Ugh! When I went to post this last chapter, something went wrong with the html converter. I had to go through this line by line to remove the numbers and put back the quotation marks and apostrphes. What a job! Hope it works and that I got them all.
Disclaimer and Warning on first page of story.
Tangled in the Web
"Excuse me," A deep male voice called through the slight crack in the hospital room door around seven a.m., just after the nurse had been in to check the vitals of the two patients assigned to that room. Quatre, now occupying the chair next to the bed, stood to intercept the intruder before he could get more than two feet into the room. He motioned the man back outside and followed him, closing the door behind him.
"What can I do for you?" he asked, noting the uniformed police officer standing next to the room, just as the doctor had informed them the night before.
"My name is Sergeant Robert Carter, homicide investigator." The middle-aged man flipped open a black wallet to show the blond his badge and identification number, then put it away and held out his hand. Quatre placed his hand in the man's grasp and exchanged a firm handshake with him, noting with a glance that the man was about his height, maybe in his fifties, and had brown hair that was fading to grey around his receding hairline. His green eyes, or what he could see of them as they were half shut from the weight of drooping eyelids and heavy eyebrows, appeared serious and added to the projected air of competence that the man exuded.
"Quatre Winner," the younger man said, dropping his hand from the other's grip. "What can I do to help you?"
The sergeant cleared his throat before saying, "I'd like to ask Misters Yuy and Maxwell some questions as to what happened the night they were attacked."
Quatre took the man's arm and lowered his voice as he spoke. "They're still sleeping," he told the man. "You can question Heero after he wakes up, but he recalls very little. Duo is..." He stopped, not quite sure how to describe his friend's fragile state or the cause of it. "During the last year, Duo has been recovering from his mental and physical injuries sustained while in custody on Prison Colony Four. I'm sure you've already done a background check and you know what I'm talking about. He's been... fragile, emotionally and physically since then. Whatever happened to he and Heero during the week they were missing has obviously traumatized him further, and to the point that he's not speaking to us. You might be able to ask him simple questions that require a yes or no answer, but I can't promise you he'll respond. In the past, we've seen him shut down and withdraw into himself when a situation became too intense."
Sergeant Carter frowned. "The doctor told me that he didn't sustain any physical injuries that would prohibit my questioning him."
"I don't believe it's the physical injuries that haverendered Duo speechless," Quatre said, struggling to keep his patience. "I'ts his mental state. Perhaps with some counseling he'll eventually be able to tell us what happened."
"Do you think he's capable of writing it down?" the man persisted. "Because to tell you the truth, I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what went on in that house. The breaking and entering was clearly done by the dead man, Harley Stubbens, but there's also some question as to who killed Dr. McAdams. I've been informed by Mr. Peacecraft that your two friends disappeared after the death of an elderly woman who was close to them. He said Mr. Maxwell was afraid someone was stalking him, and he gave me the letter written by him that was provided by Mr. Barton. But it appears as if Misters Yuy and Maxwell never left the McAdams residence. What's the story behind that, the IVs and the storage room that looks as if it had been occupied?"
"We can only speculate as to what happened, Mr. Carter," Quatre answered. "Only Duo has the answers to those questions, and until he can speak again, I'm afraid getting the answers you seek will be almost impossible."
It didn't appear as if the policeman was very happy with the well-known young man that he'd seen on television and read about in the papers. Everyone who followed the news or tabloids knew who Quatre Winner was and what he and his friends had been during the wars. That status had often garnered them respect and some lenience in regards to the law, but not today. "I'm afraid that I"m going to have to speak with Mr. Maxwell anyway. His doctor said he's physically capable of enduring a brief interview, giving me a green light to do so. I'll try to be as tactful as I can when addressing the assault by Stubben's, but I think dealing with this now and getting the case closed and behind them will be more beneficial to both Maxwell and Yuy than letting it be needlessly strung out."
As the detective stepped towards the doorway, Quatre moved to block his way. "I'm afraid I can't allow you in there right now," he said, his eyes never leaving the other man's face. "They're sleeping, and Duo doesn't like strangers. If you'll come back later, I'll prepare him for your interview."
"I don't need your permission, Mr. Winner," Carter stated, eyeing the confident young man.
