"I've got it."
Duo and Trowa looked from where they were sharing a box of cereal- sans the milk -at the slightly twisted card table. "Nani?" Duo munched on a fistful of Frosted Flakes, handing the box over to Trowa. "You've been gone since last night. What've you been doing?"
Gable was grinning triumphantly as he strode over to the table, leaning his hands on it and opening his mouth to speak. Trowa lifted the box with calm foresight as the table creaked in protest and tilted crazily. Duo and Gable grabbed for it quickly, straightening it.
"Heero broke it," Duo said, scowling as his thoughts flitted back to last night. "That was the crash we heard."
Trowa munched calmly on the cereal and didn't comment.
"Anyway," Gable said after a moment, looking slightly ruffled, "I think I found a way to get to Quatre-kun. Didn't you say those boys- Atreusio and Neo -are the ones who took him?"
"I did a scrying for them last night," Gable said in a quick, excited voice, grinning at Duo. "It looks like they've split up for now. And get this- one of them is only an hour or two from here."
Realization dawned on Duo. "We can *make* him take us to Quatre!"
"Exactly." Gable smirked.
"Why didn't you go find him yourself?" Wufei demanded, appearing suddenly in the doorway and looking almost adorably sleepy. His shirt was untucked and rumpled from sleep, his hair put up in a hasty ponytail as he padded into the room, squinting as the morning sunlight caught him in the face from the kitchen window. Trowa offered him the box of cereal, which he grudingly accepted, standing by Trowa's chair and munching on the scant breakfast.
Gable offered him the briefest of glances. "And get myself killed? I don't think so. Not after the strength you said they displayed. It will take all five of us."
"Great." Duo grinned, smacking his fist into his palm eagerly. "I hope it's Neo. He sounds like a real ass."
"And what if it's Atreusio?" Wufei asked, watching him keenly.
Duo's smile faltered. "Well... I don't think he'll really fight back," he said hesitantly. "He doesn't really seem like.."
"Can it, Maxwell," Wufei cut him off impatiently. "He fooled you. Get over it. He took Quatre and he's going to pay."
Duo looked ready to say something in Atreusio's defense, but just then Heero entered the room, and the room fell silent, all eyes on him.
He was back in perfect soldier mode, clean-cut face stern and impenetrable. If he was bothered by Gable's presence, he didn't show it. His eyes flicked towards him once, then away dismissively, and Duo felt a small relief at that. At least he had seemed to control his ridiculous temper. "We suit up in an hour," he said shortly. "Duo, carry Gable and he'll point out the way."
Trowa rose to his feet, eyes flickering with satisfaction. Finally, finally they were going to get Quatre back. "Hai."
Duo said something about checking on Deathscythe and bounced outside. Wufei and Trowa followed with the same intentions.
Wufei seemed to lag behind, and Trowa slowed as he crossed the lawn, allowing his partner to catch up to him. He frowned on seeing the pensive look on his friend's face. "Wufei," he said quietly, getting his attention. "Nani?"
Wufei looked up at him quickly, as if jarred from his thoughts, and a strange look flitted across his face before he clamped down on it firmly. "Nothing," he said.
Trowa wasn't fooled. Ever since last night his friend had been acting strangely, touching him just barely at random moments, seeming almost surprised when Trowa didn't pull away from his feather-light touches. He snagged Wufei by the wrist, voice firm. It was suddenly very important to him that he find out what was wrong with the other boy. "Wufei. You're acting like you don't want to find Quatre."
"That's not it," Wufei said immediately, eyes flaring. "I just..." he trailed off, jaw clenching. "Never mind."
Trowa watched his face carefully, frowning slightly. "Nani?" he repeated. "We're both going to find Quatre," he reassured him quietly. "And you two will have each other again. You should be happy."
Wufei winced at the words, glancing uneasily away, and Trowa's frown deepened at his friend's unexpected response.
"You do still love him, don't you?" he mumured, almost hesitantly.
"Of course I do," Wufei snapped, looking anywhere but at him.
Trowa lifted his hand, touching the other boy's face softly, and Wufei glanced at him with wary eyes.
