stop!"

Heero turned to look at her, disgust etched on his face. "Your time is over, Relena. Accept it and leave peacefully, or I will make you."

Relena blinked at him. "You can't possibly want to stay with him!" she cried, flinging a finger at Duo, who was doing his best gasping fish imitation. "He's... he's a man!"

"He's also a better lover than you'll ever be," Heero replied.

Relena's face turned purple. It was not a good color on her. "Jan! Mueller!" At her call, two more identical-looking muscle men entered the room. Duo had to wonder if they got their suits on special by shopping from the same store.

The thug holding Duo jerked him away from the wall, pulling him into a choke hold. Tears formed in Duo's eyes - the man was in serious need of some deodorant.

"Here's what's going to happen, Heero," Relena said calmly. "You will return with me and do whatever I wish for the remainder of Duo's month. In exchange, since I'm already paying for this room, Jan, Mueller and Kato will stay behind with Mr. Maxwell. If you go peacefully, well, nothing untoward will happen to him. But if you do not agree..." She trailed off, a sadistic grin on her face.

If Duo's eyes weren't already bugging out of his head from lack of oxygen, they'd have been wide open. Surely Relena wasn't suggest they snuff him out? Would she sink so low?

"You would have him killed over this?" Heero asked, echoing Duo's thoughts.

Relena snorted. "What kind of woman do you think I am? And don't answer that if you value his health," she said as Heero opened his mouth. "A Peacecraft does not stoop to murder. That is for peasants and Mafia dons. No, there are other ways to keep people in line. Such as informing them that Peacecraft Corp. makes several large donations to a certain engineering firm's R and D department. I'd say a threat to cut them off would be enough to make a person's job future... less than optimistic." Her eyes narrowed. "Also, Jan has a taste for pretty boys. And I can only keep him on a leash for so long."

Duo went cold. He glanced up to see the man in question leering down at him. He tried to swallow, and turned his gaze back to Heero, who was looking at him intently.

There was a long moment of silence.

"If I go with you, you promise not to hurt him?" Heero asked eventually, through clenched teeth.

"Nurgh!" Duo began struggling again. He wasn't going to let Relena get her hooks into Heero again!

"My word of honor as a Peacecraft," Relena replied, once again slipping her arm through Heero's.

"Then I have no choice. I will go with you."

"Hee...!" The thug holding Duo grabbed him by the braid and dragged him into the bedroom, kicking and grunting. He could hear Heero in the next room, yelling at Relena that she'd promised not to hurt him.

Relena laughed and said, "Don't be ridiculous. As long as you obey me, he won't be harmed."

The stranglehold on Duo was abruptly released as he was pushed down on the bed. He opened his mouth to scream for help, but his oxygen-deprived body betrayed him, bending him double, coughing. While he was busy trying to hack up his lung, Thug grabbed the terry cloth belt from Duo's robe that he'd left carelessly on the floor earlier, and tied his Duo's hands together behind his back. Duo grunted between coughing fits, as the belt cut off his circulation.

He managed to take in a breath and lifted his head off the bed. "Heero! Don't do it! Don't go with that bit-- *mph*!" Duo choked as Thug shoved a sock in his mouth. His only saving grace was that it was a clean one.

"Don't wait up boys!" he heard Relena call out from the other room before he heard the door open, then close ominously behind them.

He tried to struggle with the belt wrapped around his hands, but Thug backhanded him hard enough to send him sprawling to the other side of the bed. He choked on the sock again and decided to lie still and concentrate on trying to breathe around it.

"Stay there and be quiet," Thug said, moving to the door. "Behave and we'll let you eat later. If you don't... well, Jan's been feeling pretty antsy lately."

Duo shuddered and Thug walked out of the room, laughing. He sighed around the sock in his mouth and decided to behave... for now. His cheek stung and even though the sock was clean, it still had a lingering taste of feet. Relena was so going to owe him a giant bottle of mouthwash when he got Heero back.

He glanced up at the clock beside the bed. He could wait for now. After all, Zechs and Wufei were due to arrive within the hour.

***

Zechs fell behind his boyfriend as they stepped off the elevator, heading for Duo and Heero's room. Not because he was a gentleman to let Wufei get off first, but because 'Fei was wearing a new, sinfully tight pair of jeans and Zechs wanted a better angle from which to appreciate the view.