"No, you don't: the blond agreed pleasantly enough. "But I can guarantee that if you go in there right now and upset him, you're going to have three angry former gundam pilots breathing down your neck and on the phone to your superior. All I'm asking for is a little time to allow Duo to wake up, eat some breakfast and then prepare him for your questions."
How do I know you won't be rehearsing his responses to my questions?"
Quatre blinked at the man with surprise. "Do you honestly think we don't want the same answers as you?" he asked, incredulous that the man would think otherwise. "Let me assure you, Mr. Carter, Heero and Duo are family to us and someone has hurt them and caused Duo further physical and emotional trauma. The guilty party has already paid for his mistake, but that doesn't mean we don't want to know what happened. Time has taught us to be patient with Duo. His psychiatrist is due to arrive this morning around nine thirty. Could you come back at ten and ask him about Duo's mental state, and let him decide whether or not our friend is up to answering your questions?"
The man sighed and chewed on the inside of his cheek as he thought about the request. "All right," he conceded, looking at his watch. "I'll come back at ten."
Quatre gave the man a small, grateful smile. Thank you, Mr. Carter. Believe me, I'm not trying to forestall your investigations, I'm just trying to do what's best for my friend."
"Ihave two men deadand theirdeaths need to be explained, Mr. Winner," Carter stated, soberly. "It's my job to find out what happened in that house. If Mr. Barton is available, I"d like to question him now so that I don't go back to my superior officer completely empty handed."
Quatre nodded. "He's just getting up. We've been taking turns watching over our friends. If you'll just wait a moment, I'll send him out. I really don't want to disturb Heero and Duo's sleep anymore than it's already been by the nursing staff."
The man gave him a knowing look of sympathy, obviously having been in the hospital at some point in his life and had suffered from the around-the-clock care.
Two minutes later, Trowa came out of the room, his hair a bit worse for wear and his chin stubbled with a reddish beard from the lack of a morning shave. "Let's go into the waiting room, Mr. Barton," Carter said after their brief introduction, and together the two men turned to the left and headed down the corridor.
A half hour later, Quatre sought the two men out. "Trowa," he addressed his lover, looking somewhat anxious. The auburn-haired man stood from his seat immediately. "Duo'sbecoming quite anxious at your absence. Are you almost done?"
"If you'll excuse me,' Trowa said to the man, not asking for permission, but decidedly ending the interview. "I'm needed elsewhere." He then left the room without a look back.
"Mr. Winner," the detective called out to the blond. "I was wondering if you know where I can find Wufei Chang. Evidently Mr. Barton was on the phone with him when Stubbens made a threatening move towards Mr. Maxwell and was shot. I need to verify Mr. Barton's story with him."
"Check with Preventers and they"ll tell you how you can reach him."
The man looked skeptically at the blond. "I thought you people were close friends. Are you telling me you don't have his phone number or address?"
"I didn't say that," Quatre replied, cool and calm. "I don't give out personal information to anyone about my closest friends." He then turned to leave the room, leaving the other man standing in the empty room with a frown on his face. "See you at ten," the departing blond called over his shoulder, then disappeared around the corner.
Ten o'clock rolled around to find the persistent police sergeant tapping on the door of room 225-C. He opened it after hearing a summons and entered the room. Years of police work helped the professional man to school his reaction of surprise in finding the two men he sought to question lying in the hospital bed together. Mr. Yuy, recognizable from being on the news recently and the famous husband of the late Relena Peacecraft-Yuy, was leaning against the raised back of the hospital bed, his face pale and pinched with pain as he lay supported by many pillows. Within the shelter of Mr. Yuy's arms, tucked close against his side, was the long-haired man he could only guess was Duo Maxwell. At the far side of the bed stood a man in a business suit and tie that the sergeant immediately recognized as a frequent consultant to the courts. Closest to the door and standing next the bed stood the two young men he'd dealt with earlier that morning, Misters Winner and Barton. Quatre Winner moved towards him the moment he entered the room.
"Sergeant Carter," the blond greeted him in a serious manner. "Right on time."
"I pride myself on being punctual," the policeman stated as his eyes strayed from the blond man to the others in the room.
"An admirable trait to be sure," Quatre said polietly. "Let me make the introductions." He then turned to the other four. "You've met my partner, Trowa Barton." The auburn-haired young man inclined his head. "On the other side of the bed is Doctor Antonio Bertolini. He's been Duo's mental health physician for the last nine months."
