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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 79
Kisarazu

Duo had to wonder how much imagination it took to name a Japanese bar "The Samurai". Anywhere else in the world, it would have been a pricey sushi bar with that name. The intelligence Zechs had gotten from his pal Masa was solid, though. Here in down-and-out Kisarazu, it was a flyspecked working man's bar with grimy neon beer signs in the grimier front window, and a rundown interior that could have been any place Earthside or on L-2 where hope had run out. It was also just five blocks from the bombed out ruins of the base Heero had hit. The husbands and brothers and lovers of those who'd died had probably come to this bar. Perhaps they still did.

It was already after sundown when they set off on their initial recon. Heero had on his blond wig. Duo made do with his hat and his old surplus coat. His braid was hidden down the back, and he tucked his bangs up out of sight, too, and put on a pair of cheap tinted glasses he bought from a street vendor.

The lowlifes were already coming out to play and the streets were busy. It reminded Duo a lot of home. Old drunks sat on the curbs with their bottles in paper bags. Smoke hounds giggled on the stoops. Gangs of young bloods barged through the streets, knocking people off the sidewalk and into walls, just for laughs, and hooked up with gangs of girls with too much make up and not enough clothes. Hookers of both genders were plying their trade. No one seemed to pay much attention to the two strangers. They were dressed like punks, too. But Duo knew slums, and knew that they'd already been marked as strangers, interlopers on someone's turf. He didn't mark anyone, but guessed a tough or two looking for a quick roll or knockdown were probably following them.

He'd agreed to leave most of the heavy armaments behind in the smuggler's hole, but he and Heero were both armed well enough to handle these jokers. Duo had a Glock digging in the small of his back, curved razors glued under both thumbnails and a spring knife up the right sleeve of his coat. Heero had his Sig and a boot knife big enough to gut a horse.

They made it to the Samurai without any trouble. There were half a dozen rough looking types at the bar, slouched over beer and sake. A few couples were pawing or fighting in the greasy booths along the back wall. Two big guys were playing a game of darts at the back and as Duo's eyes adjusted to the harsh light, he saw that a big magazine photograph was pinned to the center of the dartboard. It was a shot of the five Gundam boys taken right after the Libra incident. They were all in their old combat clothes, looking young and varying degrees of grim or goofy, depending on who you looked at. Duo was the goofiest; he'd had the act on real good that day, not letting anyone know just how much he'd still been reeling from those long moments when it had seemed certain Heero was going down under the Libra. About the time he'd started to get over that, Heero had calmly informed him that he was heading off to be Relena's guard dog, along with Wuffie. Duo shook off the thought; that had been a whole other load of heartache.

Heero was the grimmest, as usual, though Duo could now appreciate the pain he'd been in that day. He was already way over the edge and not letting anyone know it. His face, or what was left of it after many dart games, had been placed in the bull's-eye position on the board.

They sat down at the end of the bar furthest from the game and took note of another charming bit of designer flare. A wide selection of Gundam S.K.U.M. vids was lined up for sale along the back shelf under the bottle racks. Duo had noticed some for sale in shop windows along the way, too, along with lots of other porno. Very popular items, apparently, in this part of town.

Heero was on alert beside him and that made Duo feel a little better. That strange blank out or flashback or whatever the hell it had been on the plane had scared him. He promised himself that if he saw the least sign of a repeat performance, he was calling an abort and getting Heero out of here. But he was chilly now, all business. He growled something at the bartender in Japanese and the guy cracked a grin as he slid them a couple of longnecks. Heero must have asked about the vids. The bartender took one down and handed it to him. Heero looked it over and handed it back, then asked something else. The bartender shrugged and said something else. Heero asked another question, and Duo caught the name Hideki Koudo; it was the name Meir had given them in Berlin. The bartender shrugged. Duo was going nuts, not being able to understand. The bartender had another customer and moved on. Duo nudged Heero and they moved to a booth.

"So?" he whispered.

"I said it looked like the Gundam boys aren't very popular around here. He said the vids were a pretty good example of what most of the men in this bar would like to see happen to them."

Duo took a long sip of beer, trying not to think about those clips he'd watched.

"Then I asked if anyone in particular had a grudge. He said 'take your pick.' This was an Alliance town."

"And you asked about that guy Meir told us about, Koudo?"

"Yes. He claimed he'd never heard of him, of course, but I didn't believe him."

"Recognize anyone?"

Heero's eyes swept the bar again. "No, but I might not. I still don't remember any faces."

