2-11-2001

Well, as promised the other night, here's the next installment of Testament. Sorry it's taken so long but life and my health have sort of gotten in the way of major fic writing of late. Hopefully, that will no longer be the case.

Special thanks to Hazard Blue and Naraku for beta-ing this for me!

This story is a Rurouni Kenshin/Gundam Wing fusion. It's going to be an Alternate Universe fic and will definitely have a 1x2 pairing--I just have to slog through the set up of the story to get to that (Which will be the first couple of chapters). ^_^

Warnings--Slighty OOC Trowa but then this is an AU fic so I guess that's okay.

Rurouni Kenshin is the property of Nobuhiro Watsuki and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing belongs to Bandai. I'm borrowing the characters and situations purely for entertainment purposes, not to make any money.

'...' and *...*--denotes thoughts

Feedback loved!

Testament (4/?)
Persephone Elysian

Chapter Four

Heero had never been much of a romantic. In fact, more than once he’d been told he didn’t have a sentimental bone in his body and that was fine with him. Sentiment got in the way of the work and clouded the judgment. He valued an analytical mind, not a well-turned phrase. He was pleased by hard work, not idle fancy. And yet in spite of himself, Heero found himself wondering if somehow his fantasies hadn’t taken to walking in the daylight.

It wasn’t him. It wasn’t him. No matter how many times Heero told himself that, he was no closer to believing it. It was him, something stubbornly replied to his every denial. The face, the clothes-the packaging was different, but it was him. Kenshin. He could deny it all he wanted but that didn’t make it any less true. There was something, some flicker that Heero recognized, that Kaoru responded to.

If only he could convince himself that he was hallucinating or trying to find meaning where there was none. So Duo Maxwell had violet eyes like the Kenshin in his dreams. So what? Lots of people had violet eyes, he was certain of it. So what if he moved with the same agility and grace? So what if his heart told him what his mind didn't yet want to accept, that Duo was Kenshin? If that were true, then it would make everything he had dreamed true. That he was so girl named Kaoru who was hopelessly in love with Kenshin and- Heero shook his head.

To tell the truth, he was beginning to wonder about his grip on reality. He had been working awfully hard of late. Maybe Quatre hadn’t been too far off when he had suggested a vacation a few weeks back. Then he had snorted. Heero Yuy didn’t need vacations. He sent other people on vacations (preferably somewhere far, far from him), not the other way around. Maybe he’d been too hasty.

Well, it was a little late to decide that now, he snipped silently. He had a mission to perform and he couldn’t back down just because he was having a personal crisis although ‘personal crisis’ was beginning to be a bit of an understatement. Try ‘identity crisis.’

And the presence of one Duo Maxwell wasn’t helping him any.

He barely remembered much of his introduction to the young man. He’d been too caught up staring-no, gaping at Maxwell to have really registered the pleasantries that had been exchanged. Maxwell himself had commented on it with somewhat a good-natured, if not downright confused laugh. God, even his laugh was familiar. His-no, Kaoru’s-heart had leapt in joy at the sound.

Heero slapped his palm against his desk, causing the laptop in front of him to rattle. Damn it. Damn him and damn her too. Up until now his path had been clear. He had always known who he was and what he was and what he wanted. And now… Now things were different. Everything was slipping beyond his control and he didn’t like that. He didn’t like it one bit. Heero had always been able to deal with whatever life had thrown at him with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency. How did one deal with a dream? Logically, one killed it and God knew he had tried but this dream was refusing to die. It had given itself a name and a form. He recalled a passage he’d read long ago in a novel, a warning about giving things a name, that by giving something a name, you gave it power. He’d dismissed it at the time as fanciful prose or worse, an old wives’ tale. And now this thing, this figment that called itself Kaoru, seemed intent on proving him wrong.

