Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning: Male/Male sex, violence, graphic, language, icky death.
"Duo," the soft voice of Quatre slowly penetrated Duo's misery. "I'm sorry that I haven't- I wanted to help you, like the others, but your pain... It hurts me too much. It makes me crazy; gives me flashbacks about the war. I haven't been very strong. I'm sorry that I can't cope. I'm sorry that I can't sit by your side like the others. I hope- I hope you can forgive me?"
Duo was sweating profusely. Every muscle trembled. His teeth were gritted on pain and mental anguish. The pain throughout his body was incredible as hormones tried to reassert themselves, bones were finally able to show him just how much gravity, poor care, and Heero's exercises were hurting them, and his head tried to explode from the disorienting headaches caused by his first day of not having his pills. He turned his head, purple eyes huge in his sunken, white face, and remembered something he had said to Heero a long time ago, "You'd blame yourself for there not being air in space, Quatre."
Duo's voice was a thin, rasping, ghost, but Quatre leaned close and heard. Quatre frowned, uncertain, and then he gave Duo a limp, sad smile. "I made my body strong, Duo, thinking it would make my soul and mind stronger too. It didn't. I'm still naive, little Quatre inside. Living day to day with the memories from the war, and now this," he added, indicating Duo, "overwhelms me." He gripped Duo's hand. It was shaking uncontrollably. "I can't help, but blame myself for not being able to keep it together."
Duo snorted in bitter humor, "As if we have!" he said pointedly. "We're no different Quatre, we just cover it up better."
A wave of nausea and anxiety swept over Duo. Quatre's hand tightened on his in concern, but Duo pulled away with the clink of the handcuff.
"Better go," Duo managed to whisper. "It's going to get ugly again."
It had been that way for Duo for days, bouts of manic, abusive, screaming, and attempts to escape, followed by brief periods of a lucid state when his body was too exhausted to fight and scream any longer. Now that the pills were gone completely, and the last of the drugs were leaving his body, Duo suspected that his lucid moments were going to become nonexistent and that he was about to spiral straight down into madness; a madness Duo had little hope of overcoming.
"Can you bring Heero back?" Duo asked, trying and failing to recall why Quatre was there instead of Heero in the first place.
"He was exhausted," Quatre explained. "I told him I would get you to eat while he slept a little."
Duo's eyes followed a long, plastic tube from the needle in his arm to the liquid nutrition bag hanging in a stand by the bed. He grimaced. "Can't eat. Been throwing up." He panted through a wave of pain and anxiety. His vision blurred and then steadied on Quatre again. "I need Heero."
Quatre could have ignored him, Duo thought, passing off his request as just another in a long line of ploys to be alone long enough to escape. Quatre was gentle and caring, but he wasn't a fool. He nodded, though, and said, "I'll wake him if you feel you need him that badly. James is outside the door. I'll leave him here to watch you." Quatre didn't say it, but his face said clearer than words that Duo's condition was tearing him apart. He was taking the chance that Duo was too weak now to cause any trouble. Quatre wanted to leave that badly.
Quatre went to the door and let a dark haired man in. Rubbing the center of his chest as if he were in pain, Quatre explained the situation to the servant. The servant was an older man, very formal and very correct in his pressed uniform. He bowed respectfully to Quatre.
"You may count on me, sir," James assured him.
"Thank you, James, I know I can," Quatre replied in relief and then he was gone, closing the door behind him.
Duo panted through another wave of pain and anxiety, trying to initiate one of Wu Fei's breathing techniques, knowing that he had to calm his pounding heart and lower his raging blood pressure. Slow in. Slow out. Duo struggled. His mind was burning. It whispered to him like a conspirator, escape the handcuffs, overpower the servant, escape the Winner estate, and get more pills. It was taking all of his will power to ignore that voice. Because of that, Duo wasn't finding the reserves he needed to deal with his breathing.
Even in his condition, Duo's soldier training came to the fore, mentally pushing his anxiety aside, briefly, to make a comment about the servant. Duo physically frowned. The servant hadn't moved since Quatre had left and he was strangely silent.
Duo blinked and focused his blurring vision enough to see the man halfway across the room. He was intently staring back at Duo with a gun in his hand, a smile on a sallow, narrow face, and a pleased glitter in his small, black eyes. Duo wondered, with rising alarm, if Quatre had given him the gun. If Quatre had given it to James, Duo wasn't about to blame him, but... it wasn't like Quatre to do something like that.
