Web of Betrayal
Part 1 - Betrayal Abounds
by Dyna Dee
"Damn them." Trowa swore, venting his frustration to the empty office a moment after he'd shut off the vid phone. He'd just finished speaking with his so-called friends, and he felt more bitter with disappointment in them then real anger. He'd initiated the calls on the flimsy pretext of a social call, finding out what the other three were up to, and covertly seeking to find out if any of them had any plans for leaving their homes in the near future. The conversations were polite, if not a little stiff, which was typical of their communication for the last two years. But his call had achieved his goal, and he was anything but happy about it. He knew the others had to be aware what the significance of today's date, and not a one of them was making a move to right the wrong done two years ago.
"Duo." he moaned his friend's name and slumped back into his chair and ran his hands up and over his face and through his hair. "Two years." he whispered. "Two very long, damnable years."
Tilting his head back, he stared up at the ceiling, letting the feeling of disappointment in his former comrades wash over him like a wet blanket, leaving him uncomfortable and ill at ease. 'Don't know why I'm so disappointed,' he mildly chastised himself. The fact of the matter was that he had spent the last two years in preparation for this day, instinctively knowing that the others would fail their friend from L-2 once again.
For the past two years, Duo's words and pleading eyes had haunted him. In his mind he could still see him clearly, dressed all in black, his hair glistening in its braid from the bright lights shining down from above him as he face his accusers in the courtroom on L-4.
"I'm innocent!" he'd declared hotly, his back straight and his chin held high with a look of righteous indignation. "Someone has set me up!"
He remembered how Duo had turned to face the two people he knew best in the crowded courtroom on that dreadful day. "I never lie." he stated, and both he and Quatre knew it was true, in fact all those who knew him well were very much aware of this virtue that helped to define the orphan from L-2.
Duo's eyes turned to Quatre sitting with several of his sisters behind the prosecutor's side of the courtroom. "Quatre," he spoke with a firm voice daring his friend to deny his words. "you know I didn't steal from you. In all the time we've known each other have I ever taken anything from you?"
It was in that very moment when a single glance revealed one person's hidden secret, a resentment deeply buried. Quatre's blue eyes shifted from Duo's pleading face to Trowa as he sat behind the public defender assigned to the teen on trial by the court. Trowa met his gaze briefly before clarity hit and Quatre looked back knowingly at their braided friend. Duo's gasp was barely audible, the message was received as to a reason why he stood alone before a judge defending himself against the charge of grand larceny. It had to have gone through Duo's mind, as it had his own, that his standing there might possibly be the result of Quatre's deeply hidden jealousy of his lover's one night spent in Duo's comforting embrace on Peacemillion during the first war. Is this the way it had finally manifested itself? The brief look the blonde billionaire had given Duo was one of hurt and betrayal, and it seemed so out of place on the young man who rarely showed emotions other than empathy, love, and concern for others.
Trowa's look of shocked disbelief mirrored Duo's expression. Then the slight, black clad shoulders sank down in defeat, and Duo dropped his gaze to the floor.
"Are you ready for your sentencing?" the judge has asked. Duo nodded and turned away from Quatre to face the middle-aged man who held his future in his hands.
Trowa remembered clearly how he had wanted to jump to his feet and scream at the whole injustice of what was happening. To rail at the evidence planted in Duo's duffle bag, at the jury who took that evidence and convicted him, and at Quatre for standing back from helping Duo, justifying his inaction by saying the law would decided Duo's innocence or guilt. Trowa had been dumbfounded by his lover's statement at the time. What the hell did that mean when their closest friend had been framed for a crime he didn't commit?
The judge sat quietly, holding the courtroom's attention as he sifted through several papers in a file place in front of him on his podium. "Duo Maxwell," the man's voice spoke with authority and firmness. "You have been judged and found guilty of the charge of grand larceny by a group of your peers. Today it is my job to sentence you according to your crime."
