5-28-2001

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[ 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. ]

A GW fan fic: Tevel(Dearly Beloved) - Part Six
By Stargem

Author's notes: Quatre gets a beating in this installment >.<; Implied violence and torture.

Thank you, Lorena, for beta-ing ^.^

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"Pretty, pretty little fae. Not a single scream for me?" Sze brushed her fingers against Quatre's smooth cheek in a mocking caress.

The healer-mage cringed inside, but managed to keep his reaction down to a slight hitch in his breath. He hung suspended in a complex maze of glittering magical threads; a fly caught in a spider's web. His arms were tangled above his head, the tangled skeins keeping him balanced uncomfortably on his toes without really touching the floor, one knee pulled up higher while the other leg was straight and his body angled back slightly as though he were resting on an invisible, tilted surface. The lines pulsed softly, draining his strength and leaving him weak as a kitten. Bruises marked all the exposed areas of his skin, as did long, red scratches. All except his face. Sze would not tolerate deformity in her perfect palace of crystal and glass - though she took great delight in inflicting almost delicate cuts on his skin, they were there more for decoration. Markings.

What hurt the most, he decided, was the thin, long gash across his collarbone. Though his other wounds would heal in time, the slash crossing below his throat would remain forever as a scar, for it had been inflicted by an iron blade. The wound still throbbed and burned. In his weakened state, he had been far more susceptible to the metal. When the tip of the cool knife touched him, he fainted away in an explosion of white-hot pain, unable to even scream.

"Poor Quatre," his tormentor said sweetly, her smile poison. "All this could have been avoided if you had submitted to me." The healer-mage closed his eyes and turned his head - the only movement he was allowed. Sze laughed.

"Still so brave. You believe the shifter can save you? There will be no heroes, no happy endings."

Something moved beside him. An instinctive fear thrilled through Quatre as he perceived a change in the quality of the air, the addition of a unique texture and scent. He could sense the iron nearing his skin, just about to graze the skin of his shoulder. Quatre shrank from it, pulling at his bonds. A low sound escaped him as the blade hovered uncomfortably close.

"Do not cut him, my pet. He was an expensive toy to acquire, and I am not so tired of him yet."

The knife trembled, eager to taste blood. It was withdrawn with agonising slowness. "Yes, Mistress."

"Good kitten. Leave us now."

"Yes, Mistress."

Quatre drew a shuddering breath, wondering if Sze would give him a respite. His nerves were raw, his muscles water. It had been a full day since any food or water had passed his lips. A haze of darkness enveloped him. He flinched as a cool finger slid across the blistered skin of his collarbone.

"Will you submit?" she asked. The tone of her voice was mild enough that they might as well be discussing the weather.

Swallowing, his throat dry, Quatre whispered, "No."

He heard the faint rustle of Sze's braids as she shook her head. "You make this harder than it has to be. Submit, and allow me to claim your power."

The healer-mage shook his head. A ringing slap cracked across his cheek, the act more startling than the small flare of pain that accompanied it. Although a match for his own mystical powers, Sze's physical strength was negligent. He must have finally angered her with his continued refusals. A tiny smile spread across his face, growing wider at Sze's thwarted hiss.

"I will not be so gentle this time," she said coldly.

Quatre allowed the darkness to claim him as the fairy moved closer.

***

"Scary Rider-guy? I think you did that last loop-de-loop on purpose."

"Eat your stew."

Pause. "Actually, I think m'gonna go throw up again."

Trowa woke slowly, his head swimming in a drug-like haze. He stared up at the bluish-white blob that eventually resolved itself into a serene sky scattered with fluffy clumps of white. He moved; and abruptly fell back with his breath hissing from between his teeth. His arm felt like one big, bleeding bruise and possibly a lot of other little ones that added up into a bigger hurt. "Don't move too much. Your arm is still mending." An unfamiliar voice spoke in low, rich tones by his side as a warm hand brushed across his injured limb with a professional touch.

"No duh," Duo muttered from the other side, sounding a little sick .A vague flare of alarm travelled through the shapeshifter's mind, quietened as the logical part pointed out that Duo seemed unconcerned. He tried for speech and got something more akin to a wheeze that rasped against his throat. Hands steadied him, pushing him up and placing a cool, spongy thing in his mouth.

