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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 5
Watched

5. Heero

I'll be down, kickin' on the ground
To make you see that you're the same as me
This is what you are
I get ripped apart
Pick it up and take it home again

- "American Special" Tugboat Annie

He knew someone was following him, could feel it on the back of his neck and in his shoulders. This was not new, and he was not afraid. But his heart rate quickened anyway. He knew what was about to happen, knew the risk was higher for these meeting when he was by himself. But he couldn't be with Duo all the time. And he felt capable of going out for groceries by himself. He did it regularly, most of the time without incident.

Well, today, his luck had run out. He spotted Cecile up ahead, seated at a little bistro, sipping daintily from a cappuccino. Her long blond hair was, as usual, wound around her head like a crown, lending her a regal and sophisticated air. Heero thought she looked ridiculous, and since he knew she was a cold, slightly crazy, drama queen, the look was lost on him. As he approached, grocery list in hand, she gracefully rose from her chair, resting her long, bony hands on slim hips. She took one seemingly casual step forward, and Heero stopped. He looked her up and down quickly. If she was armed, she was very good at hiding it, because neither her clinging white t-shirt nor her second-skin-like white trousers appeared to have any room, even for a nail file.

"Bon jour," she called.

Heero nodded once in greeting. They stood facing each other for several seconds, neither speaking, until finally, Heero jabbed the grocery list forward like it was his switchblade. To his satisfaction, Cecile flinched. While their encounters tended to be brief and violent -- Heero always outnumbered and resigned to another meeting with Gael, Cecile perpetually smug, always annoying and sometimes downright frightening -- she knew that he wasn't a man to be taken lightly. If it weren't for the ten other muscle who accompanied her, Heero could kill her. He saw this in her expression now, as her eyes darted to the list and back up to his face.

"Fish, rice, cabbage, broccoli, oranges, and Doritos for Duo. That's all I want. I don't want any trouble. I just need to go to the store." This approach never worked with Cecile, but it was worth a shot. And, anyway, he never left the apartment armed only with a grocery list. She smirked at him, arching a graceful eyebrow. Then, turning on her heal, she marched away from him, expecting him to follow. He glanced over his shoulder and seeing that he was now backed by six of the aforementioned ten muscle, he tried to shrug some of the tension out of his muscles, and started after her. Maybe if he didn't fight back, this wouldn't last too long.

They always ended up on a rooftop, whether it was of some dump apartment building or in a rooftop garden, or on top of some posh hotel. Heero always found himself looking down over at least a 10 story drop. No difference today. Gael was waiting for him to arrive, his long, lean body perched atop a chimney stack, legs swinging carelessly. Heero found himself hoping that he'd get soot all over his ass. Childish, he knew, but he wasn't particularly concerned at the moment with the age-appropriateness of his musings. He'd be bleeding in a few minutes. He was more concerned about that. The bodyguards corralled him up against the edge of the roof, as always, keeping his heals within centimeters of an untimely death. When Heero felt thoroughly uncomfortable and unbalanced, Gael finally leapt down from the chimney -- ass immaculate of course -- and approached the cornered youth.

Heero knew that by most people's standards, Gael was an attractive man -- tall and fit with lean, strong shoulders and a narrow waist. He had dark hair that he kept somewhat long, swirled and slicked into a close cousin of the pompadour. He had no facial hair, a hawk-beak nose and amber colored eyes that glowed in the sunlight. He was young, probably in his late 20s, and during their rooftop meetings his personality alternated between the coolly threatening drug lord and an over-excited teenager. Heero found these changes baffling and extremely disconcerting. And he found Gael repulsive.

As his boss approached, Heero tried to guess which personality he would encounter first. From the looks of it, Cecile was looking for the same information: she stood off to the side, watching the whole thing with her predatory green eyes narrowed. Heero guessed she was jealous, knew that she was more than Gael's chief bodyguard. 'You can have him,' Heero thought, eyes returning to the taller man who now leaned suggestively over him. Heero swallowed and stood his ground; he had nowhere to go.

"How's tricks, Heero?" Gael asked, a faint Spanish accent tinting his words and lending them a sibilance that made Heero twitchy.

"Fine."

"Any particularly nasty boys to deal with?"

Dark blue eyes narrowed. "A few. More than we'd like."

"We?"

"Duo and me."

Gael frowned and turned away in a huff. He'd never liked Duo. Heero thought that their boss picked the worst men for Duo out of spite.

And then he knew which Gael he was dealing with today. 'Teenagers,' he thought wearily. He watched the Boss pace back and forth across the roof, fingers interlaced at the back of his neck.

"How's the young Winner heir managing?" he asked finally, turning back, a smile tugging at his lips.

Heero shrugged noncommittally. "As well as can be expected. He doesn't freak out much. Still thinks his sisters will come for him."

"I can assure you they won't. They made it perfectly clear that he is to disappear until Winner, Sr. expires, with an altered will insuring that the eldest daughter inherits."

Heero rubbed his elbow with a rough palm. He didn't want to encourage conversation with Gael -- indeed preferred to avoid it at all costs -- but this had been bugging him. "Here's something I don't get. Putting him out on the street, peddling him to rich and powerful men...he'll be recognized. And if it comes out that the legitimate Winner heir was cast off by his own family, essentially traded into a prostitution house... the bad press that would generate would be crippling."

