11-12-2003

Sins of The Fathers (2/?)
By Anne Olsen

Ratings/warnings: OK (Oz/Kiwi spelling/grammar etc) - R - AU, angst, drama, romance.

Author's notes: This is the second story in the 'Echoes of the Rising Sun' series set in 1943 against the backdrop of the Second World War, and is the sequel to 'Shadowboxing'. Be warned that there will be some themes and events that some readers might find disturbing, but these were disturbing times and this will be reflected in what happens.

The writing soundtrack for SoTF is 'Memories' from the musical 'Cats'. The reason for this will become clear as the story progresses.

Pairings: 1+2, 3+4

Summary: After his capture by the Nazis, Duo comes to the realisation that his torturer's mental stability is...well...debatable. Can Duo maintain his own sanity long enough for his team to mount a rescue mission?

Archive: http://www.angelfire.com/ab7/shadesandechoes/echoes/echoes.html

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai, Sunrise and Sotsu Agency. I promise to return the boys in one piece, more or less, when I'm finished, but hold no liability for any broken bones or psychological trauma sustained by them in my fiction.

Thanks to: the beta reading/support team - Bast, Haraamis, Hex and Gina. Also a special thanks to Iniq, for the location research.

Comments to: anneo @ paradise.net.nz

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Chapter Two

 

Duo watched the door close behind Merquise's men and bit down on his lower lip in an effort to hide his growing sense of dread. Still smiling, Merquise opened the bottom drawer of his desk. "I do hope you don't have sensitive skin," he remarked, almost casually. The drawer shut with a thud and Duo jumped. "So much more satisfying for both of us if you last the distance."

"No," Duo whispered, barely realising that he'd spoken aloud.

"Did you say something, Priest?" Merquise asked. "Keep in mind that whatever happens next is your choice."

"My choice?" Duo's voice was hoarse. "I've already told you that I don't have the information you require." /And even if I did I wouldn't tell you, bastard,/ he finished silently.

"And I've already told /you/ that all I require at this point in time is your name." Merquise sighed. "It /is/ your choice. Either tell me your name now, or I'll extract it later. If not from you, then from my other.guests."

"You're bluffing," Duo met the other man's gaze directly.

For a moment they stared at each other in a silent battle of wills until Merquise chuckled, pushed back his chair and rose to his feet. "Am I?" he asked. "I quite assure you, Herr..?"

"I told you to call me Father, my child," Duo couldn't but smirk as he repeated his earlier comment. /Nice try, Merquise, but I'm not that stupid./

"Definitely more uncooperative than your colleagues," Merquise shook his head and walked around the side of his desk. "It's a shame," he said in a casual tone, "I'm a reasonable man, but you have to understand, /Father/, that I have responsibilities to the Fatherland which I cannot permit you to jeopardise." He sighed and Duo twisted his head to get a better view after his captor moved back into his line of sight.

/Please. No./ Duo's throat went dry, and he sucked in his breath.

Merquise ran one finger down the length of the thin black leather whip before caressing it with a tenderness that sent a shiver of terror down Duo's spine. The finger stopped, the tip resting in the palm of his hand, and Merquise moved closer, the look in his eyes calm and cold, his footsteps muffled by the richness of the carpet beneath his feet. "It's so difficult to get blood stains out," he muttered under his breath before walking behind Duo and out of his line of sight. "You will co-operate and save me the effort, won't you?"

"Go to hell," Duo tensed as something cold traced a thin line slowly across his exposed buttocks.

"Interesting." There was a pause. "Your friend seemed to share your preoccupation with the afterlife."

Sure that Merquise was attempting to discover any weakness he could to use against him, Duo bit down on his lip and focused his attention on the stain on the carpet. If he concentrated hard enough he could pretend it wasn't blood but something else entirely. Maybe it wasn't crimson after all, but the dark blue of cool clear water. Duo closed his eyes and remembered the stories his friend Solo had told him about swimming in the ocean. The ocean was beautiful, he'd said. Beautiful but with depths that man could only dream about.

He and Hilde had come to Germany by sea, but it had been in the middle of winter. One day, Duo had told her, they'd do all those things they'd dreamed about. Their life together was only just beginning; there was always tomorrow.

