This Beginning's End + Part 12 (cont)

"Wake up. Damn you, wake up."

The harshly voiced command wakes me out of the state of half-aware slumber that's been an almost constant state for so long.

"Nanashi! Are you... damn it, I don't have time for this bullshit."

I feel rough hands on my face and suddenly, amazingly, the blindfold that has covered my features for so long is gone.

I squint. Even the meager amount of illumination lighting this room that I've been imprisoned in for all this time seems bright after so much time spent in the darkness.

The blurry images dancing before my face slowly swim into focus. He's standing in front of me.

I'm hanging from my arms in the middle of the room. My hands are bound together, held above me by some sort of chain apparatus attached to the ceiling. I asked him early on if all this bdsm gear was inherited from his mother. He didn't seem too excited by the question.

I guess it touched a nerve.

Even the inconsequential tangents that I desperately try to send my thoughts off on can't keep me from the complete, humiliating realization that I'm displayed stark naked and bound in the middle of this horrible room, with Barton a foot in front of me, smirking as his gaze sweeps my body. I thought it was bad when I was blindfolded. But somehow, it's even worse to know he's looking at me like this, it's even more demeaning to see the hunger in his eyes as he stares at me.

"I've found it, Nanashi," he whispers, reaching out to touch me. My lip curls in disgust as his fingers trail across my nipples, rubbing them between his fingers.

He laughs at my obvious revulsion for him. He loves it - he feeds on it. That's why I've had to let him see it, had to let him know how he affected me.

I didn't want to. I didn't want to give him the power over me that knowledge of my emotions gives him.

But I had to.

For the mission.

"I've found your little base," he tells me, pressing himself against my leg. I feel his erection through his pants, and shudder.

I don't reply. He's told me that before, tried to get me to believe that he had found the location, to convince me that all was lost so that I would betray the others.

The others.

I struggle, try to remember them. How could I forget them? It seems that it should be wrong that I could do that... But it seems so long ago.

I force my awareness of Barton away, try to remember... I recall a long braid of chestnut hair... the sound of violin music... the smell of incense and a sleek black head bowed in prayer... a figure, clad in black spandex and a green tank top, striding toward me, backlit by flames...

"Nanashi!" I'm jerked painfully back to awareness as Barton drags his fingers roughly down my back.

With difficulty, I hold back a scream of anguish. My back. He has to stop touching my back or I'll... I'll...

I almost laugh at the irony. Or I'll what? There's nothing I can do. My vision wavers in and out as hot flashes of pain pulse through my body.

I suddenly realize in an abrupt moment of lucidity that that's probably why I can't remember my friends, why I can't formulate plans to escape, why I can't seem to focus on anything. My back. It would be a damn miracle if it weren't infected. I shiver as I realize how cool the air in the room feels. Fever. I must have a fever, from the continually inflicted, constantly prodded, never-treated gashes on my back.

I feel a little better. At least I know. I wonder how bad it is. It'd be strange if gangrene or infection finished me off before the attack.

I force my attention back to Barton. I really don't want him to touch my back again.

"... we know the coordinates," he's telling me.

Again, I don't reply. He insisted that he knew the coordinates before. I don't believe him.

"Oslo!" he calls suddenly over his shoulder.

Another figure moves into view. I sneer as I see the leader of White Fang, impeccably clad in the dramatic black uniform Barton has selected for his forces.

Oslo just doesn't cut it. He's not as smart as Quinze, he's not as evil as Barton, he's not as suave as Treize. He's just a second string bad guy. Expendable.

Oslo's lips twist in a lewd half-smile as his eyes rake over my exposed form. Something inside me clenches with shame.

"Oslo, Nanashi here doesn't believe that we've found his base," Barton tells him. "Would you read him those coordinates?"

The leader of White Fang smirks at me. He pulls a small piece of paper from his pocket, and reads off the coordinates.

My God, he has found it. Barton has found the base.

