Part 3

Quatre watched in helpless shock as Duo was herded right off the roof, too far away to catch him. He cried a useless warning when he saw the girl racing towards the edge, somehow knowing she intended to fling herself after the American pilot. His uchuu no kokoro tightened in pain, and he clasped at his chest. "Duo…" he whispered.

From his perch in Sandrock's cockpit, he could see over the roof to where Duo and the girl were straining to reach one another's hands, and he felt tears well up in his eyes. "Oh, Duo. Did you find someone to love at last, only to lose her like this?"

She grabbed at his wrist, and Quatre blinked hard. For a moment, her streaming hair had almost looked like..

"Masaka!" He gasped, unable to believe his eyes. Sable wings spread from the girl's back, edges fluttering in the wind of her passage, feathers swirling around her and Duo. She flapped hard, pulling on Duo's arm, strain evident on her face. Though she beat frantically at the air, it was obvious that Duo was too heavy for her to lift. Their headlong descent was now controlled and somewhat slowed, but impact would still be very painfull.

Quatre watched in awe as what he could only believe was an angel fought to save his friend from certain death, risking her own life in the process. He saw Duo's grip on her arm slacken as he apparently passed out, and in the last moment before they hit the ground, she pulled him up against her body, curling around him protectively.

The Arabian pilot winced in sympathy as they hit the ground with a smack, tumbling head over heels with the impact. The angel jerked sideways to keep Duo's head from hitting the ground, and he saw one of her wings twisted beneath her at an angle that could only mean one or more bones was broken. His uchuu no kokoro spasmed once, then released him, and he knew they were both alive, though hurt.

"Trowa!" He cried through the com. "I can't get to that side of the building. Can you?"

"Hai," his lover answered in a dead, flat tone. HeavyArms maneuvered through the Leos, one huge metal hand coming down to protect Duo and the girl from ground fire.

Duo woke to find the ground solid beneath him and a horrible ache all down his left side. Unable to believe he was still alive, he turned his head and saw Dana sprawled out on one side of him, one wing trapped beneath her at a hideous angle. He scrambled over to her and cradled her head in his lap. "Dana?"

She whimpered and looked up at him, features full of pain. "Hurts…" she whispered.

He deliberately avoided looking at her right wing, where the bone poked through and stained the sable feathers crimson in several places. "Yeah, I bet it does," he murmured in return. A shadow fell over them, and he looked up to see HeavyArms' sheltering hand. Gentle, mindful of her torn wing, he scooped her up. "It's okay, you're safe now," he said, climbing onto the proffered metal hand.

She whimpered again and buried her head in his shoulder, arms twined around his neck. As Shenlong cleared a path and Sandrock and HeavyArms carried their precious burdens out of the firefight back to the safehouse, Duo rocked her gently, whispering reassurances in her ear.

She'd passed out and come to several times by the time they reached Quatre's safehouse, crying out in pain whenever they were jostled by HeavyArms' movements. Duo clutched her to his chest, trying to cushion the shock, occasionally running his hand through the feathers of her left wing in utter awe. They were soft and delicate to the touch, shadow made substantial, and fascinated him to no end. Trowa lowered HeavyArms' hand down to the ground, allowing Duo to climb off. His foot hadn't even touched the ground when he was surrounded by Quatre, WuFei and Heero, all stared at Dana with varying degrees of awe and fear in their faces.

"What the hell is she, Duo?" Heero demanded roughly. Duo shrugged.

"She's an angel," Quatre breathed, his whole face lit up from within. "A guardian angel. Sugoi!"

"What was she doing at an OZ base?" WuFei muttered, his dark eyes haunted. Duo vaguely recalled that unlike angels in western culture, wings signified death and destruction in oriental mythology.

"They'd been experimenting on her," Duo replied grimly, gingerly shifting her weight in his arms as Trowa joined the group. She gave a little gasping cry of pain, and Quatre jolted as if he'd felt it himself.

"Oh!" The blond exclaimed, his features etched with worry. "How thoughtless of me! Duo, bring her inside, I'll tell Rashid to get the doctor." He led the way into the house, then took off looking for his manservant. Duo carried Dana carefully to one of the spare rooms, and laid her gently on the bed.

Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on him. "Duo…" she gasped, and he hushed her with a finger over her lips.

"Shh. Don't speak. Just rest. Quatre's guy will fix your wing, and then we'll talk. Okay?"

She nodded numbly, and closed her eyes against another surge of pain. Duo backed out the door as Quatre's doctor came in, and closed it softly behind him. Taking a deep breath, he turned to face the expectant looks on the faces of the other pilots.

"Well?" Heero said, and Duo sighed.

"I dunno all the answers, man. She's been in that lab for almost a year and a half. She said they were experimenting on her. I dunno if she had the wings to start with or if they're the result of the experiment or what. Anyway, she was in the cell across from mine, and we got to talking, and…. Well, hell, man, I couldn't just leave her there!" He pounded the wall in frustration, then shot Quatre an apologetic look for the dent he'd just made.

Quatre smiled softly at him. "You're lucky she was there to catch you. You did the right thing to get her out, Duo. The Maguarnacs will take good care of her, don't worry."

Duo sighed again. "Her name's Dana Fanel, and she said she didn't have any family or friends that would worry about where she'd disappeared to. She was in the high security area 'cause she'd escaped three times, and she kept killing guards. I saw her snap one guy's neck with her hair." Duo's eyes held a glint of admiration. "That's about all I know of her."

Heero didn't look convinced. "She knew the way to the roof awfully well. And that passcode for the elevator. She was herding us there."

"No way!" Duo exclaimed, fists clenched. "She's not a spy, man! You saw what they were doing to her in that lab!"

"I saw her strapped to a table, with an IV in her arm," Heero countered. "It could have been saline solution, set up to make you believe they were experimenting on her."

"Maa, Heero, there's some merit to her story," Quatre interjected softly. "She's obviously been in a dark place with few amenities for a very long time. And she DID risk her own life to save Duo's." Heero subsided, but his glare said he definitely hadn't dropped the issue. WuFei and Trowa stayed out of the argument, and it seemed that Duo had won. For the moment.

"So, can she stay here until she's better? And we figure out what to do with her?" He practically begged Quatre with his eyes. The blond seemed shocked he'd felt he had to ask. "Of course! We couldn't possibly leave her."

"Hn," Heero said, turning away. "We have other things to worry about right now. Like the real experiment OZ was conducting at that base."

Duo planted himself on the floor of the hallway, across from Dana's door. It was fairly obvious he had no intention of moving any time soon. "You guys do what you want. I'm gonna wait to make sure she's okay." Heero looked like he might protest, but Quatre hurried him off down the hall, flashing a smile over his shoulder to the braided boy.

"Let us know when she's awake, Duo."

Duo nodded, and settled in for a long wait.