Chapter 12: "Captive"

    At Heero's barked warning, Wufei threw his arms up instinctively to protect his head from the expected explosion. Breath left his lungs in a grunt as Heero hurled himself at him, throwing them both off of the bed and onto the floor, covering Wufei's body with his own.
    There was a thud as Duo rolled off his own bed, followed by his sharp shout. "Tear gas!"
    Wufei finally noticed the faint hissing noise coming from the grenade and took in a quick breath of clean air as the room began to fill rapidly with smoke.
    Heero was already scrambling to his feet, dragging Wufei up by the arm with sheer strength. "Out!" he shouted. There was a gun in his other hand, and Wufei wondered in the back of his mind where the hell it had come from. But Heero was already hauling him towards the door, Duo stumbling after them, holding the collar of his shirt over his nose and mouth as his eyes watered profusely.
    Wufei opened his mouth reflexively to order Heero to stop man-handling him, and gave a wracking cough as the smoke entered his lungs. He gave a shout of pain and surprise as the gas did its work; his eyes felt as if they were burning out of his skull, and his lungs were on fire. He covered his face with his hands, struggling to breathe through the coughs, no longer resisting as he blindly allowed Heero to steer him towards the door and then shove him into the hallway.
    Duo hurried after them and slammed the door shut. "Shit," he managed to gasp between coughs. "Left the... bags in there..!"
    "No-!" Wufei sputtered, trying to push past them to get back in the room. His bag-- it had everything in it. The dragon cloth, the strange stick his mother had given him, the short dirk he'd brought for self-protection... Everything.
    "Leave it," Heero snapped. "They've found us. We need to go. Now." He still had a firm grip on Wufei's elbow, and used it to propel the other boy towards the stairs.
    Wufei blinked fiercely, trying to clear his vision as his body shook with coughs. His head felt like it was going to explode, his lungs felt like they were on fire, and the only thing keeping him from throwing up all over the place was his own stubborness. He tried to wrench his arm away from Heero, stumbling over his own feet. He could barely see the hall around him, and reached up with his free arm to rub the tears from his face. "Unhand me, Yuy," he gasped before going into another coughing fit.
    He couldn't see if Heero's face was as messed up as his own through the stinging clouds and tears in his eyes, but Heero didn't seem to be coughing as much as him and Duo. "Be quiet," he said tightly, pulling Wufei along in long strides, almost running. He was practically walking sideways, gun pointed back towards their room. Duo jogged along behind him, coughing and squinting all around them as he retrieved a throwing knife from a sheath up his sleeve. "Duo, you go ahead. Start the car. Meet us out back."
    "Right," Duo wheezed, squeezing past them and dashing down the stairs.
    When they reached the stairwell and Heero booted open the door, the breath of fresh night air was like a cooling balm on Wufei's face, and he gasped in relief. "Don't rub it," Heero reprimanded when Wufei reached for his face again. "You need to wash your face. Just quit struggling and let me get you to the car. You can be a stubborn ass once we're out of here."
    Wufei squinted furiously, trying to make out Heero's face as they stumbled down the steps. Whatever retort he'd been about to say, however, was lost on him when he made out the blurry form shifting in the shadows behind Heero, coming down from the floor above. The breath he took to shout a warning almost made him convulse with coughs again, and his voice came out strained. "Behind you!"
    Heero whipped around, but evidently the gas had done at least some damage. Before he could focus on the threat through smarting eyes, their attacker had seized Heero's wrist and wrenched the arm aside, aiming the gun harmlessly towards the stairs. Heero's trigger finger flexed instinctively, and the shot ringing out, echoing in the stone stairwell, made Wufei jump.
    "Go!" Heero shouted, grappling with the bigger man. "Get to the car--"
    Wufei hesitated, loathe to turn tail and run. But there was no way he could see to help; the stairwell was too narrow. There was no way to get around Heero, and with that gun waving around, he'd probably only end up getting shot. There was a sharp crack, and the man Heero was wrestling with gave a howl of pain. Heero had broken the other man's arm.
