7-23-2005

Title:Fighting for Perfection
Authors: Chiaki and Belladonna
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing and its characters do not belong to me. However, any original characters and this story are mine!
Pairings: 2x1 (of course) 3x4, 5xS, and ?+1
Ratings: R ?
Warnings: angst, sap, violence...will progress with story
Notes: I titled my Untitled. ^__^ It's called Return to Happiness now...and here is its long awaited sequel!! Kira-chan!! I hope you like this one just as much as you liked Untitled! *glomps*

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Part One:

Eyelids fluttering against pale skin, Duo awoke to a warm, and welcome presence to his side. Giving a quick, and silent yawn, the braided man lifted his left arm lazily and tossed it over his bedmate’s back, tightening his grip slightly.

Nuzzling into Heero’s chest, Duo inhaled deeply, breathing in the Japanese’s scent. The ex-Wing pilot stirred, and opened one crystal cobalt eye. Duo smiled gently and placed a tender kiss on his forehead.

“It’s early. Go back to sleep.” He murmured into Heero’s hair. Giving Duo a sleepy nod, Heero’s eye closed, body relaxing into Duo’s strong embrace.

“Dad?” chirped a soft voice.

Slightly startled, Duo turned around toward the door where Akito stood. Fully dressed, in clean khaki shorts, a crimson button up shirt along with his favorite jeans jacket, Akito looked annoyed.

“Akito? What’s wrong?” He asked softly, yawning as he did so.

“C’mon, we’re gonna be late!” The four year old urged, marching over to the bedside.

“Late? For what?” Duo asked, releasing his hold on Heero.

“For the park! You promised remember?” He asked, a bit irritated. “You forgot didn’t you.” He said sadly, eyes downcast.

Duo’s eyes widen. “Oh no!” He whispered sharply, lavender eyes squinting to red the digital clock. 11:45am.

“Oh, jeez.” Looking over at Akito’s disappointed face Duo shook his head and smiled his brightest smile. “Of course I didn’t! Go down stairs and be ready to go in 5 minutes okay?”

Nodding excitedly, Akito rushed down the stairs in a ball of energy, much like his father.

Groaning, Duo nudged Heero with his elbow, silently urging Heero to awake.

“Hmm… wha…? ‘ime to get upppp?” Heero slurred softly, throwing an arm over his face.

“Heero. Heero, baby we need to go. Get up, c’mon, hurry.” He said softly, standing up against the hardwood flooring.

“Why? Some’hing wrong?” The Japanese asked, stretching against the sheets.

Duo gently shook him again as he put on his black shirt. “Akito’s…” He began to explain.

At his son’s name Heero sat bolt right up in bed, eyes wide. “Akito’s friend Kyle’s birthday at Lakewood Park at noon near the library!” Heero rushed out quickly, eyes wide with comprehension.

Duo nodded, slightly impressed. “Yeah, c’mon we gotta be there, like, now.” He muttered, glaring at the clock.

Heero nodded. “Is Akito rea-?”

Duo nodded. “Yeah, yeah just worry about you. I’ll take care of him.” He said quickly as he rushed out the door, brush in hand.

+++++

The well built, greasy blond haired man glared at the two men exiting the silver and ebony jeep, an energetic toddler at their side.

Leaning against the large oak, he drew in a large breath of his Camel cigarettes, puffing out perfect ovals of smoke upwards to the clear sky. He smirked slightly as the young boy ran toward the table full of other children, grubby and mussed up from the playground only a few meters away. The two men, in their early twenties, held each other's hand as the taller one, a man with an impossibly long braid attached to the back of his head, stole a quick kiss from his lover’s lips as he grinned like a mad man at the young boy.

Gagging slightly at the affectionate sceen before him, the man took it upon himself to survey his surroundings, memorizing the play area and parking lot. He needed to know the simpliest and fasted route of exiting the lush green park. After he finished his little ‘mission’ he’d need a quick get away. This mission would be easy.

*Easy as pie.* He thought to himself, smirking evily.

He could hardly contain his excitement as the perfect opportunity came as the braided man left his partner to push the brown haired child on the swing, leaving the other sitting alone on a park bench near a large saple. As the young man smiled at the two swinging and laughing near the swing set, the man quickly thrusted his smoke to the ground, swiftly stomping on the smoldering butt, silently making his way toward the Japanese.

+++

“Hey, gotta light?”

Surprised, Heero pulled his eyes away from the perfect scene in front of him, to an unknown man standing behind him. Squinting at the darkness of the shadow of the large willow, Heero shook his head.

“No, sorry I don’t smoke,” he answered.

The man motioned his head toward the play area. “That your son?” He asked, drawling.

Heero nodded slowly. “Yes.”

“Are you sure you don’t have a smoke?”

Gritting his teeth, Heero nodded again. “I’m sure.” He ground out, returning to the playful display before him. Duo was now tickling Akito as he stopped the swinging. The young boy squealed with laughter.

He felt the stranger come up closer behind him. Annoyed Heero snapped, “I said I didn’t…” Heero gasped silently as he felt a pierce to his neck. Back tensing and vison being filled with black spots, Heero’s eyes crossed, the blond man catching his limp form.

“Easy as pie.” He murmured, lifting the drugged young man into his arms.

+++

“Dad! Dad Dad stop! I can’t… breath… ahahaha!” Akito bucked wildly under his father’s gentle grasp.

“Aw, c’mon you little weakling! You can beat me can’t ya!?” He smiled and went easier on his son. Akita leapt up and tackled his father, as Duo pretended to be pinned.

“Whoa! The trainee has surpassed the trainer!” He laughed, sitting up. He smiled at the park benchway, to frown instantly. Standing up, brushing off his grass stained knees, Duo’s eyes searched frantically for Heero.

“Dad? What’s wrong?”

Heart thumping in his chest, panic settling into his mind, the American rushed over to the empty bench, twirling around on his feet, searching around for his husband.

A squealing of tires jolted Duo as he turned to the parking lot. A white car pulled out, tires screeching against the pavement.

Was Duo’s first coherent thought. He knew Heero was in that car. He just *knew* it.

His legs took off after the car, which was already hauling gludious maximus down the highway, the glare of the sun reflecting off the ivory vechical.

Panting, Duo collapsed after he saw the car go out of his seeing range. “No…” He breathed.

“Heero…” He whispered, eyes threatening tears. He could hear Akito calling behind him, a frightened yelling coming from the confused boy.

Then Duo screamed. “HEEERO!”

 

Part Two:

The detective’s office was hot and stuffy. It didn’t help the two silent figures on the worn down couch, patiently waiting for the man’s return. Duo’s head hung in his hands, trying to calm himself while Akito sat rigidly at his father’s side. Suddenly, the door swung open and the middle aged officer stepped in carrying a folder. He gently cleared his throat when the braided man made no sign of acknowledgement, but the American still did not look up.

“Dad...” Akito whispered, afraid of the possibilities his plea would invoke. He’d never seen his father like this before and it was really worrying him. He let out a sigh of relief when his father turned his head to look upon his son. “The detective’s here.”

Detective Hawkson felt himself tremble the moment Duo locked gazes with him. Duo’s eyes were obsidian with anger and hate, but what frightened Hawkson even more was the look of emptiness behind the black fire. It was almost as if no one was home, as if the man sitting before him was just a shell of existence, the soul inside gone. Hawkson feared for whomever caused this man pain because he knew that they’d receive it in turn by Duo Maxwell’s hands, a thousand-fold. Swallowing the large lump in his throat, Detective Hawkson opened the beige folder, and pulled out a few pieces of paper.

