Chapter 4

 

Changing Allegiance

Chapter 4


There had been plenty of noise coming from the small dining facility, but as the doors closed behind Zechs' small party, all conversation stopped. It was awkward enough that Treize raised his head to look around.

Several soldiers practically leapt to their feet as they realised who was standing in front of them. "Officer on deck!" someone yelled, and men were suddenly standing at perfect attention, their arms raised in a clean, crisp salute to their General.

Treize felt a heady warm feeling and forced himself to straighten up a little, instead of leaning so heavily on Zechs, at his side. Tears of pride pricked at his eyes as he returned the salute stiffly. "Thank you. At ease, gentlemen."

Conversation resumed as the men took their seats, but Treize was acutely aware of how heads turned as he walked by, eyes staring at him in open shock and admiration...

He finally turned to Lady Une. "For the love of Heaven, Lady, tell me there is somewhere a bit less public for us to go? I feel much as Moses must have when he parted the seas."

Une stifled a giggle. "There unfortunately isn't, sir, not tonight, at least. There is, however, a table at the other end of the hall that is well enough separated from the rest..."

"Lead on, then, if you please," the General said tiredly. Une shot a warning glance to Zechs as she turned to lead the way -Treize was clearly not as well as he was trying to appear.

Dinner was a simple affair, but to Treize it tasted better than the best feast he'd ever attended. And he'd been to many.

He chewed slowly, savouring the tastes as though beef stew was a delicacy, and several of his companions watched in growing alarm. What had those people done to him?!

Zechs finally couldn't take it any longer. "Treize... did they... what did they do? Back in Russia, I mean."

The ginger-haired man sighed, leaning back in his seat, and looked down. "I suppose it would be rude of me to put off telling you any longer, wouldn't it?"

"Oh, abominably so," Une agreed, leaning forward. Treize looked up and into her face.

She had been worried; they all were. It was time to fix that. "First of all, nobody did anything to me that was in any way, shape or form similar to what was done to Duo. Whether because they didn't dare to or they were ordered not to, I do not know."

He turned worried eyes to Zechs. "Wufei- have you contacted him? Told him about his friend? Told him I'm safe..."

Zechs put a gentling hand on his lover's forearm. "He's on his way right now, Treize, and the rest of the pilots are coming with him. Don't worry."

The former General breathed a sigh of relief. "All I could think of on that transport plane they stuck me on was whether or not you two had managed to get away. And Tuberov refused..."

"Tuberov!" Zechs thundered. Several heads turned in their direction, but the blond ignored all curious glances. "That... that spineless, little *schweinhund* had the *gall* to..."

Zechs, please," Treize said, his voice steady and even, as always. "Let me explain." He continued in the same voice, "Tuberov was my captor and was more than happy to gloat about how he would be the new commander of OZ within a month; how Romefeller knew that he was the way of the future, with his unmanned suits."

Treize's eyes glinted dangerously. "I told him that if he wanted my spot so badly, he should have done the honourable thing and challenged me for it openly. He had the gall to laugh at me, and I couldn't help thinking that Wufei would have ranted about his having no honour to speak of.

"I was quickly installed in that little cell, and they left me alone for the most part." He shook his head. "At least, after attempting to question me for a few days. I won't bore you with details; let it just be said that Tuberov himself came in on a session one day and watched. After I killed my "interrogator," I faced him and told him that if he wanted information, he could bring a set of swords and duel me for it. The coward didn't dare."

He looked up at Une and Walker, witting side by side. "They were looking for you in particular, Lady. I take it their intelligence branch isn't working too well without you there?"

She gave a dark laugh. "Our best informants reported to me directly. They still do."

He smiled. "Anyway, they left me be after that, for the most part. In fact, I didn't speak to another human being... until Duo arrived."

Sally perked up. "Yes, tell us how *that* came to be."

Treize shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine, Doctor. Though from what he said, the mission had originally been assigned to Heero Yuy. Duo took it only because his stealth skills would be necessary. He even expected to be caught, and thus took his lover's place." Treize flinched.

The others simply waited.

Treize continued, "He was already sporting multiple bruises and cuts when he was tossed in with me; our captors probably hoped that he'd kill me and finish their job for them. He fortunately listened to reason, though. Duo was... well, to say he was displeased at the accommodations and the choice of roommate would be a gross understatement, and he was quite vocal about it."

