5-27-2000

Gundam Wing - Balancing The Scales - Part 1 - by Madamhydra
Last revised: 05/01/00

******* WARNING *******
*** extremely alternate universe
*** semi-darkfic, yaoi

Heh. Another bizarre Alternate Universe GW ficcy from the Hydra. I think it got inspired by watching too many episodes of "Record of Lodoss Wars: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight" and someone's idle comment about payment for past sins.... -_-;;

Anyway, this is a very rough draft. It undoubtably need some more smoothing out, so I'd appreciate any comments and suggestions. Yes, a shameless plead for C&C. ^_^;

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BALANCING THE SCALES
A Gundam Wing ALTERNATE-REALITY fic by Madamhydra
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Part 1 (rough draft)
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Short Disclaimer: (Full Disclaimers at the end) Gundam Wing copyrighted by their respective creators and all distributors of their work. Used without permission.

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It had taken two days and much subterfuge to track down her quarry, but she now knew exactly where that bastard Perane -- or Heero, as he currently chose to call himself -- was located. Unfortunately, Duo Maxwell was also in the vicinity. That could complicate matters considerably.

Relena pulled her truck into an inconspicuous spot on the mountain road, covered it with some branches, and set off through the woods with a purposeful stride. A good half hour hike up the mountain led her to a well concealed outcrop where she could observe their safehouse without being detected. She pulled out a pair of binoculars and settled down to watch.

Only a few minutes after her arrival, Relena's lips curled into an ominous snarl as she saw Heero exit the large mountain lodge and start working on the building's generator. A quick scan of the area failed to detect any sign of the other three traitors.

(I can't sense their presence. Then again, I can't even sense Perane at this range. He's done a damn good job of camouflaging himself. So where are the others? They could be staying at another location or they could be lurking inside the house. No way to tell at the moment.)

Her breath caught in her throat as Duo bounded out the back door and casually threw his arm over Heero's shoulder as he tried to see what the Wing pilot was doing. The dark-haired teenager shrugged off the touch and glared irritably at Duo. Relena concentrated carefully on their faces in an effort to figure out what they were saying. She couldn't make out every word, but apparently Duo was planning to drive down into the valley on some errand. Heero made an exasperated gesture before returning to his task.

As Duo stuck his tongue out at Heero before disappearing back into the house, Relena thought wistfully, (Bryon....)

She found his close proximity to Perane profoundly troubling. Since Perane and the others traitors had used Bryon in their despicable sacrificial rites, it was very possible that Perane had found a way to bind Bryon's soul after death, dragging the healer with him during the long journey through the Wylde Ways.

(Perane, you greedy bastard. You couldn't stand the thought of Bryon leaving you back then, so you tortured and murdered him just so no one else could have him. Does it give you pleasure to keep Bryon around at your beck and call like some damn pet or trophy?)

Relena came to a sudden decision.

(Goddess knows that a quick death is too good for Perane, but perhaps it's better if I just take him out now while I still have the advantage of surprise. If I wait much longer, they're certain to learn that I'm missing and become suspicious. With Duo -- Bryon -- gone, now's my chance. There's no telling when I'll be able to catch Perane alone like this.)

As for the other three traitors, she would just have to take the risk. The generator was located on the far side of the garage, out of sight from the main part of the lodge. If she acted quickly enough, she would be long gone before they even realized what happened.

She could have done the prudent thing and simply unleashed a massive destructive bolt, but two things stopped her. The first was the very real possibility that the ever-wary Perane would sense the buildup of magical energy and manage to escape at the last moment -- he was notoriously skilled at saving his own neck. The second was the knowledge that her desire for revenge would not be satisfied by anything less than the feel of her enemy's lifeblood dripping from her hands.

Relena silently got to her feet, readied her gear, and set off toward the house and her intended victim.

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Heero caught the faint rustle of grass behind him and immediately turned, his hand reflexively sliding toward his gun before he realized who was slowly walking up to him.

"Relena."

She smiled nervously and said, "Hello, Heero."

His cobalt eyes narrowed. "What are you doing up here? And how did you find us?"

She shrugged carelessly. "I have my sources. And I came up here because I needed to talk to you."

"About what?" he replied in a discouraging voice.

"About you... and me." She took a few tentative steps closer.

"Relena, there is no 'you and me'."

"I didn't come up here to argue with you. I just... wanted to make my feeling for you perfectly clear."

"Relena, get this through your head. I'm not interested," Heero said in cold, annoyed tones. He turned his back to her and attempted to ignore her.

Perhaps it was the faintest rasp of the steel knife leaving its sheath. Or perhaps it was purely fighter's instinct. Whatever the reason, Heero suddenly pivoted and flung himself off to the side just as Relena attempted to plunge a large bowie knife into his lower back with an expert, underhanded thrust. The razor-sharp blade missed its intended target, leaving a long, shallow gash along the Wing pilot's right side.

"RELENA!?"

She immediately recovered and delivered a wicked, backhanded slash as she tried for a quick, disemboweling stroke, but Heero managed to evade that attack with a quick leap backward. He backed up several yards to give himself fighting room, but just as he reached for his gun, a sudden burning numbness seized his entire body. His legs buckled and he sagged to his knees, unable to defend himself as Relena started toward him. Just at that moment, he heard the sound of running footsteps and Duo's cheerful voice.

