From the East, the Sun

Pairing: Heero/Duo, Trowa/Quatre,

Warnings: BL, adult situations, OC child, light angst, mild violence, language

Author Notes: Written for the 2007 MoR Seven Deadly Sins contest.

The 'first order of business' was harder to execute than originally believed. Even with Quatre's diplomatic skill, and Duo's threats, the police held their ground. The detective overseeing the case declared that he would move only if ordered to do so by someone of higher authority.

It was close to four in the morning when the sound of a new vehicle arrived, and parked at the curb in front of the house. Trowa was at the window instantly, the curtain barely moving in his hand as he watched. He gave the 'stand down' signal, and Duo went to the door and let Wufei inside.

Greetings were cut short; Wufei demanded to know the latest. The lead detective gave him his update – clear, concise, and very little headway. Trowa stepped in next and supplied him with a copy of the note, what Quatre's labs had discovered about the note, and their plan of execution.

"What are they still doing here, then?" Wufei asked, nodding to the two detectives. Duo snorted and turned his back on them. Quatre began to smile, and Heero and Trowa took up flanking positions to either side of Wufei.

"My captain assigned this case to me," the lead stated. "Until he, or someone above him, tells me otherwise, I am still investigating."

Wufei gave a curt nod and flipped open his mobile. A single number punched, and he held it to his ear. Within a moment, his call was answered, and he barked a single word into the mouthpiece, "Chang." A moment later, he was handing the phone to the lead detective.

The detective glared at the phone dubiously, but took it from Wufei's hand. His professional greeting was cut short, and he instantly straightened. "Yes, Ma'am," he stammered. "Immediately, Ma'am." And the tiny voice escaping out to the room at large went silent, the call ended with a loud click.

Handing his phone back, the detective was now staring at Wufei with a new respect. "That was…"

"I know," Wufei said sharply. "Now, you've been given your orders. So, if you gentlemen will clear out." Wufei's tone held no room for argument, and he stood sentry, making sure equipment and personnel left as requested.

"So," Duo started, coming to stand by his old time friend. "Who did you call?"

"My wife," Wufei answered, his lips twitching.

Duo shot a look at Heero who was looking decidedly smug. "Your wife," he repeated. "Weren't you and—"

"Yes, we were," Wufei confirmed.

"Damn," Duo swore.

The house fell into near silence after the last detective and piece of police equipment were gone. Quatre picked up leftover take-out cups, and disappeared into the kitchen. Duo dropped into a chair at the table, and lowered his head into his hands. Heero pulled a seat close, and kept a comforting hand on Duo's back.

"Who is this Stevensen?" Wufei asked, coming to stand in the dining room by the table. "Do we know his role in Illium?"

"Quatre's intelligence believes him to be the son of the group's founder, Alexander Novatny, and new head," Trowa supplied immediately. "There are no authenticated photos of him, but there is a group picture taken before the satellite attack." Trowa placed the photo on the table in front of Wufei; Duo raised his head to look. "He's the third man on the left from Novatny."

"That's him! That's the guy who shook my hand," Duo shouted, coming to his feet.

"Shook your hand?" Wufei asked, looking up from the photo.

"A couple of weeks ago," Duo said in a rush. "This man—this Novatny, approached me when I was with Ryan. He blathered on about Quatre and meeting us there this past summer." He shifted his look from Wufei to Quatre. "He even knew Ryan had won the relay for his age group—said he knew you." His hand sought out Heero's hand blindly. "If I had said something then—"

"Then he would have found some other way," Trowa put in firmly. "He used the opportunity to lift your prints." All heads turned his way. "The film is still in the crime lab, but based on what we've been told, and Duo's description of the 'goo', our labs believe it to have been a polymer adhesive. A close cousin to superglue."

"Makes me want to adopt Heero's old policy of never shaking hands," Duo muttered.

"Again, he would have found some other way," Trowa told him. "It would have been easier and less risky for the group to pick through your garbage, or take a discarded cup, bottle, can—something they know you've touched. But, our security analysts believe this man to hold an arrogance his father never did."

"And his father was pretty damn arrogant," Quatre added.

"What's the group's beef? Why target Winner Enterprises?" Wufei asked.

"Why not?" Quatre snorted. "Blame the big corporations for all your troubles. If your company goes out of business, regardless of how mismanaged it was, blame the corporation! After all, we're nothing but money grabbing scumbags—"

"The faction is—was comprised of three small corporations, now defunct," Trowa cut in, putting a hand on Quatre's shoulder. "Each of the three claim grievances with WEI, and Novatny even brought suit against us." He gave his partner's shoulder a squeeze. "The allegations were absurd, but the courts gave them a chance to present their case."

"They lost?" Heero asked, already knowing the answer. "And WEI was blamed again, for having money to buy the judgment, to have the best lawyers…"

"Exactly," Quatre agreed. "Novatny was prepared to martyr himself, his company, and all his assets, and won the support of others who felt 'oppressed' and 'disenfranchised'."