"It's just going to take some explaining," Wufei muttered, almost unwilling to say the words.
Trowa tilted his head slightly to the side in bemusement. "What will?"
Wufei gritted his teeth, glaring at the slightly taller boy as if daring him to mock him and expecting it. "I think I'm falling in love with you, you damn idiot."
Trowa blinked slowly, staring at him blankly.
Wufei pulled away, stalking angrily towards his Gundam. Trowa easily caught up, snagging his arm once more, pulling him back. "Wufei-"
"Sorry," Wufei muttered fiercely, looking embarrassed and angry at the same time. "You-"
"Why are you sorry?" Trowa murmured, studying his face.
Wufei stared at him, uncomprehending.
"Who's an idiot?" Trowa demanded, giving the faintest hint of a smile. "You were so infatuated with Quatre that you never noticed me.."
Wufei cut him off, reaching up to pull the other boy's face forwards, pressing his mouth against pliant lips in a brief but enflamed kiss. When he pulled away he saw something in the back of Trowa's eyes that almost scared him. "Come on," he said roughly, releasing him. "Let's get Quatre back."
Trowa offered another of his rare, small smiles. "Aa."
Duo noticed the closeness between his two partners almost immediately. As they all prepared to leave an hour later, he watched the two carefully, a little confused by their sudden truce and friendship.
He had been hoping the two would come to terms with each other. Even when they had fought about Quatre, Trowa had always seemed to wish they could get along, rarely starting the fights. And before Wufei had taken Quatre under his wing, the two had actually gotten along somewhat.
This abrupt 180 was almost unsettling. It was as if they had finally realized what they had each been feeling for so long and accepted it. Maybe they had wanted to be friends all along? Well, whatever the reason, at least Quatre would be happy that his koi and his friend were getting along now.
As Duo clambered into his seat in Deathscythe's cockpit, he quickly had the mecha lower its arm, allowing Gable to climb gracefully onto the giant hand. "Just point out the way," Duo said, lifting his hand to the earpiece he was wearing- he'd given Gable the radio's mate so they could communicate easier.
"Hai," Gable agreed, pointing towards the east. "It was about an hour's drive that way by jeep."
"Make that twenty minutes," Duo said, smirking, "with my buddy here. Ready, Deathscythe, old pal?"
"Duo, the others are still getting into their Gundams."
"They'll catch up in a couple minutes," Duo said airily. Actually he just wanted to get to Atreusio first- to reason with him, before the others got rough with him. "Let's go, Deathscythe!" The Gundam shot into the air, leaving the other startled pilots behind.
Duo felt his heart speed up in excitement as Gable lowered his hand, pointing downwards at a slant at the woods they were passing as he turned to squint up at Duo, the wind whipping his blond hair in his face. "Land there!" he called over the headpiece. "He's just a little ways from here, and otherwise he'll hear your Gundam and run."
"Something's picking up on the radar, "Duo said, frowning. "Kind of faint, but... big."
Gable looked around, leaning slightly over Deathscythe's giant fingers. "I don't see anything..."
"We'll see in a minute, I guess." Duo landed swiftly amid the trees, lowering his lover to the ground and powering his Gundam down quickly, already yanking his restraints from his shoulders, the cockpit opening with a hiss of compressed air. Scrambling to the ground, he landed gracefully beside the other boy and straightened, glancing around with a frown. "Eesh. Woods, always woods."
"Wiccans are attuned to nature," Gable reminded him, looking around with a strange smile.
"Makes me think of the place with the caves," Duo pointed out, guessing what the other boy was thinking about.
Gable flicked him a wry grin. "Come on," he said briskly. "Let's go."
Duo removed his gun from his hip and transferred it to his back waistband, where it wasn't immediately visible. He didn't need to scare Atreusio. Gable watched the quick move with a little frown.
"You don't like guns?" Duo asked, grinning apologetically. "Sorry, but in my line of work they're necessary."
"They are, aren't they?"
They both whirled at the quiet voice, and Duo felt his jaw drop.