“I’m sorry Mr. Maxwell but I have some information I’d like to share with you.“ It took all of his will power not to stumble over his words.

“Then talk.” Duo’s voice held an icy tone he knew wasn’t directed at him but Hawkson flinched.

“Sir?” He asked timidly. “In front of your son?”

Duo regarded the detective before turning to place Akito on his lap. “Whatever you have to say to me can be said in front of my son.” The young boy’s eyes darted between the two men. “Well?”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. Just tell me what you found.”

“Right.” Hawkson scanned the papers in hand and relayed it back to Duo. “At approximately 12:45 this afternoon Heero Yuy Maxwell was kidnapped. Witnesses saw a white male, about 6’2”, blond hair, brown eyes, approach Mr. Maxwell on the bench in the park. They say the two exchanged a brief conversation and then when Mr. Maxwell turned his back to the man, he made his move. There was no struggle because Mr. Maxwell seemed to be unconscious as he was carried to the vehicle. No one caught the license plate but the car is a white, 4x4, and was seen driving into the heart of the city and not out. Measures have already been taken into action Mr. Maxwell. We have patrols searching the city as we speak.”

Unsure of what to say, Detective Hawkson looked at Duo in silence. The younger man’s frame was shaking with suppressed rage and his son was crying. Duo snapped out of his trance at the sound of Akito’s sobbing and set to comfort his distraught son.

“Shhh. Don’t cry sweetie. Don’t cry. Or else Daddy’s gonna cry too....shhh.” He lovingly stroked the chocolate mane. Akito snuggled closer to his father as his sobs subsided.

“Will Mama be okay Dad?” Came the hiccup-laden whisper. It hurt the detective to see the young family in obvious pain at the abduction of their loved one, so he tried to reassure them.

“Mr. Maxwell, we have the best men on the job. I’m sure we’ll find your husband soon, don’t you worry.”

“I’m sure you have your best men on the job,” Duo stated as he slowly rose with Akito in his arms. “But I wouldn’t say that you have the best men.” Duo opened the door, “Contact me if you find anything else.”

“Yes Mr. Maxwell.” And Detective Hawkson was left alone in his over heated office.

* * * * *

Trowa and Quatre sat impatiently in their black limo. They received Duo’s call almost an hour ago, asking them to come immediately, and have been worried ever since. Both had canceled all meetings and taken the day off, having the worst feeling about the whole situation. Silently they wondered what had happened and if the Changs would be there as well.

“Faster Rashid.” Quatre urgently requested. “My uchuu no kokoro feels Duo’s pain. He’s hurting so badly. We must get there soon.”

“Yes master Quatre.” The way Rashid’s voice quivered slightly proved he was worried as well. The couple was thrown back into the leather seats as the limo sped toward the Maxwell household.

*~*~*

“Heero...” Quatre’s voice was soft. “Is gone?” The news to the three ex-gundam pilots shocked them to the core. How could anyone capture one of their own? Especially the Japanese? They all stayed in top condition even after the war, and their reflexes were just as good. Heero Yuy? Captured in broad daylight? This was hard to believe. And yet, it happened, so now they had only one thing to do.

“Duo,” Wufei placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “What’s our plan of action?” The Chinese’s voice was solemn.

Before Duo could answer a soft voice broke the silence. “I’m ready Dad.” Akito said as he placed his duffel by his feet. His violet eyes were red from crying and had lost their sparkle, but he still managed a weak smile. Duo knelt to take his son into a long embrace.

“You be a good boy for Auntie Sally okay?” Duo thumbed the button nose. “And play nice. I’ll come by to check on you soon.” Duo gave his son a pleading look and Akito responded with a butterfly peck on his lips.

“Only if you promise to be safe and bring mama back home.” Duo’s heart broke at how brave Akito was being, how strong he was being for his father, and broke into a genuine smile.

“I promise.” Duo stood up but held on to the tiny hand and turned to Sally. “You don’t know how much I appreciate this Sal-” Duo started but Sally shook her head.

“You can count on me Duo. I’ll always be here to help.”

The braided man choked back the sobs that threatened to spill forth. “Thank you.”

Sally took Akito’s hand and with a snoozing Lianne headed for the door. She said her goodbyes to everyone in turn and then approached Wufei. “Be careful my dragon.” She breathed into his ear. “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Wufei responded by kissing his wife passionately despite the audience.

“I will. I love you onna.” The smirk was half-hearted.

“And I you...” And with that Sally left, Wufei closing the door behind her. The silence fell over them again and only when he was ready did Duo address his friends.

“I just want to say thank you,” Duo held up a hand so he could continue. “I know I don’t have to, but I want to. You guys are my family after all and we’ve been through so much together.... I never thought this would happen either. I thought our days of being soldiers were gone and that madness had left us alone. I guess I was wrong.” Duo paused to look at each member of his family. “I know you will always be there for me and I for you....but things have changed now that we’ve all had a taste of a so called normal life. We have loved ones who care about us and can’t risk our lives so carelessly anymore............” The tears he tried so hard to hold back were now falling and streaked his face. In a weak and almost inaudible voice he began again. “I want my heart back.....” And then with fierce determination that pulsed through the air, “Let’s find Heero.”

*~*~*

Under the cover of darkness the blond haired man carried his load through the deserted alley. He stopped before a rusted door and looked around before pressing the intercom button to his left. A loud buzzing could be heard and then the camera above him rotated down to stare at him with its mechanical eye. It was only a moment before the steel door slid open and he stepped inside.

“Damn these stairs...” He huffed as he headed down in the dim lights. He finally reached the basement, shifted the weight to the other shoulder, and opened the door. The large room beyond was also dim with only a few soft lights glowing here and there. No one else could be seen in the room but the tall man knew otherwise. He set the unconscious man on the table nearest him and into the darkness he shouted. “I got what you asked for!”

The squeaking of a metal chair answered his call and a dark figure stepped forward. The blond man’s brow creased as he waited for his client to approach. The other man stopped just beyond the reach of the lamp above him, his mouth and upper torso the only parts visible. The thin lips drew back in a heinous smile and bared yellow teeth.

“He wasn’t as hard to get as you said he would be. I didn’t even have to wait until dark!” The bulky man bragged.

The shorter man stiffened and then retorted. “You incompetent fool!! You took him in broad daylight?!”

“Hey! I wasn’t caught!!”

“Then they’ll be coming for him.....damn it all!” The man spat and turned away.

// We must leave immediately.........//

When his client turned, the blond thought he was going away with no pay. He never dealt with the likes of this man before, because he preferred to stay away from those dark, mysterious types, but he was offered five grand, which was more than he usually made. He didn’t do his job because he loved it and reached out for the man’s arm.

“Hey! Wait a minute! I want my mon---” The arm which he held in his right hand wasn’t an arm at all. It was some sort of metal and chilled his bones to the touch. “What the hell are you buddy?!” He pulled back in fear as the short man came into the light.

//But first........//

“Your doom.” Came the calm reply.

The last thing the blond ever saw was his own horrified expression reflected in the dark orbs that were the other man’s eyes.

