see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 32
So bury me in wood
and I will splinter
Bury me in stone and I will quake
Bury me in water and I will geyser
Bury me in fire and I will phoenix
I'm gonna phoenix
- Smog "Say Valley Maker"
Wufei stood with his ear to the bathroom door, listening for any sign
of activity outside as Duo washed up in the sink. The sound of water against
enamel seemed ridiculously loud to his ears, but he kept his mouth shut.
Heero had rested their light on the ledge in front of the mirror and was
gently re-braiding Duo's hair, combing through it as best he could with
his fingers while their lover scrubbed at his bloody face with a wad of
wet paper towels. He winced as his lip started bleeding again and Heero's
whisper was loud in the tiled room. "Careful Duo. Don't injure yourself
any further." Duo grunted and continued to ruthlessly rub at the dried
blood on his chin.
Finally, when he was done cleaning up and Heero was finished tying back
his hair, Duo leaned down and took a long drink from the faucet. Wufei
realized that with all the excitement throughout the day, he'd probably
gotten quite dehydrated. He splashed another handful of water over his
face and then straightened, turning off the faucet and scrubbing back
his bangs with one hand. His dampened hair stood up at odd angles for
a moment before he flattened it with another swipe of his hand.
"So... " he started. "You boys wanna tell me why there are cops crawling
all over this joint or should I keep guessing about why the two of you
and they showed up at roughly the same time?"
Heero looked at the floor and Wufei turned his attention to listening
for noises outside.
"We didn't know where you'd gone," Heero whispered finally. "We didn't
think you'd just... disappear. I knew you wouldn't do that."
Wufei flinched slightly. He and Heero had been quite the disaster, trying
to determine what they should do when they'd realized Duo wasn't coming
back. Wufei was convinced that he'd driven Duo off with his cruel temper
- driven him to leave them for good. And Heero was certain that something
had happened to keep him away. He assured Wufei that Duo would never be
so cowardly. He said that Duo ran and hid but he never abandoned those
Either way, they'd needed to find Duo - immediately. They knew that it
wasn't safe for him to be out and about and visible. So, they'd gone directly
to the police, both to enlist their help in finding him, and to hand over
copies of everything Heero had accumulated over the last several months
in his careful, silent attempt at sabotage.
"We needed help finding you," Heero continued. "So we went to the police
and told them that we thought you were probably here, taken against your
Duo snorted. "The four cops I ran into didn't look like they had any interest
in helping me out."
"We also told them that a significant percentage of their force was actually
working for Gael. We told them which ones we suspected, and the officer
I spoke with said she'd take care of it." He paused and scratched the
back of his head, looking nervous - or at least as nervous as Heero Yuy
ever looked. "Then we told them everything else. We handed it all over
to the police. It wasn't going to get us anywhere if all Gael had to do
was snatch you out from under our noses."
Wufei turned from the door and glared at Duo. "When Heero says 'we,' he
means just him. I didn't open my mouth once."
"Whatever came out wouldn't have been constructive," Heero muttered. "You'd
only have scared people or gotten yourself locked up somewhere."
Wufei watched the grin start at the corner of Duo's mouth and slowly spread
across his face. He felt his mouth twitch in reply. Heero was watching
Duo as well and Wufei had never seen such a clear broadcasting of the
depth of his two friends' relationship. Perhaps it was because the bathroom
was so dark that Heero felt he could let such naked emotions out. Perhaps
he was just that relieved to see Duo standing in front of them, very much
alive and not too severely injured. Whichever it was, Wufei was glad he
got to see it. 'We are all stronger together,' he thought. He was beginning
to believe it.
Duo's grin faded and he reached up to rub his shoulder. "So... you guys
didn't meet any trouble when you went to the police station? No one was...
waiting for you, or anything? No firing squad?"
Heero shook his head, looking confused. "Why? Should there have been?"
Duo's hand traveled from his shoulder down to his elbow. "... No. No,
I guess not. ... Just wondering." A strange silence fell between them
and Wufei wanted to ask just what Duo had seen in the hours he'd been
kept here, what he'd been led to believe while Gael hurt him and threatened
him and tried to kill him. Then Duo shook his head quickly and gave them
a forced smile. "So, what now?"
He couldn't get a good look at the room Duo said Quatre and Trowa should
still be in, and this was really pissing him off. There were police everywhere.
He supposed he could just walk up to them and ask where Trowa and Quatre
were, but Duo said there were most likely dead bodies in that room - ones
that Duo had put there - and so going back in would involve way too many
questions. And anyway, they weren't here to cooperate with the police;
they were here primarily to break the law and put an end to the threat
that had been riding them, that had been crushing them, for the last few
years of their lives. Wufei had a sword strapped to his back - a sword
that he planned on ramming between Gael's ribs and so making his presence
known to the cops crawling all over the place really wasn't... But damnit,
he needed to get a closer look!
Behind him, Duo was whispering softly to Heero, asking him again if he
was sure that the police were here because they believed what Heero had
shown them on his laptop, that they were really here to shut Gael down,
not to kill Duo Maxwell the second they saw him. Heero assured him again
that, yes, the police really were on their side this time, that when Wufei
and Heero had shown up at the station, dirty, desperate, and in a tremendous
rush, the officer they'd spoken to had sat them down and taken what they'd
said and believed it and then acted upon it. The officers who'd attacked
Duo had clearly been some of those under Gael's thumb. Heero explained
that the officer he'd spoken to had ordered pretty much the entire force
out to Gael's mansion to try and prove who exactly was working for Gael
and who wasn't.
