Tangled in the Web
“Hello, Frank McAdams speaking,” the elderly man said to the caller as he answered the phone, immediately recognizing Wufei Chang’s voice from previous calls as the young man began to speak.
“I just got the news about Mrs. L.,” the young man stated, his voice strained. “How are Duo and Heero taking it?”
“Badly I’m afraid,” Frank replied. “I’m been trying to get them to rest and eat. I think they’ve both just fallen asleep. Can I give them a message?”
There was a pause on the other end. “I really wanted to talk to them,” the young man said, obviously upset. “I’ll try again later, but in the meantime, tell them we’re on our way. I just called Quatre and Trowa and they’re arranging a private shuttle. They’ll be here on L-2 tonight to pick me up and we’ll leave immediately for Earth, probably arriving at your place sometime tomorrow evening. Tell them...” He paused, trying to think of something appropriate to say. “Tell them to hold tight and that I mourn with them, we all do. Once we’re together we’ll get to the bottom of this, and whoever killed Mrs. L. will pay.”
“Are you so sure it wasn’t an accident?” Frank asked.
“No,” the other man on the phone answered. “The police are still investigating, but from what Milliardo Peacecraft has told me, her death is highly suspicious.”
“I will pass the message on as soon as one of them wakes,” Frank assured the man on the other end.
“Thank you. Your help during this difficult time for Heero and Duo is appreciated by all of us. I’m sure you’ll be more than compensated for your time and effort.”
“I’ve already been compensated by having enjoyed their company. They’re good boys,” Frank replied. “I promise you that they’ll be safe in my care. No harm will come to either of them under my care.”
“Thank you. We’ll call you from the airport as soon as we land tomorrow evening.”
Frank bid the other goodbye, then hung up the phone. He walked back into the living room and quietly observed the two young men now sleeping deeply with Duo laying on a good portion of Heero’s body, that had been propped up by soft pillows behind his head and shoulders. A frown of concentration formed on the elderly man’s face as he contemplated the two, and slowly, a look of determination grew in his eyes. He left the living room and went down to his basement, to the cold storage room his wife had used for many years to store her canned goods. From the outside of it, it looked like a small and sturdy, windowless work shed with a solid door.
Picking out the necessary tools from his tool box, he set to work, knowing the two young men upstairs wouldn’t wake up for many hours. He removed the few metal racks that remained in the now unused and empty room, then looked the space over and gave a nod of satisfaction. It was the perfect place to hide someone, he decided. It had thick, near sound-proof walls, a solid door with the hinges on the outside as well as a heavy lock with a bolt to secure whatever he put inside. There was a drain at the bottom of the cement floor and a fan in the high ceiling that circulated the vented air. After dragging into the room an old, thin mattress that Robbie had used camping many years ago, he shook out an equally old and dusty sleeping bag and put a bucket into the corner with a box of tissues. After adding of a few harmless necessities, he surveyed the room once again and deemed the it ready for occupancy.
Climbing back up the stairs, he heard the phone ringing once again and promptly answered it. This time it was Trowa Barton calling, anxiously asking for Duo or Heero. Looking outside, Frank noticed that it had grown dark while he’d worked in the basement. If the boys were going to escape his house without notice, they would have done so when it was dark.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Barton,” Frank said, his voice sounding appropriately apologetic. “But I’m afraid they’ve left my home as soon as it was dark. They decided they were too much of a target here and that they were endangering me with their presence. Duo left you a note. Would you like me to read it to you?”
A moment of silence came from the other end of the phone as Trowa Barton digested the news. Word of their leaving had obviously come as a surprise to their friend. “They left? Where did they go?”
“Here, let me get the letter. Maybe it will say something.”
“No wait!” Trowa said, his tone urgent. “The phone might be tapped. Keep the note safe and I’ll come to the house to collect it. We’ll be there tomorrow evening. If they should contact you, please tell them to stay put so we can find them.”
“I’ll do that,” Frank agreed easily. “Safe journey to you and your friends, Mr. Barton.”