He looked up from the papers and focused his eyes on the handsome young man standing despondently before him. The heart shaped face displayed the sadness the boy felt. "From records and personal referrals I've received, it's clear to me that you have led a lawless life, and no doubt this is one of the few times you've been caught in the act."
Duo hung his head. In a way, the judge was correct. Duo had to steal as a child to survive, and during the war they all took what we needed from their enemies. They'd lived on money pilfered from their accounts, stole and destroyed information and computers. There wasn't a one of them that hadn't taken a car or truck or even medical supplies when needed. All of them were just as guilty and lawless as the judge now described Duo. The irony was that this time, Duo hadn't taken anything, but was found guilty of the charge anyway.
"And because the artifact that was stolen from the Winner safe was valued at twenty million credits, I have been urged, and do now sentence you to the maximum sentence." Trowa remembered seeing Duo's body shudder at what we knew was coming.
The judge sat up straight to render the sentence. "Duo Maxwell, you are ordered to Penal Colony Four for a maximum confinement of six years. Parole may be first offered in two years if your record in that institution stays above reproach."
Duo turned with wide, panicked eyes to look at him, he supposed it was because he considered Trowa his only ally left in the room. Trowa bolted to his feet, ignoring the faint clapping from the other side of the room and, regardless that no one else in the room came to their feet, and opened his arms to his friend. He had only a moment to hold his friend from L-2, feeling the trim, trembling body in his arms, before the guards pulled them apart and began to pull Duo out of the room.
"I'll get you out, Duo." He shouted to his faintly struggling friend, hoping to reassure him he wouldn't be forgotten, and Duo had just a moment to look behind him with a look of terror in his eyes as he was pulled from the room.
The day didn't get any better after that. Trowa couldn't even look at Quatre and vaguely noticed his sisters who smugly grinned at their victory. He left his seat and walked towards the exit and was surprised to see Wufei there, dressed in his Preventer's Uniform. His first impulse was to smack the smug, pompous expression from the former Shenlong pilot's face. Since joining that law enforcement agency the Chinese boy had grown to become a pious, walking law book, or as Duo had described him, "An insufferable, pompous, unbending, unforgiving prick." What an apt description of the man he looked at then as Wufei put a hand on his arm to halt his leaving.
"I have nothing to say to you , Wufei." He remembered telling the other, upset that he, too, had done nothing to help Duo or his case. He had been turned down by their former comrades when he had contacted them to investigate for themselves who could have taken the centuries old Faberge Egg from the household safe and hidden it in Duo's luggage. It was beyond his understanding why no one else found it strange that once the gaudy egg was discovered missing from the safe, that the L-4 authorities were called, arrived, and within moments searched only Duo's room.
"Don't take it so personally, Trowa." Wufei's comment at that moment bothered him, even to this day. "He was given a fair trial and has to suffer the consequences of his actions."
"You think he did it, don't you?" Trowa challenged him angrily. "You know Duo doesn't lie. He wouldn't steal from Quatre."
"I'm not his judge or jury." Wufei said condescendingly. At that moment, Trowa really hated the guy. "The law says he's guilty."
"You're a heartless bastard, Wufei." He growled at him as his anger rose. "And you can carry that same message to Heero. Both of you are pathetic excuses for a friend."
"He and Relena are at a conference and couldn't make it." Wufei had defended the absentee pilot.
"Yeah, I can only imagine." Trowa remembered he had really been on a roll, fueled by his rage and frustration at the situation. "Probably at some plush resort, drinking cocktails while politely discussing the weather." He was fuming at that point. "Dammit Wufei, they were lovers. It's bad enough he broke Duo's heart by leaving him for Relena, but to not come and support or help him when he needed us..... Damn him." He turned to leave but couldn't help but add over his shoulder, "How honorable are you when your friendship proved to be fair weather only, Chang Wufei?"