Duo was finding this very difficult to believe. Wufei didn't blame him.
The whole thing had happened rather suddenly in Wufei's mind as well.
Heero and he hadn't spoken on the way to the station, and Heero had done
all the talking once they'd gotten there, explaining everything he'd gathered
to the officer he'd determined to be trustworthy months ago, back when
their plan of escape had sent only a distant thrill of excitement down
their spines - before it'd loomed over them all, casting them all in shadow.
Anyway, the officer's name was Elsa. She was very nice. She'd been working
on bringing Gael down for years, but somehow could never pin anything
on him. Wufei had felt like snapping that the reason for this was probably
that about one third of the city's police department actually worked for
Gael. But he didn't think she'd appreciate hearing that from him, and
he didn't think Heero would have appreciate it, and it wouldn't have helped
them to get out of the station any faster, and that had been his main
concern because Duo was gone, possibly dead and they had to find him and
sitting still while Heero spoke with her had been probably one of the
most difficult things he'd ever had to do.
But he was able to do it simply because he knew that as soon as they left
the station, it would all be over, one way or another. Heero and he were
storming the castle, either to find Duo and escape or to meet some other
end avenging him. The options before him had narrowed to those two. If
Duo was alive, then they all would live. If he was...
Well, he hadn't needed to take that path, so no sense thinking about it
now. Duo was alive. They'd found him. He'd returned Duo's sword to him,
and while the brutal words they'd exchanged that morning were still fresh
in his mind, Duo didn't appear to be holding a grudge. This left him secure
in the knowledge that they would all live through what they were about
to do. If not one, then the other. Duo was not dead, so they would live.
And now the police were moving out - the officers and a whole troop of
medics with two, three, four... five stretchers making their way towards
the elevators down the hall. The three hustlers backed away from the solemn
line of people and stretchers, disappearing into the dark, only able to
make out distorted shadows and glimmers in the erratic beams of the flashlights.
Wufei watched the bodies rolling by and felt his throat go dry just as
Duo's whispered his fears behind him.
"Jesus, there's five of'em. What if Quatre or Trowa... how do we know
if they're on one of those?"
Wufei turned to see Duo's dim silhouette against the wall. "None of them
were small enough to be Quatre," he rationalized. "He's shaped like a
He spun around when he heard a loud thud, one of the stretchers hitting
a doorway, snagging the sheet and dragging it off the body. The medics
cursed as the stretcher's momentum jerked the body to the side, rolling
it toward the young men hidden in the shadows. Wufei's lip curled as he
saw the body, his middle sliced open with what had to have been a switch-blade.
The wound was jagged and deep and as the dead man fell sideways, a grisly
mess sloshed out, filling the air with the distinctive cutting smell of
digestive fluid and blood. Behind him, Duo made a small choking sound
and disappeared. Heero glanced after him, hand over his nose and mouth
to block the smell. Wufei inhaled through his mouth, but it didn't help.
As the medics struggled to right the body and cover it, one of the officers
spoke softly to another holding the elevator door open.
"Keep searching for the boys who did this and their boss. He's still on
the premises somewhere. We'll ID these bodies when that's straightened
Wufei turned to Heero and saw his smirk mirrored in lips pressed firmly
together. "Let's find Duo and then find him," he murmured, heading in
the direction their lover had taken.
They found him back in the bathroom, hunched over the toilet bowl, throwing
up what little was in his stomach. Wufei flinched away from such obvious
weakness in the face of another person's death. Sure it was grisly, but
how could Duo have such a delicate constitution as to- Then he gave himself
a good mental shake. This was Duo, and his lover was not like any other
kid he'd ever met. This was Duo who'd been on his own from the very beginning,
who'd doubtless born witness to much worse as a child trying to scrape
by in Downtown. Then as a young adult, he'd experienced a different kind
of brutality, the kind that didn't result in messy piles of viscera, or
even cuts and bruises - the kind that wormed its way inside a person's
head and stuck there and twisted all original perceptions of self-worth
and integrity and pride. That kind of brutality had led them to the fight
they'd had that morning. No, Duo wasn't sick because he'd seen a dead
person. Duo was on his knees, not because of the smell, but because he'd
put that body on that stretcher.
Heero reached down to lay a hand on Duo's back, but the hustler's shoulders
jerked away from him. "Get off," he murmured, voice hollow.
Wufei's mind flashed back to their desperate flight through the city the
week before. Dozens of Gael's muscle had come after them that night, with
guns and blades. Duo had even been smacked by a car, Gael was so intent
on getting a hold of him. Both Wufei and Heero had killed that night,
ended the lives of over a dozen men. Duo had fought beside them with equal
skill and grace... but he hadn't killed. Wufei remembered running away
as their attackers called after them, unable to give chase because of
sliced up knees or broken legs or collar bones. Duo had been exceptionally
careful. But Wufei guessed that he'd been forced to kill tonight, to save
his own life, perhaps to save Quatre's or Trowa's as well.
Heero held the flashlight loosely, the beam aimed at the tile floor. Duo
spit a few more times and leaned back on his knees, hands on his thighs.
His breathing was a bit off and Wufei felt an urge - most likely quite
similar to Heero's - to run his hand along that knobby spine and offer
some form of reassurance.