Hanging up the phone, the elderly man went into the living room and with some effort and strain, he pulled Duo’s upper body off of Heero by grabbing him under his arms. He then dragged the deeply slumbering young man off the sofa and across the carpet towards the kitchen, Duo’s stockinged feet dragging behind as Frank headed for the basement door. His old knees wobbled a bit under the strain, but there was nothing to be done for it. He continued to carefully walk backwards into the kitchen, pulling Duo with him, and paused at the top of the stairs leading down to the basement and laundry room. He lowered the young man’s body to the floor in order to put the thick door mat from the back door under Duo’s feet in order to protect them as he eased the younger man him down the stairs to the basement below. “This is for your own good, son,” the man said with gentle affection as he picked the braided man up under his arms once again to pull him down the stairs to the storage room. “I won’t let anything or anyone harm you ever again.”
Duo slowly woke up feeling disoriented and groggy. He realized almost instantly that his clothes had been removed while he’d been asleep, leaving him in his boxers, t-shirt and socks. Then his memories kicked in of Mrs. L’s death and the heavy weight of grief wrapped around him once more. He allowed himself a moment to give into his sorrows but slowly realized that something wasn’t quite right. He opened his eyes and was startled to find himself a room that was unfamiliar and small. His eyes carefully studied the room, taking in its contents. The eight by eight space was nearly bare, with only the sleeping bag he’s found himself in, the mattress beneath it, a bucket in the corner opposite him and a small cardboard box that, upon inspection, he found contained protein bars and fruit juices in soft foil containers, a box of tissues and a toothbrush along with some toothpaste. A sense of panic immediately overcame his feelings of grief and he clambered out of the sleeping bag and went to the room’s only exit. His heart sped up in seeing that the door’s hinges were on the outside and that the doorknob had been removed. He looked upward to see a small air vent and a thick-glass window that let the light into the room from a brightly lit florescent strip set high above the ceiling of his prison. He had absolutely no memory of how he’d gotten there or where Heero was. With his heart pounding in his chest, he returned his attention to the door and smashed his fists against it where they made only a dull thud on the solid surface.
“Hey! You out there! What the hell is going on?” he shouted, hoping for some answers. Nothing. He dragged his hands though the front of his hair and let his eyes wander around the room again. A chill went up his spine as he revisited the same feelings he’d had during the war when he’d been captured, beaten and waited in a small, dark cell to be executed. That fate had been thwarted by Heero’s unexpected rescue. He didn’t know who’d locked him in this room, if it was his stalker or not, but the hair standing up on the back of his neck told him he was in big trouble.
Wrapping his arms around himself, he rubbed his bare arms against the shiver that shook his thin body that had little to do with the room’s chilly temperature but rather from his growing fear of the unknown. He knew he was slipping into a state of panic, and that he had to stop that from happening and keep his wits about him if he was going to have any chance of escape. In order to keep calm and his mind occupied, he began a systematic search of the room, looking for any possible means for escape. But after a thorough investigation, he found nothing. The skylight above him was too high to reach and looked too thick to break without a tool. The vent next to it presented the same problems. The mattress, he decided after studying it, was too thin to support his weight, even if he tried to fold it over and use it as a step up. The thin box that contained the supplies was also of no use. After coming to the conclusion that there would be no chance for escape until someone was foolish enough to open the door, he sat on the mattress, pulled the sleeping bag over his shoulders and prepared himself to wait.
And wait he did.
He ate, slept and ate again, and all that time the light above had constantly shined, though not bright enough to be offensive. He wished he had his watch, but it had been removed along with his clothing. Without it, time seemed to creep slowly by as he continued to wait and hope that his sanity would stay intact.
With nothing to do, his mind constantly turned to his lover. Where was Heero? Was he alright? If someone had him, did they have his lover too? Worry caused his stomach to ache and he wondered if it was time to eat again or if he’d eaten too much and would starve to death if no one came for him. But that didn’t make sense, he told himself. Why would anyone put food and drink in there with him if they were going to abandon him and let him starve. No, he had some idea that whoever had gone to the trouble to capture him had other plans that didn’t include starvation.
Then suddenly, the lights above him went out.
