Notes: Um... This has been rolling around in my head for a very long time. A VERY long time... Anyway, here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Angsty in some parts. VERY angsty. What an interesting word. "Very". Yeah. The title is... well, tell ya what? Somebody tells me where the title came from and I'll write you something. Whatever you want! Come on! Somebody has to know! ^_^ Yet another 1x2 from my twisted little 1x2 brain.

Warnings: I think... everything. Yaoi, angst, sap, angst, lemon, angst, rape, angst, and revenge. And some angst. Don't forget the angst. Though not as much as E-sama. I still can't turn my own stomach too much. ^_^

Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me and I am making no money doing this. Suing me is no good, since the sum totalof my personal posessions is a rather small anime and manga collection, one rather smelly little dog, and my beloved computer!
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When Sorrow Sang
by LaMangust

 

Chapter 1

Bitter winter wind gusted down the narrow street, whistling shrilly in the ears of the figure that made his way steadfastly against it. He was bundled in a thick coat, gloves and scarf to ward off the frigid weather, his only identifying marks two narrowed violet eyes peeking over the edge of the scarf wrapped around his face and the long brown braid whipping in the wind behind him. Stolidly, Duo continued on, his arms full of anonymous bags and parcels. He reached the door to his building, struggling for a moment with his keys before succeeding in opening the door without dropping anything. Leaning his back against the wall for a moment, Duo caught his breath, gathering his strength again to tackle the flights of stairs up to his apartment.

Finally arriving, he pushed open the door. He dropped his load on the couch, unwrapped his stiffly frozen scarf from its chokehold around his neck and called out in his best Desi Arnaz voice, "Heero! I'm hooome!" When there was no response, he smiled and removed the rest of his outdoor clothing, then set to finding suitable hiding places for the things he had bought, placing only a few under the brightly decorated tree lighting up the living room. Task complete, Duo flopped onto the couch and turned on the television. He reached to the table and picked up a small snow globe that rested there, shaking it to watch the miniscule snowflakes fall on the tiny town within, its own peaceful little world. He curled up on his side, finally falling asleep to the sound of a choir singing 'O Holy Night' with the snow globe still clasped in his hand. His last thought before his eyes closed was that for the first time in a very long time, it looked to be a truly wonderful Christmas.

 

Heero walked into the apartment a few hours later and found his lover still asleep on the couch, the television playing Christmas episodes of old black-and-white shows. He couldn't help the smile that came to his lips at the sight of Duo curled up and breathing deeply, mumbling to himself, and he didn't really mind. Since the war had ended and the two had come to this apartment to live together, less than a year had passed, but he could feel the profound effect a quiet life with Duo had had on him. He smiled more often, and even laughed on occasion, something that Duo never failed to tease him about.

Heero walked to where Duo lay and knelt beside the couch, studying his lover's face up close. He noticed the snow globe Duo held, clasped protectively to his chest. A stray strand of Duo's bangs fell in his face, making him wrinkle his nose in an adorable fashion, and Heero smiled softly, in perfect synchronization with the canned laughter coming from the television. Irritated by the hair, Duo raised one hand to rub sleepily at his nose, slowly waking to see Heero's warm blue eyes inches from his own. Duo smiled. "Okaeri, koibito."

"Tadaima," Heero whispered and leaned down to kiss his lover. He took the snow globe from Duo and placed it on the table, watching the small snow flakes whirl at the movement. It was going to be a good Christmas, unlike any that he had ever passed before.

 

Duo grinned at Heero when they broke apart, and rolled playfully off the couch to land on his lap. "Bring me anything?" He knew Heero had bought him something. The question was whether or not he was going to tell Duo what it was.

"Possibly," Heero said ambiguously, "but you're going to have to wait until Christmas to find out." Question answered, Duo happily wrapped his arms around his lover's waist and buried his face in the other boy's stomach.

"Sure thing, Hee-chan. That's only four days away!" He sat up, turning to face Heero. "Now, what do you want for dinner?"

 

After they had eaten, the couple curled on the sofa in the darkened living room, simply enjoying each other's company until they fell asleep there, content in the glow of the Christmas tree. Later that night, Heero woke and carried his sleeping lover to their room. Finally, the world they had fought for had left them in peace to enjoy this time together. Christmas was going to be perfect.

 

When the cold winter sun slanted through the frosted window to make pearled patterns on the bed, Heero awoke and allowed himself to admire the vision that was Duo as he slept, shorter hairs coming loose from his braid to fall around his face in fine waves. It was only after long contemplation of the fair features that he was able to get up and go about the normal rituals that accompanied the beginning of a new day. He slipped on a robe against the chill still lingering from the night and padded to the kitchen to make some coffee before his love awoke. As the coffee machine slowly worked, he glanced out the window and was delighted to see fine snowflakes falling. Suddenly, the fanciful idea that they might be inside a snow globe of their very own struck him. It was a strangely appealing thought.

Taking his coffee and making a mental note to call Quatre and see when he and Trowa would be arriving, along with Wufei and Relena, Heero crossed the living room and opened the door, bending to retrieve the newspaper. When he noticed the gun pointed directly at his head.

He stiffened, rising slowly until he was staring the weapon, and its wielder, dead in the face. The man was tall, almost a head taller than Heero, who had grown considerably in the last year, and wore a dark suit. He looked to be in his early thirties, his narrow face made even longer with hair slicked back in a no-nonsense style.

"Duo Maxwell?" the man asked, his face set and grim, tone implying to Heero that he would cooperate or else find himself seriously inconvenienced.

"No," he responded evenly, hoping he could lie and make this man, and the several others in the hall, leave before Duo woke. The man frowned.

"I am agent Sedic," he flashed a badge. "Is this the residence of Duo Maxwell?"

Heero had opened his mouth to say 'no' and close the door on these characters, when Duo chose to make his appearance. He shuffled slowly into the room, heading directly for the kitchen where he thought his lover would be, but stopped short at seeing Heero standing with the door open, apparently staring at nothing.

"Heero? What are you." That was when he came around the door and saw the men. And the gun pointed at his lover's face. "Heero?! What's going on?? Who are you?" he demanded angrily of the grim-faced strangers.

Sedic's focus switched abruptly to him. "Duo Maxwell?" he asked Duo in the same monotone he had used with Heero.

"Yes, I'm Duo Maxwell. What do you want?" Immediately, four other men came in the doorway, grabbing Duo and shoving him against the wall face-first. One placed handcuffs on him, securing his arms behind his back.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say." Heero's enraged roar cut the man off. The furious ex-pilot was headed toward the man who had shoved Duo when he suddenly found himself gunpoint. Five times. With visible effort, he calmed himself enough to speak, his tone low and deadly.

"What is the meaning of this?"

Sedic stepped into the circle of guns. "Duo Maxwell is under arrest on several long-standing warrants for crimes against the colony of L2. Duo tried to turn his mouth open to defend himself, but was roughly shoved against the wall again, knocking the air out of him. It was Heero who leapt to contest the words.

"What do you mean L2? This is Earth! You have no jurisdiction here. Besides, all our crimes during and before the war were given official pardon by the leaders of the colonies themselves. How is it that L2 suddenly wants to revoke that statement?"

No expression flickered on the Sedic's face. "L2 issued no such statement, though we aware that our sister colonies did. Those crimes were never pardoned, and the charges for them still stand. Since the formation of the single government of the colonies and Earth, our jurisdiction applies here just as if it were part of the same country. We have authority to remove criminals from anywhere in the Earthsphere and take them to L2 for trial. Crimes were committed against L2 by Duo Maxwell and must be punished accordingly."

Without further discussion, the dark-clothed men muscled Duo, still clad only in boxers, a large t-shirt and a robe, out into the hall and out of the building, slamming the door behind them in the face of a very stunned Heero.

 

Duo was trying very hard not be too obvious in his anger. It would only draw the attention of the men around him. He was seated in a car between two huge silent men who were intent on keeping him there. He shifted slightly, pulling the bathrobe closed more tightly over himself with his cuffed hands. They really didn't know who they were dealing with, he thought, if they truly believed that those cuffs or even the four guards around him could keep him in the car against his will. He could have been out of there in seconds, but risking that could very well cause more trouble for him and his lover later. He didn't want Heero involved in whatever mad trap this was, so he went along quietly.

He knew it was a plot, because the thought that L2 could truly have any remaining grudge against him was something he simply could not believe. After all the Gundam pilots had done for the colonies, even after they had been declared outlaws, the colonies had shown their gratitude and given their thanks. That he could have been betrayed once again by the people or government of L2 was something his mind kept shoving away. The old pain of desertion was welling up again. Being on his own instead of supported by the people who should have looked to him as a hero. Why couldn't the world just leave him in peace? Hadn't he suffered enough for their pettiness?

Duo sighed quietly and settled himself back in the seat, opening the cuffs to allow his wrists relief without attracting the notice of his guards. Life had been looking up for a while. But now it was turning back into the nightmare he remembered. He had known it was too good to be true.

 

"What do you mean?"

"They took him, Quatre. He's gone. In jail somewhere. They said he had committed crimes against L2 and had to be put on trial." Heero's voice was as calm as ever, but the speed at which the words fell out of his mouth spoke volumes to Quatre about how frantic he was.

"But what crimes are they talking about? He hasn't done anything after the war." Quatre was trying very hard to be reasonable as Heero's words made a nervous feeling of foreboding rise in him.

"They said that his crimes from during and before the war were still standing and he had to go for those."

Quatre couldn't help his shocked gasp, even knowing that if wouldn't help Heero's already worried mood. "But they wouldn't! Those were given official pardon! I remember it clearly."

"That's what I told them, but the man insisted that L2 never issued such a pardon for Duo, or any of us for that matter."

There was silence for a long, painful moment. Quatre could feel Heero's worry and agitation, and it hurt. "Heero." he trailed off, at a loss for anything to say that might comfort his friend.

"What am I going to do, Quatre?" Heero's voice had turned stricken, something that the small Arabian was not at all accustomed to. Though his ex-partner's distress was already evident to him in the constricting pain in his chest, Heero's loss of his external composure really worried him. It was just too unusual. "If they really want to try and punish him for every crime he ever committed on that colony, I'll never get him back."

"Oh, Heero," Quatre was honoured that this boy who had been so stoic as a pilot would trust him with these feelings, and he wanted to do everything in his power to bring Duo back as soon as possible. Not only for Heero, but for all of them.

