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

Preventors' Case #84309: Splicers + Chapter Twenty-Five

Lucy Gemmell, the youngest and most vibrant member of Heero's team. The agent who managed to piece together the connection between Dr. M and his victims giving them the name Gabriel Murai. The woman who'd taken a vial of concentrated octopus DNA to chest.

Heero remembered that horrid day vividly, the feel of her legs under his hands as they turned into squirming wet tentacles. He remembered the sight of black ink shooting from her mouth as she gasped and coughed for air. He remembered the pained screams she gave as her body rebelled against her, an extra heart growing inside her chest.

She woke to the sound of his voice pleased to see him though confused as to how she'd ended up in his apartment. She couldn't remember much of what happened between falling asleep at the clinic with her appendages as long groping tentacles and waking up on his sofa. Looking down to see her own arms and legs again quickly evaporated any worries she had about her kidnapping. Eager to use her legs, she quickly stood and would have fallen to the ground had Heero not caught her. It was to be expected, she'd been without legs and the use of them for almost two weeks. It would take time for her to readjust to them.

Heero spent all of twenty minutes with Lucy, holding her as she cried tears of happiness and relief before pandemonium descended on his apartment.

An anonymous call had been placed at a payphone two blocks from Heero's apartment alerting Preventors to Lucy's position.

It was soon after that the Preventors came, along with Dr. Anderson and nurses to examine Lucy then haul her away. The agents stayed behind to fingerprint his apartment and interview the neighbors to find out exactly how Duo and Gervais managed to bring the unconscious woman into the complex undetected.

No one had any answers and as Heero had an alibi for himself, with the two agents who followed him for the day corroborating his story, there was nothing else for the agents to do but leave. It wasn't long after that, however, that the phone calls came pouring in with Weber, Price and Trowa wanting to know about Lucy's condition.

Heero and Kitten didn't manage to fall asleep until almost two o'clock the next morning and they woke nearly an hour later from Kitten's nightmare. A disturbing dream for Kitten, watching Mr. Heero fall out of a building and go splat. Not an unfamiliar occurrence for Heero; he lost count of all the times he jumped out of buildings and hit the ground with an impressive force.

Getting less than six hours of sleep did not put either of them in a good mood and they rose to start the day with Kitten as the worse of the two. The little boy didn't want to take a bath or pick out an outfit or eat breakfast. That was until Heero told him that he would be spending the entire day with Trowa. After that he was much easier to manage and talked excitedly about the ring he had for Trowa.

It was small gold ring with a large blue jewel on top housed in a clear plastic capsule with a dark blue top. The perfect engagement ring which Dorothy paid a quarter for in a gumball machine at the hospital. Heero couldn't wait to see Trowa's face when Kitten showed it to him.

With Kitten's prompting he opened the front door, catching Trowa in mid-knock with Hilde standing beside him. Trowa was dressed in his Preventors uniform, the dark green and blue suit looking good on his frame. What Hilde wore however made Heero blush and look away.

It wasn't that her outfit was vulgar or inappropriate; just that it showed a lot of skin and Hilde was a shapely and well-endowed woman; Heero was forced to admit that he might have a thing for cats. She wore short shorts, white with pressed cuffs that left her long legs exposed with her navy tail wrapped around her waist like a furry belt. Her shirt was a wife beater that stretched across her ample chest and made the navy bra worn underneath it visible. She wore wide suspenders with the outfit for show rather than function and white low top sneakers with navy shoestrings to match her hair. Heero felt out of place beside her with his baggy cargo shorts, black tee and sneakers.

"You think this is bad, you should see me when I let my tail down. Trowa almost had a nose-bleed."

"I wasn't expecting her to come to the door like that," Trowa said stepping into the apartment. He picked Kitten up where he stood just inside the door, calmly accepting Kitten's excited hug and kiss.

"Wow," Hilde said staring at Kitten. "I know he's a clone, but wow. He looks just like Duo."

"That's my daddy."

"I know. I met your daddy before. We used to be good friends."

"Really? What's your name?"

"Hilde."

"Miss Hilde how come you can show your ears and I hafta wear this hat?"

"We talked about that Kitten," Heero said, sighing. Three years old and he was already a rebellious teenager.

"You have to wear your hat ‘cause you're so cute. All the old ladies will snatch you up and try to keep you for themselves," Hilde teased, leaning against Trowa, her hands braced on the arm he held Kitten with.

"But you're cute too."

"Really?"

Kitten nodded.

"As cute as Trowa?" she asked.

Kitten blushed covering his face with his hands. He shook his head and said, "Mr. Trowa's really cute and he smells good."

