2-1-2001

Title: Written in Blood
Author: AstroKender
Pairings: 3+4, 2x5/5x2, 1+2/2+1
Rating: action/mystery
Warnings: None in this part...well...maybe bad coffee.
Spoilers: None.
Notes: Takes place after the Eve Wars of Endless Waltz. Everyone works for the Preventers.
Feedback: AstroKender@aol.com Please!!! Write me!!! Tell me what you think!
Disclaimers: I own nothing...not even my computer. So obviously GW isn't mine. Don't sue.

Written in Blood by AstroKender
Prologue

Duo walked into the office sleepily, His Preventer uniform slightly askew. Yawning hugely, the American made his way over to the coffee maker. Seeing the pot pitifully empty, he scowled. Bending over, he rummaged under the counter for a filter.

"Nice view. Though I wasn't expecting such a sight so early in the morning."

Duo glared over his shoulder at the figure leaning against the doorway. Trowa smirked. Duo just glared harder and continued his search.

"We're out of them, you know." Trowa said conversationally.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Throwing the empty filter box over his shoulder, narrowly missing the Latin boy's head, Duo straightened and sighed, rubbing his temples.

"I told you that you shouldn't have drank so much last night." One visible green eye twinkled with mirth.

"You had just as much as me, Trowa Barton, why isn't your head falling off?" Duo's eyes fell on the slightly used dishrag by the sink.

Trowa laughed. "Cause I know how to hold my liquor."

"Injustice." Duo muttered. Rinsing out the rag, he placed it in the coffee maker.

Trowa raised an eyebrow at his antics but decided not to comment. "Now you are starting to sound like WuFei." He said instead.

"Who sounds like WuFei?" Quatre asked, walking into the break room. "Oh. Good morning Duo."

Duo halfheartedly raised his hand in greeting, busy pouring the coffee grounds onto the dishrag. Quatre kissed Trowa good morning and cast a curious glance towards the braided pilot. His eyes widened.

"Duo! What are you doing?"

"Making coffee." Duo growled, trying to shove the filter-holder back in place.

"That disgusting!"

"What's disgusting," Duo decided to simply hold it in place as he poured the water in. "Is having to wake up at seven in the morning and having no coffee."

"But you're using a dishrag as a filter." Quatre protested.

Duo shrugged. "Adds fiber."

Heero walked through the door, smelling the brewing drink. Going over to inspect it, the Japanese boy nodded approvingly. "Rag coffee." Duo smirked at him.

Duo grabbed the pot and poured them both a cup. Leaning back against the counter, Duo drank it down, black. Heero did the same. Quatre walked over hesitantly.

"Rag coffee?" Hesitating, he nevertheless poured himself a cup.

"Aa. We were at a safe house once and didn't have any filters." Heero explained. "So Duo improvised. It's good."

Quatre looked doubtingly down at the thick black liquid. "It's got stuff floating in it."

"It's just coffee, Q-man." Duo laughed, feeling more human after his second cup. "It won't bite."

Quatre glared at the braided boy and, after adding a liberal amount of cream and sugar, took a small sip.

"Blech!" The blonde sputtered. "This taste's horrible!" Strangely, he found himself taking another sip. Heero smirked.

"You get used to it."

---------------------------------------------------------------

Duo groaned and lay his head on the on his arms. He hated deskwork. Three cups of coffee, while doing wonders in allowing him to rejoin the human race, just wasn't enough to keep him awake through a mountain of paperwork.

Sleepy violet eyes watched as Quatre skipped by to sit on Trowa's desk, causing his files to scatter across the floor. Quatre giggled and the banged boy glared at Duo, silently telling him that by no means should the Arab be given 'rag coffee' again. In, answer, Duo's eyes drifted closed...only to pop wide open at the sharp tug to his braid.

"Itai!" Duo simultaneously glared at the figure while rubbing his head. "Dammit, WuFei!"

The Chinese boy gave him a glare of his own. "You're slacking off again Maxwell. Une's going to have your hide."

"No she's not, cause I don't swing that way." WuFei snorted at the cheeky remark. Duo continued. "And besides, when did you become Une's little lapdog?"

WuFei's face turned a very interesting shade of red and his mouth opened to no doubt begin a long and painful justice tirade when a female voice resounded throughout he office.

"Duo Maxwell! Get in here!"

Duo paled and glanced up at the dark-haired boy. "I didn't know you could throw your voice, Wu-chan."

"You too Chang!"

WuFei choked on his scathing reply, eyes wide. "I can't."

Both boys walked out of the room as if facing a firing squad.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part One

Duo waltzed into Une's office with WuFei in tow. Executing a mock bow, he turned his most charming grin on the brunette. Une looked up, unfazed, and gestured for them both to sit.

"Do you know what brings you both to my office?" The woman took off her glasses and set them aside.

"Bad coffee?" Duo offered. WuFei glowered at him.

"It's a case, isn't it, Lady?"

Une nodded and rubbed her temples. "It's not pretty. There has be a series of murders. Brutal murders. And we have no clue who the murder is and can only guess at his intentions."

"But shouldn't it be up to the police to find a serial killer?" Duo asked, puzzled.

Brown eyes darkened. "It isn't that simple. This killer is a trained assassin. The victims are not ordinary people, but dignitaries from both Earth and the Colonies."

Duo leaned forward, expression suddenly serious. "So this killer is hoping to restart the war?"

Lady Une stood up and started pacing the room restlessly. "I don't know. It does point in that direction. That's why we were called. And," She turned to face the two. "That's why I am putting you both in charge of the investigation."

WuFei nodded. "Where do we start?"

"The mortuary. I called ahead and they're expecting you."

WuFei rose, and with a small bow, left the room. Duo also made to leave, but paused in the doorway.

"Anne?"

Lady Une looked up. "Yes Duo?"

"I understand why you picked WuFei for this case, but why me? I've never done anything like this before."

Brown eyes met violet and Une smiled. "I was told that you have a sharp wit and were capable of thinking of things that others would look over as unimportant. Your ability to think analytically is what made me choose you for this case."

Duo blinked at her. "Oh...I'll do my best, Lady." The, with a jaunty salute, he walked out the door.

"I'm counting on it."
 

Duo walked down the hall, deep in thought. So deep, in fact, that he wasn't paying attention to where he was going until he ran smack into someone.

"Sorry-Heero? Where are you going? Your shift's not over yet."

"Hn." Heero grunted. "New mission."

"You too?" Duo asked with surprise. "What's the perimeter?"

Dark blue eyes glared at him from underneath unruly bangs. "Protect the Vice Minister."

Duo eyes went wide. "Relena?" He thought about for a moment and nodded to the Japanese boy. "Makes sense." He looked at Heero. "I'll try to capture him as soon as I can. Protect ojisan and tell her I won't let her down."

He continued down the hall but was stopped when a firm hand tugged at his arm. Large violet eyes looked back to meet confused cobalt ones.

"What are you talking about?" Heero demanded.

"Une put me and Chang in charge of finding the killer and capturing him, if possible."

Heero stared at him a moment longer, then released his arm. "If you need any help, you know where I'll be." At Duo's nod, the Japanese boy turned away.

"Be careful, baka." He called over his shoulder.

Duo grinned. "You too, O Indestructible One."

A snort was his only answer.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Trowa glanced up from his paperwork as Duo strode purposefully into the room. The Latin boy raised one eyebrow in question and Duo shook his head, gesturing to the blonde bundle of energy sitting on Trowa's desk.

"Quatre, could you do me a favor?"

The blonde looked up at his lover, eyes shining. "Anything, Koi."

"I've got a slew of paperwork to do. Do you think you can get me some coffee?"

Quatre beamed happily. "Of course, Trowa! Cream but no sugar, right?"

Trowa nodded and the Arab bounced away. The Latin boy smiled slightly at the retreating figure and then turned suddenly serious emerald eyes towards Duo. Duo smiled encouragingly.

"It probably nothing, Tro-chan, but the case I'm on is pretty serious and it wouldn't hut to be careful."

"Quatre?" Trowa asked.

"Anyone who has ties to the peace delegation may be targeted. I just want you to keep an extra eye out." Duo bent over and fondly swept the Latin boy's bangs aside, revealing the twin to the intense green orb.

Trowa's hand shot out to clasp the braided boy's before it got away. "Consider it done."

"Shame on you both!" The two boys glanced up at an irritated Quatre.

Damn. Busted. Duo thought. Quatre hated the thought of anyone having to protect him for any reason. Duo opened his mouth to explain but was cut off.

"If you two are going to make out during office hours, you should have invited me!"

Duo looked over at Trowa and chuckled. The taller boy looked back at him in relief, but a faint blush colored his cheeks. He released the braided boy's hand.

Quatre smiled and walked over to the two, sitting a steaming coffee cup on Trowa's desk. Wide aquamarine eyes batted at Duo coyly.

"You know, the offer still stands, Duo. Anytime you want to join us your more than welcome."

Now it was the American's turn to blush. They had all been lovers, at one time or another. The hardships of war took its toll on the young boys, and the found comfort where they could get it. In this case, it happened to be with each other. First Quatre, then Trowa, and lastly, Heero. He had given a part of himself to them all and received apart of them in return. They had mostly gone their separate ways once the war ended although, he was happy to discover that Trowa and Quatre had found a lasting relationship with each other. One by one, they had joined the Preventers, Duo being the last. Ever since, the couple had tried to get him in their bed.

"Now, now, Q-man. You know that inter-office relationships are frowned upon by the company. The only way you got away with Trowa is cause you threatened to go zero-system on them."

Quatre smiled brightly, but there was a familiar glint in his eye. "I'm sure I can make them see reason. I did it once didn't I?"

The American chuckled and shook his head hopelessly. Quatre was one persistent little squirt; he'd give him that. It wasn't as though he was adverse to the idea of renewing old flames, but he didn't want to threaten the unity of the relationship between the two. They undoubtedly had something special, and Duo didn't want to ruin that. It was the same with Heero. Their bond of friendship was as strong as Gundanium. But there was no need to test that bond with a physical relationship. Duo chuckled to himself. The only one none of them had been able to coerce into their respective beds was-

"Today, Maxwell!" WuFei stood irritably by the door, jacket in hand.

Duo waved goodbye to the couple and followed the brooding Chinese boy. Nope. No one had managed to sleep with WuFei. The boy was too prudish for his own good. And probably as straight as a Gundanium rod. Duo mused.

Trowa watched the chestnut braid as it retreated down the hallway. He had a bad feeling about this case. He would take Duo's advice and watch over Quatre like a hawk. He only hoped that someone would watch after Duo, who was now going to be in the eye of the maelstrom.

Absently, he brought the cup of coffee to his lips and took a sip. An almost comical expression appeared on the Latin boy's face as he spat the brown liquid everywhere. Muffled giggles were heard from the vicinity of the Arab's desk.

Trowa wiped his chin carefully while glaring at the offending coffee cup.

"Rag coffee." He muttered.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Two

"So, Wu-man, you drivin' or am I?" Duo gestured to the two vehicles in front of them.

WuFei eyed his hunter-green Kawasaki 250 KDX motorcycle thoughtfully; it didn't offer much room for two people. That's not to say he wanted to be in a car with Duo driving either. The Chinese man decided on a compromise.

"Well take yours, but I'm driving." Duo grinned mischievously and tossed him the keys to his black Jeep Wrangler.

"Sure Wu-man." Let's see if he can handle my Shinigami. The American thought with glee.

Sliding into the passenger seat, Duo fastened himself in. Watching him warily, WuFei sat behind the wheel. Turning the key, the dark haired boy grunted irritably.

"It won't start, Maxwell. Your battery must be dead."

Still grinning, Duo reached over and pulled out the ashtray. Nestled inside was a keypad. Punching a few numbers, the American gestured for WuFei to try again. The car started up smoothly.

"Cute." The Chinese boy said dryly. Releasing the emergency brake, he put the jeep in gear...and managed to stop just before they hit the far wall.

"Kisama! What kind of engine is in this thing Maxwell? No normal car hits 60mph in first gear!"

Laughing so hard his sides hurt, Duo turned to his partner. "I had Howard custom make this from what was salvageable from DeathScythe. The body's made of Gundanium and there are some more interesting features I had added in."

"Does Une know of your little upgrade?"

A warning glint flashed in Duo's eye but was gone in a heartbeat. "I saw no reason to inform her, it's a car, not a Gundam. Besides, it's all I have left of DeathScythe."

"Fine." WuFei muttered.

They started again, albeit more carefully this time. WuFei soon became comfortable driving the strange vehicle and Duo nodded approvingly.

"Not even Heero got used to Shinigami this fast."

WuFei said nothing but the braided boy could swear he saw a slight blush tinge the other boy's cheek. Duo smiled predatorily and moved his hand to rest on top of WuFei's. WuFei stuttered and clenched the gearshift tighter.

"You know Wu-chan, this car does have five gears. Maybe you should think about getting out of first."

WuFei hesitantly pressed the clutch and Duo jerked his hand down, then over and up again. The jeep now virtually flew over the highway. Duo released the Chinese boy's hand with a chuckle.