He strode away, putting thoughts of Wufei, Heero and the rest of Duo's betrayers behind him and began concentrating on the best way to help his friend now headed for the penal colony. Hailing a cab, he took it back to the Winner mansion that had been his home for the last year. The house was quiet as a tomb as he made his way to his and Quatre's room and went directly to the closet and pulled out a large suitcase. Opening it up on top of the bed, it didn't take long to pack his clothing and a few mementos he couldn't part with.
His memory was still very clear of that moment in time. He'd looked up from the emptied dresser drawer to gaze at himself in the mirror, reflecting on the person looking back at him. In terms of physical appearance, he was taller and bulkier than he had been during the war, and his hair was shorter, no longer having the long hunk of hair hanging over his face. It was short in front and brushed back to reveal the eyes he'd hidden for so long. He no longer needed to hide who or what he was. Quatre and Duo both had a hand in that transformation. They both told him he was a person of worth, that he had been a gundam pilot and because of it, he should walk tall and look the world in the eye. Duo had been so surprised when he'd come for one of his many weekend visits to find the new hairstyle. He and Quatre had both openly gushed at his "beautiful eyes". He had then lowered those eyes from his reflection, the memory too painful. His gaze then fell on his right hand and the gold ring on this left ring finger. Moving slowly he pulled it off and after reflecting for a moment the meaning of it, and what it had represented, he set it down on the polished wood surface.
"What are you doing?" Quatre's alarmed voice came from the doorway and surprised him.
"Saying goodbye." he answered in a pained voice.
"Trowa." Quatre gasped and quickly walked towards him to stand face to face with his lover. "Don't let Duo's mistake ruin us." he pleaded.
"Duo did nothing, and you know it." he'd answered sharply. "My leaving is a result of what you did and didn't do."
"And what exactly did I do or not do?" The blonde challenged him.
"You didn't get him a good attorney like I requested." He clearly remembered turning away from the love of his life to place the remaining articles of clothing in his suitcase and zipped it up.
"Trowa, I told you," Quatre sighed in a condescending way that he'd always hated. "it would have been a conflict of interest as Duo was arrested, charged, and convicted of stealing from me and my family. How would it look if I hired an attorney to get him off? It would look like I condoned such behavior."
Trowa shook his head. "It would have looked like you believed him when he said he didn't take it. You would have looked like a friend who could be counted on."
"You don't understand." He clearly recalled the exasperation in Quatre's voice.
"Contrary to your belief that I'm too stupid to understand," he snapped back. "but I think I do. I understood very well that look you gave Duo in the courtroom. Your actions or inactions were a direct result of your jealousy."
"I am not jealous of Duo." he snapped back a little too quickly. "He has nothing I want or need."
"Except for the fact that he had me first." Trowa said in a more controlled and cold voice than even he believed possible. "That's always bothered you, hasn't it?" His anger had been rising again. "I knew it was a mistake to tell you about that night, but Duo said relationships are built on honesty, not lies. I thought you'd accepted the reason why he slept with me, that he had spent that one night comforting me as I was lost, scared and insecure, with no memory, and confused. He was there for me because you were too caught up in your guilt for almost killing me to get close to me then.
He closed his eyes and could still see in his mind two years previous as Quatre stood no more then five feet away from him, his arms rigidly straight at his side and his fists were balled up tightly and shaking. He knew that he'd hit on the truth. This had been a sore subject between the two of them, so they never discussed it, letting it simmer on the back burner for too long.
"Just please, tell me you didn't set him up." Trowa mentally begged him to say he was innocent.
Blue eyes widened and watered. "How can you even think that Trowa? Duo is one of my best friends. After all we've been through together, how could you think I'd deliberately set him up for more pain?"
Inwardly, he sighed with relief, but knew he couldn't stop there. "Then you should be ashamed of your actions." He'd told the other. "Duo has always been honest and our friend. You've betrayed him with your jealousy, lack of faith, and with your lack of desire to help him when he needed you the most."
