Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 15 (cont)
It Never Rains But it Pours

"No, he isn't," Wufei agreed, his own eyes beginning to simmer with irritation. "But he isn't completely sane either, Heero. Gods, none of us are!" he pointed out, slamming his fist against the table. "And he can't control his empathy, and right now he's not trying to! He's using it as a weapon, and he's turning it on himself. Once he manages to break through whatever barriers he has on it... " Wufei shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "I don't know what will happen," he sighed, the anger draining from his eyes to be replaced with weariness. "But it won't be good."

Heero looked away, staring at the top of the table. Wufei had a point ­ none of them were really what most people considered normal. But they weren't sick, either, they were just... different...

But what the other man said made sense. Quatre didn't control his power very well at the best of times ­ he had an all or nothing attitude toward it. And Wufei's theory that he was using it to punish himself was all too likely...

"Fuck," Heero muttered under his breath.

Wufei nodded with gloomy relish. "Fuck, indeed," he agreed.

Zechs pulled off his headphones and turned to look at them.

"Is everything all right?" Heero asked reflexively.

The tall blond shrugged. "No one's moving around much at the moment," he said somberly.

Trowa sighed loudly as he too pulled off his headphones.

Wufei rose and moved over to the taller man, reaching down and carefully massaging the tense muscles of Trowa's neck.

"Thanks, Wufei," Trowa sighed. His eyes closed for a minute.

"Take a break," the Chinese man suggested neutrally. Trowa had required very careful handling in the last few weeks. The most innocuous suggestions had enraged him, he'd been by turns furious and morose, and his moods had changed in the blink of an eye. All in all, he'd been acting more like Duo on a bad day than the steady, impassive, dependable force they'd come to expect Trowa to be.

"I am," Trowa sighed. "There's not much to record right now." He reached up and flicked a switch, and Heero winced as the recording began to play into the room.

Never before had the sounds of sex turned him off. But now... they heard Quatre's hoarse breathing, his grunts of satisfaction, and they sounded... animal. Crass. They'd heard Quatre make the same sounds before, and then they'd been erotic, enticing... But though these sounds were identical, they somehow... weren't. This wasn't Quatre. It was some awful copy, some evil reversal of the man they knew and loved.

But even worse than the noises Quatre was making were the sounds of his apparently unwilling bed partner. She was weeping, and occasionally she'd cry out in pain, or beg for Quatre to stop.

The sounds Quatre made intensified the more she begged him to stop.

Heero closed his eyes. Leaning his elbows on the table, he lowered his head into his hands.

"She's seventeen," Trowa said suddenly. "She was kidnapped three weeks ago. They've raped her everyday since... .getting her ready especially for him, they said."

Heero winced, hearing the anger in Trowa's voice. It was so much worse when they told Quatre things like that. The face he presented to the Order gloried in it, loved that they prepared special ‘treats' for him, but the real Quatre hated it. Hated that people were made to suffer even more because of him.

After a few minutes, they heard Quatre shout, the girl shrieked, and then there was silence.

Trowa stared in disfavor at his headphones, then sighed and pulled them toward him.

"Don't," Wufei said harshly. The redhead looked up, surprised, and the Chinese man shook his head.

"If there's something we need to fix, we can do it after," Heero said, nodding in agreement with Wufei.

Trowa shouldn't have to handle this alone any more than Quatre should. They couldn't help Quatre... but Trowa was different.

"It's more efficient to... "

"So what?" Heero demanded. He shook his head. "Take a break," he advised the other man.

Trowa opened his mouth to argue, but instead shrugged and leaned back in his chair.

Heero frowned at Wufei. It must have been very bad for Trowa to give in so easily. The Chinese man stared back at Heero, the expression in his eyes more than worried.

Fear. Wufei was afraid.

Heero leaned forward in his chair, his entire body tense. He was suddenly very nervous.

"Well, Mr. Winner. Did you enjoy the little gift we prepared for you?"

Heero scowled. That was Polynices. He was frequently present when Quatre was availing himself of the Order's services. Quatre had reported that he watched, that he stared at him... He made the blond a little uneasy, he'd admitted. But Quatre didn't believe that Polynices had breeched his cover.

"He just seems... interested in me," he had confessed unhappily.

Heero supposed he could understand that. He found Quatre interesting too, and he supposed that the enigma that Quatre presented to Polynices ­ rich, powerful, charming, beloved, yet sick, depraved and a slave to his own desires ­ was quite intriguing to the other man.

But he didn't like it. He didn't like knowing that Polynices was there, didn't like thinking about him there watching Quatre use the people the Order served up to him.

Heero set his mouth grimly. Une was going to be pissed as hell when Polynices was "accidentally" killed in the raid when they were finally able to move on the Order.

Oh, well. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd fire him.

Heero flinched again when he heard Quatre's languid drawl. "I did indeed my good fellow... enjoyed it very much at that."

"Ready for more?" Polynices pressed, and Heero heard the amusement in his voice.

"Really, dear boy... let me catch my breath," Quatre protested laughingly.

Heero rolled his eyes. Quatre sounded ridiculous when he talked like that ­ it annoyed Heero to hear it even on the tapes.

"They really do talk like that." Heero jumped slightly, startled, as Zechs' voice abruptly broke the silence.

"What?" he demanded, frowning, as he looked up to see the older blond watching him. Zechs' comment had seemed to answer his own irritated thoughts, but...