"And to think this is only third gear!" He shouted over the wind to his partner. WuFei, white-faced, had no reply.

---------------------------------------------------------------

They made it to the Tokyo South District Mortuary basically intact, though WuFei's ponytail was noticeably askew. Straightening his Preventer's uniform and giving Duo one last glare, he knocked firmly on the engraved oaken door.

Duo snickered and reached over to yank on WuFei's ponytail, pulling it back into place. The Chinese boy swatted the hand away and was about to give the braided boy the ranting of his life, when the door opened. An icy blue eye peered out of the crack.

"Whaddya want?"

Duo pulled out his Preventer badge and flashed it at the...eye. "We're from the Preventers. Lady Une called you earlier."

The door opened all the way and a gnarled hand gestured for them to enter. Duo blinked, trying to accustom his eyes to the dim interior after being out in the sun. The first thing his eyes focused on was the grisly figure in a lab coat before them. Duo shuddered as the memory of the five scientists flashed through his mind. This guy could pass as Dr. J's brother. Greasy gray hair was combed over the balding dome of the old man's head. A scraggly beard covered most of his face, obscuring everything but those piercing blue eyes.

"Wassamatter? Never seen and old dude before?"

Duo's head jerked up. Did he just say dude? "Gomen nasi sir, I was just thinking."

The old man snorted. "I guess there's a first time for everything. And don't be sputtering out that Japanese crap, use the Queen's English like anyone with just one tongue."

Duo just stood there, gaping like a landed fish. Behind him, he heard WuFei snickering. Not to be outdone, he grinned cheekily.

"Forgive me, Oh Venerable One, but this is the two-hundreds now. We've learned many new skills...especially with our tongues."

WuFei sputtered and reached for a tissue as the old man laughed uproariously. He stuck out his hand to the braided boy in grudging admiration. "A boy after my own heart. The name's Charles Horner. Call me Charlie and I'll hurt you."

Duo took the hand and shook it heartily. "Duo Maxwell. Nice to meet you Charlie, but I've got some body to see."

The old man looked up, suddenly serious. "It's not pretty, lad. A fire was set to Ambassador Seishu's condo. The body was mostly burned before the firemen came to extinguish the flames."

Duo's eyes hardened. "I've seen burned bodies before, Charles. One more isn't going to faze me."

WuFei looked over at Duo in concern. Didn't need to be reminded about his past at a time like this. The Chinese boy stepped up to the old man. "I assure you, we are experienced enough to handle this." He stated smoothly. "Please show us to the body."

Charles looked over at Duo, one eyebrow raised. "Is you friend always this slick?"

Duo laughed. "Only when wet."

WuFei's face burned in embarrassment and he took a threatening step towards the braided boy, but Charles had grabbed his arm. With surprising strength, he dragged the Chinese boy towards a pair of double doors. Still chuckling, Duo followed.

The old man led them through the doors and then through another, smaller door to the side. The side door revealed a series of long winding stairs. Struggling to see his way in the dark, WuFei cursed.

"It's like one of your damn horror movies, Maxwell." Missing a step, he fell backwards with a muffled yelp. Strong arms wrapped around him and held him steady. WuFei felt the sudden warmth behind him vibrate with repressed chuckles.

"Don't worry, Wu-man. I'll save you from all the vampires." Duo's voice lowered and he pressed his lips to the Asian boy's ear. "But who's gonna save you from me?"

The American felt a sharp prick on his neck and hastily pulled away from WuFei's shiny new dagger. Duo had gotten it for him last Christmas. Who'da figure I'd be on the receiving end of it.

"I'll have no trouble protecting myself from you, Maxwell." WuFei awkwardly removed himself from the braided boy's steadying embrace, flushing in embarrassment once again. Duo let his arms drop to his sides and flashed the ebony haired boy a wolfish grin.

"We'll see." His eyes darkened. "Shinigami gets everyone, in the end."

A voice floated up from the darkness. "Are you two gonna spend the day talking on my stairs, or are you gonna get your skinny butts down here so I can get this over with and get some lunch?"

"We're coming." WuFei called out. With one last nervous glance towards Duo, he descended the remaining stairs quickly.

In the darkness, Duo's eyes flashed with hurt, but he stayed silent and followed his friend.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Three

The room they entered was surprisingly well lit in contrast to the dim stairwell. The two Preventer's followed Charles to the far corner of the sterile room, ignoring the various organs floating amongst viscous liquids in unmarked jars. Upon the counter were numerous instruments for God knows what. Looking at a particularly sinister looking pair of tongs, Duo decided he didn't want to know. He hurried to catch up with the Doctor.

"Hey, Charlie. You said the body was burned. Do you mean to say that Seishu was dead before the fire was set?"

Charles stared at the braided boy from the depths of his unkempt beard. The boy was quick. "That's exactly what I meant, sonny."

He turned to the long table beside him and whisked off the white sheet covering the lumpy form underneath. The sickeningly sweet smell of charred flesh permeated the room. Duo involuntarily took a step back.

Charles pointed to the incision in the corpse's chest. Opening it wider he gestured to the lungs. A second incision ran down the right lung and the Doctor pried it open.

"With typical victims of house fires, or any other fires in fact, the heat of the flames is so intense that it sears the lungs as the victim struggles for breath. This chars the throat and lungs from the inside."

"But if the victim was already dead," WuFei picked up the thread quickly. "Then the lungs wouldn't be damaged, because he didn't breath in during the fire."

"Exactly." Charles nodded. "Notice these lungs are still perfectly fine. Not even blackened, which is what would've happened if the Ambassador had breath in even a little of the toxic smoke."

Duo caught the words only vaguely as he stared down at the charred corpse, unable to tear his eyes away. The figure was robed in black...probably killed as he slept. Blistered skin lay withered around scorched eyeballs that seemed to stare straight at him.

"Have you figured out the actual cause of death?" WuFei's voice sounded distorted and far away.

"Not yet. The body just cam in yesterday and I've had my hand's full with the little girl that died in that car crash last week. It's a shame that someone so small..."

Duo registered the Doctor's voice as only a low buzzing in the back of his mind. Indigo eyes were fastened to an object encircling the dead man's throat. Lying there, twinkling mockingly in the florescent light was a small silver cross, apparently undamaged by the fire.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name..."

A charred and broken corpse lying amongst the rubble...

"Maxwell..."

A kind faced woman, body bloodied and torn, eyes staring sightlessly up at the heavens...

"Maxwell..."

Hundreds of bodies surrounding him...Harsh gasps echoing into the heavy, smoke-ridden air...

"Maxwell!"

Duo jerked his gaze away from the cross to meet the worried sloe eyes of his partner. His voice came in ragged pants and he backed up slowly, accidentally overturning a tray full of utensils. He jumped slightly, as they clattered to the tile floor, eyes darting around wildly.

"Maxwell, are you alright?" Strong hand held him in a vice-like grip. "Duo?"

The braided boy shook himself and took a deep, shuddering breath. "A-Aa...WuFei. Daijobu." The Chinese pilot stared at him a moment longer, then released him.

Duo cleared his throat in embarrassment and stared at a spot on the floor. He hated being proven wrong. Clearing his throat again, he spoke up.

"As soon as you find anything else out, give me a call." Duo gave the man a card with his cell phone number. Charles nodded and slipped it into the pocket of his lab coat.

"I'll see you guys to the door then."

Duo said nothing and allowed the old man to guide them back up the stairs. He kept his eyes lowered, avoiding the piercing gaze WuFei seemed to fasten on him.

Basked once more in the welcoming sunshine, the braided boy unconsciously took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh air untainted by the smell of smoke and burnt flesh. Birds flew gracefully overhead as squirrels scampered across the grass. All was right in the world. Duo snorted. Keep thinking that, Maxwell, and maybe one day you'll believe it. He couldn't help but think that this whole peace idea was nothing but an illusion, a shiny red peel surrounding a rotten, maggot-filled apple.

He was interrupted from his musings by a warm hand resting on his shoulder. Looking up, his gaze was caught by dark, ebony eyes.

"Are you really okay?"

Duo smiled absently, eyes staring of into the distance. "The cross was unexpected."

"You can't expect that only the people from Maxwell Church believed in Christianity."

"Aa...I know, Wu-man. I just-" The braided boy sighed and lowered his head.

Calloused fingers reached over and tilted his chin upward. Dark eyes shone with understanding that was unexpected coming from WuFei. The American was sure he would be called weak and unprofessional, but he was surprised. Lightly muscled arms wrapped hesitantly around the thin boy's shoulders. Duo though he was dreaming...WuFei was hugging him!

"Come on, Maxwell." WuFei said, pulling away. "I'll buy you lunch."

Duo grinned, good humor restored. "How about an ice cream?"

"Alright, but you're driving this time. I am not stepping a foot behind that wheel unless absolutely necessary."

Violet eyes sparkled. "Deal."

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Duo trudged tiredly towards his door. He couldn't decide which weighed more, his feet or his eyelids. His breath clouded faintly in the cool night air and he shivered. Spring was still weeks away.

After a surprisingly enjoyable lunch, he and WuFei had gone down to the Precinct to talk to the chief of police. A more unhelpful bastard Duo had never met. All they got out of the guy was the names of all six victims. He had stated that the causes of death were still under investigation. Duo didn't buy it, but there wasn't anything they could do about it without the permission of Une's superiors. The braided boy believed it was going to be a cold day in Hell for them to be allowed that jurisdiction.

They had returned to the office, empty-handed. Une told them not to worry; this was only their first day on the case. If it could be solved in one day, then she wouldn't of had to send out two of her best investigators. The rest of the day was spent amidst meaningless paperwork. Duo was thankful when eight o'clock rolled around. Twelve-hour workdays were ridiculous.

Numb fingers fumbled with his keys as he slumped against his doorframe in relief. He was going to take a long, hot shower and then go straight to bed. No more late night outings for him.

His key was poised to unlock his apartment when he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Duo's eyes narrowed as he reached into his shoulder holster and pulled out his gun. The door swung open on loose hinges and he entered cautiously.

The room was dark, but Duo's eyes were sharp. Noticing nothing out of place, he reached over and flipped on the lights. His eyes widened. He quickly patrolled the rest of the apartment and decided that the intruder had left. Picking up his cell phone, he quickly dialed WuFei.

"Chang here."

"WuFei, I think you should come over, now."

Hearing the odd note in the American's voice, WuFei grew concerned. "What is it?"

"Someone broke into my apartment and left me a note."

"Is that all?" WuFei sounded irritated.

"It's written in blood." Duo's voice shook slightly.

"Stay there, I'll be right over. Chang out."

Duo stared at his once-white wall in morbid fascination. It was now covered in hastily scrawled letters in the dark brown of dried blood. Little rivers of the stuff had tracked their way down the wall, giving the words an even more sinister appearance. The words pounded into his head as he stared at them, taunting him.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE HUNT?

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Part Four

Duo stepped into the kitchen to get away from the disturbing writing. He desperately needed some coffee about now. WuFei lived all the way on the other side of the city, so it would take awhile for the Chinese boy to arrive. Nervously laying his gun upon the counter, he went about brewing some coffee. As late as it was, undoubtedly WuFei would appreciate it.

Suddenly, he felt the hair on the back of his neck rise. Snatching up his pistol, he whirled around. His gun was pointed at thin air. Laughing uneasily, he poured himself a cup of the harsh black liquid and to a seat by his rickety three legged table. He sat there, elbows on the table, and his gun beside him, as he stared into he coffee, wearily pinching the bridge of his nose.

That act saved his life.

As he stared at his distorted reflection in the murky black liquid, he saw a dark shadow slip up behind him. He threw himself to the side just as a large metal baseball base came barreling down. The blow that should have crushed his skull merely glanced off him, knocking him to the ground, stunned.

The bat came across on a vicious back swing, slamming into the braided boy and sending him skidding across the floor, further away from his gun. Dazed, Duo tried to focus on the dark form of his attacker. Dark clothes and a five o'clock shadow was all the American could discern.

The intruder picked Duo up by his color and slammed him against the wall. Meaty hands enclosed around his throat and began to squeeze. Duo began to see stars as the world darkened around him. He could smell his attacker's fetid, alcohol soaked breath.

Growling, Duo raised his fist and flung it out blindly, using all of his failing strength. He felt the blow connect and the hands that held him loosened. Kicking out, Duo's foot made contact with the man's gut, driving him away. Coughing, the American fell to the ground.

With a howl of rage, the attacker took up the baseball bat and lunged at the prone boy. Duo closed his eyes and braced himself for the blow that would likely kill him. He felt a whoosh of air, then the sound of the metal bat hitting the tiled floor.

Opening his eyes, his saw his savior. WuFei had the intruder on his knees and in a headlock. The Chinese boy looked ready to break the man's neck, but stopped when he saw Duo rise unsteadily to his feet. Instead, his hand shot out and struck the man across the neck, instantly rendering him unconscious.

Seeing Duo sway dizzily, the ebony haired boy rushed to assist him. Taking one thin arm, he carefully slung it over his shoulders. Guiding the boy back over to the table, he carefully righted the upended chair and sat his burden down on it.

"Duo, Daijobu? Are you alright?" He knelt down next to the American.