I struggle to keep any expression from my face, to look bored, or amused even. I feel my legs tremble. He's found them.

"Don't try to fool us, Nanashi," Barton advises, his hand sliding down the front of my body, over the many bruises and cuts that he's inflicted over the past weeks. "We know it's there. We know."

It doesn't matter. It doesn't. They've had time... they must have... they must be prepared by now. They might be on their way here, even now.

"We do want to know a few things," Barton continues, his hand moving roughly and insolently between my legs. I start, trying to pull away, but there's nowhere to go.

"Tell me about the defenses, Nanashi," he instructs, his mouth close to my ear. "Who's in charge? What are they planning?" He squeezes me painfully, while his other hand begins to run lightly, menacingly, up and down my ruined back.

"Why bother to protect them, Nanashi?" he whispers insidiously, his voice surrounding me. "They didn't come for you. We haven't seen anything, in the whole month and more since you've been here. They didn't even try to save you."

They didn't even try... But I told them not to. And he said... I've been here... a month and more. They must be planning the attack. They could arrive any moment. I've completed my mission. I feel a surge of relief sweep through me, so intense that my legs give out completely and I'm left hanging only by my arms. Ninmu kanryou.

"They don't care about you, Nanashi." He laughs cruelly. "It's pathetic, really. You come here, and none of them back you up... "

His laughter fades away abruptly as something occurs to him. "Why did you come here, Nanashi?" His hand grabs my chin and yanks it up so I'm staring into his eyes. "What the hell was the purpose of this? What have they been doing? Why didn't they come for you?"

I stare into his blue eyes and see the angry suspicion in them. "About time you asked that question," I comment, managing to summon a weak specter of a derisive laugh. "Any sensible person would have thought about it as soon as I showed up, but a month isn't bad reaction time for a Barton... "

I'm cut off as his fist slams across my face, jerking my head back and filling my mouth with blood. This happens every time I insult him. You'd think I'd learn.

"Tell me what they're planning," he demands. His face contorted with his rage at my mockery. "Tell me now, or you'll wish you had."

Suddenly, that old threat doesn't strike the same fear and dread into me that it has since I was a kid back on L3, working as a mechanic for the Bartons. Now, it just leaves me feeling tired. Tired and weary and wanting to rest. I force my head into an upright position, and open my eyes staring directly at him. He gazes back at me, demanding - demanding I tell him what he wants to know, demanding that I betray my companions.

I summon the last of my energy.

"Tell me, Nanashi!"

"Fuck you, Barton," I reply, as clearly as I can.

I see the frenzied look in his eye. This is the end. It's the curse of all the Bartons, really. Most of the time, they're coldly intelligent, efficient, ruthless; evil. But when they're thwarted - when they realize that they won't get their way, when their plans have gone awry, when they're losing - they forfeit all of that chilling cunning. A rage so great as to be madness claims control of them and of their actions. It was in this mood that Dekim tried to shoot Relena, this madness was what made him claim that his granddaughter was expendable and led his own minion to kill him. This insane fury gave Barton himself the confidence to turn his back on Doktor S. and his assistant, after announcing his plans to use their creation to unleash death onto the world.

But now, the only thing for Barton to focus that madness on is me.

The death I have been seeking is come.

"Fine, Nanashi," he breathes, and I see the insanity in his eyes. "Your wish is my command."

Then he's behind me, and I try to brace myself, knowing what's coming.

A groan escapes me as he pounds into me, the pain intensifying as he grabs my hips and pushes deeper inside.

"You know, Nanashi, I always enjoyed you like this," he grunts as he continues to thrust into me. "I think it's what you were born for. I missed you. I've enjoyed our time together here. I can't wait until I take over that base and can meet all your friends... like this...

No! A fear more deep than any I've felt tears through me. I feel a physical pain in my chest at the thought of the others in the hands of this madman... A pained wail that I can't hold back comes from my throat at the thought.

