4-20-2000

Disclaimers: I do not own any of the g-boys. They belong to Sunrise and other companies, etc. I'm using them without permission, but for entertainment purposes ONLY. This is fans for fans. Me broke, so suing me would get you nothing but the lint in my pockets...but I'm kinda attached to that too, so basically you would get nothing ^_^

Warnings: Cuteness, slight angst, language, OOC-ness here and there, and Yaoi hinting (sadly, very, very little ^_^).

'...' denotes thoughts
~~...~~ flashbacks

The Bond of Friendship
By Mika

Part One

After twisting the customary black tie around his hair and giving himself the once over view, nine-year old Duo Maxwell, dashed out of his bedroom and down the hallway. Pulling on his black sneakers and cap, he pulled open the front door.

"Ma! I'm going over to Quatre's house! Be back later!" he shouted, quickly walking out of the one-story house. He was about to slam the door when his mother called out to him.

"Wait Duo! What about breakfast?"

The young boy pushed the door open just enough so that his head could stick back inside. "It's okay, Ma! Rashid will make me something!"

Wiping her hands on her apron, Mrs. Maxwell moved briskly to the door. "Duo, you shouldn't impose on the Win--"

*SLAM*

Mrs. Maxwell released a sigh, shaking her head and moved to the front window. Pulling back the white curtains, she watched as her son ran down the street, his braid bouncing off his black T-shirt with every stride until he disappeared around the corner of Maple Street.

Turning around, she walked back to the kitchen, only one thought on her mind.

'I have to get him to a barber.'

* * * * *

"KA-TO-RUUU! Are you AWAKE yet?! KA-TO-RUUU!"

Eight-year-old Quatre Raberba Winner flipped over to the other side of his bed, pulling the pillow with him over his head.

"KA-TO-RUUU! Come out and PLAAAAAA-AY!"

On any other day, Quatre would have been up at the first signs of morning, calling the Maxwell's residence and waking up _their_ only child. Not the other way around.

With a soft groan, the blonde sat up from his bed, rubbing his tired eyes with his small fists.

"KA-TO-RUUU! Come out and PLAAAAA-AY!"

With another groan, Quatre fell back onto his pillow, only now regretting that he stayed up so late to watch that movie. It wasn't like he didn't know what would happen to Tender Heart and Cheer Bear; he did see The Care Bears Movie five times(1). But he thought that maybe, juuust maybe, that this time the ending would be different and he would miss it. Who would have known that they would stick to the original ending? He sure didn't.

"KA-TOOO-RUU!! Come out and PLAAAAA-AY!"

The Arabian let loose a soft growl.

"KA-TOOO-RUU!! Come out and PLAAAAA-ACK!"

Quatre smiled blissfully as he trudged back to his bed, pulling the covers up to his chin and rested his head on his right arm.

'Now for some peace and quiet. . .'

* * * * *

Duo hollered his friend's name again through his cupped hands, oblivious to the incoming projectile aimed directly at his head.

"KA-TOOO-RUU!! Come out and PLAAAAA-ACK!"

The brunette blinked a couple of times, a little dazed at what just happened. He rubbed his sore nose and picked himself off the ground.

'When had pillows gotten so hard?' he wondered, bending down and picking up the cushion. With a shrug, he dropped it and cupped his hands over his mouth once more.

"KA-TO-RUUU!!! You'll have to do better than that to get rid of ME~~~~~! KA-TO-R-oh, hey Rashid. What's shaken?"

A man, looking in the range of his thirties, now stood in the doorway of the Winner mansion, a throbbing vein visible on his forehead. "All the china and silverware in the house," was the controlled reply, as he stepped out onto the walkway. "Duo, Master Quatre is not awake yet, and he won't be for maybe a few hours from now."

"Oh." Duo looked crestfallen, placing both hands behind his back and shuffling his feet. "Okay. I guess I'll come back later then."

"I think it would be best." Rashid watched as a slight frown descended onto the young boy's face and felt the slightest twinge of guilt. "Hmm, maybe you should see if your other friend...um, what's his name? Wufei, is it? Maybe you should see if he will play with you until Master Quatre has woken up?"

Duo pondered on the suggestion, and soon enough, a smile was once again on his lips and excitement in his violet eyes. "Okay! Tell Quatre I'll be back later. Thanks Rashid!"

Duo turned around, hair flying in a small arch as he ran back down the street.

Rashid bent down and picked up the abandoned pillow before returning into the house.

'That boy needs a haircut.'

* * * * *

When Duo arrived at Wufei's house, the latter was already outside, practicing with a wooden bokken.

"Take that! Annnd that!"

"Wufeeeeeei! You wanna play with me!"

The nine and a half-year old Asian turned his head at first sound of the voice, lowering his wooden sword at the same time. "Maxwell? What in the world are you doing here so early in the morning?"

Duo jogged up to the other, one shaking finger outstretched accusingly. "My name is Duo. Duuu-O. Why can't you call me that? It is my name," he huffed.

"And Maxwell isn't?" was the quick counter.

"Well, yea it is, but--oh forget it." Duo stopped himself before a drawn out argument could ensue. He learned long ago that this conversation never went anywhere whenever it came up, so he stopped while he was still ahead. . .well, almost ahead.

He plopped down on the front lawn, Wufei following soon after. "So, whatcha doin'?"

"Practicing."

Duo reached a hand forward, taking the weapon into his hands, examining it closely. "Practicing for what?"

Wufei snatched it back and laid it across his lap, Duo frowning a bit as he did. "For any future battles."

Duo tilted his head to the side in curiosity. "What future battles?"

Wufei snorted as if the American had asked the most idiotic of questions. "_The_ battle."

Duo blinked, biting on his lower lip as he pondered on the statement. "Oh. . . . OHHH! I see." His smile widened as he looked up at the other. "Can I play too?"

Wufei's forehead crinkled in outrage. "This isn't a game! It's for real! The battle is coming soon; I know it."

Duo waved his hand off absently in the other's face. "Yea, yea. So, can I play too? Can I, can I?"

Wufei fumed. 'He didn't believe me. Hmph, who cares if he doesn't anyway. He'll be sorry when it comes.'

"Hello~ Wufei. Knock-knock. You in there?" Duo waved his hands in front of his friend's face. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry I made fun of you." He waited until the other forgave him before continuing. Only then did he lift up the bokken and touched the tip of it to the other's chest. "So, you wanna play cowboys and Indians?"

* * * * *

Young Trowa Barton walked down Main Street without a care in the world. He weaved around the other shoppers, silently content with just licking the pistachio ice cream off a waffle cone he held in his right hand.

'I hope nee-san doesn't mind that I'm eating sweets,' he thought absently.

He continued on his merry little way when suddenly something big knocked into him.

He gasped softly and watched as his ice cream cone fell onto the sidewalk with a loud "PLOP."

"Hey sorry kid. I was in a hurry. You okay?"

Trowa first looked down at his fallen treat, then up at the large man, then back down at the melting glop on the ground. He nodded his head slightly, head still bowed towards the pavement.

"Oh, sorry bout that."

He heard a few rustling sounds, before a few green bills were presented before his eyes. He looked up curiously at the burly man, a crooked smile on the guy's face that seemed to glint whenever the sun caught onto one of his golden teeth.

Trowa blinked a few times.

He wasn't allowed to take anything from strangers.

"Go on. Take it," the man said. "It's the least I could do for ruining your other one."

Trowa considered for a moment, hand itching to accept the offer, but then shook his head as his sister's words came to mind.

~~Never, EVER accept anything from a stranger, Trowa. Promise me, Trowa. You promise?~~

~~I promise, nee-san.~~

The older man seemed taken aback by the action, but just shrugged and put the money back in his pockets. "Suit yourself. Well, sorry again for what happened." A calloused hand patted Trowa's head and then was gone.

Trowa watched as he left.

Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out a few coins, but it wasn't enough to buy another one. His lips turned slightly downward as he stood in the middle of the sidewalk.

A finger then tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and met familiar blue eyes. His lips turned curved upwards a bit. "Quatre."

"Hi Trowa," the boy said cheerfully. "What are you doing here?"

Trowa shrugged, stating that he was just walking around.