"Hai, Wu-chan. I'm fine." Violet eyes closed tightly, trying to bring the world back into focus.

"It doesn't look like it." A slender hand slid up to touch the American's brow, and came away stained with blood.

"Yeah, well. A baseball bat'll do that to you. We better call this in." Trembling hands reached inside his jacket for his cell phone. Duo began to laugh.

"What is it?" For the first time, Duo noticed those sloe-eyes were clouded with undisguised worry.

He removed his hand from his jacket, taking with it the broken remains of his cellular phone. Regarding it with bemusement he absently rubbed his bruised ribs.

"I think we'll hafta use your phone to call Une."

With a grunt, WuFei pulled out his own phone and dialed up Une's office. He knew she always worked late Monday nights. Barking a few short, clipped orders, he hung up and returned his attention to his injured partner.

"How bad are you really hurt?"

Duo winced and took a mental survey of his injuries. "Bruised trachea, possible cracked ribs, none broken though. Laceration to cranium over left eyebrow, Concussion possible, but not likely." He delivered this all in his best Heero Yuy voice, perfectly straight faced besides the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

WuFei snorted and stood. "So where's this letter you were so worked up about?"

Duo gestured to the adjoining room, frowning darkly, the Chinese boy went to investigate. He came back quickly, dark eyes troubled.

"This is serious."

Duo rolled his eyes. "No duh." WuFei ignored him and knelt down beside the crumpled figure of the intruder. "Do you think he could have done it?"

Duo shook his head carefully. "Unlikely, unless he did it, and then came back. That blood is hours old and there was no one in the apartment when I came in."

"You could have missed him." WuFei pointed out.

Duo glared at him. "I missed nothing. There wasn't a square inch of this place I didn't cover. I don't slack when it comes to my life."

"My apologies."

An awkward silence filled the room until the backup arrived. Une barreled through the door, with Trowa and Quatre close behind. She must have called them up, Duo thought, because they were wearing hastily donned civilian clothes.

"What happened? Are you all right? Where is the assailant?" Une fired the questions rapidly.

"A bat to the head. Yes. And over there." Duo pointed.

Issuing orders left and right, Une had the man dragged away for questioning. She turned to Duo, who was now fending off the tender ministrations of both Quatre and Trowa.

"Is that all?" She asked, her voice noticeably softer.

Duo winced as Quatre dabbed at the cut over his eyes. His eyes wearily sought WuFei's, silently telling him that he was too exhausted to deal with this. Clearing his throat, WuFei gesture for Une to follow him into the living room. Trowa followed them, a silent shadow.

"Oh, Duo. Are you okay?" Quatre held a white cloth to the American's bloody temple. His aquamarine eyes shined with worry.

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Duo groaned.

"Cause we're worried about you, baka. Une had to basically order Heero to not leave his post at the Vice Minister's mansion."

Duo chuckled, wishing he could have heard that conversation. He looked up as Trowa stalked through the door, his expression stormy.

"You're not staying here tonight." He commanded.

Quatre looked up in confusion and Duo just stared at him, eyes dull. "What do you mean? Trowa?" The Arab asked. "What's in there?"

Trowa was silent and the blond rose to investigate for himself, but his lover stopped him.

"Don't." He pleaded.

Quatre looked up at him helplessly, but those green eyes did not waver. "You will tell me later." His tone brooked no argument. Trowa nodded.

"So," Duo spoke up finally. "If I can't stay in my own apartment, where do I go?"

Quatre immediately opened his mouth to extend an invitation, but a low voice cut him off.

"Maxwell will be staying with me."

Everyone turned to watch as WuFei reentered the kitchen, Une trailing behind. Trowa stared at him, his one visible green eye expressionless. Quatre started to protest and then closed his mouth, deciding against it.

Duo rose shakily to his feet. "I'll got get my stuff."

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The American laid his head wearily against the door of the jeep. He hadn't objected when WuFei demanded to drive. In the back lay one shabby suitcase containing a few changes of clothes and other meager collections. Duo tiredly reached up and loosened the tie of his Preventer's uniform. He hadn't even gotten to change.

"Look at it this way, Maxwell. At least Une gave you tomorrow off."

"You mean today." Duo muttered, gesturing to the digital clock on the dash. It was indeed late, or rather, early.

Thanks to Shinigami, they reached WuFei's apartment in record time. Stepping into the Chinese boy's Spartan dwelling, Duo realized he had never really been inside of WuFei's home. It was immaculate, of course, and had an elegance to it that was enhanced by its simplicity. Duo was too tired to register much more then that, though.

WuFei seemed to sense this and ushered the American towards his small bedroom. A queen-sized bed took up much of the space and heavy curtains covered the windows, muting any light that tried to peek through. Duo paused in the doorway.

"Where are you gonna sleep, Wu-man." He felt a shove and nearly fell into the soft mattress. Behind him, the Chinese boy snorted.

"Where do you think, Maxell? The couch."

"Oh." With the last of his strength, Duo managed to pull the covers about him. Eyelids suddenly too heavy slid closed as his snuggled into the fragrant pillows beneath him. They smelled like WuFei.

"G'night, Wuffy."

"Goodnight, Maxwell."

Duo was asleep before the door silently closed.

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Part Five

The braided pilot woke up with the worst headache of his life. Little rays of sunlight shone cheerfully through the crack of the curtains and right into his tightly closed eyes. Groaning, Duo attempted to fling his arm up to shield his eyes from the offending light, but was halted halfway. Blearily looking down, he groaned again and untangled his arm from his tie.

Yawning, Duo stretched his cramped muscles. His foot his something solid that fell off the bed with a soft thump. Peering over the side, he realized it was only his suitcase.

"I must have been really out of it last night."

The clock read 2:47pm. WuFei had been at work for over six hours. Duo slid out of bed resolutely and stumbled over towards the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, he winced.

A dark purple bruise had blossomed over his left temple, only half covered by the bloodstained bandage above his eye. He could see bruised covering his neck, partially hidden by his Preventer's jacket. Duo shook his head in distain. He hadn't even taken off his jacket before passing out like a drunkard on WuFei's bed.

Sighing, Duo undressed. He winced at the ugly bruise that colored his side. Sally had told him he was lucky that no ribs were broken. The gash on his head had required sutures and she was concerned about his throat, but otherwise sent him home with a clean bill of health.

Or to WuFei's, home, rather. Duo felt himself blushing at the thought of using WuFei's shower. As he turned on the water, he muttered to himself.

"What's a matter with me? I must've got hit harder than I thought." His shook his head irritably but immediately regretted it when the throbbing headache came back with a vengeance. "Whoa, bad idea."

Peering into the Chinese boy's medicine cabinet, he thankfully found a bottle of aspirin. Downing two of them, he hastily finished undressing and slipped under the deliciously scalding water.

Unbraiding his hair, Duo cautiously washed the chestnut tresses, mindful of the cut on his forehead. Reaching over, he picked up a bottle of WuFei's shampoo. Opening it, he inhaled the rich herbal scent. He poured a generous amount into his hand and began massaging it into his scalp.

The scent of WuFei surrounded him, embraced him. Unconsciously, Duo felt his hands trail down his neck and move slowly down his well, muscled chest. Sudsy fingers trailed down his sides, caressing his flat stomach. With a groan, Duo's hand snaked out to clasp his now aching erection.

Finding an accommodating rhythm, the violet-eyed boy braced himself with once hand against the shower wall, as the water coursed over him. Full lips opened to let out moist, panting breaths at his motions quickened, the image of dark, passion-filled eyes burning into him mind. In his fantasy, it was WuFei that was caressing him.

Duo felt the pressure build to a deliciously aching level. His arm could barely hold him up as his soapy hand virtually flew over his rigid shaft. Groaning, he arched himself further into his calloused palm. Stars flashed through his vision as he held his breath, feeling his climax near. Duo's ears were ringing with the force of it.

The ringing continued and Duo let out a violent curse. Jumping out of the shower so quickly he nearly slipped, he rushed towards the vid-phone, a small towel wrapped hastily around his waste.

"Hello?" His voice sounded unusually husky to his own ears, he hoped he could just pass it off as a result of his injured throat.

"Maxwell?" Wide sloe eyes appeared on the screen. The Chinese boy blushed furiously and looked at a point above Duo's shoulder. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were indisposed.

Duo had to fight off a blush of his own. "No problem, Wu-chan. What do ya need?"

"I just called to tell you that the man who accosted you last night was nothing but a common burglar."

Indigo eyes widened. "Are you sure?"

"Positive. The man when through a vigorous round of questioning." Dark eyes glinted. "And we even decided to use truth serum. Evidently, word on the streets had it that your house was an easy target and the man was just drunk enough to try it. It was nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence."

"Damn." Duo's eyes closed tiredly. "What about the writing on the wall? Can we at least get a handwriting match?"

"Impossible." WuFei sighed. "The message was written in all capitals. We wouldn't be able to distinguish the writing from the average second grader."

"Blood match?"

"Not until a body shows up."

Duo leaned back on the bed with a sigh. "So we're back where we started."

Silence greeted the American's comment and Duo twisted around to look at WuFei's image. Coal dark eyes were staring at him with an indiscernible expression. Belatedly, Duo realized he was only cover by a towel and the Chinese boy was probably getting more of a view than he ever wanted. Blushing, he sat back up.

"Sorry."

WuFei coughed and looked away. "I-um...talked Une into letting me off at five tonight. So...uh...do you want me took pick up something for dinner?"

Duo smiled. "Some Chinese would be nice."

"Acknowledged. Chang out."

Duo stared at the blank screen for a long time, before deciding that he had better get dressed. He was dripping all over WuFei's bed. Rummaging through his battered suitcase, he produced a comfortable pair of dark-gray drawstring pants and a black cotton muscle shirt. He quickly slipped these on and draped the towel across his shoulder.

He looked at the digital clock sitting on the dresser. It was almost four o'clock. Duo took his first real look at his partner's dwelling. WuFei's apartment was noticeably bigger than Duo's but more simply furnished. Where the American crammed every free inch with mismatched furniture, WuFei had only a few, elegant pieces that were obviously a matched set. A black leather recliner hid snugly in the corner of the den, a small white-marble stand sitting beside it.

A black mahogany desk took up the other end of the den, covered in paperwork and neatly organized files. Duo stepped softly over to where WuFei obviously spent most of his time. The wooden chair slid back on well-oiled wheels and the chestnut haired boy lowered himself gently in it.

Hands roamed lovingly over the engraved surface of the desk, trailing over the sleek black laptop. Out of curiosity, Duo peaked into the drawers. He found the normal office supplies, all meticulously kept. As Duo snooped through the bottom draw, something caught his eye. Removing is carefully, his eyes widened.

It was a picture taken of the group when Duo finally joined the Preventers. Sally and Une threw a big party and demanded that the five of them squeeze together for a picture. They were all dressed in their uniforms and everyone was sitting on the stools by the bar, except for WuFei, who's foot rested on a smaller stool. Duo sat wedged between Heero and the ebony-haired boy, smiling happily up at the camera. WuFei had cut the picture so that only he and Duo were in it, with only a small portion of Heero's shoulder and head visible. Duo examined the picture thoughtfully.

Does this mean what I think it does? Duo caressed the face hiding under the glass. Slowly, he placed the picture back in the draw, shutting it softly. He sat there for a long time, wondering.

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Part Six

Duo was brushing out his hair when the doorknob to the apartment turned. He dropped the hairbrush, tensing. Getting a good look at the intruder, he chuckled and rushed to help a heavily burdened WuFei.

"Wow, Wu-man! You think you bought enough food?" He quickly stacked the paper boxes on the kitchen table.

"I remembered your appetite." WuFei growled, blushing slightly. "Besides, you didn't tell me what you wanted so I got a variety."

Already seated, Duo grinned up at the Chinese boy. "Thanks."

WuFei took his seat across from the braided boy, and began serving out portions of their hastily planned dinner. Suddenly remembering, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a cell phone. He handed it to Duo.

"To replace the one you broke. It has your old number and you can speed dial any of the four of us."

"The one I broke..." Duo muttered around his ramen. Nevertheless, violet eyes looked deep into obsidian ones. "Arigato." Geez, is that all I can say?

The remainder of the meal was continued in silence, both boys lost in their own thoughts. Finally, both started talking, unfortunately both at ones. After a couple of false starts and a great deal of amounts of nervous laughter, Duo finally spoke up.

"I'm really glad you let me crash here, Wu-man. Quatre would have not even let me out of bed. He can be such a mother hen at times."

"It was the honorable thing to do."

Duo shook his head. "It was a nice thing to do. I really appreciate it."

WuFei stared at the American for a long moment, eyes unreadable.

"Um, Duo?"

"Yes?" The braided pilot leaned forward, gazing at the Chinese boy with half-lidded eyes.

"You have some sauce on your mouth."

"Nani?" Duo's eyes went comically wide as he blushed and wiped furiously at his face with the back of his hand.

"Did I get it?"

"No, it's more in the corner."

Duo's tongue darted out, trying to find the stray bit of sauce. "Now?"

