Written By: bikkothewriter
see Ch. 1 for warning, notes, disclaimer

Preventors' Case #84309: Splicers + Chapter Nineteen

"I'm sorry, Commander, this is very hard for me to hear," Deb Long, who was of no relation to Agent Long, said as she took a seat behind her desk across from Heero and Weber. "I worked with Brandon personally and hearing that he's dead..."

"Please take you time," Heero said to the shocked woman.

After leaving the restaurant and giving the CSIs strict instructions to call him the moment they found anything with the DNA from the hair, he and Weber had followed Price's findings tracking down Brandon Moore's social worker. The boy had been entered into the foster care system after his parents had died in a shuttle accident and it was with Deb's help that he was eventually relocated into Murai's care.

"You said he died from splicing?" Deb asked once she'd managed to regain her composure and could talk to the two men.

"Yes, the evidence that we've found indicates that he attempted to splice himself with chemicals he bought over the internet."

"I don't understand this craze. Nothing good seems to come of it but I'm not really surprised."

"Why do you say that?"

"I work with children day in and day out, especially those who've lost their families and many of them are depressed which I'm sure you can understand. Many begin to think that if they were a different person, things would go better for them. This splicing just seems to intensify that thought. Like somehow being part animal will make them different, special, and make their problems go away."

"Have you seen many cases of that?"

"More than I can count. Especially when splicing first came into play and now it seems like every week I'm having to take another teenager in for the antidote."

"I see."

"Do you know what animal he tried to splice himself with?"

"Wolf. Does that mean something?"

"It just fits. Brandon was shy and withdrawn and he would want to be something powerful and strong. I'm not a psychologist but I've noticed that sort of pattern in the teens who do this."

"What about his uncle, Gabriel Murai?"

"Well," she started, flipping through the pages of Brandon's folder, "Mr. Murai was Brandon's father, Alex's, half brother. The two had the same father different mothers and different families."

"Papa was a rolling stone?" Weber asked.

"Exactly. They knew of each other but weren't very close. When I tracked him down, he was very open to the idea and seemed very good for Brandon. I conducted the in-home meetings and their home life was functional."

"Functional?"

"Mr. Murai was a single man with a very demanding job. Brandon had to spend a lot of time by himself but most teenagers love to be alone and he was old enough to look after himself for a few hours a day."

"How often are these in home meetings done?" Heero asked. The M.E. had confirmed the time of death to be roughly six months previous and a check of police records indicated that no missing persons report had been filed by the school or by his social worker.

"Every three months until we feel that we've found a good home for the child. In the case of Brandon, he was relocated to a family member so after the first two visits, we discontinue the check-ups. I last saw Brandon almost a year ago."

"Can you tell me what school he went to and if he had any friends?"

"Well," she said turning a page in the file, "He went to Pinehearst High. As to having any friends, I couldn't tell you. That's not the sort of thing we keep up with."

"I understand. Is there anything else you could possibly tell us?"

"I'm sorry Commander there's nothing I can think to tell you. There was nothing out of the ordinary where Brandon or his uncle were concerned."

***

Heero didn't enjoy high school the few times he had attended and still didn't like it when visiting. The children, because they were too childish to be called anything else, had not had much to say in regards to Brandon Moore except that he was nerd and a loner. None of the students had taken time to get to know him and the teachers had even less to say. The principle had at least been able to tell him that Murai had decided to take Brandon out of school preferring to home school him himself. The move to home schooling had coincidently happened six months ago.

Back at headquarters with Weber still smiling over the incident of a teacher trying to reprimand Heero for skipping class as they headed to the A/V lab where they met up with Wu Fei and Hayers.

"The lab techs haven't found a DNA match for the hair but we've been reviewing the surveillance tapes and have made a positive ID on Nellie," Wu Fei said as they entered the room. "Play it for him."