"Oh. Well I was just about to go see Duo, when I saw you. He's at Wufei's now, but I thought I'd go get an ice cream first." Quatre's eyes seemed to brighten a bit, an idea just forming in his mind. "Do you want to come with me? I'll buy you one too." He reached into his pockets and pulled out a few dollar bills. "See. Rashid gave me money, so I can buy you one too."

Without even the slightest hesitation, Trowa nodded.

'Nee-san said not to take anything from strangers...but Quatre's a friend, so it's okay.'

He revealed one of his rare smiles as a thank you, causing Quatre to beam happily in return. Both then ran back the way they came, eagerly scrambling into the ice cream shop.

* * * * *

"What? Your dad's not going to be home for your birthday?"

Quatre shook his head, trying to keep the sadness out of his face, but not doing so well. "No, he has a very important business trip, so he said he won't be back soon enough. It's okay though," he added quickly. "I understand. I mean, it's not a big deal, it's just my birthday."

Duo stuffed the last bit of his cookie in his mouth before replying, crumbs spraying everywhere. "_Just_ your birthday? Quatre, you turn nine this Saturday. It's very important."

Wufei shield his face from the onslaught. He gave Duo a look, which the latter returned with a "What?" before putting in his own two cents. "As weird as it sounds, I have to agree with Maxwell."

Quatre sighed, fiddling with a blade of grass in his hands. "Really, I don't see why you're all making such a big fuss about it. Papa said he was sorry, so really, it's okay." His voice caught on the last few words, although he tried hard to seem nonchalant about it.

A hand fell gently on top of his clenched one and Quatre looked up. Green eyes looked back, filled with understanding, and he couldn't help but allow for his lips to curve a little upwards.

"Hey, um, Quatre," Duo began, interrupting the warm display. "Would you mind getting me some more milk? I would do it, but my legs fell asleep."

Wufei gave a loud snort, crossing his arms over his chest. "Well then wake them up and get it yourself."

"It's all right," Quatre said quickly, standing up. "I'll get it for you Duo."

Duo watched until the blonde disappeared into Wufei's house, before speaking up. "Hey! I got an idea!"

Both Wufei and Trowa's attentions turned to the black clad kid. Excitement could be read on the boy's features, which usually spelled disaster.

Duo raised a pointed finger in the air. "Let's throw a surprise party for Quatre! He'll love it!"

Two pairs of eyes widened in amazement.

That wasn't such a bad idea. It was definitely much better than the time Duo suggested they'd all dye their hair red.

"Well, well? What do you think?"

Trowa nodded, Wufei doing likewise.

"All right! Okay, now this is what we do..."

* * * * *

"Bye Trowa! See you tomorrow!" Duo shouted, waving goodbye as Quatre did similarly.

It was getting close to dinnertime, and all had to return to their respected houses. They'd left Wufei's about ten minutes ago and Trowa just now, as his home was only a few blocks away from the Asian's, near the circus. Duo and Quatre continued on, walking side by side, for their houses were a little a long ways down.

They didn't talk much as they traveled down the sidewalk; a nice companionable silence filling the air around them. Yet the stillness only seemed to exemplify the abruptness of Quatre's next question.

"Duo, what's it like to have a mother?"

"Huh?" was the intelligent reply.

Quatre diverted his gaze from violet and onto white concrete beneath him. "I was just wondering...what it was like...to have a mother, to take care of you and do..." He paused for a moment, waving his hands in a flustered motion, trying to find the right words. "...motherly things," he said finally.

From the serious look on the Arabian's face, Duo gave the question a lot of thought, crossing his left arm over his chest and resting his chin on top his right hand. Quatre looked at him expectantly, yet with control, for an answer.

After much time, Duo finally responded, placing both hands behind his back and looking directly into blue eyes. "Well, what's it like to have a father?"

Quatre appeared taken aback by the question, shifting his body away from the other in surprise. His expression clearly read puzzlement.

Duo showed one of his most sincere of smiles, taking a few quick steps forward so that he now stood face to face to the other, walking backwards. "Quatre, the way I see it, you and I are both lucky. Unlike some other kids, we're lucky to _have_ at least one parent."

Quatre watched as violet eyes tilted up to the darkening sky.

"I mean, having two parents is great too, but having only a mother, I don't really feel like I'm missing out on anything," Duo continued, leveling his gaze again. "She loves me as much as any other kid that had two parents would to him. An' even though I don't have a father, Ma loves me in the same way as your father loves you; there's no difference," he stressed the last few words.

"It doesn't matter if we only have one father and no mother, or a mother and no father, because he or she would love us a lot and care for us the same way no matter what happens...it's definitely a lot more love than if we didn't have any parent at all, like some other kids in the world." Duo stopped walking, causing the other to do the same. "Don't you think?"

Quatre's lip tightened uncertainly and he turned his head away. "I-I never really thought about it that way," he replied slowly. "I guess I feel differently than the way you do." He looked down at his hands, a growing sadness enveloping his features little by little. "Ever since I was born, I always felt like I was missing something. I don't know why...I just do. 'specially, when my birthday is coming. Papa always seems distracted; unable to look at me or play with me. He's so...different."

Duo listened, placing a comforting hand on the other's shoulder.

"I never really realized until lately how much I looked like my mama. I wonder if that's why he's like that...it must be," he concluded hastily, eyes beginning to glaze over. "When else would he remember so clearly...I..." He turned away looking at the empty street. "S-Sorry. I don't mean to--I didn't mean to tell you all this. L-Let's just go home." He started forward again, brushing past the other, but could only took a few steps before a hand restrained him from moving.

"Quatre," Duo began softly, "I know it's hard sometimes, but your father does really love you. I mean, everyone would love to have a son like you, just ask our whole neighborhood! You're such a smart and nice kid and I'm sure your father is proud of you and cares for you a whole lot. I mean, he got you that really cool racecar set last year AND he goes to all your baseball games even when he's busy. He didn't even go to work last month when you got sick. He stayed home and took care of you. So, it looks to me like you're not missing out on anything either, so you shouldn't be worrying about this." Duo finished in a single breath, his usual cheeky grin on his face.

Slowly, but surely, a weak grin began to form on Quatre's face, all the meaning of Duo's words sinking in bit by bit. "Thank you, Duo."

Duo patted his friend's back. "No problem. Come on! Let's get home before we miss dinner!" Quatre laughed, nodding and Duo turned and ran ahead. With only a few strides, he was knocked down when he ran into something hard and big.

"Ite-Ite." The brunette shook his head and looked up. A very, _very_ large man stood over him, face hidden behind a mask. At that moment, a strange feeling settled at the pit of his stomach; it was almost like the same feeling he got every time his mother held a pair of scissors in her hand, but a bit worse. Duo slowly stood up and placed a hand behind his head, laughing nervously. "Ah, sorry bout that. Guess I should watch where I'm going."

The man stared at him, not replying.

The uneasy feeling began to spread throughout his body. "Uh, I guess I'll just be going with my friend here," he said quickly and turned around. When he did, he was just in time to see Quatre's last struggles as he fell motionless in another man's arms, a white cloth covering his mouth.

"Quat-uhn!"

Then everything went black.

* * * * *

He didn't know how long he was out, but when Duo regained consciousness, it was already dark.

The young boy groggily sat up, very disoriented, and rubbed his aching head.

'Wha...who?'

He took a look around, squinting his eyes and was able to recognize the street.

'What in the world am I--" Violet eyes widened suddenly. "Quatre!" The few events that took place just before he was knocked out flashed back into his memory. "Oh my God, oh my God," he muttered softly to himself. He rushed over to a lamppost and checked his watch.

8:00 p.m.

He cursed mentally before screaming.

"Heeelllp!"

* * * * *

He couldn't move. Something thin and tight bound his wrists and ankles, preventing him from doing anything even if he had the energy to do so.

He was lying on something hard and felt his body bouncing now and then.

He attempted to cry out, frightened and confused at what was going on, but his mouth was gagged. His eyes were blindfolded as well.

Before he could do anything else, he felt a prick on his arm.

Slowly his struggles became more sluggish as he fought to stay awake.

'What's going on?' Quatre thought helplessly, before falling unconscious once more.

* * * * *

Part Two

"Duo!"

The braided youth twisted his head in the direction of the scream, ice pack held to his head with one hand. "Mom."