"Their agenda seems to be to become martyrs to their cause – to take down big corporations on earth and the colonies."

"And kidnapping Ryan will further that?" Duo demanded.

"I've made it no secret how much I love my godson," Quatre said quietly. "It would be common knowledge that I would do anything for him." He shrugged lightly. "The ransom won't break me, but the treaty has the potential. No matter if I honor it or not."

"If it is honored, it means pulling out of several ventures not yet capitalized, the loss of several thousand to the hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the discrediting of WEI's contracts—"

"The penalties alone add up to what they ask for in ransom," Quatre threw in. "If I were to honor the treaty, I might as well sign over the corporation to them."

"And if he doesn't?" Heero asked.

Trowa shared a look with Quatre. "Illium can claim fact in what they've been saying all along. WEI corruption from the highest level."

"Then we need to develop our plan to rescue Ryan safely, without putting WEI at risk," Wufei said decidedly.

Duo found himself drawn to Ryan's room. It was midmorning, and he refused to sleep. Rudimentary plans had been made, waiting the final touches as soon as Illium contacted them again. He picked up the latest book he'd been reading to Ryan, traced the cover picture with his finger, and flipped through its pages.

Clothes lay discarded on the floor from two days before, and Duo picked them up, folding them automatically, only to bring them to his face. He inhaled Ryan's scent – that combination of little boy sweat, dirt, and blasting caps. Hugging Ryan's clothes to his chest, Duo sat heavily on his bed, willing the anger to override the tears.

"My daughter turned four last week," Wufei said from the door. "My son is not yet a year old." He was crossing the room, and came to a stop beside Duo. "There is nothing I fear more than for something to happen to either of them."

Duo exhaled audibly, without acknowledging what Wufei was saying.

"On my honor," Wufei pledged, dropping to his knee and bowing his head. "On the honor of those I hold dear, I vow to you on oath as the surviving member of the Dragon Clan, and the promise of a Preventer, I will return your son to you."

His hand reached out and touched the top of Wufei's head. "Don't…don't promise something you might not be able to deliver," Duo croaked. He turned his head to look at Wufei. "I know you'll try—they'll all try, sacrificing themselves even. But, we don't even know if he's still alive."

"You cannot give up hope. Trowa's intelligence about this man, on this group indicates that they will not harm him." Duo nodded, and pulled his hand away. Wufei watched him in silence for several long minutes. "Heero needs you," he said softly. "Heero needs you to need him."

"Heero's a big boy," Duo mumbled, his eyes flicking to Wufei and away.

"And so are you, but you still need one another." Wufei rose to his feet, and he stood over Duo a moment longer. "Let him be there for you, Duo." He was gone, and Duo didn't hear him leave.

A minute or sixty later, the door opened again. The footsteps crossing the carpet were quiet, but familiar, and Duo sighed at the recognition. Heero sat next to him, and slid an arm around his back, holding him loosely.

"I miss him, Heero," Duo said quietly. "It's been less than a day, and there's this emptiness inside…" He choked, and hugged Ryan's clothes tighter.

"I know," Heero murmured softly. "I want nothing more than to have him jump from a closet, yelling 'surprise', or crawl out from under the bed." His voice faded, and his arm tightened around Duo.

Duo looked up from the carpet, turning his eyes to Heero. "You look like shit," he whispered. "When's the last time you slept?"

"I could say the same of you," Heero returned, ghosting a smile.

"I'm supposed to look like shit." But Duo's voice lost the humor it started with. "I keep thinking this is just a dream—a nightmare I can't wake from."

"He's going to be all right, Duo," Heero insisted quietly.

Duo's mouth twisted in an ugly sneer. "I know the statistics, Heero, and they say he is anything but." Sighing, he turned back to contemplating the carpet. "I tried. I really tried to keep him safe, to protect him."

"You did, you have," Heero told him, his hand soothing on Duo's back. "Sometimes things happen totally out of our control."

"If you tell me it's a God thing," Duo was back to glaring at Heero, "I swear I'm going to punch you."

"No," Heero assured. "I was trying to tell you that no matter how much you can plan and prepare, sometimes the very thing we safeguard against, happens."

Duo sighed heavily, and let Heero draw him closer. He slumped against Heero's shoulder, letting his strength support him. His eyes drifted shut; he could almost hear Ryan telling him the story his techmechas played out. "He wanted to go play with Aaron, and I yelled at him," Duo murmured into Heero's shirt. "If I'd just let you stay the night—"

"Stop it," Heero chided. "Wishing changes on any act done, does not make it change. You'll make yourself insane thinking of all the things you could have done differently."

"Fuck, Heero, I just don't know what to do any more." He pushed off Heero's shoulder and turned to stare at him. "I know what I want to do. I want to kill—to destroy that man."

