by: Shoori

Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 20
Tired Eyes

Wufei scowled at the screen of the computer terminal, impatiently waiting for the page to load. It seemed like lately he spent half his life waiting for pages to load.

The other half, of course, he spent in tense, emotionally charged scenes of trauma and despair.

Maybe waiting for pages to load wasn't that bad after all.

He risked a look to the side, furtively checking up on those who were in the room with him.

Heero and Trowa were still grimly working on constructing the blueprint. They'd been working on it for months, and there were still serious holes in their understanding of the building.

It had been better since they'd been putting the tracking devices on Quatre, but the increased risk that these implied put such a strain on everyone's nerves that the benefits of the device were almost forgotten.

So, Heero and Trowa appeared to be all right.

But... they didn't have that much of a connection to... the news that they had just uncovered.

Treize was alive.

He was alive. He wasn't dead.

Treize Kushrenada, who had been dead for eight years, suddenly wasn't.

He was in the hands of the Order, whose mysterious leader suddenly wasn't so mysterious anymore.

They'd made an identification on him before... before he and Quatre were even finished.

The bizarre, perverse, eerily jovial mastermind behind one of the largest crime webs in the universe was, or rather, had been, one Greger Kushrenada, brother to Andreas Kushrenada, who had been missing since his escape from prison forty-five years earlier.

They had been surprised, all of them, to realize that this Polynices was sixty-five years old. Quatre had reported that he was younger than that. To fool Quatre into taking about ten years off his age and off the ages of those whom they knew to be his contemporaries he must be in excellent physical condition.

Maybe crime really did pay.

They were working on identifying the members of the Order known as Adrastus and Tydeus now. They had combed through society records to determine the city Treize's grandmother had been from, so they could find the reports on the attempt by the one twin to slay his brother. They had hacked into and read trial records, and Heero was currently involved in hacking into the prison database, to try to find the identity of the prisoner who had escaped with Polynices.

He and Trowa were combing through more newspapers, trying to catch wind of the story of a young society girl who suicided, or reports of a fatal duel, so that they could get some clue as to Tydeus' identity.

Trowa was hell-bent on finding the clue to that one's identity. They knew from their surveillance tapes that he was one of the two who had brought Duo into the Order, and had thereby unknowingly earned Trowa's bitterest hate. The auburn-haired man was especially intent on destroying those two, and was approaching the task of discovering everything he could about them with a single-minded focus that made Wufei very nervous.

Right at the moment, though, he couldn't really spare a lot of attention to worry about Trowa. He was much more concerned about two of the others who had reacted very strongly to the news that Treize was very much not dead.

They'd had to tell Une, bring her in, right away. She'd flat-out refused to believe them at first, until she'd heard Treize's voice. In open-mouthed shock, she listened to the recording, heard Treize's voice calmly explain what had happened to him in the aftermath of the battle where they'd all thought he died. Wufei had, with no little alarm, watched her face go redder and redder as Polynices detailed the long, sordid story of his systematic campaign to gain revenge on his family before bringing them under his control. She paled when he shared his sick fantasies about Mariemaia, and dreamily revealed his plans to hurt and abuse the child that he had never met, who was entirely innocent of any crime except that of bearing the blood of his hated brother. She reddened again when she herself was mentioned, her fists clenching angrily.

At that point, Heero had risen actually risen from his computer and casually gone and stood by the door to the room.

It had been an excellent strategic move, because he had been perfectly placed to catch her when she attempted to storm out on some rash and stupid rescue mission upon hearing the sounds of Treize being forced to satisfy Quatre's lust.

She had screamed and struggled, bellowing orders and insults until Heero had told her in his best Perfect Solider voice that he would knock her unconscious if she didn't calm down and contribute rationally to the dialogue.

The threat of physical violence from Heero had surprised her into calming down enough that she was not an immediate danger, but she had paced and sworn and ranted and raved until Wufei rather wished that Heero had knocked her out.

Zechs, in marked contrast to Une, hardly made a sound after his initial shock. Upon hearing Treize's voice, he'd been so struck off balance that he'd actually fallen from his seat. Wufei had grabbed him, and dragged him to the couch at the back of the room, where he'd sat next to him during the entire long, sordid recitation.

At some point near when Treize began speaking, Zechs had folded his arms tightly across his chest, sitting so stiffly in the corner of the sofa that Wufei could barely detect the tremors running through the blonde's body as he listened to the story of what had happened to his lover.

Only twice during the whole long ordeal did Zechs visibly react.

The first was when Treize revealed that it had been White Fang who had recovered him, then kept him prisoner and eventually delivered him to his torment.

Zechs had clenched his arms tighter against himself, doubling over slightly at the waist. His already pale face went ashen, and he looked like he was going to be physically ill. Wufei laid a concerned hand on his shoulder, and Zechs began to tremble violently, shaking his head sharply until Wufei rather helplessly lifted his hand again.

The only other time he lost control was when Polynices told of what he'd done to Treize's parents. Zechs had blanched when the madman told of how he'd shot and tortured his brother, and when Polynices gleefully related how he'd abused Treize's mother, Wufei was amazed to see two tears run down the marble pallor of Zechs' face. He hadn't said anything, and neither had Zechs.