"Any time now," the man suddenly said. "The Commander is going to be here with the troops. He's going to have every one of you stinking Gundam pilots shot between the eyes. Maybe he'll let me have the honor of doing you?"
Duo wondered if he was hallucinating about the war or if his paranoia was twisting what the man was saying. When the man remained stubbornly real, sunlight from the large window glinting on the metal barrel of his gun, Duo could think of only one thing to say to address his helplessness, his anguish, and the fact that he always seemed to get the worst in any situation.
James blinked. Duo's voice had been a thin whisper. "What?"
"I quit!" Duo whispered again. "I've decided to be a bad guy. Call your boss. Have him get me some more pills. I'll do any bad guy thing he wants. You win. I lose. I'm done going through this torture. Where do I sign up to join the anti- unification forces?"
James was still confused, the gun tensed nervously in his hand. "I can hardly hear you. What the Hell are you going on about?"
Duo swallowed in his dry throat and crooked a finger at the man. James cautiously approached, glaring. "Let me go!" Duo whispered and rattled the hand cuffs. His wrists were raw and bandaged from fighting against the cold metal. "You want to take this place over and capture everyone, right? Well, I'm your man."
"The Lieutenant told me that the pills would make you betray your comrades," James said with sudden understanding coupled with disgust. "That's why I haven't killed you yet."
Duo froze, stricken, but then he was plastering on a large grin. "Yeah, he was absolutely right! I'll do whatever you want if you just help me get out of these cuffs."
James hesitated. "It would be better if I waited for reinforcements."
Duo lifted a lip contemptuously. "What? You can't handle a wasted piece of trash like me?"
James raised his gun as if he intended to hit Duo with the butt end, but his hand tensed at the last moment and he regained control. Lowering the gun, he gave Duo a slow once over. "You're just a stinking bunch of sticks," he said with a disgusted flare of his nostrils. "I can handle you, don't worry, so don't try anything or I'll do more than blow a hole between your eyes, got that? The lieutenant should be on site now. I want to get in some fighting before all of your comrades get wasted. I'll turn you over to him and then I can have some fun." When he said, 'fun', his eyes glittered.
"Okay," Duo replied with a shrug. "Do whatever, as long as I get some pills."
James's contempt deepened. He leaned closer to Duo to inspect the cuffs. As he did so, he glanced at Duo, and then suddenly became intensely interested in Duo's face. Duo, sitting up against the head board, felt an urge to melt into the metal pressing into his back. "You have some pretty eyes, piece of Gundam shit," James said softly, as if it were a secret. "I've heard that you like some strange things. "
Duo kept smiling, but sweat increased along his face and down his collar. "Huh, well, I'm sure you haven't heard everything," he replied in a hoarse, joking voice. He felt a threat in the air and it was growing as the man's eyes once again did a slow once over of Duo's defenseless body in its wrinkled, black nightshirt. "Let me go and I'll be a good boy and cooperate."
"Why should I let you go?" James wondered slyly. "You're going to behave much better if I don't."
James leaned in closer, a hand coming up to touch Duo's face while the gun crept towards Duo's forehead. Duo leaned forward as if to meet him, face going almost sensuous. "As long as I get the pills," Duo murmured in a thin, yet sultry voice.
"When I'm done with you," James chuckled, "you won't care about pills any more."
Without warning, Duo slammed his forehead straight into James. He hit the man a solid blow over the bridge of his nose. There was a gush of blood on both sides, but it was James who fell bonelessly into Duo's lap without a sound, either unconscious or dead.
"In your dreams!" Duo bit out as he jerked his body and sent James out of his lap and onto the floor.
With blood running down his face from a cut over his left eye, Duo used his teeth to jerk the I.V. needle out of his arm. "Shit!" he exclaimed as the small puncture wound began to bleed down his arm in a narrow stream. "I didn't think I had enough blood left to be a bleeder!"
As quickly as he could, Duo maneuvered the needle between his teeth and slid it into the lock of the handcuffs. Contorting his head, Duo soon heard a satisfying click. Spitting the needle out of his mouth, Duo pulled his wrists out of the now open handcuffs, feeling tremendous relief to be free once more.
"Gun," Duo said to himself, trying to think clearly through the pain of his head and his body in general. He slid off of the bed, tested his knees to make certain that they were going to hold him up, and then took the gun off of James. The man was dead, his skull split and his body still twitching convulsively as his eyes stared at a point on the ceiling. "Good," Duo whispered as he ripped a bandage from his wrist and retied it over the I.V. wound, "Now I don't have to waste bullets killing you, you bastard!"
