Author: June
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 24
No Looking Back II

24a. Duo


Catastrophe keeps us together
We're the architects of the world
We're taking it all apart

-Rainer Maria

Duo paced his room, fiddling with the end of his braid. He'd tried reading, tried drawing, tried sleeping, eating and bugging Trowa. None of the above had worked.

And Quatre was out on a job. He was out hunting tonight. So much for innocence. So much for a future. The kid was a bounty hunter. And he'd killed. Duo could smell it on him. Sometimes, it wasn't just a bounty head he was after; sometimes it was a life. Duo's heart ached for both Quatre and Trowa. Their time together had been so short. Hell, they could all be dead by morning, Gael no longer in need of their services. But... it was still hard for the kid, who'd so recently taken a turn for the dark and sinister.

Speaking of dark and sinister... Duo remembered he was supposed to be pacing and returned to it, his best friend and his lover once again filling his mind. Heero and Wufei working together, touching, kissing, having sex. Leather, stripping, knives. Goddamn they had all the fun! For about the 30th time that night, Duo examined his emotions, searching his guts for the guilt and envy he knew he should be feeling. Wufei and Heero, the two people who meant the most to him; they were together right now. Duo knew that Wufei worried about them being found out, about Heero finding out specifically. And true, Duo didn't know how the normally stoic man would react to the knowledge that his best friend and his flat mate were sneaking off to snog in closets and bathrooms. But assuming he didn't get violent or all quiet, never talking to either of them again, Duo didn't see the downside of Heero knowing. Though he was making some pretty powerful assumptions.

Well, and then Heero had kissed him, right on the mouth, right in their room, with Wufei right on the other side of the doorway, waiting for them. That was a pretty clear indication that he wanted something more from Duo than just a best friend. That had been a surprise. Duo had been too shocked to do anything, let alone kiss him back. They'd known each other most of their lives, but they'd never touched in that way. Didn't mean they hadn't wanted to for the last couple years, Duo could sometimes cut the tension between them with his switchblade but there was just never any way to tell what Heero really wanted. There were a few times when Duo felt sure that they were on to something, that if he had just made a move, he and Heero might have...

He snorted and scrubbed a hand over his face. Might have, what exactly? Become boyfriends? Duo hated that word. And he didn't think that either he or Heero were in the right situation to start anything, not with Gael breathing down Heero's neck and sending all the roughest, meanest johns Duo's way. Duo was pretty sure that Gael would not have allowed them to be together, even if they'd wanted to be. Duo didn't think it would have been safe for them to try it.

And now, with Wufei very much in the picture, things were complicated even more. Duo did feel guilty that he and Wufei were sneaking around together, that Heero was still mostly in the dark about it, but he couldn't feel guilty about the fact that he'd found something good with Wufei. And perhaps he longed for Heero to know. The thought of Heero... with them, safe and away from his dangerous escape scheme it made Duo's heart ache with longing. It made him want ... something he rarely did. The thought of them together made him smile. They would be unbreakable, stronger than they could have ever been on their own.

He realized he was getting ahead of himself, thinking this way. It wasn't like everything would be perfect right away. He wasn't sure Heero and Wufei even liked each other. And he made a fierce effort to smother the niggling worry that he was being selfish, grasping desperately for someone to hold close. Perhaps he couldn't have both; perhaps he only wanted them both because he'd so rarely received anything in his short, brutal life without a struggle. But Duo knew he was more than willing to fight tooth and nail for both his friends. They'd be worth it, whether or not he was being selfish.

He told himself that he just wanted them home safe. That was all. Gah! He was forgetting to pace again.


24b. Wufei

And the bridges will burn
At the end, at the end, at the end of the world
How will we cross the seas?
And the plans have got to hold
A destination we can rely on for sure
I want you to find me.

- Rainer Maria

Wufei felt their hands on him and knew that he had failed his partner. Heero had fled a long time ago, trusting Wufei to carry him through the job. And he'd tried. Shit, he was almost glad Heero wasn't really around to see how hard he'd tried to keep their clients satisfied. The things he'd done... without Heero even really knowing... it felt wrong. But none of it was good enough without Heero's participation. Maybe some of his johns didn't mind fucking a block of wood, but Wufei needed a little more input. And, clearly, so did these men.

