Educating Quatre - Part 13
Duo's Friendship Arc 18
by Dyna Dee
Check out time from the aging hotel was eleven a.m. Dressed for the day, Duo wore his pair of sweat pants he'd saved from the night before, a dark green t-shirt, and kept his hair down in an effort retain the appearance of a girl. Quatre had risen early that morning and washed out the two dresses, using all the soap left in the bathroom. The light material dried quickly when placed over the heater. He admitted to feeling embarrassed and shabby as he wore the badly wrinkled dress Duo had worn the day before, not having a needle or a thread to repair the tear in his own.
They left the room with Fred and went directly to the hotel's restaurant, treating the freshly washed street bum to a large breakfast, just a small way to thank him for his help. After the meal, Fred bid them a hasty farewell with a wink of an eye and a wave of his arm, then he unceremoniously disappeared down the street.
The two boy/girls made an attempt to appear to casually wander through several shops down the few remaining streets to their destination. Upon reaching it, they quickly ducked down the now familiar alleyway to the bar's side door. Duo's pounding on the metal door brought Sly himself to see what was going on. The big, balding man reached out with both hands and hauled the two teens inside. Both boys were enthusiastically greeted by the relieved women present as they had feared the worse when the two failed to return the day before. Sly eyed them suspiciously.
The women quickly discovered Duo's injured legs when one of them bumped into him and he cried out in pain. He was quickly ushered upstairs to their attic bed and they began the mothering/nurse routine. They cleaned and bandaged his legs, hearing his story of how he'd scraped them. What he told them was close to the truth, he just left out why he was really jumping up into an air shaft. He explained to them that he'd been injured jumping up into a vent to escape pursuing soldiers. Close enough to the truth for Duo to feel comfortable telling them the slightly altered story.
Duo seemed to be quite comfortable in being doted on by the bar's employees. Sitting back against the many pillows propped up for his comfort, food and drink near his slightest reach, and even a television was brought up to keep him entertained while the overprotecting females insisted he stay in bed.
After several hours of fussing, the women left to prepare for the bar's opening that evening. Duo sighed contentedly and leaned back into the pillows. "Now I know what it must be like to be Quatre Winner," he said in a soft, teasing voice.
"Very funny." Quatre folded his arms across his chest and gave his friend a crooked smile. It was nice to see his American friend in a better mood.
"So....," Duo drawled. "How long do we stay here?"
"As long as it takes for you to be able to move more easily," he answered, as he leaned casually against the bedpost at the end of the bed.
Duo's brows pulled together in a frown as his eyes gazed thoughtfully down at the sheet covering his bandaged legs. He then looked up through his long bangs to the blonde. "I could go right now, if I had to," he offered, though his voice sounded a bit worried.
Quatre moved from his position and sat on the edge of the bed near his friend. He smiled at him in a reassuring manner. "No need to rush it," he replied. "We seem to be secure here, and Heero did give us a week." Relief was evident on the heart-shaped face.
They spent the next three days planning on how to retrieve Sandrock. Though the news did report the fire within the Hertzog-Bellow's building, and that it was speculated it was apparently set to distract the authorities from an armed robbery that took place on the thirty-eighth floor, where casualties had been reported. There was no word on the local newscast as to the success or failure of Heero and Wufei's attempt to escape and reclaim Deathscythe. The two boys housed in the attic room took it as a good omen. OZ wasn't one to report setbacks, or having mud pushed up their noses, as Duo put it. Yep, no news was considered good news.
Oz's presence in the city seemed to greatly diminish over those few days, as if it lost all enthusiasm or organization in contrast to their previous search through the city. Cherry reported that everything seemed to be going back to normal again on the streets.
On the evening of the fifth day since Wufei's rescue, the two gundam pilots bid farewell to their hosts. A backpack filled with food and necessities was given to them as they said goodbye for the last time to Hal and his employees. Quatre placed several crisp hundred dollar credits into his hand as they shook in farewell.
