Heero's voice fell like a stone in the large room. "Get away from her."
Duo began to chuckle; a sound Heero had once simply identified as simply mischievious, but which suddenly seemed much more sinister. Shinigami had come out to play, and Heero was getting a sinking feeling that a fight was not only inevitable, but would carry an uncertain outcome. Duo was stronger and faster than when they had been children, and he had a wide array of weapons to choose from. Heero, meanwhile, had no weapons, and would be trying to protect Relena at the same time-- and possibly Quatre, who had always been more of a diplomat than a fighter.
"Duo..." Quatre's voice was strained with incredulity and betrayal. "Why are you doing this?"
Duo turned just enough to grin at them both over his shoulder. "Lots of reasons, Q-man." He selected a wicked-looking knife from the table and reached out, placing it lightly against Relena's inner thigh. She flinched violently. "Now unless you want me to cut a major artery, I suggest you shut that door quietly-- without calling for help."
Heero felt like kicking himself in the head. That pained look Quatre had thrown at the door down the hall-- it was Trowa's room. Wufei and Trowa were in there, only yards away. If he'd only stopped to think, to get them...
Gritting his teeth, he slowly stepped away from the door. Quatre hesitated, then shut the door softly, his entire body tense as a wire. He was staring at a spot on the door, face tight. Heero glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. If Quatre could somehow think of a plan...
"Don't try going all tactician on me, buddy," Duo laughed, shaking a finger at Quatre. "Try anything stupid, and these bedsheets are going to be red instead of white." He jerked his chin towards a chair by the wall. "Take a seat, Quat."
Quatre stiffly crossed the room and sat down slowly, face pale. "Duo, don't do this," he pleaded.
Duo ignored him, his eyes intent on Heero. "I'm disappointed in you, Heero Yuy," he tsked. "I can't believe it took you this long to figure it out."
Heero tore his eyes away from Relena's frightened face to offer his old friend a blistering glare. "Why would I think my best friend would possibly be capable of something like this?" he demanded through clenched teeth.
Duo snorted with laughter. "Oh, come on. You know perfectly well what I'm capable of. You've seen some of the worst sides of me."
"But nothing like this!" Heero exploded, throwing an arm out to indicate Relena's helpless form. "Killing innocent people?! Betraying all of us and everything we fought for?"
"Everything you fought for, maybe," Duo corrected with an edge to his voice. He wasn't smiling any longer. "We handed the world over to Relena and the other politicians on a silver fucking platter, and what do they do with it? They throw it back in our face and grind the colonists under their heel. If they keep going the way they are now, we'll be right back where we started."
Heero stared at him in disbelief. "Then that's all this is about? Politics? That stupid Gorgenstern Bill? Relena's trying to help the colonists, not oppress them!"
"Wrong," Duo snarled, eyes narrowing. "All that Bill does is offer the illusion of a freedom the Earth government isn't ready to allow. They've tried something like this before-- when I was a brat on L2, they had similar laws in place. What did it do? It paved the road for the Alliance to walk all over the colonists. Because of shit like this, Heero Yuy took a stand. So did Gorgenstern. It makes me sick that they're going to ruin his name with that piece of toilet paper they're calling a Bill."
"You don't like the Bill, so that gives you the right to murder innocent politicians?" Quatre demanded angrily. "This is insane!"
"I don't remember anyone ever calling me particuarly sane before," Duo pointed out with a fleeting little smile. "But it's working, isn't it? No one wants to push the Bill through now. And did you know I actually have supporters in space? Some of the colonists actually see me as a hero." He shrugged, unconcerned. "Not that I want that. I'm no hero; I'm not that delusional. But we proved in Operation Meteor that taking lives is sometimes the only surefire way to get the results we want. I'm just making a more precise attack."
Quatre shook his head in fierce denial.
Heero licked dry lips, glancing at Relena again. He had to stall. Sooner or later someone had to notice they were missing... the guards had to come back sometime...