But they'd run out of tomorrows. All that Duo had of her now were his memories of a relationship that hadn't lasted, of a friend lying dead in his arms as he'd wept, knowing that he'd been unable to save her.

He'd be damned if he'd give the bastard who had killed her any of the information he wanted. He'd join Hilde in death first. One step down the path of surrender and he was lost. Duo had to believe that his team was coming for him. Once he lost that hope, the enemy had won. Merquise would have won.

/Shit!/

It took all of Duo's will power to stop from crying out as the leather connected with his buttocks. The fire spread through his body, the searing heat just like.

He closed his eyes and screamed silently. Please no, he'd spent years trying to forget, trying to forget the memories which still persisted in haunting his dreams.

The edge of the whip cracked against his skin again and Duo choked back a sob.

Everything around him was burning, the smell of the fire making him cough as he crawled along the floor towards the door. Mommy had told him to stay low where the air was. She always knew what to do. If he was good and did what she told him, he'd be all right. They'd all be all right.

"What is your name?"

Duo was only dimly aware of the question; he opened his eyes, trying desperately to anchor himself in reality and escape his memories but the room spun sickening around him.

The crimson stain burned red, reaching for him, wanting to devour him.

A groan passed from between his lips and, biting down, Duo tasted blood. /I won't tell you. This isn't real. It's all part of the nightmare./

The whip bit into his skin again, and Duo felt his body jerk.

/Mommy, you'd said you'd stay with me./ The stench of the smoke made Duo cough, the stench of it permeated his pyjamas, his hair, his body as the little boy crawled faster to escape the wall of fire. He glanced behind him, searching for his mother, for anyone but to no avail. /Why didn't you stay with me? Where are you?/

Another lash. Then another.

/Stop the fire. Stop. Stop. Stop./

Duo buried his face in the leather of the chair. He was shaking, his breath coming in rapid spurts as his body tried to force air into his protesting lungs. Water ran down his forehead, into his eyes; his skin felt hot and clammy.

"Tell me your name!"

The air around him was heavy and it was getting harder to breath. /It's not real. It's not real. It's not./

Another wave of pain hit, and someone screamed.

"Tell me your name!"

His stomach lurched and Duo tried to pull at his restraints, only to find his body wouldn't obey him.

/Make it stop. Make it stop./

The darkness was coming for him; he didn't like the dark. There was no escaping the fire in the dark. It burned like a beacon, bringing the monsters, bringing the memories.

/Hilde?/

And then everything went black.

******

Quatre shivered and wriggled under the blankets. He felt hot and sweaty yet his hands and feet were freezing. Wriggling again, he let out a gasp at the sharp pain in his shoulder as it rubbed against the hard mattress beneath him.

/Hard mattress?/

Eyes opening with a start, Quatre tried to remember where he was. He wasn't in his own bed; that was for certain. Easing himself up on his right elbow, he gritted his teeth against the wave of pain the action provoked.

He blinked, trying to adjust his eyes to the dim light of the room. It was light outside, but barely; it couldn't be much past dawn. Lowering himself back onto the pillow, he felt his sore shoulder with his other hand, only to feel a slight wetness as he brought it away. Blood. He was bleeding?

The memories tumbled over each other and Quatre groaned aloud. Dr J was dead, Merquise and his men were on their trail and he'd lost the plans. His life had turned upside down in little under a day; there was no going back to what he'd had, what he'd been, even if he'd wanted to.

Trowa.

Quatre searched the room in a panic, letting out a sigh of relief when he noticed his friend asleep in the chair by his bed. The other man sighed in his sleep, his breathing deep and even; the blanket he'd draped around himself had fallen to the floor, leaving him uncovered. Trowa shivered, small clouds of white smoke forming from his breath, but he didn't wake.

Had Trowa spent the night in the chair? Quatre smiled, his hand going to his cheek. He remembered the touch of something soft against his skin as he'd drifted off into sleep. Wishful thinking - it must have been - but for the first time in years he'd felt as though someone besides Iria had truly cared what happened to him. If only.

No! Quatre brought himself back to reality with a start. Trowa was a friend. He couldn't afford to even contemplate anything more than that. It wasn't right; they had enough to worry about without adding a complication neither of them could risk admitting to. Just because someone was decent and kind didn't give him the right to read anything else into it.