"Oh yes," he promises, his breath coming hard as he continues to move. "You didn't think I would deny them what I've given you, did you? You certainly are unique, but even you aren't that special, Nanashi."

He can't! I came here... I fulfilled my mission... He won't... They...

"Chang first, I think," he determines, one hand moving upwards to scrape over my back. I barely notice, consumed with the thought of... Chang... of... of... Wufei!... at the mercies of this man. His... honor... he would never be able to bear this degradation...

"Then... that Winner boy," Barton tells me, moving more slowly inside me as he tries to stretch out this moment, combining this mental agony with the physical agony he's been showering on me for weeks. "I knew his father. Didn't like him. A bit of payback is in order."

Winner...Quatre! Gentle, cultured Quatre... this brutality would break him...

"Next, I think, Yuy." His pace has picked up again. He's really liking this. "I have a fancy to try out the guy Her Majesty the Queen hand-picked for herself. If nothing else, he's sure to be well-trained."

No. Not Heero. Heero would be disgusted, forever damaged. He would fight his way out, and spend the rest of his life trying to escape himself, escape what had happened to him. He would never be Heero again. Barton would do what the war could not - Barton would break Heero Yuy.

"And finally... the best for last." Barton's voice is strained now, his words come harder, his breath short. He's almost at the apex of his lust, but he's still taunting me. "Maxwell. He's got to be something special for you to have spent so much time with him, Nanashi. I really respect your taste, you know." He thrusts harder into me. "Did you teach him any of the things I taught you?"

I throw back my head and cry out, a hoarse sound of despair, trying to drive away the thought of Duo in Barton's hands. Duo, miserably trying to free himself as Barton and Oslo laugh at his struggles. Duo, bound and bloody, his hair tangled in the bleeding gashes Barton opens on his back. The despairing expression in his violet eyes as Barton forces himself into him, tears him...

"No!" I shout aloud, forcing my eyes open, unable to bear the pictures in my head. My gaze lights on Oslo, who is staring at me with a lustful gleam in his eye, his mouth slack with desire. I see the bulge in his black uniform pants.

God, Duo can never have to see these things. I must protect him. I must protect them all.

"Damn you, Barton!" I shout, struggling as best I can against the chains and the body pressed against me. "You sick fucking bastard... what the hell is wrong with you? You're going to die, Barton, do you hear me?! You'll die and burn... I'll fucking kill you myself, you disgusting asshole... "

He interrupts me with a loud shout, and I shudder as I feel him release himself into me. He stands there for a moment, hanging on to me to keep his balance, then he pulls away from me.

I hear him adjusting his clothes. I'm trembling with rage.

"I think you have it backwards, Nanashi," his says softly, and I can still hear the madness in his voice. "We know where the base is; we have no more need for you. I don't know what you've planned with your friends, but I know how to stop it. Maybe I'll get them to tell me - when they're hanging where you are now."

"You bastard!" I repeat. "Don't you dare even think about it, you sick bastard! I'll kill you with my bare hands before I let you... "

"Again, you have it backwards!" he interrupts in a shout. "You won't kill me, Nanashi. You won't be able to. I'm killing you first."

I hear the all-too-familiar swooshing sound, and an instant later I feel the whip across my back. I open my mouth and scream as the edge of the lash cuts into all the already-existing wounds.

"I've had enough of you, Nanashi!" Barton shouts over the sounds of the blows and my cries. "It's time to end this. For good!"

The lash falls again and again and again. I hear my cries get weaker, and slowly subside all together. Again and again I feel the streaks of pain across my skin. My awareness begins to dim, blackness surrounds my vision until I see only a small speck of light.

I can't let it go out! I can't fade away. I have another mission, a mission even more important than the first. I have to protect them all from Barton. I have to warn them. I can't let him get them - I can't let him get Duo.

The whip is still falling on my back. The madness still holds Barton - he hasn't realized my struggles have stopped, that I'm almost... that I'm...

"Sir! Mr. Barton!" I hear the voice from very far away. "Sir, that's enough!"