Instead, clumsy words fell from his mouth. "It's okay... the first time
I took another person's life I couldn't sleep for-"
"Fuck you. This wasn't my first time." He kept his head down, and remained
perfectly still, most likely in an effort to keep his stomach under control.
But his words cut the dark air, measured and steady, and not entirely
voluntary. "Happened just like last time. Seeing the body... it was a
thing, not a person. I saw the life I took, and did the same thing - tossed
my lunch all over Heero's pants." Heero didn't react to that, but Duo
shifted his weight, sliding carefully backward and drawing his knees up
to his chest. He rested his chin on his fist and spoke softly. "I know
you're planning on killing Gael. I'm assuming that's why we're not running
away right now. And that's fine. If we're going to live; he has to die.
I get that. But most of these people... they're just like us, and I can't-"
He shook his head sharply and then winced, scrubbing his hand through
his bangs. "It's just like that other time, the only other time."
Wufei realized Duo was staring at Heero, and Heero was staring right back.
Their eyes and thoughts were locked in memory as again Duo spoke. "Those
kids were our age, maybe a little older, all starving, all driven out
of their minds by the cold and the pain in their bellies, all twisted
and angry at us, the wrong people. But we were the only ones they could
beat. We were smaller and younger and healthier, and there were so many
"Wufei knows about them," Heero murmured, eyes still wide and staring
as Duo continued like he hadn't heard him speak.
"I remember looking at them blankly... like they weren't real when they
filed into our squat in a neat little line, like soldiers, like they'd
planned it. They had pieces of metal and wood and glass in their hands.
I was sitting there in my sleeping bag, stuck. I just watched when they
dragged you out and stood you on your feet and demanded everything we
had. Clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, the radio, our pots and cook stove,
my paints and pencils, our books, and our shoes... our skateboards. I
remember you didn't say anything, just shook your head, no. Like they
were going to listen to you. They should have, right?"
Heero's mouth twitched, though he shuddered as Duo described what happened
next. "It was so cold and fast and ugly, what you did. It was that sound,
hearing their necks break that finally got me out of my stupid sleeping
bag. I saw you go down underneath them. I saw them hitting you and suddenly
everything was very clear. I could see their clumsy frozen fingers coming
at me and I could dodge them, and I didn't slip even though I didn't have
any shoes on, just my wool socks that I'd stolen from one of those expensive
outdoor stores. I climbed over them to get to you, and that wire that
you always said was stupid, that I always carried around in my hair, thinking
I'd have the guts to use it some day - I pulled it out of my hair as I
shoved them off you. You were on the floor, bleeding all over the place
with pieces of glass stuck in your arms and your back. I remember thinking
that this was probably what insanity felt like when I stood over you and
grabbed this kid by his shirt and spun him around so I could get my wire
around his neck. I was looking him right in the eye. He didn't even know
what was happening, didn't know what he had around his neck - that wire's
so thin. I pulled hard and his eyes got really big and I pulled again,
and there wasn't a lot of blood or anything, just choking and clawing
and panic and then he was dead. I pulled the wire free and watched him
drop and then puked my guts out all over you as they dragged me away.
When I saw you watching them break both my arms, I thought for sure that
this was one of those insane moments that you forget right after it's
over, because it's just that fucked up. I thought, well, at least I won't
remember what I just did and what they're doing to us. But I did remember.
Every second of it, exactly what it felt like to kill that kid. There
was no 'zone' or 'battle lust' or whatever. I did it all with a very clear
head, just like I gutted that guy today. I shot a kid too. He was probably
another one of those bodies under the sheet." He took a deep shuddering
breath. "So, Heero, we can kill Gael. I could even do it, but I can't-"
Heero lunged forward, shoving Duo backwards and almost upsetting his balance.
But Duo caught himself and Heero held him up in a frightening embrace.
He clung to his partner and they didn't say anything. Wufei, finally feeling
like he could move again, breathed out and ran a hand through his hair,
tugging on the short ends so they stood up. So, that was exactly how it'd
happened. He'd wondered after hearing the abbreviated version from Heero.
He watched them for another few seconds, listening to their breathing,
thinking about how truly amazing it would be to lead a normal quiet life
with the two of them beside him, not terrified, not injured, not stuck
in memories of brutal fights that had scarred them irreparably. He hadn't
really thought about the prospect of this future too much up until then
for several reasons. First, he'd only been 'with' the two of them in a
more serious manner for a few days. And those few days had been pretty
intense. Before that, he'd not considered his relationship with Duo to
be feasible in the long term. There had been Heero to consider, as well
as the fact that they were all hustlers by trade and, therefore, not really
able to maintain serious, exclusive relationships. And finally, in his
nineteen years of living, and especially in the last two years, the idea
of any 'happy,' 'normal' future seemed absurd. No matter what he did to
try to get himself turned around, his soul had always pushed against what
everyone around him did. Despite every effort, he couldn't be like other
people. And he couldn't really be like the two young men in front of him,
kneeling together on the floor, but he could be with them. He could go
with them. He watched them for those few seconds and decided that he would
make sure that they got their chance at 'happy' and 'normal.' And if he
fit into that picture, all the better.
Wufei had never heard Heero's voice raised to such a volume.
"Don't run away from me! If you don't stop running, I swear to god this
knife is going between your shoulder blades."