And now they were all touching him, beckoning him away from the table where he sat above Heero's naked body. They wanted him for themselves and while he didn't care quite as much as he would have not so long ago, Wufei would not allow them to have him. Besides, that would mean leaving his partner -- also unacceptable. So, he straddled Heero's thighs, looked down at the prone figure of his friend, and tried not to panic.

He slid down along the hard, smooth plains of that body until they lay flush against each other. He kept up the friction on his groin almost automatically. The last thing he needed was for one or the other to go soft. Laying his head in the space between neck and shoulder, Wufei spoke directly into his partner's ear, keeping one eye on the men clustered around them.

"Heero. I know you can hear me. Listen up." He felt foreign hands on his ass and suppressed a shudder. "This isn't working. I can't do this by myself. You have to wake up. They're not happy, and they'll take it out on me. I don't want them to touch me. We were supposed to have each other tonight, Heero, not them. It was just supposed to be us, but now it's just me and..." He trailed off, feeling muscles twitch beneath him. Looking into slate-colored eyes, he felt his stomach jump. There was something there, some flicker of comprehension. Without further thought, he leaned forward and kissed slightly chapped lips. He ran his tongue along sharp teeth and bit Heero's lower lip -- bit down until he felt a soft grunt deep in his partner's chest. 'Come on Heero. Don't let them have me. I can't kill Ralph with you catatonic on the table over here.' He opened his eyes and pulled back from the kiss to see fiery blue irises burning into him, flickering in anger and fear. The stared at each other, Wufei almost weak with relief. "Hey," he said finally. "Where'd you go?"

Heero grunted again and squirmed beneath him. Then he gasped, eyes flying wide, the friction between them surprising him. Every muscle tensed and Wufei was sure he had a fist headed for his face any second. The look in dark blue eyes held violence. "Chang!" he snapped.

Wufei snapped right back. "What. We don't have time for talking. And I don't have time for another fucking disappearing act."

"Fuck y-"

"You have to be here with me, for this, Yuy. We have to do this now, or they will take me instead. And that's not an option for me, so suck it up, or get over it or whatever you need to do."

Heero shuddered at his partner's words. "I can't. I'm sorry. I'd-"

"You'd what," Wufei bit out, patience long gone.

"I'd- I might-"

"Run away again? That's a neat trick. But it doesn't work when I'm partnered with you. You left me alone with these men! I've been dicking around with a hunk of meat for the last however long."

"I can't do this with you because I might hurt you," he confessed voice anguished.

Wufei stopped mid-breath. What? "Yuy -- you're afraid you'll hurt me? Me?!"

"Yes... I can't always control my reflexes. I-"

"We beat the shit out of each other on a regular basis! I still have bruises from last time."

"Yes, but-"

Suddenly voices erupted around them, several pairs of hands grabbed Wufei by the waist and shoulders, lifting him off the table and setting him on the floor. He shouted his surprise and anger, quickly twisting out of their grip, keeping his back to the table.

Henri grabbed for him again. "Enough talk," the big man snarled. "If I have to stand around with these fucks all night, you'd better at least be doin' something interesting. And if you can't do that much, I'll do it for you."

Wufei stood his ground, stark naked, but proud. Behind him, he knew Heero had risen to a crouch, ready to spring.

"We've been watchin' you two all night and far as I can see you're the only one worth having. So I say we just take you. And I'm since I'm sayin' it, I get you first. And we do it my way."

Wufei saw it coming and steeled himself for the blow. He let it fall, let his body bend and absorb the shock of Henri's fist. Let them believe what they wanted about him for now. They would soon know different. He staggered backward into the table, catching himself easily. He was surprised to feel Heero's palm on his spine, steadying him. Then the hand disappeared and a blur of dark skin rushed past him. Henri was now on the ground. A second later, Wufei was shoved violently into the wall, head cracking sharply. Before he could clear his brain, Heero Yuy was crushing him in a brutal embrace. Hips ground into his, hard lips covered his own and frighteningly strong fingers kneaded his back muscles. Head spinning, Wufei opened his eyes to meet Heero's thunderous gaze.

"I might..."

"What, hurt me?" Wufei preempted a bit breathlessly. "Just try it."

Heero scowled. "Let's do this quick and go home."

"Gotta get me on my back first," he sneered.

Heero actually smirked. Then his eyes almost rolled back in his head as Wufei bucked his hips against his immovable body. "I like you up against the wall," he managed to grind out before taking Wufei's mouth in another bruising kiss.