Hailing a cab, the two dressed in their own clothing with dark baseball-type hats covering their hair and eyes and duffel bags slung over their shoulders, were driven to a location one block away from where Sandrock was stashed, in a large metal warehouse.
Buying a couple of sodas from a fast food restaurant to lend them a casual air, the two strolled towards the warehouse and then walked past it. Quatre's eyes studied the building as he gave the appearance to anyone who might be observing them of merely talking to his companion. "I don't see anything suspicious," he reported in a low voice. They scouted as much of the large building and its perimeters outside the fence as much as they could. They observed only one security person on the premises, who walked the perimeter of the building with a bright flashlight in hand before entering a side office.
"Looks good." Duo nodded, grateful that it looked like they wouldn't have to fight to free Sandrock. The front gate lock was held shut by a simple thick chain secured by a large padlock, no problem to the kid from L-2. "Security sucks Quatre," he commented aside to his friend as he quickly withdrew the pick from his hair, and within moments, the lock clicked open. He replaced his tool back into his hair with practiced ease.
"A high security facility would have asked too many questions," the blond answered a tad defensively. "Besides, it's adequate security for the bill of goods I handed the owner, stating the cargo as farm equipment.
Duo flashed a quick appreciative grin to the blond. "Clever boy," he whispered.
They slipped easily through the open gate, and re-linked the chain through the fence but left it unlocked for their exit. Quatre signaled Duo to begin a perimeter check to the left, he would take the right and they would met in the rear of the building as earlier planned.
Silently and invisible within the dark shadows, the two performed their task, their cautious and trained eyes scanning the area around the warehouse, searching for anything unusual.
"Nothin," Duo reported in a whisper as they met again at the back of the building.
Quatre nodded. "Step two," he whispered back.
They approached the building again, this time staying close to the metal wall of the storage building, and split again to repeat their first reconnaissance with attention to sound or movement from the inside. They met at the security booth.
/Three./ Duo signaled with his hands in the dim light, indicating he'd not seen or heard anything from the warehouse and was ready to proceed to the next planned step. Reaching into the pocket of his jacket, he withdrew his gun and released the safety, the blonde mirrored his actions.
Through the windows of the security room, they could see the lone guard sitting in a chair at a desk, watching the television on a far corner and eating a sandwich.
With a nod of his head to signal go, Quatre turned the doorknob and smiled, it turned smoothly and without sound, and best of all, it was unlocked. With guns up and ready, he mouthed the count to three. The two of them were suddenly in the room, guns pointed at the guard who blinked owlishly, his sandwich falling from his hands to land unheeded to the cement floor.
"Just cooperate buddy and you'll live to clock out at the end of your shift," Duo warned darkly.
"W... what do you want?" the frightened man asked as he raised both hands. "We don't keep any money on the premises."
"Well, actually," Quatre stepped forward. "I have a truck here I need to remove tonight.
The guard, who looked to be in his mid twenties nodded. "Whatever you want," he answered. "But please, I have a wife and child at home.
"Just do as you're told and you'll be home safe and sound," Duo cut in, not wanting to hear the man's pleas. It just reminded him that others, who had died at his hands, probably had similar lives.
"Are there any more security guards?" Quatre asked, shutting the door behind him. A negative shake of the guards head was his only answer.
Duo opened his left palm and wiggled his fingers. "Keys?"
The guard visibly swallowed and reached slowly to his desk. "In the left hand drawer."
Duo walked closer, Quatre warily watching in case there was a weapon in the drawer."
"Move slowly and use only your finger tips," Duo instructed, his voice low in warning.
Three minutes later, the two emerged from the room, keys in hand, and the guard gagged and trussed up securely to his chair with the duct tape they'd brought with them.
