see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 20
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid
- "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." Sufjan Stevens
There was no partitioning this time, no sparing his tender psyche. He
did not try to hide behind an innocent smile, nor did he accommodate his
client's 'quirks.' There was only blood and bone and spit and breath.
Pain and anger and more pain and finally, silent, grim satisfaction. He
was not surprised by the ease with each he killed Richard Craven. He knew
that violence lived inside his 'charmingly petite' frame. It was Trowa
who'd misunderstood which emotions needed to be protected. 'Caged' would
have been a more accurate term. Sure, Quatre felt shame and embarrassment
about what he'd had to do for a living. He'd wanted to keep as sunny an
outlook as possible for his friends, his clients and for himself. He'd
wanted to preserve his happiness, keep it safe and wrinkle-free so that
he could wear it for Duo and Heero and Wufei. For Trowa. Wear it for himself.
But, sunny outlook or not, Quatre was not an innocent, a child who'd been
ripped from his bright future as a millionaire heir. He did not need the
protection of his roommates. And he didn't particularly need Trowa's mind
tricks. Perhaps he'd thought he did, for a time. When he was trying to
fit in, become one of the five. They'd worked a little too well, those
tricks, almost convinced him he was just a kid thrown into a shitty situation.
They had allowed him to make a place for himself, such as it was. But
now they were useless. Quatre Winner was whole again. The cage had been
lifted and he was all here -- happy kid, funny kid, artistic kid, kind,
gentle, empathetic, intelligent, sharp, suspicious, paranoid, quick-tempered,
volatile, violent... kid. Athlete. Killer. No more hiding.
Craven had laughed at him when he'd shown up at the man's flat. Quatre
was dressed all in black, his white gold hair hidden under a black cap,
his throwing knives strapped across his chest. He'd laughed when Quatre,
without a word, drew one of his knives and came at him with all the speed
and grace of a gymnast, narrowly missing his stomach in an arcing slice
at his middle. The big man was fast and able to dodge in time, elbow coming
down a moment later to connect with the boy's spine, sending him to the
ground in a heap. Quatre rose to his feet only go down again when a sharp
backhand threw him against the low table in the middle of the room. His
head cracked on the wood and he almost blacked out. He lay there for several
seconds, looking up at the ceiling, telling himself that this was not
his day to die. Craven approached, clucking his tongue in mock derision.
Quatre stared up at him, still silent, throwing dagger still in his fist.
He took a few, slow deep breaths and rolled, coming to a crouch by Craven's
legs, knife darting out so quickly that it was the tiniest glint in the
dim light. The big man grunted in surprise and abruptly stopped laughing
when he realized the dazed and bleeding boy had sliced the ligaments and
tendons holding his knees together.
Quatre's face was still blank as he drove the knife into the fallen man's
shoulder. Craven grunted and his eyes clouded with pain. But he remained
silent, tears leaking down his cheeks.
Quatre drove another knife into his other shoulder. The man shuddered
and swallowed convulsively, face gray and sweating.
"Do you remember me?" Quatre asked softly, backing off a few paces to
crouch by the table. He kept his palms flat on the ground. He looked like
a wild thing ready to pounce.
Craven nodded, turning to look at his attacker. His dark gaze stopped
at Quatre's scarred mouth. "I remember those lips." His gaze continued
down the boy's body. "And your ribs. I remember thinking your ribs looked
like long fingers curled under your skin. And I remember your hip bones
and your white thighs and
" He paused. "Of course I remember you.
You were beautiful."
Quatre's scar twisted in a sneer. "Yes, I was."
"And you worked hard."
"Yes, I did."
"You should thank me."
"Why's that, exactly?"
"I made you stronger."
"You infected me. Poisoned me."
"You can face anything that comes at you. You will be fearless."
"I don't want fearless. I want Trowa Barton. And you took him from me."
Craven looked away, up at the ceiling. "I never had him. He was next on
my list. Duo was unsatisfactory. He liked it too much. He was weak. You
were perfect. Trowa could not have measured up to your brilliance, I feel
"I found it interesting that Gael would let you go through us one by one,
when he must have known what kind of monster you are. It was somewhat
enjoyable to ponder what Heero and Wufei would have done to you if you'd
tried to hurt them. I almost wished they could meet you, just for that
reason. You have to understand that I felt very angry and sorry for myself
immediately following our encounter. I wanted others to know how afraid
I had been, how much I was hurt." Quatre touched a gloved finger to his
mouth, rubbing the still-red scar. " But then I learned something very,
very interesting just the other day and suddenly I understood why both
Duo and I had to put up with you, why the others would too, unless I did
"And what did you learn?"