24c. Heero and Wufei


You'll be given love
You'll be taken care of
You'll be given blood
You'll have to trust it

- "All is Full of Love" Bjork

This was good, Heero decided. Painful but good. He didn't think he could manage any sentences larger than that. Wufei's body was hard but flexible in his hands. His muscles slid beneath coppery skin, skin that was getting increasingly hard to hold onto as they began to sweat. Wufei's breath was harsh but controlled; his pulse hammered against the delicate skin of his throat. Heero liked to watch that small fluttering of skin, liked that it was indicative of Wufei's pleasure. He liked to taste that skin, bite it.

This was all very new to him. He'd had sex with hundreds of nameless, faceless men and, apart from the first few painful encounters, he'd successfully been able to block out every subsequent job. As soon as he sat down in that chair or laid down on that bed or leaned against that wall, he'd taken a walk through his brain and locked himself in the furthest, most remote corner. He'd stayed there until his body or the other's succumbed to friction and heat and released. Then he'd emerge, squinting like he'd just come from a dark cell.

Until today, until this moment, that was how he'd dealt with his job: run, hide, escape, sleep. Wake me when it's over. But this was different; this was new. This was immediate and raw and feral and hot, and fuck, it felt good. He pushed Wufei up against a wall, into the corner, the dragon's legs wrapped around his waist, belly to belly, chest to chest. Their eyes were locked, had been since their bodies first drew together in this fierce and brutal struggle. Wufei's black eyes were challenging him, daring him to take him. Infuriating arrogance and confidence merged with naked want. Wufei wanted. And Heero had never wanted so much in all his twenty years of life. Yes, he wanted Duo; he loved Duo. But he didn't know how to want him, didn't know what was required of him. But this... this wanting he could understand because it came unbidden from his body. It made him move and bend and arch and moan and...

It was good. Painful, but good. Wufei didn't think he could manage any sentences longer than that. Heero was very very good at manipulating his partner's body, though Wufei got the feeling that this was the first time he'd ever consciously done it. He was hesitant at first, afraid of causing injury, but then he let that weapon of a body guide him and now Wufei didn't think he could take much more of this friction and sweat and skin without something... a little more solid to work with. He wanted Heero, wanted him, wanted to feel him inside as well as out.

"Are you gonna do it, Yuy?" he asked harshly, voice a blatant challenge.

"Are you ready?" came the breathless reply.

"Yes. Hurry up."

As soon as these words left his lips, Heero pressed him further and harder into the corner. Wufei threw one arm up against the wall, bracing himself as Heero pushed his way inside. Their bodies met and separated in a quick and jagged rhythm. Wufei surged outward, body arched, mouth open in a silent cry of pleasure and pain. Black blotches invaded his vision as Heero pounded into him. His partner held him up easily. Though they'd never done this before, the extensive time they'd spent sparring had pretty much been preparing them for a violent fuck against a wall.

The sounds of men shouting and jeering and encouraging them never made it to their ears. They felt reason and awareness slip.

It had never been like this before, never felt like this... anger/lust, pain/pleasure, frustration/ release, fear/excitement. They all fused together until Wufei felt blind and deaf. His world consisted only of heat, burning, and light. A tremendous pressure coiled in his gut and he groaned into Heero's mouth.

Heero felt his partner's lips move, vibrating with a moan he couldn't hear. He broke the kiss and felt Wufei's chest expand in a desperate gasp for air, head thrown back. He thrust hard, forcibly pushing that gasp back out, crushing him against the wall, biting down on his neck. His partner's body was impossibly taught. Heero didn't think they could possibly last at this rate. He slid his hand between their joined bodies and wrapped slick fingers around Wufei's erection, going on instinct, knowing that was what he'd want if he were in Wufei's position.

The dragon's body jerked in his arms and he cursed in Heero's ear. Heero moved his hand steadily, all the while keeping up their punishing rhythm. Finally, Wufei sucked in a sharp breath, crying out his release a moment later, hips thrust upward, hands gripping dark skin with bruising force. Heero leaned back slightly, watching his partner, letting the dragon's obvious pleasure fuel his own. He felt pride and satisfaction twine together with passion as his vision suddenly went white.

Wufei met fierce blue eyes and saw only a sliver of color, eyelids sliding shut a moment before his body went tight. Heero's voice was strangled and raw, caught in his throat, unused to vocalizing pleasure. Wufei couldn't imagine a sexier sound.