Zechs hadn't said anything.

Still.

He hadn't even moved from the couch. He was still sitting there, his head in his hands, unmoving.

Wufei sighed. He stood up, abruptly abandoning his terminal, and crossed to Zechs. He was sick of sitting there helplessly, waiting for damn pages to load, cowering under the weight of silence in the room.

He sat next to Zechs as heavily as possible, jarring the cushions enough that the other man couldn't be unaware of his presence.

Zechs didn't move.

Wufei sighed again.

Melodrama.

"He's alive," he pointed out abruptly. "He's a prisoner, but he's alive, Zechs. He's not dead. We can get him out."

Nothing.

"Zechs?" he pressed sharply.

"He's alive," he repeated yet again, after another tense moment of silence. "He's... "

"Yes, he is," Zechs said, lifting his face from his hands. Wufei had to stop himself from drawing away when he saw the misery etched on the other man's almost delicately beautiful features. "He's alive, and he's been alive, and I've let him suffer for eight years... "

"Zechs... you didn't know. You couldn't have known," Wufei reminded him. "Now that we do know, we'll do everything we can to get him out, but you can't blame yourself for the last eight years... "

Zechs laughed bitterly. "Can't I?" he asked ironically. "You heard him, Wufei. It was White Fang who... "

"You weren't White Fang by then," Wufei reminded him ruthlessly. "You weren't anything. You were space junk yourself, my friend, and... "

"Stop it, Wufei," Zechs interrupted harshly. "Just stop it. You can't understand... "

His voice trailed off.

"I can't understand what?" Wufei demanded. "I can't understand losing someone I love? I can't understand feeling guilt that I didn't save them?" He laughed bitterly. "My entire family died in that war, Zechs, and I didn't save them. I... "

"At least you didn't let them get captured by some psychotic bastard!" Zechs shot back through his teeth, speaking with more heat than he had at any time through the entire ordeal. "At least they aren't being tortured and used like Treize and... " he groaned, lowering his head into his hands again.

"And who?" Wufei pressed, frowning.

Zechs lifted his head and stared at him, and again the anger was gone, leaving only sorrow. "Lady Marianna," he said dully.

Wufei frowned. "Treize's mother?" he asked.

Zechs nodded. "You heard him, Wufei. You heard what he did to her. And no one saved her none even knew what was happening. I thought she and Lord Andreas had had a riding accident. That's all anyone thought. Their funeral was closed-casket because of their injuries, and Duke Durmeil decided... " He stopped suddenly, his pale face flushing with livid color. "Durmeil!" he growled. "That bastard. That damned bastard, he must have known and he never... he let her... "

"Zechs!" Wufei cried, rather alarmed at this outburst.

"He was her own brother," Zechs ground out, "and he didn't do anything. He made all the arrangements, Wufei Treize was with the Federation forces and I was in the Academy... we just came back for the funeral like everyone else. He insisted on the closed casket, he arranged everything... He knew what happened to Lord Andreas, and he knew Lady Marianna was missing, and he didn't do anything!"

"Why would he have done that?" Wufei asked, bewildered. He'd never been a fan of Durmeil, but he couldn't fathom anyone leaving any member of their family to an unknown fate.

Zechs growled. "Treize was twenty when they died. There was a year until he attained his majority, and Durmeil had control of the estate for that year. He thought he'd have control of Treize, too." Zechs laughed bitterly. "He quite resembled Dekim Barton he wanted to be the power behind his throne, and I imagine he thought with Lord Andreas and Lady Marianna out of the way, that Treize would dance to his tune... " He paused, and shook his head dully, much of the anger which had shaken him to some vibrancy for a few moment filtering away. "And Lord Andreas would never have supported all of that Romefeller nonsense Durmeil started during the war. He probably thought it was a stroke of luck that someone... got rid of him just when things were starting to get serious... "

His voice trailed off again, and Wufei stared at him, frowning. "I... I didn't realize that you... knew Treize's parents," he ventured slowly.

Zechs stared at his hands. "I... stayed with them frequently when I was young," he said remotely. "They were... very kind to me."

"They were?" Wufei repeated encouragingly. He knew he sounded inane, but he was frankly curious.

"Yes," Zechs replied flatly.

Wufei scowled, and opened his mouth to prod the blond some more, when the door opened and Quatre walked in.

The blond stopped in the doorway, shrinking back a bit under the weight of all the gazes resting on him. Commander Une abruptly rose to her feet, but Heero grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her down again, silently scowling at her until she turned away. Quatre's gaze moved to Zechs, and the aqua eyes stared pleadingly into the ice blue ones for a long moment. Zechs closed his eyes and lowered his chin to his chest, breaking the gaze. Quatre's own eyes closed for a moment and he swallowed convulsively. When he opened them again, Wufei saw nothing in them but an infinite weariness.

He was instantly on edge.

He'd been worried for days, just waiting. He knew eventually that something would happen that would push Quatre just far enough, and the other man would reach his breaking point. Wufei wasn't sure what would happen when that occurred, but he knew it wouldn't be good.