"Heero, are you sure you won't come along... WHAT THE HELL!?!?"

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As a slim, black-clad figure threw itself between her and her prey, Relena cursed her impatience. She should have made certain that Bryon was well out of the way before attacking Perane. The paralysis spell on her blade would only hold the traitor for a few more minutes. She hadn't dared cast anything stronger for fear that he would sense anything more potent.

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"Just what the fuck do you think you're DOING!?" Duo shouted, whipping out his own gun and leveling it at her head.

"Get out of the way," Relena snarled.

"Like hell! Drop the knife. Now!" the braided pilot retorted furiously. He had no idea what was wrong with Heero, but from the expert way Relena wielded the knife, he knew he couldn't risk taking his attention off her in order to check on the Wing pilot.

Or it maybe wasn't Relena. Maybe it was Relena's evil twin or an impostor. He didn't particularly care. All he knew for certain was that the person standing in front of him had tried to kill Heero and he wasn't about to let ANYONE get away with that.

She stared at the braided pilot for an instant, then shifted her burning blue stare to Heero as he continued to fight his paralysis.

"You filthy bastard! What did you DO to him!?" she snarled, her voice shaking in barely controlled fury.

"Hold it! That's MY line!" Duo retorted furiously.

"What did *I* do...!?" Heero retorted back in a tight voice as he struggled to get back to his feet.

"I'm sure you find it vastly amusing to have HIM fighting to defend your miserable hide! After all that you and your fellow traitors did to him!"

Heero gritted his teeth and said sharply, "I don't know WHAT the hell you're talking about, Relena!"

"Don't try to play innocent with me, Perane!" she hissed furiously.

"Perane!? Why are you calling me that?"

The Deathscythe pilot muttered, "Oh great. Now I *know* she's gone totally around the bend."

"Bryon, just shut up and stand aside!" she yelled at him.

Duo's violet eyes narrowed ominously. "Relena, if I don't take that shit from Heero, then I sure as hell won't take it from YOU!"

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Relena considered her options.

(Damn my own recklessness! I should have KNOWN Perane would done something vile and underhanded like this to Bryon! It suits his twisted sense of humor perfectly...!)

"Relena, I'm not going to ask you again. Drop that knife or I'm fucking well going to shoot first and ask questions later!" Duo said angrily.

She had no doubts that he would carry out his threat. She didn't know what sort of foul, sorcerous means Perane had used to transform Bryon from a peace-loving healer into a murderous black angel of death and destruction, but it was very unlikely she could reverse the transformation and undo the damage with mere words.

(I'm not going to be able to convince Bryon of the truth as long as Perane's alive and the only way I'm going to get to Perane is by going THROUGH Bryon. Nothing I can say will make Bryon back down. Besides, this body's too weak and too slow to handle both of them at once!) Heero was already on his feet again, although he looked rather unsteady.

She had lost the element of surprise. There was nothing she could really do at the moment except retreat, regroup, and await her next opportunity.

Relena shrugged and shifted her grip on the knife, as if preparing to toss it aside. Suddenly, she muttered a few words under her breath and made a flicking gesture with her other hand. Like a flash grenade, a brilliant light exploded between her and Duo.

"SHIT!!!" the Deathscythe pilot swore as he squinted and tried to shield his eyes.

In the brief instant of distraction, she whirled and ran for the cover of the forest.

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Duo caught a fleeting glimpse of Relena disappearing into the dense undergrowth and cursed in frustration. He instinctively took a step after her, then he whirled to check on Heero.

"Are you all right!?"

Heero snapped, "I'm fine. Go after her, but be careful."

"Yeah yeah." Duo bellowed, "WUFEI!!! Get your butt out here!", then headed off in hot pursuit of Relena.

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After running downhill through the forest at breakneck speed, Relena finally made it to the road, heaving and gasping for breath.

(This body's in pathetic shape,) she thought angrily as she stumbled toward the pickup truck she had stolen earlier.

She was just reaching for the door handle when she heard a cold voice say, "Going somewhere, Relena? Or whoever you really are?"

"Bryon!" She looked across the truck's hood to see Duo glaring at her from only a few yards away, his gun pointed unwaveringly at her head.

(Hell, I forgot how blasted FAST these Gundam pilots are!)

He bared his teeth slightly and snarled, "It's 'Duo' and I'm not buying the loony toon routine!"

"Fine... Duo."

Even as she wondered if she could cast a holding spell on Duo, he said softly, "Don't even think about it."

"About what?" she said innocently.

"Don't even think about casting any magical mumbo-jumbo at me. Try it and you'll be very, very sorry."

She didn't know whether he could actually detect her spellcasting or whether he was simply bluffing, but she didn't want to antagonize him any further.

"All right. You win."

He gave her a highly suspicious look. Circling around the car, he said tersely, "Drop the bag and get down on the ground...."

Before he could finish, a jeep roared up the road and came to a screeching halt. Noin jumped out of the vehicle and stepped protectively between Relena and Duo.

"Duo, what are you doing!?"

"Damn it, Noin, get the fuck out of my way!" Duo snapped.

"No! I don't know what's going on, but I won't let you hurt her!" Noin said stubbornly.

In a terrified voice, Relena blurted, "He's gone crazy! He's trying to kill me because of Heero!"

