By: Caer
see part 1 for warnings & disclaimers
Just some notes...
First of all, though I use the name Mueller, he is much older in this story and not really based at all on the character in the anime.
Second of all, I know that a few of you were a bit... wary of my having a catholic boy being gay. I just want to assure you that there will be sufficient explanation of this in the story. For one, it's AC 195. You can be dead sure that religion has mutated from what it is today. Second of all, a catholic missionary raised Duo. That doesn't mean he was force fed a staunch religion. Thirdly, no matter what the bible says, it all depends on who is interpreting it. There are plenty of religious sects today that read the bible, worship the lord and are still gay, so it's not uncommon.
No, wait, one more thing. The "Orchid Virus" doesn't exist. I made it up. I did have a flu that was very like this, just not as long lasting.

The Forgotten + Part 3

He was drowning, choking. The noise was unbearable. There was a roaring everywhere and disjointed images flitted through his mind as simulations of pasts, futures and lives he lived in his dreams only. The only constant in the turmoil of his mind, was the terrible burning in his throat. He felt wet... as though someone had poured water on his bed sheets. Yes. He knew he was in bed... vaguely, but anytime he tried to force his eyes to open when he could actually feel a bed underneath him or hear real sounds, his lids would prove too heavy and close shut again, throwing him back into a world where people loomed over him and the pain in his throat, blurred to a pain that permeated his entire existence. It seemed inescapable.

Duo tried his best to calm the thrashing figure on the bed. The blond stranger had somehow made it through his suspected poisoning, but now he was in the dregs of the Orchid virus. A virus named for the way some rare strains of the plant bloomed violently for roughly a week before returning to normal. The boy was definitely in the violent part. His fever was raging and Duo hadn't slept, trying to keep the suffering boy cool in the stifling dry heat of the colony. Even underground, there was little relief. This was the third day. It would be 4 more days before the boy recovered. The heat wasn't helping either. Even underground, the heat of the Colony was severely uncomfortable. All he could do was sponge the fevered skin with cool water and hope for the best. At least it was a sure thing that the blond would convalesce now.

Duo was also having a hell of a time trying to get any liquid into the boy. None of his kids had ever given him this much trouble. Trowa had said that the virus would be worse in someone older, but Duo thought that thirst would overrule the pain. The worst symptom of the virus was an incredibly sore raw throat. It hurt like hell. It stuck even in Duo's memory as a feeling of having hot coals jammed down your throat constantly. Drinking anything had felt like swallowing broken glass and alcohol.

That had been when Duo was seven.

The boy kept pushing it away, or not swallowing, or rolling away if he was able. He was weak enough that Duo could force him, but it just wasn't enough.

Duo sighed again. He grabbed the plastic drinking bottle and sat the boy up in his arms. Tilting the limp head backward, he squeezed the fluid out of the dropper-like top into the slack and open mouth.

"Come on kid. Drink some. Please." The boy turned away, his brow crinkling, causing some of the liquid to dribble down onto the sweat-drenched neck. Duo tried to nudge the bottle between slightly open lips and squeeze a few drops in. "Come on." He whispered soothingly. "I know it hurts, but drink a little."

+

"Drink up son!" Randolph Winner seemed to be standing miles away, yet Quatre could see him clearly. The man leaning on the bar had a large glass of bourbon and ice and he shook it a little, playfully. He was smiling his usual smile... his counterfeit media smile as he held the glass out to Quatre. The man seemed insanely joyous. Something his father never was. "Have a drink boy!"

Quatre looked down at a glass of red liquid in his hand. Some of it was leaking out, dripping down the pale skin of his wrist, dark like blood. He looked back up.
His father was standing right in front of him, too close to him, leaning over and smiling, more severely now. He loomed over Quatre with a smile so sinister, and Quatre could see the brown of his teeth and the blood under his hollow cheeks as he stared coldly down.

"Drink up son." He hissed and Quatre cried out and jerked back violently, throwing the red liquid on the ground.

"What a waste." He heard the fading muted voice of his father, even as his dreams faded into something and somewhere else. He was in a bed and a boy was standing over him, with brown hair and the most amazing eyes. He stared down kindly and though Quatre could hear the roaring everywhere, he felt a little bit better.

As he looked at the boy though he blinked and realized it hadn't been a boy at all, but his father staring down at him. There was no warmth. It was his father just staring.

Staring.

Staring.

And as Quatre closed his eyes and turned away, still fearing that his father would kill him, knowing that he had a knife or a gun and the strike would come any time now. He waited, his body tight with fear and anticipation when... the dream once again faded into unending noises and dark figures and pain.

It had seemed unending. It had been a constant load of horrific images and sounds and a burning feeling. He felt like he must have gone mad.

It was so loud.

And then it stopped.