    He can handle himself, Wufei reminded himself fiercely. Get to the goddamn car. Duo's got to have another gun in there somewhere. He turned blindly and stumbled down the stairs, coming close to twisting his ankle several times. He had to resist the urge to scrub at his burning eyes. It was nearly impossible to see, and the darkness wasn't making it any better.
    He reached the ground level and raced around the side of the building towards the back, hoping there was nothing in his path, because he wouldn't be able to see it until he'd already tripped over it.
    Hurried motion from his left caught his eye, and he could vaguely make out a human form leaping for him, arms wide and grabbing. His target was big, which made seeing him a little easier.
    Ducking to avoid the arms, he drove a hard fist upwards, hoping to strike something solid. He managed to clip the man's jaw, earning him a moment's respite, but before he could even start running again, hands were on him, nails digging into his bare shoulders and dragging him backwards. He kicked backwards fiercely, and his attacker shrieked as he made painful contact with the man's kneecap. But already someone else was coming up on his other side, taking advantage of his temporary blindness to seize his arms. The man behind him, slobbering painful curses, wrapped a burly arm around Wufei's throat in a headlock, and Wufei's wracking cough worsened. Through the stinging tears clouding his eyes, he barely even recognized the fist coming at him until it struck him full in the face and slammed him into blissful unconsciousness.


    "Yaagh!!" Wufei's hands flew to his eyes in shocked pain. He couldn't see anything with the grit in his eyes, and tears began to fall in earnest as his body fought to clear his vision. "Cheater!"
    An instant later a foot took advantage of his temporary blindness by connecting solidly with his stomach, sending him crashing onto his back, the air driven from his lungs.
    He heard motion to his left, an angry shout. "That's dirty! He can't--"
    But Master's voice was already barking out sternly, "That's enough, Zhao! Stand down!"
    Wufei managed to push himself painfully into a sitting position, glad the dirt thrown into his eyes would provide a good excuse for the tears of hot anger he felt pricking his eyes. "Bastard," he gasped, still trying to rub the grit from his vision. "I'll get you for that."
    "Yeah, sure," came his opponent's snide comeback. Squinting, Wufei could just barely make out the form of the other boy, standing a few feet in front of him with hands on his hips. Probably gloating, as usual. He was an older kid, older than Wufei by four years. Most kids his age seemed to think it was beneath them to spar with the "little kids", but Zhao could never resist the chance to make Wufei look like an idiot.
    Pattering feet, and then small but strong hands on his wrists, trying to keep his hands from his face. "You'll just make it worse," came a familiar voice. "You'll rub it in. Stop it."
    "Leggo," Wufei snapped, trying to pull his hands away. "An' go away. You're not allowed in the ring."
    "You're not fighting anymore," came the infuriatingly calm reply.
    Wufei could hear the Master berating Zhao, reprimanding him on his use of such an underhanded trick in the midst of an honorable fight, and couldn't stop the grin of satisfaction that spread on his face.
    "Stop that," his friend said immediately. "Zhao already hates your guts. If he catches you laughing at him, he'll really kick your butt. Stay here. I'll get water for your eyes."
    Wufei blinked carefully, striving to see the familiar face of his friend. Dust and dirt clouded his vision, making it impossible to see anything other than the vague outline of the other child. "Yeah, yeah. Don't be such a nag.. Heero."


    A splash of cold water to the face roused Wufei at last. He shifted, feeling consciousness slowly seep back-- along with pain. His lip felt swollen-- split, most likely, from that hit to the face. And his nose was so numb he was afraid it might be broken. His throat felt raw from coughing so much, and he could already tell from the itching in his sockets that opening his eyes would be painful. He tried to move, and felt a thread of alarm trickle up his spine.
    He couldn't move his arms. His hands were tied behind his back, he realized. He was lying sideways on something vaguely soft, and everything seemed to be moving. It made his stomach roil in protest. There were voices, too, none of them familiar.
    "I think he's coming to."
    "About time."
    "Pull him up."