Duo looked momentarily flabbergasted at Relena's playacting, then yelled back, "Now wait a minute! I'm not the bad guy here! She is!"

Relena stifled a sob and retorted, "YOU'RE the one waving around the gun!"

"She has a point there," Dorothy observed in her usual sardonic tones as she stepped out of the still running Jeep.

"You damn bitch! YOU'RE the one who just tried to stick a ten-inch bowie knife into Heero's back! And now you have the nerve to pretend that YOU'RE the innocent one!?" Duo yelled in outrage.

Relena scooted closer to Noin, as if seeking reassurance. In a piteous voice, she babbled, "I just went to talk to Heero! But Duo went berserk with jealousy and for no reason...."

Noin glared angrily at Duo. "I know you and Relena don't get along, but this is totally out of bounds, even for you! What would Heero say if he knew that you were trying to hurt her!?"

Duo glared furiously at the older woman and said in an icily even voice, "Noin, I'm going to say this one last time. GET OUT OF MY WAY."

"No way, Duo...."

Without any warning, Relena yanked the gun from Noin's belt and shoved her hard in Duo's direction. The Peacecraft then whirled around, clubbed the startled Dorothy out of her way with a brutal blow of the pistol butt, and leapt into the still running Jeep. Dirt flew as she floored the accelerator, jerked the wheel around, and roared down the mountain road. By the time Duo managed to shove Noin aside, Relena was long gone in a cloud of dust.

He glared at the stupefied Noin and with a nasty smirk, said, "NOW do you believe me!?"

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Ten minutes later, Duo, Noin, and the still dazed Dorothy pulled up to the pilots' safehouse in Relena's truck. Quatre ran out to met them.

"Duo, what on earth's going on!? Heero said something about Relena raving about some sort of betrayal and trying to stab him. Wufei and Trowa are still out in the woods looking for her."

"The last time I saw her, she was going full tilt down the mountain in Noin's jeep. She's probably long gone. Is Heero okay?"

"He won't let me take a look at the wound," Quatre said anxiously.

"That stubborn idiot! Here, why don't you look after Dorothy and I'll take care of Heero."

"All right. But what happened to the two of them?" Quatre asked, eyeing the bloody gash on Dorothy's scalp and the dazed look on Noin's face with concern.

"Relena stole Noin's gun and whacked Dorothy on the head with it."

"She did WHAT!?"

As he marched into the house, Duo waved his hands and yelled in exasperated tones, "The Peacecraft's gone totally wacko. She kept calling me... Brian... Byron... or something like that, and kept calling Heero... Perane, whoever the hell that is. God, I don't know!"

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Quatre stared after Duo and whispered, "Per...ane?"

Something about the name made a faint shiver run down the blond pilot's spine. He hastily shook off the uneasy feeling and turned to help Noin carry the bleeding Dorothy into the living room.

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Upstairs, Duo flung open the bedroom door to find Heero sitting on the bed with a distracted frown on his face. At the sudden commotion, he turned to look at the extremely irate Deathscythe pilot.

"Duo, what happened to...?"

"Damn it, Heero. Not another word until I take a look at that cut."

"It's not serious."

"I'll be the judge of that. Don't you dare budge!"

Duo soon returned with a basin of water, clean towels, and a medical kit. As he carefully washed out the wound, the braided pilot said, "She got away. Noin showed up and Relena pretended that *I* was the bad guy. Noin believed her, of course," Duo added sourly.

"Hn."

"Then she grabbed Noin's gun, shoved her into my line of fire, knocked Dorothy out cold, and stole their jeep."

"She did what!?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "Quatre had the exact same reaction. And I think Noin is still in shock over what happened."

"It's... not like Relena at all."

The Deathscythe pilot muttered, "I know, but hell if I know what's really going on." He frowned worriedly as he continued to examine the long shallow gash on Heero's side.

Noting Duo's distraction, Heero said, "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure... but something... something just doesn't FEEL right about this wound." Duo delicately touched the pale flesh just above and below the cut. Glancing up at Heero, he whispered, "It's like there's something... dirty in it."

"What?"

"I know I cleaned it thoroughly, but...."

Heero remained silent for a long moment, then said quietly, "Drugs? Poison?"

Duo's face went pale. "Poison!?"

With no particular emotion in his voice, the Wing pilot said, "Just after Relena cut me, I was momentarily paralyzed. I could barely move. She would have killed me if you hadn't interfered."

In a frantic voice, Duo grabbed Heero's shoulders and blurted, "How are you feeling now?"

"All right. It was only temporary and wore off in a few minutes. The cut stings, but that's all."

Duo turned his gaze back to the wound. It seemed minor enough, merely a seven-inch long shallow gash along Heero's right side. But the sense of wrongness continued to haunt Duo even as he carefully placed a few stitches, then bandaged the wound. When he finished, he said quietly, "Heero, I think you should let Sally look at that wound."

When Heero started to shake his head, Duo grabbed his face and said, "Please, Heero. None of your usual stoic crap of yours. My guts are telling me that something's not right here. Promise me!" the braided teenager said urgently.

With a testy sigh, Heero said, "Fine."

Duo sighed with relief, then patted the bed invitingly. "Why don't you grab some sleep before dinner?"

Heero gave him a cold stare, but when confronted by Duo's most beguiling grin, he shrugged and settled down for a brief nap.

