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

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

It was strange to think that he was tired of waking up when he was more so tired of falling unconscious. He knew without opening his eyes that he lay in a hospital bed. He could hear the familiar sounds of doctors and nurses discussing patients and charts, the beep-beep-beep of heart monitors, and the whir of breathing machines.

Heero lifted his arm, or tried to. His wrists were strapped to the bed with medical restraints made of thick leather and cotton with heavy mittens covering his hands. He pulled on his legs and found his ankles similarly restrained under the sheets. He wasn't muzzled, for that he could be thankful but he had enough of being tied up.

He growled pulling harder, intending to snap the flimsy restraints when Weber came into viewing laying a hand on his arm. It surprised him that it was Weber at his bedside and not Wu Fei or Trowa, but then with Kitten held hostage he knew they were doing what they could to find him rather than playing nurse.

"It's a precaution, after what happened with Denvers."

"How is she?" he asked, genuinely concerned about the woman and the damage he caused to her.

"Angry, but fine. How do you feel?"

He thought about it, trying to assess his condition. His skin no longer burned or felt stretched thin, though he knew instinctively that he was still spliced. There was no lingering urge to bite anyone close to him, though he wouldn't be prone to attacking Weber as he both trusted and felt safe with the man.

"Better. How long have I been asleep?"

"About two hours."

"Good. I need to find Hilde." He moved to sit up, pulling against his restraints again. "Get me out of these."

"I should go and get the doc," he said, nervously backing away.

"Weber. Murai has Kitten. We don't have time to waste."

"I know, it's just...a lot has happened since you went missing."

"Tell me."

"Let me get the doc to take a look at you first." Weber fled the room leaving behind a bitter smell. It was softer than the fear he smelled from Denvers. Worry, Heero surmised, or some part fear at what Heero might do once the bad news was broken.

He pulled the restraints, snapping them easily. There was no time to waste. The longer he waited, the more danger he put Kitten in. He needed to get Hilde alone to find out what she knew if anything, then he could set to work on finding where Murai was hiding. He also wanted to check in on the shelters and find the three hundred bodies the man claimed to have left behind.

He threw his legs over the side of the bed, wobbling on uncertain feet. Walking on the balls of his feet should have been uncomfortable, but his body seemed accustomed to it while his mind was trying to catch up. He checked the small chest of drawers finding a clean pair of scrubs along with some toiletries and mundane medical equipment.

He locked himself inside the bathroom. The space was small, comprised of a toilet with rails surrounding it, large sink, and walk-in shower. Above the sink, a soap dispenser was bolted to the wall, with warnings against ingesting the soap. He reread the label, gingerly touching his fingers to it. A week ago, after Duo put him into a three day coma, he went into the darkened bathroom and could barely see his hand in front of his face. Today in the dark, he could read small print.

With a deep breath, he turned the light on.

A mash of animal and his own face stared back at him. His eyes were no longer blue. His irises were golden with flecks of black that consumed the whole of his eye, leaving no white behind. His hair, once a solid dark brown, was now suffused with gold. Dark brown on top fading towards light blonde in layers around his head. The texture was coarse, more fur-like, and thicker than he remembered. His teeth were sharper, the canines more prominent, curved and ending in a point. His ears were wide and pointed, reminding him of elf ears, but furred and hidden in the long fall of his hair.

He stared at his chest. His muscles were more pronounced now, bulging from under his skin. His abs and chest were sculpted, rock-hard, and covered in a fine dusting of golden hair that disappeared into his shorts. The hair around his groin was white blonde and thick, framing his sex. He was bigger there too, both in length and width and he wondered if Murai wasn't playing a joke on him.

He clutched the edge of the sink angry once again. This was not his body, not his hair, not his muscles, not his cock. He liked his body and never once wanted to change anything about himself. With one injection, Murai stolen it all away, reshaping him into something else.

The heavy porcelain sink snapped to pieces in his hands and he gasped surprised at both his strength and the sharp sound of the pieces falling to the floor.

"Heero!" Weber called just on the other side of the door.

"I'm fine." He attacked the light, clawing the switch. In the dark, he found his way to the shower running the water hot. He scrubbed, hard enough to peel the skin from his body, wishing he could so easily rid himself of the splicing. He washed until his skin was raw but clean, drying his body just as roughly. The scrubs chaffed as he pulled them on but were welcome change to the flimsy hospital gown.

He refused to think about what may be happening to Kitten. He focused on the measures he needed to take to get him back. Information was key and he was determined to scrap together every bit that he could to get the boy back.