    A hard hand on his shoulder tugged at him, pulling him into a sitting position, and he finally opened his eyes, blinking painfully. They still smarted, but someone must have rinsed them out and washed his face; the annoying burning sensation was nothing like the engulfing fire it had been at the hotel.
    He glanced around quickly, taking in his surroundings.
    He was in a car-- a limo, he corrected himself, glaring at the people seated across from him. The windows were tinted, making it impossible to see anything outside with the moon hidden behind the clouds. He carefully tested his restraints, eyeing his captors warily.
    There was a man sitting beside him; a big man, nursing his knee every now and then and glowering darkly at Wufei. His first attacker. Across from him was a woman and another man. All of them were dressed in black suits.
    The woman was pretty, but her face and smile were cold as marble. "Back with us at last, Mr. Chang?" she said primly, her markedly accented voice labeling her as a colonist. She was Chinese, but Wufei wasn't sure whether it was revelent or not. He ignored her, glancing at the man at her side.
    He was fixing his tie carefully, offering Wufei a disdainful look. The brass knuckles on his hand explained the hit that had done Wufei in.
    The woman seemed amused by Wufei's cold silence, and leaned over slightly to retrieve a bag from the floor. "We found this in your room. Yours, I assume?"
    Wufei lurched forward before he could stop himself. The man next to him hauled him effortlessly back. "Let go of that," Wufei snarled. "What do you want?"
    The woman didn't even look up at him, busy rooting idly through the bag's contents. She took out the sheathed dirk and examined it casually before handing it to the man beside her. "How quaint," she mumbled, smiling chillingly. She tossed clothes onto the floor carelessly, and Wufei watched in tense silence as the rolled-up blanket went onto the floor as well, mistaken for another item of clothing. His breath caught sharply when the woman reached the bottom of the bag and gave a small sigh of triumph.
    "What have we here?" she chuckled, drawing out the wrapped stick. She tore the paper from it and held the strange object up for the others to see. "Well, well. I certainly didn't expect to find you with this. I'd wondered where it had gotten to." She arched a brow at her glowering captive. "Mind explaining what you're doing with this?"
    "What's all this about?" Wufei demanded, ignoring the pointed question. "Who the hell are you? What do you want with me?"
    "We really don't have time for your games, Mr. Chang," the woman sighed in mock regret. She uncrossed her legs and settled the heel of one of her stilletos in Wufei's stomach, slowly applying pressure. "Enough with the innocent boy next door act. If you just cooperate, things will be much easier for all of us. Especially you."
    Wufei offered a rather rancid reply in Mandarin.
The woman gave another chilling smile and dug her heel painfully into Wufei's stomach. He grunted, but didn't avert his narrowed eyes from her face.
    She chuckled and offered the carved stick to the man beside her, who accepted it gravely. "What do you think, Tom?" she purred.
    The man inspected the stick carefully, running his fingers along the strange symbols in it and rubbing the red pommels with his thumb. "I think he's lying," he answered in a dead voice.
    "I think you're right," the woman said brightly, digging her heel further into Wufei's stomach.
    Wufei hissed sharply, jerking his arms reflexively in an attempt to retaliate. "I don't know anything," he snapped. "And even if I did, did you think I would be scared into talking to lowlife like you?"
    "Oh, we don't mean to scare you," the woman said, opening her eyes wide in mock surprise. She leaned over so her face was close to his, the movement pressing her heel harder into his abdomen. "We mean to hurt you," she admitted in a husky whisper. "Badly. You'd be surprised the things people will say when their fingers are being ripped out one.. by... one..."
    Wufei glanced quickly at each of them, pushing back his stirring uneasiness with anger. "I can't tell you anything if I don't know anything," he said from behind clenched teeth. "Now..." he leveled her with a hot glare. "Get your goddamn foot off me before I break it off."
    The woman offered him a slow smile, as if somehow pleased at his answer, then jerked her foot, slamming her heel into his ribs. He doubled over with a grunt, the air driven from his lungs, and she pulled her foot back smoothly, crossing her legs once more.
