Web of Betrayal
Part 13 - Effects of Betrayal
by Dyna Dee
"What the hell were you thinking, Schmidt?" Noin's accusing voice was the first thing that registered in Duo's mind, and then he came to and realized he was in a moving vehicle, laying on the floor and in considerable pain.
"I tagged and cuffed him like I would any fleeing suspect." A deep voice with a heavy German accent replied defensively. "When I flipped him over, he opened his mouth as if to scream but nothing came out. His eyes just rolled up into his head and he passed out."
"That face of yours caused another prisoner to pass out." Another male voice said with amusement.
"Shut up." Noin snapped. "This is no time for joking around. Where's the flashlight?"
Duo remembered now, and the mind shocking pain coming from his broken arm brought back the reason why he'd passed out. He shrank back from the light as it flashed on his face and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He gasped at the pain he felt when the blood soaked sleeve of his shirt was ripped to reveal the damage to his arm.
"You idiot, Schmidt." Noin snarled unhappily at the man who'd captured him. "You broke his arm. Dammit." She swore angrily. "I can see the bone sticking out."
Duo swallowed hard and forced back the tears brought on by the throbbing pain in his arm and tried to follow the conversation.
"Just a minute Duo." She knew he was awake. "I'll get the cuffs off."
"What do we do now?" a third male voice asked from the front of the car.
"Let me think." she replied and the rattle of keys were heard as they were transferred from hand to hand.
Duo voluntarily rolled slightly on his side to position his hands for easier removal of the metal handcuffs. He mentally screamed in agony as pain coursed from his arm through his body as she lifted his hand slightly to put the key in the lock.
"Duo?" she called out in a concerned voice as the cuffs were removed and she felt his body trembled from shock. "What's the matter with you?" her voice became more gentle as she sensed that something was terribly wrong, something more than a broken arm. The sound of his rapid, sometimes hitched breathing was the only sound in the car for several moments, and validated her worry.
"Something's definitely wrong here." Noin observed to the other Preventers. "We need to take him somewhere and analyze the situation."
"Where?" came a deep incredulous voice.
"Our orders are to take this guy into custody and transport him back to PC-4." A different male voice said in an irritated tone. "I say we do as we're told or you know what will happen."
"Harris." Noin's voice was condescending. "He's got a bone sticking out of his arm and blood all over his shirt and body. The port authorities are not going to let him go into space in this condition."
"Let's take him to your place then." Harris shot back angrily.
"No!" she replied firmly. "We're not taking this mess into my home. My husband is due home in the morning and I'm not involving him in this. Besides, don't you think that's one of the first places they'll come looking for us when Wufei wakes up?"
"Schmidt wasn't seen." Birmingham said with no enthusiasm. "We can go to his place."
"You three are thick as thieves at work. Don't you think they'll come looking for all of us once Wufei reports who he saw and what happened?"
"Was that warrant legit?" Schmidt asked, and Duo listening was beginning to distinguish the three men's voices and put them to their names.
"It has a judge's signature on it." Noin replied. "But I'll bet my last dollar he was coerced into doing it, just as we were into doing this." she added bitterly.
Duo then saw the light flash through his eyelids and knew the woman he'd come to trust during the war was looking at him again.
"I've fought beside this kid in the wars, and he doesn't deserve this." She continued in a sad, apologetic tone as she studied the frail looking former pilot. "Lord Duo, what's happened to you?" she asked him as the flashlight's beam went over his body again.
"So what do we do?" the voice of Harris spoke. The car was quiet for a moment.
"Go downtown." Her voice, with the ring of authority to it, finally broke through the uneasy stillness caused by the tangible nervousness within the car. "Take the expressway to Chancellor Street."
Her directions meant nothing to Duo as he listened carefully. He'd been to a few places in the city, but didn't know enough to tell him where they were taking him. He just hoped that wherever they ended up, he'd find a way to escape.
They traveled for roughly twenty minutes with Noin telling the driver where and when to turn. Duo stayed on the floor of the van in as small and unobtrusive as possible for a person at the age of nearly twenty. He'd learned a long time ago in prison that you didn't bring undue attention on yourself. If caught, you kept small, still and as quiet as possible.
"I'll key the security," Noin said as the car pulled into a parking garage and came to a stop, the engine was turned off. Immediately, the back door slid smoothly open and Noin stepped out, then the door shut quietly behind her.
The radio went on and a news station was rambling on about local issues. Five minutes passed as the news reporter began to discuss the series of meetings that week with the ministers of Earth and the space colonies. The talks would include improving relations and discussing trade and immigration laws. Vice Foreign Minister, Relena Peacecraft Yuy was to speak at the breakfast meeting that morning at the Remington Suite Hotel in downtown Brussels.
One of the guards snorted and another said something derisive about her highness, the Queen of Blackmail.
The car door opened and the radio went off as the car keys were removed. "Let's go, the coast is clear." Noin declared confidently in a hushed voice.
"Whose place is this?" Schmidt asked, equally quiet.