"The other corner. Here," WuFei leaned forward. "Let me get it."

Duo's eyes closed as he felt a lightly calloused thumb gently caress his lips. The thumb changed into a hand that softly cupped his face. Duo opened his eyes to gaze into the dark ones so close to his own.

"Duo."

The braided pilot inched closer till their noses were almost touching. "What? More sauce?"

WuFei smiled. "No. I think I got it all." The smile disappeared as a hint of nervousness entered his eyes. "Duo, I-"

The phone rang.

Scooting his chair back so quickly it almost toppled over, WuFei growled and walked over to the vid-phone. Duo heard the Chinese boy talking to someone and cursed under his breath. They were so close!

"Maxwell, phone!"

Still cursing, Duo made his way over to the study. So, it was back to Maxwell now, huh? He passed by WuFei, who muttered something about cleaning off the table and groaned. It's not likely that they would continue where they left off then. Glumly, the American plopped down on the chair.

"Duo here."

A pair of cobalt eyes stared back at him silently.

"Heero? Is something wrong?"

"Duo..." Cold blue eyes narrowed upon seeing the dark bruises on his neck and face.

Interpreting the look, Duo smiled reassuringly. "I'm fine, man. How is Relena?"

"Hn. There have been no breaches in security as of yet."

Duo sat back in relief. "That's good to hear."

"Duo."

The violet-eyed boy peered through his mass of still unbraided hair and cocked a delicate eyebrow questioningly. "Heero?"

"If...if anything else happens, call me."

"Heero, you've got more things to worry about than the trouble I get myself into. You have to protect the Vice Minister."

Heero stared at him. "You will call me." Prussian eyes came as close as they ever would to pleading, which wasn't very far at all.

"Alright, alright! I swear, who needs parents with all of you playing Nursemaid all the time?"

"Hn, baka. Yuy out." The screen went blank.

Duo rubbed his eyes tiredly. He felt as though a train had ran him over. Tilting the recliner back, he promised himself he would just rest his eyes for a minute.

He woke up feeling strong arms carrying him towards the bedroom. A quick glance at the window told him that it was dark outside. He looked up blearily at the stern face above him.

"Ne, Wu-man, you should of just woke me up."

That stern visage softened momentarily. "And hear you complain? Besides, you need your rest. You have to be back at work tomorrow."

Duo groaned and tried to nuzzle deeper into WuFei's shoulder. "Don't remind me."

"There is still a killer on the loose. We don't have time to relax."

He plopped the American down on the bed. Pulling the covers over himself, Duo closed his eyes in exhaustion.

"We'll get him, WuFei. Shinigami gets everyone."

"Oyasuminasai, Duo."

"Goodnight, WuFei. And thanks for everything."

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Part Seven

Duo arrived at work the next morning to greet the usual fanfare of cooing and hovering. After assuring everyone that he was indeed fine and more than able to go back to work, he skillfully pried himself away from the horde and into the dubious safety of the break room. Closing the door swiftly, he leaned against it in exhaustion. This was going to be a long day.

"Ohayo, Duo."

Duo whirled around to meat the amused yet concerned face of Quatre. The blonde looked at him carefully from above his coffee cup. Scratching his head ruefully, the braided boy made his way over to the Arab's table.

"Ohayo Q-man!" Duo plopped down in the seat across from him, then instantly regretted it. He winced in pain.

"Duo? Daijobu?" Quatre's concerned aquamarine eyes filled his vision. Duo waved him away.

"I'm fine, just a little sore."

"Do you want some coffee? Une tasted your concoction the other day and demanded that we buy a whole crate of filters."

Duo chuckled. "Aa. That sounds good, Q-man."

The braided ex-pilot leaned back and let Quatre fuss over him like a mother hen. Gingerly sipping his coffee, he allowed himself to relax. He let the blonde's soft voice filter through his ears like a waterfall. Slowly, his eyes began to droop.

Quatre smiled at his slumbering friend and shook his head. Rummaging through the closet, he pulled out a ratty old blanket. Silently, he moved Duo's coffee cup so it wouldn't spill and placed the blanket over the braided boy's shoulders. Taking one last look at the sleeping form, he gently kissed the American's forehead and slipped out the door.

---------------------------------------------------------------

It was a few hours later when Duo blearily opened his eyes only to meet piercing Prussian orbs just inches from his face. Startled, his chair flipped backwards.

"Whah!"

Strong arms shot out and steadied him. Duo leaned into them a moment, gasping and very much awake. Then, with a growl, he shoved himself away.

"Jesus, Yuy! What are you trying to do, kill me?" Violet eyes glared at his old partner, who stood there impassively.

"If, I were trying to kill you, you would be dead. I was just examining that head wound."

Duo forced himself to calm down. "Well next time, ask first! Okay?"

"I would have, but you were asleep."

Duo looked up at him. "I was?"

Heero nodded and pointed to the blanket that had slipped to the floor. "You've been asleep for about four hours. Quatre threatened bodily harm to anyone who came in here and woke you up." Heero didn't seem particularly threatened by that little detail.

"Quatre..." Duo muttered, going to the sink and taking a drink from the faucet. "It must be these pain pills Sally insisted I take."

He reached into his pant's pocket and pulled out the little orange pill bottle. The label read: Take two capsules every six hours. Glaring at it, he opened it up and moved to pour them down the drain.

"You probably shouldn't do that." Heero stated from behind him. "If Sally Po thought you needed them, you probably do."

Duo scowled. "But what good am I if I'm falling asleep ever time I turn around? No...I can deal without them." He resolutely emptied the bottle into the sink, rinsing the little white pills down the drain with water. He sat the empty bottle on the counter and turned towards the Japanese boy.

"What are you doing here anyway? You're supposed to be in the Sank Kingdom."

"I had to check on a couple of things."

Duo looked over at him dubiously. Heero met his stare, face impassive. Shaking his head, the braided boy stepped around him and opened the break room door.

"The murderer is still on the loose. You should head back to Sank as soon as possible."

Duo left his dark haired ex-lover standing in the middle of the break room, dark blue eyes glaring at the seemingly innocent orange bottle.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Duo stalked into the office irritably, glancing around for Quatre. Glancing down at the Arab's desk he spied a card reading: Out to Lunch. Peering over at Trowa's desk, he found a similar note. Growling about well meaning busybodies, he made his way over to his own cubicle. Sitting down gingerly in his chair, he looked over at the empty desk of his partner. No note. Where-?

"He went to investigate a body found this morning by the Tokyo authorities."

Duo mumbled something intelligible at the Japanese boy and logged onto his computer. Typing in his password, he waited for his desktop to appear. His eyes widened.

"Heero?"

"What is it?"

"Do you think it's possible for someone to hack into the Preventer's computer system?"

The Japanese boy walked over to him, eyebrows furrowed. "Impossible. I designed this system...myself."

Heero peered over Duo's shoulder in disbelief. On the computer, Instead of the Preventers' desktop, was the black dos screen. Trailing down the screen swiftly in small white letters was a message of some sort.

DriveC: comfrey comfrey Comfrey cOmfrey coMfrey comfrEy comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comFrey cOmfrey comfRey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey coMfrey comfrEy comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey comfrey...

And on and on down the screen the word sped. The Japanese ex-pilot looked down at Duo questioningly, but the braided boy's eyes never left the screen. Looking closely at the American's suddenly pale face, Heero noticed his lips moving faintly.

Come for me...

"What is it?"

Duo finally tore his gaze from the screen. He looked up at Heero with wide violet eyes. "It says: COME FOR ME. The capital letters...Heero, who could be doing this?"

The Japanese pilot opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by another's voice.

"It is our job to find out."

WuFei stood at the door, arms crossed. "They've identified the body. The blood matches the blood on your apartment wall. The cause of death was obvious. The victim was decapitated."

"Let me guess." Duo whispered. "His name was Comfrey."

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Part Eight

"How did you know?" WuFei asked, surprise showing on his Asian features.

Duo wordlessly turned the monitor to face him. WuFei's eyes widened, and then narrowed. The Chinese boy clenched his jaw in determination. "Come on. We're heading to the morgue."

The braided boy nodded and rose from his seat. Heero watched him, eyes dark. Duo reached for his jacket but the Japanese boy beat him to it. Duo allowed Heero to slip the jacket on him.

"Will you be here when I get back?"

Heero nodded. "I'm going to plug into the system and see if I can trace down the hacker. It will probably take all night."

"No."

Heero turned to face WuFei, his expression guarded. "What?"

"William H. Comfrey was a supporter of Relena Peacecraft. He lived on L3 but came to Earth per Relena's request. He was only here for the week to give a speech about Colony peace acts then he was to meet the Vice Minister at Sank. Relena may very well be the next target."

Heero glanced at Duo, his face clouded with indecision. Duo sighed and gripped the Japanese boy's arm.

"You better go. You're needed elsewhere. I know enough computer claptrap to get a good lead on the hacker. I'll send the results to your laptop in Sank."

Heero nodded and watched as the two left the office. One hand was shoved into his pocket, holding Duo's empty pill bottle in a white-knuckled grip.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Duo glanced over at WuFei worriedly. The Chinese boy hadn't said a word since they left. He contemplated turning on the radio, but decided against it. Sighing, he concentrated on the road as it zipped by beneath Shinigami's tires.

Duo was driving this time, more because WuFei hadn't complained then the actual wanting to. The American wrinkled his nose as he caught a strange smell wafting through the Jeep. He was going to have to take it to be cleaned. Clearing his throat, he finally spoke up.

"Umm...Wu? Is something wrong? You seem angry."

The Chinese pilot stared at him for a moment, coal eyes dark and smoldering.

"I don't like...I don't like the thought that someone could hack into the Preventers' mainframe so easily."

Duo didn't think this was the real reason, but he was content to let it drop. "Why are we going to the morgue?"

"Dr. Horner should have found a cause of death for Ambassador Seishu by now."

Duo glanced at him, keeping one eye on the road. "You think Charlie's got something?"

"I know he has."

They drove the rest of the way in silence.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Duo hopped out of the Jeep; eager to hear what news Charles had to offer. Ignoring WuFei, he rushed over to knock on the door. They waited in silence.

And waited...

"Maybe he stepped out." WuFei suggested as Duo continued to pound on the door.

"When was Comfrey's body supposed to be delivered?" The American asked in frustration.

"Right after I left the scene at about...two-thirty."

"It's only a little before four now. He has to be here." Duo gave up being polite and opened the door. He stood hesitantly in the dark corridor.

"Charles? Hey Charlie, you there?"

No answer.

"Maybe he's downstairs..." WuFei trailed off, gripping his gun nervously. Duo also drew his gun and together they made their way down the dark stairwell. They entered the workroom cautiously.

"Charles?"

As Duo made his way into the room, he noticed the place looked ransacked. Trays littered the floor, their contents scattered everywhere. Gurneys were overturned, rolling the bodies out onto the floor. And lying amongst those bodies...

"Oh, God! Charlie..."

Duo sidestepped the cooling puddle of blood to kneel down beside the doctor. Charles starred sightlessly up at the ceiling, blue eyes wide with horror. One fist was flung away from him; the other hand gripped the pair of forceps imbedded into his chest. Duo gently closed the old man's eyes and just knelt there, head bowed.

"I'll call the authorities." WuFei stated quietly.

Duo nodded and looked sorrowfully down at the body. His eyes caught a flash of white in the doctor's hand and reached over to gently pry it open. Nestled in the old man's gnarled hand was Duo's card, crumpled and bloody. Picking it up, Duo silently put it in his pocket. He glanced over to see WuFei staring at him.

"I've got a couple of things to take care of. You stay here until the cops arrive."

WuFei opened his mouth to protest but stopped when he caught the familiar glint in Duo's eyes. Shinigami was out on the hunt. He nodded.

"Fine. Meet me at the office later."

"Yeah..." Duo took one last look around the room, his face hardening. He left without another word.

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Part Nine

The black Jeep squealed to a halt outside of Duo's apartment. The braided boy jumped out grimly, surveying the yellow police tape with a critical eye. With a sigh, he brushed it aside and unlocked the door.

Violet eyes stared at the mess in despair. The police had nearly tore the place apart looking for clues. He bent down and righted his coat rack. With a heavy heart, he removed his jacket and hung it up.

"I'm home." He whispered.

Slowly, he made his way into the living room, determined to ignore the bloody writing on the wall. It took some searching, but he finally found his answering machine, its little red light blinking angrily. Putting the cushions back on his worn out couch, he sat down, placing the answering machine on the mangled coffee table in front of him.

Duo stared at it for a long moment, willing it to have something, some piece of vital information. Taking a deep breath, he pressed the button.

"This is Duo Maxwell. I'm not here right now cause I'm out kicking bad guy ass. Leave a message and I'll get back to you." Duo smiled.

"Hello Duo, this is Charles Horner, we met the other day. I tried you cell phone number, but I couldn't get through to you, so I was hoping to catch you at home. I have discovered the cause of death for Seishu. The Ambassador had enormous amounts of Microbial toxins in his system. His liver was completely destroyed and his esophagus was burnt raw by stomach acids. This led me to believe that Seishu was poisoned."