And what a view it was. Zechs licked his lips and half a mind to call the evening off, take Wufei home and strip those jeans off, inch but titillating inch...

"Zechs, if you could tear your eyes from my ass for five seconds and knock on the door?" Wufei asked, without turning around.

Zechs blinked and looked up, realizing they were standing outside Duo and Heero's door. He wondered how long they'd been standing there. He reached over Wufei's shoulder and rapped loudly. "Something wrong with your hand that you couldn't knock?"

Wufei shrugged and looked away. "They're your friends. Besides, I was not... on my best behavior, the last time I was here."

"Water under the bridge." When Wufei didn't answer, he placed his hands on the shorter man's shoulders and leaned down to rest his mouth next to Wufei's ear. "Don't worry, 'Fei. Duo likes you. He told me so himself. And we've both told you that you have nothing to worry about. What we had is in the past, and we're both in love with someone else now."

Wufei sighed. "You're right. I know." He turned his head and smiled up almost shyly at his lover. "And I love you, too. And I want to get to know your friends."

"You'll love Duo, trust me," Zechs replied, knocking on the door again. "He's just like me, only shorter and not as horny."

Wufei snorted. "The entire population of Wisconsin combined is not as horny that you, idiot."

Zechs grinned at him. "True. But then again, they don't have you in their beds."

"Thank god. I can barely walk straight as it is some days."

"I don't hear you complaining," Zechs replied, knocking again. "Hey! Put your clothes on and answer the door!" he called out, beating harder on the door.

Nothing.

"Maybe they were waiting for us down in the lobby?" Wufei suggested, shifting from foot to foot.

"I don't think so. Duo was pretty adamant about staying in tonight." He leaned in and pressed his ear to the door.

"Zechs! You really are a dirty old man!" Wufei hissed, trying to drag him from the door.

"Shh!" he whispered, pressing his ear closer. He listened for a moment, frowning. He pushed back from the door, grabbed Wufei's hand and dragged him down the hall to the elevator.

"Zechs? What are you doing?"

"Going to see the manager," Zechs replied, punching the button to call the elevator. "Something's not right."

"So they didn't answer the door. They've probably just gone out to the store or something and lost track of time. Try his cell phone."

"I did, when I was parking the car after dropping you out front. It went straight to voice mail. And Duo doesn't really lose track of time, not when he's expecting company." The elevator dinged and Zechs dragged Wufei inside. "And I am not old!"

***

Duo tried not to sob when the knocking on the hotel room door ceased. For one thing, sobbing only caused the sock to catch in his throat. And for another, he was really too pissed off to spend his time crying. He was pissed off at himself for letting Relena manipulate Heero into going with her. He was pissed off at Relena for her audacity. He was pissed off and Thugs One, Two and Three for keeping him here. And he was pissed off at Zechs for giving up and leaving. It wasn't like him to stand his friends up, especially not after making plans only hours ago. The man should know better than that!

Duo drew his legs up underneath him and, with effort, managed to flip himself over on his stomach. He lay with his head turned outward, concentrating on breathing for a few minutes, before he began again. The headboard rocked against the wall as he moved and Duo froze, listening for sounds that the Three Stooges outside had heard him. When no one came, Duo pressed his face against the pillow, and after a couple of failed attempts, managed to pry the sock from his mouth by scooting his head up the pillow.

He spat out a couple of loose threads, then managed to flop over onto his side. He lay panting against the comforter, smacking his lips in an effort to get some moisture into his now-dry mouth, and to get rid of the taste of sock.

He didn't allow himself to rest for long. He began working on the knot holding his hands together. He couldn't quite get a grip on it, as his fingers had gone numb from lack of circulation. He stretched and strained against the belt, but the terry cloth was of good quality, and stretching it only seemed to tighten the knot. He grit his teeth and yanked, biting his lip in pain.

So focused was he on trying to free his hands, he didn't hear the commotion outside the door until a body hit the floor.

Then he heard his name.

"Duo!"

Another thud.

"Zechs! I'm in here!" he called out, his heart racing as he struggled to sit up. His eyes lit up as his friend burst into the room. "Oh God. You didn't give up on me," Duo murmured with relief, turning so Zechs could pull the belt off him.