"Sally Poe's." She answered, knowing that they knew exactly who she was. "She's not home right now, but when she arrives she can help us out. I've got a key to her apartment. She's a doctor and can fix him up for transport."
Duo felt hands on his body and shrank back from the touch as dark memories from P.C.- 4 flooded his mind.
"Come on kid, I don't want to hurt you." The voice of Birmingham said not unkindly.
"Here, let me." Noin said from behind him. With a gentle hand pressing under his shoulders, the wounded and frightened young man let her ease him up as he bit his lower lip to deal with the pain. "Come on Duo." She urged softly. "Let's get you inside and into a more comfortable position."
The black haired woman frowned as her prisoner docilely allowed himself to be eased out of the car and led into the apartment building with the three large Preventers who surrounded them. She noticed Duo's pronounced limp and wondered if it was a previous injury or another one Schmidt may have inflicted in tackling the smaller young man.
They entered Sally's apartment to find it neat and tidy. The decor of the wall and fabric of the furniture were done in rich tones, but definitely feminine in its theme.
"Do we call in our delay?" Schmidt asked.
"Tomorrow, after business hours begin." Noin answered, not wanting to deal with one of Relena's temper tantrums or threats. She raked her manicured fingernails through her short, black hair. "Damn." she swore just under her breath. How she was ever going to get out of this, she hadn't a clue.
Duo carefully eased himself down and into the corner of the dark, forest green leather couch where Noin had led him. His eyes squeezed shut again, and his breathing appeared rapid. The fact that he was in a great deal of pain was obvious, but Noin wondered why he wasn't railing at her like she'd expected him to. During the war, she'd worked with the sometimes unpredictable pilot of the gundam Deathscythe and knew he liked to talk and tease and yell his head off if he felt so inclined. She felt her uneasiness grow realizing that he hadn't uttered a word since being taken into custody.
With a look of growing concern for the young man huddled into himself on the couch, she knelt down in front of him to look into his pain-etched face. "Duo." she called his name softly. "What's happened to you.?"
His unforgettable blue-violet eyes opened halfway as his pained eyes met hers. He brought his uninjured arm up so that his hand could touch his throat and he moved his lips to silently say, /I can't talk./
Now, in the brighter light of the apartment, the woman who had once been an ally got a good look at the person she had fought with and grudging admired during the wars. Her eyes took in his thin body, his braid was gone, and then with the lack of voice, she felt sorrow build inside herself for the drastic changes in the once proud Shinigami.
"Did his happen to you in prison?" she asked him.
He nodded his head, then turned and looked away from her, signaling he didn't want to continue with that topic.
A few moments of serious contemplation passed before she spoke again, not having moved from beside him. "You didn't do it, did you Duo? You didn't steal that egg from Quatre, did you?"
Again, the shake of his head answered her question.
Anger welled up inside Lucretia Noin. "She did this, I know she did." She hissed angrily in response. "Not that she dirtied her own hands." She laughed bitterly. "No, that's not Relena's style. But I have no doubt she instigated your arrest by manipulating people and/or circumstances to have you incarcerated."
Duo turned to look at her, fear now mixed equally with the pain in his eyes. /Relena? She knows where I am?/ he mouthed the question.
"Yes." the black haired Preventer answered with a quiet, venomous voice.
/Let me go./ Duo's eyes pleaded with her, seeing she had an equal dislike of Relena.
Noin shook her head and closed her eyes against the sight of his pleading face. "I wish I could, Duo." she said in a tight voice. "But she's....blackmailing me, just like she's blackmailing these guys." Her head motioned to the three men sitting in the other chairs tensely waiting for their next orders. "If I don't take you back to PC-4, she'll tell Zechs about my...mistake....and he'll leave me." She turned her head away in shame.
Feeling a touch on her arm, she turned back to look into Duo's face again. /Free yourself./ he said with an earnest expression on his face.
She paused to think about his silent admonition for a moment, then sadly shook her head. "I can't." she looked apologetic. "I can't take the chance that I'll lose him." With that said, she stood and went to the kitchen to make some coffee; it was going to be a long night.
Duo's eyes watched Noin leave, then turned his head to look nervously at the three men who hovered largely around the room. Chilling memories of his last two years brought back the need to hide; that instinct had saved him numerous times during that horrible time in Section 10. Bringing his legs up onto the leather cushion, he curled up as much as possible, trying to make himself small and unnoticed.
With his eyes closed, his memory went back in time, remembering scenes of his first month in the hellish prison. He'd fought and used all his skills gained on the streets of L-2 and as a Gundam pilot to protect himself. But it wasn't enough, not in comparison to the tenacity of the hardened criminals he was doomed to share a living space with. Those men had as much street smarts as he had, and they simply wore him down.