"And I want to be there when you do," Heero told him quietly. Duo released his hold on Ryan's clothes with one hand and reached for Heero, circling his shoulders with his arm. He was leaning into him, with his cheek pressed to Heero's chest, and Heero turned with a twist of his waist to hold him.

"Don't let me lose you, Heero."


"I'm being an asshole, I know. But I want Ryan back."

"I know, Duo."

"I can't lose you again." Duo was breathing heavily, his voice thickening hoarsely.

"You're not. I'm here. I plan to stay here," Heero assured softly.

"Not the one-night stand kind of guy—" Duo's voice was cracking.

"I'm the forever kind of guy," Heero murmured, and tightened his embrace. Duo was silent, but his breathing had evened out. A low gurgle sounded, and Heero shifted, peering down at Duo's bent head. "When's the last time you ate?"

Duo shrugged, frowning. "Don't remember."

"I can bring you something to eat, if you want?"

Shaking his head, Duo told him no. "But, maybe a glass of water?"

"Water, then," Heero agreed, and Duo pulled away, watched Heero push himself off the bed, and walk to the door.

Heero had left the door ajar and sound from the other parts of the house filtered in. Though most of the noises were indistinguishable, he recognized Wufei's voice, low and confident. Talking to someone on the phone, Duo concluded. The pauses weren't being filled by another voice.

It was familiar, comforting in an odd sort of way. Duo lay on Ryan's bed with bent knees to fit, and Ryan's clothes hugged to his chest, facing the door waiting for Heero to return.

When Heero entered the kitchen, Quatre was standing before the refrigerator staring at the picture Ryan drew. Heero stopped just inside the kitchen, looking to see what captured Quatre's attention. His heart clenched and he turned away, reaching into the cupboard for a glass. Quatre moved aside, glancing at him briefly when Heero opened the refrigerator door.

"This is you in the picture," Quatre stated more than questioned.

Replacing the water pitcher, Heero gave a short nod. "Ryan drew it the other day."

"He must think a lot of you."

Heero shrugged. "Enough. I'm his teacher."

Quatre smiled softly. "I never would have believed you would have become a teacher. But, somehow, it seems right that you are."

"I enjoy it," Heero said. "Most of the time," he amended.

"Good." Quatre's smile dropped. "How's Duo?"

Heero shrugged again. "About what anyone could expect. He's under the belief Ryan's…not unharmed."

Quatre's mouth tightened. "I will tear this city apart until we find him, and if he has been harmed, there is no place for that bastard to hide."

"Affirmative," Heero agreed, his hand gripping Quatre's shoulder in solidarity.

After setting the requested water on Ryan's nightstand, Heero watched Duo for a moment. He had been gone less than five minutes. His smile tender and small, Heero pulled the blanket from the end of Ryan's bed and drew it up to cover Duo. With one last look, he turned away and started for the door.

"Stay," Duo whispered.

Heero turned back. "I thought you were sleeping."

"Maybe I could be," Duo mumbled, and closed his eyes.

Eyeing the bed, barely large enough to hold its current grown occupant, Heero crawled over Duo's legs, and stretched himself out on his side at Duo's back. His arm fit nicely around Duo's waist; his knees and hips bent in line with Duo's.

Over Duo's head, Heero could see the red illuminated numbers of Ryan's bedroom clock. Twenty-one hours, fourteen minutes earlier, Ryan was watching cartoons and asking to go over to a friend's house.

In position on site, Wufei scanned the checkpoint area, making sure Heero was in place. Receiving an affirmative response, he settled back to watch the van, hoping for a sighting of its occupants through the scope of his rifle. It was a hasty plan, but it should suffice to achieve their goal.

Quatre and Duo were expected to arrive in the next few minutes, Trowa tagging along behind. Wufei checked his watch; forty-four minutes, thirty-two seconds into the countdown. The van confirmed that this would be the last run in this grotesque scavenger hunt.

Minutes before dusk, a special messenger delivered a package to Duo's house, addressed to Quatre. Questioning the courier resulted in little information – the package had been left the week before with instructions on exact delivery date and time. Inside the box was a disposable mobile phone, a note wrapped around it with a time stamped on it. The box and packaging were sent to the nearest Preventer's lab, even knowing there wasn't time before the call was expected.

Believing the timestamp was when the kidnapper planned to call with instructions, Wufei brought in his 'bag' from the car, and opened it. In methodical order, he pulled forth and laid in neat rows; chest and torso protector vests, his special ops suit, his rifle and sidearm, extra clips, an 'egg carton', a box of 'fruit', and five sets of the latest in communications technology.

"We have very little time, gentlemen," Wufei snapped out. He eyed his supplies and began explaining the communication devices. "Each of us will have an eardrop conductor and throat clip transmitter. The main housing unit will be located here, recording directions, conversations, and instructions." He handed each the delicate looking filament. "The blue-tipped one is your conductor. Use the flesh glue to hold it in position. The clip goes here," Wufei raised his chin, aligning the filament along his jawbone and fixing it in place with a thin veneer of flesh glue. "These devices will send and receive for up to a hundred mile radius."