 

Part 3:

The bone-jarring movements of the vehicle stirred Heero from his artificial slumber. His disoriented mind snapped to attention as years of training kicked in. *Where the hell am I?!*

Heero slowly opened his eyes only to be greeted with more darkness. Blindfolded, he thought miserably. Heero had hoped to get a quick glance of his surroundings. Carefully, the Japanese man then tested his bindings and found that his hands and feet were secured with metal cuffs. He dared not try escape so immediately without knowing where he was and with whom. Especially when Heero knew he was in a complex body bind from which there was no escape. The hands that secured him to the inside of the vehicle were not the same hands that took him from his family.

*The bastard’s probably dead.* Heero winced as the truck was suddenly jolted hard. He could not stop the moan of pain that escaped from his dry lips.

“So you’re finally awake then, eh my boy?”

“J?!!” Heero turned his face to the source of the voice. “But you’re dead!!”(1)

“Yes,” came the hoarse reply. “Yes I am. But science and technology have allowed me to ... shall we say, prepare for such a tragedy.”

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Heero felt the anger boil his blood. “I don’t know what you-” But his protests were cut short by the sharp sting of a needle into the side of his neck. *Not again!!*

“Sleep, my child.” The elderly man grinned a yellow smile. “Sleep....Now is not the time for questions. You will know soon enough. The entire world will know soon enough....”

*Oh God, no..... Duo....Help me...*

Consciousness quickly faded from his grasp and Heero was thrown into oblivion once again.

+ + +

“We were able to attain information from the local police department,” Wufei declared in his most commanding tone while Trowa handed out copies of the files to Duo and Quatre. One of the Winner heir’s conference rooms in his mansion had been converted into their headquarters. With high tech equipment, Maguanacs security, and resources at their very fingertips it was an ideal location for home base.(2)

“With their help we were able to identify our prime suspect.” The Chinese man then signaled for one of the Maguanacs to turn off the lights and an image was immediately projected onto a large screen at the front of the room. “Shane Evans. Thirty-three year old Caucasian male: 6’2”, approximately 180 pounds, blond hair, and brown eyes. He’s been making a living taking small jobs from the larger mafias and criminals in the area, but with help from the ‘big fish’ at the top he has eluded the police each and every time. Arrested for theft and assault but that’s as dirty as his record gets.”

“Approximately forty-eight hours ago, our Heero was abducted by Evans from Trevine Kingdom’s Central Park in broad daylight.”(3) Wufei changed the picture. “Witnesses at the park got the license plate number off the perpetrator’s car as it sped off and with help from the public the abandoned vehicle was found in a downtown alley.” Wufei showed the next slide. “It was completely searched, as was the alley, for any clues whatsoever to the whereabouts of Heero Maxwell and Shane Evans. We even had Preventers on the job but nothing significant was found.”

The images on the screen changed rapidly as Wufei clicked through different shots of the car and its surroundings. Preparing to move on, the Chinese man was then suddenly interrupted by a firm, “stop.”

All eyes turned to the American whose gaze was narrowed at the current image on the screen.

“What do you see Duo?” Trowa asked. The photo was another shot of the car, but the angle was from its rear, giving a clear view of the alley and its deteriorating buildings. To an untrained eye there was nothing but garbage and decay, but the ex-pilots of the Gundams were nothing if not experts in every field imaginable.

“How old are those buildings?” Duo ignored Trowa’s question and tried to focus on his instinct.

A golden brow furrowed as Quatre answered the question. “Well, it’s downtown so those buildings have probably been here for a good fifty years.”

“Meaning that the buildings themselves would not have been installed with top of the line, security cameras right?” At this Quatre, Trow, and Wufei’s eyes automatically honed in on a large, rusting door to the right of the picture. Sure enough, while the door looked like it had seen much better days, there was a newly installed camera almost completely hidden from view above the door.

“Upper right hand corner.” Wufei narrowed his eyes further. “Zoom in.” The computer automatically obeyed his commands. “Again.” The black camera was visible now. “And again.” The wiring and camera were clearly in prime condition, completely out of place among the old and rusting.

Wufei’s eyes widened. “That’s last year’s number one security cam! We have those installed at Preventers.”

Quatre hummed in agreement. “I say that whatever lies behind that door is worth investigating.”

“It might still be heavily guarded,” Trowa cautioned.

“But nothing that Shinigami can’t handle.” Duo’s eyes were hard and his jaw set. “Let’s go.”

+ + + + +

“In other news, there was a kidnapping in neighboring Trevine Kingdom this past Saturday. Twenty year old Heero Y. Maxwell was abducted from the kingdom’s Central Park amongst friends and loved ones by thirty-three year old Shane Evans.” Pictures of both males appeared on the screen along with their data. “The suspect and Mr. Maxwell have yet to be found. If anyone has seen this young man or know of his whereabouts, please contact your local police or the number you see at the bottom of the screen......”(4)

Sally Chang sighed as she let her gaze drift out of focus. Having experienced the war side-by-side with the ex-Gundam pilots, she knew just how difficult it was to make that transition into their current state of happiness and stability. *We were all doing so well and now this.* Her grip on the remote control tightened. “Dammit! Why?!”

The strong woman let her tears fall, her pain and her love for her friends too great for even the mighty to bear. Suddenly, a gentle voice broke through her sobs.

“Don’t cry Auntie.”

Sally lifted her head and met the deep violet gaze. “Aki?”(5)

The boy gave her a sad smile. “I miss my mama a lot.....” His voice was heartbreakingly soft. “But I know that Mama’s right here,” he whispered as he clutched at the spot over his heart. His voice suddenly took on a desperate tone. “And when my dad finds that bad man.... he’ll wish he never messed with the Maxwells!!”

The pair looked at each other for long moments. Sally wondered at how mature and faithful her young nephew had become while Akito tried not to let his silver tears fall.(6) Her maternal instincts cried out and Sally threw her arms around the young boy in a comforting hug. “Oh sweetie....”

And amidst the soft folds of his aunt’s blouse, Akito Maxwell cried.

+ + +

“Reaper. Dragon, do you copy?” Quatre’s voice came over the line.

“I copy, Sandman.” Duo’s voice floated in the dark.

“Copy,” Wufei responded.

The four young men, along with a Preventers’ backup team and a police car arrived at the downtown alley thirty minutes ago. After thoroughly checking out the door and camera, the men were sure that Evans had in fact, been there. The police had found a matching print on the intercom button that was adjacent to the door and the Preventers’ team confirmed that the camera was newly installed compared to the rest of the building.

Trowa advised against trying the intercom since there was a possibility that it was rigged as a trap. Instead, the ex-pilots obtained a blueprint of the abandoned building from the city and found that there was a huge basement underground and that it was accessible through the air ducts.

Which found Duo and Wufei wired and currently slithering down a pitch-black hole.

“All right. Once you reach the bottom, be careful not to land on the very center. There’s a screen there. Remove it, and you should be in the very first room. Stairs up toward the alley should be somewhere to your right.” Quatre eyed the basement map suspiciously. It was large enough that it was almost the entire width of the building itself. And since it was evident that Evans had to be let in from someone on the inside, Quatre had a feeling that they weren’t just looking at a simple kidnapping anymore. The emerald eyes of his husband reflected the same doubts. *So now the question is, who is he working for?*

+ + +

“We’re down Sandman. Stairs confirmed. The search is now in progress. Dragon out.”

Wufei motioned the ‘go’ signal to Duo and the pair moved forward on silent feet. There was only one door ahead of them, a dim light crawled from underneath but no sound was heard.