Duo looked around, seeking a glimpse the tattoos they'd seen in some of the photos. No luck. He wasn't feeling too good about this mission so far. Tro was the one who did undercover. He and Heero had always been frontal assault guys. And now a couple of the guys at the bar were giving them looks over their shoulders.

"Move on?" Duo said quietly.

Heero downed the rest of his beer and nodded. Duo threw a tip on the table and they went out. He could feel eyes on his back but didn't let himself look. Once on the street, however, he quickly pulled Heero into the nearest dark doorway and waited to see if they were being followed. Sure enough, a moment later one of the guys who'd been at the bar walked past.

"Shit," Duo muttered.

"He could just be going somewhere else," Heero said softly.

"Or we've been made."

"Let's go find the other place, the Dark Horse."

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea, 'ro."

"I just want to see if I recognize it. We don't have to go in."

Duo wanted to argue; that bad feeling was getting worse, but Heero was already heading down an alley to the next street.

The neighborhood got worse from here. The few shops that were still open were mostly liquor stores, noodle houses, whorehouses, and smoke shops. A lot of the buildings were boarded up and had the look of squats. Kisarazu had seen better days, that was for fucking sure.

A few streets over they came out at the waterfront. Most of the docks and wharves were still operational. Huge tanker ships were anchored there and night crews were busy unloading. Another street over and they came to a high chain link fence topped with razor wire. Beyond that there was a lot of open ground and dead grass.

Heero paused on the cracked sidewalk, looking in. Duo could just make out a jumble of dark shapes in the distance, buildings or something.

"That's the base," Heero murmured, and Duo knew him well enough to hear the sadness and guilt in his voice.

"Oh."

"I remember this. I remember standing here."

"When? During the war or later?"

"Later." He'd had his hands in his jacket pockets, but now he had his arms crossed on his chest, almost as if he was holding something. "When I was sick."

Duo waited, hoping something else would drop into place for him. Without a word, Heero moved on.

They walked for a long time, with Heero in the lead. It seemed to Duo that it wasn't just aimless wandering, either. "Where are we going, Heero?"

"I'm not sure. It just seems familiar all of a sudden."

Duo stayed close and kept his eyes open for trouble, but he was also aware of a growing tension in his lover. Heero was walking faster now, as if he had somewhere to be.

He led Duo up and down a succession of dark, dodgy looking streets, back into the slums behind the docks. He didn't say a word but Duo had the sense that he was definitely looking for something.

They hit another pocket of relative prosperity. There were a few more streetlights here, and more shops open. People who didn't look like criminals were on the street, and eating in the shops. There was a mission, too, a place called Sisters of Mercy Hostel, according to the English part of the sign. Various down and out types were going in and out. Heero paused, gazing up at the blue neon cross above the door.

"I bet you went in there," Duo said.

"Maybe. I don't really remember--" Heero has hugging his chest harder now. "Except the sign."

"What did you have with you?" Duo asked gently.

Heero looked down at himself and shoved his hands back in his pockets. "I don't remember."

Duo nodded at the mission. "Do you want to go in here, talk to someone?"

They climbed the steps and pushed through the smudged glass doors. A big open room lay beyond. Duo wrinkled his nose as memories stirred. He knew this sad smell; it was the same as any soup kitchen or rescue mission he'd been in as a child; disinfectant, cheap food, unwashed bodies, booze and hopelessness.

A soup kitchen was open on one side of the hall, and ragged men and women were lined up with plastic bowls and trays. Others sat eating at long cheap tables covered in stained brown paper. Women in blue and white nun's habits were busy attending to them.

There was a medical station on the other side of the room and a nurse and doctor were looking after more people lined up.

A nun with a round, lined face came over and greeted them in Japanese. She didn't look Asian, so Duo asked, "Do you speak English?" before Heero could answer her.

"Yes I do," she replied, giving him a warm smile. "I'm Sister Mary Agnes. What can I do for you boys? We have hot soup and bread, and there are beds in the back, and showers."

"Do you know this person?" Heero asked. He pulled out a photo Quatre had taken of him in Madrid, while he was still sick.

The sister took it and looked closely at it. "Oh yes. He was in a few times about a year ago, I think. Never said a word, or stayed the night with us. He'd eat, then work on his scrapbook for a while, then disappear again."

"Scrapbook. Did you see what he had in it?" Heero asked.

"No, he'd never let anyone see. One of our other guests tried to peek once and he attacked him. I think that was the last time we saw him, actually."