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When Duo stepped into the living room, the other pilots had already returned and Noin was muttering, "I still can't believe that Relena tried to kill Heero!"

The braided pilot drawled, "Oh, so it's a lot easier for you to believe that I've suddenly become a raving homicidal maniac instead of Relena. Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence!"

Wufei snorted and said, "I always knew that your lunatic behavior would cause problems sooner or later."

Before Duo could unleash a blistering retort, Trowa quietly said, "How's Heero?"

"He... seems to be okay, except for a shallow cut on his side."

"Seems?"

Duo bit his lip and said, "I don't know. Something about that wound really bothers me. I'm taking him to see Sally tomorrow."

"And he agreed?" Wufei said, raising an eyebrow.

The Deathscythe pilot scowled stubbornly and said, "He's going, even if I have to tie him up and carry him into her office!"

"What's wrong with his wound, Duo?" Quatre said with a worried look.

"I don't know! That's the problem! I just have this really bad feeling." Duo said, raking his fingers through his bangs in frustration. Turning to Noin and Dorothy, he snapped, "And what the hell were you guys doing up here, anyway?"

Dorothy merely sighed and wearily leaned back against the sofa cushions, leaving the explanations to Noin.

"Two days ago, I woke up and found Relena gone. She's just not the sort to run off, especially without leaving a message or note. At first, I thought that she had been abducted, but there was no signs of a struggle. And when Dorothy and I checked, we found some of her things missing. Some clothes, cash...." Noin shrugged and held up her hands. "I had no idea where Relena might be, so I took a wild guess that she might have gone to talk to Heero. Sally told us where to find you. Please don't blame her for telling us. I exaggerated the situation in order to convince her to talk."

As Wufei snorted and muttered something under his breath, Noin continued, "We drove up here. On the way, we ran into Relena and Duo... well, you know what happened after that."

"Fine. Now we don't have any idea where the hell she is. And from why she sounded, I don't think she's about to give up on trying to kill Heero!"

"But why?" Noin exclaimed. "Why is she doing all this?"

"If I knew that...," Duo said wearily. "Anyway, since I'm already planning on taking Heero to see Sally first thing tomorrow, you guys can hitch a ride back to the valley. Besides, it won't hurt to have a doctor take a look at Dorothy's head. She took a pretty hard knock on the skull. Noin, you probably want to make sure that Dorothy wakes up every hour or so."

The older woman nodded. "I'll do that."

Wufei said, "I'll stand watch tonight. If Relena is as insanely determined as you make her sound, she might try to catch us off guard and return for an second attempt immediately."

Duo nodded, "Okay. I'll relieve you around midnight."
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But by midnight, Duo's fears about Heero's wound had materialized into horrible reality. The braided pilot stared in disbelief at the swollen, taut flesh and the reddish lines of infection radiating from the cut. Even as he watched, a foul, bloody yellow discharge began to seep from the blackening edges of the wound.

"Shit, he's burning up!" Duo hissed in dismay as he placed his hand on Heero's forehead.

The Wing pilot moaned softly, his head tossing restlessly.

"Quatre! Trowa! Get in here!"

About a minute later, Trowa was in the bedroom, followed shortly by Quatre, who was still sleepily rubbing his eyes. The two pilots exchanged grim looks when they saw the change in Heero's injury.

Duo muttered, "Damn it! I *knew* something was wrong! I *knew* it! I should have taken him to see Sally as soon as he got hurt!"

Quatre said soothingly, "Duo, don't blame yourself! You had no reason to suspect that it would worsen so quickly!"

(But I DID know! Somehow... I *knew* something like this could... WOULD happen! But... how did I know? How could I possibly guess that the slightest cut from Relena's knife could do something like this!?)

Aloud, the braided pilot said urgently, "We need to get him to Sally right now!"

Wufei appeared in the doorway and said quietly, "I don't think that's possible."

"What? Why not!?"

The Chinese pilot silently gestured to the window. Duo ran over and yanked back the curtains, only to be confronted by a seemingly solid wall of white.

"The blizzard arrived less than fifteen minutes ago and it's already at whiteout conditions. There's no way that you're going to be able to negotiate the roads in this weather, Duo." Wufei added, "And our communications are spotty at best. I just checked."

"There was nothing in the forecast about blizzards, Wufei!" protested Quatre.

"I know that. It seemed to spring out of nowhere. But if the current predictions are correct, it could last... days."

"Wufei, we can handle basic medical first aid, but there's no way we can deal with a severe systemic infection like this! And at the rate it's going, there's no way that Heero's going to last out another 24 hours, much less a couple of days!" Quatre said urgently.

The Chinese pilot glanced briefly at Duo before returning his attention to Heero.

"I'm well aware of that."

The Deathscythe pilot slammed his fist against the wall in utter frustration. There had to be something he could do... some way to save Heero's life. He slowly returned to Heero's bedside and sank to his knees, staring blankly at the infected area that seemed to be spreading right before his eyes.

(No matter how strong Heero is, this... thing will kill him within a few hours. That's what it was designed to do... to kill quickly, but painfully. Designed? How do I know that? Yes. There's intent... a pattern... a familiar pattern....)

Noin appeared in the doorway and said, "What's going on?"

Trowa gestured to the bed and Heero. Stepping closer for a better look, Noin involuntarily recoiled at the sight.