As one, they drew their weapons and took their positions on each side of the door. Duo quickly tested the door and started when it silently swung open.

“I’ll cover you,” Wufei mouthed. The solemn American nodded once, readied his silent automatic, and bolted through the door.

The heavy fire they were expecting did not come.

Instead, they found the source of the light came from the left, in an adjacent room visible through the large glass windows. Wufei flew to the closed door, a quick scan revealing no one. However, the security monitors were on and displayed the alley outside from many different angels. One showed a clear view of the door from the opposite building. The young man entered the small room and turned on the overhead light, dispelling the eerie blue glow from the screens.

He walked over to the machines and immediately spied a large, red button. “Sandman.”

“Sandman here.”

“I think I can open the door. Be ready.”

“Copy.” Wufei didn’t wait for the last syllable before pushing it down. The rusted door slid into the wall with a heavy lurch.

“We’re going to brace it just in case.” Dark eyes watched as Trowa and two Preventers placed a thick beam of metal at its base. “We’re secured.”

“I copy Sandman.” Wufei paused. “No one’s here.”

“Are you sure?” Their blond friend sounded shocked. “Then that means they knew we were coming, or they anticipated it! But that’s less than twenty-four hours.... How-”

“I see something.” Quatre stopped his train of thought as Duo’s hard voice broke over the line. “Over on the far side of the room. Do you see it, Dragon?”

The Chinese turned his attention from the monitors before him and sure enough, there was what looked to be a hulking mass on a chair. The light from their small room barely illuminating it. Duo quickly raised his gun to attention again and slowly approached the still figure. All of a sudden, his heightened senses were bombarded with the stench of death. He had been around it enough during the war, indeed, he had caused it, but nothing would ever change the fact that he hated it.

The blood in his veins ran cold as the thought that this could be Heero fluttered threw his mind. *No.... No. Heero is still alive... I would know if he was... is...*

Duo shook his head hard. “Cover me.”

Adrenaline rushing though his system, Duo closed in, and spun the chair around. He was greeted by a brutally battered face. “Shit! It’s Evans.”

“Evans?!” Both lines vibrated with twin shouts.

“He’s been tortured. Dead now though.” Duo spat with disgust. Shinigami bemoaned the loss of satisfaction that he would have felt if he had gotten his hands on the man first.(7)

The sudden beep drew his amethyst eyes downward, to the blond’s gorged-out stomach, and the activated bomb that lay nestled within. ‘Surprise 02. Catch me if you can,’ read the small strip of glass before the timer began to count down. Thirty seconds to die.

“OUT NOW!!” The Chinese didn’t move. “Fuck, Wufei! I said RUN!!”

The pair bolted out the door and up the stairs. “Evacuate the area now, Q! It’s a bomb!”

Frantic shouts and sirens echoed above them as the two thrust their bodies forward with all their might. “Go! Go! Go! Go! GO!”

As they sped through the rusted doorway, Duo noticed that the door was straining against the steel brace placed there. *Thank God for Quatre!*

They were halfway down the block when the explosion blasted its way through cement and steel, shaking what seemed to be the entire Earth. Duo, Wufei, Trowa, and Quatre hit the ground hard. Taking cover behind a nearby car, the four waited, crouched on the hot asphalt as debris and chaparral flew through the air.

In the middle of their wait another tremor rippled through the ground, signaling the collapse of the old building, and the ex-pilots suddenly found themselves swallowed up in a giant wave of dust.

The minutes lengthened into eternity before they rose, completely coated in gray, like ghosts rising from the grave. Quick checks found no casualties to the police or Preventers and the civilians in the surrounding area. In fact, they were currently calling for back up and trying to control the water-breaks and assess the damaged to power lines.

“That wasn’t very nice,” Trowa deadpanned, gazing upon the chaos where the building and their only lead to Heero once stood.

“Clearly,” the small blond spoke steadily. “Evans was not working alone. My question now is, why would the mafia kill their own man and better yet, why do they want Heero?”

“Not the mafia.” Amethyst eyes glinted like ice. “They don’t have a taste for sick traps and games. Nor are they into science. From what I could see, there were medical tables and supercomputers, not to mention one of the doors labeled BioHazard.” Duo shook his head. “Money and drugs are all that matter to them.”(8)

“So who do you think it is?”

“My instincts tell me that a certain doctor is back in town...”

“J?!” Trowa shouted. By now, they all knew of his twisted psyche through Heero’s horrendous stories of his ‘training.’ “But that’s impossible! How can you be sure?”

“It was the message that flashed right before the bomb activated. It said, ‘Surprise 02. Catch me if you can.’”

Quatre thought rapidly. “But millions know of your identity now, after that last war.”

“True,” Duo said. “But why was it addressed to me specifically? And why the taunt? How did they know that we were working the case? We’ve made no address to the public, everything we do is top secret.”

Wufei nodded gravely. “Only that bastard would know us well enough to foresee our actions. Hell, they gave us our missions, they held our data, and they know how we all think.”

“Wu’s right. J’s somehow back and he’s got my husband. I don’t think this is going to be as simple as we originally thought it to be. And....” Duo turned weary eyes to his friends.

“It looks like another war has just begun.”

 

Author’s Notes:
1. J died near the end of the last war for this story.
2. Maguanacs; I got this spelling from another fic and author. I’m not sure if it’s right. Please, if you know the correct spelling or can confirm mine email me. Thanks in advance.
3. Trevine Kingdom, like Sanq Kingdom, no? *laughs* Just coined by me is all for this story.
4. A news report of course!
5. Akito-chan’s nickname. :D And I know that he’s very well spoken for a four year old, but hey! He is the son of Gundam pilots for goodness sakes!
6. Technically they are not aunt and nephew, but they are in heart. *shrugs* And that’s what truly matters! Also, remember, Duo asked Aki-chan not to cry, to be strong for them both.
7. When I refer to Shinigami, I’m trying to refer to that aspect of Duo’s persona that is all business, the heartless killer... etc.
8. Hey, these boys weren’t Gundam pilots for nothing. Their keen senses and sharp skills help them see what we mortals cannot!

 

Part 4:

Trowa watched the television warily. Immediately after the explosion several news groups had shown up demanding answers from Preventers and police alike. Now the story was being covered on all stations, each saying the same thing.

Unexpected explosion in Trevaine Kingdom. No casualties. Suspected terrorists.

The green-eyed man’s face was blank but one look into his eyes expressed the deep worry and frustration he felt at that moment. They had teams scouring the remains of the building but not a trace of evidence had been found and it was now six hours later. Trowa glanced over at his husband who was busily speaking into the phone about the building to yet another city council member. Other than the fact that the building had been condemned the previous month there was nothing to go on. There were no records of anyone renting out the basement before its condemnation and certainly no one was allowed to do so after. Things were starting to look hopeless and Trowa couldn’t begin to fathom how Duo was feeling. The thought of his American friend brought a deep sadness to his emerald gaze.

*If he loves Heero anywhere near as much as I love Quatre.... I don’t know how he’s handling this. Better than I would I suppose....but it’s always been hard to tell with that jester’s mask he wears....*

“Only Heero could ever read him so easily....” He clenched his fists as sudden emotion overwhelmed him.

“God... Heero. Where are you?”