"Is that when he gave you those bruises?" Zechs asked.

Treize shook his head. "No - we somehow managed to come to a cease-fire before it could come to blows. The bruises came later... You see, they did not touch me, but what they did to that boy..."

He shuddered. "They would slap and punch him into submission before binding him as tightly as they could and taking him out with them. Hours later, they would drag him back, half-conscious, if at all, and battered as I'd never seen a fellow human being before. They called it 'interrogation,' but I'd wager they asked precious few questions. I was only trying to help, but... it was only once - he'd managed to get free of his restraints during one of his 'interrogations' and he started to fight back. Judging from how his guards acted when they dragged him back to the cell, he must have killed a few men before he was beaten into submission. I went to turn him over and inspect him for any serious wounds, but he didn't know who was touching him, and his only reaction was to fight his way free."

Treize looked up and straight at Sally. "The broken arm and ribs happened only hours before you arrived. His breathing didn't sound very good - I was worried for him."

Sally gave him a reassuring smile. "I assure you, Treize, he will be fine."

"Good," the man replied, giving a shamed smile. "Anyone with that much spirit deserves better than what he took."

Une asked gently, "How did you get free of the cell?"

Treize laughed. "Did you know the boy carries lock picks in his hair?" When Une shook her head negatively, he continued, "Well, neither did our captors. He was in no state to use them, of course, but I got us out, and then we met up with Sally's team. You know the rest."

~*~

The flight from London to Minsk seemed to take forever. Even though they had seats together, there was very little conversation between the three pilots. Wufei spent the trip on his laptop, Heero feigned sleep, and Quatre passed the time idly flipping through magazines.

They cleared customs in Minsk with no trouble and quickly picked up the rental car.

"Wufei, anything from Marquise?" Heero asked, guiding the vehicle out of the parking lot and onto the main highway.

The Chinese pilot nodded. "I've got the base's coordinates and an update on Duo. Zechs says there were complications due to two broken ribs, and Dr. Po had to operate. He looks terrible, but Sally told Une he looks much worse than he actually is, and he will make a full recovery, but it may take time. Zechs doesn't have any specific details of his injuries, but he'll let me know as soon as he does."

"But he will be all right?" Quatre asked quietly from the back seat.

"Yes," Wufei replied. "Apparently, he took some severe beatings, and Treize did what he could in the cell. They freed themselves when Sally, Une and Zechs attacked the base. It seems Duo was his normal, charming self, and his humour hasn't disappeared." He pressed a few keys and smiled slightly.

"Trowa has gotten in touch with Howard. The Sweepers in the area will pick up our suits tomorrow evening and deliver them to Sally's base in Vilno as soon as they have coordinates. Trowa's flight leaves the following morning."

"Excellent!" the blond said cheerfully. "Remind me to thank Duo for Howard and the Sweepers."

"Quatre, I don't think Duo can take the credit for Howard being Howard," Wufei replied, chuckling slightly.

"Yes, well, if it wasn't for Duo, Howard wouldn't have given us the time of day. *Duo* was his client and friend, not us. We were part of the 'Duo-package'," Quatre returned.

Heero smirked slightly, relief apparent on his face.

"Heero, what's so amusing?" Quatre asked, leaning forward and resting his chin on the Japanese pilot's seat.

"I was just picturing Duo and Kushrenada stuck in the same cell together... and for some reason, I started pitying him. Duo probably ranted at him continuously." Heero smirked again.

Wufei winced and Quatre chuckled.

"Poor Treize."

~*~

Lady Une and Doctor Po shared amused glances as Zechs pulled Treize aside with him. Sally laughed, watching their retreating backs. "Taking him to the PX? Right. Is that what they're calling it these days? Hmph. I wasn't aware that sexy blond men were on sale there."

Une shook her head. "They've been remarkably tame, given the circumstances, trust me! I wouldn't worry, either – Zechs will take *very* good care of him and bring him back much sooner than Treize would probably like." The two women giggled as they entered the infirmary and went straight to the room now housing a recovering Gundam pilot.

Farley looked up from his seat at Duo's bedside as the women walked in. He jumped to his feet. "Dr. Po, ma'am, Lady, I hope you had a pleasant dinner."