Maybe his job was taking its toll. He’d heard of cops who’d cracked under the stress of the job. It was an occupational hazard. When you saw as much death and senseless violence as they did, was it any wonder you retained emotional baggage? Some cops lost it completely, became killers themselves because they went too far one day. Or they ended up on an extended vacation with therapists for hotel directors.

But he was different. He was stronger, smarter-there was no way he would ever let anyone or anything touch him like that. He wouldn’t let anyone get close enough to crack his composure. Or so he’d thought. How do you fight an enemy that’s beneath the skin? Why was this happening to him in the first place? It wasn’t like he asked for this. He didn’t even believe in mumbo jumbo like reincarnation. Unfortunately, he reflected gloomily, that didn’t seem to matter. While he might not believe in reincarnation, reincarnation apparently believed in him.

*Kenshin, I’ve found you! I’ve finally found you.* Whether he liked it or not, he found himself sharing Kaoru’s exultation. Heero grimaced. Wasn’t it enough that she dominated his dreams? Did she really have to ruin his waking life, too?

'Stop it,' Heero ordered. 'You-you don’t exist. I’m not Kaoru. I’m Heero Yuy. I don’t have time for foolish dreams and… Oh, God, I’m talking to myself. I’m in hell,' he decided.

Heero raked a loose strand of hair out of his face before turning back to his laptop. He was supposed to be running security checks along the grounds; instead, he was sequestered in a dim room, staring guiltily at Duo Maxwell’s personal file. He tried to justify it as caution. After all, he was suspicious of Kushrenada; he was suspicious of everyone at this point and it was only right he check into the files of the man’s entourage.

*You’re not a very good liar,* Kaoru observed.

'Shut up,' he growled at her. Great, even his delusions were giving him a hard time.

He scrolled through the contents of the file, eyes devouring each word until he reached the end of the page. Then he sat back, fingers tapping against the desk, splintering the sweltering silence. *None of that’s true,* Kaoru thought. *Not one word.*

For once Heero agreed with her. It showed the steady progress of a promising young man up through the ranks until his present position as a bodyguard to Kushrenada. It was quite obviously manufactured; the file was too clean, too precise, too… perfect. There were citations and recommendations, true enough, but where were the remarks about the young man’s skills? No instructor wrote warmly of Maxwell’s talents nor did it give anything beyond a sketchy set of details for his education. Where were the obvious overtime hours he’d have to put in to get where he was? The file was totally silent on that-it was just a clean roster of facts with no truth behind them. To anyone else, it might have looked acceptable, even admirable but not to him. The flaws were in the perfection of the work, he thought in disgust. Had it been him, he would never have overlooked such important details. Kushrenada’s people were sloppy and that was unforgivable.

So what was Maxwell trying to hide? True, there were many who had pasts they wished to leave behind. His own past was too sordid for him not understand that. Problem was, he couldn't ignore this, not out of sympathy or understanding or ... anything else. He could be the killer.

*No! Kenshin wouldn't--he--*

'How sure of that are you?' Heero asked, overlooking his own protestations about the possibility of Duo being Kenshin. The answer was too important.

He could feel the hesitation in her, in himself, and that was answer enough. He could not allow personal feelings--personal delusions, get in the way of doing his job. If Maxwell was a threat, he would be dealt with. It was that simple.

So why was it suddenly so hard to breathe? Why was his chest tight with an ache he'd never felt before?

He martialed himself as the phone beside him jangled. "Yuy here. Go."

"Heero, I called to remind you that you're supposed to meet with His Majesty and the Cabinet in half an hour." Quatre replied over a hum of voices. His partner was still trying to process some of the personnel coming in. Imperial politics were so iffy at the best of times, that Heero could almost understand why many Senators brought their own cooks and staff. It was a damned nuisance all the same.

"Noted," Heero scowled. He didn't have time to deal with bureaucratic idiots but who with the force of an imperial decree behind the invitation, how could he decline? 'Dermail just wants to parade me around so that if something goes wrong, he'll have a scapegoat. Typical.'

