Heero awoke with a jolt and sat up so fast he banged his head against the bottom of the top bunk.
Snarling under his breath at the pain, he groped blindly for a gun that wasn't there. As the last echoes of the nightmare began to fade, he became aware of two very important facts.
First, he was in nothing but his boxers.
And second, EVERYTHING HURT.
His head was throbbing from the blow, and possibly the onset of a hangover. His stomach was churning, displeased with the amount of alcohol he'd introduced it to. And his lower back-- as well as a more unmentionable part of his body --ached so badly he had to lie back down for a minute, gritting his teeth until the pain became somewhat bearable.
He lay staring at the top bunk, lips pressed tightly together as he slowly pieced together the events from-- his eyes flicked towards the clock on the far wall automatically --almost two hours ago.
"Shit," he muttered to the empty air.
He and Duo had... they'd....
And he himself had initiated it.
"Shit," he said again, with feeling.
Slowly he forced himself to sit, then rose gingerly to his feet. He stood looking around the small room, forcing back the initial rush of panic and despair that tried to claw their way to the surface of his mind. Right behind it came denial, ready and willing to clear him of all charges.
No. He wouldn't lie to himself. What had happened between him and Duo had been his fault. He'd been the one to finally give Duo what he wanted. And he sure as hell hadn't put up a fight when Duo had...
He rubbed at his face roughly with his palm, struggling to remain calm.
All right, go over the facts, he coached himself steadily. Facts were comforting. They were solid and real. They left no room for argument.
Fact: Despite all his protests and rejections, Heero had been the one to kiss Duo and practically give his unspoken permission for Duo to do whatever he wanted.
Fact: The decision he'd made had, admittedly, been done because of the alcohol. But it had still been his decision, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Fact: He could have broken Duo's arm in three places or thrown him across the room to stop it. He hadn't.
Fact: He had...
But none of that mattered anymore. All it meant was that he was just as responsible as Duo for what had occurred. It didn't change the fact that Duo had been pressing unwanted advances upon him since arriving at the mansion. And Relena...
Well, that had become suddenly much more complicated that he liked to admit.
What he'd done had been wrong, because he and Relena were together. Worse-- engaged. It had been a betrayal of her trust. But for all that it had infuriated him when it had been pointed out, Duo had made a valid point, as difficult as it was to swallow.
He had enjoyed his experience with Duo more than he ever had any of the times he and Relena had been together in the bedroom. That brought on an unnerving question; one that Duo had proposed to him.
Was it because he didn't love Relena specifically?
Or because she was a woman?
Heero shook his head sharply and began collecting his clothes from where they'd been wildly scattered across the small room. This was not the time to question his morals or sexuality. He needed to find Duo and make sure it was clear that what had happened between them had been a one-time thing. Lust was one thing-- even lust that had been previously ignored until prodded to life by inebriation. But lust wasn't enough.
And he had to talk to Relena. As difficult as the conversation would be, he couldn't lie to her face about it. She had a right to know.
His heart felt like lead in his chest, and he paused once he was finished dressing, looking around blankly for inspiration. Who should he talk to first? How was he going to make himself clearly understood?
Belatedly he remembered the impromptu party. Had Duo made up an excuse for his absence? He winced. It was almost midnight. No doubt Relena would be miffed that she had been unable to locate him. If she was in bed already, perhaps he would be able to slip into bed and put off the uncomfortable confrontation until the morning.
His eyes lit on the monitors on the desk, and he moved towards them after a moment. He pressed the power button for the first screen, and a black and white image of the living room flickered to life.
He snorted under his breath. Apparently the party had continued quite heartily without him. It seemed everyone had just decided to crash on any bare surface available. Dorothy was stretched out on the couch, and Quatre was in the arm chair, chin against his chest. He was going to have a hell of a neck pain when he woke up. Rashied was sitting against the wall, big arms crossed over his chest, head nodding slightly as he snored. Catherine had curled up on the rug, and was clutching the empty bottle of Hell Water to her chest like a doll.
Heero frowned slightly. Had Relena and the others really gone to their respective rooms without having the courtesy to offer spare rooms for the guests? That wasn't like Relena. Unless they had all wandered off before the drinking was over with.
Heero tried the next three screens, all of them empty rooms: kitchen, dining room, foyer...
He pressed the power button for the next screen, and froze, mouth opening slightly in shock.
This was the camera set up in the guest room Relena had offered Trowa.
Trowa was on his back on the bed, and Wufei was with him-- or more precisely, on top of him.
And there was a distinct lack of clothing.
Heero's finger hovered nervelessly by the power button as he stared openly, unable to tear his eyes away from the scene.
Wufei was riding Trowa, hard but slow. And Trowa seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit, if the look on his face and the way his toes were curling were any indication.
Heero found himself admiring the strong line of Wufei's back, knotted with muscle and scar tissue, and wrenched his gaze away in belated horror and embarrassment.
His face was flushed and his heart was beating a bit too quickly. He pressed the power button hastily, blanking out the screen.