Duo leaned forward. This was not what he expected.

"Poisons produced by fungi such as molds and mushrooms are called mycotoxins. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic poisons known. After quite a bit a research, I found the toxin to be the Deadly Amanita. It has no distinct taste or smell, and the toxins cannot be destroyed by cooking or drying. Its poison, phallin, dissolves the blood corpuscles. Just a small piece of the mushroom Amanita phalloides or Destroying Angel is sufficient to cause death, because it has no specific antidote."

Duo wearily rubbed his eyes. This was bad news for sure, and made a potentially serious case even more dangerous.

"There are two problems with this discovery. One is that, even with the median lethal dose of 0.1 mg to 0.3 mg of the toxin per kg of body weight, it still takes days to work its way through the system. Death from Amanita phalloides poisoning usually results from hepatic and/or renal failure and occurs 4-9 days after ingestion. This man died in two hours. Which leads me to believe that, not only did Seishu receive a direct injection of the toxin, but also this form of Amanita was mutated to be even more deadly."

"Great." Duo huffed. "Did you have any good news Doc?"

"The second problem is even more bizarre. You see; the Destroying Angel has been extinct on earth for almost two hundred years. It doesn't exist."

Duo's eyes widened. "Wha-?"

"My only explanation is that the Deadly Amanita was taken up to the colonies as part of the terra-forming project when the colonies were first created. I regret that I don't know anything more than that."

"That's okay, Charlie." Duo whispered to the small black machine. "You've earned your rest."

"I have my suspicions about the body they found this morning. As soon as they bring it over, I will test it for traces of Mycotoxins. I'll call you when I find something out."

Duo hung his head.

"Be careful, lad. Who's ever up to these murders is crafty indeed. You'll need to be on your toes to catch him."

The message ended and with a click, the machine began to rewind. Duo stopped it and gently removed the tape. He always knew there was a reason why he kept such and old model. Slipping the tape in his pocket, him laid back for a moment, deep in thought.

He jerked his head up as a loud crash echoed through the apartment. It had come from the kitchen. Slipping his gun out of its holster, Duo ran towards the sound. His skidded to a halt at the entrance to the kitchen, eyes wide.

A figure stood in the back doorway, wearing a ski mask. A can of gasoline lay on the floor, emptying its contents onto the tiles below.

"Oh that's original." Duo said sarcastically.

The dark figure chuckled and lit a shiny silver Zippo. Duo's eye widened as it was tossed to the floor. Belatedly, the braided boy fired his pistol in quick succession. He cursed as the figure disappeared into the darkness and moved to follow him. But just then the gasoline caught, shooting flames up between him and the doorway.

"Shit."

Duo looked frantically around for something to put the fire out, but halted as he caught whiff of a familiar odor. He stared fearfully at the stove, a soft hissing sound telling him he was right.

"Shit!"

Not wasting another minute, the American ran out of the kitchen, flames licking at his heels. With a grunt, he flung himself through the glass picture window, just as the house exploded.

Duo landed hard onto the damp grass, slivers of glass falling around him like a deadly rain. Panting, he tried to rise, only to fall back down again as a searing pain shot up his right leg. Wincing, he jerked a large shard of glass out of his thigh. Pressing his hand against it to slow the bleeding, his free hand grabbed his phone and dialed Trowa, who lived only a few minutes away.

He cursed feebly when no one answered. Violet eyes watched helplessly as the only place he called home since Maxwell Church went up in flames. Laying his forehead against the wet grass, he struggled to breathe against the sudden pain in his chest.

A low roaring of a motorcycle was heard, heading this way. The engine stopped and Duo tried to raise his head, but didn't have the energy. Warm arms suddenly wrapped around him, and seemed to tremble slightly. The braided boy looked up into worried obsidian orbs.

"Duo! Are you all right? What happened?"

"It was him, WuFei. I know it! It was the guy we're after." Duo sat up suddenly. "The neighbors! We gotta get them out-"

"Shhh..." WuFei said. "Your neighbors were temporarily relocated the day of the break in. Their houses are empty. Duo slumped backwards in relief.

The sound of fire engines filled the air and WuFei helped the American to rise. "I know you don't feel like dealing with reporters right now." He picked up Duo and sat him in the passenger seat of Shinigami. He walked his Kawasaki over to the black jeep and, with a heave, set it in the back. He made sure it was secure, then walked around to slip into the driver's seat.

"Let's go home." The Chinese boy said.

Duo said nothing. He merely stared at the rearview mirror, watching as his home burnt to the ground.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Ten

WuFei carefully carried the American into the house, mindful of his leg. He sat his precious burden on the kitchen table and when in search of the first aid kit. Returning with the white box in hand, he paused, noting the braided boy's slumped shoulders and the dark circles ringing his violet eyes, making them appear even larger than normal.

Duo shivered slightly and WuFei frowned. Walking over to him, he carefully put his hand over one thin shoulder. Duo looked up at him dully.

"You know you are welcome to stay here for as long as you wish. I would be honored if you called this place your home."

The braided boy smiled wanly. "Thanks, Wu."

WuFei cleared his throat. "Well...Let's get you at of these wet clothes and bandaged up, huh?"

The Chinese boy carefully pealed off Duo's dress-shirt, wincing at the yellowish bruises on his chest, only half healed. Taking a warm washcloth, he gently scrubbed the braided boy's torso, making sure there was no glass imbedded in it.

"Um...do you need help with your pants, Maxwell?" He couldn't control the blush that colored his cheeks. Duo chuckled.

"No, just hold me steady."

"Aa."

After removing the American's shoes, the Chinese boy gently held him up as duo shimmied out of his slacks. Clad only in his boxers, he shivered, unconsciously leaning into the warm body next to him.

WuFei frowned at the gash in Duo's leg. "This really should receive stitches..." Duo groaned.

"Aw, c'mon Wu! I've been hurt much worse than this! I thought Quatre was the mother hen?"

Grumbling, the dark haired boy began to briskly dress the wound. He wrapped the bandages around the well-toned thigh, making sure it wasn't too tight. The silence lay thickly between them.

"Do you want something to drink?"

"Huh?" Duo was jerked back from his thoughts. "Oh. Yeah, coffee sounds nice."

"Let me help you into the living room then I'll brew you a pot."

Setting Duo on the black leather couch, the Chinese boy grabbed the remote and handed it to the braided boy. Duo grinned up at him and flipped it onto the cartoon station. WuFei snorted and went back into the kitchen.

He came back a few minutes later, carrying a steaming cup of black coffee. Setting it in front of the injured boy, he quickly grabbed a quilt and threw it over Duo's shoulders. The violet-eyed boy smiled up at him thankfully.

"You should take a couple of your pain pills." WuFei suggested. "I got rid of them."

"What?"

Duo flushed. "I didn't think I needed them, but at the rate I'm going I'll have to buy stock in the stuff." WuFei smiled.

"I'll get you some more tomorrow. I'm going to go take a shower now if you don't need anything else..."

Duo grinned. "I'm fine Wu-man. Relax. I'm not going anywhere."

WuFei nodded briskly and disappeared into the bedroom. Duo's grin faded and he sighed. Flipping through the channels, he stopped at the local news.

"--No bodies were found at the site. Police suspect arson was the cause of the fire of what is rumored to have been the residence of a former Gundam Pilot." The blonde newswoman reported.

Duo frowned when a picture of his apartment came up on his screen, and took a sip of his coffee.

"No word on the validity of that information, but we'll be sure to keep you updated. In other news, the shuttle flight 0199 exploded today en route to the Sank Kingdom. All fourteen passengers are believed to be dead. Vice Minister Darlian is greatly grieved by the tragic incident and is expected to make a speech tomorrow morning to the passengers' loved ones. We now go to Don with the weather."

Duo could only stare at the screen uncomprehendingly. His cup was held so tightly the knuckle turned white. Unable to handle the strain, the coffee cup shattered, spilling its contents everywhere.

"Heero..." Blood dripped unnoticed down his hand as he started to tremble violently.

"No...Heero...NOOOOOOO!!!!!" Screaming, he shot up off the couch and grabbed his keys, heading for the door.

WuFei ran out of the bedroom clad only in a white pair of sweatpants. Seeing Duo heading for the door he lunged for him.

"What is it? What's the matter?" He demanded, shaking the braided boy. Duo struggled against him.

"Heero's shuttle exploded. I have to go look for him. He couldn't have died, HE CAN'T!"

Duo redoubled his efforts to get free, but he was no match for WuFei's strength. Without warning, his legs gave out and he fell to the floor, his body wracked with dry sobs. Even after all this, he still would not permit himself to cry.

WuFei kneeled down and gathered the distraught boy into his arms, rocking him gently. It seemed as though the braided boy would fall apart with the shudders that moved through him. He held him there, on the floor, until Duo's breathing evened out and he lapsed into an exhausted slumber.

I really should move him to the bed. WuFei thought, but his own body wouldn't obey him. The dark haired boy closed suddenly heavy lids, and drifted off to sleep.

---------------------------------------------------------------

WuFei jerked away to the persistent ringing of the telephone. Glancing out the window, he saw that it's morning out. The ringing continued and with a muffled curse, he gently disentangled himself with the braided boy. Picking up the phone, he growled into it.

"Chang here."

"WuFei? It's Sally Po. I heard about Duo's apartment. Is he alright?"

The Chinese boy looked over to where the American was slowly beginning to awake. Violet eyes were haunted and shadowed as he blinked up at the WuFei.

"He's alive."

"I just called to make sure he was uninjured." The doctor's voice sounded slightly irritated.

"Gomen, Sally. It's been a rough night."

"I'm sorry too. Tell Duo to take it easy and not to worry about Heero. He took a later flight and wasn't on the shuttle that exploded. He must have been worried sick."

WuFei's eyes widened. "I'll be sure to tell him. Arigato Sally." The dark eyed boy hung up the phone, his expression thoughtful.

Duo walked up to him, his thin arms wrapped around himself for warmth. "What did she say?"

WuFei smiled at him. "Heero's alive." Duo's eyes widened in disbelief.

"What?"

WuFei glanced at the television and smiled. He pointed.

Duo walked on shaky legs over to the screen. It was a live feed from the Sank Kingdom. Relena stood at the podium, giving a speech in honor of the dead. And behind her was...

"Heero!"

WuFei walked up and placed a hand on the braided boy's shoulder. Duo giggled and whirled around happily, launching himself at WuFei. They fell down on the couch in a tangle of arms and legs.

"He's alive! Heero's alive!" Duo laughed.

WuFei had never seen anything more beautiful than that smiling face at that moment. Arching upwards, he pressed his lips firmly against the braided boy's, kissing him soundly.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Eleven

Duo chuckled huskily and slowly wrapped his arms around the Chinese boy, pressing their bare chests together. WuFei gently parted his lips and slipped his tongue forward, requesting entrance. Duo moaned as he felt a hot breath caress his cheek and the dark haired boy took that opportunity to thrust his tongue inside, plundering the sweet, hot depths.

Duo pulled back, breathing heavily. WuFei brought his hand up to slowly caress the braided boy's face.

"You don't know how long I've been wanting to do that." He spoke, his voice husky. Duo looked at him with half lidded violet orbs.

"Then show me."

WuFei stared at him, eyes dark with passion. Slipping one arm underneath the braided boy's legs, he stood, Duo cradle in his arms. Duo chuckled.

"Couch not good enough for you?"

"Not for you...never for you..."

Duo closed his eyes as he was carried to the bedroom, stomach fluttering in anticipation. His pink tongue darted out, gently licking at the base of the slender neck so temptingly close to him. WuFei groaned.

"Keep doing that and we won't make it to the bedroom."

Duo chuckle mischievously and swiped at the area again. But the Chinese boy prevailed and they stepped into the cool darkness of the bedroom. Laying his precious burden on the bed, he crawled over to join him. Obsidian eyes swirled with emotion.

"There are so many things...I want to tell you."

Duo leaned forward. "Then it can wait..."

"No." WuFei gently kissed his forehead. "I don't want this to be just another fling. I don't want to be like Quatre or Heero a few months from now, being near you every day but not being able to be with you. Your light has everyone around you mesmerized, but if they're not careful they get burned. I've...always admired you. You're beauty, your grace, captivates me in a way that not even Merian did. But these are nothing compared to your strength...and your heart. I love you Duo Maxwell. I think I have from the start."

Duo looked up at him, his eyes moist. "Then why didn't you ever--?"

"Because I was a coward. I didn't feel worthy of you." He lowered his head. "I still don't."

Duo gently tilted WuFei's chin up. "Look at me..." When the ebony haired boy obeyed, he smiled. "I am not a thing to be worshiped, Chang WuFei. I have done no great things in my life and more than my fair share of bad ones. I'm Shinigami. Destined to be a loner. I don't think I know what love is anymore. I've lost everyone who gave that word meaning. But I care for you as I care for no one else. I just hope that's enough."

"Aa..." WuFei whispered. "It's enough..."

Faced with a smile more radiant than a thousand suns, WuFei felt his heart overflow with warmth. Leaning over, he once again captured Duo's lips with his own. One calloused hand crept up to caress braided boy's neck, then slipped down to gently flutter against his chest. Duo one again broke the kiss.