Weber and Dr. Anderson were waiting for him as he left the bathroom. It was definitely worry pinching Weber's features as he stared at him.

"Boss, are you alright?"

"I need to find Kitten," he said more to Anderson than Weber.

"I understand but you won't be any good to him if you over do it. Let me take a look at you."

He crossed the room, coming to stand beside Anderson. Days ago, Anderson loomed over him standing a full head taller, now they stood shoulder to shoulder. He stared into Anderson's weary eyes as the doctor brushed the hair from his face, clearing the way for a digital thermometer to sweep across his forehead and down the side of his face.

"One hundred and five degrees."

"That's good, right?" Weber asked.

"Much better that the one-fifteen he came in with. If it drops or goes any higher, let me know immediately. One o'five is your base temp until you're restored."

He stayed passive as Anderson shined a light into his eyes and felt along his neck, but was forced to keep himself still as Anderson passed behind him raising his shirt. The chest piece of the stethoscope was cold against his back. He took slow deep breaths as instructed, using the task to distract himself.

"It's not as bad as it could be. A lot of what was done was physical and you are stable. I hate to say that you're low priority as far as being restored but I've got at least thirty Splicers who need my attention."

"What am I?" he asked morbidly curious as to what animal Murai deemed appropriate for him.

"A Golden jackal."

He snorted. It at least explained his hair and eyes if not his hostility.

"I know you won't listen to me but you need to rest. The mix that he gave you, I can't determine what all the side effects might be. I believe I've managed to reign in some of the aggression from earlier by reversing the level of testosterone you produce, but I'm no Gervais. I can only do so much."

"I understand. Weber," he looked to the agent, "Tell me what happened."

Weber looked to Anderson and at his nod, he explained.

"Nellie attacked Trowa and Flaherty."

"Trowa," he whispered. "How bad?"

"Flaherty suffered a broken shoulder, clavicle, arm, fractured ribs, hip and skull,"Anderson answered, naming her injuries with a detached air.

"And Trowa?"

Anderson hesitated, shooting a quick look to Weber. "His condition is much worse. Right now, he's still in intensive care. Most of the bones in his upper body were broken including his skull. There was severe bleeding on the brain as well as swelling."

"What happened?"

"She just fell from the sky. Landed right on top of the car crushing them like it was nothing."

He scrubbed his face with the heel of his hands, releasing a rough breath. The situation was going from bad to worse. If there was anyone he could depend on, it was Trowa. Even with the numerous disagreements and secrets between them, there was no one he trusted at his back more. To know that his best friend and partner was downed in a hospital, dying, scared him. The war was over; the fear of dying at any moment, losing a comrade at any moment should have passed. Murai and Nellie ....

"Where is he?"

"Upstairs, but I don't think they'll let you in," Weber said.

"I need to see him."

"I'll take you upstairs but you can't disturb him or stay long."

"I understand. Weber find Hilde."

+

The ICU was sterile in both color and smell. The walls and floor were a monochrome white that, even after a vigorous scrub, left him feeling unclean, as if he would contaminate the patients with his presence alone. At six in the morning the entire floor was silent save for the whir and beep of machines coming through the doors and echoing down the hall.

Anderson led him just outside of Trowa's door with instructions to keep quiet and be quick. He stood outside the door with his head pressed against the solid frame, steeling himself against what he might see. In that moment he regretted all the times he argued with Trowa, all the times he was less than the best friend that Trowa deserved. Of all the people in his life, it was Trowa who was the most honest, even when the truth would alienate him from Heero. He was the one who stood by his side as both a partner and a friend, thinking not only of the case but Heero's feelings. He could easily overlook Trowa's agoraphobia and his reasoning to keep it to himself. Not even Heero thought himself brave enough to admit to what could be a debilitating condition in regards to his personal life and his job. That Trowa stood up to the disorder and refused to back down from life showed just how strong he was. Heero wished he could borrow some of that strength now to be able to do whatever it took to save Kitten.

He pushed through the door with deep breath, letting it out slowly as he stepped around the curtain walling off the bed from the rest of the room.

He was covered in pristine white bandages for which Heero was grateful. He didn't think he could with seeing his friend a bloody and broken mess. Much of his face was swathed in bandages and tape with his auburn hair peeking through the folds. Tubes and leads ran from his mouth and chest connecting to half a dozen machines that Heero knew to be the only things keeping him alive. His tall frame looked shrunken, as if he were a small child placed in a bed far too big for him. The image was only enhanced by Flaherty, who leaned heavily against his bedside holding his undamaged hand. Her face was drawn and pale, pinched in pain and sorrow as she stood on her bad hip. The upper left half of her body was covered in bandages including a heavy cast on her arm.