Heero turned towards the large view screen as Taylor played the footage from the restaurant. Murai was not hard to spot as he stood directly behind Agent Himura dressed in the same hat and coat from his last film debut. He raised his arm, intending to jab the needle into Himura's back but she turned grabbing his arm, twisting it roughly forcing him to drop the syringe where it shattered on the floor. She swept his legs out from under him as he reached for another syringe. Pulling her gun from the holster underneath her jacket, she drew down on the man, ordering him to stay down from what he could read from her lips.

"This is where it gets weird," Taylor said, just as a dark haired woman appeared on screen.

She stood to the side of Himura, smiling innocuously. Himura turned her attention from the downed Murai training her gun on the center of her chest only to have her move in an instant. In one second she was four feet away from Himura and the next just inches from her face taking a hold of her arm just below her elbow and just as Himura had described, she tugged her arm barely moving but Himura cried out as her arm fell limply to her side.

"Shit," Weber said.

Himura backed away from the dark haired woman surprised and Heero was happy to note that although her arm was dislocated and useless, her hand kept a grip on her gun. The smiling woman turned away from Himura then going to aid the fallen Murai and Himura followed grabbed the woman by the neck of her shirt and without turning the other woman kicked out behind her in a move that should have only made Himura stumble but had her airborne flying at least ten feet where she landed on top of a table snapping in two. Her husband was quickly at her side attending to the dazed woman as the dark haired woman picked Murai up off the ground, helping him to escape.

"Who was that?" Heero asked turning to Wu Fei when the tape ended.

"Natalie London. Her nickname is Nellie and she was one of the possibles on our list. She has a record of splicing, having been spliced at least six different times."

"Why isn't she in jail?"

"She's a minor in the foster care system. The police give her the antidote and turn her over to the state every time she's caught," Hayers said.

"And now she's teamed up with Murai. Do you think it's possible she met Brandon during his time in the system and influenced him to try splicing?" Weber asked to Heero.

"Yes but how did she end up helping Murai?"

"Maybe she and Brandon tried the splicing together, only she survived it," Weber hypothesized.

"I could understand Murai trying to kill her for influencing his nephew but to recruit her doesn't make much sense," Hayers answered.

"Could it have been a suicide attempt on both their parts?" Wu Fei asked.

"Himura said that she seemed crazed and you saw the way she was smiling. We don't know what six splicings could have done to this girl mentally, she could be working with Murai for all kinds of reasons," Weber said.

"We need to determine if she actually knew Brandon Moore and go from there. We need to talk to Deb Long again."

***

Talking with Deb a second time had led Heero and Weber to Bonham residence where Helen and her husband Carter invited them inside eager to help the agents with their investigation and even more pleased to learn that Rhys has been found after his disappearance from their home almost two weeks previous.

"Well both Nellie and Brandon stayed with us. Nellie lived with us for about four months and Brandon for one before his uncle took him in," Helen said from her place beside her husband on their antique sofa.

Weber sat across from them in an armchair leading the questioning while Heero stood off to the side looking at the many pictures of the different children the Bonham's had taken in lining the walls. Brandon's picture was among them. In the picture, he was alive and healthy though his expression radiated loneliness, his sad green eyes staring away from the camera making it look as if he were looking at Nellie in the picture next to his. The girl's smile was cruel; her lips thinned showing the full extent of her teeth. She looked boldly forward as if she would climb through the picture to attack.

"Were Nellie and Brandon close?" Weber asked.

"Well…" Helen started looking to her husband.

"They were seeing each other," he said, "I walked in on them sleeping together."

"Do you know if they continued to see each other after Brandon moved in with his uncle?"

"I think so," Helen answered. "She was very upset when he left, blamed us for letting him go. A few weeks later she was relocated to a different foster home."

"Did you have any contact with her after she left?"

"No, she didn't like us very much and we wanted her gone."

"She was constantly threatening to burn the house down and twice I caught her hurting one of the younger children," Carter said.