“Hey! Who’s there? Who are you and what do you want?” He shouted as loudly as he could, but the silence that followed indicated that either the room was sound proof or his captor wasn’t ready to reveal himself. He lay his head down on the mattress, wishing for a pillow, and then he looked upwards and prayed to a God he’d hoped was there for some kind of help for himself and his missing lover.
“Mr. McAdams?” The blond young gentleman that anyone on the planet and colonies could recognize stood on his front porch and in front of the other two intense looking young men. The tall, auburn-haired young man rested a hand on the blond’s shoulder and to his right stood a serious-looking Asian man, his black hair pulled back tightly and his eyes gazing at the older man with a penetrating stare.
“Yes. You must be Heero and Duo’s friends. Please come in.” The older man stepped aside and motioned the three young men to enter, then led them to the seating area in his living room. The three visitors quickly introduced themselves to the man who had sheltered their friends during their absence. Frank sat in his chair after they were seated and opened the conversation. “Mr. Peacecraft stopped by this morning. I hope you don’t mind that I shared the note Duo left behind with him. He seemed equally anxious to know of their whereabouts and seemed genuinely concerned about their well-being.”
“That’s alright,” Trowa answered as he sat on the sofa holding the hand of Quatre Winner. “Could we please see the note?”
Frank moved the piece of paper that had remained on coffee table towards him and Trowa picked it up and unfolded it. He immediately recognized the messily scratched letters he identified as Duo’s handwriting. That Duo wrote more than a few words showed the importance of his message. Their friend usually avoided writing by hand when possible because his fingers, which had been broken and not properly reset in prison, now ached painfully when holding a pen or pencil. If Duo wrote the note, it meant that Heero hadn’t been able to. Making a silent note of that fact, Trowa read the scribbled words out loud.
I’m so sorry, Trowa, about Mrs. L. I can’t believe she’s dead and it’s tearing me up inside that I’m probably responsible. I’ve got things to tell you that I haven’t spoken to anyone about, bad things that happened in the penal colony. I think that someone from there is after me. It’s an eye for an eye in that hell hole, and I think someone is out for revenge. We’re sitting ducks here and I can’t let Frank be a target for the psycho that’s after me. I’m taking Heero and we’re going to hide, maybe in an old safehouse. I’ll be in touch in a couple of days. I don’t know if we can make it to Mrs. L’s funeral, but I’ll call you on your cells phones, so keep them on and watch your backs.
Wufei stood abruptly and began to pace, looking agitated. “What the hell is going on?” he demanded. “Why didn’t he tell us before that someone might be after him? I’d never have left the planet if I’d known that.”
“We can’t protect them every moment of the day, Wufei,” Trowa reasoned calmly. “They deserve to live their lives separately from us, and they chose to do so when they were ready to leave Mrs. L’s home last year. They wouldn’t want us to be underfoot day and night, seeing that they are safe and protected.”
Wufei merely shook his head. “Still, we leave the planet and all hell breaks loose. Was this mysterious someone Duo wrote of waiting for a chance to get at him, and we gave it to him by leaving them alone?”
“I don’t know, Wufei. But I would suggest we try to figure this out. I want you to do some background checks,” Quatre said, looking as tired as he was feeling. His own grief for Mrs. L and worrying for their friends was compounded by Trowa and Wufei’s equally intense emotions. All of it was taking a toll on him physically and emotionally. “You can do that through the Preventers, right, Wufei? Find out who’s been released from the penal colony recently and what happened during Duo’s stay in Penal Colony 4 and why he thinks someone might be seeking vengeance. Be discrete though and try to keep as much information out of the Preventers’ files as possible. Duo might have done some things in there that were illegal, and we don’t want to cause him any legal problems by delving into his past there. But maybe we can identify and find the person who did this, find out if Duo’s suspicions are correct.”
“I’ll go into the office tonight and get right on it,” Wufei said, agreeing with Quatre’s plan and grateful to have something to do.
“They haven’t contacted you since they left?” Trowa asked the older man as he rose to his feet and pulled Quatre up with him, aware of the exhausted state of his lover.
Frank shook his head. “Not a word. But then Duo said he’d call you and not me, so I’m not expecting to hear from either of them any time soon. However, I would appreciate it if you would give me a call when they do contact you, letting me know if they’re alright.”