"Flaherty."

She blinked wide eyes at him as she turned taking in his changed countenance. "Commander, what happened?"

"Murai."

"Nellie," she said gesturing with her broken arm. She looked back at Trowa gently squeezing his hand.

"Can you tell me what happened?" he asked softly.

"He was going to pick up clothes for Kitten and I asked to come along." She paused, smiling at the memory. "We were at a light. Kitten was telling me that he and Mr. Trowa were going to get married. I asked him if I could marry Mr. Trowa too." She turned to Heero with a watery smile. "You should have seen his face. He turned so red." Her smile fell as tears began to slip down her face. "The next thing I knew I was crushed against the dashboard and Kitten was screaming. I don't know If he was hurt or not."

"He's fine for now."

"She could have killed him. Just jumping on the car like that. She'll kill him if we don't find him soon."

"I'll get him back and make sure they pay for this."

She sighed, though in relief or pain he wasn't sure. She had to be in agony, on her feet so soon after such a devastating attack.

"You should be resting."

She smiled again. "So should you, but here we are."

He couldn't help the smirk that turned his lips upward. "You're right, but he'd want you to take care of yourself."

"And you?"

"He'll understand why I didn't stay put."

"You're going after them." It wasn't a question.

"Yes."

"Be careful, Heero. Those two...it doesn't matter who lives or dies. As long as they get what they want."

"I'm learning that the hard way." He touched Trowa's leg gripping his ankle to reassure himself that his friend was there and still alive.

"I'll let you know if anything changes."

"Thank you."

With one more squeeze he left the room navigating the halls to find Weber and Hilde waiting for him at the nurses station though Hilde looked as if she preferred to be anywhere else but there. She avoided looking at him, her focus on the wall just to her left. He only had eyes for Hilde at the moment, noting that she'd left behind the revealing white shorts and tank in exchange for her Preventors' uniform.

"Weber I need you to find Chase. Tell him to stay inside headquarters."

"What should I tell him if he asks why?"

"Tell him he's in danger."

"Danger from what?" Hilde asked.

"Murai. He plans to go after the people close to me starting with Chase."

"Should the rest of us go to ground too, Boss?"

"Yes. Once you secure Chase, find Price and Gemmell and tell them to do the same."

"Got it." He walked away pulling out his cell as he went, leaving Heero and Hilde alone.

"What's going on Heero?"

"Tell me how you're connected to Gervais."

"What?" Her smell up until that point had been calm although tinged with what he could only assume was guilt. He was almost bowled over by the strong smell of fear that ran off of her, like acid burning the insides of his nose at the mention of Gervais. Murai was right she was somehow involved with the man. He grabbed her arm, mindful of his strength as he dragged her close.

"How are you involved with Gervais?" He questioned, tightening his grip ever so slightly.

"I'm not," she said petulantly, pulling at her arm. "I don't know what you're trying to accuse me of but maybe you should go back to your room and get some rest. You've had a long night, Heero."

He could not only smell the lie, a smell like burnt cinnamon, but he could see it in the set of her ears. At half mast and steadily dropping her ears deceived her while her face maintained its composure. Did she think him an idiot, to be fooled by her indignant act? Maybe she didn't know yet what was at stake but he would get the truth form her.

"Don't lie to me," he growled, his face just inches from hers. "Tell me what you know. Tell me where he is."

"I don't-"

"Yuy!"

He looked up, finding Yates at the end of the hall and fast approaching.

"Let Agent Schbeiker go."

He suppressed a growl, but dropped her arm. The last thing he needed was to be sedated again because Yates thought he wasn't in control of himself. Hilde rubbed her arm with a grimace, stepping behind Yates to use the bigger man as a shield. She wasn't so secretive and afraid of him hours before when she was wriggling in his lap, but now she played meek, scared to even look at him.

"Yuy, you're supposed to be in bed awaiting treatment."

"Murai has Kitten."

"I know that and I have three teams looking for him as we speak. If you want to help with the search then you can tell me everything that happened between you and Murai. It may give us a clue as to where to find him."

"I don't work for you. Remember?" He looked pointedly at Hilde whose ears were now pressed flat against her head. She stared intently at the floor, again refusing to meet his eyes.

"We'll discuss that after you tell me what happened. Schbeiker you can finish your interrogations."