Quatre unlocked the large metal doors and cautiously pulled it opened. Both boy's winced as the loud squeak that erupted into the still of the night as the rusty hinges of the doors gave way to the movement. They slipped in through one of the doors and into the shadowed area inside the enormous warehouse that was filled to near capacity with vehicles of various shapes and sizes. The building was dimly lit by the skylights above that allowed the light of the quarter moon to shine down through the metal roofing and into the commercial building. Quatre pointed to the right wall and to the largest shadow situated in the middle of the long rectangular building that was spread out before them. Duo's eyes squinted at the tarp-covered object, vaguely recognizing the outline of Sandrock lying flat on it's back on the large flatbed of a transport truck.
Quatre squeezed his arm to signal they should proceed, and the two walked forward only a few feet before a very slight sound was heard off to the left, causing both boys to halt, ears straining. It had been a small pinging, of metal tapping against metal. It was slight enough to be something, or nothing at all.
Exchanging a quick glance, the two boy's separated. Duo pocketed his gun and pulled out his knife as he moved into the shadows to the left while Quatre moved out of the center isle to the right, moving with extreme caution as he walked towards his truck. He reached the cab and climbed up the very large step to reach the door, key in hand, when he heard a dull thud in the direction the first noise had come from. He quickly unlocked the cab of the large truck, sensing trouble.
"Hold it!" A deep voice firmly barked out from the shadows behind the truck.
Quatre froze, his heart pounding in his chest as the adrenaline kicked in. "Who are you?" he asked, making his voice small. "I don't carry money on me, other than twenty credits, "he added, hoping against hope this person was just a thief and that Duo would arrive any moment to help.
"I wondered how long it would take you to get back here." The man drawled in a smug, self-satisfied voice. "We've been staked out in this damn warehouse for the last four days just waiting for you arrival," he added with a sinister chuckle. "Getting kina hard to hide your suit, isn't it?" As the voice drew near, the person owning it became more visible.
"I don't know what you're talking about?" Quatre answered, hoping the man would move even closer so he could see exactly what he was up against. He wasn't the best of the team for a one-on-one physical fight, but he wouldn't give up easily. He just hoped this person hadn't seen Duo enter with him. They had both dressed in black, and with his darker hair, it was possible Duo could have been missed.
"Don't give me that load of shit," the man warned. " I know you're one of them."
"One of what?" Quatre asked trying to look confused and innocent. He continued on when the man didn't reply. "Look mister, I don't know what you want or what's going on here, but some guy hired me to pick up this truck and deliver it to him. He's three blocks away with five hundred credits for me to collect on delivery."
The man moved closer, his features now visible. He was short and stocky, all muscle it appeared. He wore his hair in a short military crew cut, and his eyes were narrowed in suspicion as he studied the small teen who obediently moved down from the step when he motioned with his gun for him to do so. "Who is this guy and what did he look like?" he asked, obviously doubting the story, but willing to question it.
Quatre thought fast. If this was one of the Special Team sent to capture them, they would know the description of Heero, Trowa, and Wufei. "Well, he didn't give me his name or anything, but he didn't seem much older than me," he began. "And he had reddish brown hair that kind of hung over the right eye. I think he had green eyes, but I'm not sure," he added.
"Where did you meet him?" the man asked taking a step closer.
"At the teen club on the corner of Krantz and Stoffen.
The man who looked to be in his mid-twenties frowned deeply. "I don't remember a teen center on those streets," he replied.
"Well, when is the last time you went to one?" Quatre asked, acting perturbed at his word being challenged, and thinking guiltily that he was getting pretty good at lying.
Reaching his hand behind him, the soldier pulled out a pair of handcuffs. "I'm taking you in any way kid, your story seems just a bit to shaky." Holding the cuffs out with one hand while the other continued to aim the gun at him, he ordered. "Put them on."
Quatre fumbled with them as if he'd never seen a pair of cuffs before, but within moments, both wrists were securely locked between the cold metal enclosures in front of his body.
"Stiletto," the short haired man called out into the darkness. "I've got a suspect in custody." He paused a moment listening for an answer. "Stilts?"