"And Pearson?" he demanded. "Did you set him up?"
Duo didn't seem startled by the abrupt accusation. "Hell no. Don't be dumb, Heero. You know I don't lie. I said I didn't know anything about that body in the panic room, didn't I? The MO was different." He cocked his head thoughtfully. "I'm willing to bet money Pearson was one of my secret supporters. I guess he figured I was taking too long offing Princess Purity here. Maybe Tobias was just in the wrong place at the wrong time-- caught him doing something suspicious, I guess. Pearson's worked here long enough to know about the panic room. He tried to make it look like my handiwork, that's all. I'd be flattered if he wasn't such a dumbass."
"Then why didn't you let him finish the job?"
"It wasn't time yet." Duo chuckled again. "And I wasn't done with you yet, of course."
"You're sick," Quatre whispered, eyes wide with pain.
Duo ignored him, grinning at Heero. "Go on, I know you're just dying to figure out how I did it all," he teased, pressing the blade against Relena's thigh a bit harder. She whimpered.
"It's why no one's been able to get in contact with you, isn't it?" Heero asked quietly. "You've been picking off all the supporters of the Bill."
"And here? You've been responsible for all the chaos?"
Duo winked. "You heard Wufei. It had to be an inside job."
"Then the cat... But how did you get into Relena's office?"
Duo shrugged one shoulder. "I snuck into your room one night and took her key. It was pathetically easy."
A shiver ran up Heero's spine. Shortly after Duo had arrived, he had woken out of a dead sleep, certain that someone else was in his bedroom. It had been Duo all along. The sound of the door shutting behind him had probably woken Heero.
"I put the eyes in the oatmeal, too," Duo continued cheerfully. "Though getting sick was no act. I wasn't sure which bowl the eyes would end up in. Yuck." He shuddered. "Anyway, it was easy enough. I spent enough time in the kitchen getting snacks; the cooks didn't think twice about me being in there that early in the morning."
"And Yule?" Heero's eyes narrowed. "I saw you right before I found his body. How did you..?"
"You sent me to explore the building, remember? What can I say? I work fast. Though I barely managed to get away from the bathroom before you got there. I ended up having to hide in some cleaning lady's cart. You were less than a foot away from me. She woulda told you where the murderer was if I hadn't been aiming a revolver at her from behind the sheets."
Heero's stomach churned with sick realization. The cleaning lady who had anxiously pointed him in the direction of the bathroom... "We couldn't find her afterwards," he said slowly. "Did you...?"
"Kill her? I had to," Duo admitted simply. "She'd seen my face. Didn't really have much of a choice-- Ah-ah-ah!"
Heero had started forward unthinkingly, but he froze when Duo slid the blade upwards and pressed it against Relena's bare stomach. "Be still, Yuy, or you'll be spending the next half hour untangling your girlfriend's guts," Duo promised in a hard voice.
"Let her go," Heero said quietly, half threat, half plea. "If you're so angry at the world that you need to take it out on someone, take it out on me. You've spent the last few days picking away at my sanity anyway."
"Sorry, Heero, but the buck stops here." Duo tapped the blade's edge against Relena's quivering stomach. "This is the final straw. When Relena ends up murdered by the Gorgenstern Butcher, everything else will fall into place."
"You're wrong," Quatre spoke up quietly, knuckles white from his crushing grip on the chair's armrests. "All these people you've killed will be replaced-- even Relena, eventually. For all you know, their replacements will be even worse."
"I think it will take them awhile to have the balls to attempt to walk all over the colonists' rights again," Duo assured him. "And if they ever do try something so stupid again, I'll be there to teach them the error of their ways."
"Quatre's right," Heero snapped. "You're insane."
"We're all mad here, Heero Yuy," Duo murmured with a fleeting smile. "Some of us are just more willing to let loose that darker side of our psyche."