I hang limply from the chains, struggling not to move, not to breathe, yet to remain conscious, to remain alive.

"You can stop... he's dead."

Oslo. It must be Oslo. Barton would have continued - he should continue - until there was nothing left of me. If there's anything he's taught me, it's to be sure that your enemy is dead.

But Barton doesn't heed his own lesson. He stops. I must not let the blackness engulf me. I must remain conscious.

I feel his hand on my neck. Fortunately, I don't have the strength to pull away.

Suddenly, he's gone. I hear the sound of footsteps hurrying across the room.

"Get rid of it," he orders. He must be almost gone by now.

"What do you want me to... "

"I don't care!" he bellows. "Just get rid of it!"

The insanity has passed, and he's horrified by how completely it controlled him. He'll go now, try to forget, to collect himself. He's left Oslo with the duty of getting rid of the body. Mistake two.

"... .crazy mother fucker... " I hear Oslo muttering. I force my eyes to open just a little, just a little slit.

It's hard to focus. I wonder how much blood I've lost. Can I even stand, much less escape? I have to. I have to.

I feel Oslo very close to me. He's undoing the chains on my hands. My body buckles as my arms are released. He catches me, and, with a disgusted sound, hoists me over his shoulder, careful not to let my bleeding back touch his uniform.

He pauses to adjust my weight. "What the fuck am I supposed to do with this... " he grumbles.

I open my eyes. I move my head slightly, and see the bulge of his gun, sticking out of the back of his pants. What an idiotic place to put it. What the hell does he think he is, some kind of badass space cowboy?

"... biggest bunch of crap I've ever seen... Quinze never acted like this... " He sighs exaggeratedly, obviously trying to figure out where the best place to dump my body is.

I close my eyes tightly, gathering my strength. Very slowly, I wrap the fingers of one hand around the butt of his gun. Then, quickly, I lift the other hand and brace it on his shoulder. In the same movement, I dig one foot into his stomach as hard as I can, pushing against his shoulder. He goes stumbling backwards from the force of my blow, while I fly in the opposite direction, landing hard on my injured back. Damn! But at least... it worked! I have...

"Don't come a step closer to me, Oslo," I order in as firm a voice as I can. That landing took a lot out of me, and I didn't have a lot to begin with. "You'd better start talking."

"You couldn't... " he begins, swaggering toward me.

I take careful aim and fire the gun.

He shrieks and falls to the floor, his hand pressed to the side of his head. He stares up at me, and slowly sticks his hand out, staring at the blood covering it.

"It's just a flesh wound, Oslo - this time. Next time, I'll shoot your damn hand off," I tell him coldly. "Now, I want some information. Where are the suits?"

"I'm not telling you a damn thing," he spits.

I raise the gun again.

"Wait!" he shouts, panic dawning in his eyes. This guy is a great torturer, but he seems to be very rapidly falling apart with just a little taste of his own medicine.

"The suits, Oslo."

"In the dock," he tells me stupidly.

I sigh, and carefully sight the gun.

"Wait! Stop! What the hell do you... "

"Where's the dock, Oslo?" I ask impatiently. "How do you get there from here?"

"I can't... Barton will kill me if I tell you... "

"And I'll kill you if you don't," I point out reasonably. "At least you'll prolong the inevitable."

He stares at me angrily for a moment, then tells me where the dock is. It's not that far. Apparently, Barton likes to keep all his toys in one place.

"And what's the code for the lock?" I ask, ostentatiously fingering the trigger.

He curses me for a minute, then grudgingly tells me the code.

Oslo is just not impressive. Barton should have known better than to ally with White Fang. Amateurs.

"Well, Oslo, this is your lucky day," I tell him as I slowly manage to get to my feet. I sway slightly, but years of training are beginning to kick in. I can't allow weakness to overcome me this close to escape.

I stare at him, see the relief sweep over his face, as well as a trace of arrogant contempt that tells me he sees my ‘mercy' as weakness.