Well... perhaps that answered Duo's question.
He ran his fingers through his hair, blowing out a deep breath to steady his nerves and bring his heartrate back to a more acceptable rate.
Glancing around for a distraction, his gaze fell on the boxes of bottled water stacked high against the wall. He was suddenly very thirsty. His mouth was dry and there was a horrible taste on his tongue. Dehydrated, his mind supplied helpfully as he ran his tongue automatically over his lips. Too much alcohol. He would have to drink plenty of water before going to bed...
Something in his mind stalled at the faint taste of cherries.
Tentatively he licked his lips again, the flavor almost gone now. Duo's lips had tasted like this. Why?
Cherry-flavored lips, and then... a tongue that tasted of tobacco. Yes-- he had smoked at the dinner table, a thin black cigarette, and Relena had graciously kept her peace.
The same cigarettes he'd pulled out the day Heero had hit him for trash-talking Relena.
"You smoke, Duo?"
"The flavored ones are the best."
His heart was slamming in his ears again. Suddenly he was remembering a more recent instance in which he had caught the faintest scent of cherries.
He had nearly forgotten about it; when Wufei had glanced over the notes left by the killer. His entire attention had gone into finding the body stinking up the entire house. But Wufei... he'd caught a whiff of something on the paper that Heero had not.
"Cherry. Some women wear fruity perfume..."
It was a coincidence. Wufei had a point; it could have been perfume...
Not that Pearson was prone to wearing any sort of fruity fragrance that Heero was aware of.
"This doesn't make any sense," Heero muttered to himself, hands balling into fists on the desk's surface as he stared blindly at the remaining blank monitors. He'd caught Pearson in the act. Stopped him just in time from killing Relena. And yet somehow it didn't add up. The Gorgenstern Butcher was assumed to have strong feelings about the political mess involving the Bill. If Pearson felt like that, Heero was unaware of it, but--
Wait. Why did he feel as if he'd just had a conversation concerning politics?
He heard Wufei's stern voice in his head, denouncing Heero's lineage and roots.
"Maxwell is a colonist, Yuy. A true colonist. However muddled his roots or his background, he's a colonist through and through. More so, perhaps, than any of us."
Heero's heart was banging in his ears, and his stomach felt as if it was twisted in a knot. He reached out quickly and punched in the power buttons for the remaining screens, watching as the images slowly came into focus.
Empty guest room-- Wufei's.
Another empty room-- Quatre's.
Then there was the one camera he'd never gotten around to ferretting out-- the one in Relena's bedroom.
His heart turned to ice in his chest at the scene playing out on the screen.
An animalistic noise of horror and rage crawled out of his throat.
Relena was stretched out on the bed, hands bound and tied to the headboard. Her legs were spread wide and tied with a rope that went under the bed, holding her in place. She had been stripped to her underwear, and there was a cloth gag in her mouth. Her eyes were squeezed shut, but by the rapid rise and fall of her chest, he could tell she was awake-- either sobbing or struggling not to panic.
Her desk had been dragged over to the side of the bed, and spread out on its surface were what looked like a collection of wicked-looking blades and cutting tools.
The Gorgenstern Butcher was standing with his back to the camera, inspecting each weapon carefully. His face was hidden from view, but his braid hung down his back like a banner.
No no no no
Heero lunged for the elevator, yanking at the handle, but it refused to budge. Locked-- or disabled.
His blood was singing in his ears, and his breaths sounded labored and desperate in the small room. He slammed his body against the unyielding door a few times before common sense finally scrambled for a foot hold.
The other door--
He was across the room in an instant, fingers scrambling for the crack in the wall that would open the secret exit. He threw a wild glance towards the touchpad on the wall. No laptop this time-- no way to decode the lock--
"DUO!!" he shouted, furious and trapped and helpless.
Duo was going to-- he was--
Heero's hands encountered an empty belt. His holster and gun were gone. Duo must have taken them. Breathing harshly, he wracked his brain for a solution.
Think logically, Yuy, he ordered himself fiercely. This is a panic room. It's meant to harbor the owners of the house from danger. There has to be a way to get back out in an emergency. If someone were to forget the passcode in their panic...
"Manual override," Heero muttered to himself, looking around quickly. He hurried over to the control box that he had used to power up the security monitors when he had first discovered the room. He nearly wrenched the cover off of its hinges yanking it open, and his fingers brushed down the many wires and buttons in a blind search. His hands were shaking, and his stomach was beginning to do flips, making him want to vomit.
Someone had labeled everything with a faded marker long ago-- 'Cameras', 'Phone Line', 'Lights'... 'Door- Manual'.
The wires were cut.
Heero slammed a fist into the wall.
Wait-- phone. But no, there was the phone, on the desk. Its cord had been completely ripped out and was missing. Of course Duo had thought to cover all his bases, and make sure Heero couldn't escape. He'd left him here, helpless to do anything but watch the monitors.
It took all of Heero's willpower to fight down his blinding rage enough to concentrate. Taking quick shallow breaths through his nose, he used his fingernails to strip the cut door wires. If this didn't work...