"You're going to have to kill us both, you know," Quatre said defiantly. "We know you're the Butcher now. And if you think our friendship is going to keep me, at least, from going to the authorities--"
"Aw, don't say that," Duo sighed dramatically. "I'd rather not have to kill either of you. We're best buds! And blab all you want. They'll never find me-- or catch me, for that matter. Technically, I don't exist. Never have, really. I'm not on anyone's file. No fingerprints, no real confirmed photo ID, no history. Zip, nadda, zilch. So sic the cops on me if it'll help your delicate sensibilities, Quat, but it won't do any of you any good." He tilted his head towards Relena. "In the end, she'll be dead and I'll be far away from here like the politicians' boogeyman." He arched a brow at Heero. "By the way, I hope this isn't just some lame attempt to stall. I gave the guards the night off-- said the order was directly from you, of course. Those that are left are either at the gates or piss drunk. Or both. You really should fire their incompetent asses in the morning. That is, if you still work here. I'm sure someone will boot you out after you let all these murders happen right under your nose."
"If this is all about this stupid Bill, then maybe this isn't the only option," Quatre cut in desperately. Duo's eye slid slowly his way. "Look, you've killed everyone else who either wrote or supported it, right?" Quatre said quickly, pointing in Relena's direction. "Why kill her? She's the only one left who could remake it properly-- or veto it. If you kill her now, she'll be replaced, and for all you know, they'll stick with the old Bill."
"Always the diplomat, Quat," Duo murmured, his eyes hooded. "However, it's gotten to this point, and I've never been the type to back out of a sticky situation." He lifted the knife and pointed it at the blonde. "So why don't you just shut the hell up before you start to irritate m--"
Relena had left her wineglass on the small end table by the chair Quatre was sitting in. The instant Duo removed the knife from Relena's flesh, he snatched it up and hurled it at the other man.
It was a desperate chance, but Heero took it. Duo ducked reflexively, and the glass shattered on the wall behind the bed. Heero was throwing himself at his friend before Duo could recover.
They crashed into the desk, sending the weapons on its surface flying. Duo landed on his back, snarling, and Heero wrestled frantically for control of the blade in the braided man's hand. Duo bucked, and they rolled, hitting the ground painfully. Heero had no time to check and make sure Quatre was helping Relena. Duo was strong, and straining to tear his wrist out of Heero's grip, fingers still wrapped firmly around the knife handle.
"Damn you, Yuy-" Duo sputtered, and gave a breathy, chilling laugh. He jerked abruptly, driving his knee into Heero's abdomen. Heero gasped for air, and Duo rolled them both over so that he was straddling his friend. He wrested his wrist out of Heero's grasp and raised the knife over Heero's heart. "Should've stayed out of it, buddy," he said quietly.
Heero froze, arms raised instinctively to block the blow.
It was a blow that never came. Duo sat atop him, glaring down at him...
Heero didn't hear the door open, but Duo's head snapped around-- not fast enough.
Wufei barrelled into him in a full-body tackle, and the two of them went flying across the floor like wolves, snarling at each other and fighting for control of the knife. A hand seized Heero's elbow and hauled him to his feet. Trowa's eyes were wide, his lips pressed tightly together as he watched his lover roll across the floor in a desperate fight.
"Heero-- what on earth is going ON he--"
"Get him," Heero managed to growl, already pouncing on the two men. Duo's arm swung out, but Heero barely felt the bite of the knife as it slid across his arm, slicing open cloth and skin and spraying the wallpaper with red droplets. He slammed a fist into Duo's face the instant it turned his way.
Duo's head snapped back and cracked against the floor. The knife clattered from his nerveless fingers.
"Wufei--" Trowa was dragging his infuriated lover off of Duo, struggling to restrain him. "Stop! He's got--"
Duo twisted like a snake, his hand sliding out from behind his back. Belatedly Heero remembered how fond the other man was of hiding things in his braid. Like lockpicks--
And like the slim stilleto that sank into his side an instant later.
Relena's shriek came from the hall. "HEERO!!"
