Author: Sunhawk

Facing the Nightmare

When I woke, hours later, much later than I had thought I would sleep; I ached in every joint and muscle, it felt like I had a bad case of the flu. I felt bruised. Ok, so my face was bruised, I don't mean that. I mean, all over, inside and out. Inside my head.

I just lay still for a while, and tried to sort it all out. Hero was gone; off with Trowa on a mission. That hit me first, left me feeling cold and alone and a little irritated with myself for being so... dependant.

I remembered... Gods, I remembered threatening Heero Yuy and living to tell the tale. I had to grin, remembering the wide-eyed look on his face. I hunted back through memory a little further. I remembered being in Heero's arms and thinking that I had never in all my life felt safe before. Oh Gods! I remembered Heero opening his arms to me with Wufei sitting right there watching us. I thought my heart would burst with that sweet recollection. I stared at the ceiling for a bit and let that one replay...a couple of times. I will take that memory to my grave as my most cherished possession.

But why was Wufei in my room with us? I could remember him... hitting me. Why the hell did Wufei belt me like that? I frowned hard, trying to dredge up the details. Wufei hit me because I was lost somewhere... somewhere dark, and really cold... how'd I get there?

Duo, who ... ?

Man, I needed a shower. My hair felt positively gross. I forgot to re-braid it last night and I hate when I sleep with it down; it takes forever to get the tangles out. I got slowly out of bed and limped to the bathroom; my knee's always stiff when I first get up. I wondered if it would ever be normal again. A hot shower would help that too. I thought I heard a sound in the hall, but nobody appeared in my doorway, so I went on in and started my shower, taking the extra time to put conditioner in my hair and comb it through. After I got out and scrounged up some clean clothes, I almost felt like a human being again. Most of the aches and pains had faded a little, except for a pounding headache I couldn't seem to shake. I'd have to ask Quatre for some aspirin.

I braided my hair, wet as it was, and went down to see if I could find some food. I damn near tripped over a desk chair that was sitting right outside my bedroom door. Well, well; wonder which one of them Heero threatened into babysitting me? I leaned down, inspecting the seat and finally found a telltale strand of black hair. What a surprise; Wufei. Then again, Heero probably made him feel guilty about the fact that he had tried to cave the side of my head in, even if it had been for a good cause.

I waffled between pissed off that they all obviously felt like I was made out of spun glass, and glowingly happy that Heero cared enough to think about me even on his way out to a mission. I settled on mildly amused and determined that at some point before this day was out, I would give Wufei a run for his money with a little game of catch-me-if-you-can.

I pointedly put the chair back in Wufei's room, and went down to the kitchen where I found my two keepers with their heads together over a sink full of dirty dishes.

I crept up behind them, in an evil temperament, and said rather loudly, "Hey guys! The mad Gundam pilot just escaped his room!"

Neither one of them so much as flinched, robbing me of any satisfaction at all; though Quatre did blush furiously. I guess that was all the revenge I was going to get.

They turned as one toward me, and Wufei started to retort with something that would have been incredibly clever and the two of us could have word-sparred for the next half an hour. But then they saw my face and Quatre just made a little 'oh' sound, and Wufei's smirk turned into a guilty frown. I had meant to look in the mirror, but had forgotten.

"Maxwell, I am very... "

"Don't you dare tell me you're sorry." I cut him off; I was really tired of people looking at me with their faces wearing that particular expression. "You did what had to be done. I owe you thanks; you do not owe me an apology."

I really didn't want to talk about this anymore; it made it hard to ignore the place in the back of my head where the black hole resided. Didn't want to go there, Hu-uh, no way, no thank you sir.

Duo, who... ?

"I am starving." I said and turned away from them to rummage in the refrigerator. I came up with an apple and a can of soda and headed out the kitchen door with a backward wave. "Goin' to the hanger! See ya later!" I almost laughed out loud, hearing Wufei cursing under his breath as he scrambled to get out of the dishwater and get dried. I certainly hoped he didn't think I was going to make this easy on him.