Stepping away from the bed, the psychiatrist, a tall, fit-looking Italian man with a chiseled dark face, topped by a crop of black hair that was made distinguished by the white that was growing at his temples, held out his hand to the police sergeant. "Mr. Carter," the doctor said in a warm manner. "It's good to see you again."
"Nice to see you too," Carter replied, shaking the hand extended to him. Several years ago the well-known psychiatrist was called to testify in a murder case he'd investigated.
"And last but not least," Quatre continued as the two men dropped their hands and turned their attention to the bed. "Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell."
Sergeant Carter moved closer to the two and offered his hand, but quickly withdrew it when he saw Mr. Maxwell flinch and curl back into his bed partner's side, shying away from his hand as if it were a branding iron."
"You"ll have to excuse my patient's wariness," the doctor interjected. "Mr. Maxwell has some fears dealing with hands, and Mr. Yuy doesn't normally shake hands, for personal reasons."
Carter dropped his hand, feeling uncomfortable at the situation. But he had a job to do and he wasn't about to be waylaid just because the people he needed to question were former gundam pilots. "I have a few questions for both Mr. Yuy and Mr. Maxwell," he said.
"I'll answer what I can," Heero stated. "But Duo isn't up to speaking just yet."
Carter looked at the long-haired young man whose bruised face and swollen eye and jaw nearly matched the wounds of his protector behind him. The stingingly blue, almost violet eyes lowered the moment they'd made contact with his own. Looking to the doctor, he raised a questioning eyebrow.
"As you've been told, Mr. Maxwell is currently not speaking," Dr. Bertolini said. "We've yet to determine whether it's because he's been traumatized by the events of the last week or if he's sustained an injury to his throat that, in the past, has been the cause of a similar, prolonged silence. As you can see, he has bruising around his neck. The ENT specialist is expected this afternoon to examine his voice box for any injury. Whatever the reason, I'm sure that given time he'll be able to tell you what happened. But I must caution you from pressing him to answer your questions before he's ready."
"Can he answer yes or no questions?"
"I'm sure he can, but as his doctor, I'm concerned with his mental well being. I'll allow you to question him, but if at any time I decided he's becoming too stressed, I'll ask you to desist from further questioning."
"I think I can work with that," Carter replied, removing a note pad and pen from the inside of his sport jacket. "I'd just like to get enough information to close this case as soon as possible. I'll begin with Mr. Yuy."
Quatre then turned to address the police officer. "If you wouldn't mind, Sergeant Carter, would you please move to Heero's side of the bed while asking your questions. Duo will be more comfortable if you're not standing quite so close to him."
Puzzled by the request, the man looked to the doctor, saw his approving nod, than did as he was asked. He and the doctor exchanged places and in return received a smile of gratitude from the well-known heir to the Winner empire. The police detective cleared his throat and began. "Let's start at the beginning, Mr. Yuy. How did you come to be at Dr. McAdams's house and what do you recall of the events that led to your being here in the hospital?"
Heero's uninjured arm stayed around Duo's waist as he related to the man the recent events that led to them staying at Frank's house. He told him of the blood on their doorstep and then the dead animal carcass left there the next day. Then he related his version of the suspicious accident and what he'd been told of the break-in and destruction of their home. His voice faltered as he spoke of Frank's kindness, and stopped abruptly when he noticed Duo was shaking his head.
"What's the matter?" Quatre asked, moving quickly to his friend's side. Duo continued to vehemently shake his head, his face slightly contorted with a look of disapproval. Frustration shone from his amethyst-blue eyes as he looked from the blond to Heero's concerned face.
"Did I say something wrong?" Heero asked.
Duo nodded his head.
"About Frank?" he guessed, as that was the last thing he'd spoken of.
Duo nodded again.
Heero looked up at the other men in the room, clearly uncertain about how to proceed.
"Is there something about Frank McAdams that is different from what Heero is saying?" Dr. Bertolini asked.
Another vigorous nod came from the braided man, causing other men in the room to exchange expressions of puzzlement.
"Can you write down what you're trying to say?" the detective asked, holding out his pad of paper and pen to Duo. The battered-looking, long-haired young man looked at the proffered writing implements, then with obvious reluctance, reached out for them. For the first time, Carter noticed the fingers on the younger man's hands seemed somewhat misshapen.