"Was she ever threatening to Brandon?"

The couple looked to each other before Helen turned back answering, "No, in fact she was very nice to him. Gentle even."

"Gentle is not the kind of word I would ever associate with Nellie but when they were together she just softened."

"What do you know about her splicing?"

"She was in love with the idea of being part animal. She once said that all people were savages and should show on the outside what they were on the inside."

"Did she ever have a procedure done while in your care?"

"No, but it was a near thing. I caught her trying to sneak out in the middle of the night when I was checking on one of the other children. I knew she'd been stealing money from my purse but I didn't know she was going to use it for."

"She attacked my wife that night and I called social services to have her removed from our home."

"Did she tell you why she attacked you Mrs. Bonham?"

"I was keeping her from being happy, keeping her from her dream. We knew about the previous splicings, in fact, when she came to live with us we had to pick her up from the hospital after her last restoration. She had been a fox."

"Do you know what she had planned on becoming when you stopped her?"

"A tiger."

"Do you know what type?" Heero asked joining the conversation.

"No," Helen said blinking up at Heero, "she just said she wanted claws."

"Do you know who she was going to, to get the splicing done?" Weber asked.

"No but I do know she eventually went on one of those online sites and bought a kit," Carter answered.

"How do you know that?"

"She charged it on my credit card."

***

The foster family who'd taken Nellie in had reported her missing over a week ago, coinciding with Murai's flight underground. They had been helpful in telling Heero and Weber that the girl had indeed gone through with splicing herself with tiger DNA although she had to be immediately hospitalized because of the spoiled dosage she'd received via the internet. She had survived the incident but seemed angrier for it.

From the dates and the receipt from Carter Bonham's credit card, Heero had been able to determine that Nellie had bought the two kits for herself and Brandon and they had both gone through with the splicing with her as the only survivor. As Brandon's body hadn't been moved from Murai's shelter, she could have been with him when he died and abandoned him for Murai to find later while she sought medical help.

The CSI's had confirmed a niggling thought that Heero had when Mrs. Bonham mentioned that Nellie had wanted to be a tiger. The recombinant found at the scene of Himura's attack was fox DNA which would set a pattern for the attacks if they could find records proving that Nellie had been spliced with an eel between her time as a fox and a tiger. If not and the next attack followed the pattern of her past splicing then someone else was responsible for Northman's attack and the murder of fourteen people.

Coming back to headquarters to find Trowa in his office did not help to raise his spirits.

"He refused to go to see the psychologist," the taller man said as he entered. "He told me to it eat shit and die."

"Why?" he asked closing the door behind himself as he took a seat behind his desk. The last time he and Trowa had been in his office it had not ended well and he hoped that they were not going to have a repeat argument.

"Because he thinks I turned Quatre against him."

"I didn't know that you had talked to Quatre."

"I called him as soon as we confirmed Duo's whereabouts. I only told Quatre what Duo and Gervais told us. I knew he would come to see Duo for himself but I had no idea that he would react like that."

"I'm surprised by it myself."

"I don't think he's completely wrong," Trowa said in the quiet voice that Heero was beginning to hate. "I won't deny that Duo loves his son, but he made him as part of an experiment. Gervais said so himself and Duo didn't deny it."

Heero didn't answer immediately turning to his computer entering in the information that he and Weber had been able to collect to send in a secure email to the rest of the team as well as logging it for the Director to see that they were making progress.

"People have children for worse reasons," was all he could think to say. He didn't agree with Duo's reasoning behind letting Gervais clone him, in fact he didn't agree with Duo leaving without seeking the proper help from medical professionals, but Rhys was alive with a man who loved him. To argue the point now seemed…pointless.

"Do you really believe what Duo told you?"

"Do you think he lied to me?"

"Yes."

He looked back to Trowa whose face was unwavering in its intensity as he looked at Heero.

"Why?"

"How does splicing cure depression?"