"What happens if we exceed its boundaries?" Heero asked, gluing his pieces in place. He worked his jaw, adjusting to the feel of the pull and give the adhesive was making on his skin.

"Then I'll have to shift communications to satellite control, and everything that takes place will route through a Preventers Ops command." Wufei picked up a vest and tossed it to Duo. "Wear this under your shirt," he commanded. "It will stop any projectile short of a gundanium alloy with iridium tips." His expression grave. "It will deflect penetration, but nothing will stop impact trauma. There is always the possibility of broken ribs, and bruised or damaged organs."

"So you're saying don't get hit," Duo deadpanned.

Wufei snorted, and finished handing out the vests. Heero, Duo, and Quatre began to unbuttoned, or were pulling shirts off over their heads, slipping into and strapping on the thin, cotton-lined protectors. Pointing to the 'egg carton', Wufei explained, "I'll be carrying some of these." He opened the carton and showed them the golf ball looking devices. "These are concussion bombs, capable of knocking a roomful of suspects – and friendlies – on their asses. And depending on how close to the explosion, causing internal damage, and hearing-loss."

Rolling a couple around on his palm, Duo frowned at Wufei. "What will we be carrying?"

His lips tightened. "I cannot authorize you to carry weapons." Duo opened his mouth to protest, and Wufei added, "If the situation becomes dangerous, I will be the one to take out the threat." He patted the stock of his rifle.

"I am licensed to protect and use my own sidearm," Trowa said quietly. "I've also brought my own 'suit'." He nodded to Wufei's ops suit sitting off to the side. "If we go with the plan for Heero and me to stay hidden in reserve while Quatre or Duo or the both of them make the exchange, then I would rather wear my own suit."

"I hold a license as well," Quatre contributed. "But, if we're searched, carrying a weapon wouldn't go over well."

"So we go in like lambs to the slaughter?" Duo stood up, and jerked his shirt back on over the torso protector.

Heero canted his head upwards, staring at Duo. "We will be there. Trust us to watch you."

His hand dropped to Heero's shoulder, and Duo gave it a brief squeeze. But, before he could answer, the mobile in Quatre's hand rang, and the five old friends froze, staring at one another. The phone rang once again, and Quatre flipped it open.

"Winner," he said, identifying himself. His head cocked to the side, listening, and he began to frown. He stared at Duo, flicking his eyes to Wufei and back to Duo. Quatre nodded, saying a crisp "Understood," and snapping the phone closed. A moment passed, and he looked at each friend in turn.

"This is it. I've been given an address, orders to drive, and to bring Duo with me." His expression was grim. "It was pointed out that they are aware of Wufei's presence, and stressed quite venomously that police will not be welcomed."

"How long do we have?" Wufei asked, shedding clothes immediately, and pulling on his protection suit.

"Fifteen minutes."

"Let's go," Duo said, already in motion. He slipped his jacket on and headed for the door.

"Remember the plan!" Wufei said sharply. "Trowa goes with you. Take your truck from the garage—"

"I know!" Duo's face went red; his anger faded a moment later. He scrubbed at his face, and turned to look at Wufei. "I'm sorry, man. Let's just get to moving before they decide we're taking too long."

"Ready," Trowa said quietly, coming to stand beside Duo, holding his head cover in his hand.

"Let's roll, then." Quatre commanded. "Keep your transmitters on. Communication is vital."

Heero finished applying camo black to exposed skin, and tossed the container back into Wufei's bag. He was at the back door, waiting for Wufei to complete equipping his suit. "Be careful," he said in a normal voice, hearing the truck start with a rumble in his receiver.

"No worries, babe," Duo muttered. "I'm not going to let anything interfere with wrapping my hands around that jackass' neck."

"That's what I'm worried about." Heero caught Wufei's eye, turned out the lights in the kitchen, and stepped out into the dark of Duo's backyard listening to his quiet laugh.

With the very real possibility that the house was being watched, the plan called for Heero and Wufei to run to Heero's house and secure his vehicle to follow behind Duo's truck. Trowa was to stay with the money and the treaty. Scaling the rear fence, and making his way through toys littering Duo's neighbor's backyard, Heero pushed thoughts of how even the best plans go astray, and focused on the next step.

Quatre said little, focused on instructions provided in the two-minute call. His mind supplied scenarios to plan for, playing them out as they arose. Like ancient COBOL code, he had a plan of if-then statements, full of sub-routines, and checkpoints. He glanced at Duo, and frowned slightly. Duo was too quiet; too focused, and intense from the adrenaline manic he had been. But, Duo wasn't fifteen, and it was his son's life at stake.

Their destination in sight, he gave the quiet update to those listening, rolling the truck to a slow stop, giving Wufei and Heero time to get into place. The dirt and gravel parking lot was empty barring an old beat up car. Quatre put the truck in park, exchanging a worried look with Duo. The mobile rang, and he fished it out from his pocket.