"God! It looks like... almost like some sort of flesh-eating bacteria!"

Wufei muttered, "It's hard enough to believe that the Peacecraft would attempt to kill Heero, but to use something as vile as this...."

"No, it's not," Duo whispered.

"It's not what?"

"A bacteria. Or a virus."

"Then what IS it!?" Wufei snapped angrily.

"It's a... bane," the braided pilot said with a faint shiver.

"A what?"

"A bane... something between a poison and a curse."

"A curse?" Quatre said in confusion.

"A curse?" Wufei repeated in incredulous tones. "You surely don't mean...."

"Yeah, a curse, as in magic, bad vibes, and all that weird psychic garbage."

"Duo, are you sure YOU're feeling all right?"

"I'm not delirious. And I'm not crazy. At least, I don't think so."

While most of the people around him were giving Duo doubtful looks, Trowa said quietly, "He may be right. After all, Duo sensed that there was something wrong with Heero's injury from the very beginning."

"Thanks, Trowa."

Wufei sighed and said, "All right. Let's assume that you're correct. What can we do about this... bane, or whatever you call it."

"I... I think I can... fix it."

"Fix it? How, Duo?" Quatre said with a worried look.

"I'm not sure. I guess I'll just... follow my feelings."

Noin said hesitantly, "I don't know about this...."

"But it's not like we have any choice or any other options. Whatever's attacking Heero's body is working incredibly fast. We're running out of time. Even if this blizzard stopped this very minute, I don't think Heero would survive the trip to a hospital. I'm not sure what Duo wants to try, but it's better than doing nothing," Quatre said firmly.

"Agreed," Wufei said crisply.

Duo glanced at Trowa who nodded silently, then turned to look at Noin.

With a sigh, she said, "You're probably right. So what are you planning to do, Duo?"

"Like I said before... I just going to follow my feelings and my instincts. They've gotten me this far. I guess I'll have to see where they take me."

"Okay. I need to check on Dorothy. Call if you need me."

"Sure," Duo muttered distractedly.

After Noin exited the bedroom, Duo pulled up a stool and sat down beside the bed. The other pilots moved back to give him room and waited silently.

(Great. Now that I've talked everybody into believing me, NOW what do I do?)

The Deathscythe pilot closed his eyes, steadied his breathing, and tried to empty his mind, hoping that the life-saving knowledge he so desperately needed and which hovered tantalizingly just out of reach would come to him.

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Several minutes passed. The quiet of the room was broken only by the sounds of Heero's hoarse, rapid breathing and his faint, delirious moans of pain.

Quatre bit his lip in disappointment. It wasn't working. He glanced anxiously toward Trowa, seeking some comfort, only to find that the Heavyarms pilot was staring at Duo in astonishment. At that instant, Quatre heard a soft gasp from Wufei.

The blond turned back to Duo just in time to see him lift and cup his hands. A soft, rich golden glow appeared between Duo's fingers and steadily grew. Floating amid that pool of light was a multitude of brilliant amethyst sparkles that reminded Quatre of Duo's own eyes. The light flowed upward and swirled itself around the braided teenager like so many delicate streamers or ribbons, sweeping the violet lights into the air.

As the glow enveloped Duo's entire body, his braid stirred, as if touched by a light breeze. Before Quatre's stunned gaze, the braid slowly unraveled of its own accord and soon strands of Duo's long, flowing hair were gently and freely floating in midair, carried aloft by the golden streamers of light and bejeweled with flecks of glittering purple.

Duo's eyes remained closed, his face almost exalted in its peaceful serenity, so unlike his usual animated expression.

(It's almost... sacred,) Quatre thought dazedly. (No, it IS sacred.)

Finally, Duo leaned forward and parted his hands as if pouring the golden light onto Heero's body. The glow seeped into the tainted wound and vanished. The light continued to flow from Duo's hands and continued to cascade into the raw oozing gash like an endless cleansing stream of liquid. Heero's breathing steadied and deepened, even as the unmistakable signs of pain left his face.

And ever so slowly, the swelling and redness began to vanish from the injured flesh, which began to return to its normal healthy color.

When the wound had returned to its earlier, relatively harmless appearance, Duo slowly reached out, his eyes still closed, and lightly brushed his finger along the shallow gash. And where his fingers passed, the cut disappeared as if it had never existed.

"By the Great Dragon...," Wufei whispered, his dark eyes wide in total disbelief.

The light continued for an instant longer, washing over Heero's entire body, then disappeared. Duo abruptly sagged forward, gasping and panting as he rested his head on the edge of the bed.

Jumping to his feet, Quatre reached out to gently grasp Duo's shoulder. When the other teenager failed to react to the touch, the Arab pilot glanced worriedly at Trowa before turning back to Duo.

"You've done it! Duo? Are you all right?" Quatre said, now starting to feel almost frantic. Something inside him twinged painfully, warning him that something was horribly wrong.

Without warning, Duo sat up. He huddled there for a moment, shoulders hunched and head bowed, before slowly wrapped his arms tightly around himself. As Quatre started to brush away the loose hair obscuring Duo's face in an effort to get a better look at him, the other pilot uttered a low moan which trailed off into a shuddering sob. The quiet, convulsive sobs continued as Quatre pulled the last few chestnut strands away from Duo's face only to find tears trickling from wide, blindly staring violet eyes.

