Shinigami Rises - Part 2
Duo's Friendship Arc 22
by Dyna Dee
Before the phone finished the first ring, Trowa was speaking into the receiver. "Duo?" he asked in a more anxious tone than the other had ever heard before.
"It's me," Duo confirmed in a hushed voice that sounded stressed. "I'm on the fourth floor with no sign of Quatre," he reported. "And most of the offices I've passed are deserted. No one seems to be around at all, which makes this a perfect place to stash a kidnap victim."
"Heero and Wufei are on their way to pick me up," Trowa told him. "Then we'll all get there quickly and join you."
"Watch dogs too?"
"Yes," Trowa replied. "They know the city better than we do."
"We're gonna be in trouble, aren't we?"
Trowa blinked in disbelief, then pulled the phone away from his ear to look at it in astonishment, disbelieving that this was the troublemaker of all time worrying about getting caught and punished when Quatre's life might be at stake. Then the thought hit him that Duo must really be scared or stressed to be worried about such a thing at this moment of crisis. In fact, Duo had sounded like a little kid waiting to be punished for something he'd done wrong. Having dealt with and been witness to the American's sway of emotions during the last few months, it suddenly felt as if he was standing on a high wire in dealing with the boy on the other end of the phone line. One wrong move or slip of the tongue could mean disaster.
"It's alright, Duo." He spoke in a gentle manner into the receiver. "The important thing to everyone is that we get Quatre back unharmed."
"Yeah, you're right," came the sidetracked reply. "I gotta go, Trowa."
"Call me in fifteen minutes," the auburn haired boy ordered. "That's Heero's ETA, but I'll wait to hear from you before I leave."
"Right." Duo's voice sounded stronger now. "And Trowa?"
"Tell Hayden I'm gonna kick his ass to China when I get back."
The Heavyarms pilot chuckled. "I think Heero said just about the same thing when Hayden answered his call. I believe he's packing as we speak."
"Then he's not as dumb as he acts," Duo added. "Back at you in fifteen," he added, then hung up the phone.
Trowa sighed and put the receiver back in its place up on the hall phone.
"Well?" The man behind him questioned. Watch dog number three, Roberto, had accompanied Trowa to the gym that morning and, immediately upon their return and not finding the other two in their rooms, instituted a search for the unaccounted pilots they'd left on campus, unguarded. The call from Heero had answered the puzzle as to where they were, and Roberto was fully informed of the situation on his own cell phone simultaneously by one of the two agents accompanying Heero and Wufei.
Trowa turned and looked up at the rather tall, Spanish, plain-clothes agent. "He's on the fourth floor and still hasn't located Quatre or his kidnapers."
Roberto nodded, his mouth pressed in a thin, grim line. "How's Duo handling it?" he asked, concerned for the boy they had all watched struggling emotionally with the various drugs the doctors had tried on him. It was unsettling even to the assigned protectors to see the strong, determined teen come unraveled a piece at a time. But all three of the agents assigned to protect and rein in the notorious Gundam pilots held a grudging respect for all of them as they observed the four boys rally around the long haired teen and each other. It didn't go unnoticed that the American was rarely, if ever, left by himself during this difficult time. If he and the other agents were worried over the present situation, he could only assume the other pilots were in a state of controlled panic to recover their two comrades.
"Duo sounded distant, distracted." Trowa answered the man's question with a worried frown on his usually placid face. "Maybe even a little shaky." He looked up to Roberto with his concerned green eyes that seemed impossibly old for someone still in his teens. "We need to get there quickly."
Roberto nodded, keeping in check his own inner feelings of anger and failure at protecting the two boys. Quatre had been taken on his watch and somehow, he vowed to himself, he would see this right.
He glanced down at his wrist watch. "Ten minutes," he reported as he and Trowa both took a position, leaning against the walls as they waited for the phone to ring and the helicopter to arrive.