"Duo!" I heard Quatre yell, "You can't seriously call that breakfast?" But I was already off the back porch and gone from their sight. I ducked behind the hedge and worked my way to the driveway where I parked my butt on the hood of the first car I came to. I sat and munched on my apple and waited. I heard Wufei come charging out the door and start running down the path towards the hanger. He didn't go far before figuring out I should have still been in sight. I could just see his feet through the bottom of the hedgerow; he stopped his headlong run and just stood for a moment. It took him just a second to think of the cars and then he was running back toward the driveway. I almost jumped down and took the game to the next level, but at the last second, I restrained myself and was still sitting there, ready to greet him with an innocent smile.

"What's the matter, Wufei? Lose something?"

The look on his face was absolutely priceless; a mixture of 'Oh thank God!' and 'I'm going to kill you!' all rolled into one.

"Maxwell... " came the warning growl and I took another bite out of my apple, beaming at him.

"What? You wanna walk to the hanger with me?" I hopped off the car and started back toward the path. "Shoulda said something; I would have waited for you."

"You are impossible." He glared, but fell into step beside me.

"Not impossible, just... irrepressible."

He just snorted. He was on my left, the side with the split lip and the bruised cheek. I could see him stealing glances at my face out of the corner of his eye. I felt kinda bad, it was obviously really bothering him. But neither one of us seemed to quite know what to say, so we made the walk in silence. I finished my apple by the time we got to the hanger, and I tossed the core in a trashcan as we went through the door, and then popped the can of soda, downing a good portion of it while I flipped on the lights and started toward my Gundam.

"That stuff will rot your stomach lining out." He frowned at me, obviously not in a good mood.

"Yes, but I will die with a pleasant caffeine buzz." I grinned at him and keyed my password into Deathscythes remote. Nothing happened. The hatch did not open. There was no sound of hydraulics, no hiss of pressurized air. Nothing.

"That son of a bitch." I snarled, having to resist the urge to throw either the can or the remote across the hanger. I tried it one more time, just to be sure, with the same lack of results.

I was extremely pissed. Had Heero's Gundam been sitting there in the hanger, it would probably have had its cockpit filled with jello or whipped cream or guacamole dip or something equally vile. But it wasn't, so I downed the rest of my soda and hurled the can as far as I could.

"Oh, I don't think so, Heero Yuy. I do not bloody well think so." I muttered and went to get a stool out of the office. It was going to be a long afternoon. Behind me, I heard Wufei sigh heavily and go to make his own seating arrangements. I forgot about him. I forgot to be irritated about him shadowing me like a mother hen. I forgot the headache. You do not lock me out of my own damn Gundam. You especially do not do it freaking twice.

I sat down and began hacking into my own hacked into Gundam. I was really, really... annoyed. After a couple of hours, Wufei came and tried to get me to give it up. I ignored him and eventually he stopped talking to me. Several hours after that, Quatre showed up with food and drinks and I heard him speaking softly with Wufei. I wordlessly accepted a sandwich and a glass of juice, wishing he had brought more soda. Quatre kept Wufei company for a while, before shaking his head and wandering back to the house. Through it all I continued to key in password after password; shinigami, godofdeath, stayput, baka, fuckyou, fuckoff, letmein, imgonnakillyou, I tried random number sequences, I tried dates and times and old passwords, I tried Japanese, I tried Chinese, I keyed until my fingers cramped. I was getting close, I could feel it. My mind was getting to that weary point where it made intuitive leaps all on its own, I could feel it almost ready to fall into place. What the hell, Heero? What were you thinking? Why would you do this... again? Stupid question. I knew why the hell he did it. The same reason he did it last time. He didn't think I was up to taking care of myself and he was afraid. Afraid something would go wrong on his mission and I would try to go after him. My fingers moved almost of their own accord across the keypad, and above me, Deathscythes hatch hissed open. I looked down at the last sequence I had keyed, the final try in a thousand other guesses, knowing what I had keyed, but needing to see it anyway; myheart.