He only hoped that Quatre somehow still had some reserves of strength to draw on.

"Hey, guys," Quatre said mildly. "What are you doing home at this time of day?"

Wufei scowled. Now, when they all desperately needed to talk, they'd have to stall and delay and banter until all the checks had been run and it had been determined that Quatre was clean. They couldn't afford to grow complacent, couldn't afford to assume that just because Quatre hadn't been bugged before, he wouldn't be now. That was just the sort of mistake Polynices would be waiting for them to make, if he was at all suspicious that Quatre was more than he seemed.

But it was going to be damned frustrating.

"We're doing records work today, and we can do that from here," Heero was replying flatly. "No need to go in."

That was clever. It explained why they were all there in the middle of the day, and explained why there would be computer sounds in the background.

Heero was becoming quite the accomplished liar. It was rather impressive.

Quatre chuckled. "Good work if you can get it," he joked, moving across the room to the screen which sheltered all the surveillance equipment that would be used to screen him.

"How was your trip?" Trowa asked, sounding preoccupied.

He was preoccupied. Wufei bet that before the hour was up, Adrastus and Tydeus would no longer be anonymous.

"Oh, it was fine," Quatre said dismissively. "You know... same old, same old... " His voice nearly broke at the end, though he disguised it with a cough.

"Did you get any sleep at all, or were you up all night in negotiations?" Wufei asked. The story that they were supposedly fooled by was that Quatre had gone on a brief trip outside town to settle a labor dispute at one of his factories.

"I caught a few winks, but nothing much," Quatre admitted lightly. "You know how those things go."

"Not really," Wufei remarked. "Thank the Gods."

Quatre chuckled again, making some non-committal remark.

"You want to work on some of these files, or are you going to catch a nap first?" Trowa asked abruptly.

Quatre sighed theatrically. "Pass me some files, Tro!" he said cheerfully. "Might as well get them done... I might have to go back out of town later today if this doesn't get cleared up," he sighed, shaking his head.

Wufei scowled. "You just got back!" he protested forcefully. Quatre was not going back to that place tonight. He needed rest, and comfort, and didn't need to throw himself back into that mess right away...

"We'll see," Quatre said noncommittally. Wufei glared at him, but Quatre wasn't looking at him. He wasn't looking at anyone as he listlessly stripped his clothes off and allowed the silent, white-clad agents to lead him behind the screen.

"I hope you don't have to go out," Trowa said unexpectedly. "I... miss you, Q."

There was a moment of silence. "I miss you guys, too," Quatre assured him, and Wufei could hear the forced note in the light tone. "Hopefully... hopefully business will settle down, and I won't have to be gone so much anymore."

Zechs lowered his head back into his hands, and Wufei closed his eyes against the pain he felt welling up in his chest.

Gods. This just got more and more awful by the minute.

First those kids, then Duo went missing, then the painful revelations about his past and Trowa's, then the agony Quatre had been forced to endure, the shock of discovering Duo in the grip of the Order, the frustration as the mission dragged on and on and on, and now the discovery that not only was Treize alive, but that he too had been taken in by the Order...

It was awful. It was the most sordid, awful mess Wufei had ever been involved in. And the sudden reappearance of Treize...

Wufei winced, unconsciously leaning back against the sofa and raising one hand to rub his aching forehead. He hadn't even considered the implications of that yet. The implications for the world, for all the people who knew him... for himself.

He had never really, in all the time since the war, forced himself to think about Treize and the confused muddle of emotions he felt for the other man. The closest he had come was several months earlier, when he had told Zechs that he was grateful to him and to Treize for making him aware of what he was and who he was, and had admitted that if it hadn't been for the... relationship... he had had with them, he wouldn't have been able to be with his lovers now.

And that was true. When Treize set out to seduce him, Wufei was a virtual innocent in all matters sexual. He had had a few hesitant, awkward sexual encounters with his wife, but they'd been so young that they'd done little more than cement their union and experiment a little. He hadn't been ready for that kind of relationship, and neither had she.

He hadn't realized then that he'd never be ready for that sort of relationship for one with a woman, that is. It wasn't until after she died that he was forced to acknowledge the shameful attraction he felt to members of his own sex.

Wufei had fought it, tried to deny it to himself, refused to give in to his own urges... until he found himself kneeling on the deck of a ship, staring up into the vivid blue eyes of the man who had just defeated him in battle.

He had expected Treize to kill him. Instead, the man had pulled him to his feet, brought him to his private quarters, and talked to him.

Treize knew members of his family. They discussed mutual acquaintances, politics, the current situation with the war. Well, Treize had discussed them. He'd sat in sullen silence, occasionally snarling a response when asked a direct question, periodically interrupting the smooth flow of Treize's conversation to demand to know when the other man would be killing him.

They'd talked like this for nearly an hour, while Trowa battled Cancer suits in the sea beneath them. At the end of that hour, Treize had risen to his feet, looked down at Wufei from what seemed a very impressive height, and issued a soft invitation for the Chinese boy to meet him in a week's time, and provided him with an address.

