The Beginning's End + Part 15 (cont)

"AAAAAGGGGHHHH!" The wordless shout of pain is cut off by the dull thud of yet another blow.

I drag my eyes away from the disgusting little sights that this place has to offer me and look at the source of that sound.

Barton is hanging from his wrists in the middle of the room - in the middle of this room that he kept Trowa imprisoned in for over a month.

It was my idea to conduct our business here. I thought it was rather poetic.

It was a bit tricky getting him hooked up there, though. When we landed on the colony he tried to ambush us, and I accidentally shot most of his hand off when I was disarming him.

Oopsie.

But that made working the chains difficult - the cuff kept slipping over the stump.

We managed to fix it though. Teamwork and creative problem solving will cure any difficulty.

I watch my ‘teammate' with not a little admiration. I'd expected him to be squeamish. I figured that I'd have to lose him in order to get done what I felt needed to be gotten done. But he's better at this then I am.

Another hoarse cry from Barton underscores that point I'd just admitted to myself. The arrogant pretty boy isn't so pretty anymore. Blood runs down the side of his face and down his bare chest. One leg is bent at a rather awkward angle - he really resisted being brought in here. He was hard to convince.

"Do go on, Mr. Barton," Quatre urges, his breath a little short. "I believe you were saying something about my mother. Would you care to continue?"

Yes, definitely better than me. More creative. And that politeness thing…I would be swearing at Barton, calling him names and insulting him. Somehow this ironic courtesy is much worse. I should be taking notes.

"Fuck you," Barton spits defiantly, blood spraying out from between his lips.

"No, thank you," I pipe up.

Quatre nods agreement, one lip curled up in disdain. "I'm sorry, Mr. Barton, that's the one indignity that you visited on Trowa that we'll have to refrain from allowing you to experience. I mean, we're certainly not above hurting you…" One slim hand moves almost negligently along a certain point along Barton's shoulder, and the man howls with pain. When Quatre drops his hand again, I see a long gash on the spot he just touched. I sometimes forget Quatre's background. For all his kindness and gentleness, he's the head of one of the most powerful corporations in the known world, and the only male heir of a family that traces its lineage back to sultans and emirs. Not exactly cuddly people, Quatre's family.

"We're certainly not above hurting you," Quatre repeats. "But as for raping you…some lengths no human being stoops to."

"Moral standards," Barton sneers mockingly, if breathlessly. "I never thought I'd be lectured on moral standards by people who were hanging me in the middle of a room and torturing me."

"Nothing you haven't done to Trowa," I remind him. Time for me to get back in the game.

"Ah, Nanashi," he muses. "Nanashi….somehow…I just…can't help myself when it comes to him. Surely you understand…" His taunting words end in a groan as I slam my fist into his stomach.

"I understand nothing about you, Barton," I hiss into his ear. "Nothing."

"Sure you do," he manages as soon as he has some of his breath back. "Don't tell me you were never rough with him, never played with him a little."

"Normal people don't get their kicks out of hurting other people."

He laughs disbelievingly. "Sure. Well, you should try it then," he advises. "He makes this sound…this half-whimper, half-moan…and he throws his head back and squeezes his eyes closed when he's doing it…It's really hot…"

The rest of his words, if there were anymore, are drowned out in my roar of anger. I want to see him bleed, want to feel him break…want the only person left in the world who has seen Trowa like that to be dead…

"Duo!" Quatre's hands are on my shoulders, pulling me back. "Don't let him make you angry," he tells me in a low voice. "He wants you to be angry, so it'll be over."

"I don't care," I pant, so angry I can barely see straight. "I'm gonna kill him, Quatre, and when I'm done I'm gonna fucking rip him apart and…"

"Duo!" Quatre shakes me hard. "Look around you, Duo. Look around. This is where Trowa was for a month. Look!"

I look around the room. I see the table he was chained to, the shackles on the wall, the hook Barton's hanging from now. I see the disgusting little toys Barton used to hurt him. I see the whip. My chest aches. My throat tightens. My stomach churns. I look down. I can't bear to see anymore.

"Look at it, Duo," Quatre whispers. "Do you think he's suffered enough?"