"I'm not made of porcelain you know, you don't have to be so careful."

WuFei stared at him. "But...your injuries..."

With a growl, Duo tackled the Chinese boy, throwing him down on the bed. Down in the dominant position, he pressed himself against WuFei, slowly grinding their hips together. The dark-eyed boy groaned and grabbed Duo's shoulders with bruising force.

One hand reached behind him and freed his hair from its confining braid. Shaking his head, he let his chestnut mane billow around them. "That's better." Duo whispered, his hot breath flowing across WuFei's already fevered skin. His tongue flicked out to tease one delicate earlobe.

WuFei shuttered as waves of pleasure washed over him. Clearly, he was the inexperienced one among them. But what he lacked in skill, he made up in sheer will. His hands slid down Duo's slender body, roughly grabbing the taut boxer-clad globes, and pulling their bodies even tighter together. With one deft move, he flipped them over, reversing their positions.

By now Duo was panting with need. It had been so long since he had been with someone and he ached to have the Chinese boy inside of him. But he wouldn't rush things. WuFei was right; this should be special. He contented himself with putting his mouth on every inch of sweat-dampened skin that he could reach.

Duo's whimpers shot straight down WuFei's stomach and into his already aching shaft. He felt his resolve crumbling but he was determined to make it hold. He was not weak. He would make this day the most memorable of their lives. He slowly thrust against Duo's hardness, the friction of their erections rubbing together enough to make both of them gasp.

The ebony haired boy bent to once more taste those sweet lips, before slowly inching his way downward. He placed burning kisses down the American's neck and collarbone. Duo hissed, knowing what came next.

Warm lips encircled an already puckered nipple. Duo gasped and slid his hands through jet-black hair, freeing it from its ponytail. WuFei attacked his weakness unmercifully, sucking and biting until the braided boy was writhing underneath him.

WuFei's tongue swirled over Duo's firm stomach, pausing to dip teasingly into the belly button. He then continued his journey downward; caressing the area wear boxers met flesh with his searing lips, branding his soon to be lover. He looked up into those passion-glazed orbs seriously.

"Are you certain about this?"

"WuFei..." Duo gasped. "If you don't finish what you started, I'm going to come down there and kick your ass!"

The Chinese boy chuckled. "Well, with that kind of incentive..." He head dipped down and his mouth covered Duo's silk clad erection.

Duo moaned as he was partially engulfed in the damp warmth. It was so close... "Please Fei..."

The mouth relented and hands that trembled slightly gently inched the black boxers over well-muscled legs. The silk dropped unnoticed onto the floor.

"Is this what you wanted?" Duo's shaft was completely engulfed in the scorching heat of WuFei's mouth.

Duo arched off the bed, a groan vibrating through his chest. Involuntarily, he began thrusting mindlessly into that warmth, control completely thrown out the window. WuFei sucked and licked with abandon, varying his technique so as to deny the chestnut beauty completion.

Finally the ebony-haired boy let up, and watched as Duo gasped for breath. His own arousal was straining painfully against his pants, aching to be freed. Duo must have sensed this because he kneeled on the bed over by where WuFei was standing. The obsidian eyed pilot shivered as a hot breath caressed his stomach. The next thing he new, his pants were discarded on the floor and he was on the receiving end of Duo's talented tongue.

WuFei gazed at his lover's behind as tilted up teasingly at him. Bringing his own fingers to his mouth, he liberally coated them with his saliva. Reaching over the gently arched back, his moist fingers teased the delicate cleft, unerringly finding Duo's tight entrance.

Duo groaned around WuFei's rigid shaft as he felt the slightly calloused fingers enter him. He drew away for a moment; dampening his own fingers, then slide them gently behind the Chinese boy's testicles, penetrating the velvet heat hidden there. They both moaned uncontrollably as they fucked each other with their fingers.

Duo looked up at him. "Need you in me..." He gasped. WuFei nodded and laid him back gently against the pillows.

The chestnut-haired boy unhesitantly wrapped his legs around WuFei slim waist. Violet eyes looked up pleadingly at him. WuFei nodded and slowly pushed his shaft into Duo's molten heat. The American winced slightly as the rigid staff filled him, but pressed upwards anyway, completely engulfing it to the hilt.

The dark haired boy closed his eyes against the delicious sensations coursing through him. Gently, he pulled almost all the way out of his lover, only to thrust in once more with greater force. Duo joyfully arched up to meet every pounding thrust. Panting, wordless moans of pleasure fell from his swollen lips.

Their dance continued for sometime as sweat-soaked flesh met sweat-soaked flesh. The two made love with nothing but the squeak of the mattress to accompany them as one pounded into the other. Hearts slammed into ribs and lungs gasped for air as they spiral further into ecstasy. With a final shudder, both boys emptied their essence as the orgasm shook their very beings. With a sigh, they collapsed onto each other.

WuFei held his lover close as Duo trailed one chestnut lock teasingly across his chest. Ebony eyes narrowed in concern as he noticed the blood soaked bandage on Duo's thigh.

"You opened your wound. I'm sorry, I should have been more gentle-"

Duo shushed him with a finger against his lips. "I'll live. Now, what's for breakfast?" Here peered over his shoulder at the clock. "Or should I say lunch?"

WuFei chuckled and tightened his hold. "Whatever you want, koiboto. You've earned it." He laughed as a pillow whapped him in the head.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Twelve

Lunch was a quick one as the two rushed to get dressed and to the office. Luckily they worked the late shift today or Une would have had their hides. Duo rushed into the workroom, swiftly tucking his shirt in and adjusting his tie. WuFei walked behind him sedately, uniform pristine as always. Mental note: partner thinks eating spaghetti is a definite turn on. He chuckled. At least he didn't have to worry about any remaining sauce hiding in the corners of his mouth; WuFei had searched thoroughly.

"Hey Q-man!" Duo greeted the blonde. "Ya getting off soon?"

The Arab smiled at him cheerfully. "In a half hour. Just finishing up some minor paperwork."

Duo limped over to him, mindful of his injured leg. "And Trowa too?" Quatre giggled and nodded. The American grinned and slapped him on the back good naturedly, making his way to the break room.

"Maxwell, wait!"

Duo turned and looked at WuFei. "Ne, Wu?"

"You forgot these." WuFei handed the braided pilot a bottle of orange pills. "Before the day's over you'll probably need one. I'm going to go check out a couple of leads, you stay in the office and do some research on that poison."

Duo nodded. "Sure Wuffie." When did I mention the poison to him? His brow furrowed in thought. A callused hand gently caressed his face and Duo looked up into warm obsidian eyes.

"Don't strain yourself today, okay Duo? And stay off that leg."

Duo blushed, totally aware of a bewildered Quatre ogling a few feet away, and nodded. WuFei gave him a warm smile and one last caress before he departed. Ignoring the wide-eyed blonde, Duo limped into the break room. Of course that didn't stop the Arab.

Quatre followed him like a puppy, eyes narrowed. Suddenly he gasped and grabbed Duo by the arm, dragging him into the closet.

"You had sex!"

Duo rolled his eyes. "Naw, really?"

Quatre turned around in the small space and started idly straightening the cleaning supplies. "Well, you needn't be so rude about it." Duo grinned and leaned against the door.

"Sarcasm is just one of the many services I offer."

Quatre snorted delicately. "It seems to be the only thing your mouth is capable of." Duo's eyes widened in mock horror.

"I'll have you know my mouth has many talents!"

Quatre whirled around and pressed up against the braided pilot, his breath hot in Duo's ear. "I remember..." The American blushed hard and Quatre giggled, giving him a hug.

"So was it good? Was it his first time with another man? How many times have you done it?"

Duo blushed harder and stammered for a reply when the closet door was yanked open and both boys came tumbling out and into warm and steadying arms. Trowa looked down at his burden, his face neutral.

"Yes, no, and twice."

Duo gasped and looked up into those twinkling green eyes. "How did you know?" Trowa grinned.

"I just talked to WuFei." He gently pulled the two boys upright.

Duo rolled his eyes and made his way over to the table. Quatre remained snuggled into the Latin boy's embrace.

"So how did you get WuFei to talk?" The blonde said, looking curiously up at his lover.

"Simple. I told him it was dishonorable to tell a co-worker to blow off and mind his own business. It helped that he was in an exceptionally good mood."

Duo snorted and plopped down in a chair. "I wonder who his first was?" He propped his legs up on the table and suddenly winced. Maybe that hadn't been the best of ideas, he thought, as blood slowly seeped through his bandage and began to darken his slacks. Luckily he was wearing black today, and it wouldn't be so noticeable.

But two people undoubtedly noticed. Quatre pulled away from Trowa and rushed over. He placed one pale white hand gently against Duo's leg. It came away wet and stained crimson.

"Duo...?" Aquamarine eyes shined with worry. Trowa stepped up behind him.

"I called Sally Po. She should be up in a few minutes." Duo groaned.

"Aw, Tro! Why didja go and do that for?"

The Latin boy squatted down so he could look at the American at eye level. "That leg needs medical attention. A simple bandage isn't going to cut it. I just hope you haven't let it get infected."

Duo winced, leaning over his injured leg. "Now why would I go and do a thing like that?" He snarled through clenched teeth.

"Because you are stubborn and pigheaded. And to proud to admit when you're hurt, just like all the other Gundam pilots I know." A new voice chimed in.

Duo looked up through watery eyes at Sally Po. "You're one to talk. If you looked up pigheaded in the dictionary, it would undeniably have your picture."

"Why Duo, I didn't know you knew how to use a dictionary!"

The American glared at the sandy haired woman. "Ha ha. T'so funny I forgot to laugh."

Sally smiled and knelt next to him, opening her med kit. "From now on, no more transit service. You can come to my office like a normal person."

"Feh. If it wasn't for Mr. Worry Wart here, you wouldn't even been called."

"Well I'm glad he did. When did this happen Duo? WuFei didn't tell me you were injured. Drop your pants."

Duo's eyes bulged. "What?"

"You heard me. Drop 'em."

With a long suffering sigh and the help from his to grinning companions, Duo did as he was told. Sally's eyes narrowed at the blood-soaked bandage. Grabbing a pair of surgery scissors, she quickly cut off the sodden cloth. Upon viewing the wound, she let out a low whistle.

"This should have had stitches."

Duo winced involuntarily at her gently probing. "So I was told."

"So this happened during the explosion?" Wearily, the American nodded.

Quatre came up behind him and gave him a gentle hug. "I'm so sorry you lost your home, Duo. If there is anything I can do..."

Duo waved him off, suddenly dog-tired. "I'm fine. Just glad I got the important thing out before it blew." He scratched his head. "Though, now I need a new jacket."

"What 'important thing'" Trowa asked, taking a seat across from him.

Duo reached into his pocket and pulled out the small answering machine tape. Seeing their looks of confusion, he sighed. "I'll tell you about it later. Right now I need to call Heero." He looked down at where Sally Po was dutifully stitching up his leg. "That is, if Miss Needle Happy lets me go." She ignored him with a smirk.

"Thank Allah Heero took that later flight." Quatre exclaimed. "He must have been doing something at the office that got him sidetracked."

"Whatever it was, it saved his life." Trowa peered thoughtfully at Duo.

"Well. I'm all done." Sally stood. "You can put your pants back on now."

"Great. Just when I was getting comfortable." Duo said as he examined the pristine white bandage covering his leg.

"Thirty-two stitches. Be more careful Duo, okay?"

Duo looked up at her, shrugging back into his slacks. "Oh yeah, like I meant to get my house blown up." Sally shook her head and gave his arm a squeeze.

"I can get you some pain pills if you need them."

Duo shook his head. "I've got the ones you gave WuFei." Sally's brow furrowed and she opened her mouth to speak when her beeper went off. She sighed.

"It's the trainees again. Someone probably shot themselves in the foot. I'll check on your leg in about a week, till then try to stay off of it."

Duo saluted. "Yes Ma'am!" Sally rolled her eyes and left.

The American looked at his two remaining friends. "You guys don't have to stay ya know. Your off know, go have some fun or screw like bunnies or something."

Quatre looked at him worriedly. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Go on, get outta here."

The blond got up and swiftly moved to the sink. Filling a small cup full of water, he brought it back to Duo. "Take your pain pills at least."

Duo grumbled and dug through his pocket, coming up with the small orange pill bottle. He popped two capsules into his mouth and washed it down with water. He opened his mouth to show Quatre that he really swallowed them.

The Arab smiled and motioned for Trowa to go. "Goodnight Duo." He called over his shoulder.

"Night Q-man." He smiled up at Trowa who gently squeezed his shoulder. The two left and he sat by himself in the suddenly too empty break room. Suddenly wishing WuFei was there; he got up and limped into the workroom. It was two o'clock. He still had eight hours till his shift was over.

"Might as well be productive." He said to himself.

Gently easing himself behind his desk, he turned on his computer. Pulling out his keyboard he found a small yellow memo sticker.

Call me. Important. H.