Seeing where the police detective's gaze went, Trowa spoke up for the first time since the police officer entered the room. "Duo's fingers were broken while he was in prison. They weren't allowed to heal properly and arthritis set in. He's had corrective surgery, but there's too much permanent damage to give him full mobility. It's difficult for him to write, especially when he's stressed."
The detective nodded and looked to Duo with compassion etched on his face. "Just do your best, Mr. Maxwell. I can see you have something important to say. We'll figure it out."
Duo nodded and clutched the pen awkwardly in his right hand while his left hand held the small pad of paper. He bent over the pad and with effort wrote down a few words then handed the tablet to Trowa. The tall man studied the scrawled printing and everyone in the room heard his sharp intake of breath.
"What is it?" Quatre and Heero said at the same time.
Trowa looked up from the pad with disbelief on his face. His eyes sought out Duo's. "Does this say that Frank killed Mrs. Lunderson?" he asked. Duo solemnly nodded his head and sadness filled his eyes.
"Did he tell you that?" Heero questioned his lover. Again Duo nodded.
"What motive would the doctor have had to kill an elderly woman?" Carter asked somewhat dubiously.
Duo motioned for the pad back, and scratched down some more words, then again handed it back to Trowa for reading.
Trowa quickly deciphered the rough printing. ":Insane. Jealous. Thought I was his son."
Was he jealous of Mrs. Lunderson?" Quatre asked, and noted Duo's nod of confirmation that it was true.
"She'd invited us to stay with her," Heero supplied more information. "Duo wanted us to temporarily move back in with her in order to help after the accident. And even though he'd become more comfortable with Frank than he'd been before, he felt safer in her home than his."
Trowa looked back to Duo, only to see his friend's emotion-filled eyes fixed on him. Tears began to gather in those wide, bloodshot and bruised eyes. I'm sorry, Duo's eyes said to him. My fault.
"No," Trowa said firmly. "It's not your fault." He then leaned over the raised handrail to embrace his friend, and from over Duo's shoulder his eyes met Heero's startled ones. It seemed the both of them were at a loss for words at the unexpected bomb of information Duo had just tossed out.
"So if I understand you correctly," the police man persisted. "Mr. McAdams thought you were his son?"
Duo frowned, then looked to Trowa and mouthed the word 'sometimes'. The auburn-haired man repeated the word out loud to the others.
"And because you wanted to stay with Mrs. Lunderson he killed her?"
Again, the nod of Duo's head answered the question, his eyes clearly displaying his sorrow at the reminder of Mrs. L's senseless murder.
"Did he commit any of the other acts against you or Mr. Yuy?" Carter asked, and he wasn't too surprised to see Duo silently answer to the affirmative, though the look of disbelief on his friend's faces showed they were shocked by the revelation.
The police detective then went through some of the events Heero had mentioned earlier and it wasn't too long until they pieced together that Frank had caused the car accident by cutting the brake line and that he'd let the dog out in order to have an alibi for killing Mrs. Lunderson. Carter kept questioning Duo until they were able to figure out, by yes and no answers, that Frank hadn't taken credit for the blood or the dead animal that had been left on their front porch nor the plundering of their home. The four men standing around the bed and Heero could only speculate that Stubbens was the one to carry out those crimes, though there was no evidence to prove that theory.
The slow and often laborious process of piecing together the information took its toll on the two injured men and Trowa called an end to the questioning until after Heero and Duo rested. Dr. Bertolini apologized for not being able to return that afternoon because of prior commitments, but before he left, he asked the police sergeant to respect Trowa's decision to halt the questioning if Duo became too stressed to continue.
Sergeant Carter returned at three o'clock sharp that afternoon, ready to resume his questioning. He began by once again asking for Wufei. He quickly learned that no one had heard from him. With everyone but the absent doctor in relatively the same positions they had been earlier that day, Carter addressed the two battered men sitting together on the bed. Duo scribbled some words on the pad of paper to give them a clue as to what went on in Frank's house after they'd come back from finding Mrs. Lunderson dead on her living room floor. The four men reacted in different ways to the information that Duo had been kept in line by a remote control that Frank altered. The retired doctor told him a press of a button would activate one of Heero's IVs that it contained a muscle relaxant that would stop his lover's heart from beating within moments after the drug entered his bloodstream.
