Broken Jade

Part Fourteen: Tumbling Down

Heero woke up at dawn, at first uncertain as to what had disturbed him. Vaguely he recalled shapes and images from his dream, but they soon dissipated, leaving him only with the conclusion that his dream was not the cause for waking. He stirred, sitting up, and realized that he was alone in bed. Frowning, he got up, grabbing a pair of blue jeans and slipping them on with a shiver. Early October, and the days were getting shorter, and the nights chillier. Heero grabbed a long-sleeved shirt, and thought for a second before grabbing a sweater as well.

Pulling it over his head, he noticed Jade was curled into a ball on his bed on the floor. Heero paused, yanked the blanket off the big bed, and draped it over Jade. He watched for a second as Jade shifted in his sleep, sighed, and began to uncurl. Heero smiled to himself and headed downstairs to find Trowa.

The front door was pushed open as Heero came to the bottom of the stairs, and Trowa entered, several pieces of wood in his arms. He nodded to Heero, and began to silently build a fire. The dark-haired man watched, mildly perturbed by his lover's early start, then decided to let it sit. Trowa would explain when he was ready. Heero headed into the kitchen, and began making the first pot of coffee for the morning.

An hour later Jade stumbled down the stairs, rubbing the sleep from his eyes but looking content. Heero looked up from his cup of coffee to see Jade was dressed in a pair of Heero's blue jeans, Trowa's green turtleneck, and a cheerful red sweater that Quatre had packed along with their other belongings. His hair was pulled back in a messy braid, and the young man nodded to Trowa before heading into the kitchen. Heero watched Jade go, puzzling over the sudden change to brighter colors, and the fact that Jade had attempted to braid his hair without being told.

The Japanese man turned to Trowa, who was still regarding the fire thoughtfully. He'd not said anything, although he'd acknowledged Heero's nearness with a half-smile, accepting the coffee with a nod.

"Today I thought we'd finish the kitchen shelves," Heero said. He set the coffee cup down on the low table as the sounds of Jade making breakfast floated in from the kitchen. Trowa didn't respond, and Heero frowned a little. "Tro... do you want to talk about it?"

"Let's go for a walk," Trowa said, but managed to smile.


Trowa stuck his hands deep in his jeans pockets, hunching his shoulders in the thick gray sweater. Heero matched the taller man's lazy stride; following the trail they'd found that wound past the house and farther up the mountain. Eventually it would lead down to the creek, about a mile downstream from the fishing spot. Heero doubted it would take Jade as long to cook breakfast as it'd take them to do the entire route. Beside him, Trowa tilted his head back to look at the overcast autumn sky.

"Was that rape?"

Heero blinked. That wasn't the question he'd been expecting. He raised his eyebrows at Trowa.

"Is Duo in there, inside Jade?"

The dark-haired man nodded firmly.

"I thought a lot about it, while I was researching," Trowa said, still not looking at Heero. "If it's Duo, then he's unable to consent, because he's not himself. He might as well be on drugs, or drunk... and therefore it was, by definition, rape. If we're dealing with Duo in an altered state... we can't have it both ways." He was silent for several minutes; the only sound that of autumn leaves crunching under their boots. "I don't know how to resolve that."

"Unless you can claim to understand the human psyche, I don't think there is a resolution."

"You mean he's both, and yet only Jade." Trowa frowned. "Paradox."

Heero nodded. Two contradicting statements that are both true, his mind supplied.

The two were silent for several more minutes, and Trowa kicked at a rock in the path, watching it tumble and bounce off to the side. "I know our reasons, intellectually. Emotionally... I don't feel like I can look him in the eye."

"I understand." Heero sighed, knowing how well he did understand. The first time he'd touched Jade... he shuddered, remembering the difficulty of keeping himself focused, of not recoiling in horror at his actions. "It gets easier," he offered.

"That's what I'm afraid of."

Heero pondered that for a bit. "Duo is somewhere inside that mind. But we can't hold Jade to Duo's standards. Jade isn't the same person."

"Like multiple-personality disorder," Trowa replied. He grimaced at Heero's nod, and raised a hand to rub the bridge of his nose. "Great. One more avenue to research, and find nothing that will help."

"Except that there's no such thing as multiple-personality disorder," Heero pointed out equitably. He gave Trowa a half-smile, which quickly faded with his next words. "He spoke. What we did helped. There was progress."

"Progress only because the carrot was big enough." Trowa caught Heero's raised eyebrows, and shook his head with a rueful smile. "I'm running over old arguments."