This time he wasn't given a chance to speak. The instructions were brief, and Quatre was left holding the phone from his ear with the dial tone buzzing. "I have to leave the phone here, and we have to take that car," he said, dropping the phone and opening the truck door. "I'm leaving the keys in the truck. We might have to split up. We're to receive further instructions once inside the other vehicle."

"Where to next?" Duo asked, kicking at a large rock and sending it across the parking lot.

"That wasn't provided." He was certain they were being watched, and Trowa was still clinging to the undercarriage of Duo's truck. He wanted to turn around, to make sure Trowa was all right; the old Plymouth was there, and a phone rang from inside the car. Quatre sprinted for the door, wrenching it open, and snatching up the phone.


"A little breathless, Mister Winner?" The suave voice he recognized all too well asked.

"We're here. What next?" Quatre cut him short, waving Duo over to the passenger side. Instructed to plug the mobile on speaker, Quatre slipped the connector in its slot, and set the phone on the seat between them.

"Mister Maxwell," the voice said from the mobile. "As soon as Mister Winner has the auto on the road, I'll give further instructions on where you'll be going. While we wait, I do want to explain a few features you will not find in your new vehicle. One, there is a listening device, sensitive enough that I can hear you breathe. And that's all I want to hear from the both of you. No making chit-chat, no giving clues to anyone listening in with your own devices the opportunity to find out where you're headed next."

"Fucker!" Duo shouted at the phone. "Stop this bullshit and give me my son!"

"Language, Mister Maxwell," the voice chuckled. "Another outburst and I'll be forced to hang up. Then where will poor little Ryan be?" Quatre touched Duo's arm, heard Heero's whispered reassurances through the receiver, and made the turn onto the main thoroughfare. "Very good, Mister Winner. Continue to head north, and I'll let you know when to turn.

"To continue, the vehicle you are now in is lined with a magnetic shield. Similar to the properties that made up the cloaking device on your Gundam, Mister Maxwell. This prevents your friend from the Preventers from tracing where you're going."

"We've agreed to your terms, Novatny. They are being followed. Now, cut the small talk and lead us to Ryan," Quatre demanded briskly.

"You always have to be in charge, Winner," Novatny's voice was just as cold. "But you're not running the show now. I'm writing this plan, and you will follow it."

"Just tell us where to go!" Duo insisted.

The silence stretched out, Duo glaring at the phone, and Quatre driving, shooting millisecond glances downward, making sure the 'talk' light stayed lit.

"Turn right on twenty-fourth. Drive two-point-six miles to the Cluster Buster drive-in. Wait for new instructions. And don't forget, I'll be listening."

Slipping out from under the truck and into the driver's seat as soon as the old Plymouth pulled from the parking lot was child's play. The ignition keys were still dangling, and Trowa dropped the phone to the gravel outside the truck. Keeping his tone low, he let the team know he would follow, keeping his distance, and provide direction to the others.

The silence from the car several hundred feet in front of him was eerie; hearing Heero offering comfort in low toned assurances was surreal. But then, everything since walking through Duo's door the night before had a touch of the surreal.

It was a training exercise – a what-if scenario with ad-lib plans and all too real consequences with one wrong step. Intelligence reported the Illium faction was reduced to five members, Novatny as the leader with no real second. Novatny had trust issues. A known hacker was part of his team. A young twenty-something, released six months before from an eighteen-month stint on L1's penal satellite. A couple of thugs, one in his thirties and another closer to forty, made up part of Novatny's crew. Both had rap sheets as long as he was tall.

The last member made the hair on the back of Trowa's neck stand up on end. Emilia, her very name evoked a whispered memory of a ghost-like figure always on the fringes of the Barton Foundation. She was his age, maybe a little older, before when he had no name, before he became Heavyarms' pilot. Emilia disappeared during the war, but his eyes did not imagine her presence on L3 X18999.

Rumors followed the girl. An assassin with a purpose. Not one of his intelligence agents were able to glean any information about her – background, training, years between the war and appearing at elder Novatny's side before the attempted coup of the WEI satellite.

The car he watched turned on its left hand blinker, and Trowa raised an eyebrow. "You want a milkshake?" He murmured, almost smiling at the ice cream cone clown statue lit up on top the drive up dessert shop.

Duo cleared his throat sharply, and Quatre tsked heavily. The Plymouth pulled into an empty slot, and Trowa found a place to watch from across the road. He fished his compact binoculars from his belt, and watched Quatre look around. He heard Duo grunt, and saw Quatre's head turn.

A man was approaching the car. He stopped at the front hood, and held up a cardboard sign. Trowa trained his glasses on the sign. "Nineteen fifty-five… I can't make out the street. Tap your mic if it says Broadway." No sound came through.