Wufei and Duo ran to catch up with him, following the jagged beam of the
flashlight as he raced down the hall. They nearly piled into him as he
stopped suddenly, shining the light on a figure clad in bright white.
The figure was slowly turning, one hand in the air, the other clutching
her side. Wufei saw that the white fabric was stained dark red. Pale skin
and bright hair shown briefly as Heero searched her features with the
light, his blade in hand.
Wufei had not been anticipating this fight. But judging by Heero's posture
and tone, they weren't going anywhere until he'd sorted things out with
her. And Wufei guessed this wouldn't be accomplished over coffee.
"Wouldn't be very honorable of you to kill a girl when she's running away,
would it Heero?" Cecile said softly.
"Why do you think I asked you to turn around? I'm not like you. I don't
hurt people when they're helpless."
Cecile limped forward. "You've never been helpless," she murmured. "Even
when I had you on the ground, with you skin in my hands, when I sliced
you up like paper, you still had power."
Heero took a few more steps forward, blade held in a steady grip, ready
to tear downward. They now stood only a few paces apart.
She ran a hand through her hair and brought a slim long knife from somewhere
along her spine when her hand came back into view. Judging by the growl
rumbling in Heero's chest, he was very familiar with that blade. "Our
master wanted you so badly, Heero," she continued. "Especially when I
had you like that. It was when I hurt you that you had the most power
over him. I hated you for it, but loved that I could make him feel that
way just by drawing your blood."
"My emotions were not nearly so complicated," Heero muttered. "I've always
hated you both."
She glanced down at her side, removing her palm to check the wound. Apparently
satisfied, she looked back up and sighed. "I know that, love. I tried
to tell him, too. But he didn't listen to me." She looked over her shoulder
into the dark. "Have you seen him recently?" she asked, sounding a little
"Not since he tried blowing my head off," Duo piped up, voice spitting
"Ah, yes, Mr. Barton paid dearly for putting off the inevitable there."
"He came so close to strangling the life out of old Bossman, I could almost
taste it. Gael was no match for him. It took some coward with a gun to
bring Trowa down and if that hadn't happened we'd-"
She lunged forward, darting to the side, trying to get past Heero to come
at Duo. "He would be so happy with me if I gutted you right now," she
snarled, fine features suddenly twisted with loathing. "You're nothing
to him, nothi-" She grunted as she hit the wall, Heero's full body weight
behind the elbow and hip that threw her off course.
"Fight me. Stay the hell away from him," He growled.
She pushed herself to her feet and leaned against the wall. "Is this a
fair fight, Heero? I'm not exactly in top form."
He didn't say anything, but raised his blade and stepped into the downward
stroke. She dodged to the side but found his fist and the flashlight buried
under her ribs.
Wufei heard the air leave her lungs and beside him, Duo winced. Heero
struck her again, a blow to the jaw that sent her sprawling. She coughed,
trying and failing to breath. Heero approached her as she got to her hands
and knees. He raised his blade again and brought it down, aiming for the
back of her neck. But she spun, catching the blow on her own blade. Wufei
could see her throat working to make some noise, this effort distracting
Heero enough that he couldn't step out of the way quick enough as she
kicked sharply at his shins. He stumbled back and Wufei automatically
surged forward to steady him, but Duo grabbed his arm, jerking him to
"Heero can handle this," he murmured.
And Duo was right. Heero regained his balance and went at her again. Wufei's
eyes widened as her body bent and twisted, one hand planted on the floor,
feet kicking back over her head, landing a safe distance from her attacker.
Heero forced her back again, taking several swipes at her throat and middle.
She spun away from him, knife arcing through the air as she went, catching
Heero's arm, slicing through fabric and skin. He hissed in pain and then
ducked as her heel flew past his chin. He went the rest of the way down
and, one hand on the carpet, hit her ankle with his heel. She shouted,
landing hard and finally sucking in a gasping breath, blade raised in
defense as Heero swung downward. The serrated edge grated along the knife's
narrow length. He pressed down harder and twisted, jerking her hand to
the side. He kicked the wound in her side and she started screaming at
him, cursing both in French and in English.
Wufei watched their battle, measuring each strike for skill and precision.
Heero clearly had the upper hand, but that was only because Cecile didn't
have her full range of movement. Her side and her leg were steadily bleeding.
He tracked the progress of the wounds as the stains on her clothes grew
larger. She had more training than Heero and she was considerably more
graceful, but Heero was ruthless, and he wasn't giving any ground.
Beside him, Duo's brow had drawn together in a worried frown. He was squeezing
his injured shoulder in a white-knuckled fist.
She managed to twist away from him again, sinuously regaining her feet,
steel striking steel as he pushed her back. He landed another punch in
her wounded side and she lashed out with a violent cry, kicking the flashlight
he held in his fist, across the hall. Wufei suddenly could not make out
the details of their battle and he stepped forward, Duo right with him.
"He's gonna kill her, Wu."
"He shouldn't... "
They heard a strangled cry and a thump. One silhouette disappeared. Wufei
could make out Heero's wild hair in the darkness, so he knew Cecile was
the one on the ground. They both saw the knife go up and then begin its
arc downward. Wufei sucked in a breath. Duo made a noise of indecision
and then shouted.
"No, Heero, don't kill her!"
Heero's silhouette hesitated, frozen. They heard a strange noise, slippery
and quick. Heero's body jerked once and then his blade slashed downward.
