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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 73
Pain

It was still night in New Orleans when they took off. They couldn't reach Trowa again by phone, but as legal next of kin, Duo finally managed to get through to a doctor. She could only tell him that Quatre was in surgery for head trauma, burns, and internal injuries, and that Trowa was in slightly better shape, but badly concussed and confused. No amount of begging or threats would make her put Trowa on the line. There was no point; he was hysterical and violent, and because of the concussion they didn't dare sedate him.

"He's in restraints, isn't he?" Duo groaned.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Maxwell. It was the only way. He was hurting himself and my staff. Perhaps you can calm him down when you get here."

"Put me through to him on vid!"

"I can't see how--"

"Now!" Duo barked, reaching instinctively for the gun in his boot holster, as if he could threaten her long distance.

"Mr. Maxwell, you are agitated yourself. I don't need him excited any more than he already is."

Heero leaned over Duo's shoulder, into the doctor's view. "Duo is a family member. He has a right to communicate with him. I'll keep things calm on this end and you can terminate the call if you feel it's necessary. Please, doctor."

The woman scowled a moment and seemed to be listening to someone off camera. "All right, then. I'll have a vid link set up in his room. But I don't think you're going to be much help. He isn't very lucid right now."

"I understand." Heero's hand tightened warningly one Duo's shoulder. "So do you, right Duo?"

"Yes, of course," Duo agreed, going all calm and charming on her. "You should also call Dr. Thomas Batoosingh at Winner Memorial on L-2. He's an expert on dealing with screwed up Gundam pilots. I think you'll find him helpful."

The vid screen went blue for a few agonizing moments, then came one again, showing them a shockingly battered, disheveled and clearly frantic Trowa strapped down in a hospital bed. Half his face and one eye were covered in thick bandages, and more were wrapped around his bare chest and arms. An IV dripped into one cuffed down arm.

That looked way too familiar, and worse, seeing Trowa, his strong one, like that. "Trowa? Tro, can you see me? It's Duo."

Trowa's one visible eye tracked his voice unsteadily, and then fixed on the screen set up by his bed. "Duo?" he croaked.

"Yeah, sweetie, it's me. Heero's here, and Wuffie, too, see? Crowd in, guys. Let him see you. Zechs is flying us in as fast as he can and you know what a maniac he is. Hang in there, baby. We'll be there in no time."

"Duo?" Trowa squinted blearily at them. "Where's Kat?"

Duo forced a smile. "The doctor's are helping him, babe. They're taking real good care of him. You gotta let them look after you, too."

"Kat?" Clearly disoriented, Trowa was looking frantically around the room again. "Duo, they took him. I had him, but they took him!" He pulled at the restraints and Duo saw blood ooze in a red stain through the gauze covering one forearm.

"03, lie still!" Heero ordered. "You're safe. Stand down!"

"No!" Trowa cried. "They--he-- I lost him, 01! Got to get to Heavyarms!"

The transmission cut out, then the doctor was back. They could hear Trowa screaming for them somewhere off camera. "You see how it is? He's been like that since he was brought in. He tried to keep the orderlies from taking his partner in to surgery. He was armed. Luckily he passed out long enough for security to disarm him--"

"He's worried sick about Quatre!" Duo shouted at her. "He's got untreated PTSD, too, and he's probably flashing like hell. Put me back through to him, goddamit! Please, just leave the link open so he can see us!"

After a long pause the picture shifted back to Trowa thrashing and crying in the bed.

"Trowa!" Duo shouted, getting his attention. "Tro, baby, listen. It's me again. It's Duo. You with me, baby? Heero, you try."

"03, calm down!" Heero barked.

Trowa fell back against the mattress panting. "01?"

"I'm still with you, Trowa. You have to stop fighting them. They're on our side. They are helping Quatre."

"You gotta lie still, Tro, and get better," Duo pleaded. "I'll keep talking to you, and Heero and Wu, too. Just listen to us, OK? Concentrate. Talk to us. We're coming to help you, but you gotta stay chilly 'til we get there, OK? Do it for Quatre. You know how he gets when someone he loves is all crazy. Remember how you wouldn't let him in my room, last time I went off the edge?"

"Hurt him," Trowa mumbled, that one green eye still wide with panic, but a little more focused now.

"That's right. And I know you would never, ever hurt Quatre on purpose, so you gotta calm down. You gotta get clear so you can be there for him when he wakes up."