"He does smell good," Hilde said, giving Trowa a sniff. Heero watched as a blush began to form on Trowa's cheeks. Knowing that his friend was becoming embarrassed by the attention, he made a show of sniffing his shirt.

"I must smell terrible and be very ugly. No one ever compliments me."

"You're not ugly Mr. Heero! My daddy says you're a sexy beast."

Hilde laughed, "And he's right. Now we've got a lot to do today. Heero and I will leave first; then Trowa you and Kitten can lock up and head out after us."

"Where are we going first?" Heero asked.

"To the movies."

+

There were fourteen major movie theaters on L1 and Hilde was determined to visit everyone until they found a lead. Sneaking in and out of movies alluding both the police and security guards with Hilde was actually fun. He found himself laughing at Hilde's running commentary on how incompetent most of the men in uniform were and enjoying her company overall.

The plan was to find Splicers who were living underground and on the lam or high school students who were skipping class and would know where to look. They caught a break at the eighth theater they visited, running out of the exit door laughing as an overweight officer chased them. Outside the doors they stumbled into three teenagers, all male wearing dark hoodies and jeans sharing a smoke behind the theater.

They stopped mid chatter as they saw Hilde, jaws dropping as she unfurled her tail to wave slowly behind her.

"Hey," Hilde called to them.

"Hey," the tallest of the three answered, "You're pretty bold walking around here with your ears and tail showing like that."

"Yeah," another added. "Cops around here are pretty strict about that."

"Yeah? Me and my boyfriend," she said gesturing over her shoulder to Heero, "just moved to L1. They usually look the other way on L2 as long as you're not causing trouble."

"They don't care one way or another here. If you're spliced, you're going to jail."

"That's if they catch you," the smallest one said with a grin.

"Parker's right," the tallest one said. "You've got to keep a low profile."

"I'm not into that. Pretending like I'm not spliced. It's my body I can do whatever I want."

"I hear yaw, but you know how the government is. Always claiming that they know what's best."

"So do you guys go to school here," Parker asked.

"Not yet. We moved to get away from my parents. They think Ro is a bad influence on me."

"That's your name? Ro?"

Heero nodded. His job was to play the quiet but jealous boyfriend while Hilde was the flirty, vivacious Splicer.

"Well, I'm Henry. This Toby," Henry gestured to the middle boy who waved in greeting, "And this Parker."

"I'm Hilde. So are you guys spliced?"

"Yeah," Henry said. He looked around them nervously before pulling his hood down. His eyes, once Heero could see them were pale green and yellow. His hair was dark gold just a shade away from brown with shaved close with several rings of black throughout. When he spoke again Heero saw that his canines were sharp and pointed. "Leopard."

"Ah, you're ears are round," Hilde cooed moving close enough to reach out and touch the lightly furred ears on the side of his head.

"I'm a ram," Toby said eagerly, throwing back his hood, showing Hilde the curving horns that grew from his skull, framing his ears.

"Oh wow," Hilde said giving him the attention he wanted as she ran an appreciating finger along his horn. "What about you?"

She turned to parker and Henry and Toby laughed at their friend poking and pushing him until he finally dropped his hood. His skin was snow white, his eyes a pale pink and growing from the top of his head were pure white feathers.

"Are you a swan?" Hilde asked, obviously more familiar with animals than he was.

"Yes."

"Oh my God, that's so cute!" Hilde yelled throwing herself at Parker. She wrapped her arms around his head burying his face in her chest making the other two boys look on in jealousy. Parker on the other hand happily accepted her hug wrapping his arms around her waist holding her close.

"Hilde," Heero said with a warning growl and Hilde pulled away laughing.

"Sorry. I have a thing for swans."

"You guys should come to the hangout tonight," Parker said.

"Yeah," Henry agreed, "Well, you can come Hilde. They won't let any Normals in."

Heero didn't often hear anyone called Normals. It was usually the more hardcore Splicers, the ones who'd dedicated themselves to splicing as a lifestyle that called anyone else Normal. If there was a place that didn't accept anyone who wasn't spliced then they were on the right track.

"What's the hangout?" Hilde asked.

"You wouldn't know about it since you're new in town but it's this old warehouse off Coconut Street where a bunch of Splicers get together to hangout. Some of those guys even live there."

"Cool. What time do you guys usually go?"

"Around nine. That's when it's open to everybody but like I said that won't let your boyfriend in if he's not spliced."

"Oh, it's okay. Ro's spliced where it matters." She leaned in to the three boys whispering quietly where Heero couldn't hear what was said, but by the way all their eyes widened and dropped to his crotch he knew it wasn't good.