"Rich people," Zechs explained. "They really do talk like that, a lot of them," he continued. "Mostly, they talk that way amongst themselves. It's a prep school thing," he explained wryly.

Wufei raised a brow at the older man. "Didn't you attend a prep school or two in your time?" he demanded sardonically.

"But of course, my dear chap," Zechs drawled.

Heero scowled. "Don't do that," he ordered abruptly.

"I do say," Zechs continued, his drawl affronted. "If you want to take issue, dear boy, perhaps we can... "

"Perhaps we can knock it off and pay attention," Trowa suggested, but his voice was amused. Heero looked at him, and saw a faint smile on the other man's lips.

He sighed. If it made Trowa smile, he supposed he could listen to Zechs go on like same gay Romefeller page...

Silence had fallen over the recording again. It was broken by a loud clapping sound, then some muffled sobs. Zechs sighed, and turned back to his computer rendering. It sounded like they were taking the girl out...

"Now. This, Mr. Winner, is a lucky day for you," Polynices spoke up again.

Quatre laughed. "Every day spent in your lovely establishment is a lucky day for me, Polynices, my friend," he assured the other man.

"Be that as it may," the other man continued modestly, his voice tinged with pleasure, "I think you'll be particularly pleased with this next offering."

"Do tell," Quatre urged, and Heero saw the pained look flit across Wufei's face at the eagerness in Quatre's recorded voice.

"Well. We've been providing you mostly with some of our lovely young ladies, since you've surrounded yourself with so many lovely young men... "

Heero shuddered, feeling suddenly very exposed. Trowa's lip curled up, and he stared venomously at the recording bank. Wufei looked sick.

"However... we thought you might like a little variety... "

"Variety is the spice of life, dear fellow," Quatre laughed, sounding inordinately pleased with his own wit.

"Exactly," Polynices murmured. "Well! In the interest of ‘spicing' up your life, Mr. Winner, we have a young man for you... "

"Virgin?" Quatre interrupted enthusiastically.

"Regretfully, no," Polynices sighed, and he did sound regretful. "Tydeus and Capaneus picked him up in one of their... recruiting trips abroad. He'd been... well, let's say he'd been working in our industry without licensing with us, and we really try to discourage that."

"Really?" Quatre sounded doubtful. "I don't know, Polynices, I rather like... "

"Shall I bring him in?" Polynices interrupted. "I think you'll really like him once you get a look at him. And experience is not necessarily a bad thing," he pointed out, amusement heavy in his voice again. "He's really quite... skilled," he promised.

"Oh?" Quatre asked, sounding more interested.

"I can vouch for it myself," Polynices promised meaningfully.

"We'll, you've never led me astray before," Quatre laughed. "Bring him in!"

Polynices barked out an order, and, straining, Heero heard a faint sound that might be a door opening. Quatre had told them that the doors were strange ­ made out of some odd material and hinged in a way that made them invisible. He'd been unable to tell them more, since he really wasn't supposed to be that interested in things like doors and hinges.

The silence lengthened. Heero frowned ­ surely they'd brought the boy in by now ­ what was taking so long?

"Well?" Polynices' voice broke the silence. "Well, Mr. Winner? Do you find him satisfactory?"

There was silence again, a silence that lasted much too long. Trowa leaned forward, his already pale skin whitening further with tension. Zechs slowly stood up, tensed. Wufei's fists clenched.

Heero stood, ready to run out and order an attack. They didn't know enough of the layout yet, but they knew how to get to Quatre if something was that wrong.

"I... I do indeed," Quatre said finally. His voice was unsteady, wavering... he sounded almost ill. Heero's skin prickled with worry.

"Isn't he beautiful to look at?" Polynices demanded. "Just between you and me, Capaneus and Tydeus usually bring in rather more quantity than quality... but they quite outdid themselves this time, don't you think?"

"Quite," Quatre agreed faintly.

Polynices chuckled. "I thought you'd like him," he said, his tone heavy with self-congratulations. "I really think you're just more fond of the gentlemen than the ladies, Mr. Winner. Nothing wrong with that!" he assured the younger man heartily. "This is Tiny," he went on. "I think you'll appreciate the... ironies... of that nickname in just a few minutes. Boy!" he called. "You seem to have struck our charming Mr. Winner speechless. Why don't you see if you can help him find his tongue again," he ordered.

"My pleasure," the boy spoke for the first time.

Heero's mouth fell open in shock.

"Mr. Winner... they've told me a lot about you," the young man continued, his voice sultry with promise. "I'm glad to finally meet you," he said, and Heero detected the slight note of irony in that smooth voice.

Heero fell heavily into his chair, as Wufei cried out in shock.

"I hope we can get to know each other a lot better," the horribly familiar voice purred.

"My God," Heero breathed, his stomach twisting painfully.

"No," Trowa whispered. "No, it can't be... "

"It's Duo," Wufei said harshly.

"What?" Zechs demanded. "It can't be Duo, he's... "

"He's there," Wufei said, his voice sick.

"My God," they heard Quatre's voice whisper.

"Mr. Winner?" For the first time, Polynices' voice held a trace of suspicion. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Quatre said quickly. "I just... can't believe what I'm seeing," he said, and this time there was no doubting his sincerity.

"It is," Heero said flatly.

Duo's laugh ­ rich, smooth, but utterly lacking in humor ­ echoed over the recording. "I bet you can't, Mr. Winner," he said boldly. "But I promise... you haven't seen anything yet."

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