Duo could never and would never forget the single most horrified expression ever to cross Heero Yuy's face when 'the shot heard around the world' went off approximately ten feet behind him.

The words fell off his lips before he had even spoken them to Duo, his eyes that had once rested comfortably on his comrade's face now filling with white. And just to make the tragedy all the more tragic, time gathered around them with the consistency of molasses, drawing each historic second out to its utmost for reasons unfathomable and cruel. Some preciously lighthearted comment was forever casualty as Duo beheld his face whiten and grow lifeless, animated only by the unequivocal fear in his eyes.

It surged up in him like fire, an unpredicted storm, a slap in the face, and his horribly expressive eyes barely took the time to blink before he lunged into motion. He turned and pitched into the slow churn of time as fast as he could. Infected by this unnamed and catastrophic dread, Duo felt his nerves fill with ice and his body magnetically trail Heero's, bristling with energy of the worst kind. He knew vaguely that his comrades were doing the same, scattered about the room, shoving bodies out of the way, propelled by blinding anxiety, but none as forcefully or as desperately as Heero.

Relena had begun screaming following the first shot and the horrific lull of the passage time and simultaneous outburst of movement, but the sound disappeared with the second.

Part 1

Utopia Burning

The gunman died instantly. Heero's body had just been traveling at such a force that when his fist came flying at his jaw that it simply twisted his head around on his neck and snapped his spinal cord with no more effort than he would snap a twig. With blood gushing between his lips and all the teeth on the offending side rendered to pieces, his lifeless and crooked body collided with the refreshment bar, ripping the antique lace tablecloth, sending wine soaring majestically into the air in a bloody and beautifully curved dance.

Here was where time intervened and returned in all its unconstrained glory, violently flinging the assassin's body against the wall, where it crumpled like a discarded doll.

Where Relena's scream had ended, the collective eruption of sound began as the crowd reacted vocally to the unbelievable happening. Duo heard the screams ripple through the hordes of people as he shoved his desperate way through, nearly knocking over the same people he had just mingled with fifteen minutes ago, with his own scream of "Preventer! Outta the way, god damn it—Preventer!" trying to claw its way above the din. The irony of that useless name would have been too much to think about—as the bodies finally parted and he came to a stop, his nice shirt rumpled, tail out, tie loose.

He distinctly felt his heart at the top of his throat and the foundation of the world spinning out beneath him. Duo felt his entire body try and buckle out beneath him, filled with cowardice at the sight before him. His hand groped backwards before he started to fall dizzily and used the shoulder of a near-by partygoer to propel him forward. "Shit," was all that seemed appropriate for a moment, watching Relena lying and bleeding on the conference room carpet and stumbling toward her.

Heero, a blur of fury and green tank top while in full attack mode, was stricken at Relena's side for that moment, kneeling in a splatter of her blood.

"Out of the way!" Wufei came rushing out from the bathroom an instant after the second shot, wiping his soapy hands on his khakis. If there was much room for expression of shock and outrage on his face, it was being expanded as he approached, each furious wrinkle growing more and more severe.

The Chinese pilot pushed through the gathering flock to crouch down near the crumpled Vice Foreign Minister, opposite Heero, breathless and scowling. Duo had never seen him short of breath for anything, not even Preventers physical exams. He looked just as lost as what to do as Heero for a second, not able to wrap his mind around the horrible reality of that pale, honey-haired girl bleeding on the floral print carpet, for one stunned breath. But he recovered quickly.

"Duo!" he snapped, whipping his head around. "Call the hospital and get Sally! She's at the hotel just down the block! Duo!"

At the same time, Trowa's tall form was blurring through the outer rim of horrified spectators, flanked by none other than the head of the Winner Corporation, both jaws dropped in an absurdly comical way and Quatre's warm face now deathly afraid and also flickering. Both their faces were blurring—no, they weren't moving that fast, Duo's vision was failing him, his sense of inner balance scampering to and fro with him as fear filled him like he had not felt for a long while, fucking with him. He staggered back, just looking at Relena, bleeding, a bullet in her side and another gushing at the crook of her neck.

Wufei's voice rose again. "Duo, get moving, damn it!" He was jostled to the side and his harsh command interrupted when Quatre hastily leaned his ear over the Vice Foreign Minister's slack mouth. He faintly heard Trowa barking at someone for a phone to call the medics. Security guards were filling through the doors on every side of the room.

Heero's face moved upward, almost without life, only mechanical urge, and he looked at Duo with the most helpless expression. The blood on the carpet had soaked up into the knees of his blue jeans and he had his hand over the wound in her side with the blood pumping over his long, bony fingers, and he knew exactly what to do—but he hadn't moved an inch. He looked up at Duo, and it was enough to send his sneakers flying across the carpet faster than he could have imagined, sending him lunging through the crowd for the emergency stairwell.

The silent, agape crowd parted like the Red Sea to let him pass, moving on instinct. The door latch buckled loudly as he shoved it open and thundered down the stairwell. He leapt the first flight of seven steps, stumbled on the landing, but moved madly on, his long tail of hair whipping loudly in the silent, stale air. Only a few briefs minutes later, the blur that was Duo Maxwell running for the life of peace, bleeding in a conference room, sprinted through the middle of the hotel lobby just next door but seemingly an eternity away, while the people there quaintly read their newspapers, not knowing that revolution was licking its chops just at each and every one of their doorsteps.