His eyes narrowing suspiciously on the boy before him, he stepped closer. "Alright, if you make any move to escape, I'll kill you. Now, walk in front of me and towards the front door." His voice was cold and angry.
The Sandrock pilot obeyed and turned to face the direction he was ordered to move in. He cast his eyes about the shadows, hoping Duo would make his move soon. He felt the gun nudge him in the back and moved forward towards the entrance.
A sound behind him was his only warning. He moved to turn around when a shadow, an "oof", and the loud report of a gun coincided with a powerful, painful force that hit his shoulder and knocked him off his feet, plunging him face forward onto the cold cement floor.
He was dimly aware of the sounds of a struggle behind him, and acting on instincts alone, the small Arabian wrapped tucked his cuffed hand up against his chest and rolled his body under the nearest vehicle. Once in its shadows, he turned to watch the two shadows on the floor struggling together. Not being able to see clearly, he guessed that Duo had made his move and deemed him to be the smaller of the two shadows.
"Give it up kid." The man's voice growled as he slammed Duo onto his back then threw his larger body on top of his, pinning the braided boy to the floor. "Don't tell me someone hired you to deliver another truck?" he sneered derisively.
Quatre could see that Duo was now completely pinned under the larger man's body though still struggling.
"Get off me you pervert," Duo snarled.
"Where's my partner?" the soldier ground out angrily.
Duo wisely remained silent, telling Quatre exactly what had happened to the man's partner.
The blond boy watched as the soldier pushed his torso up enough to maneuver himself to sit on top of the smaller figure's stomach, with brute force he moved the teen's arms so that they were pinned against his side and under his captors knees.
"Did you kill her you little shit?" he shouted and pulled Duo's upper body up by grabbing hold of his shirt.
Duo continued to keep his mouth shut, but his silence became the man's feared answer. He quickly lifted his right fist and slammed it down into Duo's face.
"I'll kill you myself," he declared. "To hell with my orders, there isn't anyone else left on the team but me, so I don't think they'll give a damn." He shouted in a fury and flung Duo's upper body and head to the ground and began to rain blows with his fists on the defenseless teenager.
"Duo!" Quatre yelled, and despite the pain in his shoulder and right arm, he rolled out from the shelter of the truck. Being handcuff and injured made it hard to maneuver his arms, but he clenched his teeth and ignored the pain as he reached into his pocket of his black pants and managed to pull out the small gun he always carried, grateful that the soldier hadn't thought to search him right away.
"Stop!" he ordered through gritted teeth, holding the small weapon in front of him in both hands and with dismay observed his gun was shaking wildly from the exertion and pain of moving his wounded arm and shoulder mingled with the first stages of shock. Allah, help me, he prayed to himself as he felt a wave of nauseous course through him. A soft cry passed his lips as the dizziness caused him to lose his balance and fall back from his crouched position onto his side, his gun flew out of his hand and slid into the darkness under the truck.
Even in the dim, filtered moonlight, the Arabian boy could see the soldier, turned berserker, grin in triumph as he paused in his beating of the other boy to smile at him.
"Your next kid." He laughed with a tinge of insanity to his voice. It was obvious the man thought the wounded boy was helpless after being shot at close range, as he turned back to beating Duo.
Quatre winced at the sound of flesh hitting flesh. Panic filled his dulled mind. He had to do something. His mind thought frantically and then the lessons he'd learned from Duo during their time in the city came back to him; you do what you have to in order to survive. Use what is at hand whether you like it or not.
He turned his head, quickly scanning the area around him, looking for something, anything to help Duo.
There, towards the side of the truck and close by was a drop cloth, tools, and a couple of cans. He forced himself to crawl the short distance on his knees, trying to keep as much weight off his wounded arm as possible.
His hands searched frantically over the items. If he could stand up and move, he could attack the man physically, but he was in no shape to do so. If he could move much more, he's go search to his gun. But now there wasn't enough time to grope in the darkness for it.