Wufei had stared at him, incredulous. "Meet you? For what?" he had demanded furiously.

Even after all this time, he could still remember the amusement in Treize's eyes at that moment. Then, he had been furious, thinking the older man was mocking him. "I want to get to know you better," Treize had replied, his lip twisting with the effort to hold back a smile.

"Know me better? For what?" he'd demanded, still not understanding the older man's intent.

Then, he'd thought Treize was laughing at him. Now, he knew the other man had indeed been laughing at him, but understood as he hadn't eight years ago that the laughter wasn't malicious.

"I want you," Treize had told him simply. "You're a beautiful young man," he had said softly, reaching down to brush his fingers across Wufei's cheek. "And there is a... a passion inside you that I have lacked for some time," he continued, a little remotely. "I would very much like to be reminded of it."

"You... you... want... what?!" Wufei had demanded furiously, feeling his cheeks heat with embarrassment. "You can't... I'm not... "

"Not what?" Treize had asked, the amusement again apparent in his face. "Not interested?" he asked unbelievingly.

"I'm not... a girl!" Wufei spat angrily.

Treize had laughed openly at that. "You certainly are not," he'd agreed easily. "I wouldn't want you if you were."

Wufei had wished for the floor to open and swallow him. "You're not either!" he'd blurted.

Treize's laughter was even louder this time. "Thank you for noticing," he had replied gravely, those cornflower blue eyes dancing with delicate amusement.

Wufei remembered how he had gathered all his anger and indignation at being so mocked into his most furious scowl. "Do not make fun of me," he'd growled. "We are both men, and... "

"We are," Treize had agreed, the lightness suddenly gone from his manner. He reached down and pulled Wufei to his feet, jerking hard on his arm at the last moment so the younger man's body had slammed into contact with his own. Wufei had gasped at the contact, feeling his body react to the feel of Treize's taller, harder frame against his own. "We are," Treize had repeated, bending down to whisper the words in Wufei's ear, as his arm had moved around the boy's, pressing him closer to him. "And I want you, Wufei. I want to show you how I can make you feel... what pleasure I can bring you. And," he added shrewdly, "you want me, too."

"I do not!" Wufei had snapped angrily, trying to pull away, trying to ignore the feeling rushing through his body from every point where he was in contact with Treize. "Your suggestion is shameful! You are a man, and you are my enemy, and you are... old," he floundered, searching for more reasons he couldn't become involved with Treize in the way the other man was suggesting. He was dismayed that he could come up with so few.

"Ouch," Treize winced. "That was unkind... and unnecessary," he complained, a hurt edge to his voice. "A man and your enemy, that I accept, but old? Really, Wufei, I... "

"I have not given you permission to call me by my name," Wufei had snapped, trying to gain some control over the situation.

Treize chuckled. "Ah, but I am as you so kindly pointed out older than you. As your elder, am I not entitled to... "

"As my elder, you shouldn't be attempting to corrupt me," Wufei interrupted testily.

"Corrupt you?" Treize laughed. He shook his head. "My goodness, you have a poor opinion of me," he sighed. "I'm an aged, evil corrupter of innocents... "

"Let go of me," Wufei growled, trying to pull away.

"I don't think, though, that you're as innocent as you pretend to be," Treize continued, tightening his hold on the younger man as the only sign that he had heard Wufei's words at all.

"Let. Go," Wufei snarled again.

"I think you want me as much as I want you," Treize challenged.

"I don't want you at all!" Wufei insisted. "I don't like you, I don't like men, and... " The rest of the litany of things he didn't like had been forestalled when Treize had pressed his lips against Wufei's, and proceeded to give him the most passionate, thorough kiss Wufei had ever experienced in his young life.

Wufei had struggled for a moment before succumbing to the numbing pleasure of the kiss. He'd never imagined a kiss like this one Treize's lips were soft and warm, his tongue was everywhere... Wufei could have stood there, part of that kiss forever. He forgot it was a man he was kissing, he forgot Treize was his enemy... he forgot everything except what he was feeling right at that moment.

After an eternity, Treize had pulled away. Wufei had blinked up at him, dazed, as Treize tucked a small, white card into the pocket of his pants. "That address, in one week's time. I will be waiting for you," he had said, his voice husky with desire.

Wufei had stared up at him for a moment, then flushed, feeling embarrassment and anger and shame course through his veins, reddening his cheeks and enflaming his temper. "You'll be waiting a long time," he'd snarled, growling again as he saw the superior smile cross Treize's lips.

"We'll see," Treize had replied smugly.

Wufei had snarled again, wanting more than anything to wipe that infuriating smirk off the older man's face. Without even thinking, he lifted his knee as forcefully as he could, and was rewarded with a loud cry and a look of pained shock as he connected exactly where he'd been aiming.

"You won't see me," he'd insisted proudly, finally pulling away when Treize loosened his grip in the shock of the sudden pain.

He'd turned and quickly made for the door of the room, swearing angrily in Chinese when he found it locked.