"Quatre, I want you to do something for me," Heero drummed his fingers against the desk, listening to their hollow echo. "Duo Maxwell, one of Kushrenada's aides. I want you to radio Une and have her do some digging into his background. Anything she can find besides what's in the official file."

"Got it. Should I have him watched?"

"No," Heero answered, leaning back in his chair. "I'll take care of it. Yuy out."

'I'll do whatever it takes to accomplish my mission,' he thought grimly. 'And no one, living or memory, was going to stop him.'

***

Trowa Barton was not what he had been expecting.

Duke Dermail leaned back in his chair, pretending to examine the contents of the file in his hand whilst surreptiously sneaking peeks at the boy sitting across the desk from him. He was younger than what his reputation had given the Duke to believe. Hell, a forty year old man would have been far too young for the reputation this boy had gained. If the rumors were to be believed, he'd had a hand in every major underworld deal for nearly the last decade. He had a reputation for being a ruthless thug, a man brought in as a last resort because once he started a job, he never stopped until it or the target was finished. He was, quite simply, the best muscle money could hire.

Which was absolutely astonishing to Dermail because Barton did not look the part.

He had been expecting a young man, maybe in his early thirties, large with lots and lots of biceps and very little brains. What he had gotten instead was a slender, wiry eighteen year old boy whose sharp emerald gaze told him that Barton was too clever by half. There was nothing about Barton's compact frame and deliberate demeanor to suggest that he was a danger. Not until you got to his eyes. Dermail had dealt with many types of people over the course of his political career, savory and otherwise, and he had learned to pick out the troublemakers. Barton was trouble. Those green eyes were blank, but curiously sharp around the edges. A shark's gaze, lovely until it turned on you and you felt its teeth digging in.

In short, he was everything Dermail had wanted but not hoped for. Unassuming, but wary. Intelligent and ruthless enough to accomplish the task at hand. He would make a perfect bodyguard.

Dermail found it somewhat insulting that he needed a bodyguard. He had survived imperial politics this long without one but times had changed. Poisons could be dealt with, plots were usually uncovered before they went to seed, but this... Men murdered in their houses--in their houses! Not in the Senate, not on the road but in the sanctity of their homes. Men like Tubarov who had been useful to him and now were just rotting slabs of meat for the vultures. It was insupportable. Something had to be done.

That was why he'd allowed Une and her incompetents at Preventer in. That and the express urging of His Majesty. Dermail snorted in disgust. How he hated having to maneuver around that platinum blonde idiot! He was so damnably earnest sometimes. And while his sympathy was needed, there were times when Dermail feared that he might not be able to control the urge to shake some sense into him. He meant well and that made him a thorn in his chief minister's side. He was constantly having to run behind him and clean up the messes his careless decrees made. Especially now with that damned Kushrenada hanging around and trying to usurp Dermail's place. If it had been convenient, Dermail would have had him removed but with the heightened paranoia of the last few weeks, that was the last thing he could do. While taking out Treize had its appeal, being torn apart by a group of rabidly frightened Senators did not. He could wait. If he was really fortunate, perhaps their assassin would take Kushrenada out. If he wasn't working on Treize's payroll, that was.

In the meantime, if he couldn't do anything to make his life easier, then the least he could do was preserve it until his time came around again. Hiring a bodyguard was the first step. There was no way he was going to end up like Tubby, guts splashed across the carpet and head under his desk.

Briefly, he had entertained the notion that Barton might be the killer they were looking for, but had dismissed it just as quickly. These killings were too politically motivated to be his handiwork. From everything he'd heard about Barton, the man took jobs because he enjoyed them. And his style was to use his fists to bring his opponents to their knees, not a sword.

"Your reputation is quite impressive," Dermail spoke at last, leaning forward, steepling his hands as he looked across his desk. "But forgive me for wondering how justified is it?"