Zechs snorted as he worked on Duo's bonds. "I knew something was wrong when you didn't answer the second time. You never make plans and break them. Also, I heard the TV through the door. 'Desperate Housewives' was on. I know you hate that show."

"Unlike you who could name every episode by season and title," Duo said, then jumped as it sounded like a body hit the wall outside the bedroom. "What's going on out there?"

"Wufei is taking care of your new friends," Zechs replied, pulling the belt off. "Did I fail to mention he owns his own dojo?"

"How convenient," Duo said, shaking his hands to get feeling back in them. "Look, we've got to get to the estate. Relena took off with Heero not more than an hour ago. I need to get him back and give that bi... er, your sister a piece of my mind."

Zechs helped him stand. "How did she find you?"

"Monthly accounts."

Zechs sighed. "Damn. I forgot she goes through those personally." They both looked up as Wufei walked into the room. "All taken care of, love?"

The Chinese man brushed his hands together. "I managed to convince them to leave."

Duo stared at him. "You took on three at once? Damn." He then turned his head to stare at Zechs. "Did you just say 'love'? Double damn."

"Marvel later, move now," said Zechs, with a faint tint of red gracing his cheeks. "We've an incubus to rescue."

"Incubus?" Wufei asked, looking from one to the other.

"Long story, I'll tell you in the car," Duo said, striding quickly to the door. His heart hammered inside his chest as he punched the button for the elevator. He heard Zechs and Wufei behind him, but his thoughts were on Heero... stupid, caring Heero. He bit his lip and punched the button again. And again. He kicked the elevator door.

"I don't think that's going to help," Zechs said dryly from behind him.

"Hurry up, you slow ass piece of crap!" Duo shouted at the doors, which remained stubbornly closed.

"Just give it a minute," Wufei added.

Duo glared at the doors. Just when he was about to give up and take the stairs, the elevator gave a cheery 'Ding!' and the doors slid open. Duo dashed inside and quickly pushed the button for the lobby.

Wufei barely had time to get inside before the doors whisked shut, nearly taking his pony tail off.

"We'll get there, Duo. Don't worry," Zechs said, placing a hand on Duo's shoulder. "And you know she won't hurt him."

"It's not that..." Duo said, watching as the numbers descended. "It's just... I don't... Heero was forced into this and I..."

"Love him."

Duo ducked his head. "Yeah," he whispered softly. "I do. And I'm scared. That bi... er, your sister is eating into what little time I have left with him!" He swallowed around the lump in his throat.

"My offer still stands," Zechs said.

"I haven't talked to Heero about it. But I will. Just as soon as I get him back from that bi... er, your sister."

"And I think it's about time I had a little chat with that bitch," Zechs replied. When Duo looked at him with a raised eyebrow, he shrugged. "What? She's my sister. I get to say it."

The elevator finally ended it's long journey to the lobby. Duo launched himself through the doors and crashed into a man wearing a uniform of the hotel, sending them both to the ground.

"Oh god! I'm so sorry!" Duo said, picking himself up and offering his hand to the man.

The hotel employee's face and turned red and Duo braced himself for an outburst. But then the man saw who was behind Duo. He cleared his throat, straightened his tie, and inclined his head toward Zechs.

"I trust everything was well, sir?"

Zechs frowned. "No, everything was not well. But I don't have time to go into it at the moment. But trust me when I say we will discuss this later."

The man went white, stammered an apology and backed away.

"Jeez, he looked positively terrified," said Duo, blinking after him. "What did you do to him?"

"He's the manager," Wufei explained. "He refused to let Zechs have the key card to your room, so Zechs bought the hotel."

Duo skidded to a halt. "You bought a hotel?"

Zechs nodded.

"To make sure I was okay?"

Another nod.

Duo turned to Wufei. "Never let this man go."

"I don't intend to," Wufei said solemnly.

"Good. Now that that's settled, can we get going already?"

"Your white charger awaits, m'lord," Zechs said, pushing Duo toward the hotel entrance.

"That's only funny because you really drive a white Charger, you know."

"Why do you think I bought it?"

[part 11] [part 13] [back to Caroline's fic]