Mrs. Maxwell's eyes shimmered with tears as she rushed to her son's side, embracing him tightly. "Duo, are you all right? I was so worried. When they called, it scared me so much--I'm so glad you're all right!"

Duo winced a bit as the grip around his waist tightened. "I'm okay, Ma . . ."

Mrs. Maxwell pulled away, wiping her eyes. "Don't ever scare me like that again, Duo."

Duo shifted the ice pack on his head, eyebrows furrowing. "I won't Ma, but that's not important! Quatre isn't okay! Someone took him and-and they can't find him!" He turned his head away, staring at the floor. "What are we going to do?? What if they don't find him?

"I-I, his birthday's this week," he continued, lifting his regretful eyes to meet his mother's. "We were going to throw him a party and everything, but now . . . what if they don't find him?! What if they never find him?!" He hurled the compress onto the ground and threw his arms around his mother's neck, burying his head into her chest.

Mrs. Maxwell's own violet eyes widened in surprise; she could not remember when she last saw such an emotional reaction from her son. She gently brought her arms around Duo's shaking body, rubbing his back soothingly. "Shh...it's going to be okay, Duo. They'll find Quatre."

Duo sniffled, looking up. "You promise?"

She nodded with certainty.

With a few last sniffles, Duo removed one of his arms and hastily wiped his eyes and nose on his sleeve.

Mrs. Maxwell pulled out her handkerchief and handed it to him. Duo took it and blew his nose hard on it and wiped his nose a couple of times before handing it back. With one last look at the droopy cloth, she tossed it into a nearby trash bin.

"Mrs. Maxwell?"

She turned her head to the voice, Duo quickly scrambling off of her and seated himself back onto the tabletop, giving one last scrub against his eyes with his sleeve. "Yes?"

A woman with short blue hair approached them, dressed in a blue uniform. She extended a hand. "Mrs. Maxwell, I'm Lieutenant Noin Lucrenza."

Mrs. Maxwell shook her hand. "Nice to meet you. Thank you for taking care of my son."Noin shook her head. "I mustn't take full credit. Dr. Po, our medic, took care of your son's injuries. I was just the one to bring him here."

"Still, I am eternally grateful."

"Just doing my job, Mrs. Maxwell, but you're welcome," Noin replied with a smile before her face turned grim. "May I assume that little Duo here has told you what happened tonight?"

"Yes, but only bits and pieces. It seems that Quatre Winner has been kidnapped?"

"Aa, we haven't much information about what transpired tonight, except from what your son has told us. Apparently, both boys were returning home at about 5:50 p.m. when your son took a blow to the head and was knocked unconscious and Quatre was also subdued with what we assume was chloroform, before he was abducted. Duo regained consciousness at around 8:00 p.m. and screamed for help. Neighbors heard him and phoned us."

Mrs. Maxwell covered her mouth in shock. "How dreadful--Have you heard anything yet? Have you contacted the Winners?"

Noin motioned for her to take a seat, while she did the same. "No, we haven't had any contact with the kidnappers yet. We assume that because of Quatre's illustrious family, the main aim was for money. It is the most logical conclusion, though there are others, this one seems more likely. We expect a ransom call, but none have been made yet.

"We've contacted the Winners, but Mr. Winner was not at home; however, as we speak he is flying from L1 and will be arriving in about 5 hours. The Winner's close family friend, Rashid, answered our call and he is currently at the Winner residence awaiting for any contact with the alleged kidnappers." Noin released a drawn out sigh. "We can only hope that they're chief purpose is money and that Quatre won't be harmed."

Mrs. Maxwell nodded mechanically and took a glance over to her son.

Duo sat fidgeting on the table, his hands wrenching at each other.

Worry etched onto her features as she looked back at Noin. "Lieutenant, is it all right if I took Duo home now?"

"Yes, he's given us all the information he could, so I don't see why he cou--"

"NO!"

Both women's attentions shifted, meeting a fuming nine-year-old.

Duo's eyes were filled with rage as he stood defiantly on the hard floor. "I'm not leaving until we find Quatre!"

Mrs. Maxwell rose from her seat, slowly approaching her son. "Duo, there's nothing else you can do here. They have everything under control."

"Then why haven't they found Quatre yet?!"

She knelt down in front of him, placing her hands on his shoulder. Duo turned his head away. "Duo. They're doing all they can now. You being here won't help matters. . .and. . .you may just get in their way."

He still wouldn't look at her, so she gently moved his chin so he faced her. "Duo."

"Duo, we are doing all we can," Noin interjected. I promise you that I'll do everything possible to bring Quatre back home safely."

Duo looked straight at the uniformed woman. "You promise?"

She placed a fist over her heart, looking directly into his eyes. "I promise, Duo. So why don't you go home? It's late, and I know that Quatre wouldn't want you to be worrying about him all night."

Finally, but with much reluctance, Duo complied and let his mom lead him to the door.

Getting into their car and buckling his seatbelt, Duo glared out his window. 'You _don't_ know Quatre, lady, but I do. I'm not going to just sit and wait for you to find him. I'm going to do it myself . . .but with a little help . . . '

* * * * *

Wufei stealthily slipped out of his bedroom window and climbed down the adjacent tree. Landing on the ground below, he dashed through the backyard, across the front lawn, and down the street.

By the time he made it to the corner of Oak Drive, Trowa was already waiting for him. With a brief nod, Trowa took off in the direction of Maple Street, Wufei not far behind him.

They reached the Maxwell's house five minutes later; Duo waited for them by his mailbox. Once they approached him, Duo silenced them, placing a finger on top of his lips and motioned for them to follow him to his backyard.

They climbed up the tree house that all four had constructed only two months ago, and it was only then did Duo begin to retell what happened that night.

". . . she promised that she'd do everything she could to find Quatre, but she didn't promise that she'd find him! What a crock! Forget her and forget the cops. It'll take them forever to find Quatre and I can't wait that long . . . neither can Quatre." Duo lowered his gaze.

A hand fell onto his left shoulder and Duo looked up. Wufei nodded reassuringly, before voicing what all had in their minds. "We'll find him."

Duo nodded, Trowa following suit. "But where are we going to start to look?" Trowa asked. "We don't have any clues to where he is . . . "

"That's true," Wufei replied, not really wanting to admit it, "but Duo's right. We can't rely on the police. _We_ have to figure out some way to find Quatre by ourselves."

"I think I know a way."

Trowa and Wufei quickly looked at Duo, who slowly lifted his eyes to look at them. "How?" both asked in unison.

Duo shook his head. "Not how . . . but who."

Trowa fixed a confused gaze at the brunette. "What do you mean?"

"Ohhh no."

Trowa switched his attention back to Wufei. "What?"

"He's the only one I can think of who can help us, Wufei," Duo responded calmly.

"But couldn't we find someone who's a liiittle bit more sane? The guy's a lunatic."

"No he isn't . . . well~, not _all_ the time anyway."

"Would someone please tell me what you two are talking about?" Trowa hated being left in the dark.

"You're crazy, Maxwell."

"Maybe, but it's the best I can think of." With that said, Duo stood up. "We better get some sleep. We'll have to leave early tomorrow."

Trowa stood up as well, almost about to stomp his feet in frustration. "To where?!"

Duo glanced over his shoulder before moving towards the door.

"To Heero Yuy's."

* * * * *

By the time Mrs. Maxwell woke up, Duo was already gone; a quick note was left on the kitchen table, telling her that he was going over a friend's house for the day, though her son failed to mention which friend.

Raising a tired hand to her forehead, she sighed.

'That boy will be the death of me someday.'

* * * * *

"Are you sure we're going the right way, Maxwell?" Wufei asked for what seemed like the millionth time . . . to Duo anyway.

"_YES_ Wufei. For the last time YES! I'm positive that we're going the right way!"

Trowa just ignored the exchange as he had been doing since they first left this morning.

The Chinese boy stuffed his hands in his pockets grumbling. "How in the world do you know where Heero lives anyway?"

"I just saw it in the teacher's roll book one day," Duo replied casually. "I was curious to see where he lived."

"Uh huh..."

Duo ignored the remark and looked at the next street sign. Pine Road. "All right! We're almost there!"

