3-22-2002

Title : The Killing Tide 4/?
Author : Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Rating : R
Category : AU only in the fact that this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz
Warnings : Swearing, angst, violence and death.
Disclaimer : Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. (3/22/2)
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After many reassurances from the ringmaster that he would take good care of Catherine in Trowa's absence, Trowa left with the two police officers. He sat quietly in the back seat behind the protected barrier and stonily met every glance Hicks sent him in the rear-view mirror.

"I didn't do it."

Hilde whirled to look at the young man behind her. "What do you mean, you didn't do it? Of course you didn't do it! What on earth makes you think--?"

"Your partner believes I had something to do with this."

Hicks snorted at Trowa's comment, but kept his mouth shut.

Trowa didn't seem upset by the unspoken accusations as he continued, "There was no one else in contact with the animals before Catherine found them. One of the sheep was found in my trailer, and I was holding a knife that could have been the actual instrument used on the lamb."

"That's all circumstantial." Hilde couldn't believe what Trowa was saying, nor could she believe that Hicks would consider marking Trowa as the culprit. "It's not enough--"

Trowa interrupted her again, "It's the only evidence you have, and it's a very logical assumption. I would have thought the same in your place."

"Why, thank you for being so cooperative, Mr. Barton." Hicks's comment dripped with sarcasm. "Shall I read you your rights now, or wait till you tell us why you did it?"

"Hicks!" Hilde snapped in shock.

"Oh, both of you kids just simmer down." The older man rolled his eyes at the traffic ahead. "You're both so damned serious over a couple of sheep getting butchered. Look, boy, I'm not charging you with anything, though I admit to thinkin' exactly what you said. I'm also not saying you're completely innocent. I want you down at the station to get your prints taken. That sheep didn't just crawl into your bed; someone had to put it there. And when someone goes out to dust for fingerprints, I wanna know who's they're picking up. Is that OK with you, Miss Schbeiker?"

Hilde cringed. Although he said her name right, he purposefully left off the title of Officer. "Yes, sir."

"Not that your opinion matters anymore in this case," Hicks continued. "Once we get to the station, I'm having someone else take care of this. Whether or not your circus friend is guilty, it's no good for you to be working on something that involves you personally. It ain't hard to guess you got feelings for...." he waved his hand in an oblique gesture toward the back seat.

Hilde was flabbergasted. Hicks was removing her from another opportunity for real work on an assumption that was humiliating in its publicity. "Trowa and I aren't close. We have mutual friends, that's all. And I seriously doubt that knowing someone can count against my working on this. I have no "personal feelings" to get in the way...."

"Really?" Hicks didn't believe her at all. "That's not what it looks like to me."

Hilde stared silently ahead as a pair of emerald eyes reassessed her from the back seat. For once, the car drove on in silence with only the occasional crackle of the cb radio to interrupt. Hicks even refrained from his study of the quiet boy in the back seat. He still had his doubts about the oddly composed youth, but he'd leave it alone till they got to the station. Hilde hadn't so openly opposed him since their first day together, and he had no wish to take a backward step in their tentative working relationship. He risked a glance at his young partner, who sat rigidly next to him.

Though she stared out at the road ahead, Hilde's thoughts were very much on the young man on the opposite side of the car's metal netting. Her ears strained to hear any sound of movement from him, but he was amazingly still. Her intense attention on sound was startled by the sudden crackle of noise from the radio.

"Ambulance and med-unit dispatch to 2639 Meadow View Lane. Squad car on the scene. Possible poisoning, possible overdose. Three or four citizens involved."

The message was confirmed and rambled onto different dispatches, but Hicks ignored them. One person, however, took great interest in the call.

"Quatre."

The word was spoken softly, but because she was listening for anything from Trowa, Hilde caught it and glanced over her shoulder. She was about to ask why he mentioned Quatre, when her eyes and mouth popped open in surprise. Hicks saw his partner twist toward the back and shot a look into the rear-view mirror.

"What in sam hell!?!" His foot slammed on the brakes, causing the car behind them to squeal off onto the shoulder of the road. The back seat was empty, and the rear door slapped wide open from the sudden stop. "That damn hoodlum! How the hell'd he get out? Damn regulation Ford vehicles. Inescapable, my ass. Shit!"

Hilde held on to the links in the metal barrier as Hicks slapped on the overhead lights and siren and took off suddenly, rounding into the opposite lane. His cursing continued as his eyes flashed over the area they had traveled.

Snapping out of her surprise, Hilde turned back into her seat, "Why are we chasing him? He wasn't under arrest, Hicks."