Damn it, Heero, that's hitting below the belt. I carefully lay the remote down on the workbench and just sat staring off into space. Not fair. Not fair. I really wanted to be mad at him. I really hate being treated like that. Like a small child who needs to be watched over and protected. I haven't been a child for a very long, long time. I've never needed anyone to watch over me. Never had anyone to watch over me. And maybe, that's why I found, somewhere deep down inside, I liked the feeling, I didn't want to like it as much as I did, but it's an easy feeling to get used to. And that's why I hated being treated that way; because it made me like it. Who the hell was I? I didn't feel like me, anymore. I didn't want everybody looking at me as though I was going to explode any minute. I didn't want this place in my head that I couldn't look at except out of the corner of my minds eye. I knew what was there. I did. I knew it, in my heart, but if I didn't look directly at it, it stayed where it belonged and we kept our uneasy truce. Except at night. But not since I opened my heart and let Heero in. The truce didn't seem to be in effect any more. After all this time, all bets were off... and I was afraid. The dark place in my head was getting bigger and it was getting harder to ignore.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head into my hands. The headache was back with a pounding vengeance. I really needed to get my shit together. I'm a soldier. I couldn't afford to be this... weak. Heero thought I was strong; how long before he got tired of taking care of me. How long before I lost his respect and then his love?

That black hole in my head was shifting and roiling around like a ... balloon? A... bubble? A... blob... of black oil. It was like driving along and seeing something dead in the middle of the road; you didn't really want to look as you got closer and closer, you could try to not let your eyes focus on it, but in the end you had to look and see what it was before it wandered into traffic. I tried not to look, except out of the safe corners of my attention, but it was ... there. Demanding my notice. I needed to look, just to see if it really was getting bigger. I needed... .

Duo, who r...

"Maxwell?" Wufei's hand was on my shoulder, squeezing firmly and I came back into the here and now with a start. I found my hands shaking and my body slick with sweat. I thought my head was going to explode; the headache had gotten so much worse. On my shoulder, Wufei's fingers tightened slightly, "Duo?" he asked, his tone getting anxious. I guess I scared him. I guess I scared me.

"S'ok." I murmured, "Just a real bad headache." I wished I could tell him how glad I was he had been there. How near I had come to a tumble down the rabbit's hole... again.

"May we, then," he said dryly, "return to the house?"

I chuckled and his hand released, leaving a spot that felt chill in its absence. He moved toward the door and I hopped off the stool to follow, and promptly fell on my face on the damn concrete floor. How bloody mortifying.

Wufei was there in an instant, turning me over and hauling me into his lap before I had a chance to even start levering myself up.

"Duo! Duo, are you all right?" There was fear in his voice and his dark eyes were full of concern. I wanted to shrivel up and blow away on the wind.

"I'm Ok. I'm all right. Relax; my knee just gave way, that's all." I struggled to rise, feeling my face getting hotter by the second. "Didn't realize how long I'd been sitting still."

He pulled me up and had to hold me steady while I got my feet under me. My knee was stiff and felt swollen. It came to me suddenly that I had skipped my exercises yesterday after learning about Heero and Trowa's mission, and hadn't done anything with it today either.

"Damn, 'Fei, I can't believe how fast it goes to hell when I don't work with it." It was a sign of my disconcertion that I let the pet name slip, and a measure of his worried state of mind that he let it pass. I tried pulling away, but he wouldn't let go of my arm. Which was really just as well, because the leg was trembling under me like it was about to buckle again.

"Let me help you." He finally said after a few minutes of my trying to force the stupid thing to hold me up, and I didn't have a lot of choice but to let him pull my arm around his shoulders and take some of my weight.

With his help, I began limping my way back toward the house; I could not believe it when I realized it was already dark out. The air was cool and clear, and in the distance there was the faint glow of the light on the kitchen porch. It seemed like a hell of a long way.

"Man, I am so tired of being so bloody helpless." I grumbled after a few yards, just to break the uncomfortable silence that had risen between us.

"You are far from helpless, Maxwell." He grunted, a hint of amusement in his voice, as we worked our way up the path. We found it difficult to work out a walking rhythm. He seemed uncomfortable at first, putting his arm around my waist, but there really wasn't any place else he could put his hand with my arm thrown around his shoulders. It took a number of yards before we matched strides and stopped bumping into each other. I had to smile, thinking about Heero helping me. There had never been any awkwardness; it had been easy for us to move together from the first time I had offered him my support when he had been the one who needed it. But thinking about Heero just made my heart ache, so I stopped.

I thought about asking why he didn't offer to go get one of the cars, but I suspect he was afraid to leave me alone with my Gundam now that I had cracked the password and could get into it again. Instead, I said,

"I'm sorry." It came out kind of tight voiced, though I hadn't meant it to.