+

With a solid lead in hand and a time and place to meet, Heero and Hilde went back to headquarters. Hilde went to confirm the information the boys had given them as well as to set up surveillance on the building. A team would need to be prepped and in place to arrest all of the Splicers in the building as well. Heero used that time to visit Kitten in the lab.

He'd barely stepped through the door when Trowa and a lab worker approached him.

"He has sonar," Trowa said and the man beside him glared up at him.

"It's called echolocation. One of the many abilities he inherited from his spliced DNA."

"And you are?" Heero asked.

"Dr. Newell. I'm in charge of running the tests. I understand that you are Mr. Yuy and Kitten's legal guardian?"

"Yes."

"Well then I can be candid with you as Mr. Barton here refuses to let me do my job."

Already not liking the man Heero turned to Trowa, "What is he trying to do?"

"He wants to test if Kitten has gills."

"You're the lab tech that wants to drown a three year old?"

"I am not a lab tech but I do think it is a valid test suggested by one of the technicians. Kitten will not be in any danger."

"No. Tell me about the sonar."

"Echolocation," Newell said put out that he couldn't appeal to Heero. "Just like a bat, he uses sound to see things. In his case through two way mirrors. As I understand from Agent Price's recollection, he sang his answers to you through the mirror."

"Yes, that's true."

"I don't believe he needs to sing, but that it's easier for him to use the ability that way. So far he's been able to ‘see' through mirrors, wood and steel plated walls. There are still more tests that can be run on this ability alone."

"What else have you learned?"

"That Kitten likes to be bribed," Trowa said.

"Well, yes, that is true. He was very uncooperative at first but once we offered him treats he was much more manageable."

"I thought you were going to keep an eye on things?" He asked looking up at Trowa.

"I'm not the one who offered him cookies. That was Dr. Newell."

"He wouldn't stop asking why. Over and over again. I am not used to dealing with children and I improvised."

"I suggest you follow through with your promises, Doctor."

"I can't very well buy him a motorcycle. He's only three."

Confused Heero looked to Trowa. "It's a long story."

"Mr. Yuy, I would very much appreciate it if you would take the time to review the tests that Mr. Barton has deemed invasive and give your opinion on them."

"Whatever tests Agent Barton declined, I will decline on as well, Doctor."

"Mr. Yuy! These are very important tests and you cannot overlook the merits of them-"

"Can I talk to you alone?" Trowa asked, tuning Newell out as Heero did.

"Sure."

They left the lab and found an empty lounge where Trowa closed and locked the door behind them. Heero watched him become anxious, fidgeting with his tie before he crossed the space between them. Heero was surprised when Trowa bent down enveloping him in a hug. He was not used to receiving hugs from male friends, even less so from Trowa who at times avoided touch. He awkwardly patted Trowa's back as the man continued to hold him, unsure of what else to do.

"What's wrong?"

"It's nothing. It should be nothing, but…" Trowa trailed off as he pulled away. He reached awkwardly into the collar of his shirt pulling on the chain around his neck. He gingerly touched the cross around his neck and the gold ring that now hung from the chain. Trowa didn't often wear his cross. Besides scars, it was the only thing he had left from his time as child growing up among a band of mercenaries. The look on his face was pained and Heero could do nothing but stand quietly and give the man time to talk.

"I told him that I was too old for him. That by the time he was my age, I'd be an old man." Heero knew who "he" was with out any prompting from Trowa. Kitten. He made an effort to warn Trowa that the little boy wanted to marry him but it seemed that he hadn't anticipated how serious Kitten was about it. "He said he'd love me anyway."

Trowa's hand dropped away from the ring even as he gave a wan smile. Heero could imagine how those words both pleased and hurt him. Trowa never dated or expressed wanting to and it wasn't until recently that Heero knew why. Trowa was managing his agoraphobia but he wasn't conquering it. He was still too afraid of embarrassing himself in front of some else to be that close to anyone.

It came to him like an epiphany then, why Duo thought that Trowa didn't like him. Trowa wasn't embarrassed of Duo he was embarrassed of himself. Duo was the type of man to laugh first and ask for forgiveness second and Trowa knew that. Every time the two were together Heero could imagine the stress it caused Trowa, wanting to laugh and joke with Duo but being afraid to.

"I don't know what to say. Eventually he'll move on to someone else."

"I doubt it."

"Relena is his girlfriend. He's already cheating on you," Heero joked lamely but it made Trowa shake his head with a chuckle.

"He'd probably say I could have a girlfriend, too."

"Then you should ask Flaherty."

"Famke?" Trowa asked and Heero thought it telling that he called the agent by her first name.

"Yes. She likes you."

"She does?"

"You haven't noticed that she fluffs up every time you're around? I think the only reason she's been around so much is to get a chance to see you."

