He was nearly dragged to the stairs, hands tied behind his back. Balking at the top step, he twisted free and shouted, "Listen to me! You're making a mistake!"
Yells drown him out. "It's people like you who get our family killed!"
"Hangin's too good fer ya! Flog 'em! Leave 'em for the crows!"
His arm grabbed roughly, a shove pushed him towards the noose. He looked wildly around, needing to find some meaning for his death. "You must stand against this tyranny! It's the only way to be truly free!" he shouted in desperation. A meaty hand met his jaw with enough force he reeled.
Amidst the catcalls, yells, and jeers, a steadying hand grasped him firmly. "We don't want to lose the man before he's hanged," a mild voice admonished.
It took him a moment to realize it, but looking into deep brown eyes, he wondered how such a man could have become a monk. "Father, please listen to me. It's a mistake! I was doing it for them... to save their lives. Make them understand! Please!" he nearly begged.
Without reply, the clergyman passed him back to the executioner. "May God have mercy on your soul."
The noose slipped over his head, and scanning the crowd once again, he refused to panic. If this was his end, he'd tried his best to get them to see reason, to get them to understand. A resounding thud and he turned to see blood appear on the hangman's lips, his eyes wide through the leather mask.
Suddenly the noise level erupted into a deafening volume. He could only stand and watch his would-be killer die. Hands at his back, cutting his bonds, and pulling the noose from his neck wasted no time. "Move! Damn you!"
He was shoved unceremoniously from the platform, a path had mysteriously appeared. His rescuer trailed, pushing him, urging him to run faster. All around him arrows flew swift, planting themselves into the ground, in crates and carts to either side of him. Behind him, he could hear shouts and the ring of metal; someone was fighting with swords. The town wall loomed ahead. He was never going to make it over.
"Trowa! Give him a hand!" a shout from above drew his attention. A figure appeared from behind a cart, shot off an arrow, and knelt before the wall.
"Foot to hand, and I'll toss you up. Heero'll catch you." The man's piercing green eyes didn't stay on him long, but continually darted around the courtyard.
Without hesitation, his foot landed in the cupped hands, and he was heaved upward. Strong hands caught him, grabbed his clothing and hauled him to the catwalk. He'd barely gained his footing when the man turned back to the courtyard below, fired off three arrows in rapid session. The one below provided cover as the blonde rescuer and the monk scaled the wall.
"Jump!" the black haired leader yelled, eyes never leaving the teeming crowd below.
Already the monk, and his blond-haired acolyte were throwing themselves over the wall. He discovered it wasn't as much a drop. The one called Trowa stood next to him, gripped his arm and jerked his head downward. He leapt, and landed easily on the grassy slope below.
"Jump, you fool!" the leader shouted again. Taking a deep breath, he did. Landing hard, he was up in an instant. The sound of hoof-beats rang out on the packed earth.
A hand was shoved in his face, and looking upward, he saw the leader glaring at him from the back of a horse. "Come with me if you want to live."
There were no other options. Already the others had mounted, and were preparing to ride off. The shouts and cries behind them became louder. In a matter of minutes, the guards would be rounding the corners.
"Trust me," the man whispered. Intense blue eyes showed compassion; the man's expression demanded obedience.
His hand slapped the other's, and he was pulled astride the horse behind the leader. Without a thought, his arms went around his rescuer's waist even as he looked back to determine if they were being followed.
"Why?" he managed to ask as the wind whipped by them.
The vibration felt from his hands let him know the man laughed though no sound could be heard. "You have to trust your friends sometime."
The hand on his shoulder shook harder. "Duo, wake up. We're almost to the station."
Rousing himself, he looked about swiftly. Quatre peered at him. "Are you all right?"
A frown flared and disappeared. How he hated those words. "Fine. I'm fine." Avoiding the guilt from his flash of anger, Duo leaned forward. "Where are we stopping again?"
"Sand Creek," Wufei answered, not taking his eyes from the road. "Supplies, gas, and a new map."
A snort from the passenger seat drew Duo's attention. Heero was shaking his head. "The map is good, Chang. We don't need one to tell me how to get to my own cabin."
Duo tuned them out, face turned to the window. He stared unseeing at the passing landscape, wondering at the dream. Another in a long line.
"Duo?" Heero called to him. He realized they'd stopped and Trowa and Quatre were already inside the store. He spotted Wufei stretching by the fuel pumps. Only Heero had stayed in the truck with him. "You want to go in?"
Shaking his head, he remained quiet, brows puckered in thought.
"You want to get out and maybe stretch your legs..." Duo looked up to see Heero flushing. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't..."
"Don't worry about it, I don't," Duo replied shortly. A moment of silence fell, and then, "Do you know how to ride? Horses, I mean."
Heero's eyes stayed with him, studied him. A quick nod. "I am more than an adequate rider. Why?"
Not wanting to watch someone watch him, he turned away, looking back out the window to see Wufei pump fuel into the truck. "Would you teach me?"