"Listen here, girlie," Hicks was beyond pissed. "If you don't stop trying to protect that boyfriend of yours, I'm going to have to rethink your commitment to that badge you're wearing. No innocent person tries to escape from a trip to the station for routine questioning. No normal person escapes from the back of a patrol car, either. So, shut up and sit still. Your friend just bought himself a ~real~ trip to the station."

The car's brake pedal met the floorboard again as the rear fishtailed from the sudden change of speed. Hilde bit her bottom lip from the jarring move and thought it was better that than the biting words that threatened to come out of her mouth. Luckily, there was no one behind them as Hicks sped the car in reverse, then stopped to double-check the street sign.

"Meadow View. Wasn't that the street dispatch called on?" Without waiting for her answer, Hicks picked up the cb and called to confirm with the dispatcher. After the street address was confirmed, Hicks turned into the road and sped toward the indicated med-unit site. Working on a hunch, as practiced officers usually did, Hicks no longer worried about losing his prey. "Your boyfriend know someone at 2639 Meadow View Lane? 'Cause I find it mighty funny that he should do his Houdini act right after that dispatch."

"I don't...." Hilde licked the blood from her swollen lip. She in no way wanted to help Hicks find Trowa, but she was very worried and curious as well. Trowa's softly voiced word came back to her. "Wait a minute.... Quatre. He mentioned Quatre...." Seeing Hicks's uncomprehending frown, she restated, "He's a friend of his. I can confirm the owner of the residence with...." But they were already at the scene, and there was no need to call the dispatcher.

The blue, red and white lights from two ambulances and one police cruiser added a disturbing, colorful splash to the harsh outdoor lights of the large home. Joining the grim festivities, Hicks pulled the squad car up to the curb and shut off the motor. Before either of them left the car, he grabbed Hilde's arm and shoved his face close to hers.

Her eyes rounded in surprise, then closed to slits as his warning slapped her in the face. "You better behave yourself out there, rookie. You are skating on thin ice right now, and I'm not gonna let you take me under with your sorry ass if you get into trouble. This isn't our scene. We go in, we get our person, and we leave. Is that clear?"

Hilde yanked her arm away from Hicks. "Crystal." Her anger was clearly evident from the hissed response. He let her go, and she thought she almost saw a shimmer of an apology in his eyes, but then he was up and out of the car, straightening his cap as if nothing had happened.

Hilde took a moment to mentally adjust. Quatre Raberba Winner was another friend of Duo's of whom she'd been fond, like a sister to a brother. The few times she had met him, he had been very kind and adorably charming. If this was his house and Trowa was here, she needed to detach her personal feelings as much for their sakes as for her job's.

Hicks had already started for the busy driveway, thinking Hilde had smartly chosen to remain in the car. He was a little disappointed to hear the passenger door shut and the click of her hard shoe-heels on the asphalt. Threading their way through the vehicles, they passed a couple of EMTs loading a stretcher that carried a moaning, round woman who repeatedly called out something in a foreign language. Hilde recognized the odd cadence as Arabic. Quatre had spent one hilarious afternoon trying to teach it to Duo who, she swore, mispronounced most of the words just to hear Quatre laugh.

They found their way to the back door of the house, following the path of activity to the kitchen. "Coleman!" Hicks called out to an officer in blue chatting with a white-clad paramedic.

The man looked up, and then motioned his fellow officer over. "Hicks, what are you doing here? I didn't know they sent another blue-light special."

"Nah," Hicks scratched his balding head beneath the cap in a self-conscious gesture. "I'm lookin' for some one who might've come here. See any civvies walk in uninvited?"

"Not that I've noticed," the man answered, rubbing a forefinger across his own dark brow. "We're just getting the people out now. Got a few folks sick from some kind of food poisoning. They just took the cook out. I'd be darned if we could get more than a few English words out of the people who aren't sick here. It would help to get more details than a bad batch of chops."

Coleman went on talking, but Hilde turned away and started for the open door that led into the dining room beyond. She was being ignored anyway, and she felt it was all right to slip away and quell the curiosity that was building up inside her. She needed to know if Quatre was here, and if he was one of the sick people.

Before she made it to the door, her gaze fell on familiar auburn bangs bent in heatedly-whispered Arabic with a young woman who punctuated her language with frantic gestures. A green eye rose to meet Hilde's, and the two people froze. Not wishing for him to run, and not wanting to attract Hicks's notice, Hilde acted as though she had never seen Trowa, and she continued her walk for the door. Trowa needed to make sure of Quatre's involvement more than she did.