Trowa let out a hitching, painful whimper, but nodded. "Gotta get clear. Gotta be clear. Kat? Where's Kat?"

"The doctors are helping him, Tro."

+

Duo stayed on line, talking Trowa down as he drifted in and out of consciousness. Wufei was on the line to Sally, who was currently in transit to Earth. From her they learned that a full scale Preventer investigation of the blast was under way. Fragments of the bomb had already been recovered and were under analysis.

"Thanks. Keep us apprised, please," said Wufei.

"You know I will, as much as I can. Heero, are you there?"

"Here, Sally."

"Heero, I want your permission to hand over the evidence you sent me to Une."

"No!" Panic and stubbornness clenched around his heart. "We don't know that this is related. We're handling that investigation on our own. If it looks like they're connected, then I'll consider it."

Sally scowled at him through the monitor. "You're putting me in a hell of a position here."

"I know. I'm sorry."

She glanced at Wufei. "You know this is wrong. Legally you could be putting yourselves up for an obstruction charge. You could even be working against helping find out who hurt your friends."

Wufei nodded. "Yes, but I have to back Heero on this, Sally. I'm sorry."

She frowned at them for a moment. "You know, there is another way. I could talk to Une, get your Preventer rank and Heero's reactivated."

"No!" Duo and Zechs said at the same moment and with equal distaste.

But Heero found himself considering the possibility. "We could ask for independent field consultant status. Let me think about it, Sally. Right now I just want to see Trowa, find out what he knows."

"All right, but please promise me you four-excuse me-you five won't charge off and do anything stupid and illegal."

It was Wufei who answered for all of them. "Don't ask us for that yet, Sally. For now, please just trust us and don't say anything to Une. Please?"

Sally was clearly wrestling with her better judgment. "Forty eight. I'll give you forty-eight hours, but then I want an answer one way or the other.""Agreed."

Wufei hung up and Heero switched on the tiny TV screen set in the bulkhead, looking for more news on the explosion. They were over the Atlantic now. Zechs put the shuttle on auto and he joined them. Duo was still talking Trowa through, and Heero was glad to have the others pressed in shoulder to shoulder with him as the first murky, nightmarish images appeared on the screen. The beautiful old house on Royal Street was surrounded by yellow tape, fire trucks and police cars. Red and blue lights strobed in the darkness. A shot through the gate showed a gaping hole in the side of the building where the kitchen door had been, and smoldering timbers beyond. Apparently the fire had been controlled, held to that side of the house, but all around the courtyard they could see shattered windows and smoke damage. Two of the tall palms in the courtyard had been knocked down by the blast and the old fountain had been knocked off its foundation.

Duo glanced over, then quickly covered the voice pick of the vidphone. "Oh fuck! They got caught in that?"

There were no shots of Trowa or Quatre. Apparently the press had gotten there after they'd been taken away by ambulance. The reporters had to settle for camping out in front of the hospital entrance, badgering the police and hospital personnel. No real information was being given out, only that Quatre was still in surgery and that Trowa was unavailable for comment. Duo talked himself hoarse and Heero took over for a while, then let Wufei speak with him.

As dawn brightened over New Orleans, word spread and strangers with candles gathered on the sidewalk by the emergency entrance. Some held up hand-lettered signs. Heero leaned closer and made out messages like, "We're with you, Trowa and Quatre", "Get well soon!" and "New Orleans loves the G-Boys." Others held up Circus della Notte posters of the pair. Some wore the black and silver tee shirts Quatre had designed.

Live coverage came on every half hour, and every time there were more people. The cameras panned over a growing pile of flowers and stuffed animals being piled on the sidewalk. Someone hung up a Circus della Notte poster on the side of the building above it, others added pictures of their own, showing Trowa and Quatre, and even some of the rest of them, dating back to the war. Rumors were flying that Duo and Heero had been caught in the blast, too, perhaps even killed, until someone from the hospital staff made a formal statement, saying that the other three Gundam boys were alive and well and on their way.

They were watching when Catherine arrived looking shell-shocked. Several burly circus friends helped her fight her way through the throng. It was surreal, seeing her on CNN one moment, then having her sit down by Trowa's bed on the vid screen the next.

"Thank you!" she said softly, looking into the vid monitor. "How soon can you get here? It's just crazy out there!"

Zechs overheard. "Tell her ETA 3.5 hours. I have some of my own security personnel on the way to meet us."