After that information had been translated by Duo's limited means of communication, Heero abruptly asked everyone to leave the room for several minutes so that he could be alone with his lover. Once the door closed, he pulled Duo into his arms, and regardless of the pain the movement caused, held him close. He didn't know who needed reassuring the most, himself or Duo. He just knew that his lover had been placed in a terrible position and that he'd acted the only way he could have.
Mr. Carter came back into the room five minutes later with Quatre and Trowa close behind, and the information session began again. As Carter probed further, asking Duo questions concerning Stubben's entry into the house and the timetable of events during his attack, the braided man became visibly agitated and pensive, the questions regarding the attack obviously made him uncomfortable. When he turned his face away and into Heero's hospital gown covered chest, Trowa called a halt to the questioning. The police detective wasn't happy about it, but he backed off, stating that he'd be back again the next morning.
As soon as the detective left, Quatre pulled out his cell phone and checked his messages. Scanning through them, he let out an aggravated sigh that Wufei hadn't called. Without waiting, he walked over to the window that looked out over the hospital's large parking lot and hit the programmed number.
"Chang here," Wufei's voice responded in his usual business-like manner.
"Where the hell are you?" Quatre hissed, his hand covering his mouth to try and hide his conversation from the other three across the room.
"I'm on my way. I'll explain when I get there."
The click in his ear signaled that Wufei had ended the call. Ignoring the other messages waiting, Quatre turned off his phone and flipped it closed, then walked back to the bed to find both Heero and Trowa trying to reassure Duo, who lay silent and still against Heero's side.
"Wufei's on his way," he told them. It was almost comical to see the three of them nod in unison after receiving that information, but it was their somber faces mirroring each other's troubled thoughts that took away any humor he'd momentarily felt. Looking at the three quiet and contemplative men, he realized he was now the only talker in the group. With Duo's voice out of commission, he supposed it was up to him to keep the others distracted. "Anyone want to watch some television?"
Heero looked at him as if he'd lost his mind; Trowa's expression was that of being perplexed by the offer, and Duo nodded that he did indeed want to watch T.V. To Quatre, that was the only answer that mattered. He picked up the remote and turned on the television only to find that there was nothing of interest to watch. He flipped through the stations until he found reruns of a comedy sitcom that had been canceled at least five years ago. He knew Duo liked it, and so that was what they were going to watch.
Wufei arrived about twenty-five minutes later, dressed casually and carrying a curiously large, black duffle bag on his shoulder that he immediately set down on the foot of the bed. All eyes in the room watched as he unzipped the top of the bag and out of the its confines came a familiar grey head.
"Sinjin!" Trowa and Quatre both called out with delighted surprise. Excited at having his name called, Sinjin jumped out of the bag and onto the bed. He then paused to shake his body while the four of them stared at amazement at the dog's presence. A moment later, he was being hugged tightly against Duo's chest, the braided man's face nestled into the wiry fur of the animal's neck.
"How did you find him?" Heero asked with a tired yet happy smile. Though he was obviously pleased by the dog's return, the strain in his voice and the paleness of his face showed the others that he'd had enough for one day.
"I had one of the pictures Duo had sent me of Sinjin printed up, then gave a sob story to the media, appealing to the public to help in finding the lost dog who belonged to someone recovering in the hospital from a vicious attack. Twenty minutes after the broadcast, I had had fifteen leads to follow up."
Trowa snorted. "Like they wouldn't know who you were talking about. I'm sure it's been all over the news that Heero and Duo were injured in an attack, though the police investigator told me the details of what happened haven't been released."
"How much did you offer as a reward?" Quatre asked, deliberately turning the conversation in a different direction after seeing a look of alarm enter Duo's eyes. Duo had always wary about his whereabout being known. At first, they'd thought he was just being paranoid; but now they knew better. Earlier, while visiting the cafeteria, the blond had momentarily watched a local news show on the television that was set up in that very public dining room. To his dismay the name of the city and street that their friends' and Frank McAdams's homes were located had been given in the news report along with sketchy information about what the police had found at the crime scene: two injured and unconscious former gundam pilots and two deceased men. The reporter had ended the segment by stating that the incident was being further investigated by the local police while the two former gundam pilots were recuperating in the local hospital. Quatre knew without a doubt that there was no way that Duo would be comfortable returning to their home, not with that kind of publicity. His fears of being hunted down by inmates in the colony had proven to be true, and none of them would take the chance of that ever happening again.