Gael gave him a conspiratorial smile. "That's what I told them. And as much as I'd love to see the Winner image smeared, I felt it was incumbents upon me to warn them of that risk."

"Ever the good Samaritan," Heero muttered, eyes widening slightly at his own audacity. He'd been friends with Duo for too long.

But the Boss took it as a compliment, stalking closer to Heero, arms now crossed over his chest. "It's true. Sometimes my kindness and understanding knows no bounds. I amaze even myself." He now stood only a few centimeters from his prey. Heero hated this part, when he had to concentrate almost entirely on stilling the reflex to shove Gael away from him, shove him hard enough to break a couple bones. Somehow he managed each time. It helped to picture the consequences of his actions. If he hurt Gael, the repercussions would be swift and brutal, not just to himself. That beating he could take. But Duo...

The Boss was still talking. "Anyway, long story short, I promised the lovely Winner sisters that their youngest brother would have a low-profile position within my family. He'd be kept out of sight and would not encounter anyone whose circles the Winners moved in. In other words, he'll get all the low-life clients I'd like to cut from the rolls, but never had the heart to." Heero gritted his teeth and fought down the knee-jerk anger and heart-break stabbing through him on Quatre's behalf. Sure the kid was from another world, and up until a few weeks ago, Heero wouldn't have had two words to say to him, but... they were on the same side now. And what his family had done was wrong.

"But enough about other people." Gael murmured into Heero's ear. "Let's talk about us."

'Here we go.' The Boss's large hands began to roam along Heero's body, hovering the slimmest distance from skin. Heero shuddered and turned his head away as Gael's breath puffed against his neck and traveled up to his left ear. 'Please don't touch me. Please don't touch me. Please don't touch me.' And so far, in their bi-monthly meetings on rooftops, Gael had not touched him, had promised not to until Heero gave him permission -- which he never would.

"Have you thought any more about my offer?" the older man purred into his ear.

Heero swallowed hard, knowing what was about to happen. "Yes," he hissed.

"And?" Those large hands lifted up his t-shirt and then let it slide back down along his ribs. It felt as vile as a caress, though it was only his own shirt.

"I want you..."

"Yes...?"

"To get out of my face."

Gael backed off a bit, his handsome features turned down in a pout. "That's your choice?"

"As always."

"Fine." He turned away and stalked off, moodily standing to the side with Cecile, who looked pleased as punch that Heero had rejected him yet again.

In the next moment, several pairs of rough hands pulled and pushed him away from the edge of the roof. He stumbled once and almost went down on one knee, but then adrenalin and reflex took over, filling his blood and his brain with familiar drums. He twisted his arms out of their grasp and dodged between the men surrounding him. He could tell that these bodyguards didn't want to fight him. He looked on them with something approaching pity. They always ended up with broken bones and a few minor to moderate lacerations when they took on Heero Yuy after a rooftop meeting. Occasionally he wondered why the Boss would put them through this every time. Perhaps it was to keep the bodyguards sharp. Maybe it was to keep Heero himself sharp. Or maybe Gael liked to see him bleed. And he always did. The fight wasn't over until he did. First blood ended it. Some days he fought hard enough to keep them at bay for almost an hour. Others, he let them take him in under five minutes.

Today, he was leaning more toward the latter. He had groceries to get. His switchblade open and in-hand, Heero took a few steps forward, swinging the blade in tight vicious arcs. A few men fell back while the others circled around behind him. Keeping all of them out of his blind spot was more than he could handle, so after ducking a few shots at his head, he went down low and sprang up under their guard, taking out two with the heavy handle of his knife. As they dropped, he spun and slashed at two more coming up behind him. Dark blood blossomed through their shirts and they fell back. Six of the ten remained, a few glaring at him, the rest shooting beseeching glances at the Boss, who still looked pissed. They wanted this to end as much as Heero did.

Finally, with a look from Gael, Cecile stepped forward, drawing a slender blade from along her spine. She grinned at him and approached slowly. Knowing that the sooner he bled the sooner he could go home, he let the remaining bodyguards rush him. He went down hard, under their combined weight, both elbows taking most of the fall. Once they had him down, they worked quickly. They each took a limb, with two at each leg. Fighting down the panic that inevitably rose in his throat whenever he was pinned and helpless, Heero bucked against their hold on him, even though he knew he should relax.

Cecile knelt down beside him, cooing soft words that Heero didn't understand. His French had never been as good as Duo's. She ran her hands along his body, feeling out the scars she had already given him. A few were doozies. Most were easy to hide. Then with frightening precision, she slid the blade along his exposed hip bone, bright red blood immediately flooding along the knife and soaking the top of his jeans. His body jerked upward, instinctively curling in on itself, trying to protect the wound. In the next moment, the muscle released him and backed away, more than a few looking thoroughly shaken. Heero didn't blame them; he felt pretty shaky himself. Then they left him there with the psychotic blonde bitch and his boss. Cecile ran her fingers along the shallow slice she'd just given him, gazing raptly at the blood dripping down her palm. Gael stared at it too, until he sharply shook his head and took a step back. Then he looked upon the whole scene with distaste, turning and swiftly making his way toward the stares. Cecile followed reluctantly, but only after she'd cleaned her blade and wiped the blood from her fingers onto Heero's shirt.

"Goodbye, mon petite," she murmured.

Then he was alone.

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Singles a-k]