He turned to demand to be released, and saw Treize straightening painfully, a light sheen of sweat on his brow. "Don't worry, Wufei... I won't keep you against your will. I don't want you to attack me again," he assured the younger man, that damn amusement in his voice again, despite the grimace of pain still on his face. He crossed the room and unlocked the door. Wufei grabbed the handle to jerk it open and leave, but Treize rested a hand on his arm, stopping him. "I will never force you to do anything. You will come because you want me," he finished softly, his voice intent.

Wufei had snarled his denial and stormed out, to the deck where he'd found Une standing near his suit, and he'd left, jumping off the ship into the waves, doing anything he could to get some distance between himself and his enemy who had acted so strangely, perplexingly, different from how Wufei had expected him to act.

He'd sworn he wouldn't go. He'd stared at the little white card Treize had given him with the address of the house he wanted Wufei to meet him at, and ripped it up in a fury, throwing the pieces to the wind, though that address had burned itself into his brain. He'd sworn he would never go, that he wouldn't shame himself so with an enemy, that he'd never give in to that smug assurance Treize had projected so easily.

But every night when he went to bed, he struggled to sleep, remembering the feel of Treize's body against his, the heat of his kiss, the look in the older man's blue eyes...

When he finally fell into a troubled sleep, he'd wake trembling, his release sticky against his skin, to the despairing knowledge that even in sleep his body ached for Treize.

And a week later, he'd found himself at the window of the house Treize had chosen for their assignation. He'd jumped as a sliding door opened nearby, and he turned to Treize standing in the open doorway. His chest was bare, and the top button of the tight slacks he was wearing open, exposing a dangerous amount of bare, muscled abdomen.

Wufei stared at him, desperately hoping that the older man would make some kind of smug comment that would make him angry, and give him the strength to turn and storm away.

Instead, Treize reached out a hand to him. "You came," he said simply. "I'm glad. Come in."

And Wufei had accepted the hand, and the invitation, and had known it was much, much too late to run.

He'd gone in, and found a huge bed sheeted in silk, wine, a fire... and Zechs.

"This is Zechs," Treize had introduced him simply. "He is my good friend... as I hope you too will be one day."

Wufei saw the flash of pain that shone in the other man's pale blue eyes for a moment at those words, and was suddenly much more uncertain than he had been a few moments ago. He turned around, intending to declare his intention to leave, and was confronted with Treize's bare chest. The older man had taken him in his arms, pressed him into the bed and kissed him, and Wufei had surrendered completely.

Treize had taken him first, slowly, drawing his release from his body and stroking him into arousal again before pushing slowly inside him, bringing him first pain and then greater pleasure than he'd ever imagined as he moved back and forth inside him, thrusting again and again until Wufei felt him explode inside him.

The Chinese boy had been left, hard and unsatisfied, as Treize rolled off him and Zechs took his place.

They'd stayed awake all night, touching and exploring each other's bodies. Treize and Zechs had fallen asleep as the sun came up, and Wufei snuck away while they were unconscious, to go hide alone in one of the many safe houses scattered around the earth and colonies to curse his weakness in peace.

After that, he found them many, many times, more frequently than anyone would have imagined possible. After the break between Treize and Zechs, he had gone just to Treize. He knew the pain that that separation had caused the General, heard the murmurs as the man slept, heard him call for his friend, and he had known then that he would never be Treize's "good friend" as Zechs had been. He knew that whatever he was to Treize, he would never feel for him as he felt for Zechs.

He had tried to leave, tried to stop coming, fiercely reminded himself that his weakness was shameful, that his relationship with his enemy was shameful. But he couldn't stop, couldn't resist Treize.

Then, he'd killed him.

He'd killed him, and Treize had thanked him thanked him for giving him his glorious death in battle.

He had died, and Zechs had died, and Wufei was alone with his shame... and his memories.

Alone.

Wufei sighed, coming slowly back to the present.

It seemed like such a long time ago, like something that had happened in another life. But it wasn't that long ago, really, and it had decidedly been him it had happened to. He'd tried to forget it, tried to tell himself that it didn't matter... But it did.

He had had a sexual relationship for nearly a year with Treize Kushrenada, a relationship heated with all the passion of war and hate and lust and the newly-released passion of adolescence... but there had been more to it than that.

More to his feelings for Treize that he had never wanted to admit, and that some small part of himself had been cravenly relieved that he would never have to admit.

But Treize wasn't dead anymore.

Wufei sighed again, shaking his head. He jumped, startled, as one of the agents abruptly announced, "He's clean," and began the parade of agents from behind the screen.

They all left the room quietly, and slowly, Quatre too appeared from behind the enclosed space. He was clad only in a robe his clothes had all been taken away to be carefully examined and then cleaned. He looked around at the others, the expression of weariness Wufei had noted before even more visible and profound than it had been then.

Une jumped to her feet again and advanced on the blond. "What's going on?" she demanded. "Was that really Mr. Treize? Was all that information accurate? What... what happened?" Her cheeks were pink, and Wufei heard the hard, accusatory tone as she fired questions at Quatre. She was asking 'What happened,' but she meant 'How dare you defile the great Treize!' and Wufei knew Quatre realized that as well as he did.