"Fifteen," Wufei answered the blond's question about the cost, looking sheepish.
"You offered the public a fifteen credit reward for their assistance?" Trowa asked, looking doubtful.
"Hundred," Wufei corrected. "Fifteen hundred."
Duo lifted his head from the furry mass to look at Wufei with the look of disbelief on his face, more or less asking, Are you kidding me?
"I thought it was enough of an incentive to get the dog back."
Duo shifted the wiggling dog to Heero's lap and signaled his Chinese friend over.
Wufei looked to Duo and then Heero, silently asking about the braided man's silence. "Duo's not able to talk right now," Heero explained, guessing that Wufei was wondering about his lover's continued silence. "We don't know if it's because of the psychological trauma caused by the attack or the injury to his neck."
A pained expression crossed Wufei's face as he stepped forward and carefully embraced his long-haired friend. "I'm sorry," he whispered into Duo's ear. "I should have been here."
Feeling Duo's head shake, he knew the braided man didn't want him to carry his guilt around.
"We'll pay you back," Heero said.
Duo nodded towards the dog.
"There's no need," Wufei replied. "The people who found him were reluctant to let him go, but when I assured them that his owner was crazy about him and needed his dog in order to recuperate, they turned him over to me, refusing the reward, and sending a wish for you to get better soon."
Duo's eyes lit up at the unexpected act of kindness from strangers. He turned his head to share a look of wonder with Heero. It was Quatre who spoke up, expressing their thoughts for them. "It amazes me sometimes to know that there are both incredibly kind and honorable people in this world that share the same oxygen with men such as Stubbens." The others nodded their agreement.
"So what happened while I was out looking for the dog?" Wufei asked, knowing something had gone on in his absence from Quatre's tone of voice on the phone. The blond rarely used profanity, and when he did, it was because the situation warranted it.
"How about we treat you to dinner in the cafeteria and bring you up to date while we eat,&" Trowa said. The look he gave Wufei told him to go along with the suggestion.
Reluctant to leave the two in the bed after just arriving, Wufei hesitated. "What about the dog? I'm sure the nurses aren't going to be pleased to find an animal in the room."
Quatre smiled. "They've got the entire floor of nurses either afraid of them or wrapped around their fingers. I don't think the staff will begrudge the dog being here as long as he doesn't stay all night. We'll take him home with us when we go, for safekeeping," he said, looking to Duo as he added the last part for his nod of approval. The dog was once more in its owner's arms and both of them seemed to be content for the moment.
"All right. We'll be back shortly," Wufei told the two men on the bed. Duo nodded, and Heero looked ready to fall back to sleep, with his half-closed eyelids sliding southward.
Over the unappealing cafeteria meal they'd purchased, Trowa explained to Wufei what they'd discovered in their questioning of Duo during his absence. The look of disbelief and shock on his face mirrored their own reactions earlier that day were apparent on Wufei's face as he was told of Frank McAdams's part in Heero's car accident, Mrs. L.'s death and then having held Duo hostage in his basement while he held Heero captive, in a coma, with a lethal IV set up to go off if Duo didn't cooperate.
"Talk about a snake in the grass," Wufei said, stunned at the revelations. "How is it possible that he got past Heero's protective defenses? He's always been able to sense the presence of danger, especially when it concerns Duo."
Quatre sighed, looking from Trowa to Wufei. "I think Heero was just grateful to have some help with Duo. The three of us took off and then he went back to work, leaving Duo alone for the first time since Trowa brought him back to earth. From what Duo said when we talked to him, it seems as if Frank stepped in to fill the gap the four of us left in Duo's life. It took a while, but I think Duo was finally warming up to the man, which probably encouraged Dr. McAdams in his delusions of believing that he was his deceased son."
Wufei closed his eyes and ran his hands through his loose hair. "What a mess," he said to with a groan, then opened his eyes to look up to the other two men. "Where do we go from here?"
"We sell the house," Trowa said, keeping his voice down so that no one sitting nearby could hear him. "There's no way they can go back there after what's happened, especially when the media's announced where they live. Duo will be much too paranoid for a while to be anywhere he thinks he'll be found."