"Did he ever hang out with anyone?" asked Duo. "Did you ever see him in the street with anyone?"

The sister thought a moment. "Well, Mr. Hato tried to talk to him several times."

"Hato?" asked Heero.

"Yes, Heidiki Hato. He's a local philanthropist of sorts. He comes in when he needs someone for odd jobs, or knows of other work. I remember he tried hard to recruit this boy, but he wouldn't have anything to do with him. Mentally ill, I think, like so many of our poor unfortunates. Oh, I do remember one other thing. Your friend had a prescription he wanted Dr. St. Pierre to fill."

"Was it for Unadol?" asked Heero.

"I don't know. I'll have to check our records."

Heero looked at her expectantly. A little flustered, she went over to the medical station and spoke with the nurse. That woman consulted a file cabinet. Sister Mary came back and nodded. "Yes, it was for a three month supply of Unadol. But we couldn't help him. We didn't have any of that medication on hand."

"What about this Mr. Hato?" asked Duo. "Does he live around here?"

"I think he's over near the old academy, but I'm not sure. But the boys I've talked to say he's very generous."

"Is it always boys?" asked Heero.

"Why, yes. I think the jobs he has are quite physical."

"Do you have an address or phone number for him?"

"No. As I told you, he simply comes in when he needs someone."

Heero gave her a slight nod. "Thank you, Sister. You've been very helpful."

"Hold on," said Duo, not satisfied at all. "This boy we're looking for, do you remember anything else about him, anything in particular?"

Sister Mary thought for a moment, then smiled again. "There was a little girl in here one night when he was here. She was crying. Her mother was drunk, not taking good care of her. This boy of yours sat with the little girl while her mother slept it off. He never said a word, but he drew pictures for her! She would name something and he would draw it for her. It cheered her up so much. And he was quite talented, too. The girl took most of them, but Sister Cecilia asked if she could keep one. It's over there on the notice board, if you'd like to see it."

"Thank you, Sister." Heero walked over to the board and Duo followed.

The drawing was done with ordinary pencil on a sheet of cheap lined paper. One look and Duo knew it was Heero's work. It was a picture of an angel, rather than a mermaid, but the face and long flowing hair were was unmistakably Duo's.

Heero stared hard at it.

"Do you remember anything?" Duo asked.

Heero just shook his head and walked away to the door.

Duo paused a moment, then went over to Sister Mary. "These boys that Hato came in for. Do you remember if they had a particular look in common, or anything like that?"

"Well, they were usually younger, maybe a little younger than you. As I said, he needed strong ones for his chores. That's what he told me."

"Yes, but did they look alike? Dark hair, blue eyes, short?"

"Most of the boys we get in here fit that description. We are in Japan, after all. Why do you ask?"

"I'd rather not say, Sister, but do me a favor, will you? If he shows up here again, don't let any more boys go with him, OK? Not until you know more about him?"

The sister's eyes widened as she caught his drift. "Oh no! Oh, I'm certain you're wrong. Mr. Hato has been very generous to us, and those boys."

Duo gave her a dark look. "That type always is. At first."

+

There was something about the mission sign and that drawing that stirred a feeling in Heero's belly. It wasn't a memory, really, just an impression. It wasn't a bad one, either. They'd tried to help him here, but he'd been too sick to respond.

Back on the street again, he felt something else pull at him, drawing him off in a particular direction.

"At least it's something, right?" Duo said, hurrying along beside him. "I mean, we know for sure you were here, so if you think you remember something, it's proably real, right?"

"Hn." Heero felt a mix of hope and dread. He still wasn't sure he wanted to remember anything that had happened to him in this place. The pictures had been bad enough. But something still drove him on.

"Are you OK, 'ro? Should we call it a night?" Duo sounded worried.

Heero shook his head. There was something waiting for him here; he wasn't going to be able to stop until he found it, no matter how bad it was.

The Dark Horse bar was only a couple of blocks away. It looked very much like the Samurai and he felt no desire to go in. He moved on, feeling increasingly odd. It was like some part of his mind knew where he was going, but he couldn't consciously connect with it. So he must move on. Every so often a particular detail-a sign or a street sign would jump out at him, like an image caught in a strobe light. He'd been here before. He'd known these streets. He'd had some destination among them, and it wasn't the mission.

He began to notice smells more, too. He could smell the harbor, salt air and oil, dust and urine and rotting garbage, and the steamy aromas of the cheap restaurants they passed.

He was aware of Duo striding along beside him, but somehow, he kept almost forgetting he was there, or why he was here with him. There were moments when he was surprised.