Duo passed that on and Cathy nodded. She was stroking Trowa's hair now, and holding the hand with the IV in it. Trowa had gone quiet, calmed by his sister's presence.

"I'll take it from here for a while, OK?" she said. "I'll have them link back to you if he needs you, I promise." Tears slipped down her cheeks. "Thank you all! I didn't know-- I was asleep until they called and then--" She wiped impatiently at her face. "Thanks for being here with him when he needed you."

"Least I could do," Duo replied softly. "Take care of him, OK?"

The link went blue again, leaving them with only CNN for a link. It was the same footage over and over now, with mounting speculation.

Things livened up again when Ahmed, the uncle who hated Trowa showed up with one of Quatre's sisters-Fatima, the older, more religious one with a black scarf around her face. She said something about the will of Allah before she disappeared inside.

The same damn meaningless images played over and over on the half hour all through the rest of that long flight, but Duo wouldn't let them turn it off. Slumped in his seat, he jiggled one foot nervously and strangled his braid with both hands. Heero took his hand, but more for his own comfort than to stop him.

+

They touched down in New Orleans just after 10 AM local time and were met by a confused and chaotic reception committee. Zechs's private security was there, handsome, dangerous looking men in dark suits and dark glasses. Une had sent a Preventer escort, and so had the New Orleans chief of police. Zechs took charge and deftly sorted everyone out. They all ended up together in the back of a black limo at the center of a police convoy.

"Glad we didn't have to ride in the back of a cop car," Duo quipped nervously, clutching Heero's hand and watching the highway fly past outside. "I've had my fill of those."

The cops got them to the hospital and through the mob of reporters and well-wishers outside.

The woman they'd spoken with by vid phone met them in the lobby. "Good to meet you all in person," she said, leading them to a waiting elevator. "My name is Dr. Aaronson. I'm a senior administrator here at St. Xavier's and am acting as a liaison for this high profile situation. As you might gather, the situation with your friends has caused quite a stir."

"I can imagine," Heero said impatiently. "What is the status of our friends now?"

"Quatre is out of surgery," she informed them, pressing the button for the tenth floor. "He'll be in recovery for some time, but he's stabilized, and there doesn't appear to be any brain damage. Trowa is asleep finally. I'll take you up to the private waiting room. Mr. Maxwell can go in and see him as soon as--"

"What about the others?" Duo demanded.

"As legal next of kin, only you--"

"Oh, no way! We're all family, doc!"

"I understand your feelings, but we have these policies for a reason."

"It's all right," Heero said, giving Duo a warning look. "You go see Trowa, Duo. I'll worry about the rest of it."

+

Preventer guards had cordoned off the tenth floor waiting room. Inside their housekeeper, Marie, and a handful of people from the circus sat in stunned silence.

"Oh, Mr. Duo!" Marie said, bursting into tears at the sight of him. "I didn't know. I should have known. Mr. Trowa did say to watch out for packages, and that's why I left that note for them, but I never thought-"

"It's OK, Marie. You couldn't have known," Duo said, patting her shoulder.

He wasn't surprised to find Quatre's sour-faced relatives hunkered down here, shooting him poisonous glances. That was all right; he didn't much like them, either. What he wasn't prepared for was the sight of Rashid towering over the others, with a couple of the other Maguanacs flanking him. Omar and Achmed; he remembered them from better times. Years of resentment on Quatre's behalf boiled over. He marched up to the tall man and did exactly what he'd promised himself he'd do if the bastard ever showed up again. He popped him one on the jaw. It took some reaching, but he managed to rock the giant back on his heels.

"How dare you!" Duo snarled, shoving the other two Maguanacs away when they stepped in to defend their leader. "You fucking traitors! You narrow-minded, backstabbing bastards! You broke his heart and now you show up? You here to gloat or something? Come to make sure they finish him off? And you!" He rounded on Uncle Ahmed and Fatima. "You here to gloat, too?"

Heero stepped in, trying to keep Duo from physically attacking anyone again, but Duo fought him off. "I don't want you here. Quatre doesn't want you here. And Trowa sure as fuck doesn't want you here and you better not let him see you lurking around. You remember Trowa, right? Quatre's husband? The one who loves him and protects him from people like you, you sanctimonious bitch?"

Heero caught a nod from the doctor and dragged Duo, still snarling and gesturing, through a side door and into the corridor beyond.