    "He'll talk," the neanderthal beside Wufei grunted, cracking his knuckles ominously. "Don't you worry about that. Gimmie ten minutes with him, and he'll tell you where his grandpappy hides his life savings if it'll make the pain go away."
    "No doubt," the man-- Tom --said coolly, still looking at Wufei in distaste.
    Wufei glowered at them all and remained silent, wracking his brain for an escape plan. At the same time he wondered if Heero and Duo had gotten away safely. Had they managed to slip past these goons? Or were their bodies lain out in the hotel parking lot like sacks of garbage? He shied away from that thought hastily, focusing instead on the ropes on his wrists. He began working at them, struggling to keep his arms as still as possible to keep from betraying him.
    His eyes were still stinging a little, and he blinked slowly to keep them moistened. At least they'd had the decency to wash them out for him...
    And for the first time in his life, the memory of his dream came crashing down on him, almost making him gasp out loud.
    The circumstances were just similar enough-- his eyes hurt by the gas and by the sand in his face --to make something in his mind click. Staring wide-eyed at the floor to hide some of the astonishment on his face, he eagerly went over the dream in his head. If he was remembering this one, would he start to remember the others he'd had? The doctor might have been right, after all. He might still be able to regain his memories through dream sequences.
    This one had been about a fight. No, a practice fight. And some kid... "Zhao" ...had thrown dirt in his eyes to blind him. Zhao, Zhao.. he played with the name a few times. The name was unfamiliar to him, but it did spark a feeling of loathing in him. Whether it was residue feelings from the dream, or a forgotten emotion for a boy he no longer remembered, he couldn't be sure. And there had been some kind of "Master"... his trainer? An honorable man. He hadn't stood for Zhao's tricks. Neither had....
    Wufei felt his heart thump in his ears, and swallowed hard.
    The face in his dream had been unclear, but his dream self-- his child self --had known exactly who he was talking to. He'd felt it throughout the dream, knowing just where his friend would be sitting, knowing of course only Heero would be bull-headed enough to break the rules and run out into the ring just to check on him.
    No way. Wufei shook his head internally in wild disbelief. Could it have been just his imagination? Had he been unable in his subconscious to provide the memory of a name with that childhood friend, and so had used a random name from his present? It was possible...
    But if not, it could mean Heero wasn't blowing smoke out of his ass, after all. He'd said they'd grown up together. Perhaps there was some truth to it after all.
    Wufei was startled out of his musings when the driver pulled the car off the road and shut off the engine. The man at his side seized his upper arm, booted open the car door, and dragged him outside.
    Wufei gasped as the cold night air struck his bare upper body. He'd only gone to bed in a pair of thin sleeping pants, and he barely managed to suppress a shiver as the breeze played along his chest and arms, finding its way through the material of his pants to make even his legs cold. His bare feet quickly became numb with cold, which was just as well, as walking on the rocks and glass no doubt scattered all over the side of the road would have made walking very painful otherwise.
    They'd stopped at a rest stop-- a small one, barely visible through the trees along the side of the road. There was only one other car parked there, and only one of the streetlights worked. There were one or two benches in the grass, a porta-potty... and a small group of men and women in suits standing not far from the other car, watching him keenly.
    Tom and the Chinese woman got gracefully out of the limo and led the way, while their hulking partner dragged Wufei along. Wufei, stumbling a little with cold and still trying to see properly, didn't have the chance to put up much of a struggle. He concentrated instead on his bound wrists, wriggling his arms in the hopes of slipping one hand free. His hands were admittedly smaller than most, himself being young and Asian, and he was hoping to find slack in the ropes somewhere.
    The thug who was man-handling him pulled him up short in front of the new group of Suits, and Wufei took a moment to look them over.
    They all looked very grim and business-like, but the rigid way they stood reminded Wufei somehow of Hilde's ROTC friends. Two women and three men, several of them holding portfolios or briefcases. Glancing around at his captors, Wufei wondered for the umpteenth time just who the hell they were and what they could possibly want with him.
    The man who looked to be in charge of the rest of them gazed down at Wufei thoughtfully, brows arched as if he expected Wufei to start performing tricks like a circus monkey. "Chang Wufei, I presume?" he inquired politely.