Trinity offered a small smile as he stepped out from behind a tree, looking very small amid the towering trees. "Hello, Duo," he said softly. "It's been a long time."
"T...Trinity..." Duo took a step forward, unable to tear his eyes from the younger boy. Memories rushed on him like a tidal wave at having his old friend so close. "You.."
"Your friend momentarily disabled Thundertalon," Trinity said with a little lop-sided grin, amusement flickering in his eyes. "But I *am* the best mechanic in the city my age." He sobered, simply staring at Duo, something akin to pain lurking in the backs of his eyes. "You've changed," he whispered.
Gable glanced from one of them to the other, obviously confused, but held his tongue. Any jealousy he might have otherwise felt towards another boy talking to Duo seemed ridiculous in this case, as Trinity looked so young.
"So have you," Duo pointed out, advancing slowly.
Trinity watched him come with shadowed eyes.
"Jesus, Trinity, I thought you were dead," Duo said with a little gasp, finally reaching the boy and reaching up to hold the boy's face in his hands, as if to make sure he was real. "I thought..you..."
"Burned with the Maxwell Church?" Trinity smiled sadly up at him. "Iie. I was one of the children the nuns sent out to get more garden seed, remember? To keep us from bothering the war's injured they were housing. I thought *you* were dead. You were there that day.. watching as all those men were tended to." He studied Duo's face. "How did you escape and.. become who you are?"
"It's a long story," Duo admitted, unable to let go of his friend's face, despite the minute trembling in his hands. "I've been fighting ever since in the memory of what happened that day. For the church, for Father, for the Sister... for you. For you and the other children who *did* burn that day."
Trinity's eyes widened slightly before filling slowly with helpless tears of anguish. "I was so scared," he said in a choked voice. "You always took care of us, and when the church burned down I didn't know what to do.."
Then Duo's arms were wrapping around him, squeezing him hard, in a fierce, possessive grip.
Trinity's trembling hands rose, his arms wrapping around Duo's back, as he stood on tiptoe, burying his face in Duo's shoulder, a fine tremor going through his body. "I'm sorry," he said, his miserable voice muffled.
"For what?" Duo demanded. "You'd better not be talking about Thundertalon. Forget that. I don't care anymore." He ran his hand through the fine silky hair, his heart swelling with something painful and unfamiliar.
Trinity subsided, simply burrowing himself against the comforting solidity of the only 'brother' he had ever known.
Gable watched them silently for a minute or two before delicately clearing his throat. "Ano... I really do hate to break up this reunion, but.. shouldn't you hurry and find Atreusio before the others get here? They'll be here any second."
"Aa," Duo agreed, reluctantly pulling away from the younger boy in his arms. Trinity blinked at him, cheeks stained with tears, and for a moment as Duo stared at him, he looked like the same little boy from L2, gripping his sleeve shyly.
Duo-niichan, I'm scared.
Don't be a dope. There's nothing to be scared of. I'm right here.
Then Trinity blinked and pulled back, composing himself, and Duo was fully aware for the first time of how mature his friend had become as he hastily wiped his face and turned a sober look on Gable. Duo felt a flicker of deep pride for the boy who had always been so shy and reserved as a child.
"You're looking for the ones that took Quatre-san, right?" he asked, and his voice was steady. "I've come to help."
"Why would you help us?" Gable demanded, flicking a glance towards Duo. "Didn't Wufei-kun say something about this kid being an enemy?"
"He's not an enemy," Duo snapped. "He's-"
"Relena told me I could go," Trinity said quietly, glancing sideways at Duo. "She knew I wanted to. She told me to come help you."
Duo smiled at him sadly. Last night when they had all told each other what had happened while they'd been separated, Wufei had related his conversation with Relena and Trinity. He could dimmly remember Trinity's sister, a happy girl with sky-blue eyes and little pigtails. It must have been hard for him to leave Relena's side. "Aa," he said. "I'm glad you came."
Trinity smiled briefly.
Gable looked at both of them, obviously confused about their relationship, whatever it might be or had been in the past, before seeming to give himself a little shake. He pointed in a direction. "Come on, that way. You'd better hurry. Remember, you need to catch him by surprise or he'll run away."