"Knock it off!" he ordered, giving Duo a shake. "What are you raving about? Trowa needs you calm."

Duo pressed a hand across his eyes for a moment, and then let out a long breath. "Sorry, I just- Those are the ones I told you about. They found out that Quatre was actually performing and went off on him worse than ever. They claim he's dishonored the family, shamed the Winner name and all the usual shit. Only now there's talk of having him declared mentally incompetent. They want to have his marriage annulled and drag him home. And they're real close to getting him stripped of all his holdings in the family company. I'm telling you, Heero, they won't stop until they have him locked up in some loony bin on L-4. Some of the other sisters are backing them up, to get control of Quatre's interests in the company. Kat's lawyer's claim they don't have a case for custodial status, but they could still cut him off without a credit. Trowa found some letter from the evil relatives' lawyer and called Kat's to find out what the hell is going on. Kat hasn't said a word about it to any of us, though, but it must be killing him. You know how he is about his family, under all that tough guy act." He took a deep breath. "And now tall, dark and ugly shows up to gloat, too? Sorry, I just lost it, ok?"

"We'll handle them," Heero assured him, giving him a one armed hug. "You go sit with Trowa and Catherine. I'll make sure they're gone."

"Copy that. Thanks, Heero." Duo gave him a grateful look and a kiss, then followed a nurse down the hall toward a door with four armed Preventers guarding the door.

Heero watched him disappear inside, then went back to the waiting area, where Wufei and Zechs were having a tense standoff with Quatre's family and Rashid.

"What are you doing here?" Wufei was demanding of the tall man.

"Yes, Rashid. Why now?" Heero asked coldly. "Have you joined up with Fatima now?"

"No! We are here to protect Master Quatre," Rashid replied. "We will offer our deep apologies to him and to Master Trowa when they are well enough to hear them."

"And you just happened to be in New Orleans?" Wufei demanded suspiciously.

Rashid folded his arms and looked down at Wufei as if he were an annoying child, which is what the Chinese boy looked like, dwarfed as he was by the huge Arab. "We came to see the show, and to make amends. We have been in the area for a week. Master Quatre knew of our presence, but-"

"But?"

"He wouldn't see us," Rashid admitted. "We have already explained this to the police. I had hoped to convince him to meet with us, to talk."

"Where are the rest of your men?" asked Heero. The Maguanacs had been a tight unit in the old days.

Rashid sighed. "Only the three of us are here. The others-they cannot accept Master Quatre's--choices."

"I see. Well, if you care about him at all, the three of you will get the hell out of here before Duo or Trowa sees you," Heero told him. "You can't help and Quatre can't afford any emotional disruption around him. There's nothing for you to do here."

Rashid considered this, and then bowed. "You are right. We do not wish to cause him any more pain. No one should be allowed to hurt Master Quatre." He tilted his head slightly in Fatima's direction, and Heero nodded knowingly.

With the Maguanacs dealt with, Heero strode over to the two glowering relatives. "Duo is Quatre's closest kin legally, after Trowa. He wants you two gone."

"I am his sister!" Fatima snarled, giving Heero a scathing glare.

"You are involved in legal proceedings against him. Your presence is detrimental to Quatre's recovery." Heero gave them to sort of look he used to reserve for Alliance soldiers blowing up innocent people on L-1. Uncle and niece both took a step back.

"Yes, I agree with Mr. Yuy," said Dr. Aaronson, intervening. "I didn't realize what the situation was, until now." She motioned to two policemen on guard inside the door. "Officers, please see these people off the premises."

Fatima and Ahmed shook off the policemen and stormed out.

Marie whispered to the circus people and they rose to follow. "You got the situation handled now, I guess," she said, patting Heero's arm. "I'll keep the news on. Give them my best, won't you, and do tell them how sorry I am?"

"I will," Heero said. Left alone with Wufei and Zechs, Heero sat down to wait for word from Duo. He didn't realize that his hands were shaking badly until Wufei closed his own over them and gave him a sympathetic look.

"You did well, 01. You protected your friends."

Heero gently pulled his hands free and sat back, closing his eyes and fighting against the rising delayed reactions of the day.

His friends had been blown up, probably because of him.

Quatre could have died. His Quatre! Trowa's reason for life.

Both of them could have been, might even be, crippled, maimed.

Because of him.

He found himself wished he'd punched Rashid, or the relatives. He really, really needed to hurt someone who'd hurt his friends.

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