Both nodded to him. Une went straight up to the side of the bed and sat down, staring down at the wounded youth, while Sally went for his chart. The doctor shot a look at her assistant. "Status?"

He cleared his throat nervously. "He's been sleeping peacefully. Still running quite a temperature though, and his blood pressure is up."

The boy on the hospital bed gave a feeble twitch, and all three others in the room turned to stare at him in surprise. Sally frowned. "Did he just…"

Farley looked down at the chart in her hands and snorted. "Impossible! You gave him enough to knock out a man twice his size…"

Une held up her hand for silence. "That may be, but I'd wager he was trained to have an extremely high resistance to any kind of drug, along with a high pain resistance. Do you remember when you treated Yuy?"

Sally blanched at the thought. She remembered quite clearly how everyone had been convinced that he was out cold, only to find out much later that he had been perfectly alert – she would never forget the sight of him that day, plummeting from the hospital without releasing his parachute… "Farley, come with me a moment. Une, will you watch him, please?"

"Of course." Une pulled her chair closer to Duo's bedside as the other two vanished out the door. She watched his face carefully. Come to think of it, he no longer bore that non-expression from his drugged out state, though the bruises hid any sort of expression he might have been wearing. Leaning forward, Une whispered, "Maxwell?" She reached out, but pulled her hand back quickly, remembering Treize's story. "Duo, can you hear me?"

"Duo?" She touched his uninjured shoulder gently. "You're safe, Duo. Just relax…"

She gasped as blue eyes opened to half mast, unfocused and completely beyond recognition, and drew her hand back. "Sally," she called, her voice little more than a whisper. Clearing her throat, she tried again, "SALLY!"

"H'ro?" Duo's eyes swung around to her face as she yelled, clearly disoriented-

Recognition.

Une reached for him to keep him calm, but the boy on the bed was already practically snarling as he struggled to avoid her hands. "No!" he rasped out, grimacing in pain as he swung his casted arm at her and began kicking the thin sheets and blankets aside.

"Duo, calm down! I'm here to help, dammit!" she gasped, gritting her teeth and refusing to let go of him, even when the heavy cast on his arm smacked into her jarringly. "Sally, get the hell in here!"

Sally and Farley burst into the room and rushed to the bedside immediately, where Une was barely holding her own against the struggling pilot. Farley dove for the boy's kicking legs as Une pinned his shoulders as best she could.

Fevered eyes focused on Une again, filled with determination and a glimmer of fear. "Run! Get yourselves out!" His voice sounded painful and dry as he tried to yell to people only he could see, and Une flinched – saving his allies from *her,* no doubt…

The boy screamed as Sally managed to swab a spot on his thrashing arm and quickly injected him with a fresh dose of morphine. He kept struggling, his eyes fierce, even as his movements began to slow.

All three adults breathed a sigh of relief as Duo finally went motionless again. Une sagged down, resting her forehead on the boy's chest. "God."

Sally grimaced as she made her way around the bed to Une's side and put a hand on her shoulder. "You okay? It looked like he clocked you good…"

"Oh, I'll be fine," Une replied in a shaky voice. "He didn't manage to hit me too hard. I never would have thought he would struggle so hard…"

Sally turned to her assistant. "Farley, send someone to find Mr. Walker, and see if you can get us a couple cups of tea, okay?"

The man left with a nod and a sympathetic look.

Une looked up again, hearing the door close. "He recognized me, Sally, and he was *terrified* of me. Yelling for his friends to get away from… me."

Sally shook her head. "Une…"

"I know, I know," the other woman said, clasping her hands together to stop their shaking. "It's nothing less than I deserve. They have a reason to hate and fear me."

"Duo doesn't hate you, not anymore," Sally said authoritatively. "That could hardly be called 'full awareness,' Une. He would probably have had the same reaction to Treize, and it's obvious he doesn't hate him anymore, either."

"Hm." Une was clearly unconvinced. Sally shook her head and moved to re-examine the patient.

~*~

Zechs paused in the doorway to the hospital ward the next morning. The former General was curled on his side, dozing. The man had obviously already been up – he was wearing clean fatigues, and the boots at his bedside were as shiny as could be. The blond man shook his head. That was Treize for you – always elegant and proper, and damned if the man didn't make ordinary fatigues look as sexy as his old uniform had!