"But it's their home," Quatre said sadly. He'd come to the same conclusion earlier, but it saddened him that they should have to sell their home, a place that had been a sanctuary to their American friend.
"Where will they go?"Wufei asked.
Trowa shrugged. "I'm not sure. We'll have to find a secure place where they can take time to recover. I'll move them wherever they can feel safe,"he stated, then looked to Quatre. "Will you go with us, love?"
"I'd follow you to the Pluto to settle a colony if that's what you want, Trowa," Quatre answered, his face glowing with the love he felt for the man who held his heart and owned his soul. Together they turned to look at Wufei.
"I've already pledged that I'll not them again. I'll go wherever they want to live. The Preventers are world and colony wide. I'm sure that with the experience I've gained, I'll find a position wherever we end up moving."
"Talk to Heero about it." Quatre turned to address Trowa. "We can't sell the house without their consent."
Trowa nodded. "I will, in the morning when Duo's in the shower. The doctor thinks they can be released then. I think we should we bring them to our house for the time being."
"Yes, that would be best," the blond agreed. "I don't think they'll want to return to their home even to close it up. I went through it while we were searching for them and it's basically empty anyway from the vandalism. Once you get Heero's permission, we'll contact a real estate agent."
"Sounds like a plan," Trowa answered. He then smiled, realizing that phrase was something Duo would say.
"Any ideas onwherewe shoud move?" Wufei asked, already mentally planning what he needed to begin doing in order to relocate.
"We'll pull out the Atlas and do a computer search," Trowa said. "And I think it might be best if we select several possible locations and then let them pick. We've all pretty much decided to go anywhere they want, so let's let Duo have the majority of the vote."
"Within reason," Wufei stated firmly. He could conjure up a lot of places that the American might pick that he would deem unappealing.
Quatre gave him a knowing look, probably sensing his trepidation and smiled. "I agree."
By the time they'd returned to the room, the ENT specialist had come by on his rounds and gone. Heero, barely awake, told them that the specialist had examined Duo's throat and doubted the injury to his neck had caused his silence. That bit of information disturbed the other four even more. A psychological refusal to speak would be harder to deal with than a physical reason.
Sinjin was unhappily put back into the duffle bag as Quatre and Trowa prepared to leave for the night. Wufei volunteered to stay and keep watch over the two, then went to introduce himself to the hospital security guard that was stationed outside the room's door. Heero quickly drifted off to sleep, so it was to Duo that the two men said their goodbyes to, giving him their reassurance that they would be back in the morning.
Left alone, the television volume set on low, Wufei settled into the chair next to the bed for a while, deciding that if he got too tired, he'd take a brief nap on the vacant bed. He felt a tug on his shirt sleeve and looked to see Duo staring at him.
"Ready for bed?"
Duo nodded that he was. Then he mouthed the words, Goodnight, Wufei.
The Chinese man smiled softly, feeling great affection for his American friend. "Good night, Duo. Sleep well."
He kept his eyes on the braided man and observed him as he snuggled close against Heero's side and drifted off to sleep, obviously feeling secure with his lover and friend close by. Trying to get comfortable in the well-used chair, Wufei turned his attention to the television and the long night began.
Detective Carter showed up the next morning like clockwork. He once again asked Duo questions about his attack, but each time he came to the scene in the bedroom after Heero had been knocked down and beaten, Duo folded into himself, refusing to communicate in any way. Frustrated at his inability to get all the facts, the detective's patience began to wear thin. The moment his voice rose, Wufei manhandled him out of the room, placed a call to the head of Preventers, and Detective Carter was banned from the hospital room and from speaking any further with Duo Maxwell without his personal psychiatrist present. Quatre and Trowa entered the room just after that unpleasant scene, and quickly signed the release forms and whisked their friends out of the hospital and into the comfort and shelter of their own home.
Two uneventful weeks passed by from the day the two former gundam pilots had been released from the hospital. And on a slightly cloudy morning, with the air moist with the promise of rain, the five friends took a ride together in Wufei's Preventer-issued sedan. Wufei drove a bit slower than he usually did as they neared their destination. Quatre sat in the seat next to him, Sinjin secure in his lap, panting happily and fogging up the passenger and a portion of the front car window. The back seat was rather cramped with Duo sitting snugly between Heero and Trowa, but no one was complaining. In fact, the car was unusually quiet as they drove the route to the neighborhood they'd all come to know very well.
