Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 72
Escalation

Trowa sighed as he turned off his phone and pulled Quatre close. The parlor seemed very cold after Heero hung up, even with a fire burning in the fireplace. He felt Heero and Duo's absence like a physical ache, and the phone conversations from Berlin had only made it worse. The Circus, his beautiful creation, felt like a burden, an anchor keeping him from his loved ones and he hated that feeling, too.

He fought to hold off the depression, but Quatre knew. He turned and cradled Trowa's face in his hands, as if he could somehow balance all those conflicting feelings.

"You know they can take care of themselves, right?" he asked.

"Yeah. But I'll still feel better when we get there!" Trowa rested his head on Quatre's shoulder. "Do you think we should have told him about the latest letter?"

"Maybe. I don't know. It's not like it changes anything."

Another envelope had arrived from Japan today. Inside they found the usual photo of the rape in progress taped across a page torn from Heero's scrapbook, together with a recent magazine picture of Heero and Duo at a club. Scrawled across it in red were the words, "You look good these days, all clean and healthy. Yum yum. So does your whore boyfriend. Until we meet again."

Trowa had felt sick to his stomach, reading it. Quatre had been more interested in the scrapbook page. The pictures had been cut from magazines like the others they'd seen, but instead of the orderly layout and neatly printed dates they'd seen on the earlier pages, these were haphazardly arranged and surrounded by unintelligible scribbling. What little they'd been able to make out looked like their names and call numbers written over and over again, as if Heero had been afraid of forgetting who they all were.

Quatre spent some time studying them. "These are all from last year, when he must have been at his sickest. This one at the bottom is the latest. See, it's a shot of us in Barbados."

"So?"

"So, if these bastards grabbed his scrapbook when they caught him, it was after that July. That narrows down when he must have been in Japan. It's not much to go on, but it is another piece of the puzzle. We'll tell him about it when we get to Berlin."

The ache in Trowa's chest got bigger, thinking about that. He wanted to get on a shuttle right now, if not sooner, armed to the teeth, with a detailed map of where Heero's tormenters were. He wanted to hurt them as badly as they'd hurt Heero.

"Maybe you shouldn't do Red Silk tonight," Quatre said softly, pressing a hand over Trowa's pounding heart.

"No. I can do it." If they had to stay here and go on with the show, he was going to do exactly that. He'd never told anyone, even Kat, but that particular act was a nightly ritual for him. In it he offered up his soul, claimed the pain and destruction of those violent years, sought atonement. On good nights he gained some degree of catharsis; at the very least, the transition to Meld reminded him of how far he'd come. It was hours before the show, however, and he was tensing up. Quatre was right; that could be dangerous.

Intuitive as always, Quatre was already undressing him, running those knowing fingers over Trowa's skin, seeking out the knots in the muscles.

Neither of them really wanted sex. When Quatre was naked, too, and lying next to him on the couch, they just touched and kissed and fondled, offering mutual comfort.

Trowa's eyes stung as he held Quatre close. "We'll find them, corazon, and we'll hurt them."

"We have to be careful, Tro. This isn't the war anymore."

"Oh yes it is," Trowa murmured. "These men declared it when they sent that first picture . . . No, when they laid a hand on Heero. Our Heero."

Quatre was very still for a moment, and then he silently nodded.

+

For the first time since Circus della Notte had opened back in October, Quatre felt no enthusiasm as the opening music swelled. The show went well, though, he had to admit. Trowa flung himself through Red Silk with even more passion than usual. Quatre watched from the wings with his fear hidden away behind his mask and makeup, and his heart in his mouth. He was so nervous he almost missed his cue and had to dash under the stage to his place on the hidden platform. A stagehand helped him find his mark and handed him the mask Trowa would use. Then, in the near darkness, he fought the usual nightly fear, picturing Trowa whirling through the final, most daring spins of the act above him. This was always the worst moment of the show for Quatre; not being able to see his lover, but knowing that if he fell, he'd hear the impact of his body directly over his head, mere inches away.