Trowa smiled, considering. "Maybe."

"Will you be alright?" Heero asked forgoing jokes about role-playing and groping.

"Yes. It just hurt and felt good to hear him say that."

"I understand. I need to catch up with Hilde, but keep me informed and don't let Newell stuff Kitten full of candy and cookies."

"I'll try but it really was the only way we could get him to cooperate."

"But a motorcycle?"

"He's very good at negotiating."

+

After Colony 200

Two wars and four years of peace all culminated into one Yule ball that gave dignitaries, politicians, socialites and war veterans an excuse to rub elbows and get drunk together. This was Heero's third party in less than a week, this particular one being hosted by the governor of L1. Heero didn't know the man personally, but he could say that he knew how to spend his money. His home was lavishly decorated for the event and where most balls left Heero feeling underdressed and out of place he felt at home amongst the seven foot tall Christmas trees, fine china, and candlelight.

The same could not be said for Duo.

"Shit. Shit!" Heero watched the broken hair tie give a sad bounce as Duo threw it at the floor. Hunched over, his elbows pressed into his knees, Duo held the end of his braid in one hand while the other rubbed at his tired and pale face.

"What happened?" Heero asked stuffing the band into his pocket to dispose of later.

"I caught the damn thing on something and I didn't bring an extra one with me. I'm not walking around here with my hair loose so the shit can catch on fire."

Heero was happy that they were in a side hall away from the other guests. He doubted many of them would have approved of Duo's language at the moment.

"I'll find something." He told Duo, walking away from the frustrated man. Duo didn't look good at all tonight and Heero worried for him. Not only was his face pale, his eyes were bloodshot with dark circles lining them. His hands shook, a fine but noticeable tremor that, added to Duo's sudden temper, didn't sit right with Heero.

He focused on finding a replacement hair tie first. Once Duo's hair was safe from fire and his anger abated Heero could figure out what else was bothering his friend. Finding a rubber band in the middle of a holiday party was not easy however. It wasn't as if the governor kept spare ties in a bowl for guests which forced Heero to improvise. Several gift-wrapped boxes were laid around the ground floor of the house as decoration and Heero commandeered one for himself, stealing the expensive silk ribbon for Duo.

"Red?" Duo questioned when he returned.

"No one wraps presents in black ribbons. Except you."

"Not everyone can have style," he said but the joke fell flat. He held his braid out with both hands for Heero to tie the ribbon around.

"You look tired. When was the last time you slept?"

"A few days. Nightmares. I always get them this time of year. Thinking about what would have happen if we didn't win, you know."

"I know." He had many dreams like that himself. "Have you eaten anything?"

"You know, a swanky party like this, you'd think they'd serve dinner or at least some appetizers. Or at least that's what I thought. I haven't eaten thing all day thinking they'd spoil me."

Heero would have laughed if not for the way Duo flopped back in the chair despondent. Lately Duo seemed quick to anger and moodiness, staying home alone avoiding those around him, namely Heero. There wasn't much that Heero could do for Duo with the new branch Director taking an interest him. Said interest meant harder and more trying cases being left on his desk and left Heero little time for anything else. Had it been up to him he would be at home asleep but Director Yates had made attendance mandatory, but there were ways around that.

"Do you want to get out of here?" he asked watching Duo instantly perk up with attention. "We've shown our faces and no one will miss us. I'll even buy you dinner."

"Sure," Duo said with a genuine smile on his face. He heaved himself out of his seat following Heero down the hall. The sounds of the lively party echoed through the walls around them while Heero thought of going home and to bed after seeing Duo well off.

They were approaching the turn into the main hall that would lead them to the coatroom and the exit when Dorothy appeared around the bend. Her dress shimmered in the hall's light, drawing the eye, making her the center of attention as she'd planned when she'd chosen the off the shoulder number.

"Heero, there you are. You owe me a dance," she grabbed his arm pulling him towards the ballroom. "I should have known the two of you would try to sneak off together. Duo, there are a dozen women in there dying for the chance to dance with you. You shouldn't disappoint them."

"I'll pass."

"One dance," Heero said more to Duo than to Dorothy looking at his friend over his shoulder as Dorothy dragged him away leaving Duo alone in the hall. "One."

But one turned into two, then three, and then four, until he'd danced with every available girl including the governor's six year old daughter. When he finally managed to pull away he found the hall empty of Duo and the coatroom empty of his coat.

He left the mansion soon after that feeling like a complete heel. It wasn't his intention to leave Duo stranded and waiting but he couldn't possibly turn down Relena, the Director's wife, the governor's wife or any of the other women who'd wanted to dance with him. He was always playing catch up with Duo. Constantly making up for canceling on him, for forgetting their plans. Even now he stood outside of Duo's door trying to think of the best way to explain what happened.