    Wufei offered his best insulting, arrogant look, and remained silent.
    The man's mouth quirked in a sardonic smile, and he turned cold gray eyes on Wufei's captors. "How do we know it's him?"
    Tom made a motion with his hand, and the one holding Wufei suddenly spun him around so his back was facing the crowd. A hard hand on his neck applied pressure, forcing him to almost bend over double-- Wufei sputtered in outrage, feeling his face heat up, before he felt the hands on his back and realized what they were doing. His blood ran cold as calloused fingers traced the shape on his lower back he'd puzzled over many times in the mirror back home.
    "He has the Mark," the gray-eyed man affirmed, fingers moving delicately over Wufei's skin as he examined the small tattoo. "It's genuine. No one can fake or replicate this kind of Mark."
    There were murmurs of approval, and Wufei was let up and spun around again. Face red with fury and embarrassment, Wufei had to bite his tongue to keep his words in check as he glared up at the man staring coolly down at him.
    "He's just a child," one of the new women noted. Not in the "oh the poor thing" tone, or even the "be careful with him" one. It was clinical. An observation. More like "what's the big deal about him"?
    Wufei wished he knew the answer.
    "Good job, Lin," the gray eyed man said brusquely with a cursory glance towards the Chinese woman who'd so intimately introduced her stilletos to Wufei's abdomen not twenty minutes earlier. "We'll take it from here."
    "Not so fast, Phillips," Lin interrupted smoothly, wrapping hard, cold fingers around Wufei's upper arm to hold him back. "You're not taking all the credit for this just because you were the ones who picked him up. We're the ones that finally nabbed this brat. We're going with you. The rewards promised were enticing, indeed. I wouldn't want any of you to be tempted by greed into 'accidentally' leaving out names in the debrief."
    The others bristled, but Phillips only smiled condescendingly at Lin, gray eyes cold and hard as gems. Wufei worked harder at his ropes.
    "Besides, we have more than just the boy," Tom added smoothly. "Something just as valuable." He swung Wufei's bag back and forth enticingly. Wufei realized he was referring to the strange carved rod.
    Phillips eyed the bag, looking unimpressed. "Such as?"
    "Something thought to be missing," Lin said mysteriously, smiling sweetly, "that I'm sure Treize-sama will be very happy to get his hands on."
    Wufei stopped struggling, his breath catching in his throat like a stone.
    'Treize-sama'? Treize Kushrenada-- he was the one behind these goons in suits? Wufei stared numbly up at his captors, feeling even more lost and wildly confused than ever. Why would a general-- the general --be interested in some random Chinese kid with amnesia? Or a decorative stick, for that matter?
    Wufei twisted his arms painfully in a sudden desperate attempt to free himself. Whatever they had planned for him, he didn't feel like sticking around to find out.
    He felt a rush of adrenaline and relief when at long last he wrenched one hand free of the ropes, leaving a good deal of flesh behind and a numb feeling, but still giving him back his primary weapons. He kept his hands behind his back to hide the fact that he was free, glancing around for a means of escape.
    No doubt they all had guns. There were trees, but would he make it to cover before they gunned him down?
    "Marco!" sang a cheerful voice from the shadows of the trees to his right, causing everyone to freeze momentarily in surprise and confusion.
    "Polo," came a grim voice from surprisingly close, on the left road side.
    Wufei didn't stop to think. He let his legs collapse and hit the dirt.
    An instant later gunfire ripped the air, and the Suits screamed in shock and outrage, diving for cover. One of the women fell dead, and a man collapsed writhing, cursing floridly as he clapped a hand to an arm darkened with blood. Wufei, hands over his head, chanced a glance upwards and saw Tom scrambling for the limo, bag still in hand.
    Bullets still whistled through the air, two guns covering two sides, careful to avoid each other to prevent friendly fire. Wufei didn't stop to let himself feel relieved the other two had finally caught up with him. Trusting Heero to recognize him and not gun him down, he sprang to his feet and raced after Tom.