"Well? Are you going to pose in the doorway forever, or do I get a good morning kiss?"

Zechs smiled as he looked into Treize's face again – deep blue eyes sparkled with humour back at him. He was across the room in seconds, pressing a gentle kiss to his lover's lips.

Treize sat up and stretched – Zechs watched in admiration as long muscles flexed and stretched under the plain white t-shirt Treize was wearing. While the man was still far too thin for Zechs' liking, Treize was still a sight to see. Fastidious as always, though, the ginger-haired man reached for his overshirt and slipped it on, leaving it unbuttoned for the time being.

Zechs' eyes strayed across the room to its other occupant. "Any other drama in here last night?"

Treize looked across the room, too, and sighed. "No, but he's been on a steady morphine drip. The good doctor decided last night that it would be better for all concerned if he was kept sedated until his friends were here for him to wake up to. It was something of a miracle that he didn't pull any stitches or misalign any of his injuries last night."

Zechs shook his head. They'd arrived back at the infirmary the night before at the same time as Walker came running up at full speed, and all three had discovered the scene at once. "Good idea."

He helped the other man stand and escorted him out of the infirmary into the crisp cool of a Transylvanian morning. Treize took a deep breath. "This almost smells like home."

He shook his head. "I think they've taken my family's holdings at the same time they arrested me. Didn't want me to have a place to go, if I managed to get free."

Zechs put a sympathetic hand on Treize's shoulder, but didn't say anything. He knew all too well how the other man had to be feeling about that.

The former General forced himself to stand straighter. "So… when does… When do we expect Wufei's arrival?"

Zechs' face brightened into a smile. "Sometime this afternoon, depending on how many breaks the pilots took on the road."

Treize chuckled. "With one of their own injured and in a potentially hostile camp?"

"But we're not…"

"Think, Zechs," Treize chided gently, "If you were Heero Yuy and you knew your lover was injured and currently residing in a camp full of ex-OZ personnel, not to mention you, Lady Une, and me, how would you react?"

Zechs coughed a little. "He'll be here by lunchtime."

Treize permitted himself a small smile. "Quite so. We should prepare the perimeter guards for it; unless I'm greatly mistaken, friend or foe, Mr. Yuy will be of the tendency to shoot anyone unlucky enough to be between himself and Duo."

An evil glint lit Zechs' eyes. "Hmph. Maybe I should send Walker out to meet him… Grounding my suit…"

Treize shook his head. "Two reasons why not – one, he's already taken parts of the suit apart, so you need him to put it back together; two, my Lady still wears her hair up sometimes."

Zechs chuckled, but stopped in his tracks a moment later. "Wait a minute – we could send Marco."

"Who?" Treize cocked an eyebrow.

Zechs nodded to himself. "Marco, Johann Marco. He's one of Sally's people. He was the one that helped her track Wufei down, after Siberia."

The second eyebrow joined the first quickly. "But he disappeared completely…" Treize said disbelievingly.

"Not completely," Zechs corrected him. "Marco found him and actually managed to lure him into Sally's camp. Takes guts – you know how our dragon can be when he's angry…"

Treize's eyes flashed with a mixture of discomfort and fondness. He was well acquainted with that side of the Chinese pilot, indeed. "This Johann might be the right man for the job. We'll have to speak to Sally about him over breakfast."

"Oh, he'll go," Zechs commented, "He's apparently something of an adrenaline junkie. Meeting up with an angry Heero Yuy should be right up his alley."

Both men laughed as they continued towards the mess hall and breakfast.

~*~

Heero pulled the car to a stop on the side of the dirt road, a few miles from the base. There had been no further word from Zechs or Trowa during the night, and he found himself tensing more and more as they got closer.

"Heero," Quatre asked, leaning forward, "why did you stop? We're almost there."

"That's the point," the Japanese pilot responded, turning to address Wufei. "Is there a back way into this base?"