Exhausted and utterly satisfied, they collapsed to the floor, a tangle of sweaty limbs.


24d. Wufei

Catastrophe keeps us together
We're the architects of the world
And we're taking it all apart
Do you think we can go on forever
When the architects of the war
Are handing out the swords
But I've got a plan
I'm gonna find you; I'm gonna find you
At the end of the world

- Rainer Maria

Wufei sat there for several seconds until he felt he could lift his eyelids, then looked up to see lean arms and a strong chest shielding him from the rest of the room. The body which had so recently been fucking him through the wall now curled protectively over him. Not sure yet how he felt about that, Wufei decided instead to focus on the bleeding bite mark at his neck. He touched ragged skin and smirked up at his partner. "That was my move, Yuy," he murmured, still a bit out of breath. Midnight blue eyes met onyx and, tentatively, long fingers reached out to swipe a lock of sweaty black hair from the dragon's forehead.

Heero's mouth quirked upward. "You'll live." Those fingers traced his jaw and the curve of his neck, then traveled along his collarbone and came to rest on his bicep. "Unless you don't make it getting us out of here."

It was a blatant challenge and Wufei felt the dregs of his post-orgasm haze clear out at the thought of a fight. The dragon nodded once and Heero's grip on his arm tightened as he hauled him to his feet. Then they turned to face their audience, both starting a bit when they saw how close the men had drawn around them. Heero took a half-step forward, placing himself partially in front of his partner. Wufei noticed the probably subconscious protective gesture and chose not to be annoyed. Sex played merry havoc with relationships, especially between friends. Wufei suspected Heero didn't yet know this and wasn't even aware that his attitude towards his partner had changed. But Wufei knew; he'd seen it in the way Heero had touched him, the uncharacteristic tenderness, the hesitance. Everything was different now. But now was not the time to reflect on his and Heero's evolving relationship.

Backed up against the wall, they took stock of the situation. The Michels and Daniels stood up front, wide eyes closely examining the lean bodies before them. Henri stood in the back with Ralph, talking quietly. The other two made no attempt to disguise their lust.

The two Muscle at the door exchanged a glance, looked significantly at Wufei and Heero, then left the room. Now, alone with their customers, the partners drew closer together.

"What now?" Wufei murmured.

"I've got an idea," Henri called from the back, as though he'd heard. "I think it's our turn. Nobody here to watch out for you now. We each get a turn with you until time's up." A chorus of approval roared around them, and Wufei's blood ran cold.

"That wasn't part of the-"

They were both seized and dragged forward. Wufei lost sight of his partner almost immediately, darkly tanned skin disappearing amidst dress shirts and ties. But Wufei didn't worry yet. He found himself back at the table, four men lifting him up and tossing on the felted surface. The original Michel, the talker, grinned down at him, running his palm down Wufei's chest. He kept perfectly still. Then Ralph stepped forward, a familiar serpentine smile curling his lips. Long fingers reached out to gently touch Wufei's hair, smooth it off his forehead.

"You cut your hair, Fei. Such a shame. I did like it long."

The dragon cringed at the shortened version of his name -- he'd always hated it. Coming from Ralph's lips, it sounded vulgar and tainted. It threw him back to that night with Duo -- Ralph watching them from his armchair, dispensing instructions, ordering them to fuck, insulting Duo up and down. "Teach him to be a better whore, Duo. He's not like you, Duo; he's clean."

Wufei's eyes narrowed and his fists clenched. Some time soon he needed to make a choice. Would he allow these men to touch him when they knew it was in violation of contract for that night? Heero and he were not supposed to interact with these men; they were supposed to stay on the table and perform. That was it. Or would he let his body react the way it desperately wanted to? Would he keep to his promise of retribution and take Ralph out of his and Duo's lives for good?

Ralph ran his fingers along Wufei's ribs, not touching him, but only just. "I've been looking forward to seeing you again, Fei. And at such an interesting function. This really is a treat."

Michel climbed up onto the table, straddling the dragon's legs, eyes and hands roaming over his body. But Wufei's eyes stayed locked with Ralph's.

"Will you be joining in this time, or do you just plan to watch?" he asked icily.

The man's smile broadened and he pulled his hands back, showing Wufei his palms. "I'll just be enjoying the show. You know me."