The blond sighed, dropping bonelessly into a hard chair. "It was Treize," he confirmed. "I know you heard... the tape," he managed, stumbling over the words, flushing with embarrassment. "I see no reason to doubt any of that story. Have you confirmed identities yet?" he asked looking up at Trowa and Heero, who had risen from their terminals and were standing near him.

Heero nodded. "Polynices is Greger Kushrenada. There were some photos they're very old, of course, but maybe you can recognize enough for an ID," he said, handing a few papers to Quatre. The blond stared at the top photo for a moment, then nodded. "That's a match," he confirmed. He frowned at the birth date, and shook his head. "I would have sworn he was younger," he mused. He pulled the next paper out, stared at it for a moment, then nodded slowly. "That's Adrastus," he said.

"Ernst Vergorden," Heero said briefly.

Quatre nodded, and pulled the last paper in the stack to the top. He winced at the photo, and Wufei moved to his side to look at it. An angry young man glared back at the camera, and Wufei winced too as he saw the raw, jagged wound etched across the man's face.

"Tydeus," Quatre said tightly.

Trowa nodded. "Markus Sorenson," he said flatly. "That photo was taken about a week after the duel."

There was no need to say what duel. They had all been listening to the story.

Wufei reached out and gently took the papers away from Quatre. "Are you all right?" he asked in low-voiced concern. Quatre stared up at him dully. "Are you all right?" he repeated, as gently as he could.

"I'm not all right!" Une declared decisively. "Quatre Winner, what the hell went on in there? How could you... "

"Enough, Une," Trowa snapped furiously.

"Une, shut your damn mouth," Heero snapped at the same time.

"You know that Quatre was only doing what he had to," Wufei told the woman sharply. Damn! The last thing that Quatre needed was recriminations!

"I'm sorry," Quatre said flatly.

"Quatre, you don't have to be sorry," Wufei insisted tightly, glaring at Une. "You couldn't do anything else. It wouldn't have helped Treize to compromise the mission and... "

"I'm sorry," Quatre interrupted, looking up. He wasn't looking at Wufei, though he was looking past him, to Zechs.

The older blond stared back at him for a moment. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He cleared his throat, looking away.

"I'm sorry, Zechs," Quatre repeated, and the anguish he'd been holding back before was now apparent in his voice. "I'm sorry you had to... had to find out like that... sorry you had to... hear that."

"Why should it matter to him?" Une interrupted, her voice ugly with anger. "He abandoned Mr. Treize. He let him go alone to fight, to die... to be captured and tortured and violated and used... " Her voice grew more angry and hysterical with each word. Zechs made a small sound, turning sharply away.

"Christ, Une, shut up!" Heero shouted, appalled.

"Father, give me strength," Wufei muttered under his breath, sending up an appeal for help to the strongest man he had ever known. He wasn't counting on much though this situation would have been rather beyond his staunchly traditional father. He hurried away from Quatre, to Zechs' side.

"It's not your fault, Zechs," he said tightly. "She's just upset. She doesn't mean... "

"She does so mean it," Une raged. Wufei turned, amazed, to find everyone in the room staring at her. Her hair had fallen out of the tight bun she wore it in these days, but her eyes gleamed sharp and angry behind her glasses. They'd seen Une pretty tense and angry a few times in the last several years, but she'd never been as aggressively, furiously cruel as she was now.

"Don't fuss over him," she ordered Wufei, her voice dripping scorn as she stared at Zechs, who had turned to face this unexpected attack. "He's a traitor. He's the one person who could have saved Treize convinced him that he couldn't go out himself, reminded him of his Glorious Destiny. And he left. Turned his back because he was jealous of you," she sneered, turning her attention back to Wufei. "He couldn't accept the fact that Mr. Treize didn't love him, didn't see him as anything but a toy, a diversion... "

Zechs reeled as though physically struck. His blue eyes were filled with an anguished shock, and a despairing, debilitating grief. Wufei swore silently, sending up wordless appeals to any available ancestor who might take an interest to please help him.

"Excuse me. Why would Zechs have been jealous of Wufei?" Trowa asked with deceptive mildness.

Wufei swore out loud this time. Shit. "I slept with them. During the war," he informed the others briefly. "Treize and Zechs."

Heero stared at him, suddenly bewildered. "At the same time?" he blurted.

Wufei smiled, despite everything. "Sometimes," he nodded. "But this is not really the time to discuss this... "

"Did he hurt you?" Trowa asked, still with the same still, smooth, incredibly dangerous calm.

"No," Wufei assured him quickly. Damn! All he needed right now was for Trowa to decide Zechs had to be punished...

"He took him, and pushed Zechs aside," Une interrupted, almost spitting at the name, "and Zechs couldn't stand that, so he left and let Mr. Treize be... "

"He didn't push him aside," Wufei ground out. "You obviously know fuck-all about it, Une, so... "

"Stop," Zechs said softly. "She's right. I was jealous, and I did leave, and I did let Treize fight, and be captured, and hurt and... "

"It's not your fault!" Wufei shouted.