"Yes sir."

He didn't hold back the growl but he resisted the urge to snatch Hilde back and shake the truth out of her. She was more than eager to leave, all but sprinting from Heero and his glare. Yates was costing him time but he needed to restrain himself before he seriously hurt someone. The splicing had some benefits but not enough to outweigh the lack of control he felt. He was quick to anger and impatient. He wanted answers now and was willing to threaten and hurt someone to get it. He told himself that he would not fall into Murai's trap. He would gain control of these urges. He would fight them back with everything he had. He wouldn't be able to face Kitten knowing that he'd harmed innocent people to save him.

"Let's go back to your room."

"Here is fine."

"Yuy," Yates said with a sigh. He pinched the bridge of his nose as if to fight off a headache. "I'm sorry. I made the mistake of consulting someone that I thought could help close both of these cases."

"Hilde," Heero supplied.

"Yes," Yates said only helping to confirm Murai's theory. Now more than ever Heero needed to find the woman and find out what she knew of Gervais and how far her involvement went.

"She has an excellent track record with closing cold cases by using unorthodox methods. She suggested I fire you to draw out Duo and Nellie which would give us Gervais and Murai. To an extent, half of the plan worked." If he was making a joke, Heero didn't appreciate it.

"Funny," Heero deadpanned. "You took away my job, my livelihood, to use me as bait."

"Things were never supposed to progress this far. You were not supposed to get hurt. Agent Schbeiker went against my orders taking you along for the raid." He shook his head. "That doesn't matter. I'll deal with Schbeiker later, but you should know that you haven't lost your job. We needed you to believe it so that the others would also believe it."

It was Heero's turn to shake his head. "I've lost the respect of half the agents because of this stunt. None of them will trust me at their back."

"I'll make sure that everyone is aware of the situation. Your name will be cleared."

"It doesn't matter. You betrayed my trust, Yates. How do I know I won't be used as bait on the next assignment or the one after that? That you won't throw me to the wolves for someone else's plan?"

"I made a mistake. Don't throw away you're career because of it."

"I have Kitten to think about now. I can't continue here if it puts both my life and his in danger." It was the truth and something he was thinking quite seriously about. He had money, more than enough to take care of himself and Kitten for some years. And there were other jobs out there where his skills could be put to use without putting him in the line of fire everyday. He'd been entrusted with Kitten's life and well being and he wanted to give him all the love and attention that Heero himself was neglected of as a child.

Yates looked as if he wanted to argue but stopped himself. "You'll still have a job with us no matter what you decide and the other agents will know the truth."

"Thank you."

"But I still need to know what happened with Murai, agent or not, Yuy."

"I can't get the Preventors involved without risking Kitten."

"Yuy, that's not how we handle hostage situations. You give in to his demands and this will never end."

"Murai's shown me exactly what he's capable of. Either I play by his rules or he will kill Kitten."

"And what is it exactly he wants you to do?"

Heero shook his head. "Let me handle this on my own. I need as little involvement from the Preventors as possible, which means no tails, Yates. I can handle this."

"This isn't the war where suicide missions are a daily occurrence, Yuy. You've got people to back your play."

"The very people I'm trying to keep safe," he said, voice lowering to growl. "Give it up."

"Then give me something to work with. You think we can sit on our hands while you run out playing vigilante?"

"There are bodies that need to be recovered. Possibly hundreds in the fallout shelters below Murai's temporary labs. Weber, Price and Gemmell can coordinate the search."

"Hundreds?"

"Yes, according to Murai many of his customers didn't survive his initial splicing and that's where he dumped the bodies."

"You don't think he'll count that as interference?"

"No. I think he wants us to find them."

"It may be a trap."

"Maybe, but I think he wants to prove a point. Show us exactly what he's been accomplishing under our noses."

"I'll get a team mobilized and pull back the other agents. I'll keep them out of uniform and inconspicuous in case one of them gets too close to Murai."

Heero nodded.

"Yuy, what was that between you and Hilde?"

He was hoping Yates would overlook their confrontation and leave him to find the woman. "Nothing, I just need to talk to her."

"You should stay away from her until you're sure you've got yourself under control."

"I'm not going to hurt her."

"I'm sure you thought the same about Denvers." That was a low blow and Yates knew it. What happened with Denvers had been out of his control, happening before he had time to even consider what he was doing.

"What do you want from me Yates?"