The slender young man across from him said nothing but Dermail's shrewd eye detected a glimmer of annoyance in his visible green eye. He approved of how quickly the other man hid it, making his eyes calm as a grass sea. A grass sea bended in the wind, but never broke, never revealed its secrets without force. Dermail had a feeling that this one would never break, even with force applied. There was just enough stubbornness in the set of his chin and body language to tell him that this one would die before acting against his mind.

'Then I'll just have to convince him that it's in his best interest to help me,' Dermail thought. And keep convincing him until he believes in it the way his body believes in breathing. He smirked. After dealing with stubborn men every day of his life for the last fifty years, how hard could one little boy be?

"If you're not satisfied with my resume," the boy rose to his feet. "Then our business is concluded. I doubt very much I could prove my worth to you even if I were foolish enough to try. My reputation should speak for itself."

"Sit down," Dermail snapped, regretting it when he saw the narrowing of the other man's eyes. He forced himself to adopt a more ... conciliatory tone. "Please."

He didn't return to his seat nor did he walk out the door as Dermail half-feared he would. Instead, he stood, arms crossed and giving no clue as to what was going on his mind. Dermail wanted to applaud his efforts; he was stubborn and that would be useful for what Dermail had in mind. Once he broke him of that unconscious arrogance, the boy would be the perfect tool for his use. Provided that stubbornness was tempered to a fine edge.

"I meant no insult to your ... talents," Dermail made his voice honeyed. It wouldn't fool this one but he did it out of habit if nothing else. "You must understand my position. With all the violence the capital has experience of late, it would be odd if I were not concerned."

"Violence?" Barton's mouth quirked. "You mean, all the dead Senators piling up in your backyard? Making you a bit nervous, I suspect."

Dermail clenched his fists, willing his face to remain pleasant. "I see we understand perfectly. Yes, I am... as you say, nervous. With good reason. I am after all the highest ranking official -- after His Majesty, of course."

"Of course." From the sarcastic roll of his words, it was clear that Barton understood the situation only too well. That was good. It left little room for misunderstandings.

The younger man stretched then plopped down, his long-limbs sprawling lazily over the chair. "So, any idea who's behind the killings?"

'He takes it for granted that I'm going to hire him,' Dermail thought. He was both amused and irritated by that smug self-confidence. 'Not that he's wrong.' Still, he needed to learn his place. Dermail cleared his throat, "No. I wouldn't have any need for you, if I knew that. That will be part of your duties. I want you to keep your eyes open, see what you can discover. I will, of course, pay you quite handsomely for your services."

Barton grunted then scratched his forehead. "What are you planning to do with this guy once you catch him?"

"There'll be a trial, of course. A show to please the people," Dermail's lips curved thinking of how he would preside over that one and how it would enhance his prestige. "Then we'll execute him."

"With you as judge and executioner?"

"You have a better idea?"

"How 'bout you let me have him for awhile? I'd kind of like to test my skills against him," Barton cracked his knuckles. "Sounds like a challenge, ya know?"

Dermail frowned, "You already have my permission to fight him--"

"What I want is you to give me the okay to do more than just fight him. I mean, I'd hate for us to have a disagreement later just cause I hurt him--a little too much."

"Ah," Dermail's eyes gleamed. "Well, dead or alive. A public trial would be nice but ... accidents do happen. And I'm sure I can find a way to work it to my advantage."

"I'm sure. So does this job start immediately?" Barton rose to his feet, towering over Dermail who felt a chill. It would take nothing for the younger man to reach across the table and... 'Nonsense,' he shook himself. 'I am in control here. Nothing will happen that I do not allow to happen.'

He slid to his feet nonetheless, extending his hand across the desk. "Welcome aboard, Mr. Barton."

Barton's green eyes rolled over him and his hand with a barely concealed sneer of disdain. "Save that for when I actually do something to merit it. I'm going to have a look 'round if you don't need me."

Dermail let his hand fall away, resisting the very real urge to use it to smack the arrogant puppy across the face. 'Now is not the time. You still need him. Draw him in and then you can fix him.' Outwardly, he plastered a friendly smile on his face, "Of course, though don't take too long. I'd so hate for something to happen without my bodyguard around to protect me."