"It is. You claimed to love him, but you let him suffer... " Une said, her voice soft but filled with malicious satisfaction.

"What about you?" Zechs shot back suddenly.

"Me?" Une demanded.

"You," Zechs shot back. "You're the one that pushed him into conflict, tried to make him King of the World... "

"It was his destiny!" she shouted.

"Who are you to determine anyone's destiny?" he demanded rhetorically. "I don't shirk any of the blame, Une, I accept it all, but not from you. Not from you. Y You made him... "

"I loved him!" she shouted.

"So do I," he replied softly.

"You didn't!" she shrieked. "You left him, and you refused to die for him, and... "

"I had to do what was right," Zechs interrupted. "I... I didn't think he was right by then."

"You doubted him. You doubted him, then you left him and you let him... "

"I thought he was wrong," Zechs interrupted forcefully. "Any man can be wrong. There is no shame in that, but there is shame in doing what you believe to be wrong to make someone else happy."

"If you had loved him as you say you would have... "

"I do love him."

"Not like I loved him!" she shouted. "I was true to him! You were false, with Noin... "

"I never touched Noin!"

"... and with Chang, and... "

"He brought Wufei to me! We... "

Wufei closed his eyes briefly. Good Gods. Someone had to stop this before it turned into some seamy soap opera.

"... and with God knows who else... "

"Until Wufei, I had never slept with anyone else in my life!" Zechs insisted, despairing. Somehow, the accusation of having been unfaithful to Treize seemed to be hitting the other man harder than anything else.

"Well. That's too much information," Heero commented, not quite sotto voice. Wufei shot him a dirty look, and Heero shrugged helplessly. Wufei couldn't blame him. If he didn't know what to do, it was a surety Heero was out of his element.

"If you had loved him you would never have touched anyone else!"

"You're a hypocrite, Une," Zechs accused angrily, his cheeks finally flushed with some angry color.

At least he didn't look like a marble statue anymore. But Wufei wasn't at all sure that this was actually an improvement.

"A hypocrite? What do you mean by that... "

"Treize never touched you. But you didn't let that stop you from fulfilling whatever desires you wanted... "

"How dare you! I have never been untrue to Mr. Treize... "

"What about Barton?" Zechs interrupted icily, gesturing toward Trowa. "Did you think Treize didn't know about that? It was hardly news to anyone in OZ, Commander," he informed her with patently false calm. "Or does it not count when you sleep with someone under the influence of your other personality?" he questioned, his voice coldly scathing.

It was Une's turn to pale, and she sputtered incoherently. Everyone else's shocked gazes turned in union to Trowa. The tall man reddened slightly, an extremely irritated expression crossing his face as he stared evenly at Zechs.

"T... Trowa?" Heero managed finally, staring at the auburn-haired man. Trowa glanced at him for a moment, than turned his gaze back to Zechs.

"Thank you. Thank you very much," he told the prince of Sanc evenly. "We've been doing a very good job for years of pretending that that had never happened, so I can't tell you how grateful I am to you for bringing it up here and now."

"I'm sorry," Zechs said flatly, closing his eyes for a moment . "I am sorry. I was... "

"You were provoked," Trowa acknowledged. "However," he said, his voice tightening, "this bickering over whose fault it is Treize got captured, and who slept with whom eight years ago is not helping the situation at hand at the moment," he said, irritation more plain in his voice with every word.

"Treize made his own decisions," Wufei agreed softly, nodding his head. "And he has faced the consequences of those choices, as have we all. It is no one's fault. It just... is."

"Is that the best Eastern philosophy can do?" Une jeered, recovering a bit. "You can deny it all you want, Lightening Count, but if you had been at his side... "

"Une." Everyone turned to Heero. He was delivering his best glare at Une, who visibly wilted. "I don't know that you're stable enough to stay in charge of this investigation at this point," he said steadily. "If you do not calm down and start acting rationally, I'll speak to Relena and have you relieved of your duties."

"You can't do that!" Une stammered, obviously shocked.

"Try me," Heero invited calmly. Wufei bit his lip, torn between an inappropriate amusement, and a sudden, tearing sorrow. That last retort of Heero's had been classic Duo. Wufei suddenly missed their absent lover so much that he wanted to cry. He hadn't allowed himself to really miss Duo before now he wanted him so badly he could hardly bear it.

"I'm sorry," Zechs said, interrupting the proceedings again. "I apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I just... "

"It really isn't your fault," Quatre interrupted. Wufei turned suddenly toward Quatre he'd been so silent for all of this, Wufei had almost forgotten he was there. Quatre sagged in his chair, clutching his chest, his face ashen with pain. Wufei cried out and rushed to his side, but Quatre dismissed his concern with a shake of his head.

"It isn't, Zechs," Quatre assured him. "I... know how guilty you feel," he told the other man, unconsciously pressing his hand harder against his chest. "But it isn't your fault. Like Wufei said, it isn't anyone's fault," he added, sparing a glance for Une.

Zechs shook his head stubbornly. "I should have been there. I should have helped him... "

"It's not your fault. He doesn't blame you," Quatre told him firmly.