He let himself in with the spare key Duo gave him, finding Duo in bed. He was on his side his back to Heero, with his arm folded up and over his eyes. Heero crawled onto the bed leaning against Duo's back.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave you like that."

"It's cool. I know who's more important to you."

"You are."

Duo snorted. "Yeah, right."

"You are," Heero said with a hint of anger in his voice. "My job depends on most of those people. I couldn't tell them no without offending them."

"Yeah, I got it."

"Duo," he sighed lower his head onto Duo's arm.

"It's cool. I understand. Can't go pissing off the boss's wife."

Heero sighed again rubbing his hand over Duo's shoulder. "Did you eat?"

"I got something on the way back."

"That's good."

"You staying over?"

"I can't. I have an early morning tomorrow."

"Oh."

"I can stay for a little while," he said softly shifting until he lay curled behind Duo. He pressed his forehead to the back of Duo's neck, rubbing his hand over Duo's back. "I am sorry about tonight."

"I told you it's cool."

"I know but it keeps happening and I don't want it to."

"I know you don't mean to ditch me Heero. You're busy. You've got a big important job. I get it."

Heero sighed for a third time levering himself up to lean over Duo. He needed to go home and sleep and there wasn't much more he could say or do for Duo tonight. He pressed his face against the side of Duo's and thought about kissing his cheek. He thought about telling Duo how he felt and that he would do whatever it took to make up for tonight. Instead he settled for a tight squeeze telling Duo that he would see him later.

He looked back in at Duo where he lay curled in his bed his arm still covering his eyes, promising to himself that he would set things right. He didn't know then that it would be one of the last times that he saw Duo.

+

After Colony 204

Seeing Trowa's cross made Heero think of Duo's, and once he left headquarters, he headed home with Hilde in tow to the small keepsake box he kept in his closet. In it were small miscellaneous items he managed to pilfer from Duo's apartment before it was put away in storage. In his hand he held Duo's cross and the red silk ribbon both found together on Duo's nightstand. The ribbon was still wound around itself, tied in the same bow from that night. Duo must have slipped it off the end of his braid, Heero thought running his thumb over the soft fabric. The cross, which Duo never went anywhere without, was beat-up and twisted, the end slightly melted. It was the cross that had assured Heero of foul play when Duo went missing. Duo wouldn't leave it behind unless he was forced to or so he'd thought. Since Duo's return, he hadn't asked for it once.

"Is that his stuff," Hilde asked from the doorway, nodding towards the box.

"Yes."

"May I?"

At Heero's nod and outstretched and she came into the room, delicately taking the cross in her hands as she sat beside him. Heero placed the ribbon back in the box alongside Duo's gun, a few knives and pieces of scrap metal from Deathscythe.

"I blame myself sometimes," Hilde said looking intently at Duo's cross. "I didn't have time for him. I didn't want to have time for him.

"After the yard fell, he kept calling me. Sometimes he wanted to talk about starting a new business. Sometimes he wanted to reminisce about the yard. Then he'd want to make plans to hang-out and I was settled into a new life and I didn't have time to sit on the phone with him for hours on end.

"I read the file. About him being depressed and I keep thinking it's my fault. If I would have spent a little time with him instead of ignoring his calls he wouldn't have run off."

"You can't blame yourself. You can't be mad at yourself for putting you first."

"You were in the same position. Constantly busy with work and you still made time for him."

"Barely. I spent more time making up for missing dates with him than being with him."

"But you tried. I got tired of being his only life-line." She let her hand drop into her lap and they sat quietly for moment before the spoke again. "Did you see the tape?"

"What tape?"

"Of what happened in the parking garage."

"No. Why?"

"I have a copy of it and I think you should watch it."

"I don't know what it will prove."

"Maybe nothing but…just watch it."

He let her set up his laptop to play the disc she pulled from her pocket and together they set at his table. Heero watched himself on screen, wondering how he could have forgotten that he deliberately parked near the security cameras. He stood facing his car with Duo just behind him. His posture so open and vulnerable showed just how much he'd trusted Duo. Duo moved closer and Heero tensed watching as the tall man leaned into him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. The camera, pointing at the back of the car, showed them in profile and Heero couldn't read Duo's lips but the words played through his mind just the same.

"Heero, you'll take care of Kitten won't you?"

As Duo spoke his free hand reached into his back pocket pulling the hidden syringe free or what Heero had assumed was a syringe. What Duo held was an auto injector, as small and thin as an ink pen with a spring loaded needle hidden inside. Duo pressed the tip against his side and in the present, Heero went rigid, his side tingling with phantom pain as he watched his digital image jerk. Heero could barely make out Duo's hand flexing, putting pressure on the pen shooting the needle forward, deep into his side. He looked to his own face, the fear, disbelief, shock, and anger there palpable.