"For what?" he asked, glancing over at me briefly.

I sighed, "Everything." I tilted my head back and looked up at the stars, wishing the pounding in my head would go away, "Just every damn thing."

"You have nothing to be sorry for."

"Doesn't feel that way."

He sighed, "It's only been a few months, give yourself a little more time."

I was feeling grumpy, "Feels like it's been for bloody ever."

He chuckled lightly, "Only to you. Your recovery has been... impressive."

Well, damn. I couldn't say anything for a minute.

"Thanks for... for being around, man." I managed after a bit.

He just grunted and we finished the walk in silence. By the time we reached the house, the exercise had loosened things up a little, and I was able to straighten up and walk on my own. Though I noticed Wufei's hand hovering near my elbow.

Once inside, I went straight to the kitchen sink where I knew a bottle of aspirin was kept and downed several of them right there. Behind me, I heard Wufei digging ice out of the refrigerator and turned to see him making up an ice pack.

"Not yet, I have got to go down to the gym for a while."

He stopped and I detected a slight rise and fall of his shoulders as he heaved a silent sigh just before he turned around to face me. He tried to put an interested look on his face and I almost laughed.

"Wufei, look;" I decided to stop playing games, "I know damn well Heero set you on baby sitting detail, but that doesn't mean you have to follow me every stinking place I go, Ok?"

His face darkened, "Maxwell, I swore on my honor that I would allow no harm to come to you."

"I am going downstairs into the gym. I am not even leaving the house. I am going to do some work on the leg press, and I will probably spend some time on the stationary bike. If my knee loosens up enough, I will use the treadmill. I am usually there for an hour to an hour and a half. There is no reason... ."

But there was just no arguing with the look of resolve on his face. Gods; I was a freaking mission.

"I missed my morning kata." He said simply, "I can do it while you exercise your knee."

So off we went together and spent the next hour on opposite sides of the gym, sweating out our own private frustrations in silence. I knew he was tired and didn't really want to be down here, so I cut it short on the hour and just sat and watched him finish the routine he had started before rising and heading for the door, knowing he would follow me back upstairs. I was starting to get irritated again.

I stopped off in the kitchen for another soda and my ice pack and headed up the stairs with my shadow tailing along behind. At the top of the stairs, I couldn't resist turning and leering at him,

"I'm going to go rinse off in the shower, do I need to get enough towels for both of us?"

I thought he would choke. All I got was an incoherent growl. He swept passed me into his own room, but I noticed he left the door open. I did not leave mine open; I shut it rather firmly. I knew it wouldn't last, but it was nearly the first moment of solitude I had managed all day and I heaved a sigh as a little of the tension ebbed away. I didn't wash my hair again, but I did get into the shower and rinsed away the sweat of my workout. I pulled on a pair of running shorts when I got out; I had a feeling I would be having company before the evening was over, and sure enough, when I came out of the bathroom, my door was standing open again.

I thought I would scream. I was getting frustrated and annoyed and felt like I was on the verge of shattering into a million pieces. The stupid aspirin hadn't helped the damned headache one bit, if anything, it was worse. I just wanted to be left alone for a while. I needed to think, I needed a little space, I needed... Heero. No. I had to be honest with myself; I wanted Heero. Big difference, Maxwell; I chided myself. I needed to settle down. I took a deep, calming breath and let it out. Just forget he's there, that's what I had to do. Just go on about my business, let him sit out in the damn hall all bloody night if he wanted to, what the hell difference did it make to me?

I went to my desk and sorted through my little stack of CDs until I found one of the few that weren't what I liked to think of as 'battle music'. I put in a McKennett and turned the volume down low, I think Quatre had already gone to bed. Something soft and soothing. I went to the bedside table and snagged the can of soda and the ice pack I had brought up with me, flipped off the bedroom light and went over to the window, I raised it, making sure to make enough noise that Wufei wouldn't think I was trying to be quiet and sneak out, and let in a soft gust of wind. The moon was near full and shone faintly in through the clouds. I pulled the desk chair over and sat in a puddle of silver light, sipped my drink, and let the night breeze play with the wisps of hair around my face. I parked the ice pack half-heartedly on my knee, closed my eyes and tried as hard as I could to relax.