"Yes, I do," he murmured, redirecting his attention to the man sitting astride him, watching with mild interest as he began to remove shirt and tie. Wufei allowed himself a moment of wishful thought, wishing that tonight, Michel was the least of his worries. The guy was a yuppie, no doubt about it, but he had a nice body and more than enough enthusiasm. If Wufei were getting paid to only entertain him for the evening, they could probably have a pretty good time. Sadly, that wasn't the case. As Ralph faded into the background again, the dragon trained his senses on him. Whatever was happening on this table, he wanted to know where Ralph was.

He felt Michel's hands on him and his body jerked. His eyes snapped back to the man leaning over him and he tensed as what Henri said earlier finally registered. All of these men were going to take turns with him, and since he and Heero had already... well, he wasn't really in a position to top at this point. For the next few hours, he was theirs and that meant Heero was also...

He tried to ignore the fact that Michel was pawing at him and making embarrassing noises and craned his head around to find his partner. It didn't take long. Their clients clustered around him so closely that Wufei had a hard time seeing, but he was quickly able to spot naked brown skin amongst them. He saw them pushing and pulling, saw his partner's body bent over the back of an armchair, and felt panic rise in his throat. Heero couldn't run from this; he couldn't escape into his own head with so many people around him. It wasn't safe. He saw his partner's hand reach out from between someone's legs and clutch the arm of the chair, knuckles white, muscles twitching. This was wrong. Heero wouldn't know... he couldn't deal with something like this. He shouldn't have to.

Then he heard it, a sound that sent a ribbon of shocked fear up his spine. It was a small noise, one that he shouldn't have been able to hear over the music, but Wufei was straining, all his senses focused on his partner and he caught it: a panicked sob, the sound of a frightened child. Heero was afraid.

Wufei made his choice quickly and without hesitation. Heero shouldn't be afraid; he had to fix this. Quicker than Michel could see, Wufei grabbed the man's discarded dress shirt and had him tied up in it before anything more than surprise could register. Then he was off the table and rooting through clothing and duffle bags. He retrieved his two daggers and grabbed Heero's serrated blade, then leapt back up on the table, Henri and Ralph quickly backing off, the third man staring blankly, mouth open.

Wufei heard the sound again and his fiery temper ignited. "Heero!" he shouted over the music and over the voices of the men surrounding his partner. He surprised himself, using Heero's first name. No time to dwell on it, though. "We're ending this now, Heero." The men surrounding his partner all froze and Wufei smirked. He imagined it was because the young man they'd been torturing was no longer a scared boy. He imagined narrowed blue eyes and a body that was really a weapon. Then he didn't have to imagine it anymore as his partner shot through the cluster of men, a blur of lethal muscle. Wufei handed off Heero's blade and turned to seek out Ralph. But Heero grabbed his wrist.

"What are you doing? We should get out of here."

"I have to take care of something. It won't take long." The dragon quickly glanced up and down his partner's body. "Don't let them touch you."

Then he jerked his wrist free and turned to see Ralph still smiling at him, hands in his pockets. With the gray-haired man in his sights, he almost missed the blur of motion coming up from behind and he turned at the last moment, jamming the heal of his hand into the meat of Henri's neck. The man dropped and Wufei turned back to his prey only to find the barrel of a long pistol pointed between his eyes. Ralph was smiling and twitching an admonishing finger.

"Careful, Fei. You don't know who you're dealing with."

"The doors are locked from the outside!" One of the Daniels was shouting and pulling on the door knob, panic rising in his voice.

Wufei's eyes darted to his partner across the room. What did that mean for them? Heero twitched an eyebrow upward and glanced toward the windows. Should they run?

The dragon turned back to Ralph. "I know exactly who I'm dealing with, but I don't think you do." He let a small smile slide across his mouth. "I think you work for Gael, just like me. I think Henri, here," he nudged the unconscious man with his foot, "is your Muscle. The two of you are a team. What you do for the Family, I don't know -- private contractors maybe." Ralph's eyes dropped to the knives that were slowly approaching. "I could ask what you do, but I don't really care. I think the more important question is what on earth did you do to wind up in a room with people like Heero Yuy and me? -- a room that now appears to be locked from the outside." Ralph's refined features drew down in a frown. But he didn't look intimidated. "I'm waiting, Ralph, though I won't wait lo-"