He looked away from the screen to find Hilde staring at him sadly. "There's more."

Back on the screen, Duo gently lowered him to the ground, emptying his pocket of the tether, tucking it into his limp hand. Duo brushed his fingers over his hair, something Heero didn't remember, carefully stepping over his body walking towards the camera. He stopped looking back at Heero's unconscious and prone body then back to the camera, staring directly into the lens.

"I'm sorry, Heero."

It hurt seeing that. A horrible ache inside his chest that made it hard to breathe. He rose from the table leaving a worried Hilde behind to retreat into the bathroom where he sat with the lights off. He knew why Duo had done it. To protect him and Kitten, to leave them innocent of the crime he was about to commit. He did it to have the chance to save the lives of Murai's victims. A restored Lucy was proof to that but it still hurt. There were so many things he didn't know, so many things he didn't understand and until Duo came clean he wasn't sure what to do or how to feel.

Could he forgive Duo? Could he put all the misdirection and lies behind him. Could they actually be together?

The answer was…he didn't know.

+

An anonymous call came in an hour later and the responding agents found Etienne Lindman. From the report, the once spliced fox was found sleeping underneath a tree in a park only a few blocks from headquarters. Again there were no witnesses and once Agent Lindman woke he couldn't explain how he'd gotten from the clinic and to the park. It seemed where Murai and Nellie attacked Preventors' agents indiscriminately; Gervais and Duo were delivering them healthy and whole in unexpected places.

+

The hang-out was in an old warehouse that had yet to be reconditioned into something else. Buildings didn't stay abandoned or unused for very long on colonies with space being at a premium. It would only be a matter of weeks before the building was purchased and redeveloped and teens partying inside were forced to relocate.

He could hear the music pounding through the walls before they were even ten feet away from the door and Heero had to wonder why they hadn't been shut down yet. At Hilde's knock the heavy steel door swung open revealing a tall, dark-skinned man with horns growing from his forehead guarding the door. He took one look at Hilde and nodded her through but put a bracing hand on Heero's chest as he tried to follow.

"No Normals," he said in a gruff voice.

Hilde was quick to press her advantage and her chest against the man, distracting him. She rose, leaning in to whisper in his ear. Like the boys from that morning, the guard's eyes widened then dropped to Heero's crotch. He gave him a considering look before letting him through.

"What did you tell him?" He asked when they were clear.

"That you're hung like a horse," she said grinning over her shoulder. "Literally."

"Hilde!"

"What? As far as I know you are. It's always the little guys you have monster cocks."

He groaned and shook his head. That was more information than he wanted to know.

"I did not need to hear that," came Weber's voice in Heero's com-link. Two dozen agents were stationed around the warehouse to capture and subdue all the Splicers within once they gathered any information on Murai or Nellie's location. Weber and Price were helping to coordinate the teams while Trowa stayed behind with Kitten.

Laughing, Hilde took Heero's hand leading him through the short hall and up a flight of stairs. The door beyond led them to the main room where an assortment of furniture was arranged. Sofas, love seats and bean bag chairs occupied most of the space with dozens of teens and young adults scattered about. Very few people were dancing and the few that were begged a second look at. A girl covered completely in blue iridescent scales flowed, dancing slowly and sensually to the beat of the music.

"Eyes back in your head, Ro," Hilde said giving his forehead a glancing knock.

"How have we not found these people?" Heero wondered aloud. Over half the room had obvious and blatant splicing that would have had them locked away in jail in no time at all. A man with rhinoceros horns growing from the middle of his grey and leathered face brushed past Heero and he couldn't imagine him going out into public and not causing a stir.

"They don't go outside," Hilde said softly. "Ever."

Heero couldn't imagine his entire existence consisting of living in a three story warehouse. Never going outside to the store, the movies, to a nice restaurant because of a voluntary choice such as Splicing. It didn't seem worth it to him to hide for the sake of horns on his head.

"Hey it's them," a voice to their left called. He and Hilde looked up at the same time to find Toby and Parker heading their way.

"You guys find the place okay?" Toby asked.

"Yeah, but the guy at the door didn't want to let Ro in at first. He had to whip it out to prove he was spliced."

"Oh, gross man. I wouldn't want see another dude's junk," Parker said with a disgusted look.