"I'm sorry, Trowa." Quatre had cried out in anguish. "Please, don't leave. I love you." The memory of his lover pleading with him affected him even two years later. Clearly, in retracing that day in his mind, he saw himself picking up the suitcase and turning to the distraught heir of the Winner fortune.
"I love you, too." he'd answered softly. "But how can I trust that you won't do to me what you did to Duo?"
"Trowa!" Quatre said horrified, and stepped up to him, grabbing hold of his arms and looked with earnest pleading into his face. "I swear to you, in Allah's name, that I didn't set him up."
"If you didn't, then who did?"
"I don't know, Trowa." was the anxious reply.
He'd looked into those blue eyes he could never get enough of and said the words that had hurt them both.
"I don't know if I can believe you."
"I've never lied to you, love." Quatre's eyes pleaded for him to believe him.
"Neither did Duo." he replied and walked past his lover and out of his mansion.
That was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do in his life. He knew he'd left most of his heart behind him on L-4, but he had a new goal that superceded his own wants and desires. He had to free Duo.
With that purpose in mind, he'd gone straight to Earth, to Brussels and the Central Headquarters for the Preventers. Lady Une was surprised but pleased to see him as he entered her office inquiring about a possible job with her organization. When he left her an hour later, it was with a new job and a high-level salary and benefits that were granted someone with his unique qualifications.
For several days, he'd scoured the rental agency listings, visiting several apartments and boarding houses. The minute he'd met Mrs. Lunderson, he knew her home was where he wanted to settle down.
The elderly, white-haired woman who had opened the door to him that day was small in stature, and she seemed tiny and frail in comparison to his larger frame. Her steel blue eyes, enlarged slightly by the thick rimmed, oval glasses perched on her long, narrow nose had looked the new Preventer up and down in an analytical manner, seeming to sum his worth up in her wizened gaze. He felt as if he'd been undressed and thoroughly interrogated, and she hadn't even opened her mouth yet. He guessed he passed whatever assessment she'd put him through as she suddenly smiled warmly at him, the skin around her eyes crinkling from the movement, as humor and compassion twinkled in her aged eyes.
He introduced himself and told her of his interest in her spare room she'd advertised, and she in turn invited him in for a cup of tea. That was the beginning of their odd but jointly satisfying, mother-son type friendship. In the frail looking woman, he found something he'd always craved: warmth, compassion and a warm nurturer. She was one of those rare people who could be called a mother to all. Those matronly traits, which shone in her speech, manner and eyes, drew him to trust her. Over several cups of tea he'd done something he'd never done before, especially on such short acquaintance; he opened up and poured his heart out to her, telling her of his past without revealing exactly his part in the war. He spoke to her of his relationship with Quatre, without using his identity, and then of Duo. He knew without a doubt he'd found a real home as he saw her dab at her eyes with a linen hankey as she shed a tear for his friend unjustly sent to prison and betrayed by his friends.
Her soft, aged hands reached up and cupped his cheek. "Let me show you to your room." she said with a watery smile, as a wordless but understood agreement was made between the two of them that this would be his new home.
In a short time, she truly came close to being the mother he never had. She was at times his one comfort and consolation as he worked and saved every credit he could for the next two years. Early on he'd contacted several lawyers, showing them Duo's case and consulting with them as to an appeal. Each had been honest, if not kind in their answer. It would cost at least fifty-thousand credits to go to court, and without any new evidence they all assured him he'd be throwing his money away.