Sighing again, Trowa shifted in the chair, his hair flopping down like a curtain over one eye. /You're a good man, Trowa Barton. You don't need my baggage to deal with./

They'd be lucky to get out of this alive; Quatre would concentrate on the task at hand, treating it like one of the mathematical problems he was so practiced at dealing with, and then once they'd gotten the plans to the Allies, they could go their separate ways.

Had Nichol believed his story about the plans not being complete? Or, more importantly, would Merquise have realised that Quatre, in his desperation to buy time for his and Trowa's lives, had in fact been telling the truth?

With Dr J dead, the plans the Gestapo held were now useless without the page of formulas that Quatre had memorised and then destroyed before hiding the rest of the file under the floorboards in the attic room at Hilde's café. He wasn't sure what had prompted him to take the action before he'd joined her downstairs, but on hindsight he was pleased he had or otherwise Merquise would have exactly what he needed.

However, he'd also told Nichol that they needed him; and Quatre knew that his former employees would stop at nothing to retrieve the information he possessed. During the last few weeks, he and Dr J had worked closely together to turn their dream into reality; Quatre had been the older man's protégé, the only one he'd trusted completely. Quatre still remembered the other man's anger, his final words before death.

/How dare you? I will not tolerate./

No. Quatre never should have tolerated what they were doing. He should have never have allowed the project to get as far as it did. He had been so naïve, and now people were dying because of it.

/Hilde, I'm sorry/.

Quatre already had so much blood on his hands - Dr J, Hilde.and probably others he wasn't even aware of. Now he'd finally found the courage to do the right thing, he'd fight to keep the information from the Nazis, no matter what the cost.

He only hoped that cost wouldn't be too high.

The sliver of sunlight crept through the window, its rays highlighting Trowa as he slept. Trowa had taken such a risk in helping Quatre; there was more to the SS officer than met the eye. No, not SS, he corrected. Trowa was a member of the resistance, a traitor to the Third Reich, as was now Quatre himself.

In escaping from Nichol's custody, he'd sealed his fate. No matter his protestations of innocence, no one would believe he hadn't gone with Trowa voluntarily. Quatre's _expression hardened. And that was the way it should be. This mess was his own doing; he should be the one to take responsibility for it and fix it.

His sister was involved with the mission to retrieve the plans for the bomb from his employers. Trowa had been watching him because Iria had /told/ him to do so. Was Trowa only concerned for his welfare because he was under orders to get them, and by extension, Quatre, to safety?

How much of anything could he believe anymore? Iria had promised an explanation later, but Quatre doubted that would happen now. He'd been barely conscious when they'd arrived; he wasn't even sure where he was. If it hadn't been for Trowa's support, Quatre wouldn't have made it even this far.

/I've been so naïve/, he thought, /about everything./

Glancing down at his hands, Quatre noticed they were shaking. No, he wasn't a coward; he would take whatever came without any show of weakness. Once Trowa woke he'd demand answers. If he was to play his part in what was to come, he needed to be fully informed.

Iria had trusted Trowa with Quatre's life. Quatre couldn't afford to believe that that trust was misplaced. Whatever the reasons for Trowa's kindness, he at least owed him a chance to explain, and his co-operation to complete their mission.

The rising sun wasn't helping the icy temperature of the room; if anything it felt as though it were growing colder. Quatre swung his legs over the side of the bed and took a deep breath to steady himself before taking a tentative step towards Trowa. The cold would waken him soon, and he needed his sleep.

Another few steps and Quatre paused, his breaths coming in jagged gasps. This was ridiculous; after all he'd gone through the previous night surely he should be able to walk the short distance needed to cover Trowa with the damn blanket. The room spun, and Quatre reached out instinctively to stop himself falling.

Unfortunately, the only thing within grabbing distance was the chair Trowa was sleeping in.

"What the?" Trowa pinned Quatre's arms behind him, the action causing the blond to cry out in pain. "Quatre? What on earth?" Trowa released his grip, and ran one hand through tousled hair.

"I'm sorry," Quatre mumbled, stumbling backwards to collapse on the bed. "I didn't mean to."