"That you were on the payroll. Gael signed your checks too."
"Still does. Just deposited one today."
"It's your last
"I suspected as much."
"You're quite calm for someone who's about to die."
"I don't see much point in getting worked up in the face of death. Not
"Yet you froth at the mouth at the prospect of raping someone half your
size. That's not very dignified either."
Craven tried to shrug and winced. He cast a quick glance at Quatre and
then slowly, painstakingly raised his right arm, blood dribbling out of
the knife wound. Quatre watched him, eyes narrowing. Then, quick as a
snake, the man's fingers wrapped around the hilt of Quatre's knife and
wrenched it free. Quatre sprang to his feet, another knife in hand, but
he froze in shock as the big man reversed his grip on the blade and hurled
it straight at Quatre's heart. The boy spun away, but not fast enough
as the blade slammed into him, knocking him backwards. He fell, landing
on the low table he'd hit earlier, pulling the blade from between his
ribs even before he came to rest. Grinding his teeth, he let a strangled
cry of pain escape as he flipped himself back on his feet. The knife left
his fingers in that same fluid motion and took Craven in the throat, killing
him almost instantly. The man gurgled, blood and saliva leaking out of
his mouth. Just as his eyes went dim, Quatre limped to his side.
"Gael says hello. He says to tell you I'm the new game in town, taking
over for you." Quatre sank to his knees next to the corpse, and retrieved
his knife, wiping it on the dead man's shirt. He tried to take a breath
and coughed, a hard and sharp sound that ended in a sticky wheeze. He
spit out blood and wiped his mouth, muttering, "Or I will be once I get
this mess patched up."
Thankfully, Heero was the only one home when Quatre staggered into the
flat. He knew he needed to get to a hospital, but he didn't want to go
alone. And he didn't want to go with Trowa or Duo because they'd... care
too much. And he didn't want to call for help from Craven's place because...
well, Craven was there and so, really, this was the best way. Just Heero.
He'd been on his way from the kitchen to his bedroom, bowl of stir fry
in hand, when Quatre almost fell through the door and leaned against the
armchair, trying not to bleed all over the upholstery.
"Heero," he hissed.
"Quatre!" He quickly set down his food and approached him warily, eyes
wide. 'Yes, be afraid,' Quatre thought darkly. "What happened? Where are
Quatre let his bag slide off his shoulder, quickly following it to slump
against the back of the chair. "Knife in... ribs." He couldn't catch his
breath to use his voice, so he whispered. "Punctured lung, I think. Concussion
from... here," he gasped, pressing his hand against the bloody cut on
the back of his head.
Dark blue eyes widened and he grabbed for the phone on the coffee table.
"Yes... Ambulance." He barely heard Heero's quick exchange with the operator,
then strong hands were touching him, gently pulling aside his blood-soaked
hair, pulling back his coat to look at the knife wound.
"Yes. It hurts."
"Okay... you'll ride with me, right? Hospital?"
"Stop talking. And we can't go to the hospital. You can't be seen. We're
going to one of Gael's doctors. I'm taking you downstairs to meet the
"Right." Heero picked him up then like he weighed no more than a child.
and walked back out the door.
Even if I come back, even if I die
Is there some idea to replace my life?
Like a father to impress
Like a mother's mourning dress
If you ever make a mess
I'll do anything for you
- Sufjan Stevens
Heero sat by Quatre's bed, watching him sleep. The boy looked reasonably
peaceful. He looked exhausted, but he was out cold. Hopefully he'd look
better when he woke up. Heero rubbed his arms briskly, wishing he'd grabbed
a sweater before they left. This office was freezing. Trowa could bring
him one. Heero doubted the Frenchman would stay away long, despite Heero's
assurances that they'd be home the next day. All three of them were ready
to run out the door and storm the doctor's office, but Quatre's last gasped
words before they took him back were, "Tell them I'm fine. I don't want
anyone else here. Please stay until I wake up." And Heero had abided by
The nurse came then to check on them and to tell Heero that he'd have
to leave soon. "But I have to be here when he wakes up. He asked me to
The nurse smiled and nodded. "It's alright. I'm waking him now. He's mildly
concussed, so we've got to check every hour or so."