"I'll be there tomorrow afternoon and we'll get everything straightened out. In the meantime, stay calm and stay home. Don't do anything you might regret later. We don't need two of you in jail. I'm sure I can work this out if you'll let me.

There was silence as Heero considered this. "Alright," he said finally. Then there was a click and a beep, signalling that the conversation was over.

Quatre sighed, leaning back in the large office chair, which seemed to swallow his slight frame. Always new problems. He went to find Trowa. If they were to be at a point on the surface halfway around the globe before the next night, they would have to hurry.

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Chapter 2

Heero worked feverishly at the computer through the day and late into the night, going through records of the past year and trying to find the pardon for the pilots from L2 that he knew was there. He remembered the longhaired pilot's joy at the announcement that he could return to his home colony without worrying about being picked up by the local police for petty crimes of his pre-war days. But, search as he might, nothing surfaced. He found the records for the other three remaining colonies easily enough, but nothing from the one that was most important to him right now.

Official archives. Nothing. News archives. Nothing. Private pages. Nothing. It was as if the thing had never existed, and the deep fear that that might indeed be the case set a knot in Heero's gut. He continued stolidly on for hours, searching on source after another until, finally, his patience slammed straight into another dead end and shattered. With an enraged roar, he swept the computer monitor from the desk, watching with fiery eyes as cracked on the ground and shot a few sparks before lying dead, screen in chunks and shards all around.

Heero sighed, shaking his head at the loss of temper. He couldn't work efficiently in this state. Better to wait for Quatre, though the doing nothing would probably kill him. He moved mechanically through the routine of going to bed, every small thing reminding him of Duo. It was torture staying in this house without his lover. He lay in their bed, hugging Duo's pillow, which held its owner's scent, closely to him. It was a weak substitute for the real thing. It was a gesture of pain and weakness, but Heero had always depended on Duo for strength when his own ran out. Now, that fount was unreachable, and he felt helpless in his sorrow.

Watching the shadows from the window fall on the too-empty sheets, Heero turned all the data he had sifted that day over in his mind. The idea, which now seemed completely possible, that the pardon had never been issued was repelled by his mind. He didn't think he would have missed something that important to Duo, even then, when their relationship had been new and still experimental. It was impossible. Something had to be wrong. Something had to give eventually. Heero was a soldier. He knew that every scheme and strategy had a weak point. All he had to do was find that weakness and exploit it to the best of his abilities to save his lover from whatever force had taken him into its sights. Heero Yuy did not give up. Ninmu ryoukai.

The white walls, white doors, and white bed were glaringly bright in the fluorescent light from a long panel in the ceiling. That coupled with the white clothing they had given him and Duo had one hell of a headache. They had left him here, in this incandescent prison, some hours before, and no one had entered since. It was the strangest cell he had ever seen in his vast experience, unadorned and windowless like most, but with a bathroom, bed, and dresser more reminiscent of a hotel room than a place one kept criminals. Apparently they expected him to be here for a while. The dresser was white, like the rest of the room, and contained only clean linens, more of the clothing he was wearing, plain white cotton pants and shirt without adornment, as well as a few more elaborate things in several dark shades that looked extremely uncomfortable. That was the only reason he wasn't wearing them. Instead, he had laid them around the room to break the painful monotony of glowing white.

He sighed dejectedly, still not truly understanding what had happened to him, and lay back on the bed. According to his watch, which they had thankfully left with him after thoroughly checking it for explosives, lock picks, and other gadgets and gizmos, he had been away from his home and Heero for only 12 hours. It seemed like an eternity, but his entire life had turned around in half a day. He was nervous about what they had done to Heero. No one had told him anything.

He looked up as the door was opened suddenly and a uniformed guard walked in, back stiff and obviously ill at ease ordering this war hero about. "You are informed that there will be a hearing tomorrow at 0800 hours to discuss the proceedings of these trials. You must be prepared to leave these quarters at 0750, in dress," he gestured at the dark clothes scattered around the room before turning and quickly leaving.

Duo sighed. That man must have been at least three years older than him, but had behaved as if he were in the presence of a general. So what the hell was Duo doing locked in a cell, when people here greeted him with more respect than they would have shown to Relena Darlian herself? Finally deciding that he would never understand people, least of all the colonies, Duo lay down and attempted to sleep, plagued by dreams of Heero and things he so desired but could not reach.

Trowa was disturbed. The new mess Duo was in was affecting Trowa's own little lover immensely. It was just like Duo. He had always been the axis around which the group's mood had revolved. Now that he was in trouble, none of them were going to escape sharing the feeling of distress. Not that Trowa felt he was unjustly exposed to the feelings. He was deeply worried about the self-proclaimed Shinigami, mainly because he knew what kind of trouble Duo could get into if left on his own with the enemy. His brash actions and words almost always made things worse for him. Thinking of the government as the enemy was something Trowa found extremely troubling. He hadn't believed he could slip so easily back into those old mentalities, but he knew his loyalty to Duo was far and above any he had to states, organizations, or people in general. It just felt like a reversion to a time he had hated and a person he didn't want to be anymore.

He felt Quatre move from his place against his side as the car they rode stopped. He followed Quatre out of the car and toward the apartment building they had stopped in front of, watching the lines of tension in his lover's back. The building was plain redbrick, the narrow street giving it a secret hideaway feel. Once inside, however, he could see what had driven Duo to this place. Straight across the building from the door, a small piazza opened, followed by a grassy slope down to a river below. It was beautiful. He would have bet anything that the apartment they were going to had several windows overlooking that view.

Trowa started up the stairs behind Quatre. Duo and Heero's apartment was on the 7th floor. In fact, it was the whole 7th floor, he noticed as they reached the top and found only one door. Quatre knocked. There was no answer. For a long moment, they simply waited, before the small blonde raised his hand to knock again. The door flew open before his fist had hit the wood twice, and someone else's came at him almost faster than Trowa could follow. Almost. He grabbed the wrist and twisted, halting its movement, letting his eyes travel up the arm to glare into Heero's familiar face.

He looked terrible. His eyes were dark and weary, but hard as ice. He had the pale appearance of one who had not eaten for a while, and Trowa suspected that in his worry he had not though to take care of himself. It wouldn't be atypical of Heero, who had survived the war only by some miracle. His inattention to personal health and well-being was something that Trowa knew well. And which Duo had always berated him about. He was dressed in jeans and a dark sweater, which combined with his weary face to make him look somehow older than his true 19 years.

Heero's eyes seemed to register who his intruders were, and he turned to re-enter the apartment with no more greeting to them than a muttered, "Hn." They followed him in, Trowa looking around the tastefully decorated apartment for the first time. The Christmas tree was dark, but he could see the effort they must have put into making it beautiful. His eyes scanned the room as Heero headed to a door across the living area, and noticed the smashed monitor and glass still littering the floor. It was probably good that Quatre had warned him to stay home. His temper was barely restrained, evident in the broken monitor and the way he had been ready to take Quatre out when he opened the door.

"Heero.?" the small blonde said softly, trying to tell what the stoic boy was doing. He walked into the room where Heero had disappeared, the bedroom apparently, and began to work his way around the mess on the floor. There were papers everywhere, seeming to spread from the epicentral area of the closet. Heero had seated himself in the mess and resumed an obviously extensive search through a large box. "What are you doing?"

"Looking," was the curt reply.

"What are you looking for, Heero?"

"I know he kept a copy of it." There was no need for him to tell Quatre what "it" was. The small blonde sat down near Heero and began to sift through the papers as well.

"What have you found so far? I take it the computer files and records revealed nothing," Quatre said, trying to give the delicate subject as wide a berth as possible.

"Nothing." It was little more than a hiss, spat contemptuously from the taciturn ex-pilot's lips as though the flavor of the word were distasteful to him. "I know the damn thing existed, but they've covered it up too well. Somebody's deliberately doing this to harm Duo. I know it."

Quatre felt a twinge to hear his own suspicions reflected so easily in Heero, but also knew that if Heero wanted a target for his rage and couldn't find one, the situation would get worse. "Let's not be hasty. It's perfectly possible that in the middle of all that was happening at the end of the wars, we never noticed that it wasn't issued. Maybe we all really did imagine it, or assumed."

"And his face when he got it? Are you going to tell me you imagined that?" Heero cut him off, voice pure venom. Quatre stopped trying to be logical. Trowa stood in the doorway, watching silently. He turned suddenly and headed back toward the kitchen.

"I'm going to make some phone calls."

Three hours later, Heero and Quatre had turned up nothing, but Trowa had managed to talk to both Wufei and Relena. Wufei had of course offered his immediate help and had gotten permission to meet them on L2, which he would do as soon as they left. Relena had been a gamble, but she had matured much in the years since the time when she had followed Heero around persistently. She genuinely liked Duo once she had gotten to know him, and was as happy for them as any of their other friends. She would be unable to join them in person, but had promised any help they required, including the use of her not uninfluential name if they needed it. All that was left was to come up with some physical proof that Duo could not be charged for crimes before the war. And none of them would give up until they had their friend free of enemy hands.

After a relatively sleepless night, Duo dressed one of the black high-collared outfits. It was as uncomfortable as he had imagined. He sat on the bed and waited uncomfortably for the guard to arrive. Instead of the face of the guard, which had been growing familiar, the man Sedic entered, signalling him silently to follow. Duo, however, did not follow silently. He began asking questions as soon as they were out of the room.

"Why exactly do people on this colony want to cause me more problems than they already have? I think I'm due at least something. I did help to save them after all. Don't people know how to show gratitude? Well, if they do hate me so much, why not just leave me alone? Who gave the order for this to happen anyway? Why can't people let me have my life? Where are we going? Do you know this judge? Do you think he might listen to me if I tried to negotiate?"

He continued to talk, and Sedic continued to ignore him, down long hallways for almost five minutes before he turned suddenly, making Duo stop suddenly and windmill his arms to keep from falling backwards. "Listen," he said seriously," as far as I'm concerned, you're one of the greatest heroes to come around for a very long time, and this government should do nothing but thank you for that in any way you wish. I, however, only follow orders. I was ordered to go to your home and get you. I'm sorry I was so violent, but that partner of yours would have killed us if I had done anything less. I have been ordered to escort you to the room where you will meet with the judge and back to your cell every day from now until the time you get out of here or I retire, whichever comes first." He stood and waited for Duo's reaction to that. The longhaired boy surprised him by extending his hand to Sedic.