"Definitely your lucky day," I muse. "Because I just don't have the time to play with you the way you deserve. So I'll just have to shoot you."

The relief on his face is abruptly gone and he begins to babble, protesting, begging for his life. I shake my head, raise my arm and wearily pull the trigger.

A neat black hole appears in Oslo's forehead. Slowly, he falls backwards, hitting the ground with a loud thump.

I arm the gun, carefully approaching the body. The hole is directly in the center of his head - there's no way he could have survived that.

But always be sure the enemy is dead. Lesson one.

I kneel beside him, and place the gun against his ear. I pull the trigger again.

Definitely dead. I sneer at the corpse, and the gore fanning out from the wounds in his head.

"Not impressive, Oslo," I mutter as I begin stripping his clothes off.

I fold the arms of his undershirt in, and arrange it to cover my back. I wince as I feel the fabric begin to stick to the open wounds, but this impromptu bandage is the best I can do. The long-sleeved black shirt is perfect - it will hide my other wounds and any blood that seeps through as well.

I take his pants and shoes, but can't bring myself to purloin the socks or underwear. I'll have to resign myself to blisters and chafing - some things even practicality can't overcome my objections to.

I let myself carefully out of the small room that has been my world for a month, sparing one last glance for Oslo. One down. One to go.

But not now. Now I have to get out, so I can get back and warn the others.

Maybe then I can rest.

I'm so tired.

Moving as stealthily as I can, I sneak into the dock. I expect trouble, but, amazingly, noone is there. No mechanics, no guards... nothing.

Barton is cocky.

Of course, the colony is big. Their surveillance systems would let them know if anyone were approaching. Why waste men on guarding completed suits when they could be building others?

I wonder if their force is really any bigger than ours.

My eye is drawn at once to the suit that looms over the others - the Gundam.

I won't call it Heavyarms. It isn't. But it'll do.

I find the ground control for the mounting strip, and carefully ride up. I strap myself into the pilot's seat and look around me. Everything is amazingly familiar.

As I'm about to program the coordinates in and blast out, an idea occurs to me.

I've got to discourage pursuit, after all.

This all seems very unreal. I wonder if it's just a dream.

I push a few buttons. The suit hums, metal grinds on metal. The guns are armed.

Another button. The suit moves into the air, the doors of the dock begin to creak open. Way up, the lock covering the colony is opening too.

The suit glides to the end of the dock. I turn, and take aim...

The suits directly in my line of fire explode. The suits behind them are taken out in the explosion... the heat from those explosions ignite the fuel tanks of the other suits...

My suit is blown out of the dock by the answering force. I lean hard on one lever, and the suit grudgingly responds, moving upwards toward the lock.

Below me, explosions are continuing. Suits are exploding. I laugh.

A signal shrills loudly. The comm signal.

"... the hell are you doing? What caused these explosions? Who authorized you to... "

I flick on the video feed. Trowa Barton's shocked, angry gaze meets mine.

"Nanashi," he whispers, stunned. Then, "Close the lock!" he bellows to someone behind him.

"I'll just shoot it open, Barton," I tell him calmly.

"You will pay for this, Nanashi," he growls in a low voice.

"You had your chance, Barton. Now we're even. Always be sure your enemy is dead," I warn him..

"Oh, I will, Nanashi," he answers grimly. "Have no fear of that."

"I make you the same promise, Barton," I reply as my suit darts through the lock.

I break the feed, unwilling to continue to exchange threats with Barton. I quickly enter the code to close the lock. It's doubtful he'll follow me at this point, with Oslo dead, and suits exploding and his Gundam gone - but I want to make it as difficult as possible should the madness come to rule him again.

My fingers fumble as I enter the coordinates for the base. I hope he doesn't follow. I hope this Gundam can execute the journey on automatic. I hope I get to the others in time. I hope... the blackness that has been threatening for so long finally engulfs me, and I feel nothing else.

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