The inmates eyed him, their next target, and systematically brought him down. First, he was first cut off from the food lines in the cafeteria, the place where they originally tagged him. Even after two years, he clearly remembered entering the large room giving it a cautious, quick study of the clusters of rough-looking men that had gathered there for their next meal. He realized that the prisoners' groupings seemed to be organized groups, like the street gangs of L-2, and by the calculating looks he felt from them, it was clear his that age size and appearance had marked him as an easy target. There had been no question in his mind as to what they targeted him for. Being well aware of his physical appeal, the look many dubbed as beautiful even though he was male, he also had no illusions as to the affect his appearance had on some people. That might have been to his advantage anywhere else, but there in that prison, his large, expressive eyes, delicate facial features and long, braided hair worked against him. He had recognized the familiar looks of lustful anticipation in the other inmates' eyes as they followed him through the food line on that very first day. From that one-time venture into the cafeteria only hours after his arrival, he went on the defensive, guarding his life, his body and his sanity.
A shudder coursed through his tightly held body as his memories shifted again. He recalled the hollow ache in his belly at having been almost a week without any substantial amount of food, the cafeteria was a place he would never to go again as he recognized the danger to him there. He resigned himself to stealing whatever he could, but it proved to be a difficult task and what little he took was not enough to give him the strength he needed when at last he was cornered.
It was in the alleyway, outside of his assigned room that he'd never even slept in, that he was finally caught. They'd cornered him and, in his weakened state, beat him senseless; his breath hitched at the flash of memory of large hands inflicting horrendous pain on his body and soul. When he came to, a group of men were shouting and fighting almost directly over him. He panicked when he discovered he was helpless to move as having been hog tied with his own clothing. He lay on the cold floor naked and horrified as he watched as the largest man of the group fighting over him beat his competition into the ground one by one.
With a final challenger surrendering to the man with the bloody fists, the tall, dark man laughed loudly and turned. With eyes wild with triumph, the hulking brute called Fist came for him. For the last two years of his miserable existence he knew without a doubt that this was the worst memory he carried away from Section Ten. The man was not only large, but he was brutal and anxious to prove his place within the echelons of the penal colony's society. With his competitors all beaten and watching, the victor claimed the spoils, and he had been brutally raped. His screams echoed down the alleyway as the crowd gathered around to either watch the show or cheer on his torturer.
Fist also proved to be a generous victor and offered to share his used prize with those men he didn't want coming at his back because he'd beaten them. None of those men looked to be any more compassionate than their victor. As it was, only one of them had a go at his body before a shout went out, thankfully interrupting the second man's attack, that the guards were coming. The men hastily disbursed in all directions leaving him sprawled out on the colony floor for the guards to find.
Duo didn't think he'd have survived if it hadn't been for the prison guards coming to his rescue. He was in shock and bruised on almost every inch of his body. It took the doctor several hours to stabilize him and repair the damage caused by the attack. The days spent in the infirmary were a brief period of respite, but he lived with a feeling of dread in knowing he would be returned to the prison as soon as he was deemed healthy once again.
Every seven days thereafter he was pulled back into the haven of the infirmary and was informed it was due to Quatre Winner, who sent extra money for his care. He had been angry and bitter at first, feeling betrayed by Quatre at his refusal to believe in his innocence. But he came to a point of feeling just pure gratefulness for Quatre's gift. One day out of each nightmarish week he was given a reprieve from his former friend. He counted the hours from the moment he was set out from the infirmary each Monday morning, well fed, patched up and clean, until he could return six days later, hungry, often battered, and filthy. In his mind, Quatre had changed from the friend who turned his back on him, to become his kind benefactor.
And then, in his most darkest hours, there was Trowa. The former Heavyarms pilot had stood next to him during the whole process of arrest, confinement, trial and sentencing. His parting words, shouted across the expanse of the courtroom that separated them, had been the one thing that pulled him through his most desperate hours. Trowa had extended the hope of freedom and that he wasn't going to be forgotten, at least not by that friend.
His mind shifted again to the following two weeks after his release from the sanctuary the infirmary. That time had provided him with two years worth of nightmares as other inmates tried and often succeeded in showing their strength and his weakness by subduing and abusing him. It was during this time he had lost his cross. He wasn't sure who had taken it, only that he'd awakened alone and in pain in a dark alley to find it was gone.
Fist, too, had come back for more. It was his fourth week there and he was half starved, weak, beaten, bruised, and friendless, and because of it, the hulking man had no problem of hunting and catching him again. The massive sized hand had slapped his face hard, complaining about his smelly body and unkept appearance; but it didn't stop the sadistic bastard from brutally taking him again. As he lay in a heap on the ground, broken and crying silently from the pain, his rapist grabbed him by the braid and severed it close to the nape of his neck with a roughly sharpened kitchen knife stolen from the cafeteria, claiming it for a trophy.
His braid. Its loss had crushed him to the core, even though he had considered its loss a possibility when he arrived at the penal colony. It was the only thing he had left that was his alone. The yard long braid had represented his memories of Solo and the gang, of Sister Helen and Father Maxwell and Heero. The Wing Pilot always displayed a weakness for his long hair. The loss of his cross and then his braid brought to his traumatized mind the fact that he had lost everything that had ever meant anything to him.