"That's the most civilized and sensible thing that's been said to me since I was hauled into this dump. It's nice to know that somebody's on my side here. Thanks, Sed." The bemused officer took the proffered hand and looked at Duo strangely, his narrow face curiously amused. The dynamic boy's personality had triumphed once again, and Agent Sedic was his instant friend and ally.

Releasing Duo's hand, Sedic turned and continued up the hall without another word. Duo followed, the monologue he carried off so well trailing behind them down the hall. When they reached the room where the judge waited, Sedic stopped, gesturing for Duo to go in and stood next to the door. Duo sauntered past, the confidence in his stride as fake as the smile on his face.

"Do you find this situation amusing, Mr. Maxwell?"

The voice was one of those that sent chills up your spine just hearing it. High-pitched for a man's and with a gravely sound that indicated the speaker was of advanced years. Duo looked around the small room as the door closed behind him. His eyebrow raised as he saw that this was no normal courtroom at all, but simply a tiny conference room, with a table in the middle with places for eight people and little else. The man who had spoken was seated at the opposite end of the table from where Duo stood, and he was indeed old. Old and with that glint in his eye that reminded the longhaired boy of stories Sister Helen had told of Scrooge. He was not your average sweet old man.

"Please, have a seat. Let's get started."

"What's this? This isn't a courtroom. These aren't normal proceedings." Duo remained standing, not trusting this situation. He looked around warily as if the walls would suddenly open and armed goons jump out at him.

"Well, this isn't very well a normal case, is it?" the old man responded sardonically. "There are some things I would like to settle with you before we begin the actual proceedings of the court, and I think those things would be better discussed here than in an open courtroom."

"Like what?"

"Have a seat." Reluctantly Duo sat keeping himself poised on the end of the chair. Something about this just felt threatening, and he wanted to be ready. The man folded his hands on the table in front of him. "Very well. I am Judge Hatcher, and you are Duo Maxwell. Beginning tomorrow, you will be put on trial for a series of crimes against the colony of L2." He leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers before his chest. "The matter that we are here to discuss is one of punishment. The time you would spend in jail for the list of crimes we have is well over your lifetime at minimum."

Duo sat as straight in his chair as he could, and said, "I wanted to talk to you about that, actually. I really don't like pulling position, but don't you think that, in light of what I did to help this colony, we could work something out? Do I really have to serve time for every petty theft I committed as a kid? I mean, the conditions weren't all that good to begin with. A person does what's necessary to survive. Do you think you could you see your way clear to."

"That is not an option, I'm afraid, Mr. Maxwell. The justice system has decided to repay all crimes that it can, and your list is rather extensive. We can't very well let one of the colonies most known criminals go simply because he fought for the colony during the wars. Many did that."

"But." Duo couldn't believe that this man could be so unforgiving. Who did he think he was? Many did that. Yeah, many piloted Gundams, were captured and tortured, subjected to public ridicule, deemed outlaws by those they sought to protect, worked one-on-one with the leaders of the nation of Earth and the colonies to build the standing peace, been used as pawns by mad scientists, seen the darkest future reflected in their mind's eye by a system that turned pilots into machines, and had their best friends die. repeatedly. That was normal. Truly. Duo was used to old people being wiser and more understanding toward the hardships of the young, and instead this man was telling him that what he had done was no more than the average man's battle. Well, he was never one to seek recognition outside of his joking, but that was downright unfair.

All that he wished to express, and as far as he got was "but." Hatcher held up his hand to silence Duo and spoke quickly, cutting him off. "Please don't interrupt. I want to get this finished as quickly as possible. It is Christmas, and I have people I would rather be with."

"So do I." Duo whispered, looking down at his hands.

Hatcher continued on as if he hadn't heard him. "Now, here is what I propose. Instead of the traditional methods of penalty, we can find. alternatives."

"Alternatives?" He didn't like the sound of that at all.

"Yes," the judge said tonelessly, "Alternatives. I suggest that physical punishments be instituted instead of confinement, directly proportionate of course, to the magnitude of the crime."

"What?? Is that legal?"

"Not entirely, but I'm sure you prefer it to being in jail for the rest of your life." Hatcher's eyes had narrowed, as if he knew that Duo wouldn't refuse this offer, especially since it would let him get back to Heero all the sooner. He was a Gundam pilot. He could take whatever they threw at him.

"Fine. When do we begin?" He tried not to let his uncertainty show in his voice. Weakness was not an option.

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Chapter 3

In the shadows of another room, a moustached mouth curved in a sinister smile. "I'd say he walked right into that one."

"Yes," his companion agreed, her voice smug and cold. "Now we can have some fun with him, wouldn't you say, love?"

The man laughed, standing and striding to the video console, his not-unhandsome face lit blue by the glow of the screens, one of which showed Duo standing to leave the judge, rejoining Sedic outside. "Indeed. How long do you think he'll last?"

"Oh, he's been well-trained. I'd say a few months at least, if life with that 'lover' of his hasn't made him too soft." The emphasis on the word 'lover' revealed her feelings about that matter more clearly than a written essay could. Her silhouette became visible against the backdrop of the darkened white wall as she moved forward ever so slightly, slender and spiky-haired.

The big man at the console changed the camera view, showing Duo's slender form preceded by Sedic down the long, maze-like hallways. "Or perhaps we could see how quickly I could break him," he suggested darkly, eyes following the braid-bearing boy.

"Onyed!" his companion snapped, voice like arctic wind over a glacier, "you will do no such thing. I want this little fish to suffer before we let the shark eat him."

"You hate him that much?" The tone clearly revealed that the man called Onyed had no problems with her dark feelings.

"Not only him. I know that by making him suffer, Heero Yuy will suffer as well. If it weren't for him, none of this would have ever been necessary." Cold blue eyes glinted in the faint light. "No, they will both pay for this insult."

Onyed laughed again, walked to the door and held a hand out to her, inviting her to follow. "Shall we go make our plans then?"

With movements like a hunting lioness, Hilde Schbeiker moved from the shadows to join her companion, her eyes sending one more cold glare toward the screen and the image of Duo there before she swept from the room and the door closed with a decisive sound like the lid of a coffin sliding shut.

Another day was gone, and still no solution had presented itself. Finally left without options, Heero, Trowa and Quatre made preparations to go to L2 to fight for Duo's freedom with nothing more solid than their history as Gundam pilots and the names of two of the most influential families in space, those of Winner and Peacecraft, behind them. Under most circumstances, those things alone would have been enough to have the authorities on L2 bent to their will. Though they had yet to take advantage of those positions, it should have been enough. But the force they were up against had already proven how unimpressed it was by words. That force was absolute justice. The ex-pilots had faced desperate situations before, but those times had been free to use desperate measures to accomplish their missions. Now, the only way to go was the way the law ordained, and by that law Duo would have to pay for his crimes, whatever he may have done afterward to balance them.

Somber was the mood as Heero led his friends from the apartment that now seemed to empty without Duo to light it with cheer and laughter. As the door closed and the sun began to set, shadow wraiths danced slowly across the walls, the silent home's only occupants. It was Christmas Eve, and the hearth was cold, the couches empty, and the tree, which had burned so brightly for two lovers, dark and alone as the one left behind.

The plane landed with a rough jolt, breaking Heero out of a restless sleep and the nightmares that had plagued him since they had left Earth and Quatre had forced him to try and get some sleep. Suddenly wide awake, he looked around the small cabin of Quatre's private jet, taking in the ground running past outside and the two other people there across the aisle from him. Quatre's head was resting on Trowa's shoulder, and the couple looked absolutely adorable. Heero ached at the touching scene, wanting his own lover back to do sweet things like that. Duo had always been very affectionate.

Heero mentally slapped himself. Duo wasn't dead, and they were there to get him back before anything could happen to him. He had to stop being so fatalistic. He stood as the plane screeched to a halt, walking to the door followed quickly by his two friends. They waited silently as a ground crew positioned a staircase for them. Heero looked around at the familiar sight of the colony curving up and away in two directions. It was an unpleasant reminder of all that happened to him during his nonexistent childhood. The memories the colonies held for him, and for Duo as well, were mostly unpleasant, one of the main reasons they had decided to live on Earth after the wars ended.

Heero looked up as a figure in blue waved to him. It was Wufei, standing a few dozen meters away in full Preventer uniform. He cut an impressive figure. Heero was wearing plain civilian clothes, a far cry from the spandex and sneakers he had worn while the fighting was going on, but he still felt somehow inadequately dressed in view of Wufei's authoritative appearance.

He descended the stairs, walking to where his former comrade stood, and for a moment they simply looked at each other. Then Wufei did something completely unexpected. He reached out ad embraced Heero lightly, saying in a low voice, "I'm sorry, Yuy. We'll get him back."

Heero returned the embrace for an instant. "Arigatou, Wufei." He reverted to Japanese, as he always did when being absolutley sincere. They were joined by Quatre and Trowa, who led the way in silence to a car that awaited them. They were to spend the night in a hotel, Wufei informed them.

"Why? I want to get down there as soon as possible." Heero's voice was as close as he ever came to panicked.

"The judge has a very busy schedule, apparently. He can't meet with us for almost another week." Wufei's tone spoke volumes of his unhappiness with the situation.

"Nani?! That's ridiculous!! What are they going to be doing with Duo all that time?"

"What I was told was that 'the proceedings will continue as normal'. I don't know what they meant by that, but when I asked to see Duo, they wouldn't let me. I actually insisted pretty strongly, but they didn't give. As far as I can tell, doing things the way we would have a year or two ago will not solve anything. In fact, it will only cause more trouble."

"So what are you suggesting?" Quatre asked.

Heero glared silently out the window.

"I suggest we follow the law here. There has to be some loophole for us to find, if they found one to get him in this mess. We have to wait patiently and let the system do what it's designed to. Justice will be served."

Quatre looked at him sideways. "What other news do you have?"

Wufei leaned back and closed his eyes in a gesture of weariness. "I contacted Relena. You're aware that she can't get here, but offers her full support. She's made arrangements to be free during the time when our meeting with this Judge Hatcher is scheduled, and will be on the vidphone. That's the best she can do, and I suppose we should be grateful. Maybe we can impress this man enough that he bends."

So they went to the hotel to sit and wait, while Duo's fate remained a mystery.

Hilde sat and stared at the lights of the colony stretching out outside the window. She was dressed in a very fine dress of light silk that looked stunning on her. She would have had men dropping dead at her feet, had it not been for the absolutely unbecoming scowl on her small face. She could not stop brooding about Duo Maxwell. The feeling was more impatience than anything else. She couldn't wait for the little rat to get what was coming to him. Her hatred of the longhaired ex-pilot knew no bounds.