For the first time, Trowa took a look at their current surroundings. Large white houses with sky blue shutters lined the streets, while little bushes were situated in a row in front them. Each house even had its own white picket fence. There was a birdhouse in practically every tree, as well as birdbaths in the front lawns. A man was mowing the lawn, occasionally stopping to say good morning to another neighbor, which the latter returned cheerfully.

This is where Heero Yuy lives?

"This is it!"

Trowa was quickly taken out of his thoughts and looked to his left. What met his sights was a large white house with blue shutters, bushes lining the front of the house and a white picket fence.

Yep, definitely not where he expected Heero Yuy to live.

"Well," Duo said, "Let's go." With a few hesitant steps at first, Duo pushed open the gate and dragged both Wufei and Trowa through. Once they reached the front steps, he pushed Wufei in front of the doorbell. "Go ahead, Fei. Ring it."

Wufei looked flustered. "W-Why me?!"

Duo crossed his arms. "What...are you afraid?"

Something seemed to glint in the raven eyes. "I am NOT afraid!" After that was said, Wufei pressed the doorbell.

Trowa exhaled softly. 'Wufei always falls for that...'

They heard footsteps before the white-painted door opened. A tall woman with long brown hair, dark blue eyes, and a smiling face, greeted them. "Hello, children. What can I do for you?"

Trowa was the first to find his voice. "We're classmates of Heero's. Could we see him please?"

Both Wufei and Duo nodded a lot, blinking large eyes.

Mrs. Yuy's own eyes seemed to brighten. "Of course you can. I didn't know that Heero had any friends. He never mentioned about any, but I'm so glad that he does." She pulled opened the door and ushered the three boys in. "Come in, come in."

She then turned around and shouted up the stairs. "Heero! Your friends are here to see you!"

...

...

"Oh, he mustn't have heard me," she said to them before shouting again. "Heero! Could you please put down your explosives for one moment so that you can say hi to your friends?"

Three pairs of eyes widened a bit at _that_ line and all exchanged worried glances amongst themselves.

"Hee-Oh, there you are."

Nine-year-old Heero Yuy stared down stonily at the three guests, hand holding some type of gadget. "What?"

Mrs. Yuy placed both hands on her hips. "Heero, your friends came to visit you. Won't you say hi to them at least? It'd be very rude not to. And Honey, please put down your C4 detonator; it's impolite."

With a grunt, Heero stomped back into his room, tossed the object onto his bed and stomped downstairs.

Mrs. Yuy patted Heero on the head before pushing him towards the three stunned boys, all of which backed up a few steps. "Now you four play nice. I'll go get some cookies and milk for you boys."

A second later, they were alone. All stood silently, staring at each other.

Heero was the one to finally break the silence. "Do I know you?"

"Eh~ heh heh," Duo started uneasily. "Sure you do, Heero. We're in your class and uh we were just in the neighborhood, so we thought we'd stop by..."

Heero stared at them, watching as both Wufei and Trowa nodded in full agreement. "And...??"

The seriousness in Heero's face told Duo he'd better get on with it. "Actually, we came here for you help."

That caused one of Heero's eyebrows to quirk up in interest. "Is that so?"

"Yes," Trowa stated. "We need your help in finding one of our friends."

"He was kidnapped," Wufei continued.

"And we thought since, well, you knew a few 'things,' you could help us out," Duo finished.

Heero was silent for a while, fixing an intense look at each, though none faltered. Satisfied, Heero gave his consensus.

"Really?! Wow! Thanks Heero!" Duo shouted, completely relieved and hugged the impassive boy. "Boy, we thought it'd be harder to convince you to help us with the way you always act in school. Boy, were we wrong. You're such a great guy! I told Fei that you were--"

"You're touching me."

The cold statement, stopped Duo, mid blab, and he blinked. A second later, he carefully moved his hands away. "Uh, sorry bout that," he chuckled nervously. "Been stressed a bit."

"..."

"Could we please move on with it," Trowa voiced impatiently. The more time they wasted now, the longer it would take to find Quatre.

"Right!" Duo said and then looked at Heero.

"Follow me." Heero turned around and started up the stairs, all-trailing closely behind him.

* * * * *

"Have the kidnappers contacted the Winners yet?"

Duo shook his head. "No. I went over to their house this morning before we came here, and a maid told me they heard nothing."

Heero appeared happy to hear that and he turned to his computer.

"What are you going to do?" Wufei asked, the first line he'd spoken since he first entered the house.

"Going to tap into their phone line," Heero answered, connecting his laptop to his vid-phone. Ten minutes later, they had access to the Winner's entire phone system.

Duo released a low whistle. "Not bad."

Heero snorted, closing his laptop. "Now we wait."

"Right," the three other boys replied together.

Trowa leaned against the wooden dresser, as Wufei rested on the closet door. Duo sat idly in the middle of the floor, rocking back and forth as he looked about the room.

The room itself was pretty big, though very dark since the heavy curtains over the windows prevented any sunlight from coming inside. A few pictures lay on top of his otherwise neat desk; one of Heero, his mother, and presumably his father, all smiling, except Heero of course. Another picture stood beside it, but in this one, only Heero was in it with some other weird-looking old guy that _might_ have been Heero's grandfather(2). The guy did seem to have the same manic glint in his eyes as the boy sitting across from him did.

Scanning the room further, something shiny caught his attention and he
reached for it.

"Don't touch _anything_."

Duo "eeped" and quickly removed his hand.

Heero, in the meantime, grabbed the "shiny thing" that Duo took interest in and began taking it apart then putting it back together, then taking it apart and fixing it again. This continued on for a while, no one talking.

"Knock-knock~ I hope I'm not interrupting."

All heads turned to the door, all except for Heero though, who continued his meticulous play.

Mrs. Yuy carried in a tray with four glasses and a plate full of cookies and placed them on the floor in front of them. "Please help yourselves and call me if you need anything else." She smiled, ruffling her son's hair again, which received an annoyed grunt, before leaving.

Duo grabbed a cookie and stuffed it in his mouth. "Mmm, good!" He reached for a glass and took a big gulp of milk. "Hey Heero." He continued when the said boy looked like he was paying attention. "You're mom always like that?"

"Is there something wrong with my mother. . ."

Duo waved his hands frantically in front of him. "No-no-no! I didn't mean it like that!"

The death gleam in cobalt eyes calmed somewhat.

"I just mean that's she's really nice and happy-go-lucky." Duo could have stopped, but he couldn't help himself. "What happened to you?"

Heero growled, breaking a cookie in half.

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding," Duo said quickly, reaching over and popping one of the halved cookies into his mouth. "Sheez, where's your sense of humor?"

Before Heero could promise death, a beeping sound blared in the room, signaling that the Winners were getting an incoming call. All scrambled around the vid-phone.

"They won't be able to see us or hear us right?" Duo whispered.

Heero only nodded, upping the volume.

The screen turned black and all heard Mr. Winner's voice.

"Hello?"

"Mr. Winner?" a scrambled voice questioned.

"Yes. Yes it is. Is Quatre all right? Can I speak to him?? Please don't hurt him--"

"Mr. Winner. Your son is fine...for now. It all depends on how well we get along."

"Yes, of course."

"Now, listen carefully, Mr. Winner. The drop off will be at midnight tonight, the corner of 3rd and Main. The amount will be 10 million dollars; the largest bills will be hundreds. Come alone. Do you understand?"

"Yes, but I won't agree to anything until I see that my son is all right."

The screen flashed white and all watched as Quatre stumbled forward, falling onto the ground, eyes blindfolded and arms bound behind his back.

"QUATRE! Are you okay? Don't worry, everything's going to be fine."

Quatre struggled to sit upright. "Papa," he cried "I'm scared, please hurry and take me home!"

"It's okay Quatre. We're coming."

Quatre nodded, sniffling a bit. "Please hurry Papa, not like last time."

"Don't worry Quatre. You'll be home soon--Quatre!"

The screen went black again; muffled voices were heard before the scrambled voice spoke again. "Remember, midnight tonight."

Then the line went dead.

Heero frowned. The conversation wasn't long enough for him to trace it. "Damn it."

Duo leaned back away from the screen. Wufei had the same grim look as he did on his face. Duo's eyes moved to the far wall. "Trowa!"