Wufei blinked and scowled slightly. "Ah, not that I know of. My understanding is that this is the only access by vehicle. But, they know we're coming--"

"Yes, they know we're coming. Anything could be waiting for us. This could be a very elaborate trap," Heero continued, his agitation becoming more obvious by the minute. "We should find a back way in, get Duo out to safety, *then* consider our options, not blindly waltz in and--"

"Dammit, Heero, get a grip!" Quatre nearly shouted, shaking his shoulder. "Nothing is going to happen. It's not a trap, the only people 'waiting' for us are potential allies, and if the information on Sally Po is correct, Duo is in better hands here than anywhere else at the moment!" Quatre took a deep breath and waited for Heero's reaction.

Heero sighed, raked a hand through his hair, and calmed visibly. "I know, Quatre, you're right. But after fighting them this long, it's hard to just forget the past and trust blindly."

Wufei reached over and placed his hand on Quatre's on Heero's shoulder. "I swear to you both, on my honour, that this is not a trap. I also swear that Duo is safe and being well cared for. We will *all* be safe on base."

Heero nodded. "I don't mean to question your honour, Wufei."

"Of course you don't. You're worried about Duo, you've been driving all night, and you're nearly exhausted, mentally and physically." He removed his hand from Heero's shoulder and raised it in a halting gesture. "No, I'm not going to suggest you let one of us take over. I refuse to take part in an argument I already know I'll lose. So, let's continue to the base, then you can see Duo and get some rest," the Chinese pilot said calmly.

Heero nodded and manoeuvred the car back onto the road.

"And, Heero?" Quatre added, squeezing his shoulder good-naturedly. "Please wait for people to get out of your way when we get there. Don't just shoot them and keep going..."

Heero snorted. "I'll try to remember that..."

~*~

Johann Marco pulled his jeep to a stop at the sentry point overlooking the single road to Vilno Base. When Commander Po had requested him to assist the sentries watching for the Gundam pilots, he'd jumped at the chance. Hunting down that Chang kid had been an almost impossible challenge... *almost*. Who knew what this job would bring...

"Sir," a voice broke into his thoughts, "Captain Lo said you were on your way. I'm certainly glad you're here. None of us are familiar with the Gundam pilots, and we'd hate to be the cause of any problems--"

Marco looked at the young sentry and quickly classified him. *New recruit. Competent, yet inexperienced... afraid of making a mistake, but showing a great deal of promise.*

"You are?" Marco asked.

The younger man stood up straighter. "Sorry, Captain, sir. I'm Macintyre, leader of this squad."

The older man nodded and climbed out of the jeep. "No need for formality, Macintyre. We're not really regular military, are we? Just call me Marco. I'm not actually taking over your squad, more like assisting you. I've made quite a study of the pilots, including their physical appearances, so let's see if I can help you steer clear of any mistakes." He smiled at the slightly nervous young man, and followed him over to the lookout point, picking up a pair of high powered binoculars and joining the two other men in scanning the road and its surroundings. "We're expecting the pilots anytime in the next 8 hours. Personally, I believe we'll see them in two hours, possibly even sooner. Although, this road may slow them down."

"Yeah," Macintyre replied. "That's one reason Captain Lo chose this spot. You'd have to be suicidal to go any faster than about fifteen miles an hour through this stretch."

"Which is good for us-- ah. I believe we shall have some company soon," Marco said, handing the binoculars to the younger squad leader and pointing out a plume of dust in the distance. "Now, to see if it's invited guests or intruders..."

Ten minutes later Marco had his answer and was relaying his information back to Captain Lo at the base.

"Yes, Lo, I am one-hundred percent certain it is Yuy, Chang and Winner. Who was it that chased Chang down last time, eh? They just passed us thirty seconds ago, so should pull onto the base in about seven minutes. You may want to warn Po and the others. I recommend having as few people around as possible to begin with. Yuy did *not* look happy. Marco out."

"Marco... that was cruel," Macintyre said, trying to control his snickering. "Yuy didn't look particularly nasty..."

"No, but Lo needs to be put in his place occasionally. I just wish I could be there to see his face right now..."

~*~

"Copy, Lo. I'll be right there. Make sure all non-essential personnel are away from the main compound. Po out," Sally replied into her comm unit and stood to leave.

"Problems, Doctor?" Treize asked, straightening one of Duo's I.V. lines as Une placed another blanket on the braided teen's bed.