It had been almost three years ago when she had met Duo. He had struck her at first as an idiot. Someone whom she should have wanted nothing to do with other than to berate him for not doing his duty as a citizen of the colony. Then, the second time they had run into each other, he had surprised and impressed her with his skill, and she felt herself giving in to that small twinge that told her she was attracted to him. Over time, as her knowledge of him grew, so did her feelings. Until, one day, she had woken up and realized that she was in love with him. Truly, deeply in love like never before. She would have literally done anything to make the Deathscythe pilot happy for the rest of his life.

Anything, that is, that had involved her as a central part of the plan. What she had not counted on was Heero. Heero the taciturn, suicidal pilot who seemed to have nothing in common with her Duo. And he was hers. There would be no mistake about that. He belonged to her. She had suspected nothing for the longest time. When they were always together, she had assumed it was because of missions. When Duo disappeared in the evenings from the small house they shared outside the scrap yard, she had believed was for secret meetings with superiors or other things equally important. Not that he was going and letting himself be fucked by some bastard pilot who didn't know the first thing about him.

She had continued to have faith in Duo's undying devotion to her, even when, after the crisis with Mariemeia Kushrenada's attempted coup d'état, he and Heero had both disappeared for almost a month. For a month, she had no word of him. Most of his belongings had been left in their house, however, so she had known he would return. Sure enough, one day when she came home from shopping, there he was digging through the scrap pile like he had never left. When she had questioned him about his whereabouts for that period of time, he had answered evasively at best, if not deceptively. Her faith still held however, and she wove herself wonderfully adventurous little stories about him having to go and suppress an uprising of Mariemeia's leftover forces and being captured before making a daring escape. She always believed in Duo.

Until that day when she happened to return home early and go looking for Duo in the yard.

~ flashback ~

"Duo!" she called brightly as she roamed the yard looking for her love. He had been gone more often than usual lately, and she was concerned that he had run off again.

"Duo! I brought some." Hilde stopped speaking as she heard a faint sound coming from a few yards to her left and beyond a large pile of rubble. It sounded like somebody in pain. "Duo! Where are you? Are you hurt? Duo! Answer me!" Positively frantic, Hilde ran around the scrap pile. Where she stopped dead in her tracks.

The sound came again, and this time she could clearly see its source. There they lay, her beloved Duo and. that Wing pilot, involved in an act that Hilde had been convinced Duo had not done with her because he was too well mannered. Her mind refused to accept the truth her eyes were showing her as Duo, on his back, moaned again. He arched against Heero, who appeared to be. No. It wasn't possible. How could Duo let anyone do that? Shock and hurt overrode everything else, and she rushed back to the house in tears, quickly gathering her few possessions, and left, slamming the door as hard as she could, rocking it off its hinges.

~ flashback ~

From that moment, Hilde had lived for only one purpose. To get revenge for the wrong that had been done to her. She had given herself to Duo, heart and soul, even if he never knew or noticed. And that was how he repaid her. By betraying her to go to some gay fag pilot. Oh, the rage had had almost a year to steep, and she was ready. Hilde raised one hand and traced it down her reflection on the glass window. Duo Maxwell was at her mercy now, and he would know her pain before she would let him go.

A large form moved up behind her, placing one dark hand on her blue-clothed shoulder. She covered the hand with her own, smiling at Onyed's reflection in the window. "What's the news?"

The large man leaned down and kissed her neck. "He's taking it rather better than I thought. I think he's going to last longer than either of us predicted. If he doesn't show some reaction soon, I might have to take it upon myself to break him personally."

Hilde almost purred at his words. "That's the idea, love. I think that would be perfect."

"Don't worry, my dark angel. We'll make him pay for what he did to you."

Hilde looked down, appearing demure, but it was really to hide her smirk. The story she had told Onyed about her relationship with Duo was a great deal more tragic than the truth. It was just one small step. One move in completing her revenge. Maxwell would pay. She would make sure of it.

Heero looked up as a knock sounded on his hotel room door. It was Wufei's signal. It was time to go. He met his friends in the lobby. They were dressed to impress, Wufei in formal Preventer dress and Quatre looking every inch the formidable businessman he was. Trowa and Heero, while no less impressive in look or manner, were dressed somewhat more simply, a carefully planned action to demonstrate to the judge and whoever else they might be up against that though they showed respect, none was owed them. They were going in there to assert whatever authority they could muster.

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Chapter 4

It was a large conference room that they entered, unassumingly decorated in pale wood and plain trimmings. A long oval table ran down the middle. As the four ex-pilots were ushered in by Sedic, unreadable behind dark glasses, they saw the man who was presumably the judge already seated at one end, opposite a video console. The man rose courteously, inclining his body slightly in somewhat meager respect for their persons.

"Welcome, gentlemen. I am Judge Hatcher, direct responsible for the case which you are interested in. Please, make yourselves comfortable." Quatre returned the greeting for himself and for his companions who remained silent. They sat and waited for Hatcher to speak.

The judge folded his hands one atop the other on the table before him, "I understand you wish to contest the authority of the law in the matter of Duo Maxwell. Am I correct?"

"Yes," Quatre spoke, "We believe that your persecution of Duo is not only immoral, but in some measure unlawful as well."

The judge nodded understandingly, and Quatre could not help but feel patronized. "I see. In that case, let us begin." He gestured to Sedic who waited nearby. The dark-clothed man walked to the video console and flipped a few switches. The screen lit and resolved, revealing Relena's very carefully composed face. "Welcome to our conference, Relena Darlian-Peacecraft."

She nodded to the head of the table. "Thank you, Judge Hatcher. Heero, Quatre, Trowa, Wufei," she looked at each in turn, "it's nice to see you again." Heero knew she wouldn't let anything more personal slip with their supposed enemy in the room, but he had never felt more grateful to the young diplomat than at that moment, and made a note to thank her later, whatever the outcome of this meeting.

Finally, Hatcher nodded to Sedic, who left quietly, gone to perform some unknown duty. Heero could not think kindly of him, no matter how hard he tried. At his first glimpse of the man when they had entered the building, his desire had been to slam the man against the nearest convenient wall and pound information about Duo out of him. Thankfully, his training had kicked in, or they would never have made it into the judges presence. All the better that he had left. His head somewhat clearer now that the most obvious target of his immediate rage was gone, Heero could think to do his best arguing.

Relena cleared her throat from the vidphone screen. "Very well. Shall we begin?"

People milled in the hotel lobby, pushing and pulling luggage busily from one place to another, running after screaming children or reigning in rowdy pets. Despite their obvious self-preoccupation, however, the crowds parted to allow the passage of the dark figure whose expression was more than murderous. Heero ignored the people, stalking through their midst to the elevator, his three friends walking behind him, faces just as grim, or almost. Heero Yuy in a towering fury was hard to outdo. Forced to stand motionless as the elevator rose, Heero's seething accumulated to dangerous levels. As soon as his foot hit the carpeted floor outside the machine, he promptly slammed his hand into and straight through a wall.

Ignoring the stares, the glaring harbinger of doom marched down the hall and into his room, leaving his Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei to scurry apprehensively behind. They followed through the door to their apartments, and found Heero busily packing bags. Theirs. "What are you doing, Heero?" Trowa queried, his voice calm neutral in the face of the obvious message the furious boy was giving them.

For once foregoing abstract or obvious answers, Heero explained himself. "You three have been a great help, and because of you I will be able to see Duo, but you have to go now. You have lived and duties to take care of. Go home. My life is here as long as Duo is here, so I will stay, but you should not have to anymore." Then he stalked to his room and closed the door.

There was silence for a moment, broken at last by Quatre's shaky sigh. "I wish we could have done better," the small businessman whispered, "He can't even see Duo until tomorrow." He walked to the couch, sitting heavily and removing his suit jacket, which seemed to him now so ineffectual that he was almost embarrassed to be wearing it.

"True," Trowa agreed, "but he's right. We can do nothing more from here." He phrased his words carefully. "And I think our presence makes him feel worse. Vulnerable, perhaps. We did out best, and we fought well. They just happened to have better defences and bigger guns. Whatever the reason, I believe we should do as he wishes."

Wufei did not speak, merely picked up where Heero had left off, packing for his journey back to Earth. His mind was silently angry at this feeling of impotence the day's activities had given him. They had fought so hard and achieved so little. Yes, he would go back to Earth, to a place he knew, where people didn't do things he couldn't understand. Back to a place where he could make a difference.

'It's been two weeks. Only two weeks since they dragged me here and made my life this torture. It seems like years. Every day another petty charge, and all I can think about is him. The beatings, the pain, they don't bother me. I've had worse. Much, much worse. But this pain of being separated from my beloved. My love. I can't bear it anymore, and I want him to be here.'

Duo curled on his bed, clutching the pain in his chest that was the result of being separated from Heero. It was a constant struggle to keep from going mad here. The rhythm of the place was making him crazy. Every day, the same. He had asked Sedic today what day it was, because he had lost track of them. They were all the same. The man was surprisingly understanding with Duo, telling him everything he could about what was happening outside the rooms and halls he saw every day. Sedic knew little about what Heero was doing, but duly reported to Duo everything he heard about the blue-eyed boy's struggle with the law. It was comforting to Duo to know that Heero was coming after him. One thing he could be grateful for and hopefully depend on to get him out of there quickly. Before that madman that called himself a judge managed to hurt him beyond repair.

Hatcher was not what one would call lenient, always instituting the maximum penalties allowed for every crime. Things that Duo could even justify, such as the injury of a man who had been chasing him with a rather sinister purpose, were not given any clemency. Despite the daily pain it caused him, Duo was not concerned with these things.

He wanted, needed, Heero more than anything else. If they would do no more than allow Duo's dark-haired lover to enter this prison, it would be enough for him. Being away from Heero was a worse torture than any other the system could inflict. If only, if only…

Duo sat up quickly as the door to his cell opened. It was not time for any of the normal visitors, though sometimes Sedic came in the afternoons to talk. Duo had never been more grateful for someone than he was of Sedic. But it was not the agent that entered. Duo's violet-blue eyes widened incredulously as they took in the sight before him. It was really…

"Heero?"

His eyes drank in the beautiful vision before him, still not completely believing that they were actually going to let him see Duo. More than that, he could visit when he wanted, whenever he wanted. The only good thing that the damn law had done recently. Heero stepped forward and the door slid shut behind him, leaving him alone with Duo. His lover was sitting wide-eyed and motionless on the plain bed across the room, looking like he'd seen a ghost. "Heero?"