It was harder, without something to occupy my attention, to ignore that place in my head. It was definitely getting bigger. Did bigger imply stronger? Was I making a mistake in trying to ignore it? There hardly seemed to be room in my head for the both of us anymore. The truce that had lasted all these years was unquestionably off. Just thinking about it was making my heart speed up in my chest. I sipped at my soda and tried to calm back down. Behind me, Loreena sang of the dark night of the soul, and I had to wonder why in the hell I had picked out this CD. Was I trying to calm down, or was I trying to depress myself? I grimaced into the watery moonlight, there really wasn't any getting around this, was there? What was I so damned afraid of? I kinda-sorta knew what was in that thrice-damned black hole; it was something I had freaking survived once, why couldn't I just face it down and be done with it?

I finished my drink, quietly set the can down in the trashcan, dumped the sweating ice pack on the windowsill, and went over to lean in the bedroom doorway. As expected, the chair was back, and Wufei was sitting there, leaning against the wall right beside my door, his arms folded across his chest.


"Yes, Maxwell?"

"How long is this mission supposed to last?"

"About a week."

"What are you planning on doing? Not sleeping for the whole week?"

"If it is necessary."

I would like to say I was dumbstruck, but it really wasn't any more than I was expecting from him.

"Baka." I muttered and walked out of my room and into his. As if on queue, he rose and followed me.

"Maxwell, what the hell are you doing?"

"Just shut up and get the other end of this." I had hold of the mattress off his bed, and waited patiently for him to pick up his end. He just stood, hands on hips and glared at me.

"Don't be an idiot, Wufei. If you continue like this, by the end of the week an arthritic, half blind old woman could allude you, much less a street rat like me."

He continued to glare, refusing to move and my new found calm started to wear a little thin, "Look. I am conceding that you feel it is necessary to remain in my stinking presence every moment until Heero comes back. Will you bloody well concede that you have to freaking sleep? Believe me, if I have one of my patented nightmares, you will not sleep through it." A small battle of wills ensued, but even Wufei is not stubborn to the point of lunacy, and finally, he grabbed the other end of the mattress and we hauled it into my room.

It would only fit in the space near the door, and I would have to be careful not to step on him if I had to get up and go to the bathroom. There were a few, bizarre, uncomfortable moments in which I decided to sleep in my shorts and he stripped off shirt and shoes and settled on sleeping in his pants. I crawled wearily into my bed and resisted the urge to say, good night John-boy, and instead, just turned my back on him and tried to forget he was there. On the desk, Loreena was still singing and I just let it go; the player would stop at the end of the CD anyway. She sang us both gently to sleep.

I got my usual couple of hours before the dreams started. It wasn't really a bad one, not like some of them could be; I've had worse. One of the ones that is so old I was almost numb to it. Not one of the mind bending ones that I had to fight kicking and screaming to get out of, but one of the soul shredding ones that would leave me mired in a fog of depression for the rest of the day. It still brought me jerking awake and I found myself sitting up in the middle of the bed, sweat drying on my skin and my heart pounding in my ears. I glanced down at Wufei and he seemed to have slept through it. But then, as I had promised, this dream wasn't what I thought of as one of the 'patented' ones, he wouldn't have slept through one of those.

I pulled the one knee that would bend that far, up to my chest, hugged it, and just sat and got my breath back. I had a ritual that went with this dream. It was a dream of before I was Duo Maxwell, before I really had a name at all. When the plague came through and wiped out so many of Solo's gang, before I stole the serum. I pulled up the faces of each of the dead and put a name to it, all the little ones. I was probably the last living soul now that still remembered them, and I swore I would never forget; Ren, Py, Dart, Cat, Cutter, Mary Lynn, Mad Dog, Race, Eel, Long Tom, and of course, Solo. The ones who died on my watch; the beginning of the blood on my hands. I let my defenses down to remember the children and the thing in my head pounced.

I suddenly became aware that the bubble that contained what I didn't want to deal with, was stretching thinner and thinner, oil swirling on its surface, about to burst. There was more of it in my head now than there was of me. I panicked.

"Fei?" my voice wasn't much more than a choked cry, and I was ashamed and at the same time, scared he wouldn't come.