"The truth. Keeping secrets is what's going to get us all killed." He couldn't argue the man's logic. Yates sighed shaking his head. "Don't talk to her alone, Yuy. Take someone you just trust. Chang maybe, he should be with her now interrogating patients on the fifth floor."

+

Yates didn't warn him that there would be other agents on the floor. He stepped out of the elevator into a sea of gossip and whispers. All eyes were on him as he threaded the halls looking for Hilde and Wu Fei. Most stood on the other side of closed doors watching him through the windows, while the bolder set stood in the open doorways gawking.

"Is that Yuy?"

"Look! He's so big!"

"Did you hear what he did to that officer?"

"I heard he ripped her throat out."

"I can hear you, you overpaid pieces of shit!" came the yell from a few doors up. He was hoping to avoid seeing the lieutenant for at least a few days to have a chance to recoup from their incident but he was having no such luck.

Denvers emerged from her room, cast on her arm and Davis following close behind. She was stripped of her suit jacket, left with just the navy shell and bandages running around her neck and chest. She looked ready to burst, her face red and eyes bulging as she crossed the distance between them in a huff.

"I'm pressing charges Yuy. You're going to rot in jail for this."

"Lieutenant," Davis admonished, trying to gently corral her back to her room.

"No," she yelled pulling away from her officer's hands. "You think just because you were a Gundam pilot you can do whatever the fuck you want? You're past doesn't mean shit to me and it isn't going to stop me from having you arrested."

Davis sighed, "Lieutenant, he wasn't himself. The splicing-"

"I don't believe that shit for one minute. Not with him at least."

"I'm sorry," Heero said feeling remorseful for the pain and the humiliation he caused her. While he once entertained fantasies of hurting the obstinate woman, he never intended to act on them.

"Sorry? Sorry doesn't un-break my arm, Yuy. Sorry doesn't take back what you did to me."

"An apology is all I can give you, Lieutenant. I didn't you intentionally, but I regret that I did."

"Lieutenant," her officer called and she looked to him, a silent conversation passing between them that left her lips pressed in a thin, angry line.

"I don't forgive you."

Davis closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Lieutenant..."

"The boy that was kidnapped. He's the same boy who went missing from the foster home?"

"Yes."

"What's so special about him?"

"I care about him. Murai plans to hurt him to hurt me."

"That doesn't fit with his MO," Davis spoke, raising Heero's opinion of him. "Is he blackmailing you?"

"It doesn't matter," Denvers cut in before he could think of how to respond. There was no way that he would tell the police Murai's demand or what he was doing to meet them. He definitely wouldn't involve Denvers if he could avoid it. With her background she would do everything she could to find Kitten first and possibly get him killed to have a chance at gloating.

"The Preventors have the police forces full cooperation." She said the words as if they tasted bitter in her mouth and by the angry set of her jaw the command came from higher up the chain.

"Have there been a large number of missing person's reports coming through the precinct?" He asked, Murai's taunt about missing persons' reports coming to mind.

"Yes, but we haven't found anything to suggest foul play." Davis answered. "All of those missing have no linking factor that we can identify. No signs of struggle at their homes or work, and no ransom notes. It's like they disappeared."

"I don't remember him asking you for all of that, Davis."

"The captain told us to give our full cooperation to Commander Yuy. Was I not following orders Lieutenant?"

"Shut up, Davis."

"Can you fax the information to headquarters? It may help in identifying the bodies."

"Bodies? What bodies? Just what the fuck is going on Yuy?"

"Murai claims to have killed more people than we originally estimated. A team is being sent to see if his claims are true. By what you've said, I believe it is."

"You think our missing persons were customers he killed through splicing?" Davis asked.

"So he says."

"Lieutenant?" Davis questioned, touching her arm to prompt her into looking at him. "That apartment and the bad recombinant we found."

"No, those two things are completely separate."

"But if there is a connection-"

"Do you work for Yuy or do you work for me?" Denvers asked, rounding on her officer.

"You, Lieutenant."

"Then act like it, damn it. Keep your mouth shut and do what the fuck I tell you."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"Good, now go and get those files for Yuy." He applauded Davis his control; the anger in Davis' eyes would have been clearly written on his face. Davis said nothing as he moved away leaving Heero alone with Denvers. He made a mental note to catch up with the rookie officer to find out the connection the man may have found. From what little he knew of him, the officer was not only smart but intuitive and being poorly used under Denvers' leadership.

"There. We're cooperating. Now get the hell out of my way."

She shoved him aside, yelling at the agents in the hall that stared after her. Heero closed his eyes taking a deep breath, reminding himself that his apology would be void if he purposely mauled her. It was hard to have sympathetic feelings for a woman who possessed none for others.