"By giving him the opportunity to be someone else, to change his circumstances through a physical change," he answered thinking back to Brandon's assumed reason for splicing.

"How does it cure a drug addiction?"

"Some addictions are genetically based; if Gervais can make Rhys hear and see better I'm sure he could cure Duo of his addictions."

"How does a man addicted to drugs pass a drug test one month before he disappears?"

"It wasn't his urine."

"It was done by a blood test. How could he fake that?"

"I don't know," he said even as he thought of multiple ways to get around the blood testing. "What do you want me to say, Trowa?"

"Tell me you're not going to trust him so blindly. The facts don't add up in all of this and I believe Quatre when he says he's going to betray all of us."

"Why should I trust Quatre? He could be trying to mislead us."

"I found the records for the blood test. Do you not trust me either?"

"Don't. I'm not going to do this with you. I'm not going to pick sides and put one friend above the other. As much as I want to know the truth about Duo I want to find Murai and Nellie more."

"Force him to go and see the psychologist," Trowa all but ordered his face set.

"You weren't this suspicious of Duo until Quatre arrived."

"Yes I was and am. You've been so wrapped up in Duo you haven't asked me my opinion."

"I thought you were happy to have him back."

"None of this adds up Heero. Gervais and Duo are lying to us. Helping with this case is to trick us into trusting them."

"Is that what you think or what Quatre said?" Heero asked, pushing.

"Damn it, Heero," Trowa yelled rising from his chair, "this has nothing to do with Quatre and everything to do with what I feel. Why can't you trust me? Why are you so sure that he isn't lying to you?"

"He kissed me."

"What?" Trowa asked blinking at him.

"He kissed me and if you and Quatre are right then it was all a lie," he said admitting to both Trowa and himself that he didn't want the two men to be right. Heero wanted the chance to see where things would go between himself and Duo but even he realized that a relationship couldn't be built on lies and deceit.

"When did he kiss you?"

"Last night. Right before he told me about the drugs."

"Heero," Trowa sighed shoulders slumping and Heero wanted the conversation and Trowa away from him before he had a chance to ruin the memory of Duo's kiss for him.

"I need a copy of that blood test, Agent Barton."

"Yes…Commander."

***

Heero had hoped to avoid Trowa for the rest of the evening and take the time to talk to Duo alone and get some answers about the blood test he'd taken in lieu of a pending job application but Murai and Nellie had put a stop to his plans by attacking yet another agent. Murai and Nellie had been determined to make an agent into a fox and had succeeded with Etienne Lindman, the first male victim among the agents. He, like Himura, had fought back against his attackers but had been overwhelmed by Nellie's strength.

Etienne had managed to keep the damage done to bystanders to a minimum inflicting more wounds to his own person than to those around him. His chest, now covered in stained white fur, was littered with deep claw marks as he had wrapped his arms tight around himself. The man was in more danger of bleeding to death from his injuries than from the splicing.

Gervais and Duo were already in the lab working on an antidote for Etienne with Dr Anderson hovering close by doing as much of the work as possible. Sally and Price worked along side them with Price manning the computer to help work out the sequencing of the DNA as Sally played gopher. Heero was not surprised to see Price helping with the sequencing as each member of his team, including himself, had taken lessons in splicing to better understand the process behind it and the information given to them when they first took the Splicer case.

Wu Fei and Hayers were absent as they were out investigating Nellie's friends to try and find out where she may be hiding and to uncover why she may have teamed up with Murai or more worrying if he had teamed up with her. From the foster families to the picture of her on her school ID the girl resonated an intense and domineering personality and with her high ideals about human nature and splicing, she seemed a force to be reckoned with. Coupling her intensity and inhuman strength with Murai's money and knowledge, they were a formidable team but they were closing in on the duo and it would only be a matter of time before they were captured.