He watched Barton's retreating back, standing there for some time in thought before allowing his fist to clench in frustration, thumping it against the desktop. 'One thing at a time. First to deal with this wolf in our midst and then...' He let his eyes wander back towards the door Barton had just exited. 'Then I'll deal with other problems.'

***

This had to be one of the strangest meetings Quatre had ever had the privilege to witness. He tried very hard not to glance at his partner, knowing that would earn him a bigger scowl than the one Heero was already gracing the entire room with. He wished he could have found someway around having to be here. Standing around watching a bunch of politicians sugar coat and try to talk their way out of a situation while his partner was silently growing more and more steamed was not his idea of a good time. Heero wasn't known for his tact and if this kept up for too much longer, Quatre was afraid he'd finally get to see what happened when he let his temper full rein. 'And it's just my luck to be at ground zero,' Quatre groaned.

The thing about Heero was, people looked at him, took in that stony expression and flat voice and just assumed he felt the same sense of nothingness his tone conveyed. That was far from true. One had only to look into Heero's eyes to catch glimpses of the moods he so efficiently repressed. Just because he wasn't as open or expressive about his feelings as Quatre, didn't mean Heero felt nothing. Heero's problem was that he did care--he cared passionately about his work and when people got in the way... Quatre shook his head, wishing that the higher ups would take the same clue he had and shut up before Heero did it for them.

The meeting had started simply enough. They had been introduced to His Majesty, someone Quatre had already met on previous occasions though he doubted Milliardo Peacecraft remembered that scrawny, half-grown boy at his father's side. And Heero had begun outlining in his usual precise, no-nonsense manner, his thoughts, theories, and the security precautions he planned to enact to ensure His Majesty's safety when Treize Kushrenada had asked a question.

One little question and all hell had opened up because of it. Quatre sighed wondering how much longer they were going to be treated to the sight of Dermail and Kushrenada exchanging cordial but barb insults over His Majesty's head. His Majesty appeared distressed by the exchange, but did nothing to halt it. Quatre chanced a quick peek around at the rest of the room's inhabitants.

There were a couple extra Preventer agents, of course. With Heero's security measures in play, he expected nothing less. Some of the palace guard were also there, surrounding the raised dias on which His Majesty sat. Quatre was dubious as to what help they might actually be in a fight but their presence seemed to reassure His Majesty and keeping Milliardo Peacecraft happy and alive was their top priority. Well, that and catching the killer before he struck again.

Then there were the two bodyguards.

Quatre knew one of them on sight already. Duo Maxwell, Kushrenada's bodyguard and the person Heero had asked him to check up on. Now that he had the opportunity to study Maxwell up close, he took it, trying to be surreptitious as he did so. He wasn't a large man, by any means. Certainly not much taller than Heero himself. Nor was he overly burdened by muscles. His lithe, slender frame showed definition and years off swordsmanship but no more than that. In fact, with his long rope of honey-brown hair, if Quatre had seen him from behind, he might have mistaken Maxwell for a woman. Those large violet eyes didn't help matters either. He could well understand why he had witnessed some of the ladies of the court earlier stop and track Maxwell's passage with an almost hungry stare. The man was attractive, no... He was beautiful. Quatre felt his cheeks redden a bit. Although he wasn't the least bit interested in the man himself, he could understand why someone else would find him...beautiful.

Heero certainly seemed to notice that as well.

He tried to tell himself that Heero's interest in Maxwell was based upon suspicion, he was beginning to get the sinking feeling it was more than that even if Heero himself was unaware of that fact. Maybe it was the way his partner's eyes sought out Maxwell every so often, as if to reassure himself that the man was still there. Or maybe it was the fleeting emotion he glimpsed there. Almost...longing. Had anyone else said they'd seen Heero Yuy looking at anything besides a caseload with longing, he'd have laughed right in their faces. Yet... There was something besides wariness and suspicion (even if those, too, were visible) in those sapphire blue eyes. Could Heero actually be attracted to Duo Maxwell? So far as he knew, Heero had never displayed the remotest interest in anyone outside their usefulness to him in solving a case. Occasionally, Quatre found himself wondering if his friend was even capable of such tender emotions. Maxwell might just provide the opportunity to find out.