The query was plaintive and pleading, begging for this to be true. A lump in his throat, Heero nodded. He blinked to try to regain his calm, and suddenly found himself attacked by a flying ball of Duo. The smaller boy's hands were everywhere, patting, pinching, and feeling to make sure Heero was real. Finally, he cupped the stoic face in his two warm hands and looked up into Heero's eyes with his own wide violet ones. "Really?"

Heero couldn't stop the low laugh that escaped him. "Yes, baka. Really." Duo smiled, his eyes almost squeezed shut by the force of his grin.

"Heero!!" he yelled and grabbed his lover in a fierce hug, shaking him around with his arms pinned to his sides. Heero let himself be strangled for a minute before he pulled away and lifted one hand and grabbed Duo's chin, looking deep into his beloved's eyes. For a minute they remained thus, staring fixedly at each other, faces alight with joy at the reunion. Then Heero lowered his mouth to Duo's, taking his time in a long, leisurely kiss, getting to know one another again. Their eyes closed and bodies relaxed against one another as they renewed their depleted will and energy from the deep wells of each other. When they broke finally, it was with a sigh and Duo laid his head on his love's chest, luxuriating in the comforting presence.

"How did you get them to let you in?" he asked softly, all the while pulling Heero discreetly across the room.

Heero smiled gently, "Obstinacy. I'll tell you all about it. Later." Duo took the invitation enthusiastically, pulling his lover down with him onto the hard mattress to get better reacquainted.

Duo moved quickly with an almost desperate air, pulling insistently at Heero's clothing as he worked his own off as well. Heero, for his part, had caught Duo's fever, and the two worked to swiftly disrobe each other. Finally freed from what had seemed infinite layers of confining cloth, the two lay naked, Heero crushing Duo's mouth below him with the insistence of one who had been forced to wait too long. His rough, warm hands were all over Duo, running down his sides and up his parted legs only to return and trace that path again and again, electrifying his lover's entire body with his caress. Duo was doing much the same, brushing urgent hands down Heero's back, arching up into him moaning as their bodies pressed against one another.

Patience wearing, Heero was torn between going slowly and making this heaven last or obeying his body's commands and taking his lover quickly. Duo sensed his hesitation and reached a hand between them to tease Heero's fully alert member, conveying his wishes most plainly. Reluctance gone, Heero gave in, gliding down Duo's body to take him in his mouth, intent on giving him release first, a pleasure in itself, for Duo was making the most spectacular noises he had ever heard. Moving his head quickly up and down over his lover's partner in crime, he brought him quickly to climax, the desperate desire and pent-up energy helping him along.

As he felt Duo go lax, Heero rose and kissed his lover again, letting him taste himself, and bringing him almost instantly back to arousal. Yes, Heero thought, it had been far too long. Duo was beginning to moan again as Heero absently ran his hands over his lover's narrow chest and abdomen, teasing and pinching. "Hey," he gasped, "you just gonna leave me here?"

Heero smirked, answering with his body as he kissed Duo fiercely and began to explore his entrance with his fingers, in this one step being as gentle as he could. Finally, Duo's low sounds of pleasure were too much, and restraint gone, he positioned himself. "Ready?" he asked his lover. A moan was the response. In one smooth thrust, he entered his love, feeling the spasm that ran through the smaller body beneath him as he drove deep, knowing from experience that place which gave Duo such pleasure.

Heero moved quickly, almost roughly, inside his lover, lust fed on the sensation as well as the moans emitted from Duo, which grew progressively louder. He thrust rapidly, bringing them both toward climax with his rocking rhythm. Finally, giving in to release, Duo came for a second time, screaming Heero's name as his body stiffened, taking Heero with him. For a few blazing moments, they floated suspended from the world, on a cloud of their own rapture. Then Heero collapsed on top of his lover, and sighed.

Frenzy passed and bodies spent, Duo and Heero curled together snugly, the smaller boy fitting himself neatly into his lover's form. He sighed and closed his eyes, letting Heero's scent fill him as they rested. "Heero," he whispered, "I'm so glad you're here."

Heero pulled him closer, curving around him protectively so it seemed. "I wouldn't rather be anywhere else." Duo slipped into a doze. As if from far away, he heard a murmured "ai shiteru" and responded in kind, safely in the arms of his beloved for the first time in an eternity.

The insistent clack of the keyboard echoed through the deserted nighttime halls of the Winner mansion. Trowa sighed and followed the sound. Where he eventually arrived was Quatre's office, where the young blonde worked still. The blue glow of the screen lit his delicate features, making him seem ethereal despite the clearly visible lines of weariness. Trowa walked behind his small lover, raising an eyebrow at what he saw on the screen.

"You realize of course that what you are doing is illegal?"

Quatre glanced up at him in frustration. "Yes, I know, but it's all I had left. Nothing else worked." He was using his considerable hacking skills to get into some private government archives.

"What exactly are you looking for?" Trowa's voice betrayed nothing of what he as feeling.

"The evidence I need to prove that somebody is deliberately doing this to harm Duo."

Trowa couldn't stop his incredulous expression this time. "What? Quatre, I thought we had already decided this. The law is doing what it's permitted to. There's nothing any of us can do to stop it. Not even Relena. Why can't you give this up?"

"I promised Heero!" Quatre's outburst contained just a hint of well-hidden anger at his lover's seeming heartlessness. "I won't give up until I've exhausted every possible resource!"

Trowa sighed again. He could see that arguing would achieve nothing but his love's ire, so he decided to quit while he was ahead and seek a compromise. "Very well. But can you not continue this search tomorrow? It's late. Come to bed, amore."

The small Arabian looked at him a for a moment, seeming to weigh the earnesty in his eyes. Finally, he nodded and stood, pushing the chair from the desk to stretch wearily. "Okay, Trowa. I'm coming." But he would not give up. Not until every fount was dry.

Heero came abruptly awake at the discreet sound of the door opening, and slitted his eyes to inspect this early morning intruder. What he saw was Sedic, stopped dead in the doorway with a dark red blush creeping up under his sunglasses at the sight before him. Heero was curled protectively around Duo, who slept on oblivious, and the two were wrapped in only the thin bed sheet. It was pretty obvious what had happened, as far as Heero could tell from Sedic's expression. The man looked undecided as whether to approach the two and risk further embarrassment or retreat and send someone else in to do the job. Heero solved that problem for him.

"What do you want?"

Sedic jumped, noticing the bright blue slivers of Heero's eyes watching him, and his face darkened further. "Um… hehe… that is…"

Heero was in no mood for the man's antics. "Out with it," he said as menacingly as he dared. He didn't want to wake Duo, who was ultra-sensitive to his mood.

"Yes! He," Sedic pointed at Duo, "is supposed to leave now to go to the courtroom. I'm to take him, you see, and…" he stuttered to a halt, shifting his weight nervously.

"Very well. Come back in 10 minutes." Sedic opened his mouth as if he could argue, but turned instead and left quickly. Heero watched the door for a minute until he was sure it would not open again for ten minutes. Then he looked down at the peacefully sleeping figure beside him, scrutinizing appreciatively the fine features and beautifully proportioned body. Duo was perfect. Now all Heero needed was to see those eyes open and gaze on him with love and he would be complete and content. He leaned down and laid his lips on Duo's, feeling the immediate response in his sleeping lover as woke and responded to the kiss.

"Hmmm," Duo sighed as he stretched torpidly, "what a lovely way to wake up." His grin lit his face, and Heero's mood. "What's up?"

"That man was in here. Sedic. He says he had come to get you."

Duo's smile faded suddenly, his hand going over his mouth. "What did you do to him?" he asked, voice almost frightened. Heero tilted his head to one side, trying to figure out what Duo was so worried about.

"Told him to come back in ten minutes. Something wrong with that?"

Duo laughed, and reached up to pull Heero into a tight hug. "No, nothing wrong with that! I was afraid you'd killed him or something." Then he rolled out from under his lover, landing on his feet and walking to the dresser. Not without putting on a very enticing show for Heero, however. Glancing back once at the boy in the bed who was having obvious anatomical difficulty, he laughed and disappeared into the bathroom.

Heero cursed softly. No, he hadn't changed at all.

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Chapter 5

When the walked unto the courtroom, Duo following Sedic dutifully to the front, all eyes in the room turned to Heero. He grimaced. He hadn't been aware that news could travel that fast. But apparently, these people knew at least something about what went on between Duo and himself. That was not a comforting thought.

Duo walked to the table that was meant for him, and stood expectantly, watching the door the judge would enter from, his air of nonchalance as perfect as Heero's expressionless mask. It always was. Then Hatcher appeared, and the trial began. Duo remained standing throughout the formalities, never looking away from the high seat the judge was placed on.

"Very well, Duo Maxwell," the man said in a tone so authoritative that it made Heero's soldier instincts want him to stand at attention. "You are charged with the rape and murder of Diana Zei on the 9th of April, 195 AC. How do you plead?"

Duo didn't respond. He couldn't. His mouth had dropped open, and didn't appear to be working. Finally, he gathered enough of himself back from shock to enquire, "What?!?"

"I repeat, to the charge of raping and murdering Diana Zei on the 9th of April, AC 195, how do you plead?"

Duo gaped some more, then shook his head sharply to clear it of the ringing denial that pounded between his ears. "Not guilty, your Honor!! I never did any such thing!"

The judge took this in stride, looking at the papers before him. "The evidence is all to the contrary, however, Mr. Maxwell. According to the witnesses and reports of traces found on the body, you did indeed commit this crime. Therefore…"

"NO!" Duo's outburst startled the judge. Heero noticed with dismay and anger his lover's slipping control. His anger was rising as well. "I didn't!! I never would! I…" He fell immediately silent as the large bailiff strode forward toward him, stopping directly before him and glaring menacingly. Hatcher lifted his gavel.

"You are found guilty of this crime and punishment due shall be delivered this afternoon." The sound of the gavel striking was a like a death knell.

Onyed adjusted his cap to a smarter angle as he walked down the long white hallways of the center. He couldn't keep from whistling as plans for this "mission" ran through his mind. The brat Maxwell was someone he hated for only one reason. That Hilde loved him. Onyed had been after her affections since the moment they had met in a small dingy bar of the seamier part of L2. It was far from his usual haunts, but that night his desire for the dirty had led him right into one of the most revolting stories he had ever heard. He had spotted Hilde at the bar, looking like she was trying to drink herself to death. At the time he had seen her, she had only been a prospective one night stand, but when he had asked her what a girl like her was doing in a place like that, Onyed had suddenly found her whole sad story dumped onto his lap.