Sally shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. The pilots are about seven minutes out-- No, Treize," she said, raising her hand, "you, Une and Zechs stay right here. I do NOT need more tension on the ground. I'll just take Walker and meet them, then bring them in here."

"Yes ma'am," Treize said with a small smile, and sat down again by Duo's bedside. "However, if we could prevail upon your admirable staff for a few more chairs... and possibly a few more cots? I doubt the young men would enjoy sitting on the floor after that long trip."

Zechs snorted. "And if you think Yuy is going to leave this one's side--" he motioned to Duo-- "for something as unimportant as rest..."

Une stifled a chuckle. "Go on, Sally. Go meet the boys. I'll see to the furnishings."

"Thanks. I'll bring them in as soon as things are settled." She tucked the blankets around Duo's shoulders with a muttered "good thing I stopped the morphine before breakfast", then spun around and left the room, Une following.

"Well," Treize sighed, leaning back to rest his head against Zechs who was standing behind his chair, "this could be civilised or get ugly very quickly. Duo, hurry and wake up. Your lover is on his way."

~*~

They could see the main gate ahead of them.

Heero gripped the steering wheel tightly, his lips pressed together in a frown. He darted a glance at Wufei from the corner of his eye, and was for once glad the other boy was wrapped up in thoughts of seeing his lovers again. It kept Wufei from looking at him too closely and seeing the trembling in his arms that his grip and frown couldn't hide.

A million questions had paraded through his head as he drove, and he was vaguely ashamed that he'd taken out his fears on Wufei, but the truth was that he was terrified. What had happened to Duo? Why hadn't Zechs told them by now? His grip tightened-

A strong hand squeezed his shoulder, jolting him from his thoughts. "Don't you think you should slow down and let them open the gate, Heero?" Quatre asked quietly.

As he slammed on the brakes, all Heero could think was that no one but Quatre could have asked him that question and made it sound so innocent.

He rolled down his window and waited.

Captain Lo waved for the gates to be opened as he approached the vehicle nervously. He peered in –

The driver's dark blue gaze swung up to meet him, and he nearly stepped back away from the menace he saw there. **This must be Yuy. Oh, lord!** "Good morning, sir. You are expected. Do you require an escort to…"

Wufei looked up, well aware of just how tense his fellow pilot was. He felt the same. "Where are they?" he asked in a quiet but distinct voice.

Lo's throat went dry…

There was a sudden roar of noise as a jeep pulled up alongside. Heero's face swung around again. He didn't recognize the driver, but the passenger…

Sally hopped out quickly, much to Captain Lo's relief, and walked right up to the car. "Welcome! I'm glad you made it alright." As Walker joined her, she put a hand on his shoulder. "Gentlemen, this is Lieutenant Kevin Walker of the OZ Specials. Walker, these are Heero Yuy, Chang Wufei and Quatre Raberba Winner. I'm sure you know who they are."

"My pleasure." Walker couldn't help feeling vaguely nervous. He was probably the only OZ officer who had ever come this close to the infamous Heero Yuy and not been killed within seconds…

"Nice to meet you," the Japanese pilot finally ground out. The air whooshed from Walker's lungs – it seemed they were going to be civilized, after all.

Sally didn't bother making anyone ask about it. "If you'll follow us, please, we can take you directly to see Treize and Duo."

A spark of… something, heated Heero's eyes as she spoke the second name, and she smiled to herself as she turned back to her jeep.

~*~

The three OZ officers stood as they heard voices approaching. Une nervously stepped away from the bed and its sleeping occupant.

Walker was the first to enter, and behind him –

All they heard was a loud gasp as three bodies raced forward.

Heero skidded to a halt next to Duo and suddenly understood why Zechs hadn't said any more in his message. Though some of Duo's bruises had faded from their original purplish-black, the injured pilot was still liberally covered in them, and you could still vaguely make out the outline of a boot-like shape. An IV line snaked its way down to a needle in the boy's uninjured arm, and a machine nearby let out a steady stream of beeps as it monitored Duo's heart rate.

Heero began to shake as he reached for one, slender hand. "Duo," Heero whispered, stroking his fingertips gently along the injured boy's hand and arm, and finally reaching to trace a single fingertip along a bruised cheek. He could feel Quatre and Wufei on either side of him, and he knew their presence was the only thing keeping him from grabbing hold of his lover and never letting go again-

"I'm sorry, Mr. Yuy. I truly am. I would have done anything to prevent them from hurting him, if I could."