Scratching his head, Duo reached for the phone.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Part Thirteen

Reaching into his pocket, Duo pulled out his cell phone. Dialing Heero's own wireless phone, he began pacing impatiently, waiting for the Japanese boy to pick up. Duo winced as the movements made his wound throb and eased himself back down in his chair with a worried sigh. No answer. This can't be good.

Biting his lip, he reached over his desk for his vid-phone. Quickly, he dialed up security over at Relena's estate, letting his cell-phone continue ringing. A woman with a less-than-helpful expression popped up on the vid.

"Who is this? This is a secure number." Her nasal voice demanded.

"This is Duo Maxwell. I need to speak with Heero Yuy immediately. Patch me into wherever he is."

"I'm sorry sir," her tone said otherwise. "But I cannot do that. I do not know what business you have with the head of Miss Darlian's security but if you'd like to leave a message I'll see to it he gets it first thing in the morning." She took out an emery board and started filing her nails.

Yeah right. Duo thought angrily. "Listen, Miss Minimum Wage. I am Duo Maxwell. I work for the Preventers. This is a matter of such importance that your primitive mind couldn't possibly understand it. I need to speak with Heero Yuy. Patch me in to him. NOW."

The woman stared at him for a minute, stunned. Then the screen went black. Thinking she hung up on him, Duo cursed and prepared to hit redial. Just then, Heero's face appeared on the screen.

"Duo?"

"Well if it isn't Mr. Secrecy." Duo forced himself to grin. "What do you need, Man?"

"Why did you call this number? I'm surprised you got through."

The American reached over and picked up his still ringing cell phone. "I didn't have a choice, I couldn't get through on you private number. Oh, and fire your secretary."

Heero's brow furrowed. "That's impossible." He pulled his own phone from somewhere in his pants. He frowned.

"Never mind." Duo said tiredly, pinching the bridge of his nose. He tried to ignore the buzzing in his head. "Just tell me what you wanted."

Prussian orbs darkened. "Are you alone?" Duo looked around.

"Yeah, Man. What the hell is up?"

"It's WuFei."

Duo's eyes widened. "What? Is he in trouble? Where-?"

"I don't trust him." Heero's face remained impassive. Duo gaped at him. "What are you talking about?" He shouted.

"His loyalties were never very strong to our side. I've been keeping an eye on him since the Mariemaia incident and I don't...I don't trust him."

Duo stood up angrily. "I can't believe you, Heero! WuFei is one of us! He had more honor in his little finger than we both have combined! How can you think he's a murderer?"

Heero's eyes flashed. "I never said that, but now that you mention it, it is a possibility."

"Shut up!" Violet eyes blazed with fury.

"Listen to me, Duo. I took your pill bottle to have it analyzed. It came back with a heavy amount of sedatives-"

"You what? Why?"

"Because...I just did, damn it! The amount of sedatives present was abnormally high."

"Well fucking duh, Heero! They are pain pills!"

"Listen to me!" Heero shouted. "How did WuFei get to you so fast when your apartment blew up?"

Duo sat down. "How did you know about that?"

"Sally told me, but that's not important. How did the coroner end up dead when waiting for a body WuFei was investigating? Why is he absent every time something bad happens? Why is he always around you?"

Duo slammed his hands down on the desk. "Stop it!" But the Japanese boy continued. Duo felt the room spin dizzily.

"WuFei is a killer, Duo. His honor is just a façade. Don't you wonder why the plane I was supposed to be on suddenly blew up? Do you know where I was? I was at the office, tracking down the hacker, even though WuFei wanted me to leave immediately. The computers were hacked into from the inside! Someone within the Preventer's is doing this!"

Duo slumped down into his seat. "Why do you think it's WuFei?"

"He gets this strange look in his eyes whenever he looks at you. You're probably in more danger around him than with the whole Romafeller council! WuFei's gone to the other side a bit too many times. The Mariemaia incident, sleeping with Treize Kushranada...I'm surprised he hasn't betrayed us all before this."

"Treize?" Duo's eyes widened. "He never told me..."

Heero glared at him in frustration. "Why would he tell you?"

"Because he's my lover!" He yelled.

He looked at the screen to see Heero's face totally drain of color. The Japanese boy stared at him for a long moment, silent.

"I'm sorry. Forget I said anything." Heero's voice was devoid of any emotion. "Yuy out."

Duo lurched forward. "Heero! Wait!" But it was too late; the former Wing pilot had ended the call. Putting his head in his hands, Duo stared at the blank vid-phone. His head felt heavy and his eyes and mouth seemed bone dry. The far wall reflected back at him impassively through the screen.

Dark eyes suddenly stared back at him. Duo looked at the figure reflected in the glass, his heart in his throat. He watched through the monitor as WuFei slowly came closer. Then, everything went dark.

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"Duo? Duo! Wake up!"

The American's head shot up as a hand shook him firmly. Instinctively grabbing the hand, he flipped the intruder over his shoulder to slam onto the break room table. Wait! The break room? Duo's eyes widened.

"Lady Une! I'm sorry!" He frantically reached to help her up.

The brunette winced slightly as she slid off the table, ignoring and attempts of assistance. Brown eyes gazed levelly into horrified violet ones. "Are you okay?" She asked.

"I should be asking you that! I'm so sorry! I didn't know it was you!" His brow furrowed. "What happened?"

Lady Une looked at him in concern. "I came into the break room and found you asleep." She carefully readjusted her clothing. "I know it's been a tough case for you, but maybe you should take a few days off."

Duo gazed off distantly. "I was asleep the whole time?"

"As far as I know. Should I call WuFei and have him take you home?"

Sharp eyes pinned Une where she stood. "WuFei! Where is he?"

"As far as I know, he's still out searching for leads. He hasn't checked in." She gave Duo a funny look. "What is the matter Duo?" The braided boy shook his aching head. "Nothing. I just had this weird dream..."

Lady Une and reached for Duo's cell phone, which was sitting on the table. As she dialed up WuFei's number, she kept a close eye on the American. Dark circles ringed his eyes and his brow was furrowed up as if in pain. After a moment, the other line picked up.

"Maxwell?" WuFei's voice gasped, as though short of breath.

"No, this is Une. What is wrong, WuFei?" Duo looked up at her sharply.

"Lady. I was investigating the morgue...when I ran...into what I believe to be our suspect. We both got off a couple of shots," Une could hear him his in pain. "And unfortunately one of his connected. I tried...to pursue him on my motorcycle, but he shot it out from under me. He escaped."

"That's okay WuFei. How badly are you hurt?" She motioned for Duo to stay silent.

"Just shot in the shoulder. If only I tried harder, I could have apprehended him!" His voice was filled with self-loathing. Lady Une's eyes narrowed.

"Don't worry about that! Where is your location? I'll send Duo and Sally Po there immediately."

The Chinese boy gave her his co-ordinates and Lady Une hung up, handing the phone back to Duo. "Go downstairs and get Sally. Chang is in the South Market district with a shoulder wound. You are to pick him up immediately."

Duo bit his lip and nodded, rushing out of the room. Running past his desk, he paused. Trembling hands slid out his keyboard, looking for a little yellow memo. Seeing nothing, Duo sighed. Maybe Une was right. This case was really getting to him. But there was no way he could take a break with the killer still loose.

He continued his way towards the stairs at top speed, resolving not to tell anyone about his disturbing dream, least of all WuFei.

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Part Fourteen

Duo zoomed down the highway in his black Jeep, enhanced by Howard using parts from DeathScythe. The normally cheerful heart-shaped face was now etched in stone. The only sign of life was his eyes. The amethyst orbs swirled with some unnamed emotion as they were illuminated by the passing lamplights. Securely fastened in the passenger seat, Sally Po regarded him gravely out of the corner of her eye.

If Duo noticed her look, he gave no sign of it. They continued to drive in silence, still miles away from their destination. Suddenly, Duo's eyes narrowed. Looking in the rear view mirror, he cursed.

"What is it?" Sally asked.

"We're being followed."

Sally turned around in her seat to peer behind them. Sure enough, twin headlights glared back at her. She looked back at the braided boy.

"Do you think it's him? The killer?"

Duo nodded. "I'm sure of it."

"Are we going to try to catch him?"

The braided boy shook his head. "No. We have other priorities." He looked at Sally out of the corner of his eye. She glared.

"It's because of me, isn't it?"

Duo had the grace to blush. "I don't want you to get involved in this, yes. But that's not the only reason. WuFei's needs help. We don't have time to chase this guy around." Unless the killer is WuFei...stop it! Stop thinking like that Maxwell!

"Then what are we going to do?"

"This." Duo slammed his foot down on the clutch and shifted gears. Jerking the steering wheel to the side, he cut down a refuse-covered alley.

The Jeep crashed through a number of crates and entered a heavily populated street. Merging in and out of traffic, the American swiftly lost sight of their pursuer. They drove in silence for a moment, keeping an eye out for their pursuers. Sally glanced at a passing street sign. "We're almost to where WuFei said he'd meet us."

Duo shook his head. "How did he end up near 'The Cliff'? You'd think he would've at least took me with him."

Sally laughed at Duo's sudden return to his sarcastic self. The Cliff was a hot spot for young lovers, offering a romantic view of Tokyo at night. Who knows why WuFei chose there, Sally just hoped he was okay.

A sudden crash jerked her from her musings, and almost her seat. Duo growled as the black sedan rammed them again. "Can this guy possibly get and cheesier?" He complained. "What? Did he grow up on gangster movies?"

"I don't know about him, but I did!" Sally yelled as she unbuckled herself from her seat. Rolling down her window, she leaned out, gun in hand.

"What are you doing?" Duo shouted. But Sally ignored him as she took careful aim at the sedan's right tire. Squinting around her flying hair, she fired a shot, then a second, then a third, until she finally hit her target. The sedan spun around behind them in a squeal of burning rubber.

Duo jerked Sally back into the Jeep. "What are you, crazy?" Sally smiled at him.

"It worked didn't it?" Duo groaned and shook his head.

Concentrating both in front of them and the road behind them, Duo watched the miles blur away. The lights of the city died as they drove up the steep incline. Trees loomed over them on either side of the road, lending a sinister appearance to their surroundings.

Finally reaching the top, Duo slowed their advance to a crawl, keeping a careful eye out for his partner. Gravel crunched under the Jeep's tires as he slammed on the brakes.

"There he is!" He pointed to the spot where the woods gave way to the gravel lot looking over the sheer drop of the cliff. Sloe eyes met violet as WuFei stood and struggled to close the some fifty-yard distance between them.

Sally Po quickly grabbed her medical bag and ran towards the stumbling figure. Duo sat there for a moment, hesitating. He bit his lip in nervousness, still not able to disperse that strange dream. He shook his head.

"Get a grip, Maxwell." He muttered to himself. "WuFei would never do anything to hurt you." He watched as Sally reached the Chinese boy. Blue eyes glanced back at him, and noticing he had made no move to help, glared disapprovingly. But suddenly her eyes widened.

"Duo! Watch out!"

The braided boy whipped his head around just in time to see the black sedan hurtling towards him. With the squeal of metal on metal, the two vehicles collided.

Since Duo's jeep was enforced with Gundanium, it didn't really take any damage. Unfortunately though, the force of the blow sent the Jeep skidding towards the edge of the cliff. It broke through the flimsy guardrail that blocked it like crape paper.

Sally and WuFei watched helplessly as the Jeep's front tires went over the edge. Thankfully the bottom of the Jeep drug against the ground and halted the vehicle's deadly plummet. Pressing his hand against his shoulder, WuFei started forward.

"He's going too far." He growled.

Sally stopped him. "Don't! You don't know if he's armed or not." She reached for her pistol. "We'll get him from here."

She raised her arm to fire but was knocked aside as WuFei suddenly collapsed against her. Cursing she fell towards the ground, hampered by the Chinese boy's dead weight.

Duo shook his head to clear it but stopped as an agonizing pain ripped through his skull. "Whoa. Bad idea." He stared at the web of cracked glass that was the front windshield uncomprehendingly. Until he realized that was probably what caused his head to hurt so much.

Eventually his eyes focused on what lay beyond the windshield...way beyond. Violet eyes widen as he found himself staring at the ground, five hundred feet below him. "Shit." He voice had a noticeable crack in it.

He looked out the driver's side door to see it to hung over the edge. Carefully putting the Jeep in reverse, he pushed the gas gently. The tires spun freely in the air, none making contact with the ground. The vehicle groaned as it slipped another inch over the edge.

Sally looked up from tending WuFei to see their assailant back his car up about twenty yards away from where Duo's Jeep hung precariously. The man stepped out, his face hidden behind a black ski mask. Sally felt his dark eyes upon her for a moment, before he turned and stuck his head back in the vehicle.

Sally shuddered and struggled to drag WuFei to safety. She didn't know what this guy planned, but it couldn't be good. "Duo! Get out of there!" She shouted.

A dark laugh echoed in her ears. "No. We wouldn't want that would we?" The dark-clad man finished tying a rope to the steering wheel and grabbed a large rock from the ground. Sally could feel him grinning at he as he placed it down on what she knew was the gas pedal.

Dropping WuFei, she ran for the killer. "No!" But it was too late. She watched helplessly as the black sedan lurched forward, driverless, heading straight for Duo's vehicle. "Duo!"