+ + +

“It is now suspected that the explosion that occurred at 11:32am today in the Trevaine Kingdom is somehow linked to the abduction of Heero Y. Maxwell. It has been reported that a special unit of the Preventers suspected that Evans was in fact holding Heero Maxwell in the condemned ten-story building, here in downtown Trevaine. It is unclear as to whether their suspicions were correct. Preventers and police are still gathering information, but there will be no official statement at this time.”

Duo listened to the television with one ear while he gazed out the window and onto the city spread out below. He wanted so desperately to lash out, to scream, to cry out, to cry-but Shinigami would not let the mask slip. It helped him survive in the past and frankly, Duo was not ready to share his vulnerability with anyone besides Heero.

A wide smile and laughing cobalt eyes filled his vision, and then the image of their son with that lost expression on his face. The look Akito had after finding out that his mama was “stolen” had been devastating. The fact that he hadn’t been able to protect his family almost killed him.

And though the ex-pilot of DeathScythe would never admit it, the absence of his husband and son was slowly eating him alive.

+ + + + +

A young man sat on a cold concrete floor. His knees were pulled up close to his chest and his tear-streaked face was obscured by wild stands of dark brown. His slender arms were red and swollen from the repeated struggle with the thick manacles, and his ankles had started to bleed where they cut into his skin. No matter how hard he tried, the restraints just would not budge.

Heero had never felt so weak.

*Wasn’t I once the Perfect Soldier?!....If I weren’t so weak I’d be with Duo and Akito right now....I wish I could see them again. It’s felt like forever....* There was a sudden uprising of desperate anguish that Heero cried out “oh God” and threw his head back against the wall, shaking it with his force.

Heero let his tears fall.

“Now, now, now pilot 01,” the tone was slightly admonishing, but the next words were as hard and as cold as ice. “This behavior is uncalled for.”

“Fuck you.”

The scientist clucked his tongue. “I see you’ve also acquired some new vocabulary...” Heero watched as J approached with a cold fury in his eyes. “No doubt from that L2 bastard.”

Heero shot up like a bullet and rammed his head into the gut of the creature that dared to insult his husband. He brought himself up to his full height, glowering at J who now lay sprawled on the floor. “Watch your mouth, old man.”

“Restrain him!” J shouted over his shoulder and Heero found himself suddenly pinned to the ground by five bulky bodies. A musty shoe pressed into the side of his face, ceasing the flowing stream of Japanese curses. “All your training has gone down the drain ever since you went and spread your legs like a little whore for that low-rate pilot!!” J roared. “I spent years on your conditioning, and this is how you repay me?” The scientist lifted his foot.

“No matter,” he said loud enough as he walked out of the room. “You can always be reconditioned, and if that doesn’t work....” His grin was yellow. “Your body, if not your mind, is still of use to us.”

J nodded his head as if he’d come to a final decision and let his grin broaden at the look of shock on Heero’s face.

The young man barely registered the flick of the mechanical hand before he was drugged unconscious yet again.

+ + +

“Argh!” Three pairs of wide eyes were immediately upon the Chinese man as he clutched at his own hair in frustration. “Absolutely nothing!?” He yelled at the computer monitor before him.

“Whoa... Wufei. Settle down and tell us what’s gotten you so upset?” Duo stated in a calm voice as he approached the fuming Preventer. Wufei sighed and apologized for his behavior with an inclination of his head.

“You spotted biological equipment in the basement before it exploded, right?” He waited for no answer. “Well I figured I’d check the Preventer’s data system on the black market for any jumps in bio-chemicals and medical equipment-”

“Of course!” Quatre shouted. “Why didn’t we-”

“But everything checks out,” onyx eyes narrowed at the screen. “There’s been no movement other than drugs and weaponry as of late. Absolutely nothing.”

“Oh....” the blond man couldn’t help the sigh of defeat that escaped his lips, nor the silence that followed. It was Duo who chose to break it.

“Well it was a good try, Fei. Better than nothing right now...”

“Actually, I think it’s something.” Inquisitive looks were thrown Trowa’s way. The tallest ex-pilot grinned. “Check the mainstream market.”

“What?”

“The black market is just too obvious when you’re running a highly confidential operation, and that is the last thing J wants before he’s ready to make his grand debut. We all know that...” Trowa pulled his tall frame into position in front of his own computer. “I’d say that there’s a phony account hidden somewhere on the open market that’s been buying a shitload of the stuff we’re looking for because it’s the last place we’d think to check....”

No one said a word and for a long while the only sound in the room was the flurry of clacking keys and the occasional clicking of a mouse.

“I think I found it,” Trowa broached. “There’s a lot of filtering through other accounts and a whole mess of decoys... but this is it.” All four pilots were now gathered around the glowing screen. “The locations of delivery for this one account have been all over the Trevaine kingdom. Some a little out of the kingdom’s limits but nothing that’s not accessible. I traced the random links and this account has done nothing but buy medical, chemical, and biological equipment...” Trowa’s fingers flew across the keyboard. “For approximately six years, but has increased purchasing frequency these last two years. And some of this stuff costs a pretty penny.”

“So J’s got a financial backer...” Quatre’s eyes were wide with realization.

Duo shook his head. “Not a backer Q. But a boss.”

“What?!”

“It makes sense,” violet eyes narrowed. “We all know J died along with the other scientists. With the stuff Heero’s told me, I’d bet that J somehow managed to preserve a copy of himself if things should ever go wrong.”

Wufei’s eyes glinted. “A clone.”

“Or an android,” Duo shrugged. “J was the mastermind in genetics-my husband is evidence of that fact.” The words were ground out through clenched teeth. “My hunch is some zealot from the wars dug up J’s work and brought the bastard back from hell.”

“Well shit,” the Chinese man muttered. “As much as this information is enlightening, it still doesn’t give us a clue as to where Heero is!”

“Hold on there Fei,” Trowa’s emerald gaze was fixated up the screen. “I extended the search for the account on a global scale, and large deliveries of the same equipment have been made to that new space station orbiting Earth. It’s called the-”

“New Dawn....” Quatre turned a pale face to Duo.

“What is it, Q?”

“The man that owns that station is Matt Takizawa.”

 

Part 5:

The young secretary stared, first in confusion and then in feared awe at the figure before her. The polite smile and courteous stance of Lady Une did little to tone down her commanding presence.

Red, glossy lips parted. “I am here to speak with Mr. Takizawa.”

“Yes, Lady Une.” The young woman hoped she didn’t appear too flustered as she flipped through the schedule on her desk. “Do you have an appointment? I can’t seem to find your time slot...”

“I do not have an appointment,” Une replied with a smile.

“I uh... Oh. I see...” The uncomfortable silence lasted but a few moments. “S-shall I buzz you in then?”

“Thank you. That would be most appreciated.”

Anxiety had settled in the secretary’s stomach, and even as she reached for the intercom her eyes never left Une’s smiling face. Some primitive instinct had been alerted from the very moment the head of Preventer’s walked through her door. Something which told her that this woman was as dangerous as a wild cat and just as unpredictable despite her pleasant exterior.

“M-mr. Takizawa, sir. Lady Une of Preventer’s is here to see you.”

There was not a moment’s hesitation. “Please send Lady Une in now, Miss Malloy.”

“Yes, sir.” She opened her mouth to repeat her employer’s request out of habit, but Lady Une had already disappeared through the large double doors.

+ + +

“To what do I owe the pleasure of having the Preventer’s very own President in my company?” Flat green eyes were trained on the impressive woman who was currently making herself comfortable in an open chair.