"Boardwalk?" Heero asked softly. Twin taps resounded. "Got it. We're on our way."

"Just let your fingers do the walking," Trowa said softly. A long tap. "I suggest Duo at communications." Another long tap.

"Affirmative," Heero breathed. "Trowa, this might be the place. Boardwalk fronts the ocean, and is lined with warehouses."

"Sounds promising. I'll continue to trail the pigeons."

He was wrong. Quatre and Duo were instructed to another location, one Duo painstakingly tapped out in code. Heero was sure of an easier route, and raced his car through the streets. Pulling his car up behind a building up the street from the rendezvous spot, he picked his field glass up from the seat, and scanned the perimeter. His hand gripped the metal casing hard.

"This is it," he breathed. "Blue van, rust spots, and dents with what appears to be a plumbing logo painted on the side."

"Do you see anyone?" Wufei demanded.

Heero scanned the grounds again. "No one in sight, but they could be on the other side."

"Be careful," Trowa cautioned. "If Emilia is involved, life could become a little more interesting than any of us would wish it to be."

"Going high," Wufei whispered, exiting the car and shouldering his rifle. He melded into the black shadows of the building, and Heero lost him from sight, if not hearing.

"I'm going to get closer," he warned. "Unless something comes up, I'll be running silent."

"Roger that," Trowa acknowledged, and Duo snorted himself into a cough.

"Funny, Barton," Heero whispered, opening his door, and crouching low. He had a lot of ground to cover, and most of it open.

What had begun as a persistent, steady buzz at the back of his head developed into a full-throated roar. Being forced to sit in silence on the passenger side, unable to take an active role, and left to listen to others who were doing something had Duo grinding his teeth. He worried the contents of his jacket pocket, and bounced his leg, staring out the window. His control was splitting at the seams.

Through his receiver, he heard Wufei settle into his position, heard Heero jockeying for his, and the buzz grew.

The exchange was to take place at an empty lot at the edge of a depressed business section. Buildings lining the street were rundown, the area worn. Neighborhood streets and sidewalks empty in time suspended occupancy between the hours of nine to six.

As Wufei said, the van waited. Its doors were closed, its occupants out of sight. Quatre was pulling the car up over the curb and onto the lot, its lights pointed directly at the van. The mobile rang, and with a quick look at Quatre, Duo hit talk.

"Turn off the auto, douse the lights, and get out. Go stand in front of the auto, and wait for contact. That is all, gentlemen." And the call ended.

"Fucker," Duo muttered, opening his door and stepping out.

The van went dark when Quatre cut the lights, and Quatre's door opened. Duo walked, keeping his eyes on the van, willing it to open, willing it to disgorge his son.Sitting ducks. His mind whispered. Ryan. It was worth whatever price he had to pay.

The passenger door opened, and a man stepped out, closing the door behind him. Short and stocky, a snub-nosed automatic in his hands, hanging from a strap on his shoulder, he motioned both closer. At the halfway point, he had them stop. The side of the van slid open, and another man exited, leaving the door gaping behind him. He strode in cocky strides, covering the distance between the groups in moments.

"Hands up over your heads," he commanded. "I'll just be checking for guns, knives," he shrugged. "Things you might want to use with the intent to harm. So, no sudden moves or my twitchy friend back there will put a slug in you."

His arms shot up, and Duo glared. "Just get this over with."

"Impatient," the goon chuckled. Whether on orders, or purposeful intent, he started with Quatre. It was a quick and simple search – patting down clothing, calculated touches. "No weapons," he called back. "Moneybags, follow me." Turning to Duo, he commanded, "Be a good dog. Stay here."

The roaring in his head rose, flooding his vision red. Seams were snapping, and he had taken a step before the grip on his arm registered. Quatre's look transmitted volumes. Before this was over, the bastard would feel his fist. Even docile dogs were known to bite.

The closer Quatre came to the van, the more Duo's impotence faded. A figure appeared at the van's open door, an easel desk, and laptop in hand. Quatre was stopped ten feet from the van; Duo estimated the amount of time it would take to reach the van; estimated the time it would take Quatre to enter and close the door.

His easel set up, the latest in a line of seedy goons was grinning. "Transfer codes," he asked, looking at Quatre.

"Ryan first," Quatre insisted. Duo's eyes shot to the door.

"Kid," the computer goon called out. "Come stand in the door, dude."

And there was Ryan.

Duo's breath released in a gasp, and his eyes were stinging. He started, hand reaching for his son, and he received a sharp rebuke from the gun-toting thug. Heero's voice was in his ear, breathing assurances, encouraging him to wait.

Ryan was alive. His hands were taped in front, his hair flatted and sticking out in every which way, his face dirt smudged and tear streaked. But he was alive.

"Daddy!" He yelled. Duo stepped closer.

"Stay there!" Slick and tall demanded. "And you," he said, "Shut up or I'll be giving you a reason to yell."

"Stay where you are Ryan," Duo said loudly. "It's almost over, and then you'll be home."