Cecile's voice was strangled and messy, gurgling out a few final unintelligible
syllables before everything went quiet except for Duo's ragged breathing.
For several moments no one moved. Finally, Wufei forced himself forward,
grabbing up the flashlight in slightly trembling fingers. That noise...
He had to see what that sound had been. He turned the beam on his partner
and felt his heart collapse in on itself. Heero stood very still, one
fist gripping his serrated blade, the other tentatively touching the razor-sharp
edge of Cecile's long knife where it stuck straight out of his abdomen.
But his eyes weren't on the wound. They were locked with Duo's.
"It's okay, Duo," he murmured. "It's not bad."
"You should stay with him, Duo. I'll find Gael. I'm the only one who's
in any shape to fight." Duo was shaking his head, but Wufei insisted.
"I'll take care of it, and then I'll find you."
"No, absolutely not. We're not splitting up," he gritted. He pressed a
wad of bandages to Heero's belly with his uninjured arm. Heero'd had the
presence of mind to bring a first aid kit in the event that they'd found
Duo in need of it. The roles of bandages were coming in handy now. Heero
tried to help, propped up in a sitting position, hand lightly resting
on top of Duo's. Duo could barely look at him. "We can't afford to split
up," he said again. "We lost Trowa and Quatre. We have no idea where they
are, and I can't do that with you. I won't. I fucked it up enough already."
"Duo, if Gael finds us like this, he'll go right for the both of you,
and I might not be able to defend you. It'd be better if I took the fight
"No way, Chang."
"I agree with Duo," Heero murmured, keeping his voice low. "You can't
go off in the dark alone."
"But you're barely mobile!"
"I already said it wasn't bad."
"You have a hole punched in you!"
"It's not very big."
"How big would it have to be for you to sit still and let your partner
"Half dollar size at least."
Wufei snorted and then sobered when he saw Duo's expression. His rueful
grin faded and he was reaching for Duo before his brain fully registered
the utterly stricken look in dry violet eyes.
"It shouldn't even be possible that this kind of thing is happening to
us again. And it's my fault. It's all my fault. Neither of you should
be here. I shouldn't have been caught. We weren't supposed to rush this
plan. We had it all figured out and we're right back where we were six
"Duo," Heero started.
"I want to forget all this. I want it to be over, so I can forget it ever
happened. I want this to be just another scar, one more that doesn't hurt
at all, one that I don't know where it came from, because I won't remember
Wufei hesitated to actually touch his lover and, in the end, decided not
to. He probably would not have reacted well anyway. Gone were all of Duo's
considerable talents at smoothing over the trouble, at negotiating, at
smiling and putting on a good face, at giving his clients exactly what
they wanted. Duo was stripped raw and nothing Wufei did was going to help
that situation - nothing short of finishing what they came here to do
and then getting Heero to a doctor so that Duo could finally believe them
when they claimed that the wound was not life-threatening.
"We need to get moving if we're all going together. No sense waiting for
him to find us first." He got to his feet. "Maybe we can find an officer
or two along the way who'll get Heero down to an ambulance."
"Oh, let's just keep this in the family. Let's keep it between the four
Wufei turned to see his employer standing behind him, holding Cecile's
bloody knife. The man looked perfectly calm, though his shirt was undone
at the collar and his sleeves were rolled up. He looked as handsome and
as dangerous as ever.
If Wufei was honest with himself - and moments like this required brutal
honestly - his first thought was one of utter relief. At last he could
do what they came to do. Finally, he could prove himself worthy of the
two young men behind him. They were depending on him and finally he could
show them his way without fear or guilt or uncertainty. He looked Gael
up and down and gave him a satisfied smirk, taking in the natural way
the man held the knife.
"Is that your weapon of choice?"
Gael glanced down at the blade in his hand. "For the moment."
Wufei stepped forward and drew his sword. "Good."
Just as Cecile had done, Gael rushed his opponent, trying to outflank
him and reach the two young men he protected. Their blades clashed and
slid together as Wufei kept pace with him. Then he planted his feet and
shoved back, sending Gael staggering back a pace.
"Fight me," Wufei said simply.
"Ah, but I told your friends that Duo was dead. I was hoping my employees
had succeeded in their orders. Alas, I have to fulfill my own request."
"Don't go near them."
"Or, what, exactly? You'll murder me in cold blood?"
"What do you think?"
When Gael next spoke, Wufei could tell that he was smiling, though in
the darkness he couldn't quite make out his features. "I don't actually
want to fight you, Wufei, and I certainly don't want to kill you."
"Then wh-what do you want?" He stuttered and glanced around in surprise
as dim red lights clicked on in the corners of the hall.
Gael was really smiling at him now. "My idiot electrician finally got
the generator going. I was was quite tired of wandering around in the
"What do you want?" Wufei asked again.
"What I've always wanted from you - service, loyalty, skill... happiness
"He wants you and Heero as his personal bodyguards. He wants to own you
even more than he does now." Duo spat this out with weary anger. Wufei
got the distinct impression his lover had already heard Gael's proposal.
Their employer turned an irritated stare on Duo. "I told Quatre you'd
been shot in the back of the head. I plan on doing that myself in a moment."
"That's an excellent way to persuade us to work for you," Wufei sneered.