Duo took up a hand towel from the bedside table. Heero had been using it to wipe sweat from him. It smelled slightly rank, but Duo didn't have time to be picky. He pressed it to his forehead to stop the bleeding there.
Duo's body was shaky and weak. The drug withdrawal was beginning to kick in full force. He didn't have much time left before he was completely incapacitated. He was already feeling a manic burning in his brain, that violent clamber to get more medication about to become his world and his all encompassing imperative. He had been faking when he had told James that he was willing to do anything for more drugs. Only his high saturation of the medication had saved Duo so far. Once it was completely out of his body, he wouldn't be faking any longer.
"It would help if I knew what the Hell was going on," Duo muttered, uncertain what to do next, but then heard the sound of gunshots and shouting men from outside, followed by the loud crash of something solid being ripped apart violently.
Going to the window and looking out cautiously, Duo saw an expanse of ground far below, a gazebo of fairy tale proportions, and a rock garden dominated by a gnarled tree. Filling it were government soldiers forming into armed search parties. It was obvious that they had breached the large, ornamental door that led to the back of the estate. The carved, wood panels had been Quatre's pride and joy. Duo could see carved pieces all over the ground, the siege machine nearby, with its metal claws, the likely cause of its destruction.
Where was Quatre? Duo wondered. The man should have been outside making peace and bringing reason to the situation. Those were government soldiers, not Oz murderers. All that was required was unconditional surrender and a giving up of any arms, so, why wasn't that happening? Duo heard more shots. His ears could tell that there were more than a few people returning fire.
Duo suddenly leaned heavily against the glass, desperately fighting a wave of nausea and dizziness that he couldn't afford to have just then. His anxiety surged. He panted and whined, scratching at his own arms, for how long, he wasn't sure. That raking pain gave him something to hold onto so that he could pull himself back to his senses again. Eyesight clearing, Duo found himself still staring outside the window, but his blood ran cold when he realized that the scene had changed drastically for the worst.
Quatre and Trowa, arms tied behind their backs, were being led to a large man standing aloof from the others, yet obviously in command. Duo couldn't make out his features enough to tell who he was, but Quatre's bright curls, his large shoulders, and Trowa's long, slim build, made identifying them easy.
The man spoke to them, gesturing curtly. Trowa and Quatre both looked away from him, refusing, perhaps, to give him what he wanted. The man motioned and a soldier landed a rifle butt into Quatre's face. He fell limply. Trowa knelt beside him, frantic, but there was nothing he could do with his arms bound. The commander began speaking again.
A servant, perhaps one of Quatre's desert soldiers, came out of nowhere, trying to save his master, gesticulating threateningly. The commander, without taking his eyes off of Trowa, raised his gun and shot him dead. He fell in a heap beside Quatre, his life's blood running out thick and steaming on the ground, as Trowa sat down heavily, seeming to go into shock.
Duo's training turned on like a switch. This wasn't a government action, this was war. Leaving the window, he throttled weakness and horrible need, began panting hard to work up an adrenalin surge to block out his pain, and knelt by his bag to take out a small case of things he had always kept with him out of habit, but had never thought to actually need again.
Combing his hair out quickly with his fingers and then re-braiding it tightly, Duo slipped in lock picks, garroting wire, and razor blades beneath his thick hair. Sorting through a small bottle of pills, he found the ones he was looking for. One went into the bandage on his arm, poison in case the worst happened, and the other two went into his mouth. They were a last resort too, for when the body and mind were failing and near death. Those two pills had a good chance of being as deadly as the poison, yet Duo didn't have any choice in the shape he was in. He needed the numbness, and the flash of energy, those pills were going to give him if he was going to make any difference.
As Duo found his clothes, black jeans and a gray turtle neck sweater, and put them on, he wondered exactly what 'difference' he hoped to make. He had to choose carefully. He had to spend his life where it would help the most. He didn't have long. Whatever he intended to do, it had to be done in an all out frontal assault before his heart gave out under the withdrawal from one set of pills and the forced energy surge of the others.
Duo looked out the window again. The unconscious Quatre had been dragged off to one side along with the dazed Trowa. There were two guards on them. The commander had stepped away, talking to his troop captains. If they stayed together like that, then Duo's course of action was clear. To kill a snake before it could bite, it was necessary to cut off the head.
