Reunion + Chapter 16 (cont)


Leah glanced up from her paperwork and scowled as she saw Ray Anders casually sauntering out of the room.

"Trust him to sneak out for an early lunch," she muttered, glancing at her watch. "Ooh, only fifteen minutes early! I'm impressed by his restraint... or I would be, if I thought he was coming back before two-thirty."


Ivan was starting to have second thoughts.

"Uh... guys?" he said nervously, watching as the others cracked their knuckles and grinned at each other expectantly. "We're just gonna threaten him, right? Maybe push him around a little, so he knows we're serious... but that's all, right? I thought that was the plan..."

"Sure it is," one said easily, patting him on the shoulder. "This is just in case, you know? He's a tough guy; he might think he can punch his way out of trouble. We gotta be ready for that."

"...Okay," Ivan said uncertainly, turning away.

"Don't worry about it," the man called after him. "It'll sort itself out. Just follow our lead!"

Out of sight of Ivan, he pulled a set of brass knuckles out of his pocket and slid them onto his right hand.


"'Push him around a little'," Anders sneered quietly, moving to where his car was parked. "Yeah, right..."

Unlocking the trunk, he reached inside, closing his good hand around something cold and metal.


Shutting down his computer and stuffing papers into a drawer, Wufei picked up a scribbled note and squinted at it, muttering. "I knew I should have asked her to tell me the address and written it down myself. The woman is a doctor; of course her handwriting is indecipherable!" He peered closer. "Thirteen... no, fifteen... no, eighteen Oi... Onu... Onurday? That's ridiculous. On... Onondaga? That's a street I know, and that squiggle at the end could be 'ga'... Right then, this bakery that sells great tiramisu is at eighteen Onondaga Street. Probably."

Thrusting the note into a pocket and draping his coat over one arm, he made for the door, still muttering. "Onondaga Street isn't that far from my route home; I can find this bakery -- assuming it is on Onondaga, and not some other street that can be writtten as 'O-squiggle-loop-tail-squiggle' -- buy Duo's tiramisu, and get home before twelve-thirty..."

"Chang? A moment, if you don't mind."

Wufei stopped, took two steps backwards, and peered into the office he'd just passed. "Yes, Lady Une?" I am going home. Now.

"See that this gets to Maxwell, would you?" she said coolly, handing him a neatly wrapped cube.

Blink. Blink.

"Ah... certainly, Lady," he said, carefully tucking the smallish present into one of his coat's large pockets. "Er... Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Chang," she said, apparently absorbed in her paperwork once more. "Now get out before something blows up and I'm forced to try to keep you here."

"Yes, Ma'am."

Crunching his way across the thin layer of trampled snow that coated the path outside, Wufei chuckled softly to himself, hefting the coat over his arm and feeling the extra weight. I wonder what she got him? It could be almost anything... I'm sure he gave her some pretty weird presents during the war. Sally said she had a box full...

That's Duo, all right, he thought, walking around the corner of the building and starting to cross the carpark towards his Blazer. Always trying to make people happy...

"All right, Chang... we want to have a little talk with you."

Wufei stopped short. Men -- Preventers, in uniform -- were emerging from behind cars all around him; he counted half a dozen, and could hear more closing the circle behind him.

Damn, he thought, glancing around, quickly checking faces and hands, looking for signs of concealed weapons. I must be more tired than I thought, to walk straight into an ambush this sloppy. If I'd just been paying attention... He frowned slightly. I've seen most of these men around HQ, but... I don't think I've said more than two words to any of them! Why are they coming after me?

Shifting his weight slightly, Wufei fell into a defensive posture. "Is there a problem here, agents?" he asked coldly. Ex-OZ soldiers with a grudge? Brass knuckles, shot gloves... that one may have a knife, but he hasn't drawn it... no guns that I can see.

"Damn right we've got a problem with you, asshole," one said, stepping forward. "It's time we had a little chat about that Maxwell kid and what you did to him."

What?! Wufei nearly staggered with surprise. How-- why-- how'd they find out it was my fault he left eight months ago? And why do they care?!

"Yeah, Chang," another sneered. "Where do you get off, beating that kid like that? It's no wonder he ran off!"

...wait. Back up. What did he say?

"...'beating'?" Wufei said carefully. "You think I beat Duo? What the hell gave you that idea?!"

"Ray spotted it first," the first speaker said, "and we got a look at him the other day. No way did he get in that bad a shape in four days, you prick. You were beating him up and he ran away; that's why you put out the APB, to get him back so you could beat on him some more. Well, you're not getting your sick jollies that way any more, right, guys?"


"Um... you haven't?" someone said tentatively from behind him. "Uh... but... Ray said--"

"Go tell it to someone who might listen," someone yelled, lunging forward.

Wufei ducked the first blow, threw his coat into the face of the next attacker, then dropped low and swept the first man's feet out from under him.

The footing is bad, he thought, bouncing to his feet and slipping slightly on the thin layer of dirty snow, but that affects them as much as it does me. They don't seem particularly skilled... but it's ten against one, and I'm not in the best of shape--

Someone punched him in the shoulder from behind, and he spun to face the new threat.