It was quiet. The dreams were gone. He was in a small bed, hot and drenched with sweat. God, his throat hurt.

But it was quiet and it was real. He hoped it was. He looked up and saw the same boy from the dream. Quatre closed his heavy eyes and opened them again. It seemed he was awake. It was only this boy, about his age, wiping a cloth over his fevered neck. He smiled and ran a gentle hand through Quatre's wet hair, saying something Quatre didn't understand as he succumbed again to exhaustion, but this time, fell into a peaceful dreamless sleep.

+

"How is he?"

Wufei shut the door behind him and Duo started out of an uncomfortable doze from his chair by the bed. The Chinese boy walked in, carrying a pot of stew. It smelled of spices and meat. Duo's stomach growled and he gave it a stern look.

"Did everyone else eat?" Duo asked scratchily, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"No." Wufei replied, setting the repast down on the small table. "I'm letting them starve so I can feed you and your street walker friend here."

Duo pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut.

"You can really be a smart ass you know that?"

Wufei only smiled silently. He nodded again at the pallid boy under the sheet.

"Has he shown improvement?"

"A little." Duo grabbed the rag, fallen from his charge's forehead and wiped another small layer of sweat from the fevered skin. "His fever's broken and come back a couple of times now. He won't drink and he hasn't come awake once. He's opened his eyes a couple of times, but no focus. I may need you to get Trowa again." Duo bit his lip worriedly.

Duo looked up to see a sincerely amused smile softening the Chinese boy's usually sharp features.

"What?" He asked moodily, raising an eyebrow.

Wufei shook his head, still smiling. "Nothing Maxwell." He poured some soup into one of the bowls and handed it over. "I'll come back to get the dishes later, but don't do anything stupid by feeding the boy from your bowl. Who knows what else he's contracted from his... profession."

"Wufei..." Duo warned, not wanting to argue right now. Wufei looked him straight in the eye. "I mean it Maxwell. You're too trusting."

Duo nodded. He was angered by Wufei's comments somehow, but he couldn't put words to it. It either meant he was tired and needed to wait... or that Wufei was right and he needed to just shut up and listen. Wufei "hm'd" in satisfaction and left before an uncomfortable silence could permeate the room.

+

At least twenty men stood below the podium, looking up, waiting for him to begin his speech. He increased his look of sorrow a bit, taking a moment to look down and take a moment to let the drama sink in. He was careful to leave a bit of mucous in his throat so that his first attempt at speaking was choked.

"My..." He coughed a little to clear the passage, took a breath and straightened. He smiled a little as he saw the look of sorrow in the eyes of some of the women reporters. What sheep.

"Winner Enterprises has suffered a tragedy today." His voice was calculatingly rough, as if he had been crying. As if. "My son accompanied me to assist in the SSIP program. It was a program designed to help the people of L2... a program he was very fond of. He was working on some rogue machines that malfunctioned, out in the field, trying to repair them when."

Winner rubbed his eyes tiredly before continuing.

"A gang that was attempting to steal supplies from the relief station attacked him... and ... and he was killed."

Half of the reporters went silent, while the other half surged forward, shouting questions.

"How old was he?"

"How was he killed?"

"Will you be continuing the SSIP project?"

Randolph Winner held up a hand.

"Please. My son just died. You have my statement. All I can say is that we will continue SSIP. It is something my son truly believed in. Gangs like this wouldn't exist had we aided these people sooner. In memory of my son, I will aid this forgotten society to climb out of their poverty. Thank you."

There was applause, but mostly a surge of reporters who weren't satisfied. Nothing new. Randolph exited with Mueller in tow.

"I think that went rather well, don't you?"

As he made his way out to his limousine, the crowds were lined up to see him. He quickly put a hand to the bridge of his nose for effect. They would eat this up in the media. He stole a quick glance at the crowd and froze, his hands dropping to his sides.

"Mr. Winner?" Mueller paused with him. "Mr. Winner."

Randolph stood frozen for a moment, staring out into the crowd, focused on someone or something Mueller couldn't fathom. Then he blinked clouded olive eyes, and stepped back, searching the crowd in confusion, but whatever he had seen was gone now.

"Sorry Mr. Mueller. I thought I saw someone I knew."

Mueller nodded slowly, making a mental note to get his boss to see a doctor. Too much stress probably. They continued on to the limo and drove slowly out of the burgeoning crowd.

+

Duo rose from his chair, grimacing as his muscles protested. He stretched his arms over his head, yawning mightily. As he relaxed his stagnant muscles, he was able to think a bit more clearly. He was at the point that he needed something to occupy his mind while he was stuck here.