Standing beside Trowa watching the group work he felt sure that it would be soon rather than later, but his thoughts were derailed by Quatre and Trowa's suspicions as he watched Duo lean over to speak to Gervais, covering his mouth as he did. It only added to the doubt Quatre and Trowa had instilled in him.

"You know, Trowa," Gervais said conversationally, "I've been wondering about the effect you seem to have Rhys, Duo and the twins."

"Supposedly they like my smell," Trowa answered smoothly.

"Yes, Duo described it as flowery."

"If you're going to make a joke about my sexual orientation, spare me."

"No I simply wanted to know if you've been taking prescription medicine."

Heero looked up at Trowa paying attention not to his face but on the tendons straining in his neck, the Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed roughly. From his records, Trowa was not on any type of prescription medicine and as a friend Trowa had never mentioned to him the need for medicine.

"Valerian is used in both antidepressants as well as anti-anxiety medicine and it plays with cat's pheromone receptors. I simply want to know which medicine you're taking. Maybe you could tell us, Heero?"

All eyes in the room turned to Heero and he couldn't help but look from Trowa to Gervais confused.

"Oh I see, you know nothing about it. Maybe Trowa would like to take some time to work on his own problems before he tries to pass judgment on us. Trowa," Gervais said addressing the man personally, "Do you have anything to say?"

Heero looked back to Trowa looking at his flushed skin beaded with sweat as did everyone else in the room. His lips were thinned, eyes darting back and forth, as he trembled with what Heero could only assume was rage. The tall man turned quickly leaving the room at a brisk pace with all eyes on his retreating form.

"That was petty," Price said and Heero agreed.

"It was," he said looking at Gervais and Duo. "He didn't cause Quatre to attack you if that was what this was all about. He told Quatre exactly what you told us. If you want to be mad at someone be mad at Quatre."

"I'm allowed to be mad at whomever I want, my boy. You're so sure that we're the villains, that we're lying to you, but what about your own partner?"

"If Trowa is on prescription medicine he at least had the sense to seek help through the proper channels and not some experimental splicing technique," he said angered by the entire situation. He looked directly at Duo who was attempting to look everywhere but at him. "Tomorrow, you're going in for your psych examination or I'll give you a reason to eat shit and die, Duo."

He left the room before anyone had a chance to respond, moving quickly to track Trowa though he didn't have to go very far. The man had made it outside the clinic and halfway across the concourse before he'd stopped. He stood next the brightly lit fountain looking down though his eyes were closed against his own reflection. He held out his hand as Heero approached from behind handing over a small orange and white bottle of pills.

"Anti-anxiety? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I started taking them when I regained my memories after being left in space. I didn't tell you or anyone because I thought you would think I was weak and I couldn't afford to be weak during the war."

"And afterwards?" Heero asked, remembering that devastating time and how he had believed Trowa dead.

"I was afraid of how people would see me. I'm always afraid of embarrassing myself, of people laughing at me, not being able to escape." Trowa said shaking his head in frustration and Heero could only imagine the havoc the situation in the lab was playing on his emotions.

"Is this why you quit the circus?"

"Yes."

"You could have told me."

"No, I couldn't. It's part of my anxiety. Every time I even thought about telling you…I couldn't do it, Heero. I'm sorry."

"How bad is it?"

"Agoraphobia. Being is situations I can't escape from or being the center of attention in something embarrassing makes me panic. I can still work, Heero," he said finally turning to look at Heero. He could see the fear in his partner's eyes as he assumed that he would be fired.

It reminded Heero of Price and her determination to be a part of the team even while injured. While he was upset that he hadn't known about Trowa's condition, he understood why he hadn't been told. It was much different from the situation that Duo claimed to have been in and only reinforced his distrust as Duo and Gervais had tried to turn him against his partner by callously bringing up something painful and private for Trowa in front of a room full of people.

He looked to the taller man seeing his best friend, the man who trusted almost explicitly and had no hard feelings against him. If nothing else he felt closer to the man and wanted to go back and rip Gervais a new one for what he'd put him through.