He asked the nearest agent where he could find Wu Fei and was pointed down the hall. Wu Fei looked as frayed around the edges as Heero felt. His tan skin was wane with exhaustion, the dark circles under his eyes standing out like bruises. He was pushing himself to work, no doubt to keep his mind off of Sally. His shoulders were slumped, head slightly bowed as he stared at the Splicer on the gurney.

"She's been sick for over a week, but she was more afraid of being put back to normal than dying," Wu Fei said quietly. "Fool."

He spared a glance to the unconscious girl, remembering her from the party. Chanel the koala. She was unconscious, connected to different life support machines. Heero didn't think her chances for survival were good without Gervais' intervention. He hoped, darkly, that the man would reveal himself and make his task a lot easier.

He had no intention of killing the pompous scientist but he could use him as both bait and distraction to take down Murai and Nellie and secure Kitten. And of course once he had Gervais he would have Duo and he could finally get the answers he wanted and deserved.

"I need your help," he spoke drawing Wu Fei's gaze. "I need to find Hilde and talk to her."

"You don't need me for that."

"After what I did to Denvers I think I do."

"That woman provoked you. It was her own cowardliness and weakness that caused her to be hurt."

"I don't want to hurt anyone else like that."

Wu Fei stared at him as if weighing the words in his head. "I don't know where Hilde has gone."

"She left?" he asked disgusted that she would abandon her post to keep her part in Gervais' plans a secret. A part of him worried at what she had to tell him. How bad was it, that her first instinct was to flee?

"Yes, almost an hour ago."

"Do you know where she's going?"

"Heero, why is it so important that you speak with her?"

He thought about lying. He could trust Wu Fei to do all he could to help but a part of him still stung that Wu Fei didn't trust him. He and Sally kept their relationship from him for years. Years that he could have celebrated in the couples love and helped to keep their secret. But like all the others, they saw him as his job first and a person, a friend, second. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but, if for no other reason than prove himself the better friend, he confided in Wu Fei.

"Murai will Kitten if I don't bring him Gervais, and Hilde knows something."

"Do you believe she knows where he is?" Wu Fei came around the bed to stand close to Heero.

"I don't know but she does know something she's keeping from me."

"Her running only proves it. She said she was heading back to headquarters. We should find her there."

+

Heading back to headquarters had been a lie. The navy-haired woman was nowhere to be found within the building and no one could confirm that she ever arrived. Her cell phone went straight to voicemail with every call and as he and Wu Fei drove across the colony to her hotel he feared that maybe Nellie had kept her promise and done something to the woman.

The Hyperion was a lavish hotel, far above the lodgings that the Preventors would normally supply, but with her salary Hilde could afford to live in style. They bypassed the front desk with a show of Wu Fei's badge. Heero had changed into a uniform to be out of the hospital scrubs and draw less attention to himself. Being over six feet tall with golden eyes and hair however made that impossible. People were eager to stare at him as he moved past them, overflowing with questions. He ignored them as best he could, following Wu Fei up the stairs to Hilde's room.

He couldn't afford delays. He still had hours yet to gain Hilde's cooperation but the sooner he knew the truth the better. He needed time to plan his next move and Hilde's information could be the lynchpin to everything. If she knew Gervais' location, he could close both cases by the end of the day and go back to semi-normal life.

He let Wu Fei knock, afraid that he might break the door down when they came upon her room. He stood away from the door, holding himself back from the urge to just kick it down and find the missing woman.

"Hilde! It's Wu Fei. Open the door. Hilde!" He beat against the door again.

Heero closed his eyes, training his ears to listen for sounds of someone in the room. He blocked out the voices of the people having sex down the hall and the little girls giggling next door, focusing on Hilde's room. He listened for the sound her heartbeat, the sound of her breathing, the sound of her shuffling feet. There was nothing but a cold silence on the other side of the door.

He growled. "She's not in there."

"Where could she be?"

"Move," he ordered, taking hold of the door handle. It was laughable how easily he broke the lock, shoving the door open.

The room was a mess, thrown into disarray as if a tornado had blown through. The sheets and coverlet hung off the bed pooling on the floor. The bedside lamp was overturned, the bulb broken. The closet door hung open, hangers littering the floor. Toiletries were scattered across the bathroom floor. Nothing of Hilde's was left behind except for a lone sock tucked into a dresser drawer.

Heero looked around the room in devastation. She was gone and so was her secret.

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