Author: Merula
see pt 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

PLEASE READ: Before anyone writes and says that my Relena seems to be acting out of character here, please put yourself in her shoes. Considering what's happened to her, I think she'd be grateful to see the devil himself.

[ dacia's notes: *blinks* Relena's OOC here? I don't see it... ]

Reckless + Part 8

I was cursing to myself as I cased the building. Heero was mad at me, but what the hell was I supposed to do? Relena's other bodyguards weren't trained for this, the locals were crooked, and Dorothy was needed to keep the appearance up. Yes, I could've waited, but that would've cut the retrieval time down significantly. Not good.

I put Heero and his concerns out of my mind. I couldn't think about him now. I needed to concentrate on getting into the building. It wasn't going to be easy.

Out in front there was a man lying in a crumpled heap, apparently dead drunk. The tell tale glint of concealed steel inside his coat told me otherwise. He was armed, and probably wired too. I'd need an alternate route in. A smile crossed my face as I saw a street urchin stop and stare longingly at the building. My luck was beginning to change.

A pack of chewing gum, and two small knives later I had my info. Money was useless to the street rat, but barter was the lifeblood of the street. The building used to be the hideout of the urchin and his friends until they were forced to relocate by the kidnappers. They had used a small escape tunnel that they had concealed to exit. As far as the urchin knew, it was still undiscovered. I certainly hoped that was the case.

I slipped unobserved into the back alley and made my way back to the rusted out dumpster that was in the far corner. The lid looked rusted tight, but I knew better. I carefully lifted the lid, praying that it hadn't been discovered. My luck was holding, there were no sensors attached to alert them to my entry. I slipped inside the dumpster and gently closed the lid behind me.

It took only moments to locate the hidden door in the back of the dumpster and then I was inside. It was a small broom closet that had just enough clutter inside not to arouse suspicion. I hoped my luck would hold and I could get to Relena and back to my secret exit before they even knew I was there. It didn't happen.

I bumped into my first guard as I was exiting the closet. Luckily for me he was so stunned I was able to subdue him before he could make a sound. Unfortunately, the only pace to stash him was my recently abandoned coat closet. Oh well, he shouldn't wake up before I made it back, and if he did, well, I'd deal with that when the time came.

After a long search, I found Relena in the basement. The two guards on her door were easily knocked out. She was sitting on a beat up mattress in the corner of the room. She did not look good at all. Her clothing was all torn up and she was huddled against the wall. Shit.

"Relena!" I hissed at her from the doorway.

"Duo?" She looked up at me and blinked. Her eyes were red and a large bruise stood out on her cheek.

"At your service, milady. I think you've seen enough of the rough side of L2, don't you? Can you get up and over to me?" She got unsteadily to her feet and walked towards me. When she got close enough, I put my hand out to her. She surprised me when she threw her arms around my neck and burst into tears.

"Oh god, Duo.. they..." She managed, clinging tightly to me. I had already seen the blood on her legs. I was suddenly furious but I knew I couldn't yell, not now.

"Shh, Relena. Shh. It's okay. I need you to be strong for me so we can get out of here. Please." I gave her a reassuring squeeze and pulled back a little. She brushed her tears off her cheeks and tried to smile for me.

"I'm sorry, Duo. I'll try." Gone was the vicious princess that had faced me in the coffee shop, the disappointed woman who had left my apartment. Relena looked at me with the eyes of a little girl who wanted to be saved from the monsters. Oh hell.

"It's okay, it really is." I told her, easing back out into the hallway.

"Is everyone else okay?" She asked timidly.

"Everyone else?" I replied blankly as I scanned the hallway and tried to figure a way out. Had they caught others?

"My security? Dorothy? I thought Dorothy..." She paused and I understood.

"She's a bit furious with Une and I. She wanted to come with me, but she was the one who's supposed to handle the ransom." I grinned at her and motioned for her to follow me down the hallway. "She would've rather been here, believe me. I promised her that I'd get you back safe."

"Why are you here?" Relena whispered.

"You needed me. I'm the L2 expert, remember?" She flushed and got quiet.

We crept back through passageways, occasionally easing into doorways or other rooms to avoid getting caught. I knew they'd be finding Relena's guards soon, and I knew we'd have to get out of there quickly before an alarm was raised.

Once, when we had ducked into a room to let a patrol go by, Relena had leaned close to me and whispered:

"Duo, I'm really sorry."

"It's okay," I told her after the footsteps had passed us by. "But I told Une that you are taking self-defense lessons after this- pacifist or not. You get kidnapped way too easily."

"Not for that," she grabbed my arm as I reached for the door. "For you and Heero." I froze and glanced at her. "I really am." I looked at her in amazement for a moment. Was she serious? Or was it only because I was helping her out right now?

"'Lena, I appreciate that, believe me, but can we have this conversation later? I have a feeling it will be a bit of a long one." I smiled for her.

"I know. I just wanted to say it. In case-" she stopped and I nodded.

"I know. Let's go."