He was up and heading toward me even as his groggy voice was asking, "Duo? What's wrong?"

How do you tell somebody that the secret trap door inside your head is about to fall open and you're going to pitch face first into the rabbit hole from hell and oh God don't let me go there alone; I'm scared and I don't want to know?

"It's time." Was all the warning I was able to give him and I devoted all my strength to not letting that bubble break.

He scrambled onto the bed and wrapped his arms around me from behind, pulling me into what was meant to be an anchoring embrace. I will never as long as I live tell him that it was the feeling of his bare chest coming into contact with the bare skin of my back that made the bubble explode, and hurled me into the gaping maw of memory.

I heard his voice, faint and far away, yelling for Quatre and that was the last thing I remember before the rabbit hole swallowed me whole.

Duo, who raped you?


+ flashback +

You didn't go out alone. It was one of the rules. There was a certain safety in numbers even when you were small. It was the whole point to banding together. Solo made the rules to keep us safe. But it was Solo who told me I had to break the rules. Things had been very lean, and we hadn't had food in days.

"You do better on your own, kid." He grinned at me, punching me lightly on the arm. "You're the best little pick pocket I've ever had in the gang."

I glowed with pleasure; Solo thought I was the best! I wouldn't let him down; I'd bring home enough credits to feed us for days. He'd see! I'd make him proud.

So off I went into the streets alone, even though it was against the rules. But times were hard, and the little ones were hungry. It was up to me and Solo to take care of them. But I was one of the best, and I was doing really well, probably had near enough to maybe buy some of the out-dated K-rations the troopers sold in their off hours. I was feeling really proud, and couldn't wait to get back and show Solo. He'd be happy, and the whole gang would go to sleep with full stomachs tonight.

But I got careless. They caught me going back. I was in a hurry and forgot the other rule about never going where there wasn't at least three ways out. They got me in an alley. I was quick, and I almost got away, climbing over a fence, but they were way bigger and when one of them caught my ankle, I was hopelessly trapped; I never stood a chance.

"Where you goin' in such a hurry, honey?" a gruff voice asked, dangling me upside down by that ankle. I squirmed and they laughed, then the other one took hold of my hair and the first one let go of my leg, letting me fall hard on the concrete.

There were two of them, off duty soldiers, and a little drunk. The more I twisted and turned, the more they laughed. My knees and my hands stung from being dumped on the ground, but I hardly felt the pain through the suffocating fear that had hold of me. They let go of my hair when I started to shake.

The first one, a huge, bear of a man leaned down and almost gently stroked the tangled strands of my hair out of my face. He seemed extremely excited, which just made it more confusing, "Come on, honey, we're not so bad, are we?" and he leered at me in a way that made my legs turn to water.

The second man, a blond, not as tall, but just as hugely intimidating suddenly started getting angry. "That ain't no girl!" he grabbed my hair again, and jerked my head back so they could see me better in the low light.

The bear man, if anything, seemed to be more pleased, "So?" he leaned conspiratorially toward his blond companion, and said something that made no sense, "You think the young girls are tight... "

They pulled me a little further into the alley and suddenly there was a knife in the first ones hand. A great, huge, military knife. I started to whimper, they were going to kill me, I was sure of it. If only it had been that simple.

Instead, his hands replaced the blonds wrapped in my hair, and he began cutting my clothes away. My mind wasn't processing fast enough, I couldn't figure out what was going on. Somewhere in there, I started screaming for Solo, but the blond cuffed me in the side of the head until I shut up.

"Not too hard." Giggled bear-man, "I like to hear to 'em."

He kicked the remnants of an old packing crate over and threw me face down across it, splintered wood biting into my hips.

"Hold him a minute." He growled, and the hands on me changed. I heard the sound of the first ones zipper going down. Everything came into sharp focus and seemed to slow down. I had time to feel the shard of glass that had gashed the palm of my hand; I could feel stones biting into my bare knees. The hands of the blond man pressing down on my back were trembling slightly and they were both breathing hard. The terror in my chest was expanding, telling me I had to get the hell out of there, that this was a really bad mess, I had to get away, I had to get away right now!

I fought for all I was worth, I squirmed and twisted and bucked and started screaming for Solo again, let them hit me all they wanted. Behind me, the bear laughed darkly, "Oh, I like it when they fight."