“I am merely here to question the suspicious movement of goods within your company, sir.”

If Matt Takizawa was shocked at her bluntness, he did not show it. “Suspicious movement, you say, dear Lady Une? You know as well as I do that my company has been flourishing these past few months. Why would I endanger such success with illegalities?”

“I was hoping you would be able to provide me with the answer to that question, Mr. Takizawa.” Lady Une noted the distaste in his eyes with satisfaction. “And before you object to my questioning, I have here the evidence that my agents have provided.”

The thick manila envelope landed on the large mahogany desk with a resounding thud. Elegant, manicured hands reached out and briefly shifted through the files, dark green eyes flickering over numbers and names. Matt gave a small chuckle as he threw down the papers with no concern. The white sheets lay scattered, their contents blinding against the dark, glossy tabletop. “This proves nothing, Lady Une. You have no proof that this fake account is connected to my company in any way. You only have evidence of these goods being shipped to my station. I have many rivals and have made many enemies in my journey to the top of the food chain, Lady President. Someone is obviously trying to frame me for whatever grudges they still hold.”

“That is an excellent theory, Mr. Takizawa but someone had to have been receiving those shipments...”

“I can have Miss Malloy draw up our inventory files for the New Dawn, and you are free to use them at your discretion,” Matt replied cooly before glancing at his watch. “I’m afraid that’s all the time I can spare, Lady Une. I do have a business to run.”

The Preventer’s president stood up with the grace of royalty. “I thank you for your time, Mr. Takizawa.”

“Oh, and Lady President? Expect a call from my lawyer.”

Lady Une’s eyes were hard. “Yes, Mr. Takizawa. We will be speaking to each other again soon enough.”

+++++

The scientist known as “J” looked upon his creation through the large window with disgust. “All that hard work....resources....time...” Pilot 01 met his gaze through the reinforced glass with eyes of fire. “Wasted,” he spat.

When he had been awoken and the memories of his biological body had been transferred, something akin to excitement had coursed through his artificial veins. He had opened his eyes slowly, awaiting the vision of chaos and destruction at the hand of his beloved pilot, ready to rule the world with an iron fist. But that was not reality, and he was less than pleased to see Relena Peacecraft seated on the throne. His throne.

With the established world government and alliances as it was, it would have been virtually impossible to overthrow the peace between Earth and the colonies if not for the one who had awoken him. The young man was unknown to J, but that was irrelevant when it was clear that their ultimate goals were one in the same.

Perfection.

They would build an army, he had said. An army to decimate all the nations of the world and wipe out the taint of human imperfection. For months, the man had provided J with scientists and resources to an extent of which he had never seen before. The world would soon lay at J’s feet and his mysterious benefactor had only one request.

I want Heero Yuy.

J looked over his shoulder. His spittle on the glass had dried, breaking the smooth, glossy surface. The food laid out in front of the somber Japanese youth sat untouched, his blue eyes flat. J saw nothing special in the way Pilot 01 looked, but then again, he only saw a weapon to use.

Heero Yuy will bear my children. And they will be perfect.

There was something disturbing about the look in the young man’s eyes when those words were uttered. Something that unnerved the android-clone, but when the stranger demanded that Pilot 01 be readied for pregnancy J did not hesitate. After all, it would not do to “bite the hand that feeds,” as they often say. As far as Pilot 01 was concerned, J knew only two options. The boy would either be reconditioned after his offspring’s birth, or destroyed.

+ + +

Heero stared at the tray of food. The vegetables were soggy and the entire palate was dull under the glare of floresent lights. His stomach grumbled again, loud and long, and Heero winced with the sharp pain of hunger. He had not eaten for over seventy-two hours, but instinct told him he'd stand a better chance of escape with hunger pains than drugged, for surely this food was dosed with all kinds of medication imaginable.

Ignoring the protests of his stomach, the blue-eyed young man took deep breaths and prepared to meditate his mind and body into a state of virtual comatose. Heero turned his focus inward and soon felt his heart slow, his breathing cease to a mere whisper, and the chaos of his mind silenced.

*He will come for me... so I must survive until then... He will come for me....*

"Duo."

+ + +

"That son of a bitch!!!"

"Maxwell!!" Lady Une turned a firm face to the furious ex-pilot. "Takizawa provided me with the necessary inventory sheets. We can't touch him when there is no hard evidence against him-yes-you've showed me records of movement to the New Dawn but his inventory shows no such occurances. Furthermore, I fail to see the connection between such merchandise, Matt Takizawa, and the kiddnapping of Heero Yuy. I think the authorities will feel the same way. And now we just might be facing a lawsuit ... Our organization cannot suffer such public humiliation. We hang on by a thread enough as it is."(1)

"He's lying!! Can't you see that? And he's wanted Heero since he'd first laid eyes on my lover!! Who else would have the fucking balls to take him away from me?!!" Duo rose up to his full height, crowding the space before his superior, dark eyes flashing. "Takizawa has my husband hidden away somewhere-doing who knows what to him, and we can't bag the motherfucker because you won't risk your reputation?!"

Wufei stepped forward and laid a soft hand on his friend's shoulder. "Duo... come now. Lady Une is not the enemy."

"No. No she's not," Duo's voice was hard, and he did not once turn his gaze from the woman before him. "But she's no better because she chooses to do nothing for her own agents."

"Duo!" Quatre cried out, voice laden with shock and embarassment.

"It's all right, Mr. Winner. Agent Maxwell has every right to be angry, but hear this... until I see some solid evidence, you are not permitted to pursue Mr. Takizawa. Do I make myself clear?"

Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei shared wary glances. Takizawa was their prime suspect. He fit the profile perfectly-money, resources, influence, and motive. True-there was no physical evidence that directly connected Takizawa to Heero's abduction. All they had was a phantom account trafficing its purchases to the New Dawn but surely, Lady Une could read between the lines? And could they seriously give up their chase at her demand? Would they want to?

Duo's calm voice broke the silence. "Tell that to someone who gives a damn....I quit," and with that, he threw down his Preventer's jacket and badge and stormed out the door. Trowa immediately followed after his friend, nodding once to Lady Une.

"Mr. Winner. Agent Chang. Please, you must understand the situation I am in..." The woman's voice was desperate now. "Yuy and Maxwell are the best team on my force, but I cannot sacrifice all for them."

"Lady Une," the words from Quatre were slow and calculated. "Heero is one of our own. He is precious to us. We would do, and will do everything to have him safely within our arms again, regardless of your position."

"Mr. Winner-"

"But more than that, Lady Une. We are standing on the brink of a new war. One which will rip its way down into the very foundations of our world until there is nothing left. Heero must be found. Takizawa must be stopped. Or we are all doomed."

The head of Preventers fell heavily into her chair. "No...Our peace! How can you be sure?!"

"Doctor J has been resurrected, inhabiting an android body and we believe he has partnered himself with Takizawa," Wufei responded.

"You lie!"

"Woman! I have no reason to lie!!" His eyes were bright with outrage.

"Enough, my friend." Quatre wrapped and arm around the Chinese's shoulders. "Lady Une, if you will not help us, then we will go to someone who will. Good day."

The stunned lady watched, disbelief still paralyzing her mind and body as the two men left her office. "It can't be true...."

*But what if it is?*

The possibility was too overwhelming. Too terrifying. Too real.

