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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 20
Dick: Finished

20a. Quatre

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 certain."

"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 something."

"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… Dick."

"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 very dignified."

"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 you injured?"

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.

"Shit."

"Yes. It hurts."

"Don't talk."

"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 driver."

"Right." Heero picked him up then like he weighed no more than a child. and walked back out the door.


20b. Heero

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 those wishes.

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 be here."

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 leave."

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 painful.

"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 come home.

"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 Heero's question.

"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?"

"Yes."

"How many?"

"Two."

"Why?"

"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.

"Oh. Yeah."

"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.

"Heero?"

"Hn?"

"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." 

[part 19] [part 21] [back to Singles a-k]