"Duo? Duo!"

"Now what's wrong?" Wufei, moving forward with a worried frown.

"I don't know! Duo! Snap out of it!" Quatre forced Duo to face him and started to shake him, gently at first, but with increasing insistence.

Duo abruptly blinked in response to a particularly firm shake, but before Quatre could breath a sigh of relief, the long-haired pilot's look of blank incomprehension transformed first into horrified recognition, then into an expression of pure anguish. The Sandrock pilot could never recall ever seeing such a look of utter betrayal and unspeakable loss on a person's face, much less on one of his best friends.

"No. No more. Stop it. Stop it! Why are all of you doing this to me!?" Duo rambled incoherently as he frantically twisted out of Quatre's loosened grasp. He continued to back away from the blond until he bumped into Wufei. Duo spun around and gave the Shenlong pilot the same tormented stare that he had gave Quatre.

"Duo, calm down," Trowa said with obvious concern.

The look the Heavyarms pilot received left him totally bereft of words. In addition to the pain and anguish already on Duo's face, there was also overwhelming sense of fear and dread. The Deathscythe pilot flinched as Trowa took an involuntary step forward, then without warning, he whirled and ran.

"Duo!" Quatre cried out. He lunged, but missed as the other pilot dodged around him and bolted out of the bedroom. The three pilots immediately gave chase.

"What the hell's wrong with him!?" Wufei shouted at Quatre, as they both ran down the hall just behind the longer-legged Trowa.

"I don't know, but we've got to stop him! If he runs out into the storm...!"

"Shit!" the Chinese pilot swore as they reached the stair only to see the front door standing wide open and Noin picking herself off the floor.

"What's going...!?" she demanded.

Without another word, Wufei and Trowa plunged out into the howling blizzard, leaving Quatre behind to deal with the confused Noin.

"Quatre! What the hell happened to Duo!? He ran past me like hellhounds were on his heels!"

"I don't have time to explain right now! We need to find a rope, if we don't want to lose all three of them in the storm! Come on!"

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Thankfully Duo was wearing his usual black clothes, which made it possible for Trowa to see him even through the blinding snow. When the Deathscythe pilot became snared in the undergrowth, Trowa seized the opportunity, lunging forward to tackle Duo around the legs and bring both of them crashing into a snow drift.

He worked his way up Duo's body and finally managed to use his own weight to pin the panic-stricken pilot's torso down even as he felt Wufei struggling to restrain Duo's legs.

"Duo! Calm down! We're not trying to hurt you!" Trowa shouted, but the Deathscythe pilot was beyond the reach of words as he flailed and twisted in a desperate attempt to free himself from the green-eyed pilot's grasp.

"No! Harrow, don't! You're hurting me! Stop! Goddess's sake, STOP IT!!! It hurts! IT HURTS!!!" Duo screamed wildly, the words half lost in the howling wind.

As they continued to struggle, Trowa's left hand became snarled in Duo's long hair. When he tried to disentangle his fingers, a sudden series of images flooded into his mind....

{....the same long, chestnut hair wrapped around his hand, but this time he was yanking on it with brutal force... the same struggling body writhed underneath him, screaming in pain... he could feel flesh tearing and blood flowing as he forced his cock over and over again into his helpless victim's torn anus... and he could feel himself laughing with the sheer joy and pleasure of it all....}

Trowa instinctively recoiled from the images... the memories that could not possibly be his own. He flung himself away from Duo, staggered a few steps away, and promptly threw up everything in his stomach.

As he knelt in the freezing snow, still shaking with dry heaves, Trowa's mind raced.

(That's impossible... I never... I *couldn't*... not after....)

And as his stomach continued to churn, the Heavyarms pilot could help but wonder if his own attackers had felt the same sickening, obscene sense of joy and pleasure when they had forced themselves on him all those years ago....
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When Trowa suddenly released his grip, Wufei almost lost his own hold on Duo. Hearing the Heavyarms pilot as he vomited nearby, Wufei swore profanely at the apparently contagious madness striking his acquaintances. First Relena, then Duo, and now Trowa.

A few minutes later, a pale-faced Trowa staggered back to help him restrain Duo. Although the violet-eyed pilot was too distraught to fight back effectively -- thank heavens for small favors -- he was still almost impossible to control in his terrified frenzy.

The Chinese pilot turned to Trowa and snapped, "What's wrong with YOU!?"

A cold, flat, "Nothing," was the only response he received from the Heavyarms pilot.

"Faylin, why aren't you helping me? You promised! You PROMISED!" Duo sobbed desperately as he clutched at Wufei's shoulders.

The sick chill the Shenlong pilot suddenly felt had nothing to do with the terrible weather or the melted snow running down his back.

"Trevi, how can you just stand there!? Don't you feel anything at ALL!?" The terrible, aching despair in that cry made the Chinese pilot swallow hard.

Duo suddenly jerked an arm free and flung it out before him, as if to block out something unbearable.

"No! Don't! Please don't! Perane, please! Why! WHY!? PERANE!!!!"

With that final tormented scream, Duo's body arched convulsively, then went frighteningly limp.

"Is he...?"

Pressing numbing fingers to Duo's throat, Trowa nodded and said, "He's alive." (...Barely....)

Wufe heaved a sigh of relief, then shouted over the wind, "Great. Now we have to find our way back to the house."