Her progress was stopped yet again, this time by a second stretcher that exited the dining area. A shock of light blond hair made her breath catch in her throat. Trowa had seen it, too; and throwing caution to the wind, he quickly approached to stop the stretcher. The blonde hair framed familiar heart-shaped features, but the face was more effeminate than the one Trowa feared to see there. It must have been one of Quatre's sisters - the resemblance to Quatre was too apparent for her to be anyone else. As one of the medical personnel barked at Trowa to get out of the way, Hilde shot a worried glance over at her partner. Hicks and Coleman were no longer in the kitchen, but it was only a matter of time before Hicks discovered Trowa's presence.

Trowa must have known that as well, but it was clear he planned on going nowhere until he found Quatre. Letting the EMTs alone, he strode determinedly for the dining room. He sent Hilde a pleading look as he passed her. "I need to know."

She didn't stop him. She already knew she wouldn't get in his way, but in case Hicks was in the next room, she placed a hand on Trowa's arm to make it appear as if she had him under her control. Together, they entered the primary scene where activity fluttered around the two remaining victims. Four of the paramedics were trying to remove a stretcher bearing a large, dark-haired man who vehemently refused to be taken away. A smaller, light-haired young man weakly waved the EMTs ahead and gave their worried load a reassuring smile.

"Master Quatre, I cannot allow--" Rashid's words were torn from his throat as another spasm tore through his body.

The paramedics took advantage of his weakened state to bustle the stretcher through the doorway where Hilde and Trowa stood. Following his faithful friend's departure, Quatre's eyes settled in surprise on Trowa's worried green ones. Trowa took in the hunched and pain-filled posture of his best friend and noted that Quatre still remained standing despite having the same pains that had felled the larger Maguanac. As the med team pushed the two bystanders out of their way, Trowa's attention was momentarily diverted from his friend.

"Medic!"

Trowa's head snapped back at the shout in time to see a policeman rush to Quatre's collapsed form. The young Arabian's strength had finally given out, once he saw the others taken care of. Two other EMTs darted quickly back into the room, and Trowa would have joined them at Quatre's side if it had not been for the restraining hand on his arm. Hilde's hold was met and doubled on his other arm as Hicks stepped next to him.

"You're not going anywhere." Hicks's warning lacked the angry threat Hilde was expecting, and she looked in question at her partner. He didn't look at her, but he didn't seem to be in a hurry, either--so she felt he somehow understood Trowa's need to be there.

Trowa's muscles tensed beneath her hand, but he didn't say anything and he didn't move. His eyes remained riveted on the blonde at the opposite end of the room. All attention was focused on the conversation and the action of the medical personnel around Quatre.

"His skin is ice-cold. Get me a blanket! Where's that stretcher?"

Quatre's hand flung outward from an uncontrolled spasm, laying palm up toward the doorway. His head turned to the side, blue eyes searching for green as his lips mouthed a questioning, "Trowa?"

Trowa could see that Quatre's lips were as blue as his eyes, and that the words the Arabian wished to speak were unable to come. Hicks added a second hand to Trowa's shoulder as the young man suddenly tried to rush forward. "He's choking!" Trowa shouted, pulling the EMTs' attention to what he had seen.

With a curse, one of the men quickly turned Quatre's head straight and pushed a gloved finger down onto his tongue. "His throat's closing up. Get me a trach kit!" The man tilted Quatre's head back, exposing his neck, and began to massage the contracting throat muscles. Wheezing gasps began to fall from blue lips as Quatre's breathing became more difficult. The medic was about to stuff a breathing tube down his open mouth when the boy's body suddenly erupted in multiple spasms. "I can't get it down. He's going into seizures."

"Quatre!" Trowa's cry rose above the din, as the blue eyes he sought to hold rolled back to show nothing but white orbs.

"Get these people out of here!" The head EMT tossed an angry look at the threesome by the door as he struggled to hold down the convulsing body.

Both Hicks and Hilde had to physically pull Trowa from the room. Even Coleman was called over to help as they dragged him to the waiting squad car.

"I'm going with him to the hospital." The young man refused to be put in the car. "You can arrest me if you must, but I'm going with him."

Hilde felt lost and useless because of the determined, frantic look Trowa turned on her. She was a friend. She had to understand, and she did, but she was sorely overpowered here.

"Damn it, kid." Hicks barked as he slapped a pair of cuffs on the young man's wrists. "You're makin' me do this. You ain't gonna be of any help to your friend, so leave him to those who know what they're doing. Let's calm down now, go to the station, finish your report, and I'll drive you to the frickin' hospital myself. That's all I'm askin'. If you keep this up, you're going to be visiting a cell tonight instead of your pal. Do you understand?"