It had been a long time, but Heero had dealt with worse injuries-- and had never let them stop him before. He tore the stilleto from his side and threw it aside. Duo's eyes widened slightly, then Heero was on top of him-- and hitting him.
He threw all of his pent up rage, frustration and betrayal into each blow. Duo laughed for a little while, weakly trying to protect his face with his hands, but then he went limp.
Heero didn't stop, even when his knuckles started sliding in the blood on Duo's face. He kept swinging, mouth open in a soundless scream of fury. Then hands were seizing him, pulling at him.
"HELP me, damn it!" came Quatre's frantic voice in his ear. "He's killing him!" More hands wrapped around Heero's shoulders, and he was hauled off of Duo's body. Heero began to struggle mindlessly, and he heard a yelp as his elbow connected with Quatre's face.
"Snap out of it, Yuy!" Wufei shouted, shaking him roughly. "It's over!"
Heero's eyes focused on the other man's face, and he stopped resisting, slowly becoming aware of his surroundings again. Trowa had him in a rough headlock, and Quatre was sitting nearby, clutching his nose and wincing. Wufei turned to check out Duo, and Heero's eyes darted towards the door.
Relena was hovering in the doorway, Quatre's jacket draped loosely over her bare shoulders. She was shaking, her face a mask of frozen terror.
A thick chuckle brought everyone's attention quickly back to the limp form on the floor.
"Damn.. Heero..." Duo's voice was thick and sluggish, his face a mess of blood. He opened his eyes a slit and stared up at the ceiling, fingers twitching slightly against the carpet as if searching for a weapon. "Anger...management, dude..."
Heero lunged for him, but Trowa's arms were unyeilding.
"Call the authorities, Winner," Wufei said tightly.
Quatre nodded silently and climbed to his feet slowly, staggering out of the room.
"It's you." Wufei stared down at Duo with a sick look on his face. "You're the Butcher."
"Bingo," Duo wheezed. He tried to laugh, but almost choked on his own blood. "Damn... anyone got a tissue..?"
"You fucking psychotic bastard--" Wufei moved as if to kick him.
"Wufei," Trowa said sharply.
Relena took a hesitant step into the room, and Heero pulled Trowa's arms quickly away from his neck. "Relena, go wait downstairs," he urged. "He's still dangerous."
Relena's wide eyes moved slowly from Duo to him, then back again. She was shaking so hard that the jacket slipped off of her hunched shoulders and landed on the floor, leaving her in her underwear. She seemed unaware of the fact; she gazed down at Duo as if entranced. "You could have asked me," she whispered, almost too quietly to hear.
Duo didn't respond at first. Then his head shifted slightly, turning her way. "...What?"
Wufei snatched a sheet from the bed and wrapped it hastily around Relena, eyes averted as if embarrassed. Relena didn't respond at all, still staring down at Duo. "You could have asked," she repeated quietly. "For amendments. The Bill isn't a law yet, you know." She shuddered violently, fingers plucking at the edges of the sheet and grasping it like a lifeline. "I want what's best for the colonists, Duo. Even if you don't believe me."
Duo stared up at her for a long time, but didn't say anything.
Trowa's head turned towards the open balcony doors. "...Sirens," he murmured. "The police are coming."
"Get your woman downstairs, Yuy," Wufei said roughly, staring at Duo with a sick look on his face. "We'll watch him." His eyes flickered towards the blood stain on Heero's shirt. "Make sure you tend that."
Heero got to his feet slowly and guided Relena towards the door.
"..Ask, huh..? Heero..." Duo's voice had the edge of its old dark cheer to it. Heero stopped, but didn't turn around. Duo gave a low chuckle. "When I get out... and I will..... you don't have to worry about me anymore."
"You're going to prison, Duo," Heero said roughly. "For a very long time." Holding Relena's quaking form close, he left the room and didn't look back.
Heero was unaware of most of the chaos that went on in the mansion when the police arrived.