"Just say it." Heero leaned over, picking up a stick. He studied it for a minute, waving it idly as though it was a fencing foil.

"I don't want to love Jade."

Heero halted, canting his head at Trowa, the stick forgotten.

Trowa turned his head away. "If I do... " He frowned. "I'm afraid that I'll start making decisions that aren't in Duo's best interest, although they're in Jade's best interest."

"But Duo---" Heero tossed the stick into the woods.

"No," Trowa said, but he managed a weary smile. "Your heart is breaking now, because you have to see your friend's shadow in front of you, every day. I don't want my heart to break for seeing Jade's shadow fading into Duo's light." He turned away, and began walking again. "And I'm terrified that Duo will only resent me, for knowing I loved him as he wasn't, and yet don't love him as he is."

Heero frowned, watching Trowa stride away, before he shook his head and followed the taller man. Raising his voice to be heard over the leaves underfoot, he called out. "You're not making any sense."

"I don't have to!" Trowa retorted over his shoulder. "None of this is rational."

"Well, try, damn it." Heero exhaled angrily and increased his pace to catch up with Trowa, catching the auburn-haired man by the elbow. "We're a team. But I can't help if you won't talk to me."

Trowa spun on his heel, yanking his elbow away from Heero's grasp. "I know the conversation we had last night. I stayed awake most of the night thinking about it. I know the research. I know the justifications. I know the rationalizations. But I also know---" his tone dropped to a chilly level "---that *your* best friend gave me a blowjob while you watched! Doesn't that creep you out, just a small amount?"

Heero snarled and grabbed Trowa by the sweater, dragging the taller man's face down until they were nose-to-nose. Carefully he ground out the words, as slowly as possible.

"That man... is *not*... my... best... friend." Heero released Trowa's sweater, shoving the other man back a half step. "And *that's* the only thing that creeps me out."

The two men were still, their eyes boring into each other as they panted, caught between frustration and anger. Trowa was the first to look away, dropping his eyes as he turned to face the way they'd come. He dug his hands deep in his pockets, his chin down as he stared at the ground in front of his feet. Heero exhaled abruptly, blowing his bangs out of his eyes as he watched Trowa. After several minutes, Heero shook his head, stepping around to stand in Trowa's way.

"You've been calling them battles," he said, and took another deep breath. When Heero spoke again, his voice was gentler. "We made sacrifices and choices in wartime that we'd never willingly do in peacetime."

Trowa nodded, his posture wary.

"Trowa," Heero whispered, his hands reaching out to tug Trowa's hands from his pockets. Heero ducked his head, staring at their linked hands as he spoke. "This is war. We're fighting for Duo's soul."

"To fight the war, I had to kill my heart. I was left with nothing but emptiness," Trowa replied, a bitter laugh hiding in his words. "I don't want to go back there."

Heero frowned, recognizing the refrain from something Quatre had told him, many years before. Gritting his teeth, he pulled at Trowa's hands until the two men were only a finger's length apart.

"I know," Heero told him softly. "My life was cheap, then. But it's not, now."

Trowa didn't say anything, but the fear and pain in his eyes said everything.

"We have a home," the Japanese man told him. "We each have two reasons to make it through this. The first is right in front of us. And the second is waiting with our breakfast," he added, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips when Trowa's stomach growled. "Glad someone agrees with me."

"That's only because arguing with you is pointless," Trowa retorted, but the edge was gone from his mood. "You're too damn bone-headed."

Heero merely smiled. He tugged on Trowa's hand, leading the way back down the path to the house, where Jade stood on the back porch, waiting for them.


Thursdays were for hiking, but Trowa had suggested they begin collecting wood a bit more rigorously. Heero grumbled silently about the declaration as he leaned over to pick up another stick, adding it to the bundle in his arms as he trailed behind Jade and Trowa. The taller man had rigged a way to hold his kindling collection using his belt, and reminded Heero of a wood-carrying fisherman, with the long legs and thick gray sweater. Beside him, Jade was only a few inches shorter, and the dark-haired man contemplated the fact that he'd gotten so used to Jade's downcast face that he'd even begun to think of Jade as an inch or two shorter.

Duo's the same height as me, he reminded himself, instinctively cringing at the use of the name, despite knowing that his thoughts were his own. Maxwell. Maxwell is the same height... and so is Jade, he added. Shaking his head at his pensiveness, he bent over and grabbed several more pieces of potential kindling, juggling the bundle in his arms for several seconds before getting everything situated.