“I’ll do that,” Quatre said, being led by the hand to the front door of the man’s home and then out onto the porch.
“Thank you for your help,” Wufei said as he stood in the open doorway. “Those two have gone through more than you can imagine and your help means a lot to all of us.”
“I would do anything in my power to see them not suffer any more,” Frank replied. “Good night.”
Wufei turned and followed the other two back to the limousine that waited at the curbside for them. Frank stood and watched them leave, then shut off the porch light, closed the front door, locked it and leaned against the solid wood surface, a small, satisfied smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He went to the kitchen to make his nightly cup of cocoa before retiring for the night, content that the situation was well in hand and progressing nicely.
The light above Duo had gone on and off three times, signaling to him that three, possibly four days had passed since he first woke up in his solitary confinement. He was certain that his nerves were about to blow at any moment from the silence and the uncertainty of what was going on. He’d chewed his nails down to the quick and his cuticles were bleeding.
He could hardly believe his ears when he finally heard the sound of the outside lock being released. He quickly stood up on his mattress and positioned himself for an attack. The door opened and he stared in disbelief and shock at Dr. Frank McAdams.
“What the hell? Frank, what’s going on? Why am I in here and where have you been?” His muddled mind was racing for an explanation as he tried to reason out what was happening.
Frank held up his hand to display a black remote control, much like one that’s used for a television. His hand remained up, clearly showing his thumb poised over a red button as he cautiously entered the room. “First, I want you to look at this. I’m pretty clever at inventing electrical and mechanical things, and I’ve rigged up a system that, if you should try to attack me or act in any way other than I direct you to, Heero will suffer for it.”
Duo’s mind was spinning with the implications of what Frank was saying. “What do you think you’re doing, Frank? Why are you doing this?”
“It’s for your own good, Robbie. I won’t let you be led astray again or hurt. Even if I have to lock you up, I’ll protect you this time.”
“Frank, look at me,” Duo said, feeling desperate for the confused man to understand. “I’m Duo Maxwell, your neighbor. I am not your son, Robbie. He’s dead Frank and nothing can bring him back.”
“I know you don’t like this, son. But I lost you once, I won’t lose you again.”
“I’m not your son.” Duo shouted with frustration, moving to stand just a few feet from the older man, knowing that even in his diminished state of fitness, he could take the retired doctor. Frank held the remote before him.
“Do you want to know where Heero is and what will happen to your friend if my finger hits this button?” Frank asked, seemingly calm, but Duo could see a flicker of warning in his aged eyes.
Stopping all movement, Duo stared at the older man, wondering what was going through his mind. “What have you done to Heero? If you’ve hurt him, I swear to God, Frank, that I’ll rip you apart without mercy.”
“Now, I’ll have no more of that kind of talk,” the older man scolded. “Heero is upstairs in the guest room sleeping. I have him hooked up with two I.V.s. One gives him fluids that are needed to keep him alive and I’ve added some medication to it that maintains his present catatonic state. The other I.V. is set up to respond to this remote. If I should hit this button, even by accident, a muscle relaxant will enter his veins and within moments it will stop his heart from beating. He’ll die peaceably.”
Duo’s eyes widened in horror. “You’ve been drugging him, us, all along haven’t you? What have we ever done to you that you would do this to us?” he asked, shocked by the man’s words and actions.
“Done?” Frank looked confused for a moment. “You’re all I’ve got, Robbie. I’ll do anything I have to in order to keep you safe. Heero is a nice man, but it’s just not right for him to have so much influence over you. I can’t imagine what your mother would think of you having an intimate relationship with him.”
“I am not your son!” Duo shouted, his frustration mounting. “I’m Duo Maxwell, an orphan from L-2, former gundam pilot and Heero’s lover. Please,” he desperately pleaded, “don’t hurt him. Do what you want with me, but please don’t hurt Heero. I love him more than anything in this world.”
“And I love you, son. I’ll not hurt your friend unless you disobey me.”