"Transfer," Geeky goon asked again with a smirk.

"It's in my pocket," Quatre said quietly. He reached for it slowly, pulling the bit stick out, and handing it to him. "Password: capital 'g', lowercase 'u', 'n', '6' ,'4', 'n', '4', '3', capital 'v', '3', lower case 'r'."

Geek-boy laughed, his fingers flying over the keyboard. "Cute. Bet you make little hearts over your eyes, too."

Quatre remained silent, and Duo let him worry about what was happening there. His attention stayed focused on Ryan, on the thug standing too close to his son with an automatic weapon; the thug whose attention kept wandering to what was taking place a few feet away. Duo inched closer.

"Got it!" The computer goon shouted. He grinningly pointed out the screen full of numbers to Slick and Gun-thug. Duo was another two feet closer. Ryan's eyes were wide and round and watching him.

"Treaty," Geek-boy demanded.

"In my pocket," Quatre repeated, pulling a second stick out. He held it out, but didn't hand it over. "Ryan, now."

"Kid, start walking to your dad, but take it slow," Geek-boy said, smirk back in place.

Ryan jumped from the van, and began walking. Quatre waited until Ryan was half-way to Duo before dropping the stick in Geek-boy's hand.

"No password," he said, and began backing away.

"Hey! Where you going?" Slick asked, moving forward. "We're not finished yet."

"Yes, we are," Quatre said softly, depressing a button on the remote he carried. Geek-boy's laptop began to smoke, and the hacker jumped backwards yelling.

Duo was in motion, and a shot rang out. In three running strides, he had Ryan. In another two, he was thrusting his son at Quatre, a terse "watch him," from his mouth. Seven steps total, and his hands were reaching for Slick. Another shot, and he barely felt the tug on his arm. His fist shot out, meeting with lips, flesh, and teeth.

"No!" Heero yelled, already on his feet and running. Duo was shot. He saw the bullet hit his arm.

"Damn it! I can't get a clean shot," Wufei was yelling in his ear. "Quatre! Get Ryan out of there. Trowa, get your ass—"

"Busy!" Came back the terse reply.

Heero didn't have time to worry about what Trowa was 'busy' with; Geek-boy was raising a handgun, aiming it in Duo's direction. He passed Quatre and Ryan, now, and dove for the man. The shot went wild, striking the van, and he was rolling on the ground. Geek-boy looked dazed, but Heero was back on his feet instantly. He kicked the gun away, and reached down for a handful of shirt. Pacifism be damned, his fist cocked back, and he slammed it into the man's stomach. Geek-boy's whites were showing, and Heero dropped him to the ground.

A quick scan showed Quatre crouching to the side of the old Plymouth, shielding Ryan from the scene. Duo was screaming obscenities and pounding Slick against the van, and the gun-toting thug was stretched out on the ground, a neatly placed bullet hole in the center of his forehead. Heero searched out the building roof Wufei was on, wondering if he was all right.

"Where the fuck is he, you fuck?" Duo was shouting. "I'm going to fucking kill you if you don't start speaking right the fuck now."

"Go to hell!" Slick sneered, throwing a wobbling roundhouse Duo easily blocked.

"Wrong answer." Duo smacked him, his palm met cheek in a stinging blow. "Address!"

Slick spat blood, splattering the front of Duo's jacket. Heero moved to flank Duo, glaring over Duo's shoulder. Slick shifted his look, and his lip, split and bleeding, curled back. "If it isn't the butt-fucker. Here to teach me—" He stopped in an absurdly exaggerated gasp, his eyes as round as his mouth.

"Address. Now, or they're coming off," Duo threatened. Heero had an idea what they were, and smirked.

"Pine Street!" Slick squawked. "Twenty-three, seventeen Pine Street."

"Very good," Duo murmured, releasing him. Slick sagged, and Duo said over his shoulder, "Put him to bed for me?"

Heero nodded sharply, and reached for Slick. He held him at arm's length with one hand fisted in his shirt, his other arm cocked back. "I won't be your teacher," he told him softly. "You're going to learn all you need to know in prison." And his fist planted itself firmly in Slick's middle, at the diaphragm.

Behind him, the van roared to life, and Heero dropped Slick, spinning around. "Duo!" He shouted.

"I gotta go after him, Heero," Duo said through the transmitter. Heero saw through the open door Duo looking around the driver's seat at him. Duo's fingers were at his ear, and he dropped his receiver to the floor, and put the van in gear.

"Duo! Wait!" Heero yelled, even as he ran. The van's wheels hit the street, and Heero threw himself through the open sliding door, rolling in a heap. Duo slowed a fraction, looking at him wildly, before flooring the gas.

"He took my son."

Breathing hard, and shaking the cobwebs loose, Heero rose at a crouch, and reached for the door, slamming it shut. He moved to the passenger seat, and buckled himself in. Only then did he look at Duo. "I know."