Standing only feet from the stairwell on the sixth floor, the braided teen, armed with his hand-fashioned weapons, stopped at the top end of the corridor. He tilted his head to the side to hear better, thinking he'd detected voices. He needed to proceed with extra caution now, sensing he was getting close to his target. Removing his lock pick from his pocket, he quickly moved down the long corridor and silently picked the lock of every third door after detecting no sounds from within. He reasoned that if he had to duck inside a room to avoid being detected, it would help to have one nearby already open.
The faint sound he'd heard before grew into something more tangible as he neared the source. Voices, two distinct voices, were speaking back and fourth. Duo nervously looked back down the corner, deducing that the third kidnapper most likely had not returned. Hoping the missing man was a driver only and not coming back, he grew more cautious with each door he passed. He silently inched closer to the door from which the voices came. The brown office door also had a glass insert; this one was frosted for privacy and labeled simply in bold, black lettering, Room 621.
"Do you think he's called yet?" one of the men asked, his voice sounding nervously excited.
"He should have by now," the other, deeper voice answered calmly.
"Ten million..." the first voice said in awe at the large sum. Then a bit hesitantly he asked. "You don't think we're asking too much, do you?"
"We're talking about the Winner family here," voice number two said with sarcasm. "That's spare change for them, and I'm sure they'll gladly pay it to have their only male heir back."
"Yeah," voice one chuckled. "Lucky for us Pete recognized the kid when he first came into the pizza place."
"Shut up!" the deeper voice warned. "No names, remember? I don't want to have to kill the kid just 'cause you slipped and said our names."
There was a shuffling of feet and a pause before the first voice spoke again. "Don't worry, he's still out. How long do ya think it will be till he wakes up?"
"I don't know. Soon," the other answered. "So watch what you're saying," he warned in a tight voice.
"Alright, I got it." The other sounded peevish at the reminder.
Duo's eyes narrowed during the conversation as the person responsible for the kidnaping was named. Pete, the pizza guy. He was gonna be very sorry for that phone call he'd made that afternoon. Checking his watch, he realized he was already one minute late in placing his call to Trowa.
Slipping silently down to the end of the hallway to the first door open near the stairway, he entered the office that he discovered was occupied by a tax service. He went immediately to the lone desk in the room and picked up the phone and punched in the number.
"Where the hell have you been?" was Heero's angry voice that came down the wire.
"Found him," Duo whispered.
"Are you in danger of being discovered?" Heero asked, his anger quickly turned to concern.
"Two with Quat, and two unaccounted for, the driver of the van, and the main conspirator."
"Alright. Do not take action unless you think his life is endangered or if you're discovered."
"We're on our way. The W.D.'s think they know the area you described. We'll be there shortly."
"I left a bicycle against the front of the building next to this one." Duo added, hoping its discovery would help lead them to him.
"Got it." *Click*
He carefully hung the phone up, avoiding any noise, and paused at the door, listening for any sound in the hallway.
"Dammit, I know I heard something," voice two said from out in the corridor.
"Could it be Dan?" voice one asked
The sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed through the corridor.
"What did I say about using names?" the deep voice growled out in a threatening tone.
"Ya didn't have to hit me," the other said in a hurt tone.
"Well maybe now you'll remember," came the snide reply. "Now, search this floor. I know I heard something."
"Could have been an echo of our voices in this empty dump," Voice one meekly suggested.
"Just do it!" Two snapped, obviously irritated.
Dropping down, Duo crawled on his hands and knees and cautiously reached up to turn the lock on the doorknob of the office. A small "tick" sounded as it engaged and he winced at it, hoping against hope the two in the corridor hadn't heard it. He breathed a relieved sigh as the sound of footsteps on the linoleum continued as the doors lining both sides of the hallway were checked.
"Why are some of these locked and some aren't? Voice one asked.
"I don't know, maybe it's a fire department regulation," two answered gruffly.
The braided teen went to the right side of the door and stood, placing his back against the wall. A few moments later, the doorknob rattled, and then came the sound of footsteps moving away, allowing him to sigh in relief. He stood there and waited for all sounds to cease, then checked his watch. Only five minutes had passed.