The day before, he thought, pleased, they'd managed to get in a few hours alone after breakfast. While sometimes they did no more than kiss for an hour, Heero thought, it was at least nice to have some time to spend together. They didn't even always talk. A few times they'd simply stayed in bed after Jade had gotten up, and lay there, back-to-front, basking in each other's presence, but it was unusual to go back to bed. He grinned at the thought.

It's not like I'm wasting away without sex, Heero thought. I'm not sure I even want any, until that other night fades a bit more. He stopped, hefting a stick of wood in one hand before transferring it to the bundle under his other arm. Perhaps that's it. Perhaps Trowa needs time to separate the two types of sexual interaction in his life right now.

Heero frowned at the leaves scattering the forest floor. He could hear Trowa's warning shout, and he looked up to see the taller man waving Jade back closer. Trowa was a good bit farther down the trail, laughing as Jade came crashing back through the woods to join him. Heero wrapped both arms around his bundle of kindling and increased his pace to join them, smiling at Jade's grin despite himself.


Four days after that night, as Heero thought of it, Jade was still silent, but neither Trowa nor Heero pressed the longhaired man. They noted his sudden preference for wearing their clothes, but didn't mention it to Jade, nor did they encourage him. It went unspoken between them that they wanted to see what Jade would do next, if they didn't react. Unfortunately, his behavior otherwise didn't change, except that he began wearing his braid all day, taking it out only at night before slipping between the blankets in his bed on the floor.

Saturday evening, Heero had planned on an hour of playing guitar, to keep his fingers limber. But they'd spent the day dismantling the kitchen cabinets and he'd gotten his share of splinters. Most of them, he thought ruefully, were his own damn fault, for growing tired of the crowbar and hammer. He'd dropped the tools on the table and taken to ripping the cabinets straight off the wall, as Trowa laughed helplessly in the background and Jade cowered behind Trowa. The cabinets were now a pile of trash in the barn, ready to be carted to the local dump on their next trip.

Jade had skillfully and carefully removed all the splinters, kissing each miniscule wound with a tenderness that surprised Heero. Duo, he told himself, would have laughed himself silly at Heero's predicament, and possibly attempted to pour peroxide on the cuts, enjoying the notion of Heero wincing at the stinging result.

The dark-haired man scowled, watching Jade's head dip low over his hand, the tweezers carefully prodding to get the last splinter out.

The side chair creaked, and Heero looked up to see Trowa leaning forward to nudge the fire with the poker. Setting it back in its holder, Trowa turned to watch the two men on the sofa with a contemplative look, his hands stroking Ifrit sleeping in his lap. Heero met Trowa's eyes over Jade's head, and raised his eyebrows, the silent question obvious.

"His commands," Trowa said.

Heero nodded, waiting.

"Quatre mentioned hypnotic suggestion, and I've been thinking about the list of commands." The auburn-haired man leaned back in the chair, stretching out his legs. Ifrit woke up long enough to squeak his complaint, and Trowa smiled at the cat, rearranging the kitten to lie across his chest.

Jade shifted, patting Heero's hand several times, and placed the tweezers back into the first aid kit.

"Thanks, Jade," Heero said, catching Jade's fingers and giving them a quick squeeze. He watched as the other man's cheeks tinted lightly with pink, and Jade nodded several times before returning the kit to the bathroom. His anklets chimed, and Heero frowned momentarily. "I've got to figure out a way to get those off without hurting him," he murmured. Heero leaned back on the sofa, and rubbed his forehead as he watched Trowa staring into the flames. "What about hypnotic suggestion?"

"I don't get how it works," Trowa mused, shrugging slightly. "You can't force someone to do something under hypnosis that they wouldn't do of their own accord while not hypnotized."


"And?" Trowa turned then, to stare at Heero, his green eyes challenging.

Heero sighed, listening as Jade moved from the bathroom into the kitchen, picking his way through the chaos to begin cooking dinner. "It's not really hypnosis in the classic sense. It's just imbedded phrases, that have accumulated a meaning through experience."

"What do you mean?"

"Well... " Heero considered it for several seconds. The fire popped and hissed as the flames hit a damp spot in a log, and he watched the flames lick along the steaming log. "There's one phrase you could yell in a crowded shopping center that would still make people duck and run for cover, before they even had chance to rationally consider the veracity of your statement."