Once again, however, no thud came, only the dying strains of the music and thunderous applause that signaled another amazing success. The trapdoor slid open and Quatre helped Trowa down. Trowa stripped out of the painted singlet to the scanty costume underneath, sank down into position beside Quatre and gave the signal. The small stage they were on rose smoothly up under the billowing layers of fallen silk. The fabric was swept away and they were revealed to another night's crowd, acting out the bond they'd forged for all to see.

Quatre had gotten a letter of his own the other day, one he'd chosen not to share with anyone, even Trowa, just yet. But the thought of it now added a pang of poignancy and defiance to his performance. Let his sisters and uncles and aunts and cousins and--and yes, Rashid and the others, too! Let them all see who he really was. His heart was naked on this stage and he was proud of what this act stood for. Trowa and Heero and Duo and even Wufei understood; that's all that mattered. He and Trowa would finish this show, and tomorrow's, then go and fight for their beloved, to protect their little family.

The applause sounded even louder tonight, and when the small stage sank away into darkness when they were through, Trowa kissed him even though they should have been dashing to make their final costume changes. Quatre felt tears on Trowa's cheeks.

"I love you, mele. Thank you."

They walked home after the show, and got caught without an umbrella when a sudden winter rainsquall swept in over the Quarter. There were no cabs in sight, so they ran for it. Trowa had worn a heavier coat, and insisted on draping his jacket over Quatre's head. They dashed the last few blocks to the house and arrived at the garden gate breathless and laughing, with Trowa soaked to the skin.

Marie had left lights on for them and there was a note in a plastic baggie stuck on one of the wrought iron points of the gate.

Quatre pulled it off and read it as he hurried Trowa across the garden toward the stairs. "Package from Capt. Po arrived for Mr. Heero. Left it on the kitchen table.' Hey, she works fast! You go get into some dry clothes. I'll bring whatever it is upstairs. You want something to eat?"

"Anything! I'm famished." Trowa gave him a quick kiss and went up the garden stairway to change.

Quatre walked into the kitchen, thinking mostly of hot tea and cold chicken sandwiches. On his way to the fridge he glanced over at the flat package on the table, then stopped in his tracks a few feet away. Something was very wrong.

To begin with, it was too soon for any results from Sally, even if she'd held the lab techs at gunpoint. And even if she'd had any information to send, it would have come down by special courier delivery, or the intercolony mail service. The package had ESUN earthside postage. And, on further consideration, now that he was thinking with his head instead of his stomach, this flat, brown paper wrapped box with its generic, printed mailing label, was far too big for the sort of info she'd send. And she'd never use her home address on the return portion. And why wouldn't she just send it electronically anyway . . .

All this raced through Quatre's mind as he backed slowly to the door. Opening it, he stepped out to call for Trowa and found his husband already leaning on the rail above, watching expectantly for him.

"Tro, come here. Something isn't right about this!"

That's as far as he got before the voice-activated detonator, keyed to all five of their voices, set off the carefully wrapped explosives inside the box and Quatre's world exploded.

+

They'd just sat down to breakfast and Duo was teasing Wufei about the consistency of the scrambled eggs when Heero heard his cell phone ringing. He hurried out to the livingroom where he'd left it and grabbed it up from the coffee table on the fourth ring. The number displayed was Trowa's cell.

"03, you have something?"

There was no answer, just the sound of ragged breathing.

"Trowa? Trowa! Are you there? What's wrong?"

"01." It was a faint gasp. Were those sirens in the background?

Heero forced himself to remain calm as the ragged breathing on the other end grew louder. "03, report!"

It worked. "I called 9-1-1," Trowa replied, his voice alarmingly faint and shaky. "Fire and rescue on the way."

"How bad are you hurt? Where's 04?" Heero ran for the breakfast room, phone clutched to his ear.