"As a matter of fact, it is," he said thoughtfully. "Especially knowing
what I know about him... and about you, Wufei; about what the two of you
Wufei's eyes narrowed in suspicion. This conversation was getting them
nowhere. He knew how this fight would end and he knew he could win if
he could just focus. His sword came up and he darted forward. Their blades
met and Gael stepped nimbly back, avoiding a full-on confrontation.
"I know that Duo betrayed Heero, with you. I learned this very interesting
piece of information from Mr. Barton, who's been filling me in since the
beginning of your sordid relationship." Wufei growled and felt his face
grow hot. He didn't dare look over his shoulder at his partners. He had
to keep a level head. Gael was only saying things like that to throw him
off. His blade darted forward again, and again met steel and was shoved
to the side.
"It's true that I want you to serve me - the two of you and perhaps the
Winner brat if he can sort out his liver problems and keep his head down.
Mr. Barton outlived his usefulness and showed me that his strength of
character, his loyalty, was severely lacking. And you, Duo, you've never
been anything but the least interesting of the five. A talented and skillful
worker to be sure, a moneymaker, but nothing more than a compromised and
Wufei cut off the man's poisonous words with a swift attack, his body
and his blade moving as one lethal unit. He kept his lips tightly shut,
not wanting to distract himself with a sharp retort defending Duo's honor.
What this man thought of them had never really mattered anyway.
"But I can save you, Chang," Gael managed to gasp as he parried each of
Wufei's skillful strikes. "Help you tread the righteous path your clan
originally meant for you."
"Go to hell," he gritted, spinning and landing a sharp kick to Gael's
middle, the side of his foot firmly taking him in the gut. The man staggered
back, laughing. He recovered quickly.
"Your clan left you in my care as punishment, but that never really sat
right with me. The life I gave you should never have been punitive. You've
become stronger than you ever would have been, married off and impregnating
your cute little wife. The life I am offering you and Heero now is the
warrior's path. And I know you can see that."
As a button-pusher, Gael was indeed skilled. Wufei didn't want to hear
about his clan, he didn't want Gael referring to Meiran as his "cute little
wife," and he didn't want to think about what a warrior's path would look
like as Gael's sword. Nothing he was offering were viable options for
him. Wufei could not - was far beyond the point of being able to - walk
the path Gael had laid out for him the last two years. He doubted very
much that any new path would have been acceptable. But Gael wasn't done
"What you and Duo did to Heero was wrong. You know that. I could help
you. I could help you purge the weakness Duo polluted you with. I could
make you strong again."
Gael was not convincing him of anything. He wasn't. He wasn't. He. Wasn't.
Wufei shouted his anger and surged forward. Gael spun away from him and
he followed. But Cecile's knife was quick and it bit into his arm, the
arm that had been injured in the fight to keep Duo from being abducted
by the men who'd hit him with their car. The wound had been wide, and
Heero hadn't been able to stitch it up. The gash was just beginning to
knit back together, fragile tissue reconnecting under an ugly scab. The
blade sliced through his shirt and right along the healing bullet wound.
He flinched and dropped his shoulder and Gael followed through in his
spin, the handle of Cecile's knife crashing into Wufei's jaw. His head
snapped back as he staggered and fell, keeping a hold of his sword even
as black blotches flooded his vision and blood filled his mouth. Dimly,
vaguely, he heard someone shout his name, but he couldn't be sure who
leapt up to take his place in the fight to finish what he started. Probably
Duo. He tried to focus and thought he saw a long braid swinging out behind
a slim figure, but he couldn't be certain. He had an instant, splitting
headache, and his stomach lurched when he tried to sit up. His balance
was completely off. He spat out a mouthful of blood and closed his eyes
to try and regroup. He didn't open them again.
"I know everything they did, Heero, every time they betrayed you. They
went off together any time they could; sometimes you were even there in
the flat. It happened under your nose. They locked themselves in the bathroom
and humped like dogs. Duo had to have known how much it would hurt you
if you discovered what they were doing."
Wufei heard these words, but they weren't computing. Why was Gael telling
Heero this? What was he hoping to accomplish? He didn't try to open his
eyes. Something told him doing so wouldn't help. He couldn't get his head
around any of it, and more importantly, as he shoved himself up on his
elbows, he realized he could barely sit up. He spit out another mouthful
of blood and felt around his mouth, ascertaining that all his teeth were
still there. His tongue caught on a chipped molar.
Duo was shouting, flinging himself at Gael. "Shut up! You don't know anything!"
He cracked one eye and found dim silhouettes dancing in front of him.
He had to be seeing things. His vision was blurred and painful, but he
was sure he saw Duo flipping into one of his stupid cartwheels - one handed
this time - pulling out of it half way and striking Gael full in the chest
with both feet. How could he... he must be hallucinating. They both crashed
to the floor and Duo was on his feet in a second, powerful legs striking
their fallen employer again and again."
"They probably fucked in your room while you were out getting groceries."
A grunt of pain. "Or worse. While you were working, letting another man
have your body for an hour, they were together, in your room."
Wufei squinted and saw Heero crawling towards Duo and Gael, face set and
"For months, Heero, they lied to you."