The brunette's attention snapped away from the screen and looked at Duo questioningly. "What?"

Duo crawled over to his side and grabbed his hand. "Your hand, you idiot!" Duo pulled the other's fingers apart, blood dripping onto the carpet as a result from his clenched fist.

Green eyes widened in surprise.

A few minutes later, Heero returned with the first aid kit and cleaned and bandaged the injured hand. No one spoke as he did so.

"What should we do now?" Wufei asked, breaking the silence.

No one knew what to say. They had absolutely no leads and therefore wouldn't have the slightest clue of where to look for their friend first.

"The only means of action we can take is to wait," Heero said finally. "The drop-off’s tonight and if everything goes as planned, your friend should be returned safely."

All didn't really want to agree, but did. It was the only thing they _could_ do.

Five minutes later, Heero watched as the three departed. He closed the door behind them and started up the stairs.

"Heero?"

He stopped halfway up. "Hm?"

"Did your friends leave already?"

"Aa."

"Oh. They seemed like such nice boys. I hope they come and visit again."

". . .Aa."

* * * * *

"Come on guys. Don't look so down," Duo said, trying to be the optimist. "By tomorrow, Quatre will be back with us and it can be like what it used to be before this all happened."

"Quatre's father _will_ pay the amount, right Maxwell?"

Duo reeled back in shock. "Of course he will! Money means nothing to Mr. Winner when his son is involved."

"Is that so?" Wufei replied skeptically.

Duo stopped walking. "What do you mean by that?"

Wufei stopped as well. "What I mean is, if Quatre is so important to his dad, then why isn't he going to be here for Quatre's birthday? Huh? Tell me that.

"I..." Duo faltered for a second, but only a second and his resolve returned. "Look, Wufei. Mr. Winner loves Quatre. I know sometimes he's not there for him, but parents do that sometimes. Right now, all that matters to Mr. Winner is getting Quatre back; I know it. He loves Quatre too much to let anything like money get in his way. And I don't know why you would think differently!"

Wufei bowed his head. "Sorry."

Duo blinked, not really knowing where all that came from and began laughing uneasily. "It's okay. We're all a bit stressed out." He then grabbed Wufei's arm then Trowa's and started walking. "Come on. Let's just go home."

* * * * *

The phone continued to ring and it didn't appear that the caller was going to give up. With much force and luck, Mrs. Maxwell was able to locate her phone and turned it on. "Hello..."

"Hello, may I speak to Duo?"

"What?"

"May I speak to Duo. Duo Maxwell."

Mrs. Maxwell rubbed at her tired eyes and stared at her vid-phone. A boy looking about the same age as her son stared back at her with intense blue eyes. She then glanced over to her alarm clock. "It's 12:20 in the morning. Can't it wait? Who are you?"

Heero growled in impatience. "A friend of his. It is vital that I talk to him right _now_."

The forcefulness of the voice fully awakened the woman. "All right. Hold on."

She put the phone on hold and grabbed her robe. Tying it on, she left her room, padded down the hallway to Duo's door. She wearily read the sign on the door and shook her head.

"Death lies within"

She'd have to have a talk to him one of these days about this obsession of his.

She turned the doorknob and crossed the messy floor. She knelt down beside the bed and began nudging her son's shoulder. "Duo...Duo, wake up. Phone call."

Duo flipped over to his other side. "Um-tired. Just another five minutes Ma . . ."

"Duo, Duo!" She shook him harder and finally the brunette stared at her through half closed eyes.

". . .What?"

"Phone call."

"I don't like dolls."

She grabbed the phone on the nightstand and tossed it on the bed, then left the room, mumbling.

With a soft "Oh", Duo rubbed his tired eyes, and let loose a long yawn as he pushed the button to turn on the phone.

"Duo."

"Ahhh..." Duo stretched, smacking his lips. "Huh? Wuzzup Heero? What's the big idea of waking me up in the middle of the night?"

"Quatre."

Violet eyes snapped open, and he grabbed the screen. "What?! What about him?" It was then that he noticed the disturbed look on Heero's face.

"They still have him."

"What do you mean they still have him?!" he shouted, grabbing his clock. "It's 12:26. He's supposed to be home already . . . right?"

He watched as Heero stiffly shook his head.

"Why not?! Mr. Winner paid right? Didn't he? Didn't he?!"

"Duo. Calm down. Yes, he paid, but--"

"But what?!"

"They just took the money and sped off."

Duo lost his grip on the phone. "W-What?" he said weakly. "But, but now what?"

"They called again. Now demanding more money."

"More?! Why didn't they just ask for it all at once?!"

Heero looked down towards the ground. "This was a test. To see if Winner would actually do it."

"Of course he would!" Duo practically shouted. "Why wouldn't he?!"

"Duo. The speakers on my phone work perfectly fine."

The redness slowly began to fade out of his eyes, returning back to tired purple ones. "...sorry." Duo fell limply on his bed, cradling the phone in his hands. 'What's going to happen to Quatre now...is he all right?'

"Duo..."

"How much?"

" . . . 50 million dollars by tomorrow night."

"50 million dollars??! Are they insane?! Mr. Winner can't get that much by tomorrow!"

"He'll have to."

Duo pulled his hair in frustration. Why was this happening?? Quatre never did anything to anyone--why did this have to happen?!

Suddenly, a loud banging sounded from the front door. That was strange.

"Someone's at the door Heero. Hold on."

Heero nodded and Duo pulled himself out of his bed and walked to the front door. He looked through the eyehole and recognized that brown bang.

He unlocked the door and pulled it open. "Trowa? Did you hear?"

Trowa nodded stiffly, moving swiftly into the room.

Duo ran a hand through his bangs. "Heero told me over the phone; he's still on now. Trowa, what are we go--"

"I know where he is."

"--ing to--What?!" Duo grabbed Trowa's shoulders, shaking him. "How?! Are you sure?"

"Positive. We have to get Quatre back _tonight_." He removed the hands on his shoulders and started towards Duo's room. "Come on. We need to contact Wufei. We'll need his help."

Duo nodded obediently and followed.

* * * * *

Part Three

A single tear slid free from behind the cloth and treaded its way down Quatre's cheek. 'He said he'd hurry--Why am I still here? I want to go home...'

Despite how hard he tried, a soft whimper escaped his lips and he turned his head to the side, body shaking.

A hand fell onto his shoulder and he froze.

"Hey," a voice said. "You want something to eat?"

Quatre didn't move; he was too scared to.

"Hey, come on kid. I said do you want something to eat?"

A long time passed before he nodded his head. The hand disappeared and moved to help him sit upright.

"Hope you like chicken noodle soup. It's all I can cook."

Quatre nodded weakly and moved to take the bowl, but then remember that his hands were tied and that he couldn't even see it.

He felt something near his lips and he instinctively opened them. A warm liquid poured into his mouth and he swallowed eagerly. It'd been such a long time since he'd last eaten.

He finished in no time and was once again lying back on the soft mattress. "Thank you," he said in a hushed voice.

"...sure."

He heard the door close and he was alone again.

It was a situation he wasn't too unfamiliar with; being alone that is. He wasn't alone in the sense that no one was ever around him at home. No...there were his sisters, when they weren't at college or off living their own lives. Rashid was always there though. Some would think that if he wasn't careful enough, he would have considered him more of his father than his biological one. But that would never happen.

Yes, it was true that his father wasn't home a lot of the time. Always out of the country on business trips or in his office. Things like that.

Always...away.

It hurt.

It hurt so much sometimes, knowing someone loved you, but never having them there except for a few moments in your life when they were supposed to always be there--physically or spiritually.

Of its own free will, Quatre's eyes welled up with tears, moistening the cloth covering his eyes. He shifted so his face buried itself on the rough pillow beneath his head, shoulders shaking and breath hitching.

'I want to go home,' he cried into the fabric. 'Why am I still here?...doesn't Papa want me? Doesn't he love me--'

He shook his head violently at the thought and at the ones that followed.

~~"Ma loves me in the same way as your father loves you; there's no difference...You're such a smart and nice kid and I'm sure your father is proud of you and cares for you a whole lot..."~~

Duo's voice echoed in his head, soothing his mind, and soon his sobs turned to soft hiccups. Laying there, he tried to think of the more happier moments in his life, just so he could be distracted. However, as hard as he tried, his memory seemed cloudy, an odd sensation creeping throughout his body. The energy in his body slowly drained away, so much so that he could barely keep his eyes open.