He fought to hold back the tears that threatened to spill as his memories continued. It was during that assault that he'd stopped speaking. Fist had nearly strangled him as he was being held down and raped. He had wished many times since then that the vile man had succeeded in killing him. He rocked back and forth on the couch as the memory of pain, humiliation and defeat filled him again. It was his fluctuating vital signs on the guard's monitor that alerted them to the danger he was in. They arrived moments after Fist left, proudly carrying his braid as a trophy in his hand.
The only real kindness he'd known for the two years he'd been there was from the prison guards and the doctors. They protected him as much as they could, and then, sometimes, even more then the system allowed. They cleaned him up, fed and dressed him, and spoke words of sympathy and kindness to him. Several guards even tried to give him advice on how to hide within the system. They tried to persuade him into telling them which inmates had inflicted such pains on him, but he new he couldn't tell. He would not win a reprieve from Section 10 by pointing a finger at his attackers. No, he had been duly warned what would happen if he ratted them out.
But in the long run, it was Fist's words that gave him the solution to his problem. He clearly remembered the sicko had been repulsed by his untidy state and smell after a week without a shower. There was definitely method to his madness when he was reduced to using whatever smelly and objectionable matter he could produce or find to smear over his entire body in order to repel his attackers. For the most part, it worked. He'd only been caught twice after that for the purpose of sex, and the two unfortunate men had been so repulsed by him that they spread the word. He was mocked, spit on, and occasionally beaten for his filthy state, but never sexually molested again. His fellow inmates believed that the once beautiful boy, who had undoubtedly and mistakenly been put in with them, had lost his mind. From that point on he lived on the fringe and in the shadows of the violent class system that existed in Section Ten of Penal Colony Four.
His whole existence for the remainder of his time, which seemed endless to him, was focused on staying small, unnoticed. In order to survive he had to steal food and necessities when the other prisoners went to work in the prison factories each day. And survive his did, as he managed to somewhat, somehow sustain himself, if just barely, until he was pulled into the infirmary at the end of the week for a brief relief from his miserable existence.
The silent days were long and dark ones for the once vivacious boy who, for a brief time, piloted one of the most feared war machines on Earth and the Colonies. His silent grief was compounded his personal loss and loneliness. He'd lost so much, so many people before the war and he was nearly undone by Heero's defection. Then, surviving that almost unbearable loss, he'd somehow lost the faith and friendship of Quatre and Wufei. Added to that, the loss of his borrowed but treasured good name that was now forever smeared by something he didn't even do. His name, cross and braid were all he had left and they were all taken from him by someone else's hand. At first, his anger had been overridden by fear. But as time went by, the gundam pilot and street kid in him began to come back in brief moments of anger that turned to revenge.
He was Shinigami, he had reminded himself, and no one who hurt him would get away with it. He remembered his mind going over the old adage of "An eye for an eye," something Sister Helen would never have approved of, he carefully planned his revenge. He had a mental image imprinted in his mind of the men who had abused him, and over the course of several months time, he watched them all from a distance and from carefully hidden places. He waited and watched until he found a pattern in each man's daily routine, and discovered a time during the day when each would be found alone and vulnerable. Knowing he couldn't take them down by hand in his weakened physical state, he planed more clever and undetectable ways to get back at them.
He used his skills to steal into the factory and sabotage work stations, causing several of the men to lose fingers or severely burn them selves when something they were working on blew up in their hands. And one by one his form of vengeance and justice were served on all those who had harmed him. But he saved his best and final act of retribution for last, just for Fist.
Timing was everything in the set up. He waited to take his revenge until he had been returned to the section after his weekly visit to the infirmary. With a bit of renewed energy from having eaten well that day, and feeling refreshed with his ragged hair, his skin and his clothing clean, he moved quickly and efficiently to spill the water from bucket he'd stolen from the dumpster outside the cafeteria, creating a nice puddle in the slightly indented floor on the factory workroom's floor. Moving quickly to shimmy up a pole to the metal beams above the industrial work space, he loosened the large electrical outlet from the clamps holding the thick cord onto the ceiling. He tied the heavy, square outlet in place with a piece of cloth he'd scavenged several days before. With that part of the set-up in place, he scrambled back down the pole and taking the bucket with him, he went out the high side window to wait for his target to arrive.
Fist's only good trait was that fact that he was uncommonly punctual when it came to work. His large size and work ethic had won him a promotion at his assigned job. He bullied his co-workers into increased production, bringing kudos and a rise in benefits to the life-time criminal. Fist was always one of the first to show up for the six a.m. shift. Duo counted on that as he waited in the alley to the side of the work building. A window into the building would be his entry, and as the dim lights of the artificial night began to brighten, he readied himself to flee indoors.
Footsteps could be heard nearing the deserted building as the first workers arrived for their shift. Duo picked up the can of vegetables he'd found in someone's locker and readied it. He fervently hoped it wouldn't be too damaged so he could pick it up on his way out and use it for a meal.