However... However, if Heero's earlier suspicions panned out (and he had to be suspicious or else he wouldn't have had Quatre radio Une), then what? What if his partner was becoming infatuated with their killer? Logic dictated that he inform Une of what he suspected immediately. But... but if he did that, she'd pull Heero off the case, on the grounds of having a personal stake in it. Heero would be devastated if that happened and might never forgive Quatre. 'No,' Quatre decided, he wouldn't radio Une yet. He'd keep an eye on Maxwell and Heero. If Maxwell was harmless... Well, then he would be happy for his friend but if he wasn't then he would be dealt with. Even if he had to have Heero removed from the case for his own good.

Letting his eyes leave Maxwell, he turned to yet another enigma. This one named Trowa Barton.

Barton hadn't been among Dermail's entourage when he'd arrived and indeed, the first Quatre had seen or heard of him had been an hour ago. One of Dermail's assistants had breezed up to him and thrust papers at him, claiming that 'the Master's bodyguard had just arrived and would you kindly process him through immediately.' The officious little twerp would never know how lucky he was that he had taken that attitude to Quatre and not to his partner.

Still, prestige or not, he had sent the man back with a message that if Dermail wanted Barton processed through he would send him down to be checked out with the rest of the Senatorial entourage. And he had meant it. Until he had gotten a not so subtle summons to the Minister's office. Quatre darted a quick peek at Barton who was leaning against one of the walls, seemingly dozing despite the loud argument going on near him. As if he felt attention on him, Barton opened his eyes, mouth curving into the definite beginning of a smirk as he noticed Quatre. The Preventer looked away, once again frustrated by the fact that even though a clear procedure had been set out, men like Dermail thought they could just throw it out when ever they felt like it. Trouble was, they very often were able to, especially men like Dermail who could bring so much political pressure to bear.

'I've got my eye on you, Trowa Barton,' he thought at the other man. 'And I'll run and re-run every check on you I can think of until I'm satisfied that you're not a threat.'

And then there were the two political kingpins, Dermail and Kushrenada. Both so alike and yet different in so many ways. They both knew the backwards and forwards of the political scene, knew how to deal with people, and how to use them. Whereas Dermail tended to run roughshod over people, Kushrenada was smoother, more genteel. Dermail played up being the aristocrat and Treize acted as if his aristocracy were merely trappings and his heart was as common as wildflower. He was far from common; his rise had been nothing less than spectacular over the last few years. The Kushrenada family was one of wealth but no real title behind it, no impressive lineage to back it. Treize was the first one to really stand out. His father had been one of Tubarov's and Dermail's supporters and for a time, it seemed as if the son might follow in his footsteps. Then something had changed, Treize had retired for a time, only to return with a new ideology and a new party in tow. A party of the people, he claimed. A party that would return the government to the king and the king to his subjects. The only way to do that would be through a reduction in senatorial power and the Senators, bless their calculating hearts knew that. Half of them wanted to kill him and the other half... The other half flocked to his side, seeing their only salvation as becoming his ally.

Truth be told, Quatre could understand the attraction. Oh, not towards saving his own skin but towards Treize's message. If Treize meant what he said, then he was speaking all the things Quatre had felt and believed his whole life. He was promoting all the things that had been a sticking point between Quatre and his father. Quatre had despaired of ever changing the institution from the inside out, so he had joined Preventer, hoping to make a difference there. Had he been wrong to do so? If he had stayed in line, followed his father's path, could he have sided with Treize, helped change things, been a part of ...