He was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of "gun leaving holster" and he turned reflexively to see the score. He nearly dropped his own weapons. They all had guns, every one of them, except Michel who was still tied up on the table. Heero was ducked behind the armchair, looking rather startled but unafraid. What the- who were these men that they were all armed at a stripper party? And how had he not noticed that they were all packing? Then Wufei carefully reminded himself where he was and who he worked for and it all became clear. A private party for some of Gael's "closest" friends. Very few Muscle watching over the whole thing. Heero Yuy and Chang Wufei the entertainment, two young men who Gael knew were uncomfortable with and resentful of their jobs. The Muscle leaves half-way through the evening, allowing these clients, who were all apparently armed, free reign over what went on for the remainder. Or, the Muscle leaves half-way through the evening, allowing the hustlers, who were both more fighter than anything else, free reign over what went on for the remainder. Wufei guessed that Gael could have been looking for either outcome, but the dragon knew which one he preferred.

The fraction of a second it took Wufei to line up these facts cost him. Henri, having regained consciousness rather quickly, was on his feet in a flash and wrestling the dragon to the ground. He went down hard, but not before he managed to firmly lodge one of his knives between the big man's shoulder bones. His attacker grunted in pain, but still managed to keep Wufei underneath him, face against coarse carpet, arms awkwardly pinned behind him. Wufei felt his other knife twisted from his fingers and then the man's full weight was on him, crushing him into the carpet.

"Chang!" That was Heero calling his name and he sounded far away. He couldn't see anything and his ears were... he was being smothered. His ribs creaked under Henri's considerable bulk and he couldn't breathe in. "Chang!" he heard it again and then gunshots shattered the tense silence. Wufei flinched and then set all of his concentration on getting out from underneath this man. He bucked and writhed, snarling and snapping, the image of Heero shot and bleeding on the floor driving his frantic movements.

Henri began to whisper to him, soft voice taunting and vile, body pressing more insistently against him. He felt lips on the back of his neck and jerked his head backwards, skull connecting with Henri's nose. He took in a few shallow breaths for those few moments while Henri cursed him and then everything went dark again, close and warm and foul. He shouted with all his might and was startled again to find that "Heero!" was what came out. But his voice was loud in his ears and nowhere else, Henri's weight muffling it all. He went very still and waited, trying to feel out what his attacker would do next. He could feel that the man was hard, pushing his erection against his backside. He'd learned to not be disgusted by such things long ago and managed to keep his cool as his air got thicker and heavier. He grew lightheaded and was suddenly exhausted, his body heavy and leaden. But his fingers finally wriggled into the right spot and he felt the man's erection slide into his palm through the rough denim. He grit his teeth and squeezed as hard as his oxygen starved muscles would allow. He twisted and pulled and Henri roared over him, rearing back and releasing his arms. Wufei pulled himself into a tight ball and barely avoided the fist aimed at his temple, catching it instead on his collarbone. The force of it rolled him over and he lay gasping for breath, dazed. He heard a strange gurgling noise and opened his eyes to see Heero's blade standing out of the man's neck. He looked down at himself and realized he'd been sprayed, bright red flecks speckling his chest and face. Then Heero's hands were under his arms, dragging him out from beneath Henri's legs. He coughed and his lungs filled with clean cool air.

They hid in the shelter of the table, Wufei on hands and knees, filling his aching lungs. Heero knelt beside him, palm resting on his spine. "They went crazy," he murmured. "It's like they knew something might happen. They tried to shoot through the door, but it must be reinforced. It wouldn't budge. And then they started shooting each other."

"Are you injured?" Wufei wheezed. He glanced up and then swore softly. Heero held his hand to his face, his cheek torn open where a bullet had grazed the bone.

"It's not bad," Heero muttered. "Trowa can stitch it up."

Wufei nodded and leaned back on his heals. He held his knife close against his chest. "How many are left?"

"Three." The young man paused. "I killed one of them, the one who shot me. ...And I got his gun." Wufei noticed the small handgun laying on the floor beside him, and he shuddered. Distasteful, cowardly instrument of death. But it would definitely aid in their getting out alive. "And the man hurting you..."

"Yes, he's very dead now. ...Thank you for helping me." He scanned the side of the room he could see. "Heero, where's Ralph? Is he one of the dead?"

A quick twitch of his head, no. "He was hit, but I don't think it was fatal. He went down." Heero jerked his chin in the direction of several chairs and a bookcase in the corner. "Over there. They all just started shooting, everyone... the man you tied up on the table; he was just in the way. They killed him." Wufei could feel that they were both slipping. Blood dripped between Heero's fingers and landed on his thigh, making him jump. They were probably both in mild shock. Another gun shot cracked through the air and they hit the floor, instinctively presenting as small a target as possible.