Relief and adrenaline filled Duo as he recognized the man he'd seen in many of his nightmares. Without hesitating, he threw the can at the alley entrance where it clattered loudly, bringing the large man to a halt. Fist peered into the alley and a menacing grin grew on his face as his eyes locked on the person he found there and recognized that the boy was in better shape than anyone had seen in a long time.
As soon as their eyes met, Duo clambered through the high-set window into the workroom and quickly scrambled up a vertical pole to one of many pipes situated just feet below the high ceiling. With his arms and legs wrapped around it, he scooted himself on top of the pipe to where he'd left the outlet securely tied. He wasn't disappointed when Fist acted as he'd predicted and opened the door from outside and entered the factory, his eyes searching the entire large room for his soon-to-be victim. It took him several minutes before the man looked upward and, after a brief scan of the piping above the work floor, found him, clinging to the pipe with a practiced and familiar look of worry on the handsome young face.
Duo watched as the man's face bore the look of triumph as he began to walk with a determined purpose in his direction. The lights in the factory were still in night mode, only two lights in corners were on to dimly illuminate the floor during the hours the building was empty. As the man's eyes were focused on him, he didn't see the puddle of water on the floor until he stepped in it. Sensing it, Fist stopped to pause for a moment to determine where the water had come from. Upon hearing a strangled grunt, he looked up in time to see something come swinging down at him from above. The large bully didn't realize until it was too late, the electrical outlet caught in his large hands, that he was a dead man. Duo watched only for a brief moment before he scrambled back and down from the pipes, taking the cloth with him and wiping away any finger prints he might leave behind. That accomplished, he'd jumped out the window to escape through the alley as the man who had brutally beaten and raped him appeared to be in a frozen, horrified trance as he was horribly electrocuted, the smell of burning flesh filling the air of the workroom.
Having had his revenge helped him in some way to get over the horror of his first months treatment in the penal colony. The prison officials had performed a complete investigation regarding Fist's death. It was obvious someone had murdered him. But as the man had made most of the section his enemy at one time or another, the suspects were too numerous for the officials to even consider the boy, who hid fearfully within the shadows of that section, to be the guilty party.
But even as he eliminated his enemies, Duo still found himself alone and always on the defensive. He had too much time and no company, allowing him to recall those people and things he'd lost, adding to his grief which, at times, nearly to consumed him in his silent state.
Yet as time passed, his grief diminished somewhat, and his anger at his friends and situation dissipated. He'd gone to sleep most nights comforting himself with Trowa's lingering promise that he would get him out, and many times he prayerfully begged, /Save me Trowa./ and willed his thoughts to bridge the distance between them.
His mind skipped through months and months of struggling to eat and staying out of everyone's way until at last, when he was pulled out of his latest box by Gary, one of the prison guards that had looked after him. At that moment, he couldn't believe his eyes. Trowa appeared to be standing with the familiar guards he'd come to trust. He wondered at the time if he was hallucinating. But no, Trowa spoke to him. He had been true to his word. Seeing his friend, he knew a moment of pure joy that he hadn't felt in two years as hope again swelled in his heart. Trowa had come to free him. He had promised and he was there to deliver. He'd desperately clung to Trowa from that moment on. He had been his one hope of for being saved and he had come through for him. He knew could never repay him for freeing him from the hell he'd been living, but he certainly wouldn't ever forget what he had done for him.
Even after he'd left the penal colony, he found himself continuing to cling to Trowa, mentally as well as physically, at times not fully believing he was free of the nightmare, sometimes afraid he'd wake up dirty, hungry and all alone in some dark corner of the penal colony to find his new-found freedom nothing but a dream. Then, when the others came one by one into his life, showing in words and actions that they still cared for him, he'd clung desperately to them also, they were all his anchor to the reality that they were real and wouldn't disappear when he woke up.
Now, once again, he found himself in a desperate place, and his silent voice prayed once again, /Find me Trowa. Don't let them take me back there. Please, find me./
He gasped and flinched when a large hand gently clamped onto his shoulder. "You okay fella?" one of the men who'd captured him asked. But having been in a reflective state, remembering the nightmare of his life on the Penal Colony, Duo couldn't see the concern in the Preventer's eyes. Instead, his mind saw only the large, cruel men who had beaten him and forced themselves on him.
Without a sound, he leapt from his place on the couch to stand in a pathetic, one armed battle stance, his hair in wild disarray and his eyes wide with fright.
"Easy Kid." Birmingham said in a calming tone. "We're not going to hurt you. I was just concerned because you were shaking." The concerned man then moved towards the panic looking young man, his large hand stretched out. That was all Duo saw, the man's hand reaching for him. With his broken arm pressed tightly against his body, he nervously looked for a way out. Then, just as the Preventer reached him, he ducked from his grasp and ran to the front door of the apartment, quickly unlatching the lock with his right hand. Just as he opened it, he was grabbed from behind. He struggled with a desperateness that surprised his captors.