Seeing that an appeal was not an option, he began to research the penal colony Duo had been sent to and how paroles were granted. It seemed P.C. 4 was much like most space penal institutions, they were run efficiently by private organizations. P.C. 4 was an open-living colony in which the prisoners were given a space to live and a job in which to work to earn their keep. The space station, much smaller than a regular space colony, housed a maximum of seventy thousand people and was divided into six sections. One was for living quarters for the Corporation's employees and their families. Another level was for Administration Offices, and the other four sections were divided from each other and the rest of the colony in order to keep the varying levels of crime separate. The criminals committing petty crimes and white collar criminals were separate from those who's crimes proved to be of a more violent nature. He felt a small measure of relief that Duo's conviction fell into the category of a white collar crime. No violence or weapon has been used during his supposed criminal act. His friend should be quite safe living amongst that type of criminal than the other two levels filled with more hard-core, lifetime criminals.
Next, he studied the parol system, he realized that the corporation that ran the colony, loosely used the word "parole" in lieu of the true practice, that of ransoming their prisoners. Those fortunate few prisoners who had a sponsor show up with sufficient funds as a recompense for their stay, were always set free. Those who were left and best forgotten had no recourse but to live out the rest of their sentence, then shipped back to the colony that had convicted them.
He came to a firm decision after reading that information; he would ransom Duo when his parol came up.
Without telling the others of his plan, he began to work and save. He thought of how Quatre might have laughed at his lofty goal. The normal sum of money for a parole was listed on a file to be from fifty to one-hundred thousand credits. That would almost be pocket change for the Winner heir. But he wouldn't ask Quatre for anything, especially after his behavior in the courtroom. So he kept his intentions to himself and lived frugally and worked, sometimes taking on extra jobs in the evenings and weekends to save as much money as possible.
Yet, even as he worked towards his goal, a great loneliness settled over his heart. After some time had passed, and his friend's tenacious insistence, he slowly allowed them back into his life, with the exception of Heero and Relena. He began to accept invitations from his estranged friends, mainly Wufei, for simple outings, like a casual dinner, a drink after work, or a movie. He saw Heero and Relena only when assigned to the palace, and he made sure that was a rare occurrence. He and the other former pilots learned quickly not to bring Duo up in their conversations other than the fact that Wufei and Quatre confessed to sending Duo regular correspondence and packages, with no reply from him that he'd received them. As far as Trowa knew, no one had taken the time nor the great expense to go and see Duo. He didn't want to spend the exorbitant amount of money it would cost to go there either, as it would greatly deplete the funds he'd been saving for his friend's ransom.
Trowa reached forward to grasp the glass paperweight sitting on his desk. Quatre had given it to him, and he smiled at it even though his current thoughts were laced with bitterness. A few months after his move to Earth, Quatre turned up on his doorstep, offering his heart in his hand. From that time on he had visited several days at least once a month, and after his third visit, they'd resumed their relationship, but this time at a distance. Trowa refused to leave his job, and adamantly refused to set foot in one of Quatre's homes as long as the person/persons responsible for Duo's incarceration went un-named and unpunished. Quatre was obviously torn. He wanted to be with Trowa, but he couldn't leave his family or business on L-4. And though he would do anything for his lover, he couldn't accuse his sisters of something he had no proof of. With definite lines drawn, they had to content themselves with a long-distance relationship.
Duo continued to be a sore subject between the two. Quatre, upon Trowa's leaving him, felt guilty at the thought that maybe his friend had been set up by someone in his home, possibly even a family member, and had tried to assuage that guilt by immediately sending a large sum of money to P.C. 4 for Duo's care, with a request that he be pulled out of the prison population once a week for a medical check up.
Trowa sighed, having recognized the gesture as Quatre's way to help breach the gap between them when it came to Duo, but he shrugged, knowing things would never be the same as they were before the arrest, regardless how much they loved each other.
He looked at the expensive bobble in his hands, another gift from Quatre. Every time his rich lover came to visit him, he came with an expensive gift in hand. He knew he didn't really want or need them, but Quatre said he wanted to express his love in a tangible way that he'd remember him long after he had gone back home.