    He caught up quickly; Tom was ducking and weaving to avoid getting shot, while Wufei was running right at him. He took the older man down with a furious kick to the lower back that sent him sprawling in the dirt with a cry of pain.
    He got back up quicker than Wufei had expected, swinging the bag like a weapon at Wufei's head. Wufei ducked nimbly and shot a fist into the man's face, causing Tom to stumble back with a grunt. Wufei seized the bag in one hand and found the pressure point in Tom's wrist with the other, causing him to release his prize with a squeal of pain. Slinging the bag over his shoulder, Wufei spun in the same movement, delivering a furious round-house kick to the side of Tom's head that sent him crashing into the limo. A moment later he slumped to the ground, unconscious.
    Shrugging the other strap over his shoulder, Wufei looked around quickly. The others had managed to get in their car and were already peeling off. One of the back windows was down, and Lin was leaning out of it, face contorted in rage and hate as she fired repeatedly in Wufei's direction. He leapt for cover behind the limo, but one of the stray shots struck him high on the shoulder, and the force of the blow spun him around, throwing him to the ground. Gasping with pain, he struggled into a sitting position and quickly clapped a hand to the wound, gritting his teeth hard in an attempt to focus.
    The car sped off, tires squealing, and the gunshots from the road and the woods finally stopped. There was blissful silence for a moment, and Wufei slumped against the limo's tire, panting harshly and gazing up at the star-strewn sky as he struggled to let relief soothe back his pumping adrenaline.
    There was a rustle in the bushes, and Wufei scooted around the car a little to see his rescuers better.
    Duo emerged from the treeline, spinning a pair of automatic pistols in his hands expertly. He was wearing a shit-eating grin, his face lit up with the wild savage joy of the hunt. Looking at him, tense and eager, eyes glowing with triumph and bloodlust, Wufei thought he understood at last why Heero had warned him never to piss the laughing jokster off.
    "Hey, buddy!" Duo called cheerfully. "Good thing you had the brains to get your head down in time. Sorry we took so long."
    Wufei offered the other boy a carefully bored look. "I could have handled it."
    Duo just laughed happily, still crackling with energy.
    Heero appeared silently from the trees blocking the roadside, holstering his own firearm, eyes skipping quickly about to take in the fallen enemies before turning his full attention on Wufei. "You're hurt," he said unnecessarily as he came close enough to see the blood-- black in the moonlight --dripping down Wufei's arm.
    Wufei grimaced up at him, still clutching the wound in a numbing grip. "Good of you to notice." He struggled to get to his feet, and Heero moved forward as if to help. At a warning glare from Wufei, however, he was smart enough to step back.
    Once Wufei had regained his feet, along with his dignity, he walked around to the other side of the limo to look down at Tom's crumpled body.
    "Still alive, yeah?" Duo came up, holstering his weapons before dropping to a crouch by the unconscious man to check for a pulse.
    "Of course," Wufei snapped. "I need someone to tell me what the hell's going on."
    Duo hesitated, glancing up at Heero. "Yeah. Good thinking. Don't worry, me and 'Ro can get 'im to talk." He made a "gimmie" motion with his hands, and Wufei released his wound long enough to unwrap the ropes from his wrists and hand them over.
    While Duo bound up their hostage, Heero did a quick check to make sure the three Suits that had been gunned down were in fact dead before returning to Wufei's side. "Let me see it," he commanded, placing a hand on Wufei's shoulder and staring intently at the blood seeping from under Wufei's white-knuckled grip. When Wufei only glared stubbornly, he said firmly, "I need to wrap it and stop the bleeding."
    Wufei reluctantly lowered his bloodied hand, breathing sharply through his nose at the pain that was running up and down his arm like wildfire.
    Heero pulled the jeep keys from his pocket and used the tiny penlight on the keychain to inspect the wound carefully. "..Damn," he muttered under his breath.
    "What?" Wufei demanded quickly.
    "The bullet's still in there," Heero answered absently, handing over the penlight and going behind Wufei to dig quickly through the pack on his back. "You're lucky it didn't break your shoulder bone."