Ivan held back, wide-eyed and aghast, as the others lunged forward or circled Wufei, looking for their chance to attack.

"Guys, no..." he protested weakly. "We shouldn't... this... this isn't the plan! This isn't what I agreed to!"

"God, you're thick," one of them said scornfully. "You really didn't get it, did you? It's not like we could come straight out and say 'let's beat the crap out of him'. Someone might have heard! You just never picked up on the hints, idiot. If you're not gonna help, stay out of our way!"

Ivan swallowed miserably, watching as Wufei dodged and blocked several more attacks. Did they... is that what was going on? Is that what they meant? Remembered comments flickered through his mind.

*'...teach him a lesson...'*

*'...let him know how we feel about it...'*

*'...make sure he knows we're serious...'*

And then they'd nod, and grin... I am stupid.

Now what do I do?!

As he dithered, he saw Anders step out from behind Wufei's Blazer, grinning viciously as he raised something long and metallic.

"No..." Ivan whispered, horrified; then he ran forward, yelling. "Ray, no! Chang! LOOK OUT!"


Wufei blinked, hearing the warning but not sure where it came from. Look out for what?! he thought, automatically ducking and starting to turn. Something behind me?

Pain exploded across his back as something hit him, throwing him forward onto hands and knees; then a boot caught him in the stomach, driving the remaining breath from his lungs and kicking him over onto his side.

I really am tired, he thought dazedly, wheezing as he struggled to breathe again. I didn't spot that coming, either...

"How's it feel, you little prick?" a smug voice asked. "You've had this coming for months."

Looking up, Wufei saw a single man standing over him; the others seemed to have pulled back now that he was down. The man had a cast on his left wrist, and was holding a long tyre iron in his right hand, jiggling it slightly up and down.

"Mr. Perfect," he said, grin widening. "I think I'll break your arm first..."

Wufei tried to move, to roll away or raise an arm to block, but a stabbing pain from his right shoulder and back froze him for just an instant. The tyre iron swung up and came down at him--


There was a cry of pain, but it wasn't his.

"Ray, don't!" a large man gasped, crouching protectively over Wufei. He'd blocked the blow with his right arm; blood was starting to spread over his sleeve and trickle through his fingers as he clutched the obviously broken limb to his chest.

Open compound fracture, Wufei noted automatically, slowly and painfully shifting his weight, trying to get his legs and good arm under him so he could get up. That's got to hurt... and there's definitely something wrong with my shoulder. We're in trouble.

"Get out of my way, Ivan," Ray said threateningly.

"Ray, you can't do this! It's too much! I thought we were just gonna warn him off... we don't have to beat him up if he just leaves the kid alone!"

"This isn't about the kid!" Anders snarled. "It never was! I don't give a good goddamn about the kid! This is about Chang being Mr. Perfect, the Preventers poster boy, always showing people up and being used as an example. Maxwell's a good excuse if we get caught, that's all."

"So... the school bullies are going to beat me up for being teacher's pet?" Wufei said painfully, making it up onto his knees. "That's so childish, it's embarrassing."

"Oh, shit," one of the other men said, dropping his fists and backing off. Several others exchanged looks and started drifting backwards, but three men -- Anders's closest friends -- just grinned.

"Don't tell me you're all wimping out now," one said, grinning mockingly. "You were all fired up to beat Chang into a bloody pulp this morning!"

"Yeah, when I thought it was the right thing to do!" one of the others yelled.

"Screw this," Anders said impatiently, waving the tyre iron at one of his friends. "Jack, get that idiot Ivan out of my way. The rest of you better keep your mouths shut, or we'll take care of you, too. Got me?"


Leah tapped at Lady Une's open door and stuck her head inside. "Is there anything else you need before I go to lunch, ma'am?"

"Hm? No, no," Une said, glancing up at the clock. "Nothing that can't wait an hour or two. Go on, you're already late."

Pulling her coat on, Leah strode out the front door, nodding to the desk guard as she passed. I hope the food court at the mall isn't too crowded, she thought, turning left towards the smaller parking lot. There's probably a lot of last-minute Christmas shoppers; maybe I'll go to that little cafe instead...

"...never... on Duo Maxwell!" came faintly from behind her.

What the...? That sounded like Chang!* Leah stopped, looking behind her. *The other car park is that way... She took a couple of steps in that direction, straining to hear over the sounds of the wind and traffic.

"! Chang! Look out!"

Leah ran back to the door and slammed through it, shouting at the startled desk guard. "Get security to the west parking lot now! Something's going on, I think it's a fight--" The closing door cut her words off as she bolted towards the sounds.

I'll just bet Anders has something to do with this! she fumed, pelting along beside the building. A fight in a carpark would be just his style, and he was staring at Chang when he brought Maxwell in for a checkup... damn! If I'd just put two and two together, even if I didn't have proof I could have warned Chang to be careful!

Skidding around the corner, she saw the cluster of men half-way across the parking lot, and ran towards them.

Ten against one and an ambush. They're so brave! she thought scornfully. Looks like some of them are having second thoughts, but it's a bit late now--

There was a yell of pain as one of Anders's friends dragged another man out of the central cluster, and the rest closed in.

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