Duo left his room cautiously. The hallways of Quatre's estate, usually full of the people who worked and lived there, were deserted. Walking at a slow pace, Duo braced himself along an ornate wall while his free hand clutched his gun. Listening at corners and intersections, Duo took a much needed rest at every stop, surprising himself each time he was able to force his body to continue afterwards.
When Duo arrived at a service stairway, he knew that he would find it held by the enemy or Quatre's people. Either way, he had to manage to not get his head blown off. Since it was impossible to escape detection, Duo purposefully made noise. If there were friends downstairs, then they would be decent people and wait until they saw him before firing. If it was the enemy, then he hoped to draw them out long enough for a few, clear shots.
No one challenged Duo in the end. He reached the bottom landing and discovered why with a sickening wave of nausea. Bodies, soldier and civilian alike, were scattered in a macabre tumble of blood and flesh just inside a shattered, narrow doorway. Quatre's people had given their lives.
Edging around them, Duo slipped and slithered until he reached the doorway and was able to look out. The giant foyer was filled with milling soldiers and prisoners being searched, questioned, and beat into submission. It looked like chaos, but the edges of it were orderly, armed search parties finishing up looking in the last rooms of the downstairs and preparing to go upstairs next.
Duo knew that he couldn't slip by unnoticed. He was unusually small, he still had blood on his face, and there wasn't a uniform anywhere, including on the dead men at his feet, that would fit well enough to pass. There was only one course of action, Duo thought with a grim smile as he tucked his long braid into the back of his turtleneck sweater. He had to hide in plain sight.
Without hesitation, Duo strode out into the foyer and slipped himself between two groups of men coming together as they headed out the front door. It was seamless. Duo had to keep from smiling as the soldiers looked him over curiously, each group thinking that he was a prisoner of the other group. Duo kept his face downcast, sullen, and suitably defeated, playing the part to the hilt.
The pills were making his heart hammer in his thin chest and Duo felt heat burning his skin as his blood rushed through his veins along with surges of adrenalin. At that moment, poised between the absence of one drug and the flow of another, Duo felt more alive than he had in years. His steps ignored gravity and took on a spring despite his swollen and hurting joints, his muscles tensed and flexed with false strength, and his mind cleared and became as sharp as a pin, intelligence returning full force to formulate plans and contingency plans. He knew that the pills were making his body eat itself alive for the energy, but, at that moment, Duo didn't care. He was Shinigami again, the God of Death, returned to the battle field and ready to take vengeance.
The men tangled and became confused as they left the house through the shattered double doors. There was a curse or two and then a captain calling them to order. When they separated, Duo had ducked down and out of the larger men, using his much smaller body to advantage as he dropped and rolled behind a large stone statue of some long dead Winner ancestor.
"You are still a bad ass," Duo said to himself and let loose the grin he had been suppressing as he inched his way along the perimeter of the rock garden, using the stunted, evergreen shrubbery, and the many statues for cover.
Almost there, Duo calculated. He planned to try and free Trowa and Quatre first. They were valuable weapons that couldn't be taken off of the war game board. If Duo failed, he needed to know that his comrades would be there to finish the job. He also had his sights set on the two soldiers that guarded them. Both had been wearing automatic rifles. Duo didn't question whether he could incapacitate them or not. Failure wasn't an option. He needed those weapons, and their many rounds of ammo, to cause the most damage.
Duo flattened himself against a tall, ornamental rock, the cold of the stone, coupled with the freezing air, chilling him to the bone. Shivering, he slowly inched his way around it, ears and eyes alert for the enemy. He wasn't prepared to run into a very large man leaning against the other side of the stone. The man was urinating.
They both staggered as their bodies collided, but the big man was the first to recover. He grabbed Duo with a huge hand and slammed him, without hesitation, into the hard rock. His other hand squeezed the gun out of Duo's stunned hand, letting it fall to the ground, and then he was twisting both hands into Duo's sweater and lifting his frail body into the air.
Eye to bloodshot eye with his captor, beginning to choke as the collar of his sweater knotted tight to his neck, Duo had a frantic view of the man's scarred face and his evil, amazed grin. "Well, well, well," the man chuckled darkly, "Just who I was looking for."
Duo was slammed backwards into the rock again. He involuntarily cried out in pain and bitter failure as red light shot across his vision and darkness descended on his senses.