Ignoring the pain coming from his damaged arm, he fought against the hands that tried to calm his frantic struggling. Then, when one of the men grabbed both of his hands, the pain that ensued caused the room to begin spinning and his vision darkened around the edges as he crumpled down towards the carpeted floor.
"Let him go!" Noin shouted, and he was instantly released to curl up on the floor clutching his throbbing arm.
Soft feminine hands brushed his hair away from his face. "Calm down, Duo. Shhhh...calm down." Noin spoke soothingly.
He resumed rocking back and forth on Sally's imported carpet in an effort to comfort himself from the pain. His eyes squeezed tight once again in order to shut out the three men hovering over him along with attempting to banish the memories of his past.
"Damn." Noin swore. "What did they do to him?" she asked out loud to no one in particular. She took hold of his uninjured elbow. "Come on Duo, let's get you back onto the couch."
Too weak and in too much pain to offer any physical protest, Duo merely tensed as hands lifted him and cautiously moved him in the direction of the couch. Once seated, a blanket was put over him and he clutched it with his good hand, pulling it tightly against his body to give himself a more secure feeling. Then slowly, his body gave in to his exhaustion and he fell into a fitful doze.
"Lucretia!" Sally's voice called out in alarm as she was grabbed from behind by agent Harris upon entering her apartment and instantly recognized her friend.
"I'm sorry to get you involved in this Sally," Noin quickly apologized, "but I need your help."
Harris kept a firm clasp on the doctor's arm as he led her to her couch where she saw the top of Duo's head peeking out from under a blanket.
"He's got a broken arm." Noin explained. "I need you to patch him up so we can take him back to the Penal Colony."
"Why? Sally demanded of her friend.
"I have a warrant to serve." Noin snapped back defensively, her blue eyes flashing with resentment that her friend would question her.
Sally thought fast. Noin evidently did not know of her involvement with the former pilots or her knowledge of when and how Duo had been released from the Penal Colony by Trowa. She realized she would have to play dumb for awhile if she had any chance of getting help.
"Why here and not a hospital?" she asked the raven haired woman skeptically while taking in Harris, Birmingham and Schmidt.
"Too many questions and red tape." Noin answered. "I have my orders to return him without delay."
"Then you should have paged me to come to headquarters. I have an X-ray machine there and plaster for a cast. Isn't this against procedures?" she asked her friend with a suspicious eye. "Aren't you supposed to process him through the office?"
"As I said," Noin cooly replied while looking at the three men behind Sally. "I have my reasons."
Sally knelt down by the side of the couch and gently pried the blanket away from Duo's firm clutch on it. The movement caused him to wake up with a startled jerk of his body. His eyes widened in fear as his memory and the situation he found himself in came back to his mind.
"Duo." Sally gasped as she took in the tear in his shirt that revealed his bloody upper arm punctured by the jagged broken bone. "Get me my bag." she ordered without looking away from her patient. A moment later the black bag she'd dropped when she was grabbed just inside the door was placed next to her. She reached in and removed the scissors and quickly cut off the remainder of the sleeve. While busy at work, she chanced a glance up at the pained blue-violet eyes and winked at Duo in an effort to reassure him.
"How did Duo manage to get here from the penal colony?" Sally asked her friend standing right behind her, watching her every move.
"The Warden of P.C. Four said Duo was pardoned by Trowa Barton." Noin answered.
"Then why are you taking him back? "Sally turned to gaze at her friend to judge her facial expression and noted Noin had a look of desperation in her eyes.
"Look, I'm just following orders. There seems to be a question of legality regarding his release and I have to take Duo back until it's resolved."
"Who brought up the allegation?"
"What?" Noin blinked at the question.
"I mean," Sally looked her in the eye. "Trowa Barton is a Preventer, one of the best. If he paroled Duo, it would have been done within the law. Who accused him of doing it otherwise?"
"I don't know." Noin snapped back. "Something was said about coercion. I suppose that would have to come from the Warden as he's the one who decides if someone is to be paroled or not."
"You mean ransomed, don't you?" Sally replied snidely, making no cover for her disapproval of such a practice.
"Look, Sally." the Preventer ran her hand through her short, black hair. "I'm tired and I don't want to argue with you. Just patch him up and I'll carry out my duty."
Sally examined Duo's arm, studying the jagged bone sticking out through the skin ripped from the inside out. "I can't do this here." she announced and moved to cover Duo up again. "He needs anaesthetic and surgery, plus he's in shock. We need to get him to a hospital now."
"I can't do that, Sally." her friend told her with a look that said she was not going to change her mind.
"I can't attempt it here, I don't have the equipment or the necessary tools." the doctor insisted. "And I know the Port Authority won't allow him to be taken into space like this, it's too dangerous to his well being."
"You don't understand, Sally. I don't have a choice here!" Noin yelled in frustration and anger.
"Something isn't right here, Lu." Sally said with deep concern. "What's really going on?" She stepped forward reaching out a hand to her friend.