Trowa raised an eyebrow, as the long fingers of one hand scratched Ifrit behind the ears. The kitten purred, its claws flexing against Trowa's chest.

"It's a Gundam," Heero said dryly.

The auburn-haired man laughed, his head thrown back, and the cat sat up with a start, jumping down from Trowa's lap. Trowa cocked his head at Heero, as his laughter softened into chuckling. "Touché. So you're saying these are learned reactions?"

Heero nodded. "There were... words... phrases... that Dr. J used on me, during training." His tone turned distant, and he stared at the fire rather than meet Trowa's eyes. His voice dropped to a whisper. "You have three choices... " Heero was still for a moment, then shook himself, risking a glance at Trowa, but the other man's face was neutral. "Every mission, every training session, began with those words. Relena used that phrase once... only she was speaking of where to go on our first anniversary. But I was instantly in... a different head-space."

"Ah." Trowa pulled his hair back from his face, his eyes half-closed. "So in that sense, it's not so much hypnotic as it is a created instinct."

"That's one way to consider it."

The other man gave Heero a sudden, sharp look. "You have theories on why Jade won't recognize his true name?"

Heero shifted nervously on the sofa, realized he was squirming, and tried to stop. The anxiety responded by tunneling down into the pit of his stomach and nestling there, its tendrils sending worried flames along to his fingers, which plucked at the sofa. "I know a few ways it could be done."

The room was silent except for the crackling fire.

"The word or phrase is recorded, and repeated at irregular intervals," Heero whispered, his eyes unfocused, avoiding Trowa's gaze. "And with each instance, the body is... injured in some way. A strike, an electric shock, a burn... enough times, and the pain of one experience is irrevocably linked to the instance of the word or phrase."

Trowa nodded, slowly. His voice was calm. "And the same could be done with a positive phrase, linking pleasure with a word."

"I suppose." Heero shrugged. He'd never known that type, he admitted unhappily to himself, but he couldn't think of any reason it wouldn't be possible.

"Which makes me think of behaviors," Trowa continued, in that same even voice. There was a clatter in the kitchen, and he stopped, alert, watching as Ifrit meandered into the kitchen to look for dinner. Jade didn't appear, and the sounds of something sizzling in a pan made Trowa return his gaze to Heero. "Modifying behavior is much harder, because behavior is more than a simple step, it's a series of actions and thoughts that make up a single behavioral response to a situation."

"You've been doing too much research." Heero raised an eyebrow, amused. "I expect you have a point in there somewhere."

Trowa rolled his eyes, and shifted sideways in the chair to face Heero. "You told me once that... the ones who trained you, with Dr. J., wanted you to be emotionless. A machine."

Heero took a deep breath and stood up. Ignoring Trowa's startled reaction, he strode to the kitchen door. "Jade, we'll be on the front porch. Come get us when dinner's ready." He didn't wait for a response, but headed for the front door, grabbing his coat off the hook on the back of the door. Jerking his head at Trowa, he pulled the front door open and stepped out. Once on the porch, though, he stopped, his head down, his fists clenched.

I can't do this, he thought, and shook his head at himself. I can.

"Heero?" Trowa gently pulled the door shut behind them, and stepped forward, one hand on Heero's shoulder.

"I was twelve," Heero whispered. He didn't move, his head down, but he could see the fading sunset turning the front field to gold. "I had a mission... to destroy a base on L1. It was my first big mission, on a large scale. There was a park next to the base." He shuddered, feeling Trowa's hand gripping tighter, and the taller man's warm breath across the back of his neck. "I met a girl there, walking her dog."

Trowa didn't say anything, but he didn't move his hand, either.

"When I detonated the bombs that night, it was... " He held his breath, then released it slowly through his nose. "One of the mobile suits fell backwards from the blast, and hit a civilian apartment building next to the base. The building caught fire... people died. Innocent people."

There was still no response, and Heero could feel his body thrumming, the tension singing down to his clenched fists. The hand on Heero's shoulder squeezed again, just barely, and he forced the words out of his mouth.

"I went back to the site, the next day. The girl's dog was in the rubble... it was dead, and I... " Heero's words choked in his throat, and he forced himself to stay calm. "Dr. J. and... the others... said my emotions were a hazard. Emotions would compromise my abilities as a weapon, and had to be removed."

Heero kept his head down, waiting, unable to say it. Finally, Trowa whispered, "what did they do?"