"I could stay and do that," Heero said quickly, loathe to leave Quatre
when he'd promised to stay.
Another smile, but she shook her head, no. "Say what you need to while
he's awake this time. The night nurse will keep an eye on him after you
Heero nodded and stepped aside as the nurse gently roused Quatre, checking
his eyes and all his vital signs. She asked him a few questions about
pain levels, then left, winking at Heero before she walked out. Heero
blinked in confusion and then went to sit next to his flat-mate. "Are
you in pain?" The young man in the bed opened big sleepy eyes and shook
his head, no. "Do you need anything -- water? or another pillow?"
Quatre smiled and shook his head again. "Thank you for staying, Heero.
You didn't have to." His voice came out as a harsh whisper. It sounded
"You asked me to," he answered immediately. An easy silence fell between
them and, for several minutes, they just sat; Heero going over Quatre's
figure again and again, trying to see any hidden injuries, knowing there
were plenty. Quatre stared out the window, as a cloudy evening turned
into a cloudy night. Finally, afraid that the boy would fall asleep again,
Heero cleared his throat. He waited a moment, then did it again, needing
to ask the question that had been burning in his brain since Quatre had
"What is it?" Quatre asked drowsily, eyes swinging back toward him.
"Did you kill him? Did you finish it?"
Bright blue eyes turned to steel and a quick nod in the affirmative answered
"How did you do it?"
"... Cut his throat."
"Hn. That was it?"
A ghost of a smile played across Quatre's lips. "I sliced up his knees
pretty well and stabbed him in both shoulders first."
Heero nodded, satisfied. "Fucker got off easy."
"I talked to him, too. I tried to stay quiet. But I... I wanted to hurt
him so badly. And I did. Made him bleed, crippled him. But it wasn't enough.
I had to tell him. I wanted to scream at him; it was a pressure in my
chest to just scream as loud as I could. But
" He reached pale fingers
up to touch his bandaged chest. "Stalling got me in trouble; gave him
time to go after me." He paused and his words turned inward. "Won't happen
again. Won't need to; I won't know any of the others."
Heero put that last comment aside, choosing to ignore it and analyze later.
It was the pain killers talking, probably. "I understand why you did...
want to yell at him. Killing him wasn't enough. I - the same thing happened
to - well, Duo was- " He stopped and then tried again, unsure of why he
wanted to share an intensely personal and painful memory, but feeling
it was needed. "They had him down and..."
"Heero," Quatre whispered. "Have you ever killed anyone?"
"They were hurting Duo... and me. I killed two of them. I yelled and screamed
and swore, too. And they still put us both in the hospital."
"Are you sorry you killed them?"
"No. Are you sorry?"
"No... but this isn't the first person I've killed." Heero took this in
silently. He was not surprised. "There were two."
"Why did you do it?"
"They... wanted too much from me. They were stealing from me."
"Are you sorry you did it?"
Quatre looked away out the window. "Sometimes. Not as often as I should
be. They were kids my age. Knew that I had money. Heard I was a push-over.
I got mad, and they cornered me. And... I killed them."
"I- would not have thought that-"
"Don't tell me you think I'm a pushover," Quatre said turning back,
blue eyes regaining some of their brightness.
"...when I first met you," he finished.
"But I know now that you are a fighter. I know you're strong." Heero met
Quatre's gaze and tried to put all his feelings into those words. He wanted
to tell Quatre that Craven may have infected him, but that didn't mean
he was worth less or that any of them would treat him differently. But
of course he couldn't say those things; he didn't work that way. Watching
Quatre, gaging his response, Heero thought he probably got the message.
"When can we get out of here?"
"In the morning. The doctor wants to keep you overnight and I have to
leave soon. But I'll be back first thing to pick you up."
"No, I mean... when can we leave this... town, this life? I don't want
to be here anymore."
Heero looked down at his hands, balling them carefully into fists. "Soon.
I hope soon. We're not ready yet. But I'm working on it. Soon."
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