"Heero, how are we going to get out of here? Ralph may be down but there are still two other crazies shooting at each other."

"The window. It's broken. But we can't get to it, and we need clothes. It's freezing outside."

Wufei nodded. "Okay. I'll find Ralph, see if he is still alive, then we take out the other two. But we don't shoot to kill, okay? There are enough dead people here already." Heero swallowed and nodded back. "Okay?"

"Yes."

"Okay. I'll be back." Then, before he had time to think about how stupid an idea it was, he crawled away from the small shelter of the table and slid along the floor toward the corner Heero had indicated. The music still thudded through the speakers; the lights still flickered in what was supposed to be a seductive and sensual rhythm. But the air held a heavy haze. Gun smoke. Everyone must be close to out of bullets. The air was filled with gun smoke.

He made it around the low table and between two chairs and found Ralph on his side, bleeding from a gut shot. His long fingers and wide palms -- hands that Wufei remembered gripping the arms of a richly upholstered chair -- were stained red, fallen away from the ugly wound in his stomach. His body -- a sinewy form slouched casually at a safe distance, watching him, always watching -- was hunched and curled around the injury. It was most definitely fatal. His refined features -- a face Wufei remembered lit up with vindictive pleasure at the dragon's discomfort and pain, a mouth that spewed poisonous words at his partner and lover -- was lax and nearly empty. Intelligence and life sparked in gray eyes slowly glazing over. He was still alive. Wufei shook his head slowly, clicking his tongue in derision.

"You didn't know who you were dealing with, Ralph. And I thought I was your biggest problem. How arrogant of me." The stain on the carpet continued to grow as Ralph's life leaked away. "I'm sorry your life was backward and wrong. I hope you have better luck in your next go 'round. I hope your journey is swift and that you do not look back. And if you come near me or Duo in your next life, I will end it, just as this one is ending." He left the man bleeding, not really sorry that he'd been robbed of his vengeance. The end result was the same regardless of whether Wufei had spilled the blood.

Grabbing the man's discarded pistol, Wufei backed away and turned toward Heero in time to see one of the two remaining men slinking along the other side, trying to get the drop on him, trying to take him on his right side. His partner had his back to the table, his breath coming in quick shallow gasps. The gun he'd swiped still lay on the floor next to him. His face was turned away from his potential attacker. The man caught sight of Wufei and his eyes widened. The handgun, held in shaking hands swung in his direction and two shots fired. The dragon let his gut guide him and he rolled to the left, heard the crunch of bullets striking wood. He came to rest on his stomach and held the gun in two steady hands; he pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the meat of the man's bicep and he dropped his gun, clutching at his arm. Heero was on his feet a second later, speeding toward the last man's hiding spot, behind the very armchair they'd almost had him over. He hit the back of the chair at a dead run, toppling it over on top of the man behind it. He leapt free of the jumble of limbs and furniture, blade held high and ready. The man's fumbled gun lay a short distance away and Heero kicked it out of range. Then he hesitated, looking to Wufei, dark blue eyes wide, almost entirely swallowed by black pupils.

They were slipping. It was too much to see it through. Heero was almost 21. Wufei was newly 20. This was wrong, not like anything they'd seen in their short lives. How were they supposed to handle... how could they walk away from so much blood? Wufei swallowed hard and grabbed hold of his wandering, frazzled brain. They could walk away if he kept himself from losing it. He dropped Ralph's gun and strode forward quickly, fist drawing back, backhanding the man who'd shot at him. He side stepped the table and kept going, pulling the chair off the last man and delivering a second vicious blow that knocked him out cold. Then he picked up the kicked away gun and shot the stereo, finally silencing the thudding, pulsing, maddening music.

Silence fell. Complete silence. It rang and roared in his ears in time with his frantic heartbeat. Heero's eyes locked with his and the silence continued. Then Heero took a shaky step forward. Then he dropped his blade and tried to wipe some of the blood away from the gash on his cheek. "That wasn't how it was supposed to go," he said softly.

"No."

"When I said we should come prepared for the worst, I didn't think it would be that."

"No."

"I... need to shower. I'm covered in it." Wufei nodded. "And you... it's spattered all over you." Another nod. "...Will you come with me?"

"Yes."

[part 23] [part 25] [back to Singles a-k]