Meanwhile, the braided pilot had climbed carefully into the back of his Jeep. Taking out his knife, he slashed at the plastic window that covered the back of the vehicle.

"I'm sorry DeathScythe." Duo launched himself out of the tear and onto the unforgiving gravel below. Groaning, he started to rise.

"Duo!"

The braided pilot looked up to see a pair of headlights heading right towards him. Having no time to dodge, Duo flattened himself upon the ground and braced himself.

"DUO!"

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Part Fifteen
 
The black Sedan flew over the loose gravel straight at the cowering figure. Duo heard Sally's scream just as the vehicle reached him. Quickly extending his arms out in front of him, he pressed his cheek to the ground and held his breath.

Duo could feel vibrations of the engine thrumming in his ears as it passed overhead. Some piece of the engine he didn't have the mind to name right then scraped against his back, leaving an oily trail across his clothes. Suddenly, his shirt got snagged, and he felt himself being dragged along with the vehicle. Frantically Duo clawed at the gravel below him, trying to find some purchase. He was going to be dragged over the edge! Duo twisted around violently.

With a rip, his shirt gave way, and he was free. The muffler scraped against his back, burning him. Gritting his teeth, Duo watched as the sedan's back tires roll past his face. Finally he was out from underneath it. The braided boy duly registered the sound of the run away vehicle slamming against his Jeep, sending them both over the edge of the cliff. After a nameless amount of time, an echoing crash was heard. Duo took in a shaky breath and forced himself on hands and knees. His shirt was in tatters, his hands were cracked and bleeding, but he was alive.

"I feel like a detergent ad." Duo bit down on his tongue to keep himself from laughing hysterically. "Sally..."

Duo lifted his head and watched as Sally Po and the killer rolled around on the gravel. The doctor tried frantically to reach for her gun a few feet away, but the dark figure grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head repeatedly against the ground till the woman went limp. The killer raised his fist for the deathblow and Duo burst into action.

"Stop!"

Stumbling to his feet, heedless of his injuries, Duo ran across the parking lot. The dark figure looked up and the braided pilot could see the eyes widen behind the ski mask. Leaving his position over Sally Po, he ran for the woods.

Reaching for his gun, Duo shot at him blindly. But it was too dark, and the world spun around dizzily. Reaching Sally's side, he checked for a life beat. Sighing in relief, Duo crawled weakly over to WuFei. The ebony haired boy was deathly pale, but Duo could see his chest lift and fall with every shallow breath. They were alive; they were all alive.

Duo wanted nothing more than to lay his head down on WuFei's chest and let the darkness claim him. But the killer was still out there. And while the braided pilot might have run him off, he could come back. Gripping his pistol loosely, he stared out into the darkness.

I should call someone... Duo thought. But thinking required a great deal of effort, and no small amount of pain. So he continued staring dully at the trees. The crickets chirped softly, blending in with the buzzing in his ears. It seemed like every part of his body hurt. The pain shot through him with every thrum of his pulse. Squinting his eyes in concentration, Duo pulled out his little bottle of pills.

"C'mon Maxwell. Gotta pull it t'gether." Shaking hand attempted to open it, but it slipped through his numb and bleeding fingers and rolled across the gravel, bouncing to a halt a few feet away. "Shit."

We're gonna die out here. This thought came clearer than any other. Already Duo could feel himself shiver uncontrollably in the chill night air. His breath clouded up the air only to dissipate into the heavens above him. Can't let them die. It'd be my fault.

Shakily, Duo stood to his feet. Walking unsteadily over to Sally Po, he bent down and dragged her over to WuFei. Arranging them so them could make the most out of each other's body heat, he fell down next to them. Removing his cell phone, he dialed up Quatre. The phone rang without any answer. Numb fingers shakily dialed the Preventer office. Holding his breath, Duo prayed.

"Preventers. This is Une here."

"Anne?" Duo's voice shook.

"Duo? What's wrong? Where are you?"

The braided boy took in a shuddering breath. "I'm at the Cliff. We had a run in with the killer and I lost my Jeep. Sally and Wu-WuFei are b-both here but they are unconscious. I have no way of g-getting them back to town. I need some b-back up."

"I called Trowa up about a half hour ago when you two didn't report in. He should be there soon. Did you neutralize the threat?"

"N-negative." Duo was finding it harder and harder to concentrate. The forest seemed to come alive around them and he jumped at every noise.

"Duo? Stay with me here. What is your condition?"

"Negative..." Out of the wood stepped a dark figure. Duo dropped the phone and lurched to his feet.

"Duo? Duo! Respond!" But Duo ignored her.

"I knew you'd come back..." He raised his gun to fire, but the figure vanished, blending in with the darkness around him. Duo did something that he would have never had done normally. He ran after him.

The trees quickly closed around the braided boy as he barreled deeper into the woods. Halting himself, he leaned against an old stump, his breath burning in his lungs. Hearing a twig crack, he spun around wildly, gun in hand.

"Where are you? Come out and face me you coward!"

Suddenly the gun was knocked from his grasp and fist slammed harshly into his stomach. Falling to his knees, Duo struggled to breath.

"You are pathetic." The dark figure said. Growling, Duo's hand crept to his boot, where he kept his knife.

"You...really...think so...huh?" Snatching his knife, he stabbed forward blindly, and was rewarded with a cry of pain. A foot slammed against his head and he dropped the knife as stars burst across his vision. He heard the killer move to pick up his knife and struggled to rise, but it was no use, he could barely keep conscious.

"You die now." The knife rose to strike. Duo forced himself to raise his head to meet his killer's eyes. "At least show me your face." He whispered.

The figure hesitated, then shook his head. "I will not." The knife flew downwards.

A shot pierced the air and the killer stumbled backwards, knife shot from his hand. Clutching the bleeding appendage, he looked hatefully at the dark figure behind the flashlight. The gun fired again and the killer cursed. "It's not over yet." He whispered to Duo as he disappeared into the forest.

"Duo."

Violet eyes looked up blearily to meet hardened emerald ones. "Trowa..." The Latin boy knelt swiftly beside him. "What were you thinking? Running into the woods by yourself! If is wasn't for the fact the you bled all over the foliage, I would have never found you in time."

Duo's laugh turned into a wheezing cough. "You don't know how good it is to hear you bitch."

Trowa glared at him. "Well, you are going to hear me do it a lot more as soon as I get you to a hospital. I've got Sally and WuFei already loaded into the car." He carefully helped Duo to his feet.

"Are they alright?" Duo leaned heavily against him.

Trowa nodded. "Sally's conscious right now and cursing up a storm. WuFei's still out of it. Can you walk?"

Duo shook his head. "I've stayed conscious for much longer than I wanted. If it isn't too much trouble, I'm going to make you drag me out of here. Just be sure to at least try to miss all the really big rocks." His eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped forward. Cursing, Trowa lifted him up and slung him over his shoulder.

"You owe me Maxwell." He words belayed his tone though, and he moved as quickly as possible through the woods, his burden held in careful hands.

"Hold on, Duo..."

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Part Sixteen

He was floating. The darkness was warm and comfortable around him, like an old lover. He floated around happily, remembering nothing, not even his name. Names didn't matter here. It was a void. He felt no pain-

Duo...

Duo? Two...Two of what?

Duo...

No. Duo was a name...His name... my name. My name is Duo.

"Duo."

The darkness was receding, leaving him colder. He was aware of small things now. The pain in his hands, his back, and especially his head. Some one was shaking him gently.

"Duo, you need to wake up."

Reluctantly, Duo opened one eye, then the other. The room was dark, thankfully. The dim light from a nearby lamp wasn't bright enough to add to the pain in his head. He was aware of something on his face, right under his nose. An oxygen tube. He was in a hospital.

His eyes trailed down his sheet-covered body, taking notice of the IV, and the neat little glowing thing that covered one over his bandaged fingers, keeping track of his pulse. He was aware of one other thing. He had to go to the bathroom: bad. He finally looked up at the figure leaning over him.

"Tro-" His throat was sore and scratchy. They probably stuck a damn tube down it at some point while he'd been out. Trowa seemed to understand his meaning though. He reached for something behind him.

"You'll have to use this bedpan. You're not allowed up yet."

The American's eyes narrowed. "Y-ou've got to be k-" He protests were interrupted by a fit of coughing.

"If you'd rather have the nurse help you I can go get her..."

Shaking his head, Duo carefully turned on his side and relieved himself in the pan Trowa held up for him. His face burned with embarrassment. After he was done, Trowa helped him get comfortable and fed him a couple spoonfuls of ice chips.

"Look at it this way," Trowa gave him a small smile. "You took it better than WuFei did."

"Fei?"

Trowa nodded to the other bed in the room. Duo looked over at the Chinese boy's sleeping form. He looked pale, but he seemed to be breathing easily. His hair was out of its customary ponytail and hung down his face in charcoal waves. Duo breathed a sigh of relief that quickly became another cough.

"He's okay?"

The banged boy nodded. "He woke up a couple of hours ago and demanded to be moved into your room. The gunshot went cleanly through his shoulder. He sustained a lot of blood loss, and had a mild case of hypothermia, but otherwise his injuries were minor."

"How long was I out?"

Trowa's green eyes narrowed. "About fourteen hours. You had us really worried. Quatre and Heero both got sent home to get some sleep or Une said she was going to have them thrown in jail."

"We would have escaped in an hour."

Startled, Trowa turned to face the intruders. "Heero! Quatre? What are you both doing here? Une gave you explicit orders."

Quatre had the decency to blush. "Heero planted a bug in the room so we'd know when Duo woke up. We stayed in the car a few blocks away."

Trowa felt his face grow hot. He had spent many hours talking to Duo's sleeping form and none of those things were meant to be heard by anyone else. He turned to Duo.

"I've got to go take care of o few things. I'll check up on you later."

Duo nodded. "Thanks, Tro."

The Latin boy swiftly slipped past the other two boys and disappeared down the hall. After reassuring Duo that he'd be back, Quatre rushed to catch up with him.

"What was up with that?" Duo asked curiously.

Heero walked over and sat down beside the braided boy's bed. "Trowa isn't the kind of person to reveal his feelings willingly. The bug was a bad idea."

"Oh..." Duo felt his eyelids getting heavy.

"You can't go back to sleep yet. You have a concussion. We've had to wake you for at least fifteen minutes every hour. This is the first time you've been lucid enough to talk."

"Hn..." Because of his throat, there seemed to be a role reversal of sorts. Now it was the Silent ones who talked while Duo listened. "Status report?"

Heero lips turned upwards in a slight smirk before the stoic mask slipped back into place. "You suffered from severe head trauma, bruised ribs, a first degree burn to your upper back, mild hypothermia, and numerous lacerations to your hands and fingers."

Duo snorted softly. "S'at all?" Heero fixed him with a well placed glare.

"Combine that with all your previous injuries and you have quite a serious condition. It could have very well been fatal." Heero's voice broke slightly there at the end.

"Heero?"

"Hn."

"C'n I have s'more ice?"

"Hn...baka."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Trowa wait up!" Quatre ran swiftly through the hall, dodging patients and doctors alike. Trowa turned on him furiously.

"I have nothing to say to you." He began walking again.

"Trowa! Stop!" The blonde quickly grabbed his lover's arm.

"I love Duo! Now you know. Now leave me alone."

But Quatre didn't let go. "What? You think that fact makes me think less of you?"

"You lover is in love with another man. You should despise me." Trowa's chin sank to his chest.

Quatre gently brushed aside the Latin boy's caramel colored bangs. "Do you still love me?" Trowa looked up, green eyes sparkling with unshed tears.

"Of course I do! Nothing could make me stop loving you."

The Arab smiled. "Then everything's alright." He gently led Trowa to sit down on a nearby bench.

"I don't understand..."

Quatre took a deep breath. "I love Duo too, Trowa. Everyone does. There is something about him that draws people. Even Rashid and the Maguanacs were spellbound by him. I love Duo, as much as I love Heero, and even WuFei. We've all been through so much together. It is impossible that we'd not have some sort of feelings for each other."

Trowa's brows drew together. "But what I feel for Duo is different than what I feel for Heero and WuFei. It's closer...to what I feel for you."

Quatre merely smiled and gave him a gentle hug. "Then I'd say Duo is a very lucky man."

Trowa pushed away from him and started pacing. "Why aren't you mad at me? Shouldn't you be jealous of the feelings I have for Duo?"

Quatre stood up also. "Trowa, Duo's been through so much, we all have. He deserves all the love we can give him. I would never be jealous when someone has that kind of love."

Trowa gave him a small smile. "You know you'll always be first in my heart, Novio.*" Quatre grinned and tackled him, nearly sending them both to the floor.

"I know, beloved. I know." When he pulled away, his eyes were suspiciously moist.

"Now. I think we have some patients to visit."

Trowa smirked. "Only if you can get past her." He gestured to a very furious looking Lady Une and laughed as Quatre meeped.

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Note:
* novio - Spanish for beloved. I know Trowa is of some unnamed Latin origin and I have the best grasp of the Spanish language, so that is what he speaks in my fics.