"It's all right," Trowa rubbed at his eyes and squinted in Quatre's direction. "You startled me." His voice sounded slurred, his yawn changing into a frown as, suddenly alert, his gaze focused on Quatre's shoulder. "Your wound, it's bleeding again. What are you doing out of bed?"

"I'm not a child, and I would prefer you didn't address me as such," Quatre replied, his voice shaking. He wasn't sure whether it was from embarrassment or because of the tone Trowa was using with him. "I was merely attempting to cover you with the blanket; I didn't expect to be attacked for my trouble."

Trowa sighed and walked over to the bed. "I didn't attack you. I can't afford not to react like that, considering our present situation. What if you'd been the enemy?"

"I would have drawn my gun and shot you as you slept," Quatre couldn't help but add a tone of sarcasm to his voice.

"You're forgetting the noise that the gun makes when you cock it to pull the trigger," Trowa said as he began examining Quatre's wound. Quatre winced and pulled away. "Iria was right," Trowa glared at him with undisguised annoyance. "You're very stubborn, and unco-operative when you want to be." His voice softened. "I'm only trying to help. Your wound is seeping; it needs to be redressed. We can't afford for it to become infected."

"It hurts," Quatre complained. He lowered his eyes for a moment, suddenly ashamed. "I'm sorry. I should be thanking you for what you've done instead of." His voice trailed off. "I want to trust you, Trowa. I just don't know what to believe anymore."

"You trusted me last night, Cat," Trowa reminded him. "Stay here, I left my bag with the medical kit in my room, I need to go fetch it."

"I doubt I'd get very far even if I tried," Quatre gave Trowa a shaky smile. "Where is here anyway?"

"We'll talk once I've redressed the wound." Trowa smiled back at him. "I promise. It's normal to feel this way after what you've been through. Don't be so hard on yourself; you're coping a lot better than you think you are. I've seen grown men cry and shake due to the after effects of shock."

"Hmm," Quatre still didn't feel convinced. He wasn't a trained soldier; he was a scientist. A scientist who'd led a very sheltered life. He wasn't equipped to cope with this, and both of them knew it. Was Trowa just trying to placate him, to put him at ease before telling him the truth regarding their situation?

After unlocking the door and opening it, Trowa exchanged a few words in a low tone with whoever was outside in the corridor. When the conversation had finished, he moved to one side as he left the room, after looking back at Quatre, to allow a middle-aged nun to enter.

"How are you feeling this morning?" The nun smiled at him as Quatre searched his brain for her name, sure that he should know the answer but drawing a frustrating blank. "Herr Bloom seemed quite."

"Herr Bloom?" asked Quatre, sure that he was missing something obvious.

"He'll return in a moment," the nun confirmed. "He was right, that wound really does need redressing."

"Thank you for your concern," Quatre said politely. If Trowa was using an assumed name, how much could she be trusted? Appearances could be deceiving and just because she was a nun didn't mean that he should lower his guard. "Sister. I'm sorry I don't know your name."

"Sister Helen," she frowned. "How much do remember about last night?"

"Very little," he answered truthfully, hoping she wouldn't ask for too much information.

"Herr Winner," she began.

Why would Trowa have trusted her with Quatre's name and not his own? Quatre edged back towards the wall. The Gestapo were after both of them; surely Trowa wouldn't consider sacrificing Quatre to save himself.

"Do you feel hot?" Sr Helen asked. She tried to place a hand on Quatre's forehead but he pulled away.

"No, " Quatre paused. "Yes." He turned away to examine the wall, running one finger along the cement between the bricks.

"Would you like some time alone before your friend returns?"

Quatre nodded, but didn't turn around. "I'm sorry," he mumbled, hoping she understood.

"Get some rest," she advised, "it will help. I'll tell Herr Bloom to take his time."

After her footsteps had died away, Quatre realised that he hadn't thanked her for her kindness. What was wrong with him? Grabbing his pillow, he threw it at the opposite wall before punching the mattress with his fist.

How could he have allowed himself to get into this situation? He was an idiot, thinking he could just leave with the plans tucked under his coat. They'd be lucky to get out of Berlin alive, let alone Germany.

Damn it!