"Please...Don't let it be true. Oh dear God, no..." Lady Une sobbed out before unconsciousness took her.

+ + +

The long strides of Trowa Barton brought him quickly to the side of his enraged comrade. "Duo."

"I can't fucking believe her, Tro!" The braided one stopped, glaring up into the sad eyes of his friend. "That's my Heero out there! But more than that I promised Aki I'd bring his mama home..." Duo's breath caught in his throat as the foundations of his strength gave way and the tears poured from his eyes. "I can't fail...Can't fail..."

The taller man clenched his fists in silent fury at the sight of a broken Shinigami. *I never thought for once that I'd witness his vulnerability. Only Heero has that right, and I'll be damned if I ever see this again...*

Cursing himself for never having the right words, Trowa pulled the sobbing figure into his arms and didn't let go until there were no more tears to cry. For either of them.

 

Part 6:

J snapped the latex glove off his one hand and reached for the black phone whose light was blinking an angry red. The android took a deep breath and tried to calm the frustration out of his voice because he knew exactly who had called. “Yes?”

“Is it done?”

The creature of science looked toward the figure lying motionless on the operating table. “We had to fill his holding cell with a powerful gaseous sedative before we could finally handle him, but yes. I’ve just finished.” J heard a husky sound of satisfaction from his benefactor and felt his artificial lip curl upward in disgust.

“Good. I will join you shortly.”

“What?!” J whirled toward the calendar mounted on the wall. “There are still a few more days--”

“Certain happenings have forced me to show my hand earlier than planned, yes.” The smooth voice was very hard. “But it is of little consequence. I have what I want now and I am ready. I’ve been ready. Do you dare challenge me?”

The android stuttered, “o-of course not. No. No.” J’s sudden grin was malicious. “It is time.”

“Yes.” The voice paused, savoring the word. “It is time.”

+++

“I need to speak with Queen Relena at once,” Quatre rubbed his throbbing temple as he tried to keep his voice from rising. The early morning sun shot through the large glass windows like a laser, causing the piercing pain in the blond’s head to intensify.

“Do you have an appointment, sir?” The secretary’s face on the vid-screen was passive.

“No... I do not have an appointment. I’ve already told you that, and I’ve already told you that she knows me personally. What I have to say is of the utmost importance. So would you please, just connect me to her?”

Brown eyes narrowed before the secretary gave a curt nod. “I’ll patch you through, mister...?”

“Quatre R. Winner.” The face of the young man disappeared almost immediately, and the ex-gundam pilot found himself vid-screen to vid-screen with Relena.

“Quatre!” Her cornflower blue eyes were wide and a little puffy. “It’s been so long! I heard what happened to Heero and I’m so sorry. Tell Duo that for me, will you?”

“Yes, yes of course Relena. But that’s not why I called.”

The Queen of the World tilted her head in confusion. “Then why have you called me?”

“Relena-” Quatre swallowed past the dryness in his throat. “The other guys and I have come across evidence which indicates J’s return through use of an android body. What’s more is that we believe him to be one of the people responsible for Heero’s abduction.”

“Oh my God! That’s horrible!! Do you know--”

“Relena! There’s more. J’s not working alone, and we think we’re on the brink of a new war.”

The face of the young woman paled and her eyes hardened. “That’s not funny Mr. Winner.”

“I’m not joking Relena! Why would I joke about something like this?!”

“What you are implying is not only horrid and offensive, but completely unreasonable. I suggest you-”

“Listen to yourself Relena!!” Quatre fumed. “Are you mad?! You know I would never mention the possibility of war unless I believed it to be true!!” A fist pounded on the solid oak desk hard, bouncing the screen where Relena’s image sat silent.

“Quatre...” When she finally spoke her eyes were full of fear. “We cannot win. We will be devastated. We only have defensive measures.... My people’s desire for pacifism....” The blue eyes were now drowned in tears. “We have no weapons. We--”

Static enveloped the entire screen cutting Relena off, but Quatre’s stream of obscenities was immediately stopped by the appearance of a new face. It was a familiar face that repeated on every single monitor in the conference room Quatre was sitting in.

“People of the Earth and Colonies...” The voice was low and dark. “It has come to my attention that the world has been tainted by the filth of humanity for far too long...”

Quatre had been frozen on the spot but was shaken out of his stupor by the loud arrival of his friends. “Quat! Are you seeing this?!” Trowa shouted even though he was already taking a seat by his husband. Duo and Wufei came to a stop behind the pair. “It’s on every channel across the entire network...” Wufei supplied.

Duo made no sound, but his empty eyes were fixated on the man with the smug, green gaze staring at him through the computer screen. Matthew Takizawa had begun to speak again.

“Human beings are flawed in every sense possible. They are cruel, greedy, excessive, disrespectful, materialistic, and inconsiderate. Their minds and wills are weak, succumbing to every force greater than themselves, and their bodies are fragile. They destroy the earth with their progression, and have already entered space which will inevitably be tainted by the humans as well.” The man’s lips twitched upward. “You're time is done. Therefore, I will cleanse the world and space of humanity and finally achieve...utopia.” Matt closed his eyes in an eerie display of satisfaction and inhaled deeply before regaining his calm. “There will be no negotiations. My army of mobile suits will reap fields of red and by tomorrow’s dawn... the new world will welcome me as its leader.” The connection went dead as static engulfed the monitors once more.

The four friends looked at each other in stunned silence. Duo had long curled his fists into quivering masses of suppressed rage. The whites of his knuckles were visible, even through his honeyed skin, and blood had begun to seep over his fingers to collect on the cream carpet below.

“Duo! You’re hurting yourself!” Quatre gently uncurled the braided man’s hand to dab the crescent shaped wounds with the hem of his shirt sleeve. “Please-stop!” By now, Wufei had also reached to tend to his friend’s other hand with a solemn face.

“It’s not a war, Q,” Duo finally spoke, and when Quatre met his friend’s eyes he found them to be voids, sucking the surrounding light into their obscure depths. “That sick fuck’s planned the massacre of the entire human race.”

Trowa came and stood with his friends, all of them without words and without hope.

+++++

The grip Lady Une had on the steering wheel of her car was fierce. She had to find Sally Chang because she had no idea where Agent Chang and his comrades might be. Une prayed to the deities that Sally knew the young men's location. The information she had discovered was bound to be vital to the ex-pilots she had so hastily dismissed, and she desperately wanted to right her wrong.

When she had regained consciousness, the Lady President immediately accessed the Preventer satellite and after bouncing off several other satellites, uncovered photos of the NEW DAWN space station during its lengthy construction. There would be hell to pay for hacking into the independent systems, but Quatre was right. There was much more on the line than the social standing of the Preventers. Matthew Takizawa was a madman, and as a person dedicated to peace she was obligated to do everything within and beyond her power to stop him. And his war.

Fresh tears coursed down Une’s cheeks again. *I can’t believe I was such a coward.* She wiped them away quickly and took a glance at the large envelope stuffed with glossy prints lying in the passenger seat. Une gritted her teeth, focused on the road before her, and bared down on the gas pedal-one goal blazing in her mind’s eye.

*I’ve got to get to the Chang’s.*

+++

Akito was still staring at the television screen, even after it had returned to static and his aunt’s desperate pleas to leave the sofa had stopped. He remembered that voice-those eyes. The memories were hazy at best, but Akito was sure. The man on the television had been the thorn in his and his mama’s lives for a while before his dad had finally returned home to them. Matt Takizawa had seemed nice enough when they’d first met him-what with his smiling green eyes and wide smile, but Akito always knew there was something-something wrong-about the man. His little heart had told him so, and his mama always told him to be loyal to his feelings [1].