Duo blinked at him. "Huh? You're talking as if you're not coming."
Gable shook his head impatiently. "The others will pick up Deathscythe on their radar and come straight here. I'll distract them for as long as I can while you talk some sense into Atreusio. You seem to like him, and he might listen to you. If the others go barging in ready to threaten him and shake him by his neck, he won't say shit. Now go. Hurry. Just go straight that way." He pointed again. "Hurry!"
Duo hesitated before nodding, reaching out to take Trinity's hand. "All right. Thanks, Gable. Come on, Trinity!"
They took off, racing through the trees together, ducking low branches, skirting bushes, and leaping over roots, their breathing harsh the further they went. The longer they ran, the more Duo's excitement began to rise. Abruptly he wondered if it wasn't the excitement from the run, but if he was instinctively getting closer to something.
Atreusio? he wondered dazedly, even as he hurdled a log, Trinity keeping up admirably. Is that who I..feel like I'm getting close to? Is he calling me or something? With his powers? But how would he know I'm coming?
The trees thinned suddenly, quieting their footsteps, and then they were crashing through trees again-
Trinity hauled sharply on Duo's hand, and they skidded to a gasping halt, narrowly avoiding colliding with a rocky cliff face. Duo stared up at it, panting for air, and saw something move out of the corner of his eye, leaves rustling.
"Duo," Trinity hissed, gripping his hand tighter and pointing. "Look!"
Atreusio was sitting up from where he'd been lying at the bottom of the cliff a mere few feet away, blinking at them owlishly, leaves and a small blanket sliding from his torso as he reached up to push his hair from his face. He recognized Duo and froze, his eyes widening.
They stood staring at each other for a long, timeless moment, Atreusio's hand still buried in his hair as Duo panted quietly.
"Duo-" Trinity started to say in warning.
Atreusio scrambled to his feet suddenly, whirling away, and Duo reacted instinctively. Releasing Trinity, he dashed after the other boy as he tried to flee, wrapping his arms around him from behind and almost tackling him.
Atreusio cried out, struggling furiously, his arms trapped by Duo's unrelenting grip. "Let me go, Duo," he gasped, tossing his head, the leaves and pine needles that had been stuck in it flying loose. "Let me go!"
"Atreusio, calm down," Duo shouted above his pleas and the noise of him thrashing. "I'm not going to hurt you!"
"Let go of me, please," Atreusio begged, still squirming. "I can't take you to Quatre, Duo, you don't understand-"
He gave a little cry of surprise as Duo twisted him suddenly, still crushing him against his body to prevent escape as they stared into each other's faces. "Why not??" he demanded. "Atreusio, none of us would *ever* betray Quatre! This.. *prophecy* or whatever the fuck it is... It's *wrong*! How could you ever think that any of us could ever do such a thing??"
"You don't understand," Atreusio whispered, impossibly dark eyes sad as he twisted slightly, testing Duo's tight grip. "You're making a big mistake, Duo. Please let me go."
"No." Duo was adament. He glanced around. "Where's Neo?" he demanded.
Atreusio hesitated, then said reluctantly, "He went into town to get some things. But he'll be back any minute, and he'll be furious if he sees you. I don't want him to hurt you, Duo."
He'll be furious if he sees me, or if he sees how rough I'm treating you? The question flickered through Duo's mind like an elusive moth, but he kept his thoughts to himself. His head was buzzing, now, and he shook his head to clear it. "Listen to me, Atreusio," he said in an intense voice. "You have to show me where Quatre is. The others will be here soon. They're going to be really rough with you- especially Wufei. They want Quatre back so badly, I don't know if they'd care anymore or not if they hurt you."
Atreusio looked away, biting his lip silently, his slender body stiff in Duo's arms.
Trinity cautiously came forward, watching the scene with wide eyes. He had never seen his friend so openly forceful, and decided it was best for now to remain in the background.
The buzzing in Duo's head was getting louder, now, and he shook his head impatiently, trying to dispell it. It must be from running so long, he thought fleetingly.