Duo stepped back and abruptly sat down on the mattress, trying to think out his options. If he attacked Frank, the chances of him hitting the button were far too great for him to try. His best bet, he thought, was to play along with this charade that the delusional man was engaged in and steal the remote from him once he relaxed or got careless. He’d been one of the best thieves on L-2 in his youth, he could do it again easily, with his eyes closed.
“Our friends will come looking for us,” he told Frank with confidence.
“They’ve been here and I gave them your note. They’re waiting for your call... the one that will never come.”
Duo looked at the man in shocked disbelief. The note he’d written to their friends, stating his intention of leaving Frank’s home in order to protect the older man, was now being used to divert their attention from where both he and Heero were being held prisoner by this mad man.
“Stay there on the mattress and I’ll get the bucket and clean it for you. Do you need more food?”
“It’s all gone,” Duo answered sullenly as he watched the man cautiously make his way to the bucket in the corner that he’d used as a toilet. It stunk after a couple of uses and he was glad to get it out of the confining room. “I need to take a shower, Frank. You aren’t thinking of keeping me in here without letting me have a shower, are you? And I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t have something to do or someone to talk to.”
“Good behavior will win you rewards,” Frank said, never turning his back on his prisoner or lowering the hand carrying the remote. He slowly and cautiously made his way back to the door and eased out of it. “I’ll be back soon with more food and a clean bucket. If you behave, I’ll let you out tomorrow to use the shower. I have a few changes to make in the bathroom before it’s ready for your use. I’ll be back shortly.”
The door closed and from the sound of it, the lock was put in place, leaving Duo alone with his thoughts once again. He wondered how much of their latest problems had been due to Frank. Was there someone from the penal colony stalking him as he’d feared, or had it been his neighbor all along? The idea of the blood on their porch and the gutted cat struck some fear into him. If Frank had done that, he was more than delusional, he was dangerous. Then there was the cut brake lines, Mrs. L’s death and his missing dog. How much of the recent events were due to Frank’s manipulations in order to get control of himself and Heero? He’d have to ask the older man and try to figure it all out.
Heero. His heart was heavy in his chest as he thought of him. If Frank was to be believed, his lover was lying upstairs in a drug-induced, catatonic state. He could kick himself for not getting Heero to the hospital. It was clear to him now that as a retired doctor, Frank probably had access to drugs and he’d been drugging them both all along without their knowledge. The nightly cocoa and their meals were probably how he’d done it. He realized his nights of sleeping without dreaming or waking up with night terrors didn’t happen just because of a feeling of safety, as he’d assumed, but that he’d been drugged, though apparently less than Heero who’d been unusually out of it since getting back from the hospital. And even then, they’d both listened to Frank’s assurances that the excess sleep was due to the number of concussions Heero had sustained in the past. How could I have been so stupid? he asked himself The signs were there and he’d let himself be fooled by someone who was old and had acted kindly towards them. Never again, he promised himself. He wouldn’t trust that easily ever again.
The sound of the door being unlocked once again brought his attention to it. He remained where he was seated as Frank entered the room, kicking a box through the door before him that was filled with more food, drinks, and two paperback books. The bucket in his hand was set down even as the other hand held the deadly remote high enough for Duo to see and be reminded of the threat. “I have some work I need to finish upstairs, son. I’ll come by in the morning to see about that shower. Good night, Robbie.”
Frank didn’t wait to hear Duo renounce being called his son’s name as he quickly closed the door behind him. There was nothing else for Duo to do but to find something to eat and read while he waited for the next time the door to his prison opened. He wondered what their friends were thinking and if they would think to search Frank’s house when they didn’t show up or call as he’d promised. He could only hope the retired doctor slipped up and led their suspicious three friends to his doorstep.
“Something’s not right,” Wufei stated, his frown was dark and cold, similar to the coffee in the cup he’d been holding in his hands for the past ten minutes without tasting.
“I agree,” Trowa said, his own face a picture of worry. “It’s been five days now and we’ve not had any word. The funeral’s tomorrow and I’m sure Duo would have contacted us about it, even if they aren’t going to attend. He said in his note he’d be in touch. Something must have gone wrong.”