Then, echoing through the empty corridor was the ring of a cell phone. The deep voice of the second man followed. "Go back to the boy," he ordered the other.
Immediately the rapid sound of footfalls were heard as the other kidnapper complied.
"Yeah." Voice two answered the phone. Duo listened intently, glad that the acoustics of the hallway allowed him to hear the conversation taking place halfway down the long corridor.
"What?" the voice shouted in surprised anger. "They refused? Who bargains with kidnappers?" he said incredulously. Then there was silence, and when the man on the cell phone spoke again, his voice was deadly. "Well, I'm not just letting him go. If they think they can out maneuver us by just not dealing with us, then they've got a shock coming along with a dead kid."
Duo's heart began to beat faster with fear for his friend.
"I don't care what you say, I'll show them who's bluffing. The kid dies."
"I'm in charge, not you!" he shouted, clearly displaying he was not.
"Go to hell!"
The conversation ended and foot steps seemed to pound angrily down the hallway.
"Eric!" The deep voice bellowed.
"Oh God," Duo whispered, moving his hand up to touch his cross. Voice two had just said the other guy's name, confirming his intentions against Quatre. With a momentary pause, he called up his alter-ego that had helped him survive the war, knowing Shinigami was needed now as much as he was during the many battles he'd survived.
Hesitating no longer, the braided boy, his body battered by the fall off the stolen bicycle and head aching from the blow to his head, moved quickly with silent, fluid movements down the hallway in his stocking feet. He paused at the partially opened door marked 621 so he could see the blurred silhouettes of the two men standing further in the room and who were currently in a heated debate.
Unknowing to the men arguing within room 621, Shinigami had risen inside the young teen just feet away from them and was poised to attack from just outside the doorway.
"No Harry, it's not right," the smaller man owning the first voice he'd heard argued with the taller figure before him. "You promised the kid wouldn't get hurt, that we'd get the money and tell the authorities where he was."
"It's not going down the way we planned." the other replied darkly. "Kidnaping is a life sentence, and I'm not gonna do time for a botched job."
"Please," the other pleaded. "Let's just leave him here. Someone will find him on Monday and we'll be long gone."
"Get out of my way, Eric, or I'll shoot him through you," the menacing voice threatened convincingly.
Reaching into his back pocket, Duo pulled out three of the halved scissors, loosely balancing one in his right hand while the others in his left were poised, ready to use. Without pausing, he leapt through the doorway, causing the door to slam open against the wall. The two men before him turned with a look of shocked surprise on their faces, and that was the last conscious move they ever made. The three, newly-fashioned blades impacted with deadly precision, first into the taller man holding the gun in his hands and standing over Quatre's bound and masked body. The first blade went into the man's throat and the other into his belly. He fell to the floor like a great oak tree. The third blade hit the smaller man square in the middle of his chest. His wide, startled eyes displayed first his shock at the boy's entrance, then the deep agonizing pain he felt as he looked at the handle of the scissors deeply impacted into the center of his chest. With only a squeak of a sound coming from his lips, he slid to the floor, blood pouring out from his wound.
The Deathscythe pilot stumbled forward, cautiously stepping over the sprawled bodies of the dead and dying men and the growing puddle of blood to get to Quatre's side. He pushed the men's bodies aside slightly to have more room to work on his friend.
Gently removing the duct tape that secured the pillow case around the boy's neck, he then removed it from off his head. Quatre's eyes slowly blinked open and seemed dazed and unfocused.
"Duo?" he asked weakly and then coughed.
"It's me Quat," he reassured him and gently rolled him over to get better access to the wide, silver tape that bound his hands together.
"What happened? Where are we?" the blond boy was obviously disoriented and confused.
"You were kidnaped as we came out of the Pizza place. That jerk Pete recognized you as a Winner and decided to try and make a lot of money at your expense," he answered with anger as he worked at sawing the tape with the box cutter he'd slid out of his sleeve.
As the Arabian boy's hands were freed, he brought them forward to rub the numbness out of them as Duo moved down to his bound feet.