Wufei froze – he could feel the butterflies in his stomach going full force at the sound of that voice. He turned slowly.

Treize was staring directly into his eyes, only a few feet away. He took a step forward.

"Kushrenada," Heero said, his face darkening again.

The aristocrat ignored him. "Dragon."

Wufei quite nearly flew across the room and grabbed hold of his lover in a bear hug, his face buried against the taller man's shoulder. Treize's eyes were suspiciously glittery as he shut them, squeezing Wufei tightly to his chest. "God, I've missed you."

Wufei looked up – he reached out a hand and yanked Zechs forward by his jacket lapels, holding him close as well. "I was so worried about you both."

Releasing the two men from his embrace, Wufei didn't let go of their hands as he turned back to the other occupants of the room. "Quatre, Heero, I don't think they need an introduction, but these are Treize Kushrenada, former leader of OZ, Zechs Marquise, also of OZ, and Lady Une." He nodded to her and received a small smile in return.

Quatre stepped forward and offered his hand. "I never thought I'd be saying it is a pleasure to meet you."

Treize managed a smile as he returned the blond's surprisingly strong handshake. "The feeling is mutual, Mr. Winner, but a pleasure it is."

"What. Happened. To. Him."

Everyone turned back to look at Heero – the Japanese pilot had the end of Duo's braid clutched in his fist, but his eyes never left Treize's face.

The ex-General grimaced. "What happened… I'd never seen anything like it, Mr. Yuy. But he is alive and he will be fine."

Heero gripped the hair in his hand tightly, his fist shaking ever so slightly. "Tell me."

Shrugging off his lovers' hands, Treize stepped forward until he was at Heero's side, where he could look down at Duo. "They beat him, young man, brutally. There was nothing I could do, and for that I apologise. I've never seen anything like the bravery of him, to withstand all of that. He is a truly remarkable young man."

Heero's trembling became more obvious. "Swear it to me – you did not…"

"Yuy!" Wufei started forward with anger plain on his face, but Quatre stepped neatly between the two and held Wufei back with a hand to his chest.

"Stand down, Chang," he ordered quietly. "They will have to get this out, either now or later."

Wufei opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again as a hand came down on his shoulder. He looked up – Zechs gave him a tight nod, though worry showed clearly in his ice blue eyes. The Chinese pilot took a step back.

Treize met Heero's harsh stare openly. "I swear, Heero. I never harmed Duo, nor would I have ever done so." The two stared at each other, neither willing to back down, and Heero's free hand clenched into a tight fist at his side.

~*~

Something was tugging at Duo's consciousness. Voices... he heard voices. They were familiar, yet he couldn't quite place them.

It was like an annoying fog hanging in his eyes. He tried to lift his hand to rub it away, but for some reason, his body felt almost numb, as though…

Duo clawed his way towards consciousness. He could tell – something was happening, if he could just open his eyes…

"I never harmed Duo, nor would I have ever done so."

That voice, he knew that voice. If he could just place it-- Treize Kushrenada! That was it!

He was relieved to hear it, and that bothered him. Why should he be happy to hear the voice of his arch-enemy so close by? Why…

A cell in Russia.

Treize Kushrenada in a cell with him in Russia.

Treize Kushrenada and… Wufei?

Duo managed to twitch his hand a little as memory reasserted itself with a jolt. "Uhhhn."

The voices stopped speaking immediately, and Duo was somehow aware of being watched very closely. A soft-feeling hand was touching his face while another voice he recognized called his name, and he fought to get his eyes open.

"Duo, open your eyes. You're in my infirmary. Wake up, now, and look at me..."

Slowly, the braided pilot managed to get his eyes opened and tried to make them focus. He could make out Sally's features and blinked a few times, the image finally clearing.

"Sally..." he croaked, voice barely above a whisper, "I had the strangest dream. You were there--" his eyes slid across to Une, Walker, then Treize-- and you were there, and you were there, and you--"

Duo's eyes finally took in Heero, standing beside his shoulder, his braid clutched in his hand, and the American boy frowned...

"Heero... where the fuck were you?"

 

On to Chapter 5

Back to Preventers' HQ

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