The tale she told was one that he could hardly believe at first. After all, how many people who had claimed to have close connections with the famous Gundam pilots had been carted away to who-knew-where. But her story, though embellished it may have been, was still a terrible thing in his eyes. What kind of man did that sort of thing to a woman? Only that morning, she said, she had found her lover in bed with another. Another man, at that. Heartbroken, she told him of their time together, in a little more detail than he cared to know, and all that she had done for him, only to be betrayed.

That night, Onyed had walked out of the bar with Hilde on his arm, and taken her to his rich home, not to have some quick fun, but because he had well and truly fallen in love with her. Love at first plight. When he had taken her in, it had been with intention of making her forget her past troubles and seek a life with him. Instead, he had found that her rage against Maxwell and the boy called Yuy were deeper than he had imagined. Before she would look to him as a possible partner, Onyed would have to win her favor by satisfying her obsession with the two Gundam pilots. So he had used his influence to get Maxwell into this position, and was on his way to make sure the little rat paid dearly for what he had done to the beautiful Hilde.

He would regret ever having left her. He would regret ever having let another man have him. He would regret it. Onyed would make sure.

Duo walked shakily into his small white cell, Heero following quickly after. The dark-haired boy steadied the other as he wavered on his feet, almost toppling to the ground. "Duo?" he asked as he guided his lover to the bed. Duo immediately put his head in his hands, moaning something unintelligible between the fingers. "What?"

The violet-eyed youth raised his head to look at Heero with slightly wild eyes. "It's not true, Heero. It's simply not true!"

The former Wing pilot tried to comprehend the stricken tones of Duo's voice. "Duo," he stated gently, "we all did things during the war that we would care to forget. Things that we may even have forgotten because the memory of them was too hard to bear. I really don't think any less of you, but…"

"NO!" The outburst startled Heero into silence. "I didn't do it! I couldn't! You don't understand, I…" His voice faded to a whisper, the heat fading from it to be replaced only by pain and sadness. "I…"

"You what, Duo?"

"I couldn't have raped anybody, Heero, you see, because… when I was little, I was raped."

Heero's surprise and alarm must have been visible on his face because Duo immediately looked away from him to some nonexistent point on the wall. He bit his lip, waiting for Heero's outburst of disgust or reproach. But it never came. Instead, the stoic boy asked no questions and made no comment, but went to his lover and enfolded him in his arms, waiting until Duo relaxed against him before he spoke.

"Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"I didn't think you would want me," was the hollow reply.

"Baka," Heero admonished gently. "Do you really think I'm that petty?"

Duo didn't speak, but he leaned his slight weight against Heero's chest, a fairly eloquent answer in itself.

Just then, the door slid open, and a large man entered. He wore a moustache, and there was a gleam in his eye that looked altogether unwholesome. Heero felt his lover stiffen in his arms. The man surveyed the scene before him with obvious contempt. "You," he said roughly, pointing one large finger at Heero, "leave."

Duo sighed and stood, releasing himself from Heero's embrace. The blue-eyed pilot understood what was happening here. It was time, and he had agreed to leave when this happened. He didn't want to break his word, but no more did he want Duo hurt for something he hadn't done. It wasn't right. He caught those violet eyes once more with his own."I'll be back soon," he assured him. And he left.

Duo eyed the large man apprehensively. He had never seen this one before, and wasn't sure what to expect. He summoned up his courage and spoke. "Well, shall we?" he gestured toward the door with one arm, indicating they leave to go to the place where his afternoon sessions usually took place, when he found the arm grabbed roughly and twisted, forcing him to turn.

"Not necessary, I'm afraid." He began to push Duo across the room. The confused boy tried to deduce what was happening. And his eyes settled on the only thing in the room that they could be moving towards. The bed. Blind terror began to rise in Duo's throat, and he began to struggle wildly against his captor, straining his arm almost to the breaking point.

"No," he whispered. "No, please, no. Not again, not ever again."

Onyed smirked as he heard the low pleas. The boy was quick. This was going to be more fun than he had anticipated. "Oh, yes, you little fag. I'll teach you never to want it again." Duo shuddered at the words, his body convulsing hard and his pleas growing louder.

"No! Please! Heero!!"

Heero turned back to the cell door. He had heard somebody calling him. Duo's voice, begging him to return. With a shake of his head, the ex-pilot turned and walked down the hall with a heavy tread, intent on finding some way to get Duo out of that hole. This could not be allowed to continue.

"Trowa! Trowa!!" Quatre's frantic voice rang through the halls of the mansion, vibrating with urgency. He rushed down through the rooms, looking anxiously for his lover. He was so intent on finding the brown-haired boy, however, that he didn't notice when Trowa came up silently behind him.

"Yes, amore?" Quatre squeaked and spun around to fix his love with a glare.

"Don't do that to me! I've found what I was looking for. Proof that that man is trying to hurt Duo. Just look!" He shoved several papers in front of Trowa's face, so close he had to cross his green eyes to make them come into focus.

He took the papers from his agitated little lover's hands and read them quickly, digesting the information that was there. "But this man has nothing to do with that Judge Hatcher. He's just a rich businessman."

"No! That's what it looks like, but the plan is more complicated. Don't you see? The judge, Hatcher, has been being paid off from this man's accounts. He's manipulating him! And this same man, Onyed, has been seen with Hilde Schbeiker. Can't you see what it means? Do you remember what Duo told us about Hilde leaving when she found out about Heero and Duo?"

Trowa's eyes widened as the pieces fell together. "You think they're manipulating the system to let her have revenge on Duo?"

Quatre nodded enthusiastically. "And not only that. The pardon that nobody could remember or find. I found it. It was so well hidden, not even Heero was able to uncover it, but I had some people search the personal video archives of a few news stations. The reports are there in all of them. I have proof that the document existed and was signed by the leaders of L2."

"I'm certainly impressed, little one." It was an understatement, if there ever was one. Trowa was downright proud of the small blonde. "We'd better call some people right away."

Wufei snagged the phone just before the machine picked up. "Preventer. Officer Chang speaking." He listened for a moment, and very suddenly his eyes began to widen as a voice chirped rapidly through the phone. "Say that again, Quatre?"

"I said that I know who's doing this to Duo, and I have the proof I need to stop him! I'll send you this stuff as soon as I can. In fact, it should be arriving now." Wufei made a sound of acknowledgement as his computer beeped and the printer started churning out pages automatically. "I want to know how fast you can have a warrant for this man, Hilde, and Hatcher and get to L2. Duo's at their mercy until you can do something, and I want this to end as soon as possible."

Wufei was already reading through the information that Quatre had sent him as he listened to the young businessman talk. "So do I, Quatre. I can have the warrant by tomorrow, probably. I'll have to carry it to L2 myself, since it seems our system there has been compromised. I'll be there as fast as possible."

And he would, too. He would most definitely do his best once again for Duo.

It hit him like a wall as the door to Duo's cell slid open with a swish. The smell of blood. Heero felt his heart drop out of his chest. There, surrounded by the red of his own life, lay a quaking shadow of his lover. Heero rushed to the bedside, shocked mind absently noting how the crimson of blood on white sheets reminded him of a candy cane. Duo loved candy canes…

Sanity reclaimed control forcefully, and he knelt to stare into wide, vacant violet eyes in a pale face. "Duo?" His voice was gentle, but no response issued from the apparently comatose boy. He knew what had happened. It was too obvious not to, but somehow he lacked the capacity for anger. He could kill the people who had done this later, he thought calmly. Right now, his only concern was the shivering youth that lay before him.

He reached out and laid a hand on Duo's head, provoking the only reaction he had seen so far. Duo flinched, jerking away from the hand fearfully, and his eyes unclouded for a moment, filled with blind fear instead of nothing. It wasn't a preferable trade.

Moving slowly so as not to scare the pale trembling thing that was his beloved, Heero picked Duo up and walked to the bathroom, squeezing his eyes shut in agony as Duo realized who he was, and covered his face with his hands. He set Duo gently on the floor, gently undoing and removing the stiff pants that had once been white, but now gleamed red with slick blood. The man who had done this was mocking him, Heero knew, replacing the garment though it must have caused only more pain.

Heero tried to be discreet in his touch on Duo's body, knowing that in his state, the memories would resurface if given the proper trigger. He lifted the boy gently and placed him on the toilet, then moved to the small bathtub and turned the water on. He did not embarrass Duo further by meeting his eyes as the violated boy silently let unwanted fluids drain from his body, hair falling loose around his face to hide the expressionless gaze.

When the bath was full of hot water, Heero lifted Duo once more and eased him into the steaming bowl, resting his head on the edge. The smaller boy's eyes closed as he leaned there. Heero whispered a few words to him, then stood and left the room, taking the stained pants with him. He quickly and efficiently stripped the bed of its soiled coverings, throwing them into the bottom drawer of the small dresser, and removing clean ones. He also retrieved clean white pants for Duo, and returned to the bathroom once the bed was made.

The water around Duo had turned a faint shade of pink, tinged with the blood from the longhaired boy's wounds. At least the physical ones. Heero drained the tub and refilled it quickly as Duo's wet body shivered in the sudden cold. He cleansed his love gently but thoroughly, holding him against his chest as he ran the cloth over his most delicate area. Heero could feel the shudders tearing through him.

Finally satisfied that he had washed all trace of the monster's visit from Duo, Heero lifted him once more, drying and clothing him and taking him back to the newly made bed. He laid Duo down and took position behind him, wrapping protectively around his love, who slept in his comatose state. Heero felt the rage, just below the surface. It was fighting the calm exterior. He wouldn't deny it much longer, he promised, but his first priority was here, with him now, and he wouldn't leave Duo unguarded until he was sure the danger was gone.

He lay awake the night, finally allowing sleep to overtake him when his soldier's brain told him that being for all intents and purposes dead from lack of sleep would not help him any in his mission.

Hilde grinned as she watched the images on the screen for the third time. It was perfect, just as she had imagined. She gave a satisfied snort as Duo's scream issued from the speakers on either side of her. Yes, it had been perfect. If he wasn't broken yet, he would be soon. Payback was a bitch indeed.