"I was given a dog... " Heero wrenched himself forward, from Trowa's grasp, amazed at the amount of will he had to exert to give himself space. At the edge of the porch, he stopped, staring down into the gardening beds, mulched in preparation for winter. Behind him, Trowa remained in the same place. "I was given a dog... and for three weeks, it went with me everywhere. It ran with me every morning, watched while I practiced at the range, and lay at my feet while I used the simulation program. And then... " He ground out the words. "They made me shoot it."

Trowa hissed.

Heero flinched, certain he could feel Trowa's disapproval almost tangibly. "It was me... or the dog. Not shooting it meant I had formed an attachment. And that would make me a faulty weapon. And if I was faulty, I would be terminated," he added flatly.

"How... " Trowa's question was nearly a gasp, but left unfinished.

"Three times," Heero said. He drew in a huge breath, and raised his face to the autumn evening, seeing the stars beginning to appear as the sun set behind the trees. One corner of the sky was swathed in red, and the crescent moon was barely visible as it rose. "Three diffferent creatures that did no wrong except to... " He couldn't say any more, but closed his eyes. "After that, I didn't care. The fourth I shot on sight."

The steps were quick and light behind him, and Trowa's arms were around him, turning him, embracing him. "Oh, God, Heero," Trowa moaned, holding him tight. The evening breeze licked at Heero's jacket, brushing along his knuckles, and he buried his face in Trowa's neck. His hands came up of their own accord to fist in Trowa's shirt, under his coat, and Heero choked once, biting back a feeling of sudden helpless anger.

Heero started to pull away, but couldn't exert the will again. Instead, he clung to Trowa as the taller man murmured inaudible reassurances in his ears. He wondered vaguely at the fact that Trowa's shirt was damp under his cheek, but he didn't move until he heard footsteps behind them.

"Jade, we'll be right there." Trowa's voice was loud in his ear, a rumbling music that echoed in the depths of Trowa's chest at the same time.

Like purring, Heero thought, unwilling to move.

"It's okay," Trowa continued. "Everything's going to be okay. Go on in, you'll catch a cold out here without your coat." The front door shut quietly, and Trowa leaned away from Heero, giving the dark-haired man a sad smile. "Are you going to be okay?" He emphasized the first word, as though uncertain of the answer.

Heero nodded, rolling the emotions back up into a ball and placing them away in that place in his heart where his memories were stored. He nodded again, finally lifting his eyes to see Trowa's green eyes watching him, concern and love evident.

The taller man sighed, pulling Heero forward into a loose hug, his forehead pressed against Heero's. "What we do to survive is sometimes unbelievable and incomprehensible from the point of view of someone sitting in their living room, in their safe neighborhood... We pay the price and we continue, knowing that surviving is the only way we'll ever have revenge."

Duo would know that as well as any, Heero thought bitterly. He raised one hand, brushing his knuckles across the back of Trowa's hand. The taller man smiled, planting a quick kiss on Heero's lips before pulling away.

"Dinner's waiting," he said.


The next four days passed as they fell back into their routine, while the days grew shorter, the skies grayer as the season began its first steps into winter's inevitable approach. Heero found himself waking at dawn, and ready for bed only an hour or two after sunset. There was something about the crisp air and chilly days that even a day of laundry and house cleaning left him exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. Sometimes he found himself wandering into the kitchen, and then the study, just reviewing the changes they were bringing to the house.

The new cabinets were delivered, and several of the base cabinets were already installed, but were waiting on the countertops to be delivered. The stove was still in its box on the front porch, since the kitchen was crammed with tools, wood, and cabinets. Heero had been surprised to find Jade perched in one of the side chairs in the living room, after the stove was delivered, carefully reading the directions.

Duo would never have read the directions, Heero scoffed. Duo would have thrown himself into dismantling the thing to figure out how it really worked. But then, he reminded himself, this isn't Duo.

He was quiet for the rest of the day, and Trowa let him be.

During dinner, the phone rang, and Trowa frowned, wiping his mouth with a napkin as he got up to answer it.

"Barton," the taller man said. He listened, and turned to look at Heero, mouthing the name, Wufei. Heero nodded, and Trowa returned his attention to the phone. "Yes... yeah, if you're sure... definitely." Trowa nodded, giving Heero an expression that met somewhere between pain and satisfaction. "Okay... sounds good." He hung up with a sigh. "Wufei will be here tomorrow. Mind meeting him at the gate?"