The car slowed as they neared the two familiar houses. Frank's house still had bright yellow tape stretched across the front porch and door, warning everyone that it was a crime scene under investigation. Duo held tightly to Heero's hand as many dark memories came back to him. Yet as Wufei parked the car across the street from the structure that had been their home, it was the For Sale sign on the front yard that caused a myriad of emotions to be shared between the two lovers.
Duo looked behind him and into Heero's eyes, asking without words if they really had to do this. He received an apologetic look from his lover in return. "Do you want to take one last look around?" Heero asked, squeezing the cold hand held in his own.
Duo shook his head, and the others figured he wanted to remember their home for the happier times and not for what had transpired there during the last couple of weeks.
"When will the police close their investigation?" Quatre asked, frowning as he gazed at the yellow tape draped across the front porch and door of Frank McAdams's house.
"Yesterday," Wufei answered, his own eyes scanning the two houses. "Milliardo urged Detective Carter to close the case. He got Dr. Bertolini to put into writing that pressuring Duo into remembering what happened that day was detrimental to his health. Since they pieced together most of what happened from mine, Trowa and Heero's accounts, Carter agreed. The case is officially closed."
The sigh of relief that came from Duo was clearly heard by the other four, and they wondered at it. "Does that make you feel better, Duo?" Quatre asked, turning in his seat to look back at the man in the middle of the back seat, sandwiched securely between the other two.
Duo nodded, then turned to take one last look at the house that had been his home, his sanctuary and his prison for over a year. He felt Heero shift next to him, his cast-covered arm joining his uninjured one in circling his waist and pulling him back slightly to rest against the strong, warm chest. Looking up, he saw Trowa studying him, and gave the man who hadsaved him yet again a knowing grin and a surprising wink. Then the car went completely silent as he whispered in a raspy voice. "Let's go." There came a gasp from behind him and the arms around his middle tightened. Duo smiled as he felt feverish kisses of relief and gratitude being pressed against his neck and cheek and anywhere else his lover's lips could reach. He automatically tilted his head to receive more.
"Duo!" Quatre whispered his name. Turning to look at his blond friend, Duo saw the blue-green eyes pool with happy tears, and a glowing, waxing smile growing on his handsome face. Wufei, too, had turned around and looked surprised and ... pleased. But it was Trowa who once again caught Duo's attention again. The auburn-haired man was focused on him, a suspicious expression on his face. Then suddenly, his eyes widened with understanding, and Duo could see that Trowa had just come to the realization that he'd held his silence only to protect him from any possible criminal investigation for killing his attacker. If he'd been asked to tell the truth about the events leading to the man's demise, he'd have to tell the truth, and then Trowa could very well have gone to prison for the outright killing of the vile man who had attacked them. In keeping his silence, he protected the man who had saved him, twice now. Duo smiled at his rescuer. It felt good to return the favor.
Leaning forward, Trowa reached around and hugged the braided man, including Heero in the embrace. "I'd do it again," he whispered into Duo's ear, reassuring him that he would be protected and safe wherever the five of them decided to live.
"Me too," Duo whispered, his voice still gruff from disuse as gave his friend a pat on the back.
A few moments later the car started and Wufei drove them slowly away from the neighborhood that they would probably never see again. Duo sat back within the shelter of Heero's arms, knowing that as long as he needed it, he was going to be surrounded by the security of these strong and loyal friends. The knowledge warmed him and he knew that with their help, he would soon try taking those beginning steps towards independence once again. He may have suffered some setbacks, but he was no quitter. He grinned, thinking of himself as being pretty much like a punching bag; no matter how hard he was punched, he'd bounce back again.
Quatre began to talk excitedly about the future, listing several possible locations they could choose from as their new home. Each one was far away from the public eye and scrutiny. All four listened with interest even though their eyes were turned outward to the scenery beyond the car windows and the passing neighborhood. With Heero's arms around him and Trowa holding onto his hand, Duo sensed that the future was going to be something to look forward to again. And as the car rounded the corner at the end of the block, he didn't feel the need to look back and look one last time.
Well, that's it! I hope you enjoyed reading this fic. I believe it's my first and last sequel. Thanks, as always, to Swordy for all your help. If I haven't burned her out completely, there will me at least a couple more stories to come. And thanks again to those who comment and review.