"No, don't, Sally." Noin's hand came up to stop her advance. "I feel bad enough about this already, don't make it worse by trying to console me."
"What are you going to do?" Sally stopped and frowned .
Lucretia Noin Peacecraft closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before answering. "I'll wrap his arm up and buy a new shirt, then take him back to the penal colony." She answered as if a deep exhaustion had fallen on her.
"You can't Lu. The trip into space in his condition could kill him." Sally argued softly with her friend.
"As I said," she shook her head sadly. "I have no choice."
Sally was beginning to realize that all to well. "They'll never forgive you, you know?" she told the woman she'd allied herself with during both wars. They had both worked with Duo and the other pilots and it was far beyond her understanding how her close friend could turn on the boys so selfishly. Hadn't they suffered enough?
"Who?" Noin asked with irritation.
"The former pilots." Sally informed her. "They are very united now, and once they find out you're the one who took him back to the place that hurt Duo so badly, they'll seek vengeance. And you know as well as I do how sneaky and underhanded their vengeance can be, not to mention deadly."
The tall, willowy woman visibly shuddered as memories of the five ruthless teens commanding the mightiest weapons in the solar system came back to her mind. "I still have no choice." she replied a bit more uncertain.
"There's always a choice, Lu. A right one and a wrong one." With that said, Sally turned back to her patient with the intention of giving him something for the pain.
The sunrise brought not only the golden sun over the eastern mountains, but a determined Quatre Winner to the Palace doors. He demanded he be allowed to see Heero on a matter of great urgency. When questioned further, he told the security man that it involved Relena's security and a possible threat. The man had refused, saying he had his orders that no one was to enter the palace until the morning shift arrived. The well-known billionaire then sat in a hard chair and glared at the man behind the desk until the next guard reported in several minutes before six a.m. Quatre again stated the false emergency and was rewarded when the new guard took him more seriously. He personally led the well-known Winner heir up the marble grand staircase towards the Vice Foreign Minister's private quarters. A brief knock on the white door brought a dressed but sleepy maid to answer it. Quatre startled the poor woman as he brushed past her to enter the room and shut the door behind himself.
"My name is Quatre Winner," he properly introduced himself to her, though his voice was a bit brusque. "And I'm here to see Heero Yuy.
"I believe he's in the shower, sir." the maid said, obviously flustered with the early morning visitor and his curt attitude. "If you'll take a seat," she motioned to the sitting room to his left. "I'll see if Mrs. Yuy will receive you."
"Receive me?" Quatre asked in a disdainful tone. "I think it's a little too early for receiving a social call. I'm here to see Heero, knowing he's an early riser, on a personal matter and I insist you not disturb Relena from her much needed sleep. She is a very busy woman after all."
"Yes, sir." The middle aged woman replied. "I'll inform him you're here." She turned and moved to leave the room.
Hesitating for only a moment, the former Sandrock pilot silently followed her through the living and dining rooms to a hallway that he guessed led to the suite's bedrooms. He stopped as she stood, unaware of his presence behind her, and knocked on a closed door.
"Mr. Yuy? Sir, you have a visitor." She called softly through the closed door. There was a pause before a deep mumbled sound came from the other side of the door.
"A Mr. Quatre Winner." She said in reply to the unintelligible voice.
The door opened in a flash and Heero stepped into the hallway wearing only a dark blue towel around his waist, his well developed chest glistened with moisture from his very recent shower.
"Heero." Quatre stepped closer and called out his friend's name at the same time Heero noticed him.
"What's the matter?" the Japanese man asked in a low but urgent voice.
The blond Arabian reached towards him, took his arm, and propelled Heero back into his bedroom, closing the door on the shocked looking maid.
Without hesitating, Quatre began his explanation. "She's found him." he quickly informed Heero. "Noin came to the house just after you left with an arrest warrant for Duo. Wufei was taken down by a tranquilizer dart, and Duo ran." He told him with a worried look. "We think she has him because he didn't return.
Heero visibly paled and looked like he was about to dissolve.
Quatre continued. "We contacted Une and she has gotten a stay on the suspicious warrant. She's also contacted all space shuttle Port Authorities stating that Duo is to be kept Earthside and held until Trowa or Wufei can arrive to collect him."
Heero slowly made his way to the unmade bed and looked stunned as he sat on the edge. With eyes that had the look of a lost soul, he slowly looked up at the blond. "What can we do Quatre? How can we protect him from her?"
Quatre could see his friend needed someone to guide him at the moment. "Take heart, Heero." He replied softly and gripped his friend's damp shoulder. "Neither Trowa, Wufei, myself nor Duo have broken any rules or laws. If Relena did indeed obtain the arrest warrant, she did so by illegal means. Her network is unraveling as she exposes her lackeys. We now know who her Preventer moles are, Noin, Birmingham and Harris. I don't know how she got them to do her dirty work for her, nor a judge or penal colony warden for that matter, but we will find out and when we do, we'll pull her power base out from under her. Then you'll be free or her, as will Duo."