"Shut up!" Duo shouted again, pressing his foot down on Gael's chest,
raising his short sword. Wufei blinked, or at least he thought he blinked,
but maybe he blacked out again, because when he next opened his eyes,
Gael was standing up and Duo had a hand wrapped around a slice in his
leg. Wufei struggled into a sitting position, pulling himself up with
the help of his sword. His vision refused to come into focus, and he knew
that his brain must have had a pretty nasty run-in with his skull if he
still couldn't see straight. A few paces away, Heero was engaged in a
similar struggle, though he'd retreated to the wall and was now using
it to lever himself to his feet. Wufei must have blacked out if Heero
had given up trying to get to Duo on hands and knees, and had crawled
back to the wall to hoist himself up that way. He couldn't have done that
in one blink.
Wufei realized that neither of them would be much use to Duo at this rate.
His gaze swung sluggishly back to the fight in the dimly lit hall. He
smiled grimly. Duo was winning.
Even with one arm tucked uselessly in a sling, he was beating Gael. Their
employer fell back under the onslaught of quick slashes and probing strikes.
Wufei admired Duo's seemingly chaotic fighting style, as his lover very
systematically drove Gael closer and closer to the wall. As Wufei finally
managed to get himself to his feet, leaning heavily on his sword, he watched,
holding his breath as, again, Duo's long legs kicked out, knocking the
blade from Gael's hand. Duo's mouth twisted in a feral grin as he twisted
gracefully, coiling his body for one last vicious strike that would free
them all. He drove the blade upward and in, feet firmly planted.
The events transpiring in front of Wufei were shuddering forward at an
odd pace, rimmed in black, as though shuffling through a viewfinder that
he held in front of his eyes. Again, he swore that he only blinked once,
but suddenly Duo cried out, harsh and surprised. Gael had him by the braid
and had somehow managed to get his injured arm tangled up in the thick
rope of hair. Duo dropped to his knees, helpless, as Gael jerked on the
braid, twisting the arm upward at a frightening angle. Wufei took a hesitant
step forward as Duo's forehead touched the carpet, chin resting on his
knees, mouth open, breathing ragged, arm held up, twisted in his own hair.
Wufei's eyes drifted slowly up to see a gun aimed at the base of Duo's
Where had that come from... Oh. His brain stumbled backward.
..."Is that your weapon of choice?"
..."For the moment."
Gael was watching Wufei draw nearer. "I am not a person you can beat.
Three of you could not take me down. Duo certainly can not." He jerked
on Duo's arm, and the tension holding the young man's body rigid suddenly
loosened. He'd passed out. "The two of you are injured, but you will recover.
This is your last chance. Let me help you, shelter you, and provide for
you. Serve me and you will never have to service another john, never have
to fight for another meal, never have to freeze through another winter.
The three of us can rebuild after this disaster. With the both of you
at my side, we will own this city."
His jaw hurt far too much to try and formulate a response, but Heero was
not speechless. He shuffled forward, serrated blade held loosely in his
right hand, his left clutching his middle.
"Drop the knife, Heero," Gael warned, resting the gun on the back of Duo's
head. Instantly, Heero dropped the knife.
"Yes," he said softly. "Just let him go. Don't hurt him anymore. We'll
come with you."
If he could have moved it, Wufei's jaw would have fallen open.
"If you hurt him more than you just have, we will never follow you. If
you kill him, we will find you in your sleep and rip your throat open.
But if you let him go right now, we'll go with you. We'll serve you."
Wufei watched Gael watching Heero, his dark eyes roaming up and down Heero's
lean form. "And all I needed to do was put a gun to Duo's head?"
"His life for ours. I swear it."
Wufei wondered whether what he was hearing could be accurate. Perhaps
his ears were messed up too.
"And you, Heero. What will you do for me? You killed my Cecile, and she
did many things for me."
Heero swallowed several times. Though Wufei couldn't see much of anything
right the moment, he could see Duo's death in Heero's eyes. He could see
that his partner had already weighed his own life against their lover's.
It hadn't taken him long to figure it out.
"I will serve you in whatever way you require, if you let him go free.
Wufei will, as well."
"But-" Wufei's tongue was sluggish.
Heero turned to him. "He's going to kill him, Chang."
Wufei took another step forward, apologizing to his sword and his ancestors
for using his weapon as a walking stick. Gael's finger tightened on the
"... I can't..." He didn't know how to finish his sentence. He couldn't
keep doing this. "This" was over. He stared at Heero, or at least the
blur that he knew was Heero, and tried to convey the futility of the bargain
he was seeking to strike. But he didn't know exactly how to tell Heero
that he had reached the very end of what he could do. He could not serve
Gael any more, even if it meant that Duo... even if Heero... "He's going
to kill him anyway," he finally managed to whisper. "I'm sorry He-"
He caught a blur of movement to his left and carefully turning his head,
he saw a flash of bright color, turned red in the dim light of the backup
bulbs. Gael caught it too and swung the gun around, dragging Duo with
him. Their lover was still unconscious, though his features were pinched
and pale. The gun fired twice, hurting Wufei's ears. He heard it before
he saw it, and his sword left his fingers before he had time to think,
before he'd really had enough time to center his scattered balance over
his own feet. But his blade traveled straight and true. In nearly the
same second, Heero scooped up his knife and surged forward. Even as Gael
fell, pierced through by two of Quatre's knives and Wufei's sword, Heero
brought his weapon down with terrible force, slicing the hand that still
gripped Duo's braid clean through at the wrist. Their employer was dead
before he hit the ground.
Wufei stared and breathed. And didn't believe that what had just happened
was the truth. He blinked and found himself on his knees. He sought the
body in the middle of the hall and found that it was still there.