With Duo's body further down from his sight of vision, the blue eyes focused on the two still bodies lying parallel to himself. Visible to him were the opened and glossed over eyes that clearly spoke of Duo's blade throwing accuracy.
"I'm gonna throw up," he warned in a voice sounding like pure misery and tightly squeezed his eyes shut to block out the mask of death the dead men wore and the blood puddled on the floor around him, some smeared where Duo had moved their bodies.
"Just keep your eyes closed," Duo cautioned. After a few moments the sound of the tape around his ankles ripping was followed by Duo saying, "There ya go." The braided boy put the box cutter down in order to have both hands free to rub Quatre's ankles, urging blood back into circulation in the numb feet.
Then suddenly, within a split second of time, Duo was aware of a flash of something lowering with great speed over the front of his face that instinctively caused him to bring a hand up. His right palm was immediately and painfully caught up and pinned against his throat by what felt like a very strong, thin wire. He was abruptly and forcibly jerked to his feet as he fought to bring his other hand up to try and pull the metal away from his neck, where it was attempting to strangle the life out of him. His dull and aching senses were suddenly alert again, and he could smell and feel the person his back was now pressed up against. He distinctly picked out the smell of cheap cologne, sweat and cigarettes as an angry voice sounded in his right ear.
"You'll pay for this, ya little bastard," the man behind him snarled.
The American struggled valiantly with his hands and feet to dislodge his self-appointed executioner.
"No!" Quatre struggled on wobbly legs to his feet, the effects of the chloroform made him nauseous and dizzy, his feet unsteady underneath him.
"Sorry kid." Another voice spoke behind the man still holding onto Duo. "But now that you've seen us, we don't have a choice any longer. Both of you gotta die. Especially since you've offed our friends here."
Feeling the metal wire slicing through the skin of his hand caught under it, Duo heard the voice of Pete behind them and knew he had to act now if they were going to survive. Taking a forceful step back into the man trying to kill him, he hit him hard in his ribs with his free elbow, then tucked his head and threw himself forward into a tucked roll, taking the startled man behind with him, flipping him over his back to land on the floor where Quatre had been moments before. The wire garrote lessened enough in his attacker's hands when he fell that the American boy was able to take a deep breath, twist around, and simultaneously reached into his back pocket and grabbed hold of two scissor handles. With lightening speed caused by need and the adrenaline rush of hand-to-hand combat, the boy-soldier plunged both blades into the broad chest below him. The blood curdling scream of the dying man echoed through the empty halls of the large building.
Not forgetting there was another kidnaper in the room, Duo jumped to his feet and stood facing his new opponent. Bloody, clothes torn, long hair in his eyes and trailing wildly around him, the boy from L-2 was breathing heavily to catch his breath as his amethyst-shaded eyes narrowed, sighting his next victim. Shinigami had risen and was present in the room with deadly intent visible in his eyes.
Pete stood looking appropriately horrified as he held a slightly shaking gun up, aimed at Duo's chest. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded with a trace of fear in his voice.
"Big mistake, buddy." Duo's voice came out harsh and raspy, his vocal cords having been bruised by his near strangulation. "Ya mess with the gundam pilots, ya end up dancing with Shinigami."
Pete's eyes widened with horror when he finally understood the implication of the wild-eyed teen's statement. He then looked at Duo down the barrel of his gun with a new look of deadly determination in his eyes.
Duo knew he probably couldn't dodge a bullet, but decided instantly that he would take this guy down with him, no matter what the cost. He crouched a bit lower into a fighting stance, and reached for the last scissor handle in his back pocket as he prepared himself. His concussed brain was causing his head to spin and his vision to blur, he had to blink several times and mentally will his eyes to focus only on the man's eyes and the gun trained on him. Then his world narrowed to just he and Pete, everything around them disappeared around the grey edges of his tunnel vision, and suddenly, everything it became still in his mind as he watched the finger on the man's gun press against the trigger, and he made his move as the report of the gun went off and an indistinct flash color seemed to pass just below his line of vision. In that same fraction of a second, the blade in his hand was sent flying to its target.