The first thing he remembered when he awoke was the bad sandwich he had had for lunch the day before. Then, as his eyes focused on the figure curled against him, Heero remembered where he was and what had happened. He bit down on his rage and settled for tightening his arms around the boy next to him, drawing their spooned bodies even closer together. More than anger at those who had hurt Duo, Heero felt an overriding sense of fury at himself for the terrible thing he had allowed to happen. He remembered the voice he had heard and passed off as imagination, and cursed himself for not following his instinct and returning to Duo before this had happened. It was unforgivable.

The door slid open very suddenly, and Heero narrowed his eyes so that he appeared to be asleep, waiting to see what this person was going to do. The large man, obviously a guard, but not the one he had seen the day before, walked to where the two lay and grabbed Duo, pulling him off the bed. Heero felt renewed rage surging and stood quickly with a growl. Duo was pushing himself slowly from the floor. The guard snarled and raised his hand to hit Duo. And suddenly found his wrist grabbed in a steel grip by Heero whose icy eyes promised certain bloody death if he so much as touched the boy.

With one last flash of cobalt steel, Heero bent to help Duo up, lifting him into a fierce embrace, holding the other boy against his body, guard be damned. The violet-eyed boy was shaking, but appeared to have improved from the night before. "What do you want," he growled at the large man looking at them with a hard expression on his brutish face.

"I've been ordered to bring the prisoner to the court room. He is to report in 10 minutes."

"I'll be ready." The words were whispered from Duo's lips, sounding hollow and far away. But they worked, for the guard turned on his heel and left quickly. Duo began to move stiffly toward the bathroom, in obvious pain. But when Heero tried to help him, he shoved his hands away, continuing stolidly on his way and never meeting his lover's eyes.

The courtroom was silent as the two lovers entered. Heero, feeling terribly impotent, took his seat in the pew-like rows behind the defendant, Duo. The bailiff told all to rise and the trial began, going through the same motions it had the previous day. Duo simply stood there with a blank look on his face as the people around him discussed his fate. It was a terrible thing to watch.

Finally, the judge rapped his gavel, drawing silence from the people and a startled look from Duo. "Mr. Maxwell, how do you plead?"

Duo blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"I said, to the charge of murdering two citizens of L2 on the 18th of July, AC. 187 how do you plead?"

Duo's eyes seemed to cloud for a moment before he woke with a shudder. "Guilty, your honor." Heero could only stare. In that year, Duo had been no more than seven or eight, and yet he did nothing to try and justify his actions. What Heero saw disturbed him greatly. His love was breaking. Slowly but surely, he had been weakening, and the events of the day before had only given him a rather violent shove toward the edge.

Hatcher looked satisfied with himself. "Very well. Then standard punishment applies. The defendant is sentenced to 25 years, to be delivered immediately and in full. Dismissed."

Duo stared. The words were like the knell of a very large bell, proclaiming his doom. He could feel himself slipping, and the overwhelming temptation to give in to the darkness engulfed him.

"What a beautiful sight," he mused as he watched Duo's shocked face from another room on the other side of the complex. The room was empty except for himself, but his smugness couldn't remain unexpressed. The boy was broken. The judge's choice of words had been perfect. He would have to give the man something extra for that one. Maxwell would never be whole again. An overwhelming sense of pride welled up in Onyed's breast. And coupled with that came the absolute certainty that now that the brat was out of the way, Hilde would gladly come to his arms. Yes, everything had worked out perfectly.

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Chapter 6

The burly guard shoved Duo into the cell, where he promptly collapsed. As it were, Heero would have killed the man for his mistreatment of Duo, but his concern for his beloved overrode the need for instant homicide, and the stupid guard escaped with only a deadly glare. At least he had the good sense to flinch.

Heero knelt at his lover's side, surprised when Duo clung to him, on the verge of tears. He was rather glad Duo still trusted him. He ran his hands up and down the longhaired boy's back, feeling the tremors that shook him. Duo's arms tightened around his neck. "I can't do it, Heero."

The words, barely a whisper, carried such a weight of despair that Heero felt his own eyes begin to sting. "What do you mean? Surely they wouldn't…" He stopped as the sheer ridiculousness of what he had been about to say caught up with him. He could not assume anything about these people, least of all that they were merciful or predictable. Who was he to say what these maniacs would do under the name of justice?

Duo took a shaky breath. "There was an agreement made between myself and the judge that, since the prison time for my crimes would have been several times my lifetime, the punishments would be dealt in other ways." Heero gasped and opened his mouth to speak, but Duo cut him off. "You see, I thought I could handle it. Really I did. But 25 years worth of jail time…" His voice dropped even lower. "I know… I know you'll hate it, but I'm scared."

Heero's arms tightened unconsciously around his lover's slight frame, the stinging in his eyes becoming almost unbearable, but he refused to give in to the tears. For only the second time in his life, Heero spoke without thinking, knowing without a doubt that his words were true. "I won't let them do anything to you anymore. This ends now," the vehemence in his voice was clearly evident, fuelled by the pure rage and sadness and guilt inside of him. He stood, pulling Duo up with him, never releasing his grip on the smaller boy. They stood like that, in that comforting embrace, for a long moment, before something totally unexpected happened.

Duo lifted his face and very slowly, very hesitantly, sought Heero's kiss. The dark-haired boy was surprised, but returned the kiss, giving Duo what he wanted. He took Duo's lips gently with his own, intent on keeping it chaste and comforting, but Duo begged more, opening his mouth and coaxing Heero into it. The pent-up frustration, both sexual and at the world in general, was fighting him for dominance, and he was quickly losing control in the face of Duo's obvious invitation. He broke away long enough to gasp, "Duo, stop. I can't…"

That was as far as he got before Duo rocked their hips together and most of his rational thought deserted him, disappearing in the face of pure, unadulterated desire. He backed Duo up until he was sandwiched between Heero and the wall. He began to run his hands up and under Duo's shirt, when a gasp stopped him cold. It was a sound of pain. Pain? He was causing Duo pain?

Heero woke quite suddenly from the trance of headlong sexual desire. What he saw in Duo's expression made his heart twist. The shorter boy was obviously trying very hard, but his face strained and eyes narrowed in an unconscious gesture of pain. Dark suspicion blossomed in Heero's mind, and he quickly unbuttoned Duo's shirt, not daring to rip it open, impatient though he was, for fear of frightening his lover further. As his hands moved quickly down Duo's chest, he could feel those wide violet eyes watching him closely.

When he finally parted the shirt, what he found was even worse than what he had expected. Duo's entire pale torso was livid with bruises. Heero felt burning rage building inside him, and had to focus very hard not to go and blow the whole colony to hell. It certainly seemed like a workable option right then. He looked at Duo's eyes, lowered in shame, and leaned forward to speak directly into his ear. "Who did this?" he grated out, enunciating every word, communicating his deadly intent.

"It was a warning, Heero. A warning not to tell you what I just did about the agreement." Duo sounded sad and ashamed, troubling Heero further. He was going to straighten this mess out. But, once again, his beloved came first.

Why was he making advances toward Heero if he was in such a state, especially after what had happened only the day before? Did he think Heero wouldn't want him if he didn't get anything? "Duo, why are you doing this? You don't have to…"

"Because I want to, Heero. Just stop talking and make love to me." Duo placed a strange accent on the word love, and Heero didn't quite understand its full implications. But he wanted nothing more than to do whatever was necessary to comfort the delicate god of death. He hugged Duo tightly to him. The longhaired boy responded, leaning up to beg Heero's mouth once again, quickly reaching with deft fingers to undo his shirt. He had just begun to slide it off when Heero's hands caught and held his. Heero broke the kiss, deep blue eyes searching violet.

"Are you sure?"

Duo arched his back, closing his eyes, and nodded. "Yes. Absolutely." At those words, Heero relaxed his grip and allowed Duo to drag him back on top of him on the bed. From there, he took charge. He kept his pace slow and movements gentle, determined to show his stunning lover just how much love he had for him, and at the same time ease the memory of pain still fresh in his mind.

He undressed Duo, his mouth never leaving that delicately beautiful face as his hands worked to remove Duo's clothing with featherlight touches. He kissed his way down his lover's body, running his hands over him possessively and comfortingly, trying to communicate in every touch and caress only love and care.

Not wanting to tease or agitate his lover, Heero took Duo immediately into his mouth, pleasuring the boy with all of his considerable skill until the longhaired beauty came, lying spent and contented beneath Heero.

Heero shifted to lie next to Duo, perfectly content to leave it at that. He was not going to force anything on the abused boy. Quite suddenly, as he shifted, Duo's legs wrapped tightly around his waist, pulling their groins together, feeling Heero's erection. "Where are you going?" he whispered.

"I don't want to…" Heero trailed off, knowing Duo would understand. He lowered himself to kiss Duo's flat stomach, when he felt the tremors shaking the slender body.

"Please…" It was barely a whisper from Duo's lips. Heero shook his head no, letting his drooping bangs brush against his lover's bare skin. The tremors increased.

"Heero… please… if you want me still… take me… make me yours again." Heero looked up in shock, staring at Duo's face. He registered the pain in darkened violet eyes for the first time, and the tears sliding silently onto the pillow.

The sting in his eyes returned, and he buried his face in Duo's neck, unable to speak. He felt Duo's arms and legs wrap tightly around him, as though afraid he would disappear if not tethered firmly enough. Heero pushed out of the embrace, rising from the bed. Duo began to sob desolately, as if his soul was being ripped, and Heero realized his mistake. The violet-eyed boy thought he was leaving.

Heero quickly completed the task he had stood to do, shedding his remaining clothes in a matter of seconds. He returned to the bed, gathering Duo into his arms and kissing him soundly and waiting for him to calm before he lay him back and began to gently examine the area around his abused entrance. Duo's sobs turned joyful and filled with relief as he spread himself for Heero, pushing into the exploring fingers. Heero watched Duo's face closely as he prepared his lover, noticing the small twinges of pain in his expression that Duo tried so hard to hide. Finally, seeing that Duo wasn't going to wait much longer, he positioned himself properly, kissing Duo's neck to calm him and wrapping the other boy's long legs firmly around his waist.

Then, in one smooth thrust, he entered Duo, who threw his head back against the pillow, face set in a silent rictus of pain. Heero rose quickly, burying himself deeply and taking Duo's mouth with his to stifle his pained moans. He remained like that for a long moment, motionless, until Duo relaxed enough for him to move without hurting his delicate lover. When Heero moved, he did so slowly and carefully, driving deep to give Duo all the pleasure he could, but keeping from doing the boy further injury as well. After a few moments, Duo wrapped his arms around Heero's torso and began to move with him, driving them both to higher pleasure.