"I would," said a girl Heero didn't know. She wore a black leather skirt and a matching halter top that left her stomach bare except for a vibrant red mark. She saddled up to his side, wrapping her arms around hiss shoulders. Her eyes were a bright red and the leering smile she gave let him see that her teeth were razor sharp. A quick glance down showed that the red mark on her belly was in the shape of an hourglass.

A black widow spider. Heero was suddenly very uncomfortable.

"No one gets to see his junk but me," Hilde said. "Well…no one else," she amended with a laugh.

The black widow pouted but left him alone and relieved. Heero did not like spiders.

They mingled after that with Toby and Parker as their guide. The hang-out was a Splicer haven and self-contained home for those looking to escape a life of persecution by Normals. Or so they said. Most of them were rebellious teens looking to stand out and be different. It didn't matter that they put their lives in jeopardy to do it.

Heero didn't often talk to people his own age, much less those who didn't have a similar background to him. A similar background meant having fought in the war, living holed up in decrepit safe houses, trying to finish a mission while bleeding to death. None of the Splicers there understood him and he couldn't relate to them. Heero related Splicing to getting a tattoo. An unnecessary and expensive body modification that would be an eyesore in a few years. Heero couldn't imagine anyone wanted zebra stripes when they were ninety years old.

He was nursing a flat cup of beer as he moved around the room, listening in on different conversations meeting different Splicers. At several points Hilde came to him relaying information, draping her arms around his shoulders whispering huskily in his ear. He tried not to think about the fact that every time she did this her breasts rubbed against him or wonder if it was intentional.

Eventually he sat, letting the Splicers come to him. It wasn't long before several approached him taking seats around him. Henry and Toby were amongst the few as well as three young girls. A cat named Barb, a dog named Liz, and koala named Chanel and their attention was focused on his crotch.

"So it's really true?" Liz asked. "You're really spliced with a horse?"

"Yes." He took of his beer to keep from laughing at the absurdity.

"Did you have a small dick before? What's it called when it's the size of your pinky?" This from Chanel.

"Jesus, can it be that small?"

"Oh yeah, I've seen pictures. So, was it?"

"No."

"Well how big was it?"

"Forget that. I want to know how big it is now."

"Well," Hilde said coming to his rescue, "If he told you that, I'd have to kill you."

She made a show of putting her hands on his knees, flicking her tail back and forth, letting it brush over his chest before she sat in his lap. She leaned back grabbing his chin as she brought her mouth down on his. He stayed relaxed letting his eyes fall shut, his lips parting as she kissed him.

It was planned ahead of time. He and Hilde had decided that they would play their roles to the fullest and wouldn't be squeamish about it. Saying that he would be willing to kiss Hilde with an audience was different in practice. It wasn't that the kiss was bad only that he felt nothing. There was no rush of emotion or passion as her tongue moved teasingly in and out of his mouth. When she pulled away, smiling seductively at him, he forced himself to smile.

"Bathroom," he whispered leaning forward and she levered herself up letting him slip away as the girls catcalled behind him.

He tried to shake the uncomfortable feeling of unease that lingered over him as he pretended to search for the bathroom. Opening random doors led him to an unsettling discover and he made a mental note to bring up charges against the black widow for seducing an underage lamb.

Faintly, he could hear Hilde's voice in his com-link and wondered if kissing him had been awkward for her too. He was equally attracted to men and women, but kissing her left him numb. He tried not to think about it, focusing instead on the job at hand. Later, he wonder about what it meant when a beautiful woman sat his lap, kissed him breathless and he couldn't feel even a twinge of arousal.

The next two rooms were empty but confirmed for Heero that several people did indeed live in the old warehouse. The third led him to what he would have at one time thought his very own playroom. The room was the size of large closet and would have been used as a utility closet. It was filled with computer equipment and flat screens hung all over the walls. He did not have to fake excitement or enthusiasm as he stepped into the inside looking around in awe. The teenage boy who sat at thin the lone chair turned to him with full black, lidless eyes.

"Who are you?" he asked and Heero wondered if his skin was supposed to be pale yellow or if he was jaundiced with liver failure.

"Ro."

"You're not spliced."

Deciding to stick with Hilde's story he pointed to his own crotch and said, "Horse."

"What?"

"Horse."

"Oh. Oh! That's kinda cool," the teen said, nodding in approval.

"No," Heero said closing the door behind him, "This is cool. I'd kill to have half the stuff you have in here."

He wouldn't necessarily kill to have the equipment that the boy had but he could be persuaded to break a few laws. The devices in the room were top of the line, some of which Heero had never seen before. His fingers itched to touch and play with the many keyboards laid out on the desks before him, thoughts of hacking into government databases untraced running through his mind.

"Yeah," the boy said looking around his sanctuary, pleased, "It took me awhile to get all of this."

"What are you using it for?"