Atreusio was watching him, now, and something like fear flickered in his eyes. "You can sense him," he murmured in realization to himself.
"What?" Duo demanded, frowning at him. "What are you talking about?"
Atreusio blinked. "Nothing," he said hastily. "Duo, listen to me. Just take your friends and get the hell out of here. You can't be here. You can't be- in these woods."
"Why the hell not?" Duo growled. "You're not making any sense-"
Something inside of him flared.
He instinctively recognized it as a warning and jerked to the side, whirling so that Atruesio was before him like a shield. Trinity cried out in surprise, leaping aside.
Neo bared his teeth in a fierce, humorless grin, the butterfly knife in his hand glinting in the sunlight. "Nice reflexes, kid," he said. "What the hell do you think you're doing here?"
Duo stared at him. He hadn't even heard the boy coming- he was as silent as a cat. Thank god for.. whatever that had been. A sooldier's instincts? Whatever it had been, it had probably saved him from being stabbed. Neo looked dangerous as he stood there, body slightly tensed for a fight.
"Neo," Atreusio gasped, managing to twist a little in Duo's grasp. "Don't-"
"Let go of him," Neo said coldly, "and I might not kill you."
"Fat chance," Duo snapped, tightening his hold on the other boy and shuffling backwards a few steps. Neo followed. "Stay back. I've had a bad week."
"Stay back or what?" Neo demanded with a sneer. "Or you'll hurt him? I don't think so. You don't want to do that, Maxwell. Not to someone who practically worships you."
"Neo," Atreusio hissed, eyes flashing with desperate impatience. "This isn't the time for-"
"You two are going to take me to Quatre," Duo said levelly. "Right now."
"I think not." Neo flicked his blade expertly with gloved fingertips, circling them slowly. Duo circled, too, making sure never to turn his back on the other boy. "Now let him go."
"Duo," Trinity started nervously.
Neo looked over towards him as if noticing him for the first time, and his eyes narrowed suddenly. "Who's this?" he asked sharply.
"Neo, no," Atreusio said desperately, as if he knew what his partner was thinking. "That can't be him, he's just a kid. Leave him alone."
Neo was still staring at Trinity thoughtfully. "But if he is," he murmured, "then *he* can't be far away. He'd follow him."
Trinity edged closer to Duo, looking nervous.
"Neo," Atreusio said sharply.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Duo demanded impatiently.
Neo turned towards him, opening his mouth for another threat.
"Get away from them!"
Neo whirled as Gable appeared suddenly off to the side, holding a gun aimed at the dark-eyed boy.
Duo seized his chance.
He shoved Atreusio away from him and snatched Trinity's hand, racing further into the woods.
Neo caught his partner clumsily, cursing colorfully as the knife still in his grip sliced across the shorter boy's arm.
Atreusio didn't seem to notice the wound, pushing himself away from Neo and turning, looking around frantically. "Where did they go??"
"Shit," Neo spat, closing his knife with a click and slipping it swiftly into his boot. "Your arm-"
"Fuck my arm," Atreusio interrupted, practically shouting. "We've got to find them!"
Duo's breath was ragged in his throat as he bulled through foliage that was getting increasingly thicker and harder to run through, smacking branches away, some of them slapping him in the face with stinging blows. He could hear Trinity and Gable struggling to keep up close behind, panting as they strove onwards. He headed unerringly in one direction, as if his feet were taking him on an instinctive course. The buzzing in his head was getting almost unbearable.
Gable drew alongside him as they stumbled to a halt at last, bending over and panting for breath. "I thought.. you didn't like..guns," Duo gasped, wiping sweat from his brow.
Gable flopped to the ground, drawing in great lungfuls of air. "I guess.. they're not.. so bad," he wheezed.
Duo gave a short, breathless laugh.
"Where are we going, Duo?" Trinity asked after a few moments, recovering most of his breath as he looked around.
Duo shook his head, still breathing hard. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "I just.. have this *feeling*.."
Gable looked at him keenly. "A feeling?" he repeated.