So he didn't.

* * * * *

"He's at the harbor? You sure?"

All five boys were gathered in Duo's room, seated on the floor. Wufei arrived not long after he was called. Heero arrived a bit later since he lived further away.

"Yes," Trowa responded, confidence in his voice.

Duo rested his head on both his arms. "How can you be so sure?"

"It was something he said," was the response before Trowa took hold of Heero's laptop, getting permission first before typing in a few commands. They all sat as Quatre's voice filled the room.

"Papa, I'm scared, please hurry and take me home."

"It's okay Quatre. We're coming."

"Please hurry Papa, not like last time."

"Don't worry Quatre. You'll be home--"

Trowa paused the wav file and rewound it before pressing play again.

"Please hurry Papa, not like last time."

He stopped the recording.

"Hey . . . what did he mean by that?" Duo asked, just realizing what Trowa was pointing out. "I didn't even notice he said that."

"Nor I." Wufei looked directly at Trowa. "But you did."

"Aa," was the calm reply before Trowa's gaze shifted to the braided boy. "Duo, do you remember the time when Quatre had a very bad cold last month?"

"Sure," Duo said automatically. "He was sick for a week."

"I don't know if he ever told you," he started quietly, "but after you and Wufei were driven home by your parents on the day we visited the harbor, it began to rain a little. Quatre and I were waiting for our parents, so I was there when he phoned his dad." Trowa looked down at his hands. "I remember him telling his dad to hurry since it really looked like it was going to rain. My mother came to pick me up and we offered him a ride but he said no since his dad was coming anyway. So I left. I didn't find out until the next day that he was stuck there for another hour when it really started to rain. That's how he got sick and that's why when I heard him on the phone…"

"It reminded you of what happened at the harbor," Duo finished, slamming his fist on his bed. "It's a long shot, but it's the best we've got!"

Not a moment later, Heero reclaimed his laptop, typing in something. "All right." He turned the computer around so everyone could see. "This is the plan."

* * * * *

"Did he eat it?"

The man with shaggy brown hair with matching mustache nodded, though uneasily. "Ate everything, but was it really necessary Joe. I mean he's just a kid..."

Brown eyes hardened. "You're not getting soft on me, are you Lou. Oh, he's just a kid," he mimicked sarcastically, "Well, you knew what we were planning beforehand, so you didn't have to be part of the deal. 'sides, it'll be all worth it in the end. Look at all this f***ing cash, Lou. You ever see so damn much? And lookit, we're going to get even more tonight. We're never going to have to worry about money ever again!" Joe tossed a wad of bills at the other and seated himself down on a metal chair. "I shoulda done this a long~ time ago!"

He tilted back on his chair, folding his arms around his head. "Wasn't it a riot seeing Winner's face when we just took off with the cash? Never thought I'd live to see that dumb looking expression on that bastard's face," he laughed out loud, taking a swig of his beer. "Too bad I won't get to see his face when he sees his little boy's dead body. Now _that's_ a face I would die to see!"

Lou's mouth suddenly dried. "What are you talking about, Joe?"

"What? You actually thought I'd return the little brat unharmed. No f***ing way! Not after what that asshole of a Winner did to me," he sneered, throwing the glass bottle onto the ground. "No . . . not after what he did."

"Joe, are you crazy?! You said this was just a kidnapping job! You never said anything about murder!"

The man just rested his head on his arms again, a look of innocence on his face. "Must of slipped my mind." He then laughed heartedly. "By 7 o' clock tonight that poison you gave him will shut that little brat up forever."

"You're insane."

"Hmph, that's what I've been told," Joe said, standing up slowly. "You're not getting any ideas are you?"

Lou quickly shook his head. "What? You kidding me. I wanted the cash so I'm going to get it...who cares if a kid dies in the process..."

Satisfied, Joe moved towards the door. "Good. I'm goin' out. Don't do anything stupid."

Lou nodded numbly and when his partner was gone, he looked back into the shaded room.

He watched as the small body on the bed tossed and turned, sweat soaking blonde bangs.

'Damn.'

* * * * *

Heero shifted his backpack over his shoulder. "Ready?"

The time was 5:00 p.m. It had taken most of the day for the four boys to prepare for what they were about to do, but they were finally ready.

"Aa," Trowa said, zipping up his own black bag and pulling it over his shoulder. All were dressed in black from top to bottom, courtesy of Duo Maxwell's wardrobe.

"Are you sure we shouldn't contact the authorities?" Wufei questioned again.

Duo pulled on his black cap. "Don't worry Fei. Everything's set. 'sides, I wanna see if all of this stuff will work."

"DUO!"

"_Kidding_! I'm kidding. Man, you guys can never loosen up."

Wufei grunted, moving out of the door. "You should learn when to act more seriously."

Duo fumed. "I AM serious."

"Could have fooled me."

"You wanna start something, Fei?"

"My name is WUfei, Maxwell!"

"Well MY name is Duo, FEI!"

The two boys growled at each other, prepared to pounce. With strong hands, Trowa moved them apart, looking at each of them squarely in the eye. "Quit. It. There's no time for your petty arguments. Quatre needs us."

Both looked guiltily away.

"Sorry."

"Sorry."

"Come on," Heero said from the sidewalk. "There's no time to waste."

With that said, all sprinted in the direction of the ocean.

* * * * *

Quatre let out a soft groan, body shuddering. 'What's...happening...it hurts...so much...'

He moved his hands to his stomach, not even knowing when they were untied and clenched his sides.

"For Gods sakes, kid. I didn't know that he was goin--shit."

A hand brushed his soaked forehead and he shivered at the touch. "It hurts...it hurts so much...w-why? Why does it hurt so much..."

He felt the cloth that shielded his eyes being removed and he wearily blinked at the blinding light. He could barely see, his vision all hazy and distorted. He moved his head, dispelling much energy as he did, and peered up at the only person in the room. All he could see was a glint of something; the rest of the image was blurred. He reached out a shaking hand. "I...can't...see...what's wrong with me?" A wave of pain stabbed into his stomach and he wrapped both arms around himself, moaning.

A coughing fit started and continued on for quite some time. His body racked with each cough, sending a violent shiver down his body as he did so. He felt a hand nervously patting his back, and when he finally stopped coughing, he felt something splatter onto his hand and roll down his chin.

"Oh my Jesus--"

*BOOM!!*

Another voice echoed through the room. "What in the hell??!!!"

It was the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness.

* * * * *

"Come on, Heero! Lemme do the next one!" Duo shouted with excitement, trying to grab the black box out of Heero's hands. "You can't have all the fun!"

Heero looked at Duo, then at his box, then at Duo's eager face again. He turned his head away as he handed it over.

Duo squealed in glee and pushed a red button.

*BOOM!!*

"Mwahahaha!!!!" he laughed manically, pushing another red button that set off another explosive in front of the warehouse. Then another and another. "MWAHAHAHA!!!!! SHINIGAMI LIVES!!!"

Three pairs of eyes stared blankly at him.

Duo blinked. "What? It sounded cool."

Wufei hit himself over the head a couple of times. 'How in the _world_ did I ever become his friend??'

"Duo. I think that's enough. We're trying to get their attention, not the whole town's," Trowa said blandly.

"Aww...but can't I do another one?? Can I? Can I? Just one more!!"

Heero snatched the controller out of the too-happy-about-blowing-up-things kid and turned it off before stuffing it back into his backpack. "Come on. Phase Two."

"Oh all right..."

Four small bodies moved away from the fence and crawled through the tall grass.

* * * * *

"LOU! Where the HELL are you?!" Joe stormed from the bathroom and headed straight for the back room. He found his partner kneeling beside the bed. The kid's hands were untied and the blindfold was gone. "What the f*** are you doing?!"

Lou turned around quickly. "Oh my Jesus, Joe, the kid's dying here."

"No f***ing kidding! That's the whole point!"

*BOOM!!*

Joe ran to the window. "What the HELL _is_ that?