Trowa's suddenly pliant body was the only thing that let Hicks know the boy finally understood and was going to offer no more resistance. Tucking his head down, Trowa eased into the back seat, his gaze searching for the stretcher that had not yet left the house.

The ride to the station house was made in complete silence and without another attempted escape by Trowa, but everyone could feel the aura of urgency about him. Twice, Hicks opened his mouth to speak, then decided against it, knowing it was best not to disturb the momentary peace.

At the station, seated stoically on the other side of Hicks's desk, Trowa answered each textbook question with short, terse statements. His goal was no longer on resolving the now less important death of four sheep, but on the ultimately dearer promise of rejoining his ill friend. Hilde knew Catherine would have understood Trowa's feelings, and would have insisted he forget about the sheep if she had been present.

As they neared the end of the excruciatingly slow routine, Hilde glanced up at a pair of officers who entered the room. A young cameraman, who followed them in, dropped his load wearily on a nearby desk. As if he knew her, the cameraman winked at Hilde, but she didn't notice him--her attention had been on the cops he came in with. A horrible feeling broiled in Hilde's stomach as she watched Coleman cross the room towards Hicks's desk. Trowa, then Hicks, noticed the grim man approach, and the interview dropped dead in its tracks.

Coleman looked warily at the young man, remembering how difficult it had been to remove him from the Meadow View home. "Hicks, you got a moment?"

Trowa shot Hicks a look that was deceptively empty. "Are we through? Can I leave now?"

"Yeah," Hicks sighed, almost feeling sorry for the boy. "Yeah, go on. Schbeiker will take you to the hospital, just like I promised, kid."

"If you're going to see the Winner boy, he's not there." Coleman brushed a hand through his curly hair and licked at his chapped lips. This was not how he had wanted to say it, but he couldn't let them waste a trip. Three pair of eyes bore into the man as he continued, "The boy went into cardiac arrest before they could get him out of the house. He died at 10:15 PM. I'm typing up the full report--"

The officer's words were halted by a sudden bang of flesh upon hollow metal. Heads turned to look at the bent form of the boy whose long bang shielded half of his downcast face. One hand gripped the side of the desk so hard the knuckles were white, while the second hand burned beet red from its flat position on top. The reddened hand shakily rose to deal out another agonized blow to the desktop, but froze halfway down before softly resuming its old position.

Trowa rose from his seat, his upper body bent toward the desk beneath his hands. "I came here willingly, after everything you did to stop me from being with... from being where I should have been instead of inside this useless place answering useless questions... For what? For sheep?" His low voice rose and cracked on the last comment. Trowa's head shot up, and Hilde finally saw the mask he always wore crack and splinter into thousands of tiny, pain-filled pieces. "My friend died among strangers because you had to put paperwork above humanity? Damn your paperwork, damn your reports, damn you. Damn you all to hell." His final words would have been less devastating had they been shouted in rage, but they were delivered with a low, cold-blooded intensity that was chilling.

No one stopped the young man as he stepped away from the desk and walked to the entrance, his hands clinched tightly at his sides. Hilde was the first to move after Trowa left, hastening to catch up with him outside. She was sick, physically ill inside, for not doing more than she had, and she was not going to let him go away without doing something to help.

"Trowa!"

His shoulders stiffened briefly at her call, but he halted in the middle of the precinct's parking lot.

Although he did not turn around to face her, Hilde bravely continued, "I'm sorry, Trowa. I'm sorry for Quatre, for not doing more to keep you there with him. I'm sorry that... I'm sorry. I'm just sorry and I don't know what to do; I don't know what to say. I don't even know what I'm going to say to Duo when I get home..."

Trowa turned then, grabbing her by the shoulders. His mask was defensively rebuilding itself, but she could still see pain and fear there. "Don't tell Duo. Promise me you won't tell him."

"What?" His request confused her. "Why?"

"Let me tell him. If you want to do something for me, let ~me~ tell him." His intense eyes bore into hers until she nodded in agreement.

His grip relaxed on her shoulders and then let go. Half turned away from her, he paused. "Have you ever had someone trust you so explicitly - welcome you so openly - that you were afraid to believe it? Afraid to break free of the familiarity of the past and trust something as fragile as friendship?" His voice was so soft and quiet that Hilde was afraid to breathe and miss it. "Fear can cut on so many levels. I wish..." The taut mouth twisted into a heart-wrenching grimace, but said no more as Trowa left the young woman to the mocking silence of the night.

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Dalton