Quatre met him downstairs and brought him and Relena to the kitchen, where he silently patched up Heero's wounds before leaving them to check on the others. Relena crawled into his lap and latched onto him, and even though he held her until her shaking subdued, he got the feeling that she was hugging him back just as tightly in an attempt to comfort him as well. She cried a little, but they were silent tears. She was exhausted and jumpy, and she didn't fall into a light doze until just before Wufei came in to fill them in.
He glanced at Relena's huddled slumbering form and kept his voice low to keep from waking her. "They just took him away. Quatre tried to get them to wait until morning, but they want to question you both tonight while..." he shook his head in frustration. "While it's still fresh in your heads, I guess. Think you're up to it?"
"As long as he's no longer in the house," Heero said coldly. He shook Relena's shoulder gently to wake her.
Wufei gazed at him for a moment, an expression of regret flickering across his face. "Yuy--"
"Don't," Heero cut him off. He already knew what Wufei was struggling to say. He had a feeling his friends would be pulling the sympathetic "sorry your best friend turned out to be a psycopath" card for the next few days, but he didn't want to hear it.
Wufei nodded and let it go.
Heero took his groggy fiancee by the hand and led her away to confront the lawmen awaiting them. Relena clung to his hand for the rest of the night, and Heero couldn't help but wonder if she knew what he was thinking.
If she knew he was going to leave her.
Heero didn't look up at sound of his door opening, but his hand moved towards the gun making a dent in the bedsheets. Even he wasn't sure if it was old habit or a lingering paranoia from Duo's murderous games over a month ago.
The door clicked shut, and he heard a whisper of skirts. He glanced up unwillingly, releasing the gun and snatching up a pair of folded pants instead. Relena was leaning against the door, staring at him. Her eyes were red-- she'd been crying again. He lowered his gaze, hands methodically collecting the stacks of clothing lined up on his bed and moving them to the open suitcase.
"...You're really serious," Relena whispered. "You're leaving me."
"I have to," Heero replied quietly, stuffing his extra pair of boots in with his single pair of faded jeans.
"But why?" Relena's voice was strained, as if she was struggling to keep from crying. "I don't understand--"
"We've been over this, Relena," Heero reminded her gently, still unable to meet her gaze. He tossed in his little bag of toiletries and shut the suitcase, zipping it up quickly. Twenty-one years old, and all of his possessions still fit into a single bag. He pressed his hands against the top of the suitcase, gazing down at it dully. Duo had once suggested that a man who was able to live out of his suitcase had no place to call home. He'd spoken from personal experience. Heero had decided this was not true after he'd moved in with Relena. But even after being with her so long, one bag was still all it took. It was as if the mansion would never even notice his absence once the bag was taken from it along with its owner. There would be no proof that he had ever lived there.
"It still doesn't make any sense," Relena argued. There was a hint of anger there, now. Good. Heero wanted her to be angry. Anger was better than heartbreak. She had every right to be mad at him-- perhaps even to hate him. He felt as if he deserved the anger. It was her pain he couldn't handle-- and the guilt it caused him.
"How can you... how can you be engaged to someone you don't love??" Relena demanded. "How can you kiss me, make love to me... all of it.... Are you saying it didn't mean anything to you??"
"It did," Heero interrupted firmly, finally forcing himself to look up and meet her gaze. Her lips were quivering, and there was betrayal in her eyes. "You are important to me, Relena," he said more softly. "But it isn't fair to either of us if I stay with you. If I live a lie for both of us. I care about you. But I don't l--"
"Stop it!" Relena's fists flew up to press against her ears as if to block out the words. She closed her eyes tightly, and a tear slipped free. Her voice turned into a whimper. "I don't believe you..."
Heero gazed at her helplessly. "I can't stay here. You'll never be happy with me. You need--"
"Somebody who loves me," Relena spat. "So you've said." She lowered her fists shakily and opened her eyes again slowly. "You were supposed to be that somebody, Heero Yuy."
