Author: Calic0cat
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Fragments + Chapter 16

I dropped into position slightly behind Heero as we walked down the hallway we'd been instructed to follow. Something about the entire situation just *screamed* wrongness. But without any tangible evidence, there wasn't much we could do but follow the woman's instructions. I didn't want to unnecessarily blow our cover in a fit of paranoia. But every street instinct I possessed was on full alert, warning me that we were walking into a trap.

A warning that was confirmed the moment that Mattis spoke from behind us. Spoke in perfect, flawless, Japanese. A language that the Preventers' records on the man did *not* list amongst those that he knew. Suddenly, the risk I'd taken in telling Heero who we were this morning took on new proportions. Obviously finding someone to translate the conversation wouldn't have required the extra effort that I'd been hoping for. I'd known it was a fucking huge risk but it wasn't like I'd had a whole hell of a lot of choice at the time...

I made a brief attempt at bluffing our way through this. I didn't expect it to work but there was nothing to lose by trying. I barely had time to be grateful that Heero had remembered most of his training before we were springing into motion. Disarming the men between us and the exit was simple; they might have known how to handle guns but they clearly had very limited training in hand-to-hand combat. In almost no time, Heero and I were outside and I was leaning hard against the door we'd just came through, desperately attempting to jam the distinctly uncooperative lock. I'd already ordered Heero to go but so far he hadn't left. I wanted him out of there; at least one of us needed to get away and if only one of us made it, I wanted it to be him. I just hoped that he'd managed to retain the contact information I'd given him during our second shower together. Quatre would be surprised to be contacted but I sure as hell couldn't tell Heero to contact Une or Zechs with his memory in its current state. That would have really been asking for trouble.

"Max?"

"*GO!*" I repeated, struggling with the lock while holding the knob firmly in the latched position. Evidently I'd put enough of the snap of command in my voice this time to trigger the automatic obedience he'd been trained for because I could hear him leaving. Another moment of fighting with the damn lock and... "Finally!" I muttered in relief.

I turned to follow Heero just as a figure in the garb of resort security came running along the side of the arena. The guard levelled his gun towards Heero's retreating back. 'No!' I snapped off a shot of my own even as he fired. Mine hit its target, his didn't; the guard went tumbling down the steps. Heero dove and rolled, coming up to crouch facing towards the arena, obviously looking for the shooter. Behind him, a woman stepped out of the narrow gap between two buildings. Light gleamed faintly off the gun in her hand and I raised my own, sighting on her.

"*RUN*, dammit!" I shouted. I could hear the door I'd jammed creaking as heavy weight slammed into it. It wouldn't take long for those hulking bodyguards to ram their way through; even if the latch held, the hinges and frame wouldn't take that kind of punishment for long. I seriously doubted that we'd both get away but if at least one of us did, there would still be a chance of making it out of this alive.

Vaguely, I was aware of Heero raising his own gun and wondered whether yet another enemy was behind me. There was no time to look, though. I fired and heard Heero's gun go off a millisecond behind my own.

The impact of the bullet tearing into my shoulder sent me staggering. Unsure of where the shot had come from - my heart didn't want to believe what logic was telling me about that - I let myself fall as the pain blossomed. It would be harder for a second shot to hit me if I was on the ground; the lights from the arena behind me would have made me a very conspicuous target for that first shot. I tried to drag myself away but my arm wouldn't cooperate; it was all I could do to stay conscious. There seemed to be rather a lot of blood soaking my shirt and jacket and I was sure that I could feel bone grate against the bullet when I tried to move my shoulder.

Behind me, I heard the door finally give way to the assault it had been under. More shots rang out and I caught a brief, blurry glimpse of Heero finally fleeing before a pair of well-polished shoes appeared in my line of sight. Mattis spoke in a voice that practically dripped oil, "How very rude to leave so early, my dear 'Mr. Wells'. I really must insist that you stay awhile.

"Harris, help Mr. *Maxwell* to his feet, please. He appears to be in need of some assistance."

Despite my grogginess, I attempted to summon up an appropriate response. But then Harris grabbed me by the shoulders and yanked me to my feet. The bullet wound flared with agony and I welcomed the black void that rose up to take me away from it all.

***

"Duo. Duo, wake up. *DUO*." The feminine voice was vaguely familiar but I couldn't bring myself to make the necessary effort to figure out why. I wanted to return to the embrace of nothingness that I'd been in. I didn't want to have to think about everything that had been happening.

"Maxwell. Status!" another familiar voice snapped. The voice was sharp but - not quite right somehow.

I forced my eyes open reluctantly. "Wufei?" I mumbled. I tried to sit up and nearly passed out again. I'd forgotten how bad being shot hurt. "*Shit.*"

"Easy, Duo. They gave me a few things to patch you up a bit but you lost a lot of blood." Firm, slender hands steadied me.

I turned my head. "*Sally?*" I looked beyond her and spotted Wufei seated on the floor, leaning against the wall. He didn't look too good. His face was bruised and swollen and one arm was in a makeshift sling. "What the hell..." I twisted my arm to check the date and realized that my watch was gone. I didn't think I'd been out long enough for them to have arrived and been caught though. Especially not if my wound hadn't been treated till Sally arrived; I'd be in even worse shape than I was in that case.

"Wufei took one look at those pictures filed in the reorder database under 'Max Wells' and we were on the next shuttle for the resort," Sally said. She sighed and pushed loose wisps of hair back from her face. "Unfortunately, we were not a good choice for undercover work on this one..."

"You mean *I* wasn't," Wufei said bitterly. His eyes - or rather, the one that wasn't swollen mostly shut - met mine. "Mattis supplied arms to Barton's army during the Mariemaia incident apparently. I never met him but..."

"One of his men recognized Wufei and knew the name he was using was false," Sally finished quietly.

I groaned in dismay. Great. Just fucking terrific. The backup I'd been waiting so anxiously for had arrived ahead of schedule but had gotten caught. This mess just kept getting better and better.

"Maxwell, those pictures..." Wufei's voice trailed off inquiringly.

"There was an 'accident' and he got hit on the head. He's got retrograde amnesia and he's just starting to remember things," I said flatly. "As of yesterday afternoon, he still didn't remember any of us." Gingerly, I raised my opposite hand to touch my injured shoulder before adding gloomily, "But I'm guessing he remembers meeting me now since I'm pretty sure he's the one who shot me." I was *not* going to get into all the ugly little details of Heero's amnesia and the hatchet job it had done on my heart right now. Fei would undoubtedly drag them out of me later - he *was* my best friend after all and just as damn stubborn as me - but I couldn't handle talking about it just yet. Besides which, it was pretty much a given that we were under surveillance. None of this was exactly news to our listeners but they really didn't need to hear my little sob story.

Utter silence greeted my explanation. Finally, Wufei swore explosively and at considerable length in Chinese. He didn't have much volume and the words were a bit less than clear due to his swollen jaw but it was a damn impressive exhibition of profanity. I added a few new expressions to my own vocabulary and Sally actually looked slightly shocked. It took a hell of a lot to shock her - she *was* commander of a rebel group during the war after all - but Wufei was being quite - creative.

When he fell silent, I nodded and agreed simply, "This mission is *so* screwed..."

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