An unmistakable sob. "There's blood--all over him! He's not moving. Oh fuck, Heero--- Mele? Mele, wake up! Please, baby, open your eyes." Trowa sounded nearly incoherent as his voice trailed off in another quavering sob.

Heero clutched at the doorframe as his legs threatened to buckle under him.

"Heero, what's wrong?" Duo demanded, knowing at once that something was very wrong.

Heero held up a hand, motioning for the others to give him a minute. "What happened, Trowa? Where are you?"

"A bomb."

"A bomb!"

"Jesus!" Duo and the other were already on their feet.

"At the house?" Heero asked.

More gasping. "Yes, here-- I don't know. There was a package-- addressed to you--maybe that--I don't know!. Quatre said-He said--Something wrong, he said, then the kitchen blew up!" Trowa was sobbing and rambling now. "You guys have to come back!"

"We'll be there just as soon as we can, Trowa. Hang on." Those were definitely sirens he heard in the background, and the crackle of flames, and the loud, insistent honk of fire engine horns. "Listen to me. Stay with me, 03! Is Quatre breathing?"

A strangled groan, from Wufei this time. Zechs put an arm around him. Duo pressed in next to Heero, listening in, his eyes wide and pleading.

"Yeah," Trowa said at last.

"He's alive, but badly hurt," Heero told the others.

"Tell him we're on our way." Zechs took out his own cell phone and called the shuttle port, demanding a priority launch time.

Heero could hear other voices now, police or firemen. Then a man's voice in the background was telling Trowa, "I'm sorry, sir. You're going to have to let go of him so we can help him. Please, Mr. Barton."

"Trowa, let them help Quatre. Let me speak to them, 03. You copy that?"

There was a rustle on the other end, then a calm woman with a New Orleans accent was telling him, "This is Officer Gagne, New Orleans PD. To whom am I speaking, please?"

"This is Heero Yuy. What is the situation, Officer Gagne. How are my friends?"

"There was an explosion, Mr. Yuy, cause undetermined. Probably a gas main."

"Trowa said there was bomb."

"Thank you, I'll make note of that. Mr. Winner and Mr. Barton were caught in the blast. Barton is conscious, but Winner is not. I can't give you any more than that. The paramedics are getting them into the ambulance now. I think--Well, if you could alert their families--"

"We are their family!" Heero growled. "Where are they being taken?"

"St. Xavier's Hospital."

"Give the phone back to Trowa, please."

Another rustle, and more voices in the background; the paramedics were working frantically over them. Heero heard something about head wounds, and a collapsed lung.

"Heero?"

"I'm here, Trowa. Hang on. We'll be there as soon as we can. I'll stay on the line as long as I can, as long as the reception holds out!"

"I'm sorry, sir," a stranger cut in. "Mr. Barton is being sedated. I'll have to cut you---"

"Wait, what's their condition?" Heero demanded.

"I can't give out that---"

"Anything!" Heero pleaded. "Please!"

Duo grabbed the phone from him. "Are they going to make it, god dammit?"

"Sir, I'm not authorized---"

Someone else claimed the phone. "Mr. Yuy?"

Heero took back the phone. "Yes, I'm here."

"My name is Zach. I can't give you any detailed information. I'm not a doctor. But Mr. Barton has a concussion and lacerations. Mr. Winner is in worse shape. There's definitely some head trauma and internal injuries. I assume you're on your way?"

"We're in Berlin, but we're leaving immediately by private shuttle. We'll be there by mid morning, your time. Make sure Trowa understands that, please."

"I will, sir. We'll take good care of them, I promise."

"You better!" Duo shouted into the phone.

Heero signed off.

"We're cleared to go," Zechs told him. Not stopping to pack or clean up, Japan and Meir forgotten for now, they headed for home.

[chap. 71] [chap. 73] [back to pyrzm's fic]