"I never was very good at meditation." He muttered. "Sorry kid." Duo said, rising and pulling a dog-eared old book from the small bookshelf that stood in the corner. "But we aren't going anywhere and I'm bored as all hell." He pulled a small metal chair to the side of the bed and sat down. The sound of it scraping on the stone floor caused the boy to stir a bit and open his eyes. They didn't close again completely. Tired little slits managed to reveal dull green eyes that were almost but not quite focused on his braided caretaker. Duo smiled, not knowing whether the boy could see him or not, but wanting him to feel comfortable.

"You've probably never seen that many books. For that matter, you probably don't even care." Duo laughed at himself. "This is a tradition though, so you'll have to deal with it... at least until you're strong enough to tell me to shut up." He laughed, waving the book at the boy.

"Really, it's more for me. I'll go stir-crazy if I don't have something to do in this cell." He sat down, propping his feet up on the bed and turning to the first page.

Duo leaned back, setting one leg on the bed and crossing the other over to support the old book, opening the yellowed pages and beginning to read as he always did to the sick, and as Father Maxwell did before him.

"In the ancient city of London, on a certain autumn day in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him."

+

Quatre came to consciousness slowly and as he moaned, trying to justify to himself that he was still alive, though he could barely move and, try as he might, he couldn't open his eyes. He heard a harsh squeak next to his head and a rustling. A cool rag was wiped roughly across his eyes and though it hurt a little on his over sensitive skin, Quatre didn't try to stop it since it was cleaning the crust of mucous that locked his eyelids shut by the lashes. He blinked blearily and looked up to see a familiar face. He opened his mouth to talk, but all that came was a throaty squeak.

"Shhh. Don't try to talk yet. Here." The boy from his dreams reached over and grabbed a clear plastic bottle with a dropper like opening at the end. He slid his arm easily under Quatre's shoulders and held him up, placing the bottle end at his lips. "Have some water first."

Quatre opened his mouth weakly and accepted the somewhat cool liquid. He almost jerked as it hit his throat. The pain burned right down to his toes and his chest constricted harshly as he swallowed on reflex. He coughed, making his throat hurt even worse. The boy holding him tightened his grip and spoke softly.

"I know it hurts kid, but you've gotta force yourself to drink something."

Quatre nodded and raised an arm weakly to take the bottle from his benefactor. His hand shook with weakness as he held the bottle up to his lips and forced himself to drink.

It hurt. God it hurt, but he forced the stuff down his throat, trying not to tear up from the pain. Soon though, his throat began to feel a little better. He must have been dehydrated, for now his head started to clear and things didn't seem so hazy and dull. He managed a grateful look at his savior as he handed the bottle back.

"Where are we?" His scratchy voice sounded faint as a breath of air. The braided boy leaned closer in to hear.

"Underground. Don't worry. You're safe." The boy brushed the damp blond hair from the Quatre's forehead lovingly, causing Quatre a good deal of wonder, relief and surprise all at once. Who was this guy? Did he know what had happened? Quatre barely remembered it himself. The memories were coming back in little pieces as he searched his brain, trying to glue together what he could recall. He didn't know what happened after drinking the tea in the car. In fact at this moment, he was just trying to deal with the fact that he was most definitely not dead. He felt like death warmed over, but he was, in fact, quite alive. He was sure. Death couldn't possibly feel this miserable.

"If you please? Who are you?"

For some reason, the boy's eyes flashed with brief confusion before he answered. The look was fleeting though and the boy flashed him a big grin that somehow made Quatre feel very... safe.

"Duo Maxwell's my full name. You can call me Duo, but uh... most know me as Shinigami." He said, giving Quatre a saucy wink.

"Oh." Quatre replied, trying to figure out what that meant. It obviously had some significance to the boy, but what, he couldn't fathom.

Duo frowned. His street name should have produced some reaction from the kid, yet he was oblivious. His speech was also strange. Had the poison affected his memory as well? Something wasn't quite right and Duo had a nagging suspicion as to why.

Further contemplation was brushed away though as the blonde's eyes began to droop. Duo smiled, masking his distress, and pulled the covers up over the boy who was once again dropping off into slumber.

"Get some sleep kid."

"Quatre." The blond boy mumbled.

"Quatre." Duo whispered kindly as he squeezed the washcloth in the basin free of water and replaced it on the boy's forehead.

"Duo?"

"Yes?" He replied softly to the drifting boy.

"Would you read some more?"

"You heard?" He said with some small surprise. He had thought the boy completely oblivious.

"Mmmm..." The blond yawned weakly and settled into the shabby pillow beneath him. "I liked it."

"Wha..." Duo looked down at the blond, who finally sported some faint color to his cheeks. His eyes were closed and Duo sensed more than saw that he was on the verge of healing sleep. The confused boy blinked twice, before grabbing the tattered old book and settling down to maintain his vigil.

+

[part 2] [part 4] [back to the Singles page]