"A little bit of everything. I pretty much take care of everyone here and make sure that nobody busts us."

"Yeah?" Heero ran his hands along the corner of one of the monitors as he circled around the boy moving deeper into the room.

"Yeah, I reroute the nine-one-one calls from the neighbors so the police don't even know we're out here."

Well, Heero thought, that explains how we didn't know about this place.

"That's impressive," Heero said and meant it, wondering why a guy with his talent wasn't somewhere working where his skills could be put to better use. "What's your name?"

"Kirk, but everyone calls me Honey."

"I think I'd stick to Kirk."

"It's ‘cause I'm a bee. Or at least spliced with one."

He lifted his shirt showing Heero the thick black bands that wrapped around his stomach.

"You don't have a stinger, do you?"

"No, though that would be cool. The guy who did my splicing said it's pretty hard to do insects but he was happy that managed to do it with me."

"You're the second person I've seen spliced with an insect. The first being the black widow out there."

"She's creepy, right? That girl freaks me out."

"Me, too. So who did your splicing?" He asked nonchalantly as he looked around the room though his attention was on Honey.

"This guy called M. Dr. M."

"What?" Heero snapped, spinning to face Honey.

"Yeah, it's all ominous and all that but he was pretty cool and…"

"Honey Bee," a voice sang as the door to the room opened. Madelyn, the girl who wanted Murai to give her little bat wings and had witnessed Lucy's painful splicing, stood in the doorway waving to Honey. She looked up noticing Heero and her eyes widened in fear.

"It's you," she breathed. She backed out the doorway slowly, as if Heero would leap across the distance to attack her and when she turned her back on him he saw why. Growing from her back were small leather wings. "The Preventors are here!"

"Shit," Heero cursed under his breath, grabbing hold of Honey's turtleneck before he too could bolt from the room screaming. "Weber, we've been made. Move in."

"I'm on it, Boss."

"Preventors? You're not really spliced. You lied." Honey looked up at him accusingly as if not being spliced were the worst possible sin.

"I did. Now tell me, how long ago were you spliced?"

"Dr. M isn't a bad guy. All that shit on the news is fake. You guys put that out there to stop him from splicing."

"You think I care about you wanting to be a bee? I don't care about people wanting to be spliced. It's your body do what you want but that man is killing people and if we don't get you to the hospital you're going to be next."

"But he said-"

"When were you spliced?"

"About a month ago."

"Shit." Honey was spliced with one of Murai's older formulas which meant that his organs were slowly shutting down on him and his yellow color may very well but due to liver failure. He didn't have much time left before it was too late to stop it. "Are there any others here who were spliced by M?"

"Almost everybody here."

"What?" His hand clenched around Honey's shirt and he pushed down the rush of panic. Over three dozen Splicers were dancing and drinking in all parts of the warehouse, all of them slowly dying.

"He comes around every couple of weeks and does our splicing for free. Nellie's been spliced by him dozens of times and she's not dead."

"Nellie was here?"

"Yeah she lives here. What a minute. You're him. Heero, right? She's been going on and on about you ever since she came back."

"Is she here now?"

"I don't think so. She went out a couple of hours ago."

"Where's her room?"

"Upstairs. Second door on the left."

"Get up," Heero ordered even as he pulled Honey up from the chair, pulling him towards the door. "You need to go to the hospital. You're organs are failing and you will die if you don't let us help you."

He passed Honey over to a nearby agent and set off for the upstairs bedroom. He pulled his gun from the holster in the waistband of his cargos clicking the safety off. The upper floor was dark and quiet though the sounds of agents and Splicers raging against each other traveled through the floors. The door to the second bedroom was closed as he approached it and he pressed his ear to the door listening. Hearing nothing, he took a deep breath steeling himself before he kicked in the door, knocking it flat against the wall.

His first glance gave him nothing but the average teenage girl's room with posters of celebrities on the wall and clothes thrown about. Her bed was nothing more than a mattress on the floor though the sheets on top were neatly made. He scanned the room as he stepped inside seeing no trace of the girl. They'd missed her by just a few hours.

He lowered his arms, turning back to towards the door with intentions of regrouping but stopped short at the sight of the man standing across from him. A bullet to the shoulder and life on the run left Gabriel Murai little worse for wear. He stared at Heero calm and motionless even as Heero's heart raced in his chest. He turned at the sound of a body dropping heavily to the floor, catching Nellie's menacing grin as arms like steel traps wrapped around him, effectively pinning him in place.

"I didn't know you were spliced," Nellie whispered into his ear.

"He's not," Murai said. "But he will be."

[ ch. 24 ] [ ch. 26 ] [ back to Singles a-k ]