"Where are the others?" Duo asked suddenly. "Heero and the others."
"I distracted them for awhile," Gable said, glancing over his shoulder. "I pointed them off in the wrong direction."
Duo stared at him. "Why did you do that?? Now we're all separated!"
Gable shrugged, looking uncomfortable. "It seemed like a good idea at the time.."
Duo gasped, stumbling a little.
"Duo?" Trinity grabbed his arm, face pinched with worry. "Duo, daijabou??"
"T-Trowa," Duo stammered, the answer coming to him even before he was fully aware of it. "I think they're looking for us."
"Wait a minute," Gable said sharply, peering at him. "You're beginning to sound something like a psychic yourself. What do you mean you have this 'feeling', Duo? Where are we going?"
Duo hesitated, unwilling to believe what his heart was telling him. He pointed forward after a moment. "I think it's Quatre," he said reluctantly. "I don't know how I know, I just... I think he's that way."
"Come on, then." Gable helped him straighten. "We'd better find him quick, before those two lunatics catch up. Lead the way, Duo."
Duo set off unerringly, pushing through the brush, following the buzzing in his head with a detatched sort of feeling, as if it wasn't really him leading his friends through the woods towards something he *felt* was nearby. As if the bedraggled boy with the braid and the determined face was someone else. Someone.. someone who was making a big mistake.
He came to an abrupt halt, looking around dazedly. The others came to stand beside him, looking at him curiously.
They had finally emerged from the deeper part of the woods, and were back in the more tame, gentler part. Somewhere close by he could hear water running, and after a slight hesitation, he followed the sound. The buzzing was gone.
Atreusio's desperate voice seemed to resound in his mind, over and over. 'You're making a big mistake, Duo.'
He could see it, now, a small creek bubbling through the trees, minnows flashing in its shallow waters, sunlight and shadows dappled across the surface.
A big mistake.
He drew to a halt, staring at the boy crouched beside the water, smiling down at his reflection as his fingertips waved playfully in the waters, the minnows brushing across his fingers, tiny scales flashing in the sun. He stilled before hestiantly glancing over his shoulders, instinctively aware that he was being watched.
A big mistake...
"Quatre..." Duo breathed.
The blond boy's eyes widened in mute surprise as he climbed quickly to his feet, something like hesitant joy and fear all at once rising in his eyes.
"Quatre," Duo repeated, walking forward, feeling as if he was in a dream.
"Duo," Quatre murmured, still looking stunned as his friend approached. "You.. found me..?" Then his eyes flicked to the side at a slight rustle of branches, and his eyes widened, mouth opening in a silent cry of warning.
Duo turned sharply, his companions almost running into him at his abrupt halt.
Glittering, cruel green eyes met his from only a leap away, tangled red curls stuck damply to a forehead wet with sweat. "Hello, Duo," the older boy was saying, lips curving in a smirk.
Duo's heart was pounding impossibly loud. He felt frozen to the spot.
"Long time no see."
Duo's voice finally seemed to work, but only as a breath of air. "Davarius..." Memories rushed on him, twisting his heart with fear and refusing to allow his arms or legs to work.
The other boy threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, no, Duo. You've got it all wrong."
Duo stared at him dumbly, dread rising in the back of his throat like bile. What was going on?
"You see, my name's actually Lucias," the boy was saying, eyes cruelly mocking as he raised a hand to point. "You've already met Davarius."
Cold steel pressed against Duo's temple, and the impossibly loud click of a gun startled Duo out of his trance. He glanced frantically to his side, desperately wishing he would just wake up and the whole nightmare would be over.
This couldn't be happeing, this couldn't be happening...
"Hey, Duo," Gable said, smiling at him, dark eyes bright with fierce triumph. "Thank you for fulfilling that idiot seer's prophecy and taking me to your little friend."
Something inside of Duo was screaming. He couldn't move. Trinity's hands tightned fearfully on his arm on his other side.
This couldn't be happening...
"Let me reintroduce myself," Gable offered smoothly, still smiling silkily. "My name is Davarius."
Author's notes: and the plot thickens.. *grinns*
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