*BOOM!!* *BOOM!!*

"Holy sh--"

*BOOM!!* *BOOM!!* *BOOM!!*

"It looks like a f***ing war zone out there!" he screamed. He hurriedly grabbed his gun and ran out of the room calling out as he did. "Lou! Pack up the kid! We're gettin' out of here NOW!"

The far door slammed and Lou stared at it for a while before looking at the one beside him.

Sweat continued to pour down Quatre's small face, his features contorted in a painful grimace.

Wrapping a blanket around him, Lou lifted Quatre up.

"Yea, we're getting out of here," he whispered, looking down at the flushed face before moving out of the room. "And to the nearest hospital."

* * * * *

Joe cautiously looked left then right as he stepped out of the abandoned warehouse, gun poised. He took a few looks around him, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, except for the few holes that now polka dotted the terrain.

Something rustled to the left of him and he pointed his gun straight at the noise and fired. "I know you're out there! Who the f*** are you?!"

"In the name of justice(3)."

He whipped his head around just as something hard knocked him over the head. He staggered backwards, dropping his gun.

At the same time, a figure dashed in front of him, giving a high kick into his stomach, making him cry out. The shadow then quickly grabbed the gun and tumbled out of the way.

"OW! F***!" Joe said, tears coming to his eyes.

"Tsk Tsk. You shouldn't say such words, mister."

He blinked his eyes and as his vision cleared he could see two forms, one holding something in his hands.

Duo stood, arms on his hips. "Go on Heero. Let 'im have it."

His eyes widened when he finally recognized what that short kid had in his hands. "Shit," he cursed as he turned around and wobbled away as quick as he could.

*BANG!!*

"Ooo, good shot Heero. Right in the kisser!"

*BANG*

"Cool! You got the other cheek too!!"

Heero lowered the BB gun and smirked.

Joe fell down on the ground, trying to ignore the pain and crawl away. Four shadows then loomed over him and he covered his head. "Don't hurt me! For God's sake, don't hurt me!"

Trowa nudged the body beneath them with his right foot. "Where is he?"

"Who? The Winner kid?" he replied frantically, not looking up.

Trowa reached down and grabbed his hair, lifting the man's head off of the ground. "Where. Is. He?!"

"Inside! He's inside!" he shouted, about ready to cry.

Trowa dropped him, disgusted and ran inside, Wufei following after as Heero and Duo stayed by their captive.

Duo knelt down by the cowering man and whispered in his ear. "If you did _anything_ to our friend, finding out how to sit down will be the least of your problems after we get through with you."

"Look, it wasn't my idea! I just wanted the money, but Lou's crazy! I didn't want to kill the kid!"

Duo froze then grabbed the man's shoulders. "What?! What are you blabbing about?!"

The scruffed up man stared imploringly into Duo's eyes. "I didn't want to kill him, but Lou had some grudge against the family. He's insane I tell you!"

Duo couldn't believe what he was hearing. He shook the man harder. "You stinkin' lousy sonuvabitch! I'll kill you!" In a fit of rage he grabbed the man's neck and was squeezing it as hard as he could. Tears started to form in his eyes. 'Quatre...Not Quatre...'

~~Lively blue eyes stared up at him, hands cupped over his mouth. "Duuuuu-O Come out and Plaaa-AY!"~~

~~"Duo, I thought my hair was suppose to turn red...not orange..."~~

~~"Duo, we're friends right?"~~

~~"Thank you, Duo."~~

Duo tightened his grip, even after the man fell unconscious, tears spilling from his eyes.

Strong hands came over his, pulling them free from the man's neck. Duo tried to push past Heero, but the latter wouldn't let him. "I'll kill him! Let me GO Heero! I'm going to kill that murdering sonuvabitch! He killed Quatre!" he cried out hysterically.

A hard hand connected with his cheek, stunning him. Duo lifted a shaking hand to his now redden cheek and stared into cobalt eyes. "Heero..."

Heero looked at him solemnly and it was all that it took before Duo threw his arms around Heero's waist and cried into his black tank top.

Slowly and hesitantly, Heero lifted his arms and wrapped them around the other.

* * * * *

Trowa and Wufei hurried past the wooden door and across the concrete floor. They spotted a figure running to a side door, something in his arms.

"STOP!"

The unidentifiable form halted and turned around. As he did, both boys recognized the blonde hair coming out of the thin brown blanket.

Quatre.

They closed the distance between them in no time, the other not moving.

Wufei held out his bokken menacingly in front of him, pointing it at the man. "Unhand him!"

"There's no time! We have to get him to a hospital!"

Wufei faltered slightly. "What?"

"He's dying for crissake! We have to get him to a hospital!"

Both peered down at the motionless form in the stranger's arms. Quatre's skin seemed much paler than usual, a trail of blood flowing steadily out of the corner of his discolored lips. His shallow breathing, the only indication that the boy was still alive, sounded as if he were fighting to get what little oxygen he could into his shaking body.

The man was right. There wasn't any time for questions.

Lowering his weapon, both Wufei and Trowa nodded and followed the man as he ran out of the room.

Once they did, they heard the sirens and flashing lights.

"Stop right there! This is the police!"

The man continued to run towards the officers. "There isn't any time! You have to get this kid to the hospital!"

Trowa and Wufei stared at the man. Was he really a part of the kidnapping?

Suddenly, they were steered away from him and Quatre, protesting all the way until they were standing beside both Heero and Duo.

Duo grabbed Trowa's shirt, eyes red and puffy, asking if Quatre was okay. Trowa didn't answer, his attention focused on the scene in front of him. He watched as a uniformed lady carted Quatre away to the ambulance, the sight alone causing something inside of him to tear painfully.

So many people surrounded their friend as soon as he was lowered into the vehicle, so much so that they could barely see him and only a barrage of hands frantically pulling and probing the unconscious form.

Huddled close together in the coldness of the night, they watched as the ambulance drove away, leaving them all to wonder if anything they had done tonight had any purpose at all.

* * * * *

Part Four

It was on the news the very next morning and continued on throughout the day.

Joe Hardford was arrested at the scene and after receiving medical attention was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder. It was discovered that only a year ago he work for one of the many Winner's Computer Industries, but was fired last September when he was found embezzling the company's profits. Not long after, his wife divorced him when she discovered this information and she and her son left the country. He hadn't seen them since.

Lou Flemmings was also arrested at the scene and was charged with kidnapping and assist in attempted murder though the latter charge is still being investigated for its validity. Previous crimes included two assists in robbery and a break-in.

Both are to be tried this coming April.

On the night of Wednesday March 12, Quatre Winner was rushed to the hospital. He was diagnosed as in having a rare poison that when administered spreads quickly through the body, affecting both respiratory and circulatory systems. People who consume this poison and whom do not receive proper treatment within the vicinity of about twelve hours will suffer very painfully until they expire. However, Dr. Sally Po identified the poison immediately and was able to administer the antidote within the specified time and to the Winner's relief as well as many close friends, eight-year-old Quatre Winner is expected to make a full recovery without incident.

The Winner family would like to thank Dr. Po as well as the police force of Colony L4 for their help in saving their only son. However, much of the thanks go to four little boys who stopped at nothing to save their friend. Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, and Chang Wufei, all age nine, had, with their own hands, apprehended the alleged criminals and were probably the main reason why young Quatre's life was saved. When interviewed all four boys modestly stated that they were only doing what Quatre would have done for them if the situation was changed.

All four are currently grounded, however, and much to young Heero Yuy's dismay, the police have confiscated his supply of weaponry and other explosives. Like every other parent in the galaxy, the parents of these four courageous boys didn't take pride in the fact that their children endangered their lives, even if it was to save their friend. They are, in reality, only nine years in age and galloping around with highly dangerous explosives was definitely not their cup of tea. After much scolding, the boy's parents made them promise to come to them first for help before they went off and blew up something. The discussion on whether the police will be returning young Yuy's arms and explosives is still in debate.

In other news...*click*

Lieutenant Noin shut off her television and leaned into her sofa, smiling softly to herself.

'Kids these days...'

* * * * *

"Duo...where are you taking me?" Quatre laughed, trying to peer through his friend’s fingers.

"It's a surprise!" Duo whispered excitedly in his friend's ear.

Quatre laughed even more. "I think I'm a bit of afraid of your surprises, Duo."

"How can you SAY that, Quatre?! What do you think I would DO to you o-buddy-o-pal of mine??"