Costly paintings for the walls of his bedroom, and outrageously priced nick-knacks, clothing and jewelry were some of the gifts he'd received. Studying the paperweight in his hand, it felt cool and heavy in his hand. He turned it over to see the light from the flourescent light above reflect through the green and blue emeralds clustered to form the initials T & Q. Quatre assured him it was insured and he knew that the cost of this piece of glass alone could probably ransom Duo, but still, Quatre made no word or gesture that he would do the honorable thing. "So it's up to me." his voice echoed through the office space empty of workers who had left an hour ago.
Standing, with a new plan formulating in his head, he put on his Preventer's jacket and put the paperweight in his pocket, knowing he would sell it and use it for Duo, who deserved Quatre's guilt price more than he did.
Within moments he stood before Lady Une's office. She normally stayed late, enjoying the quiet of the office after most of the others were gone. At his knock, her smooth voice called for him to enter. She looked up, surprised to see him as it wasn't often he went to her for any reason other than being summoned.
"I need to take some time off for a personal matter." He told her.
Her eyes studied him. "You never take time off." she commented as she sat back in her chair contemplating him. "Is anything the matter?" she asked.
"No, nothing's wrong, I just need to take two weeks off." he replied while fingering the paperweight in his pocket.
She took in a deep breath and sat back in her chair, her eyes studying him as she thought.
"You're gong to P.C. 4, aren't' you?" she asked.
He raised an eyebrow, surprised she'd remembered. She was another one of those people who hadn't raised a hand or voice to help Duo, and he had resented her for it as much as he had the others.
"What I do on my own time is my business." he replied evenly and with no emotion.
She surprised him once again as she opened a folder on the left of the large desk she sat behind and leafed through it, then removed a sheet of paper.
"I faxed a copy of this letter to Warden of P.C. 4." she said as she held the paper out to him. "I prepared it a month ago," she went on to explain. "And faxed it two weeks ago in the event that one of you would go for him. I take it you are in this alone?"
Trowa nodded as his eyes skimmed over the words printed on the page. He looked up in surprise to his superior. The document was a recommendation, signed by her as head of the Preventers, to release Duo Maxwell as soon as he was eligible for parole. She sited his honor and courage during the war along with his contribution in saving Earth from the falling portion of Libra. She called Duo a hero, worthy of a second chance.
"Why?" he asked her.
"Because I believe he deserves another chance." she answered simply.
"No," he shook his head, frowning. "I mean why now and not when he needed it two years ago?"
For the first time in the two years he'd worked under her, Lady Une looked uncomfortable and brought her hand up to remove her glasses and rub the bridge of her nose. "I had....certain constraints on me two years ago that I don't have right now." she replied with a tone of regret in her voice.
"He was framed." I told her.
"That's not what the court decided." she countered, and Trowa couldn't help but wonder if she and Wufei followed the same book that touted "The Law is Absolute."
"Nevertheless, it's true." I said in defense of the boy who could not defend himself at the moment.
"I wish you good luck then." she stood from her chair and offered her hand. He took it, then quickly turned and left.
He returned home to gather a few of the expensive gifts Quatre had given him over the past two years. Mrs. Lunderson had known of his plans to ransom Duo and of his intention to call his former comrades to see if they were going to free Duo. She commiserated with him at their lack of help and support, but she wished him good luck, and with an affectionate hug and kiss to his cheek, she told him to bring Duo home with him, that the boy abandoned by his friends was welcomed to stay in her home as long as he wanted. The quiet young man from L-3 felt as if his emotions would overwhelm him with gratitude for her support and encouragement.
He left the next morning, with a suitcase for himself, a duffle bag of clothing he'd purchased for Duo, Une's letter of recommendation, and Quatre's gifts all bundled up.
After a quick stop at the prestigious pawn shop from which his bank account almost doubled, he headed for the spaceport, and by early afternoon, boarded the shuttle that would take him to L-3, and from there, a smaller spacecraft would take him to Penal Colony Four, and to Duo.