It was easier said than done. They had caught Duo only fifty yards or so from the house, but with visibility of less than ten feet, returning to the lodge would be no easy task.

"Trowa! Wufei!" a faint voice called out.

"Noin!?" he yelled back. "Over here, woman!"

A few more minutes of yelling back and forth took place before Noin stumbled into view, a rope tied around her waist.

"Come on! Quatre and Dorothy are waiting for us at the other end!"

Following the rope, all three of them managed to cart the unconscious Duo through the ever deepening snow back to the warmth and safety of the lodge.

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As Noin and Wufei carried Duo upstairs, Dorothy noticed that Trowa remained behind, staring pensively into the roaring fire.

"Are you all right?" she asked curiously.

He gave her an inscrutable look, then said quietly, "I think they need you upstairs," before turning back to the fire.

Dorothy watched him for a long moment, then left him to his own thoughts.

By the time she reached the bedroom, Noin and Quatre were already busy stripping Duo's soaked clothes and drying him off as Quatre explained what had occurred in Heero's room to the best of his ability. Wufei appeared a few minutes later, holding some nylon harness straps. Placing them on a nearby table, the Chinese pilot stolidly began to tear a sheet into strips.

"Wufei, what are those for?" Quatre asked.

"They're for Duo."

Noin frowned. "Do you think they're really necessary?"

"Woman, it's not as if I WANT to restrain him like a wild animal! We were lucky this time. If Duo manages to run off again, we might lose him for good."

Quatre nodded soberly and went to help Wufei pad the straps with the torn sheets.

As the two of them firmly, but carefully secured Duo's arms and legs to the bed, Noin said, "And you say that Heero's completely cured?"

The Arab pilot nodded. "His breathing, heartbeat, and temperature is normal. The cut is completely gone. As far as I can tell, he's merely in a deep sleep."

"Fine. So, who's going to watch Duo?"

Quatre looked away and whispered, "Considering what just happened, I think... you or Dorothy should."

Noin placed her hand on Quatre's shoulder and said, "All right. We'll let you know if anything changes."

"Thanks."

"No problem. I feel somewhat to blame for this whole mess."

Quatre blinked, then shook his head firmly, "I don't see how. You didn't have any idea that Relena would do something like this."

"Maybe, but I can't help wishing that I hadn't jumped to conclusions about Duo. I suppose I got the wrong sort of impression about him from listening to Relena."

Wufei glanced at Noin and said sharply, "And what do you mean by THAT?" Rising to his feet, he added ominously, "Just what has that girl been saying about Duo, anyway?"

Noin shook her head hastily. "It's not what you think! It's just from the way she talked about him, Duo seemed to be rather reckless, impulsive and... well, to be blunt, rather shallow, if you know what I mean." A bit defensively, she added, "Besides, didn't you make a rather pointed comment about Duo's 'lunatic behavior'?"

As Wufei merely scowled and looked away, she glanced at Duo and muttered, "I suppose I just didn't realize just how much her cares about Heero."

Quatre said gently, "Duo can act rather frivolous at times, but in truth, he feels very deeply, especially about Heero. He just hides it well."

"Yes, I've realized that."

Noin shook her head, then said briskly, "Dorothy, can you keep an eye on things until I take a shower and change into some dry clothes?" She glanced at the other pilots. "You guys should do the same. The last thing we need is for you guys to come down with pneumonia or something worse."

Wufei snapped, "I'm not that weak, woman!" and stalked back to his room, followed by an irate Noin. The sound of the resulting argument echoed in the hallway.

Before Quatre could follow them out the door, Dorothy touched his arm and said quietly, "You might want to check on Barton."

The blond pilot blinked and immediately looked worried. "Is there something wrong?"

She shrugged carelessly. "I don't know. He just looks extremely withdrawn. Perhaps I'm wrong and he always acts like that."

Having a good idea of Dorothy's skills of observation, the Arab pilot had the unhappy feeling that something WAS wrong with Trowa. Under that cool exterior, Trowa cared a great deal about others and disliked them suffer, so it was strange that he wasn't upstairs helping to take care of Duo.

"Thanks for letting me know, Dorothy."

She carelessly waved away his gratitude and shooed Quatre out the door.

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Heero found himself standing in a shadowy stone hall, lined with ornately carved stone columns which soared upward and disappeared into the darkness-shrouded ceiling. The hallway seemed endless, with various side corridors leading off in several places. And along the walls, between each pair of columns, was a portrait.

The settings and costumes were all different, but the subject of each picture was the same -- himself. Sometimes older, sometimes younger... sometimes laughing, sometimes frowning... but always the same dark hair and cobalt blue eyes.

He slowly walked down the hallway through the thick mist that obscured the floor and occasionally drifted up the walls. After an undeterminate period of time, he found himself at a dead end. Facing him the wall hung a large, life-sized portrait of a young man who looked exactly like him, except for being a few years older. In the picture, the person wore a black and green outfit, fancifully embroidered and trimmed in lace, rather like a movie version of a 17th or 18th century pirate. It was a bit too flamboyant to be truly tasteful, although Heero had no idea how he knew that. The label on the portrait simply read 'Perane'.

Heero absolutely hated the man on sight.

This older version of himself had a sly, knowing sort of grin and a wicked gleam in his eyes, but there was a dangerous undercurrent of smug malice underneath that supposedly charming smile and an ominous sort of weakness in the set of the chin.