"Heero? Baby? You OK?" Duo was worried.

Heero realized he was clutching his arms to his chest again. He'd lost something, something important. Something it hurt to be without.

The album. That battered cheap book of photos he'd clung to, all the time he was apart from his friends. He felt the loss of it now like an ache in his chest. He'd had it here, and he'd lost it here. It only made sense. How else would his secret enemies be sending him pieces of it? But how had he lost it, and when? The sister said he'd had it with him the last time she saw him.

He rounded another corner in a darker part of town and froze in his tracks, staring at yet another neon sign across the street at the end of the block.

Flowers.

Five colored flowers.

And one was broken. It wasn't lit. It left a gap in the display.

A fragment of a memory broke through. //Five. One broken. That was me. I always thought of us and thought that broken one was me.//

"Heero, you've got something, don't you?"

Heero hardly heard the voice beside him. He hurried on for a closer look.

It was just a diner. The Five Flowers Diner. It had already closed for the night but he could see someone moving around in the back. His feet took him past the door, under the glowing sign, to the alley beside it. At the far end, a dead end, a naked bulb over a back door illuminated a dumpster.

He walked slowly toward it, knowing this was important; this was somewhere he'd known. Smells were strong here. The blowers from the kitchen jutted from the brick wall, black with grease. Scorched rice. Fish soup. Boiled seaweed. Garbage.

He was so hungry.

He was at the dumpster now, and without thinking, he raised the rusty metal cover and reached in.

"Heero, what the hell are you doing?" someone asked.

He panicked and dropped the lid. They knew his name! His cover was blown!

Someone was behind him. No, there were five of them. They were strong, too strong . . .

+

"Of fuck!" Duo had watched in growing dismay as Heero made a beeline for the dumpster in an alley beside a restaurant. In the dim light he saw a change in his lover's face. The intent, mission look had given way to a frightening blankness. He looked like someone else, and it wasn't because of the wig, either. And he'd headed straight for the dumpster, and to Duo's horror, opened it and started fishing, like a starving man looking for food. Duo recalled the state Heero had been in in Madrid and his stomach did a slow roll. This is how his lover had lived, all those months he'd been lost. On mean streets like these, eating whatever he could scrounge.

"Heero, you've got something, don't you?" he asked softly, hoping to snap him out of it," but the way Heero suddenly whirled around, and the wild, terrified look in his eyes told him that his friend had already gone seriously bye-bye on him.

Duo held out his hands, not moving. "Heero, it's me. It's Duo, 01, your wingman?"

But Heero just fell to his knees, clutching that unknown something to his heart and moaning now. He'd never heard Heero sound like this before. It was awful, and Duo had no idea how to bring him back. He was calling himself nine kinds of fool when he felt the cold muzzle of a gun press against the back of his neck.

"Well, well, here you boys are at last. Didn't think it'd be this easy," a low, nasty voice with a distinctly British accent said. Heero didn't even look up.

Duo triggered his spring knife and whirled around to fight. He had the impression of five or six big guys hemming them in, right before he saw the butt end gun coming at his face. He ducked it and got in a good slash. The guy who'd tried to pistol whip him fell back, holding his shoulder.

He was going for the next closest one, the one with very familiar tattoo on the back of his hand, when someone hit him with a tazer.

He went down hard, muscles and nerves screaming in agony. By the time his vision cleared they already had him pinned. Three guys were standing over Heero. The blond wig was off. He crouched on the ground at their feet. Duo had never seen him look beaten like that, not once.

//Except in those fucking photos!//

Duo struggled weakly, trying to regain control of his body. "01, get up! You're flashing. It's not real. Snap out of-" The guy with the tattoo on his hand back handed Duo hard. His jaw went numb and his mouth filled with blood. Some one pulled off his hat, yanked his braid out of his coat.

"Told you this one would be with him. He's the sweetest piece of the five, huh?"

One of the other men, the big Japanese one, had Heero by the hair now pulling his head back.

"Heero!" Duo felt the old panic rising but this time it gave him strength. He got an arm loose and caught the guy on that side with his thumb razor, slicing him good over his eye. The guy swore and grabbed for him, but Duo had already pulled free from the other man who'd grabbed him and got his gun out. "Not this time, you mother fucking perverts. Not this time!" he screamed and opened fire, not even bothering to aim. One went down. Others ran. He was just beginning to believe they were going to get out of this in one piece when something came down hard on the back of his head and the world went black. The last thing he heard was Heero screaming his name.

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