The mock innocence in the voice only worried the young Winner even more, but he allowed himself to be led to...well, wherever he was going.

"Okay...stop!"

Quatre obediently obeyed and waited patiently until Duo removed his hands.

"SURPRISE!!!!"

Quatre's blue eyes widened to its fullest, gasping in surprise. Before his eyes, lay the circus, which was decorated with more balloons than he'd ever seen in his life. Streamers ran through the air in many colors and a large cake with ten lit candles was positioned right beneath a banner that read "Happy Birthday Quatre!"

His entire family was there, including his father, as well as Trowa, Wufei, and Heero and their families. All were smiling, even Trowa and Heero.

He watched as Duo bounced in front of him and settled himself beside Heero, slinging one arm around the stoic boy's neck. "So, whatcha think, Quatre?"

Quatre didn't even know where to begin. "It's, it's...wonderful," he said finally. "Thank you...It's just all so wonderful!" He couldn't remember the last time he had been so happy.

"Quatre, come now. You don't want your cake to melt," Mr. Winner said, walking to his son. He knelt down in front of the one person that reminded him so much of the one he longed to see, but was even happier to know that this person standing in front of him filled him with the love he thought had gone away when she did. "Quatre, I'm sorry I haven't spent that much time with you," Mr. Winner began, placing both of his hands on his son's shoulders. "I promise from now on that I won't take you for granted. I love you. Don't you ever forget that."

Quatre nodded and hugged him closely. "I love you too, Papa."

"Yo Quatre! Your cake's melting!"

Quatre pulled away as Mr. Winner stood up and then nudged his son forward. "Go on."

Quatre nodded and happily ran over to his friends and stood right in front of them. He looked at each and every one of them. "Trowa, Wufei, Duo, Heero, thank you for saving me. You're the bestest friends I could ever have."

"Aww," Duo said, grabbing Quatre's head and giving him a noogie. "You know you'd do the same for us, right guys?"

Three heads nodded in response.

Quatre smiled. He indeed had the best of friends.

"Quatre," Trowa said, motioning to the cake.

Quatre snapped out of his thoughts and took a few steps until he was in front of the cake.

"Don't forget to make a wish!" he heard Duo say. He nodded and faced the cake, taking one last glance at all his friends before he blew.

Wufei stood proudly, arms over his chest, eyes soft and smiling and was trying to ignore what was going on beside him. Duo was currently trying to get Heero to put on one of those pointy cardboard birthday hats, which Heero made a point of throwing on the ground and stepping all over until it was flattened. Quatre almost laughed as he inhaled, preparing to blow. Just before he did, he took a quick glance into green eyes.

I wish...

* * * * *

 

Epilogue

Quatre slowly opened his eyes, blinking and waited for his vision to clear. Once it did his eyes met calm green ones. It was then that he felt something cold on his forehead.

"Quatre?"

The Arabian looked up curiously at the brunette and slowly sat up, pulling off the cool compress as he did. He brushed a hand through his blonde hair. "What happened?"

Trowa took the white cloth from his hands before turning away, placing it into the water basin beside him. "You fell ill two days ago after the mission at Balsi. When we landed and you didn't come out of your Gundam, Duo found you unconscious in Sandrock. Your temperature was very high and you were hallucinating at times, much so, that we had to restrain you." He turned back to the bed. "Are you feeling better?"

Quatre blinked. "A-Aa. I am. Thank you."

Trowa nodded and lifted up the basin and walked to the adjoining bathroom.

Quatre raised a hand to his temple. 'It was all a dream??' He sighed, closing his eyes. 'It seemed so real . . .'

~~"KA-TO-RUUU! Come out and PLAAAAAA-AY!"~~

~~"Thank you for the ice cream, Quatre."~~

~~"MAXWELL!! Come back with my bokken!"~~

~~"How in the WORLD did we ever let you talk us into this Maxwell?!"~~

~~"What? I think Trowa looks pretty cute with red hair. Don't you think so Quatre?"~~

~~"Get that hat AWAY from me!!"~~

~~"...you killed it, Heero!"~~

"Duo, omae o korosu!"

"Why thank you, Heero! I love you too!"

Quatre opened his eyes at the familiar loud voices and watched as his other three comrades appeared through his doorway. Wufei was currently trying to restrain the Wing pilot from terminating Duo right then and there as the braided teen entered his room. "Yo Quatre! You feeling better?"

"Aa," Quatre replied, removing his hand from his forehead. "Much better."

"That's good," the braided pilot said as he sat down in the chair that Trowa had just so recently occupied, and then inhaled a big breath. "You scared the crap out of us when we found you in Sandrock! What the HELL were you thinking piloting when you were sick?! You could have gotten yourself killed!"

Despite the brash scolding, Quatre didn't shrink back at all rather he smiled. "Thank you, Duo," he said, voice sincere. "For worrying about me. You're truly are a great friend."

"Eh? Oh, sure..." Duo scratched his head in puzzlement and then pointed a single digit at him. "Just don't ever do that again..."

Quatre nodded before Duo leaned forward.

"...I don't think Trowa could take another shock like that." Duo moved back and gave his trademark cheeky grin and a wink as Quatre sat, a bit stunned by the words.

"Maxwell, you're not purposely trying to make Quatre have another relapse are you?"

"Duuu-O! My name is Duuu-O. Can you say that? Let's try together. Duuuu-O!"

Quatre had to cover his mouth before he could laugh out loud, watching the all too familiar display.

Wufei stared uncaringly at the American and the latter threw up his arms. "Forget it! Come on Heero," he said latching onto the pilot's arm. "I wanna try out some of those new explosives you got."

"Duo..."

Quatre watched as the two left, leaving only him and Wufei in the room.

"It's good to see that you are well again, Quatre."

"Thank you Wufei. Did I miss anything while I was...out?"

Wufei sat down on the chair, giving his negative. "The only excitement we've had around here was when Maxw--Duo stole some of Heero's C4 and began detonating them in your backyard. I hope you don't mind a few more holes."

"Er...no, not at all."

Trowa took that point to reenter the room, hands wiping on a paper towel.

"I have to go practice," Wufei said, standing up. "I'll see you later, Quatre."

Quatre waved as he left and then leaned back on the headboard closing his eyes, random images beginning to flash across his mind.

'It was such a nice dream. . .'

~~Duo laughing. _Really_ laughing as he chased Trowa around the lawn with Wufei's bokken.~~

~~Wufei pointing his bokken at Duo's nose.~~

~~Heero accepting an ice cream, lips curving upwards.~~

~~Trowa's happy face as they played tag.~~

No war.

He didn't want to open his eyes.

If he did, reality would smack him right in the face.

"Quatre?"

But for that voice...

He opened his eyes. Trowa looked at him strangely, and he could guess why. "Thank you, Trowa," he said after some time. "For taking care of me."

Trowa was silent, settling into his seat once more. "You know you'd do the same for us," he said simply yet in his detached Trowa way.

~~"Aww, you know you'd do the same for us, right guys?"~~

Quatre smiled and looked out his bedroom window to the blue sky outside. Five youthful boys looked back at him smiling, arms slung around each other's shoulders. He turned back and stared into green eyes, his own eyes holding an overall sense of understanding. "Aa," he said quietly. "We are friends after all."

War or no war, the bond of our friendship will last for all time.

The End

 

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes
Lyrics by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston

A dream is a wish your heart makes
when your fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartache
whatever you wish for you keep

Have faith in your dreams and someday
your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
if you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true

No matter how your heart is grieving
if you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true.

 

Notes:
(1) I have absolutely no idea what 9 year old kids watch and this was the first show that popped into my head for Quatre. Call me out of touch with the younger generation ^_^ I really did not want to put down Pokemon...I don't really think Quatre would be much of a Pokemon fan. So any suggestions would duly be appreciated ^_^ ...hmm...maybe Smurfs?...*shakes head and mumbles* no idea...no idea...

(2) Any guesses to who _this_ guy is?? ^_^ *coughcoughJcoughcough* ^_~

(3) ^___^

P.S. If you want to know what Quatre wished for, read the lyrics ^_^

Mika-chan
E-mail: Tiff47@aol.com or stwinstar@hotmail.com
April 10, 2000