No. Somehow, before he even finished the thought, he stopped himself. No, he was better off where he was. Had he stayed with the family profession, his father would have made sure he towed the family line. And eventually Quatre would have gotten tired of fighting with him over ideals, would have given up. 'I'm where I need to be,' Quatre thought and for the first time in a while felt more secure in that belief.

'Now, if I can just keep Heero from shooting the people we're supposed to be protecting,' he sighed.

***

Treize watched the sun lower, throwing streaks of gold and pink across the darkening sky. He watched as the light amethyst skies gave way to blue-black and the lights of the Imperial city below him came alive until it resembled nothing so much as Roman candle in the night. He stood and he stared out, watching the stars and the fullness of the moon and all the while his mind was turning. Combing and recombing the meeting earlier, going over again everything he had seen, everything he had heard or said. His father had called that perfect memory his greatest asset and in one of those rare instances, Treize was forced to agree with him. It was a tool that he used and sharpened whenever he had the opportunity. Such exercises had always rewarded him by allowing him to memorize anything he was exposed to and then dissect it later on, finding something in it that hadn't been apparent on first glance.

Such as now.

There had been something going on at the meeting earlier, something he had only been peripherally aware of at the time. It was so small, so seemingly insignificant almost anyone else might have missed it. He was certain Dermail had and that would be his downfall. But it was all there in Treize's mind, clear as bell. He had the key to his bright, new future and he now had the means to ensure that key could be utilized to the utmost. It was all so simple, so easy. He hadn't expected this solution just to fall into his lap, a gift from the gods.

There was no sound save that from the street below but Treize knew he was there. Felt the other's presence probably no less than a second after he'd arrived. Had he been a target, Treize would have died for being too slow. However, he wasn't the target; he was the one taking careful aim.

"You sent for me?" Duo came to stand beside him.

Trieze chanced a look at him, struck once more by Maxwell's innocent appearance, something that could waver and disappear like mist on water when duty required it. It was almost as if... almost as if there were two Maxwells. One a cold-blooded, ruthless killer and the other, the gentle, smiling boy at his side. He was fond of the cheerful boy but the other... He would be a liar if he pretended that Duo's other state didn't unnerve him. It had from the moment he'd met the boy, sitting in the rubble of the old Maxwell Church. He had taken the boy in, clothed, fed him, and trained him. Although that training seemed only to sharpen the preternatural skills the boy already possessed. No trainer that Treize had provided could ever explain it. It was if the boy had been born with all the tools of swordsmanship already and all that had been needed was to have his memory jogged.

He was invaluable despite what Wufei thought. Without him, Treize would have been hard-pressed to put his plans into such immediate action. Without him, the revolution might have take years to complete instead the scant few months he now foresaw. Duo's life had been destroyed by the old ways and now he would usher in the future. Treize's future.

But first they had to get past a few obstacles. First and foremost, Dermail and his cronies. Once they had access to His Majesty, Treize was fairly certain he could control the Peacecraft until he had brought the man around to his way of thinking. They still had Dermail to contend with though and to get through him, they had to get through his measures. The boy Barton. Preventer.

Heero Yuy.

Treize knew a formidable opponent when he saw one and Heero was that. The determined set in Heero's blue eyes spelled an obstacle and one that would have to be removed before they could proceed. He was loathe to kill the other man for simply doing his job. And now, perhaps that wouldn't be necessary, perhaps there was something else that could be done instead.

If Duo was willing.

He had seen the interest in Heero's eyes--no, the hunger there whenever they had rested on Duo. He had seen it so often and on so many other faces that it was nothing new. Yuy had surprised him though. He hadn't thought the cold Preventer would be interested in anything besides his mission. He hadn't expected to find a weakness so staggeringly simple and elegant and... 'Tragic,' his mind supplied.

"I have something to ask of you," Treize began, trying to find the words. "A job, but not like any of the other jobs. This is different. More personal."

Duo's violet eyes widened as Treize explained exactly what he wanted him to do.

***end of chapter four