He twisted the wires together hastily and flipped the switch.
His heart sank, but he slipped his fingers in the door's crack anyway and heaved.
It opened, slowly, but surely. He pulled with all of his strength, forcing it open just wide enough to slip through. He wriggled out and dashed across the basement floor.
The lights were out, and a curse spilled from his mouth as he cracked his shin against a piece of furniture and nearly crashed into a pile of boxes. Shoving them aside brutally, he reached the stairs and took them two at a time.
He'd forgotten about the bad step.
His full weight landed on it, and it slipped sideways without warning-- then broke completely. Heero gave a bark of alarm as he felt his body plummeting. At the last instant his hand tightened on the banister, arresting his abrupt fall and pulling at his shoulder painfully.
He wriggled in the small hole, managing to throw his other arm over the next step and hold himself up, but his feet kicked at empty air below. There was no purchase to boost himself up, and his hand was slipping slowly from the banister. He tried desperately to hoist himself up with his other arm, but the hole was narrow enough to make it impossible to pull himself anywhere but directly up. His shoulders were screaming with the strain, and his body felt impossibly heavy.
His fingers slipped from the banister, and he had to slam his hand down on the next step to keep himself from dropping from the sudden jolt. Again he tried to lever himself up, but something was caught--
He twisted his hips savagely. One of his beltloops was snagged-- most likely on a nail. He could feel himself losing the fight with gravity. The fall wasn't likely to kill him, but if he broke his leg, he'd never get upstairs in time.
He wouldn't be able to save her.
He looked up quickly in surprise.
Quatre was hovering in the doorway, gaping at him. "Heero, what happened?!"
"Get me out," Heero managed to snarl.
Quatre hurried down the few stairs separating them and crouched down, holding himself steady with one hand wrapped firmly around the banister and gripping Heero's arm with the other. He began to pull, grunting at the effort. Heero helped as best he could, twisting his hips-- the nail scraped against his back, but released his pants --and using all of his remaining strength to drag himself upwards.
Once most of his body was out of the hole, Quatre backed up a couple of steps and let go of the banister in favor of grabbing Heero under the armpits and hauling him upwards inch by painful inch.
Once his knees were clear, Heero was at last able to scramble completely out of the hole, and he and Quatre crawled up the remaining steps, shaking and panting with the effort.
Quatre immediately dropped to the hallway floor on his butt and let his head thump against the wall, blowing a sigh of relief. "God, Heero, you could have been killed," he exclaimed, placing a hand over his Space Heart. "I thought I sensed panic; it was so strong it woke me up-- Heero, where are you going?"
Heero had already scrambled to his feet and was halfway down the hall. He stopped himself with a curse. Weapons.
"Do you have a firearm?" he snapped.
Quatre gaped at him. "Wha.. Um, not on me. You know I put guns aside after the war." He seemed to notice the wild look in Heero's eyes for the first time, and stood quickly. "Heero, what's wrong?"
"Get the others," Heero commanded, turning away and sprinting down the hall. "And get up to Relena's room."
"Wha--" Quatre hesitated for only an instant before racing after him.
"What the hell are you doing?" Heero snarled over his shoulder as he pounded up the spiral staircase.
"Whatever's going on, you're insane if you think I'm going to let you do it alone," Quatre retorted. "Unarmed and going like a bat out of hell-- are you crazy??"
With no time to argue, Heero didn't bother to answer. As he reached the top floor, he looked around in desperation. Where were all the house guards??
Quatre stumbled. "Oh my god," he gasped, hand clutching at his chest. His face twisted in pain, and his eyes darted from a door he'd just passed to further down the hall-- Relena's room. He wrenched his eyes away from the other door and staggered after Heero. "Then-- it wasn't your panic I was feeling??"
In his single-minded determination to get to Relena in time, Heero barely noticed the look of despair Quatre threw at the other door. He wasn't thinking about anybody else, or where anyone was. Before Quatre could open his mouth to point out the help close at hand, they had reached the end of the hallway.
Relena's door was locked, but Heero had been expecting that. He didn't even slow down, but threw his body against the door in a brutal blow that send the door crashing open.
He stumbled into the room and froze. Quatre ran into him from behind, took in the scene, and gave a gurgled noise of disbelief and shock.
Relena's eyes flew open, and she gave a muffled scream upon seeing Heero in the doorway.
Duo didn't even turn around from where he was still inspecting his tools, but Heero could hear the smile in his voice.
"You're early, Heero. Here to watch the show?"
Author's Notes: Er, for anyone of you readers that were completely confused about Heero's reference about the cherry scent on the note, that's my bad. My sister actually pointed it out-- I had editted ch. 7 right after posting it, but never re-uploaded the corrected file. It only left out a tiny little scene, a few words passing between Wufei and Heero, but it was fairly important >>;;; Oopsie. Sorry. I re-uploaded it on PoB and MM.org, though.
Also, the next chapter will more than likely be the last, followed by an epilogue; that's why this chapter is fairly short.
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