I shake my head slowly, trying to hold back the tears that threaten. Oh, Trowa…

"We can't really get equal reparation - we don't have enough time," Quatre admits. "But we can do what we can, Duo. We can do more than we have."

I lift my gaze and stare into the aqua eyes so close to mine, eyes that usually are so loving and gentle. There's nothing of gentleness in them now - just determination. I see now what has brought him and Wufei together. Quatre too will do whatever necessary to gain justice.

"So, where should we begin?" I ask.

He smiles slowly. "Let's find out what he did to Trowa, and start from there. We'll work with his ideas first."

"I'm not telling you anything," Barton blusters. "Go to Hell."

"Oh, you'll tell us whatever we ask," Quatre promises in a low voice, slowly moving closer to the twisting body. "By the time we're done with you, you'll be confessing things you did in nursery school."

"So much for absolute pacifism," Barton sneers. "You peace types are all alike - you preach your pacifist ideas in public, then do whatever you want behind closed doors."

"Absolute pacifism was never my idea, Barton," I tell him cheerfully as I move to stand beside Quatre. "So don't worry that you're making me sacrifice my ideals."

Well, Quatre was right. Barton cracked like an egg. Maybe Quatre has been better at getting information out of Barton, but I've done pretty well at implementing his ideas. All I had to do was imagine him doing these things to Trowa…and I didn't need much more motivation than that.

We need to stop, though. Somehow, I know that that time is near. We're walking a fine line here - if we step too far over it, commit one deed that's too heinous, we might not walk away from here whole.

We won't anyway, really. But it'll be a scar we can live with, provided we stop in time.

Suddenly, just as I'm about to start pulling Quatre away, a distant but loud blast fills the air, and the ground beneath our feet shudders. The lights flicker for a moment, then return. The ground continues to tremble, though.

"What the Hell?!" I shout, struggling to keep my footing on the suddenly rocking ground.

Barton laughs. It's the most human sound he's made in a while. He stares wildly at us, his blue eyes vivid in the bloody mask that is his face.

"It took longer than it was supposed to, but there it is. My little gift to you two," he manages.

"What did you do, Barton?" Quatre demands quietly.

"It was supposed to go off a long time ago…I thought the trigger failed. It didn't, though, it just took longer than it was supposed too…" Barton is rambling. I guess I can't really wonder why.

Quatre isn't so patient. Barton wails as Quatre adds another gash to the many adorning his body. Quatre decided that we didn't need to stick to his back, since we weren't planning on doing anything with the rest of him.

"The colony…it's going to explode," Barton wheezes.

"What!?" Dying here is not part of the plan. Barton isn't taking us as his final victims.

"Too late…" he insists. "It'll be gone in minutes…explosions will trigger other ones…once the main reactor goes…" His voice trails off but he doesn't need to finish the sentence. We all know what will happen once the main reactor goes.

"You expect us to believe that you sabotaged your own base?" Quatre asks disbelievingly.

"Was never coming back…either way…"

Quatre's eyes meet mine. I read the chilling confirmation of my own fear - we stepped too far over the line.

"You go," I order sharply, my mind beginning to make the dozens of split-second decisions we need to make if we're going to get off this place alive. "Get off the colony. I'll finish him, then follow you in the Gundam."

"But…" he begins.

"No time, Quatre!" I shout. "You did your part. This part is mine."

He nods abruptly, acknowledging the rightness of my point. "Hurry," he says, heading for the door.

"Quatre!" He pauses.

"If I don't get off….tell Trowa and Heero…"

He nods sharply, but is gone before I can finish.

I'm alone with Barton.

A raspy sound comes from him - it takes a few precious seconds before I can identify it as a chuckle.

"I told Nanashi…I would win in the end," he tells me. "I think I like it even better this way. I might be dead, but I'm taking you with me. Won't that rankle."

"Keep telling yourself that, Barton," I answer shortly. "Maybe it'll comfort you on your way to Hell." As I speak, I pick up my gun from where I had laid it on that evil little table.

A disgusted sound comes form the hanging figure. "You're going to shoot me?" he asks, and his tone is incredulous. "After all that, you're just going to shoot me?"

I move very close to him, close enough that I can smell him - smell his blood, his fear.