The former gundam pilots, now close friends, sat in Trowa and Quatre’s kitchen. It was evening and the sun was setting, unnoticed by the three concerned young men. Quatre looked up from his tea cup. “Is Milliardo concerned?”
Wufei nodded. “With all that’s been happening to them, he fears for them as well. He’s managed to speed up my investigation regarding incidents of violence in the penal colony. He informed the warden that Preventers had a report of a high incidence of accidents occurring in the factories the prisoners work in and that he strongly requested they open their medical files for the last five years for his investigator to examine, which the warden did.
“In the section where Duo had been placed, there were several reports of injuries inflicted by other inmates, including his, but there were also a number of suspicious work-related injuries that ended with a prisoner losing a limb. There were three such injuries and another man was found electrocuted in a freak accident. The warden stated that the circumstances in the one inmate’s death were suspicious, but there was no evidence of actual foul play other than a puddle of water that shouldn’t have been on the floor that acted as a conduit for the electrical charge from a malfunctioning power outlet that fell from its place in the metal rafters above. I would bet my last credit that Duo had something to do with that if not the others. If someone had hurt him, I don’t think, even in his incapacitated state, that he’d let his attackers go unpunished. He was Shinigami, after all.”
Both Trowa and Quatre nodded, agreeing with his assumption. “That he’s capable of defending himself, or at least of getting his vengeance, I have no doubt,” the blond said, his blue-green eyes looking pained as he gazed at the other two. “But I worry for the both of them. From what Milliardo said, Heero wasn’t doing very well and Duo was almost catatonic when he ushered them into Frank’s car.”
“I think the best thing we can do for them is to find the person responsible for their leaving,” Trowa spoke up. “The police reports are inconclusive as to whether or not Mrs. L. was murdered or if she simply fell down the stairs. There was no forced entry into her home and that leads the investigators to believe she simply stumbled on the steps and fell to her death. We’ll find out soon if the coroner found whether or not she suffered a stroke or heart attack.”
Wufei stood with his cup of cold coffee and went to the sink to empty it and then rinse it out, his face bearing an unhappy frown. “Too many things have happened for her death to be natural. In order to find the person responsible, we should set up a stakeout at Heero and Duo’s house as well as at Frank McAdams’ place. Frank indicated that they left the night of Mrs. L.’s death, out of his back door, so a stalker might not know that they’re gone. I asked Milliardo about setting up a stakeout, but he says it’s within the jurisdiction of the local law enforcement agency. If Preventers interferes, it will probably not be taken well. And although this is personal to him also, he stressed to me the importance of keeping amicable relations between the local law enforcement agency and Preventers.”
“Did you make a request to the local police?” Quatre asked, leaning his body to the right to rest his head on Trowa’s shoulder.
Trowa sighed. “So if we want it done, we have to do it ourselves.”
Quatre nodded and gave Wufei a weary grin. “Taking the law into our hands once again,” he said. “It’ll be just like old times.”
“Can you stay, Wufei, or do you need to get back to L-2?” Trowa asked, and both he and Quatre turned their eyes to their friend.
Seeing the look of need in his friends’ eyes, he knew his answer immediately. They were all strong individuals, but they were also a family, and right now his family needed him more than he needed to prove himself to the Preventers organization. “I’m staying. I won’t resume my duties until Heero and Duo are both safe from any threat.”
Relief showed on the faces of the two lovers. “Thank you, Wufei,” Quatre said, straightening from having rested his head on Trowa’s shoulder. “I don’t know that we could do this without you, but we didn’t want to force you to do something if your need to fulfill your duties with Preventers required you to go.”
Going back to his chair he’d vacated earlier at the end of the table, the Chinese man sighed as he sat. “My heart is here with you, my friends. I couldn’t function in my job worrying about what was going on here. This has been a good lesson for me,” he said thoughtfully. “I realize that I need to be near my family in order to be content with my life. Being on L-2 and waiting for a phone call as a means of being a part of your life is not satisfying. I need to be here.”
Trowa and Quatre looked at each other and smiled, having come to the same conclusion about a week earlier. The blond turned his gaze back to their Asian friend. “We feel the same, Wufei. Though a vacation from each other is probably a good idea now and then, it was too soon for us to leave Heero and Duo, especially with all the changes they were going through. From now on we’ll stick together and work for the good of the five of us.”