Then it was too late. I was hit with the worst, most agonizing pain I have ever felt. My screams for Solo became just screams. Never ending screams that they didn't even seem to care about any more. This was L2 for Gods sake; nobody was coming to my rescue.

My mind could not fathom what in the hell he was doing. In front of me, blondy had opened his own pants and was stroking his cock, moaning softly.

"Hurry up, damn it, I want my turn." He groaned, his voice full of something dark and frightening.

It clicked in my head, seeing the man in front of me; I suddenly knew what the one behind was doing. The pain was tearing me apart, and I renewed my useless efforts to get away.

"Oh, yeah, kid, that's right; fight it." The bear moaned, and he was no longer content to leave me pressed into the crate, his hands caught me around the waist and began pulling me backward to meet his thrusts.

I no longer had a voice, and the pain finally overwhelmed the fight and I went limp in his hands, but he was passed caring, pounding at me until I felt him stiffen and something hot gushed inside me. I was sure he'd killed me. But his plunging thrusts stopped and he jerked out of me, letting me collapse across the crate, I couldn't have gotten up if I had tried. I thought it was over, but I was wrong.

"God damn it! Move over!" blondy's voice was coming in gasps and he scrabbled around to take the position that the bear had been in just a moment before. I whimpered through a throat that was raw, but they ignored me.

This one didn't have as much to say as the first one, just grabbed my hips and impaled me with one hard thrust. It was searing; he was already worked up to a fever pitch and just pounded away at me, his breath coming in ragged gasps. I almost slipped into a dark oblivion, but whenever I came close, the bear would slap at my face and bring me back.

"Wouldn't want you to miss anything." He grinned, washing my face with the stink of the alcohol on his breath.

Finally, blondy too went stiff and then collapsed across me, his sweaty chest pressing against my back, taking my breath away.

They got up after a minute and put their clothes back to rights, laughing together as they started to walk away. Then bear came back and leaned down and whispered in my ear. "You were pretty good, kid. Maybe we'll look you up again some time."

They went away and left me lying there, naked and bleeding and whimpering.

Solo came for me not long after, and took me back to one of the hideouts and cleaned me up and tried to explain. He let me stay in for a few days and I just lay in my pile of rags and built my black hole. I think that night Shinigami was born, though he didn't have a name yet.

+ end flashback +


Their voices filtered through to me first, Quatre was there, and his voice was broken and scared. Wufei was still with me, voice tight and barely in control.

"Is it... is it over?" Quatre asked.

"I don't know." Wufei answered.

I opened my eyes on the here and now with a shuddering sigh. Wufei was still behind me, arms bruisingly tight around me. Quatre was with us, lying across my legs, eyes wide and face pale. I must have fought. Quatre saw my eyes open.

"Duo?" his voice trembled.

"S'ok." I managed, and my throat hurt. I must have been screaming too.

My muscles were strung as tight as a bow string, and as the guys eased their grip on me, it was like the string suddenly broke and I collapsed, the only thing keeping me upright was Wufeis anchoring hold.

"Told you, you wouldn't sleep through it." I muttered hoarsely and Wufei let out a shaky breath.

"Maxwell," he said gently, "the dead would not have slept through that."

I would have laughed, but I was afraid it would turn into something else. In front of me, Quatre was turning to jelly now that it was all over. He fought for a moment against tears, until I held out an arm for him and he threw himself against us and sobbed fit to break your heart.

I rubbed his back and breathed soft reassurances, "It's all over, Quatre. It's Ok. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Cry for me, little one, cry for me the tears I can't shed for myself. Grant me a measure of the release I wish I could feel.

"You scared us." He murmured, after a bit, pulling away and sitting up.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to happen. You shouldn't have had to see."

Wufei tightened his arms around me and he sounded tense and a little angry, "Maxwell, will you stop apologizing?"

I managed a small smile, "Ok, Ok, I'm sor... "

Quatre actually giggled a tiny bit, I think from some look on Wufeis face that I couldn't see. Wufei sighed.

"Can't help it." I shrugged, and Wufei finally began to unwind from around me. He let me slip gently back onto my pillows and moved to sit on the side of the bed.