"I'm not going to fire you Trowa," he said and smiled, "Just tell me how you feel about marriage proposals."

***

"You're not on the list."

"I'm sure you can add me Michael," Heero said Quatre's assistant where she glowered at him from behind the partially opened hotel door.

"He's busy."

"Doing what?"

She looked down at her tablet reading the screen before looking up at him, "Watching television."

"Michael, let him in."

Heero moved widely around the woman as she opened the door fully allowing him entrance, her watchful eyes tracking him as he moved. Quatre stood before the large plasma screen watching the nightly news, which was reporting on the attack of Lindman. He turned smiling at Heero as he approached.

"Heero, why the unexpected visit?"

"Why did you come to see Duo?"

"To see him for myself. I couldn't believe that Duo, the Duo I knew, would make a clone of himself for something so selfish."

"And now?" Heero asked wanting to find the underlying cause of Quatre's visit and subsequent speech that had turned the dynamics of his friendships upside down.

"I know that it's true and I'm talking several steps to rectify the situation."

"Are you talking about killing Rhys, are you?"

"How could you ask me that?" Quatre asked looking affronted.

"After the performance you gave today and all the things I've learned in the last few hours, I'll believe anything of anybody."

"Mr. Winner would never harm a child," Michael said as she wrote on her tablet.

"You should be asking Duo what he plans to do with his son. He had a child for his own benefit, how long before he decides he'll be more useful as spare parts?"

"Duo isn't going to harvest Rhys' organs."

"You said you were willing to believe anything," Michael said, earning herself a glare.

"Why are you so adamant about this?" Heero asked, turning his attention back to the blond.

"Because I once believed that my father had himself cloned for that very purpose. I thought he had me created for his own benefit. I eventually learned differently but there is no alternate story for Rhys," Quatre said moving to stand at the large windows overlooking the colony, crossing his arms. "What will Duo tell him when he asks where his mother is? What will he tell Rhys when he asks why he was created? How many children has Gervais created and killed in his experiments?"

"I…I don't know Quatre," Heero said unwilling to answer any of the other man's questions. He had no idea what Duo planned to tell his son and he had never thought to question if Gervais had succeeded on the first try when cloning Duo.

"I want to meet him. Rhys. Trowa tells me he's a joy to be around."

"I doubt Duo will let within three feet of his son."

"When I'm done it won't be his decision to make," Quatre said lowly.

"You're going to have Rhys taken away from him," Heero said Quatre's intentions dawning on him.

"It's for his own good. I've already got a team of geneticists together who'll start work on restoring him once I have custody."

"You can't do that," Heero said appalled.

"I can and I will, Heero."

"There's nothing to restore," he argued. "He was born like that."

"Why? What purpose would it serve for child to be born that way? Neither Duo nor Gervais considered the ramifications of their actions. He will forever be marked as different, singled out from the rest of the children his age, in danger of abuse and kidnapping because of what they've done to him. I can provide him the safety and security that he needs as well as a chance for a normal life."

"He isn't your son."

"Neither is he Duo's. I don't want to make on enemy of you Heero but I'm determined to do what's best for Rhys. Duo has jeopardized his life in the name of science. Even now he isn't even the one caring for him, he's given some woman temporary guardianship over him. The very same woman who lost him once before."

"I don't want to hear anymore about this. No one in this situation is completely right or wrong but I don't want to be any part of this. The least that you could do is let Duo make up for his mistakes and have the opportunity to be a father to his son."

"And if he fails, Heero? Then what?"

"Then he fails. It isn't up to you to decide who should be a father to Rhys."

"I would be better for him than most."

"Go home, Quatre and leave this alone. At least until I get to the bottom of things here," he amended.

"I'm sorry, Heero, I've already set the wheels in motion and I don't intend to put this off any longer than necessary."

"Quatre,-"

"I think you should leave now. Michael, please show Heero out."

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