If the Gestapo came after him now, he was in no condition to fight them off - he hadn't even been able to perform the simple task of covering Trowa with a blanket. He wasn't an asset to this mission; he was a burden.

Sliding down the wall, Quatre buried his face in his hands and gave into his despair. There was no one around to see or care what he did and he couldn't fight it any longer.

"A l'aise, Quatre. Je suis ici." [1] Quatre didn't understand the words, but he leaned into the strong arms encircling him, and allowed himself to be held. "Shh, tout est bien." [2] He didn't have the energy or the state of mind to argue.

Unsure of how long he'd cried for, Quatre wiped his eyes on his sleeve before taking the offered handkerchief and blowing his nose loudly. "I'm sorry, I'm not normally this emotional. You must think I'm a weak idiot."

"No, I don't." Trowa brushed Quatre's hair from where it had fallen over his face. "I told you earlier, mon ami, [3] shock can be a nasty thing." Their eyes met. "You're not weak, Cat, don't ever think that. In the past twenty-four hours, you've given up everything that was important to you, had your mentor die before your eyes, and you're recovering from a gunshot wound. Lesser men would have given in long before now."

"Thank you," Quatre searched his friend's eyes for any sign that he was telling less than the truth but couldn't find any. /Maybe I haven't given up /everything/ that's important/, he thought.

Trowa shuffled down the bed to put some distance between them and for that Quatre was grateful. While he'd appreciated, and enjoyed the closeness, the fact he had wasn't something he wanted to dwell on.

"Trowa?" His curiosity getting the better of him, Quatre broke the silence between them.

"Yes?"

"Why were you speaking French?" Quatre paused, waiting for an answer, but Trowa wasn't forthcoming with one. "That was French, wasn't it?" he pressed for a reply.

"Yes." One of Trowa's eyebrows rose. "I didn't realise you spoke the language."

"I don't," Quatre confirmed, "but I've heard it once or twice." His tone grew wistful. "It's so wonderfully lyrical that I've never forgotten it." He smiled. "I haven't a clue what you said but it made me feel better, thank you."

"French is my native tongue, I haven't used it much over the past few months as it would be dangerous to do so." Trowa returned the smile. "It seemed to settle you last night so I thought it might help now. I can teach you some basic words and phrases if you'd like me to; having something to focus on will help distract you."

"Thank you, I would like that," Quatre blushed but wasn't sure why. "I'm not sure what I can offer in return, I only speak German and English."

"I don't speak English," Trowa admitted, "only French and German. You could teach me some English in return, it's a language I've been curious about for some time, but have never had the time nor opportunity to pursue it."

"Sr Helen called you Herr Bloom. Why did you give her my real name yet use a false one yourself?"

Trowa shook his head. "Part of me is pleased to see you're learning not to trust, yet I'd hoped you trusted me." He wriggled across the bed to rest his back against the wall. Crossing his arms, he met Quatre's gaze and sighed. "Sr Helen already knew who you are, Quatre. You're the son of one of the richest men in Berlin; it would have been surprising if she hadn't."

"That's going to be a problem, isn't it?" Quatre remembered Hilde's initial reaction when he and Trowa had asked for her help - she'd voiced her concern that Quatre's presence could get them killed. She'd been right.

"Yes, but at present it's the least of my concerns." Trowa didn't elaborate and Quatre didn't ask. He had other more immediate questions he wanted answered first.

"Herr Bloom?"

"You're persistent, I'll give you that." There was a trace of amusement in Trowa's voice. "My real name isn't Trowa Barton, it's Trowa Bloom. I decided that it was unwise to continue to use Herr Barton's name, so when I introduced myself, I merely told the truth."

"Use Herr Barton's name?" Quatre shivered, wondering what had happened to the real Herr Barton.

"Leon Barton was a casualty of a raid by my resistance cell while enroute to his new appointment at the research facility. It was a simple matter to alter his papers and for me to take his place. I kept my own christian name as it was important that I react to it by instinct. Any suspicions that I wasn't who I appeared to be could have been fatal."

"You killed him?" Quatre felt sick.

"He was killed in a raid, Quatre," Trowa's voice was calm, yet firm. "We're fighting a war, you have to expect casualties. On both sides."