"I promised Duo no one would ever harm him again." Heero said in anguish and bowed his head.
Quatre stepped forward and put both hands on the other's shoulder. "We all made that promise to him Heero, and we have always been good at keeping our promises, haven't we?"
The head with the dark brown hair nodded as Heero clenched and unclenched his fists as he fought to control his rising anger. "I hate her Quatre." He said in a deadly tone. "Hate her with a great passion for what she's forced me into and for hurting Duo."
"I think you should tell her exactly how you feel." Quatre told him, his own face a stony reflection of the ill feelings he shared with Heero for Relena. He wasn't a person who generally felt hatred for anyone or anything, saving that emotion for things like poverty, prejudice, injustice, and cruelty. But at this moment he felt the unfamiliar feeling of hatred flow through him for the blonde young woman who had manipulated their lives, much to their detriment, and obviously felt no remorse for the sorrow she'd caused.
"Now?" Heero asked, surprised and wary at the suggestion coming from the Arabian.
"I think you should get dressed first," the blond advised with a very slight, crooked smile.
"It won't endanger Duo, or tip our hand?" Worry was lined on Heero's face as he asked the question.
"No," Quatre replied. "She has obviously been following you, so she knows you've seen Duo already."
Without any further need for hesitation, Heero stood and moved quickly to his closet. Opening the doors, he pulled out a pair of blue jeans and a black t-shirt and tossed them over to the bed while he sorted through the chest of drawers within the closed for his boxers and socks.
"I'd also pack a few of your things." Quatre told him. "You won't be coming back here, not for any reason."
The Japanese young man looked up, his eyes welling with gratitude for the other's support. "Thank you Quatre, for not hating me."
He then returned to his task of getting dressed as quickly as possible and Quatre now took the time to let his eyes survey the room.
"I did for a while, you know," the blond business man replied casually as he moved towards the closet and pulled out a suitcase. "Hate you, I mean," he added. "When Trowa and I found Duo had overdosed on sleeping pills and alcohol, I wanted to track you down and have you drawn and quartered," he said in all seriousness and paused to look into the shaken blue eyes in front of him. "But it's against my nature to hold onto such a negative emotion for long," he explained. "I guess I really didn't hate you, but I couldn't trust you either."
"I understand." Heero replied as he zipped up his jeans and snagged his t-shirt from off the bed. "I need to earn yours, Duo's ....and everyone's trust back." He then stopped and looked at the blond. "You do believe me, don't you? That I only did what I did to protect him?"
"Yes Heero," the other nodded sympathetically. "I believe you, but if you ever hurt Duo again, you'll never get another chance to get near him." The richest man in the solar system told him in a tone that bespoke his seriousness. "I've got the resources to protect him, now that I understand the threat." he continued. "I just wish you'd come to us at the start of Relena's demands. So much hurt could have been avoided. "
Heero raked his hand through his still damp hair. "I know," he answered in all honesty and no small feeling of misery. "But if I came to you telling of her demands and the danger she posed, would you have believed me? Frankly, I never would have believed the young school girl who fought for peace capable of being so conniving and cruel."
Placing the suitcase on the bed, Quatre unzipped it and he continued the conversation. "I don't know if I would have believed you or not," he replied to Heero's question. "I'm still having to come to terms that she's manipulated not only you and Duo, but me, a penal colony warden, a judge, one or more of my family members, Noin and other Preventers." He looked up at his dark haired friend. "And she did it all just to keep you by her side, regardless that you could never love her."
"It's about control and power." Heero surmised as he grabbed a handful of socks and underwear from a drawer in the large closet. "She obviously gets some perverse pleasure from manipulating people to meet her own ends. I just happen to be what she wanted with a very visible weak spot."
"Duo," Quatre replied knowingly while handing Heero several pairs of jeans to pack.
"Yes," he replied. "She evidently had us followed and taped so she knew the extent of our relationship." He paused, regretting the past two years once again. "She realized I'd do anything to keep him from harm, and she used it against me, then hurt him to keep me in my place. How weak can a person get?" he said in a self-castigating tone.
He looked up into sympathetic blue eyes when he felt a hand rest on his shoulder. "Love makes us all susceptible, Heero. But it also makes us stronger. Duo will need your strength to help him heal from his ordeal. We'll all be there to help, but really only you can help him heal. You are the other half of his soul."
The dark head nodded. "As he is mine. That's why I couldn't let her destroy him. I thought if I could spare him, keep her away from him, at least he would still be alive when I managed to break free of her. I never dreamed...." his words trailed off as a look of misery washed across his face. He turned abruptly and removed several shirts from the closet, dress pants, then shoes, shoving them all in and then zipping up the large suitcase.
"Ready?" Quatre asked as Heero straightened.
"For the last two and a half years I've been more than ready to leave this place behind." He replied solemnly.
"Then lets take our leave of Relena properly and get out of here." Quatre managed a small smile of encouragement and the two of them moved to leave the bedroom that had been Heero's prison for far too long.