He quickly chose the heavy can of fluid that he judged to be motor oil and used the truck's runner and then the side handle of the truck's door to pull himself up to his feet. Breathing heavily from the effort standing too, he turned and looked back to his friend. The angry man had his hand in Duo's hair and was holding his upper body up with it, snarling threats into the boy's battered face. A faint glint of light on a shiny surface gave Quatre a start of hope. In Duo's pinned hand was a knife. Quatre now knew what he had to do before Duo lost consciousness.
"Hey!" he called out, and almost passing out from the pain, he heaved the can with both hands towards the enemy's head. The soldier looked up just as the can whipped by his startled face, his body, shifting just enough to miss it, unknowingly lifted his knee just enough for the boy pinned beneath him to move. His face reflected his disbelief, whether it was from the ability of the boy beneath him to wiggle free, or for the swift and final action that movement brought. His fists relaxed, releasing the material holding up the body he'd held in his hands, abruptly dropping the boy. He brought his hands up to his neck, and with a gurgle the only sound of his dismay, he tried to stop the gush of blood flowing from the deep slash not there moments before. He then fell forward onto the boy still pinned beneath him, the life in his eyes fading as he looked into the bruised and battered face of the boy who had ended his life.
"Duo." Quatre gripped his blood-soaked and useless arm as he stumbled towards his friend laying flat on the ground. He reached the other's side as the American grunted with effort as he rolled the dead weight from off of his chest. Falling to his knees next to the American, the injured blond put his left hand on his friend's chest to feel that Duo's body was trembling, his heart was beating rapidly.
"You okay?" the equally trembling voice whispered from below him.
"I've been shot." Quatre replied. "But I don't think it's too serious. How about you?"
"I really need an ice pack and some pain killers," Duo replied truthfully.
In the dim moonlight, the Sandrock pilot could barely see just how badly damaged Duo was, but he'd heard the fists impacting with Duo's face and knew he was probably pretty bad.
"I want to go home Duo," he sniffed, holding back the emotions that came along with being in shock. "What will we do now?" Even to himself he sounded like a lost child.
The American turned onto his side and slowly maneuvered him self onto his hands and knees and eased himself into a slouched sitting position. "Let's cut Sandrock loose and break out of here," he answered in a pained whisper.
"But won't they trace us? What about the exhaust fumes?" Quatre asked, trying to reason things out in his currently befuddled mind.
"Doesn't matter." Duo replied reaching out to exam his friend's injured arm. "While beating the crap outta me the smug bastard told me they'd been tracking us with a satellite orbiting the earth, programed to recognize the particle trail from the fuel emissions from the Gundams. Once we get outta here, we'll contact Heero. I'm sure he can hack into the system to find it and then he or one of the other guys can take it out. Then we can go home," he finished wearily and leaned his forehead against his friend's uninjured shoulder for some measure of comfort.
"I heard him say the rest of his team was dead, so we'll have that pressure off of us for a while." Quatre said as he brought his good arm around to encircle Duo's trembling form, and gently rubbed comforting circles on his back, smelling the blood of the two soldiers that Duo had killed on his clothing. He held his friend as close to him as he could, knowing he would have nightmares for weeks about the lives he'd taken, even though their deaths were justified. Against his shoulder and under his hand he felt Duo shake with barely suppressed emotion, only the soft sniffing sounds betrayed his silent tears.
"Let's unstrap Sandrock." Quatre said softly. "With our injuries, it'll take both of us to pilot him if we're to get home anytime soon."
He felt Duo nod his head in agreement and let go of his hold on the boy. It was a struggle for both of them to stand and with their arms supporting each other, the two pilots made their way to the large truck.
Ten minutes later, with both boy's strapped into the pilot's chair, they piloted the white Gundam through the ceiling of the warehouse, up into the night sky.
Duo contacted Heero, who instantly wanted a status report.
Duo's halted and slightly slurred speech relayed only the pertinent information regarding the tracking satellite and their present coordinates.