The made love slowly, but with all the passion they normally summoned for these moments. When Heero came, Duo felt the part of him that had been dirty and injured wiped clean, and he was claimed again, belonging to the only person he had ever loved.

Curled in Heero's embrace, Duo quickly fell into sleep. His breath tickled Heero's chest as he slept. The boy's dark blue eyes were soft as they looked at his lover, so genuine in everything he did. But there was more to take care of. Duo was his first priority, but avenging his lover required that he leave the smaller boy here alone.

Heero stood slowly so as not to disturb the sleeping boy. He ran his hands through the unruly chestnut bangs, covering his beloved with the thin white blanket before he dressed. There was much left to do. First, he had to find the judge and make him confess who he was working for. Then that person would die. Along with the one who had hurt Duo so badly. That one would not only die. He would suffer.

Resolve firmly in place, Heero left the room, glancing back one second to gaze upon his peacefully sleeping lover ensconced in the bed. This, he had decided long ago, was worth fighting for. Now he would keep that in mind as he sought his revenge.

Duo had woken when he felt Heero leave him. Silently, he watched the only person he'd ever loved walked out the door before giving in to the tears. The desolate feeling that had been belayed for a moment when Heero had made love to him was back full force. He reprimanded himself harshly, biting his lip to keep from crying out loud. 'What did you think, idiot? That he would just take you back? That he would want somebody else's leftovers?'

The mental abuse he was inflicting on himself only made him feel worse, though the terrible dirty feeling he had been carrying was somewhat relieved. Heero had done that for him. That was all he had done, and Duo was grateful, even if he knew that his love was never coming back. Heero was the smart one, after all. Now that he knew about Duo's past and the things that had happened to him, it was only natural that he be repulsed. Who would want a dirty, used slut like him anyway? He understood Heero. He forgave him. He just wished it didn't have to hurt so much.

Finally letting his sobs free, Duo wailed into the hard pillow he lay on, hands clenched in the sheets. He curled as tightly as he could to try and ease that burning ball of fire in his chest. He cried until he had nothing left inside, and the blackness of unconsciousness mercifully swallowed him whole.

Wufei stalked the halls quickly, navigating the maze in the direction of the cell Duo was being kept in, sure that Heero would be there. He increased his speed as he neared his destination. It proved not to be a wise action, as he rounded a corner and ran head-on into a rapidly moving Heero. Before he knew it, he was in a headlock and rapidly losing consciousness as his air was cut off. "Heero!" he croaked feebly, willing the other boy to come to his senses long enough to realize who he was.

Then, with a gasp, he was freed and fell panting and coughing on the polished floor. "Gods! What did you do that for?" he choked out, rising to his feet while fighting vertigo. The blue-eyed boy still didn't have any idea of his own strength.

Heero did not say anything, merely watched Wufei as he caught his breath. "Where are you going?" Ocean blue eyes looked up the hallway in the direction Wufei had come.

"To find the sons of bitched who did this to him." The ice in his voice was frightening. One did not want to be on the receiving end of the wrath of an angry Heero. Wufei felt stones being dropped into his guts, one by one.

"What did they do to him?" He was almost afraid of the answer, which came snarled and furious from Heero's lips.

"Raped him. Broke him. And now they're going to pay. Dearly."

The Chinese boy's own eyes went flat and hard as he heard those words. His own desire for revenge kicked in strong, and he dipped quickly into an inner pocket of his uniform to pull out the warrant he had had issued earlier that same day. "I know who did it. Here's the warrant. Let's go get them."

Heero regarded him silently for a moment, then nodded, and started off once again down the endless corridors. Heero was coming. Justice was coming. And it was time for someone to be very, very afraid.

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Chapter 7

"What the hell are you talking about?" It was hard to remain calm in the face of that ice-hard blue gaze, but he was managing rather well, he thought.

"I said, were you planning on killing him?" Onyed leaned back in his chair, trying to look impassive.

"Isn't that what you wanted?"

Blue eyes narrowed to slits, definitely dangerous. "No, you idiot! It's too soon!" Hilde threw herself backwards onto the couch, breaking their gaze at last, much to Onyed's relief. He had been seriously worried for his health. "You can't just kill him be accident! Pain is fine, and plenty of it, but he has to last." She sighed. "Onyed, she said gently, "just do what I tell you to, alright?" She walked to him and took his large head in her small arms, hugging him to her chest and doing some unconsciously seductive things to the man. "You try so hard, my dear, but I think you lack the anger I must feed to be merciless, not sparing even death to those I set in my sights."

Onyed simply nodded. "You're right, of course." They stayed this for a moment, still as stone. Then bother heads shot up as a crash sounded from just outside their lavish dark lair.

"What the…" Onyed never finished the sentence, however, because the door slid open and a limp figure was hurled inside. Hilde and her accomplice both looked in shock at the unconscious figure on the floor.

"Ha…" stuttered Onyed, "Hatcher?"

A shadow appeared in the doorway, blocking the view of the comatose judge. In the frame, backlit in blinding white, was a menacing figure. With very unruly hair. Onyed didn't flinch. He didn't recognize the man in the doorway. Hilde, on the other hand, began to back away from toward the wall, eyes widening to the point of pain.

"You… how…" her stuttering stopped in a squeak as the light briefly illuminated gleaming sapphire eyes.

"Hilde Schbeiker," said Heero, his voice death, "now you die."

 

Wufei entered the room behind Heero. He knew what Heero intended to do, and quite frankly, he didn't care. In fact, he was all for it. He could turn a blind eye and simply deny Une an overly detailed report. It never had to leave the room.

Onyed, Wufei noticed, was trying to leave the room. While Heero was advancing slowly and single-mindedly on Hilde, the instigator of the whole affair, her large partner in crime was moving toward another door at the rear of the room. That was absolutely unacceptable. Well, Heero got his share. Wufei went after his.

He intercepted Onyed easily, stalking up behind him and grabbing his arm. He was disgusted to see what a coward the man was. Wufei was wiry, but lacking nothing in strength, and it took only one good twist and a well placed blow to break the man's arm and immobilize it behind him. Onyed howled.

"You can't do this! You have nothing on me" How dare you…" Wufei silenced him with a small jerk of his broken arm.

"I believe you forget," he hissed, "or perhaps you never did your homework. We were fighters and mercenaries. We were outlaws. We don't need proof. We know, and nobody else has to. That's enough. Your wretched life is over. Contemplate that for a moment."

The Chinese man raised his head and turned slightly to look for his friend, drawing a yelp of protest from the terrified Onyed. Heero was standing over what was now the late Hilde Schbeiker. His eyes met Wufei's, face marred by a few scattered drops of crimson, and he nodded. "It's done."

"What about him?" Wufei jerked his head at the man he held captive. He saw Heero's eyes come alight once more with the unholy light of bloodlust, as he stalked toward his new victim. But he stopped, hand mere centimetres from the quaking enemy's throat. "No," he said, "I don't think so." Heero lowered his hand very slowly, his frozen stare holding Onyed's in something of a challenge. "Do you want to live?" The big man simply continued to stare like an animal caught in headlights. Heero's eyes narrowed further. "Answer me. Do you want to live?"

Onyed, struck dumb, simply nodded fervently. Heero smiled, a smile of pure malice. "Good. At least some of your human instincts are still at work. Since you want to live so badly, you're going to do something for me."

"Anything!" Onyed croaked immediately. Heero chuckled, a distinctly unpleasant sound that Wufei remembered.

"Oh, don't agree so quickly. You haven't heard what it is yet." He reached behind him and drew his gun from its place in his belt, pointing it directly at the man's head. "Here's my deal." Onyed swallowed audibly. "You will take this," he drew a knife from his pants pocket, "and you will cut it off." His expression didn't change, nor did he make any sign that he knew what he had just said was humanly impossible, as Onyed's eyes bugged impossibly wide. "All of it. If you refuse," the sound of the gun cocking was very loud, "you die. It's simple."

Onyed choked. "You don't… you can't…" He stopped, for Heero's face plainly stated that he did and could mean every word he said. Slowly, Onyed took the pocket knife offered to him and opened it. He simply stared at it for a few long minutes, before, lowering his head, he whispered. "No. I can't."

Heero's face remained impassive. "Fine. Your choice." The gun barked once, and Onyed fell over in a heap on the floor.

"Well," Wufei cut in for the first time, "wasn't that pleasant?" Heero simply looked at him. "You knew of course that he couldn't do it."

"No. Actually I was rather looking forward to it." Wufei blinked. Heero sighed and nodded. "Come on. Let's get Duo."

 

Duo was sleeping when they made it back to his cell. Heero went to sit beside him while Wufei waited politely outside. The sometime pilot of Wing looked down at his lover's sleeping, tear-streaked face in worry and regret, but a strange sense of pride at having avenged him as well. Duo had been crying hard, it seemed. Heero chewed at his lip. He had done everything possible not to hurt his partner, but…

Duo stirred, opening his eyes slowly and trying to focus on the figure beside him. His face lost its sleepy droop and fixed into a mask of shock when he saw who it was who sat with him. "Heero?"Heero nodded.

"Heero! You… you came back! You really… came… back…" Duo burst out laughing and threw his arms around his lover's neck. "Heero!!"

The blue-eyed boy smiled gently. "I came back, Duo. I never would have left you. But I had to settle the score" He embraced Duo tightly before pulling back to look him in the eyes.

"Let's go home?"

Duo smiled at once, with all the brilliance that Heero remembered. "Amen!"

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Epilogue

"Wake up! Wake up, everybody! Santa Claus was here!" It was Quatre who broke in on them that morning, bounding in bright with belated Christmas cheer.

"Quatre, Santa Claus came weeks ago!" Duo said in an exasperated tone. Then he broke into a huge grin. "So where have you been hiding the presents?"Duo's slow recovery had been the top concern of his four best friends for the week since he had returned to Earth. Now, they gathered to celebrate Christmas according to the plans that had been ruined, and to celebrate also the return of their Duo. It was comforting to have all of them there, Trowa thought. To have their small group whole and well again. Times had always been hard, but once again they had emerged victorious.

Trowa watched Duo and Quatre fighting playfully over who would get to open the first gift, watched his little lover concede with a laugh, hitting Duo once more with a couch cushion before handing him his gift, while Heero and Wufei looked on in mock annoyance. It was complete. It was a sight and a feeling well worth waiting for.

--owari--