"Back on earth, a long time ago, there were criminal organizations, the forerunners of the Syndicates we have today," I begin softly. The need to hurry is pounding in my veins, but I can't rush this. "They were considered one organization, but were actually many small groups, known as families. They were called that because that's what they were, literally. Families. Joined by blood."

"Are you fucking crazy?" he interrupts. He shakes his head. "You're going to fucking blow up and you're giving me a history lecture?"

I continue as though I hadn't heard him. "When someone hurt one member of the family, his relatives, his brothers, made an example of that person. First, they hurt him." I gesture at the bleeding hulk before me. "Then, they shot him."

Barton snorts. He doesn't sound impressed. The ground is shaking more furiously now.

"There were no transplants then, none of the ways of reconstructing life that we have now. But even so, they made sure that every part of that ‘example' was dead. You heard of the Seven Deadly Sins, Barton?" I ask, pressing the barrel of the gun against his side. "Revenge is one of them, you know. But these Families, even though they were seeking only revenge, paid tribute to every one of the seven sins. One shot for every sin. Every organ in your body, Barton. Dead."

He open his mouth, begins to babble, to plead.

I don't care.

I pull the trigger, seven times.

Seven shots.

Left kidney.

Right kidney.

Liver.

Left lung.

Right lung.

Heart.

Brain.

The hulking shell that was once the body of Trowa Barton, son of Dekim Barton, Prince of L3, hangs limply from the ceiling in this shit hole of a room. He's very dead.

Mission Accomplished.

I'm staring at him, memorizing every detail of what I've just wrought, when a particularly violent shudder of the colony drags me back to the present.

Shit!

I turn and bolt for the door, leaving Barton's corpse hanging behind me. I push my way through the hall - debris clutters it, sparks shoot from limply hanging wires, small fires that will soon be big fires burn merrily.

The walls are trembling.

I fight my way into the dock.

A roaring fills my ears. The whole thing is gearing up to blow.

I see the Gundam. It's teetering. Even its weight is not helping it keep its balance in this unstable environment.

I reach it and grab the wire, willing the machine to remain standing until I'm in the cockpit.

I'm in! I strap myself in while punching in take-off coordinates.

Shit! The bay is blocked.

I power the guns, shoot through the debris.

I hit the thrusters as hard as I an, shoot for maximum acceleration….

…but its too slow. The cataclysmic burst of sound I've been dreading erupts behind me; with a roar, the colony explodes, propelling me and my suddenly insignificant Gundam along on the perimeter of the shock wave.

Suddenly, I see Trowa's face and Heero's before me. I reach out for them….

…and they , along with everything else, vanish into flame.

__________________________________

"01! 05! Pull back! All squadrons pull back!!" I shout the commands into the communicator, desperate to ensure that everyone get away from the colony before the explosion occurs. I don't know if I'll get out, or if….I can't even think it. But I have to minimize casualties.

"….on? Where have you been? Where's Duo?" Wufei's voice crackles, then comes in more strongly as I penetrate the colony shield.

I hastily flick on the 360 radar. My hand is shaking. The battle seems to be over. Debris floats by me, and I hastily avert my eyes from the screen before looking at it too closely. I have to get out of blast range myself.

"Anyone within range of the colony, get away!" I shout, suiting the action to the word. "It's going to blow up!"

"What?!" Heero's face abruptly appears on the vidscreen. "What are you talking about? Where's Duo?"

I hear Une's voice issuing sharp orders to the few ships that haven't already headed out, in between demanding explanations from me.

I can't answer her, or Wufei, or reply to Heero's demands, despite the frantic edge to his voice.
I'm mechanically responding to necessity - getting my ship as far away as fast as I can. My eyes are locked on the radar screen that shows the colony, though, and I'm searching, desperately searching. My eyes strain for the sign of the Gundam emerging from the colony.

But it doesn't come.

It doesn't come!

The man-made sphere that contained the last stronghold of the Bartons is shaking madly - vibrating powerfully enough that I can see it.

"Quatre! Where the hell is Duo?! What's happening?"

Heero. I don't know, Heero. I don't know…

A cry is wrenched from my throat as my radar screen lights up.

Fire.

An instant later, my suit rocks wildly as the shockwave hits me.

The shock.

From the explosion.

DUO!!!!

I scream his name as a throbbing pain bursts through my chest.

Then, there's nothing.

TBC

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