A few paces away, Heero was dragging Duo away from Gael, tugging on his
uninjured arm and breathing heavily. Wufei heard him collapse. Finally,
he dragged his eyes away from the grisly sight - beginning to believe
that his blurred vision was not in fact tricking him - to see Quatre swaying
slightly on his feet, right arm hanging limply at his side, left poised
over another dagger. Blood dripped from his fingers onto the floor, and
it was smeared across both his cheeks like warpaint. Wufei raised an eyebrow
but thought better of any snide comment about the boy's appearance. His
face hurt too much. Without his sword for balance, even on his knees,
a wave of dizziness swept through him, and he dropped willingly to the
floor before it could come up and smack him in his already bruised chin.
Heero rolled onto his side and let out a pained breath.
"Fuck, that hurt."
"Bit of overkill, slicing off his hand," Quatre murmured by way of greeting,
wandering over to them.
Wufei thought it an odd thing to say. But then, speech was beyond him
at the moment.
Heero shrugged and protectively draped an arm across Duo's middle. "I
didn't know if he'd be able to..."
"Bight like the wolf whose head was cut off?" A small smile played at
the scarred corner of Quatre's mouth, lessening the severity of his features.
Heero hesitated. "...Yeah."
Wufei's ears perked up when he heard Duo groan and then curse skillfully
in Spanish, French, and Chinese. He recognized the few expletives he'd
taught his lover, back when they'd still been locking themselves in the
bathroom and hiding in the empty stacks at the library in an effort to
find time to be alone. That time was distant and shrouded in fog. Had
it even happened? He looked now at his two lovers and he felt that the
bond between them had surely been forged in one of the great furnaces
that had given birth to the rest of the world.
But, no, the fog probably only existed in his brain. The memories he had
of Duo and his secretive relationship were real, if not as immediate as
what he now faced with both young men. At these memories, he turned guiltily
to Heero. Wufei had no idea how Gael knew that he and Duo had been together
all those months, avoiding Heero, excluding him so they could be with
each other. They'd been selfish and foolish and cruel, but they'd also
been desperate. And then they'd been happy. And while Wufei regretted
letting it go on so long before finally cluing Heero in - or rather, letting
the whole thing slip to him - he didn't want to take back a single day
that he'd spent with Duo. But he still felt some form of apology was in
order. He crawled closer to the them just as Heero helped Duo into a sitting
position, gently putting his abused arm back in the sling.
Duo looked up at him as he approached and his pained expression instantly
softened. "Hey, Wu." Then he spotted Quatre and his eyes widened as the
boy dropped down onto the carpet with the rest of them, sitting cross-legged
and holding his arm.
"Q! Where'd you come from?" His eyes dropped to the blood oozing between
pale fingers. "And what the hell happened to your arm?"
Quatre gestured vaguely behind him. "I came from... that way. And I got
shot at some point before that, though I can't exactly remember..."
"Where's Trowa? Is he okay?"
At the mention of that name, Quatre seemed to come out of his daze. He
glanced over his shoulder, as though to make sure that Gael was well and
truly dead, and then turned back. "I don't- actually know. He should be
at the hospital now. I watched them take him away. He asked me to stay
to finish all this, and..." He looked up at Duo, hesitating slightly.
"And Gael said you'd been killed, shot in the back of the head. But, clearly
you're not. Dead, that is."
Duo shrugged one shoulder. "Wishful thinking on his part."
"Trowa told me to tell you something before he left, and I can't remember
all of it, but mainly he said he was sorry. He never told Gael about our
plan for escape. He said that secret was safe, but he did tell Gael everything
about you and Wu-" He stopped abruptly and looked at the floor.
If Wufei's face hadn't already been red and swollen, he would have been
"It's okay," Heero said, not looking at any of them. "You're not giving
"Well, he said he was sorry about that," Quatre finished, looking rather
Wufei gave his jaw an experimental nudge with his thumb and forefinger
and found that he could move it a bit without excruciating pain.
"I'm sorry, too, Heero," he said, not much above a whisper.
His partner eyed him a bit warily and his heart sank. He didn't know what
that look meant; whether Gael rubbing his and Duo's clandestine relationship
in Heero's face had ruined whatever chance the three of them had together,
or whether he was just tired and hurt and not looking at anyone with a
kind eye right then. Just because their bonds had been forged in some
ancient furnace didn't mean that Heero couldn't hate his guts.
"Tell me that again when I won't feel guilty for punching you in the chin."
Heero said it gruffly but without anger, and Wufei relaxed slightly. A
physical fight he could handle... later. Much later. But there was one
question still bothering him, and he needed to ask it regardless of the
repercussions for his jaw.
"...Did you see Quatre coming when you offered our lives for Duo's? I
mean, were you just buying him some time to get within range? Or... were
you serious about what you said?"
Duo glanced between them, eyes wide. "Heero, you did what?"
Quatre looked on with great interest.
"Which answer would you prefer?" Heero asked with at tired smile.
"Which one do you think I'd prefer, Yuy?" Wufei gritted.
They all turned at the sound of several people approaching. None of the
four of them considered getting up to run. They wouldn't have gotten far.
As the first officers entered the room, Heero glanced at Wufei, looking
relieved that he didn't have to answer. "Oh, look. It's the police."
[part 31] [part 33]
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