Heero suddenly asked for a visual, causing both pilots to look at each other. They figured it wouldn't take the Wing pilot too long to figure out something was wrong. Duo shrugged. "They'll know as soon as we land anyway," he whispered.
Quatre nodded and flipped on the switch that activated the interior camera. There was a moment of silence on the other end of the communication and they knew Heero was taking in the most obvious damage: first, Duo's abused face, with the swollen eyes, bloody nose and lips. Then, without a doubt, Heero's eyes would surely catch sight of the blood all over Quatre's upper right arm where the bullet, that had entered his right shoulder, had exited.
"We'll have medical waiting when you land," Heero said calmly, then continued his conversation with Duo on their present status.
As they spoke, Quatre closed his eyes and took a deep breath, reflecting for a moment on all that had happened during the last week in the company of the street-wise boy from L-2. He was no longer quite as naive as he had been now having seen a whole other way of life and a glimpse of how Duo had lived as a child. He didn't want to repeat this experience anytime soon, but it was comforting to realize that, if he was left alone without money in his pocket, that he could survive. That had been Duo's lesson to him. To do what you had to do with what means you had to survive to live another day. As Duo shut down the COM board, he blond opened his eyes again and set the coordinates for the safehouse into the auto pilot and switched it on.
It was rather cramped as the two shared the plot seat, and Duo leaned heavily against his undamaged shoulder and sighed. "Heero will destroy the satellite." He yawned carefully, wincing at the pain the small act brought. "We're to head east for one hour, south for a half hour and after that we head to the safehouse. He'll have it destroyed by the time we get there, so we just have to hold on until then," he finished, his voice sounding small as he nuzzled his head into a position that was as comfortable as it was going to get in his battered condition.
With only a little movement, Quatre turned off the Auto Pilot, reset the coordinated and locked in the time, just in case they slept through it, then switched the system back on. He checked the fuel level and hoped it was going to be enough, yet knew the claxons would sound if anything went wrong while they rested.
"How are you feeling Duo?" he asked, sounding as weary as he felt, reasoning to himself that it was no doubt due to the loss of blood and some shock. He cautiously settled back again, trying to ignore the constant throb and pain from the bullet's entry point in the back of his shoulder blade that worsened as it touched the back of the pilot's seat.
When they had first entered Sandrock's cockpit, they had inspected each other's wounds and patched each other up as much as possible under their limited mobility their battered conditions with the first aid kit Quatre always carried with him in Sandrock. At the end of the quick patch up, they both concluded with an almost hysterical laugh that hurt, that they were both a mess.
"I feel like I've been beaten to a pulp." Duo answered sleepily, his head resting heavily on his friend's left shoulder. "How 'bout you?"
The blond pilot sighed, "Pretty much the same as you," he replied, then tilted his head to the side to rest in against the top of Duo's head.
After a moment of silence and as sleep was close at hand, Duo spoke up again. "Quatre?"
"Let's take a vacation from the war for a couple of days, okay?"
"Sounds good to me." Quatre yawned.
The pilot of Sandrock heard the undercurrent of a desperate plea from his friend in his request. He would see to it that Duo got the rest he needed, what they both needed. "Yeah, I'll clear it with Heero," he answered. "We'll lay around in the sun while the others wait on us. How's that sound?"
Duo sighed deeply. "Somehow that seems familiar, but a great idea. Thanks." Duo's voice faded, and as his body became dead weight against his side, Quatre knew he'd finally drifted off to sleep. But before sleep could take over his own body, he gave a quick prayer of thanks to Allah that they'd survived once again, and silently vowed that he would do all in his power to see that his companion never had to return to a life like the one they'd lived during the past week. Weariness finally won over the strong-willed teen, and he too, slumped against his friend, giving into his body's need to rest. And his last thought while barely conscious brought a sense of comfort to him, that when they awoke, their friends would be at the safehouse, waiting for their return.