    Duo got to his feet, dusting dirt off his knees and reaching out to poke at the bruise in Wufei's ribs from Lin's stilletos. "They rough you up a little?" he asked curiously.
    Wufei flinched away from the touch, scowling at the other boy. "Stop it."
    "Knock it off, Duo," Heero said shortly, pushing the braided boy aside and holding one of Wufei's shirts. He quickly tore the shirt in two and began wrapping it securely around the wound. "We need to get out of here," he stated. "We'll take care of this better when we're at a safer place."
    "Lucky for you, Heero's fancy-schmancy military training included first aid," Duo chuckled.
    "Is surgery part of that?" Wufei managed to gasp from behind clenched teeth. "If the bullet's still in there..."
    "I'll get it out," Heero said firmly. He hesitated, glancing at Wufei's face. "But I don't have any anesthetics on me..."
    "I don't care," Wufei interrupted. "Just get the damn thing out of me."
    "Aa." Heero finished wrapping the arm and wiped the blood on his hands off on his jeans absently.
    "I'll go get the jeep," Duo offered, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. "We had to park it about a mile away to keep them from hearing the engine. I'll be back in a sec." He jogged off, humming brightly to himself.
    There was an awkward silence after he left, with Wufei picking idly at the bandage and Heero staring blindly down at Tom's limp form.
    "...Did they do anything to you?" Heero asked at last, voice brisk and inflectionless.
    Wufei shrugged with his good shoulder, wishing desperately he'd thought to pack a bottle of aspirin in his bag. "Not really. Mostly just talked a lot." He eyed Heero narrowly. "They're working for Treize," he said bluntly.
    Heero's eyes shot towards him before he could stop himself. He averted his eyes quickly, face unreadable. "They said that?"
    "They mentioned bringing me to him," Wufei growled. "Why didn't you tell me? These idiots are working for Treize Kushrenada?? What the hell would the 'hero of earth' want with me?"
    "That isn't--"
    "For you to say," Wufei finished coldly. "Right. I get it." He turned his back on Heero, glaring furiously at the treeline as he struggled to control his temper. "How do I know you're even on the right side?" he demanded. "Last time I checked, Treize wasn't a villain. Maybe it's him I'm supposed to be with."
    "With?" Heero repeated a little sharply.
    Wufei glanced back at him in irritated puzzlement at the tone, but Heero quickly controlled himself. "He isn't the one you need to trust," he said firmly. "Treize himself isn't... a 'villain', but the men and women who work for him will do anything necessary to get him what he wants. And right now that happens to be you." He scowled fleetingly.
    "How would you know what his intentions are?" Wufei demanded.
    "...We've talked," Heero admitted grudgingly, scowling again as he glared at something Wufei couldn't see. "He's honorable enough in his own way, but that doesn't mean those who are loyal to him have the same scruples. He may want you in one piece, and he would prefer you went to him willingly, but these people..." he toed Tom's crumpled form, "don't care what state you're in, as long as you're still breathing when they bring you to him."
    "Why?" Wufei demanded harshly. "What the hell's so damned important about me? I'm nothing special. Unless this Kushrenada guy is in desperate need of someone with good grades and some self-defense knowledge in his retinue, I don't see what the hell he'd want with some random teenage boy."
    "You're not random," Heero corrected, voice a little quieter. "There are plenty of people who have skills and brains. He doesn't care about that-- it's just a bonus. He wants you?"
    "Why me?" Wufei nearly shouted. "What's the big deal with me? I'm nobody! I'm not anything important!"
    "...Not yet," Heero said, tone so low Wufei almost didn't catch the words.
    Wufei peered at him suspiciously. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
    "Nothing." Heero's face was impossible to read once more, his tone business-like. The sound of the jeep's engine could be heard approaching. "Ride in the passenger seat; you'll jolt around too much in the back. Duo and I will get this man in the car."
    Wufei wanted to beat some answers out of Heero, but just then Duo screeched up in the jeep. "Everybody in the pool," he chortled, grinning at them through the windshield. "I think it's time to get the fuck outta dodge before reinforcements show up."

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