But even as he scowled at the portrait, the picture suddenly shattered. Like a broken stained glass window, sharp shards of the portrait hurtled through the air like shrapnel and sliced into his arms as he instinctively flung them in front of his face.

And as the shards sank deep into his flesh, there came tiny fragments of memories... memories that cut more deeply and painfully than any razor blade or piece of glass could inflict.

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With a sharp gasp, Heero opened his eyes and found himself staring at a familiar ceiling. He sat up, then realized that he was no longer in any pain. He looked down and saw that his wound was gone without a trace. Lightly pressing his hand over the spot, he discovered that it wasn't even sore. A quick glance at his watch confirmed what his internal clock told him -- it was only a few hours past midnight.

Frowning, he struggled to recall the events of the evening, but all he could remember was taking a nap, then awakening in excuriating agony and barely able to breath. After that, nothing except hazy recollections of Duo's anxious voice... then came the healing light that seemed to embody Duo's very essence....

The door opened and Wufei stood in the doorway, watching him.

"Where's Duo?" Heero curtly inquired.

When Wufei did not immediately reply, he knew that something serious had occurred. As he swung his legs out of bed and started to rise, the Chinese pilot put his hand out to stop him.

"Heero, you need to know exactly what happened before you see him."

The Wing pilot frowned, but sat back down. If Wufei thought it was important, it undoubtably was. He listened carefully as the Shenlong pilot gave a concise recital of the evening events -- the blizzard, how Duo miraculously managed to heal his injury, followed by Duo's inexplicable panic and the subsesquent chase through the snow.

When Wufei finished speaking, Heero scowled thoughtfully for a moment, then got up and headed for Duo's room.

Dorothy raised an eyebrow as Heero stalked into the room, followed by Wufei. Ignoring her, the Wing pilot stood beside the bed and stared down at Duo, who finally seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

Wufei murmured to Dorothy, "Wel, he certain looks a lot calmer now. What happened?"

"Nothing. For a while, he kept muttering several names over and over again, but that stopped about an hour ago."

"Names? What names?"

"I think he mentioned... Harrow, Trevi, Faylin, and Perane."

Heero stiffened at the last name, then said flatly, "You can go."

"Excuse me?" she said, raising an eyebrow.

"I'll stay with him."

She and Wufei exchanged glances. She shrugged and walked out the door, murmuring, "Fine with me."

Wufei hesitated and said, "Heero?"

"I'll keep an eye on him."

The Chinese pilot nodded curtly and exited the room, closing the door behind him. Now alone with Duo, Heero gingerly sat down beside Duo and gently brushed the long bangs away from his lover's face. As he put his hand against Duo's face and lightly brushed his thumb along Duo's cheekbone, Heero suddnely remembered....

{....remembered holding that same face in a bruising grip... the sound of his own brittle laughter at the pain and misery in those violet eyes, laughter intended to hide the niggling sense of guilt... he hated those eyes... they saw too much... they KNEW too much... but he couldn't stand the thought of those amethyst eyes looking at someone else in that special sort of way... they were his, damn it... he wouldn't allow it... if they wouldn't look at him with love anymore, they wouldn't look at ANYONE... remembered reaching toward those eyes... pushing... digging... gouging until something popped and a warm gush of fluids spilled over his hands... and all the while, someone was screaming....}

Shaking in disgust and sick horror, Heero yanked his hand away from Duo's face and stared it in disbelief. He could still feel the slick wetness on his fingers.... Almost reluctantly, he glanced back at the other teenager's face, then released a deep sigh of relief when he saw it was untouched.

Heero hesitated, then slowly curled up beside Duo on the bed. At first, he was careful to avoid touching the unconscious teenager, but whenever he closed his eyes, the nightmarish images returned to haunt him. He found himself snuggling closer to Duo, seeking reassurance that the other was still alive, if not completely well.

(Are they just nightmares or are they something more? No, they feel much too real to be mere dreams. I know those things really occurred. Maybe not in this lifetime... but they did happen... to both of us.)

(Is that what made you run, Duo? Are you remembering, too?)

And as he continued to wonder, Heero gradually fell asleep to the sound of Duo's steady heartbeat.

(end Part 1)
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Author's notes:

Here's the current list of who's who: ^_^

Heero --- Perane
Duo ----- Bryon
Trowa --- Harrow
Quatre -- Trevi
Wufei --- Faylin
Treize -- Koranth
Une ----- Merielle
Zechs --- Chastain
Dorothy - Eleido
Relena -- Vincina

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Keeper of Duo's Dark Side ~~~ Duo no Seishi
Co-Keeper of Duo's Scythe & Bat Wings (w/ Death)
Co-Keeper of Little Grim Reaper Duo (w/ Kitsune)
Keeper of Saitoh's Sex Life ~~~ Saitoh no Koibito
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madamhydra@aol.com /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/:E
http://www.geocities.com/madamhydra/
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The Full Disclaimer
All rights and privileges to Shin Kidousenki Gundam Wing are trademarks and property of Sunrise, Bandai, Sotsu Agency, and associated parties. The characters of these works are used WITHOUT permission for the purpose of entertainment only. This work of fiction is not meant for sale or profit. Original portion of the fiction included here is considered to be the sole property and copyrighted to the author.
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