I had managed to get Relena and myself all the way back up to the ground level floor. We had a couple of close misses, but so far so good.

I shouldn't have been so sure of myself.

A guard where he wasn't supposed to be.

I managed to take him out, but he took me out first.

I blinked, pain shooting up my side.

"Duo! Don't move!" Relena's panicky voice hissed in my ear.

"What happened?"

"He shot you," I looked down. Relena's hands were covered in blood- my blood. She had ripped off my shirt and part of her skirt and was holding the material tight against the wound.

"What a way to go," I groaned. "Taken out by some third rate idiot."

"You aren't going to die!" Relena snapped. "Don't you dare!" My vision was beginning to get the little black dots floating in the corner of my eyes.

"I might not have a choice," I reached up and grabbed her shoulder. "You have to get out of here 'Lena. We're on the ground floor. Go out a window and run like hell."

"I won't leave you!"

"You have to- I promised Dorothy I'd get you out safe."

"And what will Heero say to me when he hears I left you to die?" Suddenly, there was a muffled thud and the building shook. "What's that?" Relena grabbed my arm tightly. I looked at my watch.

"At a guess, the cavalry has finally arrived. That would be the Preventers." Relief swept through me. "Out the window, 'Lena. Get me some help." She picked up my hand and held it tightly for a moment before putting it on the material she had bound against my side.

"You hold on, Duo Maxwell!" She said fiercely to me. "For Heero. Okay?"

"Okay, 'Lena. And if I don't make it- tell him I'm sorry." I saw the tears spill down her cheeks then. She got to her feet and headed for the window. I blacked out right after I saw her leave.

Mission accomplished.

Relena's voice. Wasn't she safe? I heard her talking, her tone pleading. Oh no... had they caught her? My eyes snapped open and I sat up quickly.

Big mistake.

My side exploded in pain and I toppled the IV next to my bed. The clatter made the group in the doorway turn to look at me.

Relena- still covered in my blood- and hers. Heero, Wufei and Trowa in their Preventers uniforms. Quatre- looking exhausted. Dorothy- the anger in her eyes fading into relief.

"Uh- ow?" Heero was at my side in an instant.

"Duo, lay down, goddamn it!" I lay back down again quickly. The others moved into my vision.

"Duo, are you okay?" Relena asked timidly as Heero turned his glare on her.

"Shouldn't have sat up," I panted. "You got out okay?"

"Just fine," Dorothy answered for her. "Thank you, Duo." She bent down, heedless of Heero's glare, and kissed my cheek gently. "But next time, you get to handle the furious 'hero' and I get to rescue the princess, okay?"

"It's a deal," I agreed. "She's all yours." Dorothy grinned at me and took Relena's elbow.

"Since Duo is okay, Miss Relena, why don't we go get you cleaned up for the press conference?" Relena bent over me.

"Thank you Duo." She kissed my cheek as well. The two women left the room. I turned my head to look at the others. Heero was still radiating fury.

"How bad?" I asked.

"It missed anything major, but you lost a lot of blood." Wufei answered calmly. "You'll be out risking your life again soon."

"I didn't do it on purpose," I protested, feeling a faint hint of deja vu.

"Are you so sure about that?" Trowa asked me.

"Of course I am- I didn't ask the damn guy to shoot me!" I snapped, nettled by the tone in his voice. "It's a fucking dangerous job and all of you know it."

"You could've waited for backup." He told me.

"And in the meantime let them do more awful things to Relena?" That stopped them for a minute.

"What do you mean?" Quatre finally asked. He was the only one not apparently angry with me, but you never knew with Quatre.

"No one noticed?" I asked a bit incredulously. "They- weren't gentle with her." I took a breath and gave Quatre a pleading look. "She's going to need some- help, Quatre. Will you talk to Dorothy, in private, about it? Please?"

"I will," he assured me, a faint frown on his face. "I'll go right now, Duo- okay?"

"Thanks," I managed. My side really hurt. Quatre left the room so I was now facing three of them. I looked at the one that mattered the most. "If I had waited do you honestly think that they'd just turn her back over to us?"

"I don't know what to think." Heero replied. He didn't look angry anymore, just tired. He turned on his heel and left the room. My heart sank.

"So, was the risk worth it Duo?" Trowa asked me.

"Shut up," I snapped at him, my anger finally sparking. "What would you have done Trowa? Taken a bunch of untrained guards in there to get killed? Taken Dorothy and left the hotel unwatched- given the gang something to be suspicious about? Waited until they had the ransom and had decided that they didn't need Relena anymore? Let them sit back and rape her again?" I sat up again, side aching. "I'm waiting Trowa!" I yelled at him.

He left. I was panting with anger. I looked at Wufei.

"Go away Chang. I'm sure the others are out in the hall talking about what a jerk I am. Feel free to join them."

"Duo-" Wufei started.

"Leave me alone." Wufei left too. I stared at the ceiling, angry as all hell. At the others and at myself.

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Merula's fic]