"...I know." He picked up his suitcase. Logically he knew it weighed perhaps fifty pounds. But as he stood holding it by his side and gazing at her in the room where she had almost been killed, it felt as if the weight of the bag would tear his arm from its socket. "I'm sorry, Relena."
Relena took a deep breath and tilted her head to stare blindly up at the ceiling, forcing gravity to keep her tears back. "Stop apologizing, Heero," she commanded, her voice low and rough. "You've never sounded so sincere before, and it makes it harder to hate you." She reached up and wiped quickly at her cheeks, refusing to look at him again. "I'm tired of it," she whispered harshly. "I've been trying to talk you out of this for days. It's obvious your mind is made up. Go, then. Get out of here. And I hope for both our sakes that you don't come to visit me for a long long time. I'm not sure I could take it."
Heero hesitated, feeling wretched and awkward. Finally he forced himself to move across the floor. She stepped aside, staring at the wall as he reached out and opened the door.
He hesitated, glancing back at her.
She took a few deep breaths, struggling to compose herself. "...Where will you go?" she asked at last in a small voice.
"....L4, I suppose," Heero admitted. He hadn't made the decision until last night. "Quatre is friends with the Chief of Police there. He said they could probably give me a job."
Relena managed a small laugh, but it sounded forced and painful. "You really don't know how to live without a gun in your hand, do you? I'd hoped... I'd hoped I could teach you there was more to life than that."
"So did I," Heero admitted.
She looked up at him quickly with wounded eyes, biting her lip. "Please just leave," she murmured. "I'm afraid I'll make myself look a fool if you don't."
Heero nodded once and stepped out into the hall. He went downstairs quickly. He was afraid that if he heard Relena crying he would do something stupid.
Wufei met him in the foyer, looking uncomfortable in his new uniform. His eyes flicked to the bag in Heero's hand, and he looked his friend in the eye. "Is that it?"
"Yes." He inspected Wufei's uniform automatically. "...Where's your firearm?"
Wufei gave him a Look, but Heero had already spotted the scabbard on the other man's left hip. "Are you sure this is such a good idea?" Wufei grumbled, glancing towards the stairs. "Relena and I barely get along as it is."
Heero gazed at him for a long moment. "I trust you," he said simply. "To keep her safe."
Wufei looked away, but nodded silently. No one had been more surprised than Wufei when Heero had offered him his job as head of security at the mansion. But when it came down to it, Heero could see no other man better for the job. Trowa had the circus, but he would be able to visit his lover. Quatre had his family business to run. Wufei was the only one left that Heero trusted, and he knew the other man would take his job seriously.
And and of course there was no risk of him falling in love with the woman he had sworn to protect.
Wufei cleared his throat. "I thought you might want to see this before you go." He held out a folded paper, arching a brow. "I didn't think she was serious when she started asking me questions about it, but..." he nodded towards the paper as Heero opened it up, "some of what I suggested is actually in there. Go figure."
Heero skimmed the words briefly, a humorless little smile tugging at his lips. "She meant what she said. She wants to help the colonists."
"Too bad it took all of this nonsense to get her to see why the old version was a crock of shit," Wufei mumbled, then stopped himself with a wince. For a month no one had spoken of Duo or the mayhem he'd caused.
Heero let it slide. He folded the paper carefully and handed it back. "I think this is a version Gorgenstern would have approved of."
Wufei nodded in agreement, tucking the paper in his pocket. "It's not perfect. But it's a start. It's being sent for review first thing tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe in a few months there will be new laws. Laws that protect everyone's rights-- even the colonists'."
"Duo got what he wanted after all," Heero said quietly.
Wufei frowned, but didn't respond.
Heero glanced over his shoulder towards the stairs. "Take care of her, Wufei."
"Of course," Wufei muttered. They shook hands briefly, and then Heero was walking down the garden path, suitcase in hand.
Looking for home.
Author's Notes: All that's left is an epilogue. More detailed author's notes then.
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