The tears began to form as Akito trembled under the emotions that were storming inside him. He’d never been afraid of that man before-not when he had his mama and Dad to protect him, but now they were both gone.

“Mama...” Akito whispered brokenly and hugged the couch pillow hard to his chest. “Dad...don’t leave me alone! Please come back....please...pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease......”

Sally watched the tiny, rocking figure on her living room couch with anguish in her heart. Lianne had fallen asleep long ago and was spared the sadness that radiated off her favorite cousin in waves. Sally sighed. Maybe some hot chocolate would do Aki good, she thought and headed toward her warm kitchen. She flicked on the light and bit back a scream at the large figure outside her window. Without fully turning to face his charge, Rashid nodded his head to Sally in silent acknowledgment.

The startled woman swallowed hard. *Oh thank God....* Sally shook her head to rid herself of the frightening thoughts Rashid’s image had initially invoked. *Wufei and the others are on the case. Quatre’s men are highly trained.... we’ll be okay.*

“Nothing’s going to happen...” Sally ignored the fierce trembling of her hand as she poured milk into a pot to boil. “There’s nothing to be--” The doorbell rang. Sally felt her stomach drop to her feet.

Rashid lightly knocked on the glass to get Sally’s attention, motioning for her to go ahead and get to the foyer. “It’ll be okay,” he mouthed.

Blue-gray eyes closed briefly before Sally made her way to the front door. “Who’s...who’s there?”

“Mrs. Chang?” Sally recognized the voice. “Mrs. Chang? It’s me, Agent Lancaster? I work in your husband’s department?”

*Lancaster?* Sally took a look through the peep-hole. *What the hell is he doing here?!*

“Right. Lancaster,” she hoped her voice sounded steady. “What do you want?”

There was shuffling at the door. “May I come in, Mrs. Chang? I have some information for your husband but I can’t seem to get hold of him. It’s from Lady Une...”

“Auntie Sally?” The muffled patter of tiny feet made Sally turn to her nephew.

“Shh, sweetie.” She maneuvered Akito away from the foyer. “Go... hide upstairs, understand me?”

“Mrs. Chang!” Lancaster was practically pounding on the door. *Where the hell is Rashid?!* Sally’s instincts were screaming at her now. *Something’s not right.”

“Run Aki!!” She hissed, reaching for the hidden gun resting underneath the hall table. Akito shook his head, but began up the stairs nonetheless. Suddenly, a large metal ram forced its way through the front door and more than a dozen black clad men stormed in, guns ready to fire. Sally snarled at her enemies and cocked her own gun.

“I don’t think so, Mrs. Chang.” Lancaster stepped forward with a smug grin adorning his face. “We don’t want you at all. We’re here for the boy.”

Sally’s eyes went wide and flew immediately to Akito who was frozen midway up the stairs. “No....you can’t have him. You-you fucking traitor!!”

Lancaster’s left eye twitched. “Is that so?” He touched his ear-piece. “Bring her down.”

“MOMMY!!” Lianne’s scream pierced her mother’s heart. The three-year old was struggling desperately against the strong arms restraining her. She kicked and punched and pinched and kicked some more as the man carrying her descended down the stairs until finally, she sunk her teeth into his exposed wrist. “Shit!!”

Sally couldn’t help the smirk on her lips. *That’s my baby girl....* Her eyes shifted to the smirking man to her right. “You bastard.”

“Now, Mrs. Chang,” his awful grin grew wider. “The boy or your daughter?”

Sally’s heart was aching like never before. How could she choose between her own flesh and blood whom she loved unconditionally, and the son of her beloved friends whom she had grown to love with a fierceness not unlike that of one born from her own womb. “Mommy! No! Aki-chan’s ours!!!” Lianne was still hellfire in her captor’s arms. “He’s OURS!!” She was hysterical now.

*You really are your father’s daughter, love.* Sally smiled proudly at her little girl. *I don’t know what to do.... Oh God.... help me...*

“I’m waiting Mrs. Chang.”

Akito took a tentative step toward the short man. “If I go with you... you’ll leave them alone, right?”

“AKI!” Sally’s entire body was trembling madly. “Baby, you can’t!!”

Lancaster ignored the screaming woman and turned wide eyes to the youth. “Sure, kid. We’ll leave them alone.” The Maxwell boy chewed on his lower lip for a second and then nodded with finality. “Smart kid,” Lancaster smiled and nodded to his team mate who had moved in behind the Chang woman unnoticed.

“AKITO!?”

With a sharp blow to the back of the head, Sally was down and out. “Back to base!” Lancaster grabbed an unresisting Akito Maxwell and motioned to Lianne. “Leave the girl, and make sure those Maugunacs are secured. Let’s move men.”

“MOMMY!” Lianne’s black pigtails flew behind her as she rushed to her mother’s fallen figure. “Mommy, please!!” Frightened gray-blue eyes filled with tears. “Wake up, please! Oh please...,” she begged but her pleas were left unanswered and realizing her helplessness, Lianne let her tears fall.

+++++

Duo watched the treetops outside sway with the spring breeze and hoped beyond hope that his emotions weren’t blatant when you looked at his face. He knew he wore the carefree facade very well, but he also knew that he had never felt more empty in his entire life. When he had been a young boy, barely surviving on the streets of L2, Duo had believed that things would eventually get better. When the fight against OZ had begun to look fruitless-he had pushed on. Even when he and Heero had been apart those three years, he held on to the hope that someday they would be reunited again in love.

This time...there was nothing inside. It was as if his insides had been gutted out with a spoon. Rage-the cruel mistress that she was-came and went, leaving Duo numb. Matthew Takizawa had taken away his beloved Heero and was a real threat to the life of his only child. For Duo-that was as good as death, and now... the lives of his friends and their loved ones were being threatened by the madman’s obsessive desire for perfection. Violet eyes stared down at empty hands and bemoaned the loss of DeathSycthe for the millionth time. *I can’t even FIGHT the fucking bastard.* Eyes closed in defeat, Duo turned away from the windows to press his cheek against the cold tabletop.

“Why so gloomy, sunshine?” A deep, roughened voice laughed out.

Duo blinked in confusion but didn’t move an inch. *That sounded like...*

“Howard?” The braided man’s voice was tired.

“Yeah, runt? Who’d you expect?” The graying man walked round to sit in Duo’s field of vision.

“How’d you find me?” Duo finally sat up and frowned at the grinning face of his old friend.

Howard picked imaginary lint off his atrociously colored Hawaiian print shirt. “I have my ways. Anyways-I heard you needed help. Hell-we need your help. So here we are!!” The older man’s grin got even bigger, which annoyed the braided man to no end.

“And who is ‘we,’ Howard?”

Suddenly, said man’s face was solemn and his wrinkled eyes were filled with an indescribable emotion. “Why-we’re the fucking cavalry, of course!!”

Duo searched his friend’s face and knew in that moment that the war wasn’t lost just yet. Heero, he thought. *I’m coming for you, baby.* Then Duo grabbed the man in a bone-crushing hug, and let the hope wash over him.

 

1. Heero taught his baby boy to follow his feelings. :]

 

To Be Continued....