"It'chac root," the stranger said. "Try chewing it."

Obediently, Trowa bit into the fleshy mass, releasing the sweet, faintly earthy juices of the root to soothe his parched throat. Some of the liquid leaked from the corners of his lips as he coughed, unprepared for the sheer volume of root juice that flooded his mouth. There was a rustle beside him, and a soft cloth dabbed at his chin, soaking up the excesses.

"Easy there. Feel better, Tro?"

Trowa blinked, concentrating as Duo swam into view, his violet eyes openly worried.

"I…" The shapeshifter swallowed, memories of the fight rushing back. "Quatre?"

Duo blinked, his statement hardening briefly before he reached out and clasped his good shoulder. "We're gonna get him back. Don't worry."

Trowa closed his eyes, fighting the pain that welled up in his heart. He wanted to… He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He wanted to howl for the loss of a precious gift not yet fully remembered, a love that was only newly discovered. But he did none of those things, exerting a tight rein on his emotions. There was no place for his tears, his anger or his pain.

"Trowa?"

He turned away from the half-fairy's tentative question, seeking the solace of sleep.

/Quatre…/

***

Wufei glared at the patrons of the inn, injecting enough fire in his hard eyes to immediately inspire utter silence, save for a few scattered murmurs and the shuffling of boots. The nobleman settled in his seat, idly tapping the hilt of his katana with the tip of his finger. Since his… 'demonstration' two days ago (he hadn't really kicked the brawler in any of the more sensitive bits and the man was still able to crawl away) his presence in the inn had seen to an uncharacteristically peaceful scene at odds with the nature of the place. No one wanted to anger the brooding exotic stranger sitting alone in the corner of the room with his sharp gaze halting mischief before it could fully form in cheeky minds.

The nobleman muttered a soft curse under his breath as he spared a glance at the doorway. The moon peeped through the ragged holes in the billowing clouds, telling the lateness of the hour. His instincts predicted that the unlikely informant he had met here would contact him again, if only to annoy him, and they were rarely - if ever - wrong. But there was a first time for everything, he reflected. A nervous titter rolled through the crowd as they sensed his dark mood. Wufei scowled. Ten minutes. If I do not see him here, I will leave and continue my search elsewhere. The Fairy Thief must be long gone.

"Yo." A finger tapped him on the shoulder.

Swallowing an epithet, Wufei whirled around to find Duo grinning crookedly at him two inches away from his nose. The violet-eyed youth wiggled his fingers and blew a kiss as the nobleman slammed back against the edge of the table, disconcerted and attempting to hide the red flush in his cheeks.

"Missed me, honey?" Duo drawled in an exaggerated falsetto, his grin two parts amusement and three parts wicked glee. Add monkeys. Stir well.

Wufei's eyes narrowed. "How did you sneak up on me?"

"We gotta have our secrets, Chang," Duo chided with mock-seriousness. "The magician never reveals his trick. It's the rule." He received a growl for his trouble. Undeterred, Duo plopped down in the adjoining seat and gestured. "Mind if my friends join us? No? Good."

The nobleman blinked, surprise struggling to break his stoic facade as a grim-faced stranger slid into the opposite seat, steering a mysterious cloaked figure by the elbow down beside him. "And who are they?"

Stabbing a finger at the first - a lanky youth with a wild mop of hair and piercing blue eyes, Duo said, "Heero," before moving over to the hooded one, "and Trowa."

Wufei filed the information away in his mind for later, not recognising either person. Yet, there was something naggingly familiar about the one in the cloak. And the name - he was sure he had heard it before. He frowned, combing his memory and coming up blank. Grr. He forced down another growl.

"Hey, eyes on the speaker!" Duo waved a hand in front of his face. "You there?"

Embarrassed at being caught in what must have appeared to be a dreamy mood (but was not!), Wufei snapped, "I heard you the first time, Maxwell. What do you want?"

"Straight to the point, eh?" Duo grinned at him.