"How do you know that?" Une demanded brusquely. Her tone was much subdued, however Zechs' revelation and Heero's threat seemed to have taken a good deal of the wind out of her sails.

"He sent you a message." Quatre answered Une's question, but directed the response to Zechs.

The older blond just stared at him. "Sent me a... .what?" he demanded, shaking his head in confusion.

"Treize communicated with you?" Heero scowled. "How, Quatre? We heard the whole thing, and... "

Quatre groaned, his cheeks pinkening. "He just... did. He told me where their security center is located, and where the slaves are kept and... ."

"Quatre, what are you talking about?" Wufei demanded, torn between confusion and concern. Treize couldn't have told Quatre all that they'd all heard everything Quatre had, and there had been no message...

"He... Can't you just take my word for this?" Quatre demanded plaintively.

"Quatre... What happened?" Wufei asked slowly.

"I thought Polynices was there the whole time," Une inserted. "How could he have told you anything?"

"He... he gave me the message in... code... " Quatre stammered.

Everyone was staring at the blond now, frowning in confusion and suspicion.

"Code?" Wufei repeated.

"You didn't really know him, Quatre. He was our enemy. How did you two work out a code?" Heero frowned.

"It was... Morse Code," Quatre managed, now flushing furiously.

"Morse Code?" Wufei was utterly at a loss.

"How the hell did he do that?" Heero demanded.

"This is ridiculous," Une snapped. "If I'm not fit for duty, what is he?" she demanded of Heero, gesturing angrily at Quatre.

Quatre groaned. "Listen to me, Une, I'm telling you that... "

"And we're supposed to believe this?" she snapped back at the seated blond. "We're supposed to believe that somehow Mr. Treize passed you some mental message... "

"It was Morse Code," Quatre ground out between his teeth. Wufei looked warily between the blond and the angry Commander. Quatre had been, he judged, finally pushed about as far as he would go. Pushing him any further wouldn't be pretty...

"Morse Code," Une repeated sarcastically. "How exactly did Mr. Treize pass you a message in Morse Code right under the eyes of Polynices... "

"He did it by sucking me off, ok?" Quatre roared, surging to his feet. "He passed the message on via the medium of his mouth on my penis. It was licks for the dots, sucks for the dashes, and he pinched me for word breaks. All right?" he shouted. "Are you happy, now? You know. He gave an SOS first until I caught on, then he gave me the rest of the information. All right?" he shouted.

Une's face was purple now, Wufei noted detachedly. He felt oddly like an outside observer, all of a sudden. It certainly was the day for shocks.

"He... he... " Une couldn't seem to be coherent.

"I did my damn best to keep from having to hurt him anymore than I had to, to spare you from hearing it. I'm sorry, Une. I'm damn sorry that I ever took on this mission. I wish to any God that ever was that I hadn't," he admitted, the strident tone of his voice cracking a little. "But I did, and I have to do it, now, and you're not making it any easier!" he shouted.

"Quatre... " she said hesitantly. "I just... with Mr. Treize there... "

"What?" he demanded. "Now, it's suddenly bad because Treize is in there? It was ok when it was just random people? It was all right when it was Duo?" he shouted. "I had to hurt Duo all damn night, but I see you don't give a shit about that," he shot back angrily. "He's so thin you can see his ribs, and there's circles under his eyes, and he looks so, so miserable... " Quatre stopped, taking a deep breath. "But that doesn't matter, right Une? Just Treize, and you, and how you feel about it, forget anyone else. Forget Zechs' pain, or Duo's, or... mine... " The blond swayed on his feet, clutching his chest again. Wufei hurried forward, but Zechs was faster.

"Quatre," the prince of Sanc murmured in concern as he caught the other man's arm, holding him steady.

"I'm sorry, Zechs," Quatre repeated weakly. He looked so very tired it made Wufei's chest ache.

"Thank you, Quatre," Zechs said simply. "If you hadn't gone in... if you hadn't done your job so well, even though it's so hard for you, we wouldn't know. I wouldn't know he was there. And he'd be... all alone... "

"He sent a message to you. It was... the first. The first message." Quatre's eyelids were fluttering with exhaustion it looked like he was going to pass out any minute. "He said... to tell you... he knows you're his true friend. And he's missed you."

Zechs stared into Quatre's eyes for a long moment.

"I swear," Quatre insisted.

"I... " Zechs swallowed. "Thank you, Quatre. Thank you. I... "

"I need to rest," Quatre managed. "Can I please... "

"Yes," Wufei said decisively, and moved to Quatre's other side. Between them, he and Zechs began to steer the other man out of the room. "You can worry about all this later, Quatre," he said firmly.

They left the room, and Wufei glanced over his shoulder at the others. Heero and Trowa were staring at each other, obviously trying to make some sense of everything that had happened. Une stood alone in the middle of the room, staring at the floor.

There were tears running down her cheeks.

Une was crying.

Damn. This mission had to end soon. It seemed that none of them could hold on for much longer.

[part 19] [part 21] [back to Shoori's fic]