His aim had proven to be true. Pete's agonized scream in reaction to the impact of the blade filled his ears, and he watched as the man who had made them pizza only hours ago, collapsed to the corpse strewn floor with the handle of the scissors imbedded to the black handle in his right eye. Duo stood numb as he watched the man twitch a moment before going still. Even though he knew the room was now silent, there was a stead roar in his ears and the room began to spin. He bent forward to put his head in between his knees to get blood to his brain.
It was then that the American came back to his senses, mentally beginning to put his alter-ego back in place and come out of his battle mode to realize with a start that he felt no pain from a bullet. In a dazed state, he opened his eyes looked down to the ground where his eyes lit on Quatre, laying silently at his feet in a fetal position and then realization hit.
"No, oh God, no," he whispered in horror. "Not Quatre. Not now," he cried as he fell down on his knees next to his friend and gently turned him over, seeing the growing dark stain of blood spreading across the lower half of the white oxford shirt.
"Duo?" the weak voice called out his name.
"Quatre, you stupid idiot," he said mournfully angry. "Why? Why did you do that?" Then breaking down, the long haired boy began to sob over his friend. With tears flowing down his exhausted and pale face, he carefully lifted his wounded friend's shoulders up to cradle him in his lap.
"Put pressure on it," Quatre whispered in a shaky voice, as his pained, blue eyes struggled to say open, thinking that for some reason it was vitally important.
Duo brought up his right hand and both of them saw the blood flowing from the palm sliced deeply by the metal wire that was used to try and strangle him. "I can't." Duo sobbed harder in his failure to help. "I'm all bloody."
"Yes you can," Quatre said, his voice becoming weaker but adamant. "Just put your hand over it and press. If our blood mixes, we'll be blood brothers," he tried to smile as his eyes drifted closed. "I've always wanted a brother," he said faintly before his body went slack.
"No Quatre," Duo sobbed. "Don't do this to me." He gasped for air and pulled his trembling hand over to place it directly over the bloody patch on the once white shirt and applied pressure. They sat there, for how long, he didn't know, with Duo holding the small blond teenager and rocking back and forth, trying to comfort them both and staunch the flow of blood under his hand at the same time.
As he rocked, a flow of quiet, pleading words came out of him without a pause. "Don't leave us Quatre, please don't go. You're the best of us; you're my friend. Thank you for being there for me Quatre, for all the gifts you've given us. I'll always remember the trip to the snow and the baseball game you took us to, as well as all the safehouses, food and money you provided as well as your listening ear and compassion. God above, help us." He paused only to catch his breath, "Quatre is always there for us, don't take him now." He looked back to the boy in his arms to address him again. "Don't go, Quat, I still need you; we all do. Please don't die, not now. We're almost free and you have your whole life ahead of you. You can't die now, I won't let you. Do you hear me? I'm suppose to be Shinigami, and I say you can't die. Please Quatre. Don't leave us. God, don't take him away. You've done so much for me buddy, now it's my turn to give back to you. You can't leave and make me feel guilty all my life that I never gave back to you." He continued on in his hoarse and choked voice with his thoughts rambling to his friend and to deity until his overwhelming grief took the words from him and replaced them with free-flowing tears of grief.
Dimly registering a noise, Duo lifted his red, tear-filled eyes, laden with extreme exhaustion to look in the direction of the door. Through his blurred vision caused by his tears of grief, he could make out several shapes in the doorway, but couldn't focus to see them clearly or hear what words were being spoken. It didn't matter to him. Nothing mattered. Quatre was dead and it was his fault. He should have done something different. If he'd been faster, more alert, or even waited for back up, maybe Quatre would be alright. His mind quickly retraced his steps from the time they'd come out of the pizza parlor, picturing various things he could have done differently that would have had a better outcome, one in which Quatre was alive and safe.
He felt movement in his arms and looked down to see arms trying to take Quatre's body from him. He instinctively tightened his grip and hunkered down to protect his friend, ignoring the senseless voices and words floating around him.