A smile grew on Wufei’s face. “I agree. I’m going to request to Milliardo that he find someone else to take my temporary job on L-2. I need to be here, for myself as well as for you two, Heero and Duo.”
Trowa stood. “Then I’ll take the first watch. I’ll take the car and park across the street from their house to see if anything or anyone suspicious happens by. Wufei,” he turned again to his friend, looking him in the eye. “If you’ll relieve me in the morning, then I’ll come home to rest and Quatre can take the swing shift.”
“I’ll be there at eight,” the Chinese man said and rose from his chair at the same time Quatre did.
“We’ll find those guilty of these crimes and free our friends from this threat,” Quatre said with a firm sense of commitment that the others felt as well. He then moved forward to Wufei and embraced him. “Thank you for staying,” he said, feeling very emotional, as he had been all week.
Wufei’s hands reached up and returned the warm embrace. “There’s no need for gratitude when it is my duty and honor that calls me to stay.”
“So we’re a duty now?” Trowa asked, the corner of his mouth twitching to indicate he was not offended, but teasing.
“Duty to family is at the top of all other obligations,” Wufei seriously informed them. “And as I stated earlier, you four are my family.”
Quatre saw both his lover and friend to the door, bid them a final goodbye for the evening and watched them leave. Once they were out of eyesight, he closed the door and leaned against it for a moment. Closing his eyes, he tried to sense his missing friends with his space heart. He could feel a strong sense of anxiety blended with a feeling of hopelessness, but whether it was from Heero or Duo, he couldn’t tell. Under the circumstances, those emotions were normal, he supposed. Since receiving word of Mrs. L.’s death and their friends’ disappearance, waves of anxiety had been rolling off of Trowa and Wufei; he didn’t expect Heero and Duo to feel any differently. They were all worried, but now having a plan, small as it was, seemed to give them a glimmer of hope as well as something to occupy themselves with. He was sure Trowa and Wufei felt as relieved as he did in doing something positive, with the hope of bringing an end to the disturbing situation their friends had found themselves in.
Shutting off the porch light and locking the front door, he made the rounds to turn out the house lights, feeling sad and weary. Mrs. Lunderson’s funeral was in the morning, but they wouldn’t be attending. Her family blamed them for her death even though the police department had said they couldn’t find any evidence of foul play. Trowa had placed a call to her son as soon as they’d landed on Earth. In his grief, Mr. Lunderson refused to accept their condolences or his offer to pay for the elderly woman’s funeral. Her son had been blunt when he said, in no uncertain terms, that they would not be welcome at his mother’s funeral and that they could expect some form of legal action to be taken by her surviving family. Trowa bore the man’s anger stoically, but once he disconnected the call and sat in the back seat of the limousine they’d rented to carry them from the airport, he’d broken down and cried, letting his grief for the dear, tender-heartedwoman who’d been like a grandmother to them all come to the surface. Quatre had tried to comfort his lover even as his own eyes shed tears and his heart was near to breaking with sorrow. Wufei, too, was not unaffected as he sat stiffly in the car and turned his head away from them to look out the window, suspicious sniffles coming from his direction. They’d gone from that conversation at the airport directly to Dr. McAdams’s home to try and learn the whereabouts of their missing friends.
Climbing the stairs towards the bedroom above wearily, he concluded that it had been a very long and emotion-filled week and it was taking a toll on him as well as the other two men. He wondered, and not for the first time that day, where Heero and Duo were, hoping they were alright and safe from the danger that threatened them.
Entering the bathroom, he washed and brushed his teeth, noting the dark circles under his blood-shot eyes. Opening the medicine cabinet, he paused for a moment, considering the pills on the shelf that sometimes aided him in sleeping before grabbing the bottle and shaking one of the pink, round tablets into his open hand. Without hesitation he popped it into his mouth, knowing that he needed to have his rest in order to think clearer. If he felt rested in the morning after a good night’s sleep, he could deal better with whatever it was they had to face, because somewhere deep inside he felt the worst was yet to come.
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