Heero raised an eyebrow, and glanced quickly at Jade's lowered head. The longhaired man felt the two men looking at him, and he paused in the middle of picking out the green peppers from his stir-fry dish.

Trowa frowned and shook his head, and Heero nodded his consent.


Heero was waiting at the gate for several minutes when Wufei drove up and unlocked the passenger door for Heero.

"No motorcycle," Heero observed.

"No," Wufei replied, turning the car around and heading back down the driveway. "Quatre warned me about the roads." He smirked. "My bike's too nice to deal with gravel and potholes."

The Japanese man nodded, and the only conversation for the next fifteen minutes was that of Heero directing the way to the town's diner. As they got out of the car, Wufei reached into the back seat for a brown accordion folder, several inches thick. Heero glanced at it, his eyes widening in an unspoken question.

"There's more in the trunk for you," Wufei told him, as they entered the restaurant. "Quatre sent a few more care packages, and Sally added a few things." Wufei caught Heero's look and shook his head. "Don't ask me. I just rented the car. They packed it. But it's not a lot... you can carry it," he added, his eyes drifting away from Heero's, a little uncomfortably.

Heero nodded, sliding into a booth near the back of the diner, away from the few other patrons eating a late breakfast. "You must have left early to get here by ten," he said.

Wufei nodded. "Knew I'd be up all night, so no reason to wait to leave," he explained. "Had a conference meeting with the local authorities on L2 yesterday, and spent the rest of the day and evening interviewing a suspect. Called you just after that."

Heero frowned. "There's a Preventer office in every quadrant on L2." His meaning was clear: headquarters didn't usually converse with local police districts.

"But none of them are involved with this particular mission," Wufei replied.

The Chinese agent's fingers tapped on the folder, alerting Heero, who cut off his response as the waitress stopped at their table to take their drink and lunch orders. Wufei's eyes followed her until the kitchen doors closed behind her. His voice dropped to a low pitch, nearly low enough that Heero would have had to read lips had his hearing not been so sharp.

"The police picked up a girl. Some sort of drug bust... enough evidence to get her thrown into jail with the rest of them. Name's Tina Colston. She told them she had information she'd trade, if they promised immunity. They laughed, of course." Wufei snorted. "Then she told them it was about Duo Maxwell."

Heero suddenly went very still, his eyes boring into Wufei.

"Colston is... was... part of the ring. One of the lowlifes working the late shift, no real responsibilities, and she doesn't know anyone's names."

"I'm not hearing a source of valuable information."

"The girl kept her eyes open, and she saw plenty." Wufei hesitated for a second, his brows furrowed as he studied Heero intently. "I've spoken with her over secure vid-lines. Simply put, Colston survived Shinigami."

Heero felt a chill sweep over his skin.

"Apparently the ring was using a local church as their cover. Kids come in for food and temporary shelter, and the volunteers would look them over." Wufei sniffed. "From what I heard, that would be a neon sign for Duo."

"Pretty much. And?"

"They snagged Duo, as well. He looked and acted, she said, like one of the kids. He'd been there a few weeks, and a gang of them was already forming around him. But then... after they got him, she said she heard he wasn't giving way like most of the kids. She doesn't know the actual process," Wufei explained, looking irritated. He tapped on the folder again. "We have some of the details, here. But Colston was just a janitorial staff member. She came in, cleaned up, kept her head down, but heard the gossip. The longhaired kid was trouble."

Wufei looked mildly amused, and Heero rolled his eyes in agreement. Of course Duo would be trouble.

"Colston reported that a few weeks after they took Duo, the gossip started going around the organization that they'd accidentally hooked themselves an investigating Preventer. Colston was working the night Duo was supposed to be taken out," Wufei said flatly. "Slit his throat, make it look like a mugging, dispose of the body. She said she'd heard it had been done before, when they'd accidentally taken runaways who had wealthy parents. But somehow... Duo got a hold of the weapon. He killed the guy, and then took out the three guarding the door. The girl got shook up just thinking about it... she can't be more than twenty-two, twenty-three, herself."

Wufei shook his head, his gaze slipping to the side. Heero took the hint and leaned back, nodding to the waitress as she set down their dishes. Almost immediately both men pushed their meals away, leaning into each other to continue.

"Apparently she was mopping the floor when he came around the corner. He was covered in blood, his hair everywhere, and grinning like the devil himself, she said. Colston hit the floor and begged for her life." Wufei took a deep breath. "There were fourteen people at the location that night. She was the only one he left alive."


End Part 14


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