"Duo," Heero said quietly, the uttered name in itself an admonishment. "Right, right." Growing serious, the braided youth straightened in his chair, his eyes intense as he spoke to the nobleman. "I'm calling collect on the favour you owe."

Wufei blinked, feeling as though he was missing big chunks of a larger plot. Which he probably was, judging by the conflict he could see in Duo's eyes. "It is your right," he answered slowly. "If it is within my power, I will help you."

Duo nodded abruptly. "I know you will. You are an honourable man." There was a lengthy pause as both parties digested the statement. Then, Duo resumed talking, "Our friend was kidnapped by Sze. Evil fairy lady with an evil cat-thing for a henchwoman. We need your help to get him back." At Wufei's stare, he elaborated patiently, "The friend. It's a rescue mission."

"A… fairy."

"Yes."

"Evil cat-thing?"

"Yes."

"I am not entirely convinced of the state of your mental health, Maxwell."

"He tells the truth," Heero said.

Wufei glanced at the other youth sharply. It was harder to dispute the supporting statement by the more serious stranger. He could sense that Heero was not given to speaking lightly. " I see." There was a pause. "I will take your word on it."

"I run and I hide but I do not lie," Duo answered, his eyes sober. The strange statement flitted away to be replaced by a fast becoming familiar grin, though it lacked the strength of the previous one. "So. I'm thinking easy plan. Find Sze, find Quatre, beat up the fairy, beat up her pet kitten and we all go home happy."

Heero's statement remained unchanged, although he raised an eyebrow. Studying them both, Wufei asked, "Why do you need my help? I am certain that you are both skilled fighters in your own right. As is your companion." The last was a guess, but he decided that it wasn't far off. The company kept by these men would be made of stronger stuff than the norm.

"We need all the help we can get," Duo said. "Sze has lived for countless centuries; more than enough time to perfect the art of craftiness."

"The clan of Chang is older," Heero said, surprising the others. "And it is written in history, that the first warrior of that clan was the one who placed the curse of iron on the fae."

"Right," Duo agreed, his eyes curious as he studied Heero.

"It is only a legend," Wufei said, uncomfortable.

"But in every legend, there is a grain of truth. The fairy folk fear the touch of metal."

Heero's logic was implacable. The nobleman shifted in his seat. "Then why do you not find your own swords and go through with your plan?"

"Your sword."

Wufei blinked at Duo. "What of it?"

"It belonged to the first Chang, didn't it?"

"Yes. It has been handed down for centuries." Wufei's fingers stroked the hilt lightly.

"In all things ancient, there lives power," Duo explained. "Especially an enchanted blade like yours."

The nobleman looked down at the katana, his brow furrowed. "There is no magic."

Duo's mouth curled in a mirthless smile. "This secret I'll tell for free. The magic is in the metal of your blade. It is the first iron that was mined from the recesses of the Earth."

"How do you know this?" Wufei asked, suspicious.

Duo shrugged easily. "Not telling."

"You…-"

"Enough." The force of Heero's voice kept Wufei in his seat, though the volume remained low. "You know what you need to know. Tomorrow we move."

"Why tomorrow?" Duo objected.

Heero pinned him with a steady gaze. "Wing is tired. Trowa is still injured. We do not know Sze's location. Another night would do more good than harm."

"And perhaps you can fill me in on the rest of the story - the parts you haven't told me," Wufei interjected.

Heero merely nodded and rose while Duo bounced along with nervous energy. The nobleman froze as the cloaked figure -Trowa - slipped smoothly from his seat, moonlight ghosting across the face hidden within the velvet folds of the hood. He saw a brief flash of emerald. Walls of glass concealing worlds of pain, further concealed behind the mystery of a silken curtain of brown hair brushing across pale skin drawn tight over muscles and bone.

A flash of memory screamed at him; a confused snippet of a chase, a blonde, a brunette and… Duo's cat-thing.

Trowa shuffled listlessly after Heero and Duo as they walked to the stairs, unaware of Wufei's eyes boring into his back.

This… this would bear investigation, Wufei decided. Adjusting his grip on his katana, he followed the trio.

~ End Part Six

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(© May 2001 by Stargem)

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