"The end never justifies the means," Quatre protested. "Was it really necessary to kill him?"

"We didn't target him specifically," Trowa sighed. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Barton pulled a gun; it was kill or be killed. I don't enjoy killing, but sometimes you don't have a choice."

"There's always a choice," Quatre insisted. "If you kill them it makes you no better than they are."

"In an ideal world, maybe. But we're not in an ideal world. As I said, we're fighting a war, and you need to remember that." Trowa shifted on the bed, his face creasing into a frown. "When you overpowered Mueller and aimed the gun at him surely you would have shot him if you'd had to?" [4]

"I don't know," Quatre admitted. "Trowa, I couldn't shoot a man in cold blood." He looked away, unable to meet the disgust he knew must be reflected in Trowa's eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm not a killer."

"No one is until they have to be." Trowa placed his hand over Quatre's; Quatre glanced up, surprised at the action. "Cat, I'm not asking you to be something you're not or to compromise your morals, but I need to know that if you're threatened you'll defend yourself." He squeezed Quatre's hand. "We're going to be leaving here in a few days; it's too dangerous to stay once you're well enough to travel. I can't watch your back as well as my own for the entire time." His voice grew quiet; his words were choked. "Although it's often necessary to sacrifice someone or something for the greater good, it's not something I'm sure I could..."

"Would you sacrifice me for the greater good?" Something in Trowa's tone made Quatre want to reach out in reassurance but he restrained himself. He couldn't afford to get too close to the other man; he'd made that mistake before, he wouldn't again.

"No!" Trowa's reply was sharp; he pulled his hand away and slid off the bed. "I need to change your dressing." Collecting the duffel bag from the floor and, after finding the supplies he needed, Trowa began to carefully remove the bandage from Quatre's shoulder. "This might hurt," he warned.

"Do what you have to," Quatre said, gripping the head of the bed with his right hand. "You still haven't told me where here is," he said. If he could find something else to focus his attention on he'd be able to cope with the pain.

"We're at the Klosterkirche [5]," Trowa answered absently, his concentration taken by the task at hand. "You weren't in any state to travel very far last night and I couldn't take the chance that the Michaelskirche [6] might have been compromised."

"Surely if the Michaelskirche isn't safe, this isn't either," Quatre reasoned. "If the Gestapo are doing a thorough search of the city." He bit his lip and tried not to wince, knowing Trowa was being as gentle as possible.

"I didn't have a choice," Trowa explained. "We can't risk travelling until you're well enough; it's going to be dangerous enough as it is. In a few days time we'll review the situation. In the meantime you need to rest and allow yourself to heal."

"If the Gestapo come before then, I want you to leave me and at least save yourself." Quatre strengthened his grip on the bed. "You're a traitor to the Third Reich. I know what they do to traitors, Trowa, and I don't want to be responsible for that happening to you."

"I have no intention of being caught by Merquise and his men if I can help it," Trowa finished changing the dressing and began tidying up his equipment. "If I have to leave, you're coming with me, even if I have to carry you over my shoulder."

"I've already told you I won't allow you to do that again," Quatre flushed at the memory. "I have enough blood on my hands."

"Whatever happens it won't be your choice, Quatre." Trowa's expression hardened. "I have my orders and I intend to obey them, one way or another."

"And I intend to do what I have to as well," Quatre glared at him. "One way or another."

"We'll see," Trowa said. "In the meantime try to get some rest. I need to go and talk to Sr Helen about the arrangements for our journey." He walked across the room, pausing at the door to speak. "Quatre?"

"What?" Quatre's tone was sharper than he intended.

"I promised Iria that I'd protect you with my life and I intend to honour that promise." The door closed behind him, and Quatre listened to his footsteps fade into the distance.

"And I'd protect you with mine too," he whispered.

******

Notes:

[1] "At ease, Quatre. I'm here."

[2] "Shh, everything is good."

[3] My friend

[4] Refers to events in chapter seven of 'Shadowboxing'

[5] A nunnery on the site of a church. The Klosterkirche, in Berlin, was bombed in 1945, two years after this fic is set.

[6] The St Michael's church, where Trowa met Duo's team in chapter five of 'Shadowboxing'

******

End of Chapter Two

TBC