The tension around Duo's mouth and eyes eased, but his look was still grim.

"What do you plan to do with him?" Heero asked, holding onto the over-the-door handle as Duo took the corner nearly on two wheels.

"Kill him." Duo's response was serious, harsh. He looked away from the road for a moment, casting a glance at Heero. "Make him suffer."

"Your going to jail will not help Ryan," Heero said, keeping his tone calm, assuring.

"I'm not going to jail!"

"If you kill him, you will." Heero took a breath, held it a moment, and looked at Duo. "Killing us in your hurry to get there isn't going to help either."

"I didn't ask you to come along," Duo ground out, accelerating through the yellow light.

"And I'm not going to let you go into this alone." He looked back out the windshield. "Do you even know where you're going?"

"Pine Street," Duo said immediately. "Twenty-three something."

Heero grunted as Duo took another corner, wheels squealing. "And you know where that is?"

"Off Twenty-third, Southside." Duo was frowning in concentration. "Briar Ridge community." Heero grunted in surprise, and Duo shot a look at him. "I studied the area map before coming down here." He braked for a red light, his fingers gripping the steering wheel. "Samuels and Ibsenstein were the developers."

"Oh." Heero sat back, and watched the streets nearly fly by. He had a vague impression on where Twenty-third and Pine was, but not the development specifically.

"Heero," Wufei's voice broke the silence through his receiver. "I've alerted local law enforcement, and they are on the way." Heero grunted softly, letting Wufei know he heard without letting Duo know. "I'm following in your car. Trowa had some trouble."

"What about Ryan?" Heero asked, glancing at Duo.

"He's with Quatre," dual voices spoke, both in his receiver as well as Duo in the van.

"Quatre will keep him safe," Duo added.

"Were you asking me?" Wufei asked.

"Yes," Heero said, answering Wufei's question, but responding to Duo's statement as well. "But you are the one he needs. Let the locals handle this, Duo."

Duo's hands tightened on the steering wheel.

"What about…" And Heero scratched his transmitter from his skin, letting it fall from his fingertips. Concerned voices sounded from the receiver, dimming as he removed it, and added it to the carpeting lining the van's bed. Taking a deep breath, he pushed his question out, "What about us?"

His eyes widened, then narrowed; Duo's hand rose and he too picked his transmitter free, dropping it to the floor. "Heero," he whispered. "I'm not—I can't…"

"Forever, Duo. No matter what, or where," Heero kept his voice just as soft. "I would rather it be back at your place or mine, though."

Duo snorted, swallowed hard, and turned into a housing development, its sign proudly proclaiming their location. "You're beginning to sound like a cheesy romance."

Grinning wryly, Heero laughed a short bark of a laugh. "And you're acting like a macho, action hero."

"I'm not?" Duo questioned, raising a brow. He sobered quickly, and threw Heero a serious look. "I have to do this."

"I know."

"I—I…" Duo's eyes flicked from the road back to Heero. "I'll just hurt him a little. Justifiable pain."

"Acceptable." Heero nodded. Their destination was coming to an end.

The house was like most of the others on the block – like those throughout the development. A single story ranch, with a two-car garage attached, large picture window to the living room, lined with trimmed shrubs. It shouldn't have looked that normal, that every day.

"What is your plan?" Heero asked softly, wondering how far behind Wufei was.

"Working on it."

They were parked across the street at an angle to the house. Through the open curtains of the front window, Heero saw a man move about; the man Duo recognized as 'Jules'. The man left his sight, disappearing through an open doorway. To a bedroom, Heero suspected. And reappeared moments later with a duffle case in hand. At the far wall, a table had been set up. The man was adding papers stacked on the table to his bag.

"Looks like he's packing," Heero commented. Duo only narrowed his eyes, watching.

A moment later, the man held a mobile, pushed a button, and held it to his ear. Back in the bed of the van, a ringtone sounded. Heero's head whipped around, pinpointing the spot, and shared a look with Duo. Together, they turned to face the window.

Jules will want answers.

"Got it," Duo said softly, reaching for his seat belt, and fastening it with a click.

"What?" Heero asked, tearing his gaze away from the window.

Duo flashed him a manic grin. "A plan," he said, and gunned the engine. "Hold on," he shouted, slamming the van into gear.

It shot across the street, up through the yard, rocking and bouncing. Heero gripped the overhead handle, and braced his other hand on the ceiling. The house was right in front of them; Jules was lowering his mobile, turning to stare out the window. And the van crashed into the house, busting through the window, and landing somewhere in the middle of the living room.

There was a dual 'pop', and everything went white with a weight pressing tight against his chest.Airbag, his mind supplied. Heero pushed at it with his hands, trying to breathe. He heard Duo cursing, and the driver's side door open; his own door was jammed shut. Heero swore, and unfastened his seatbelt, pushing the airbag away, and moving at a crouch through Duo's side and out the door.

With his back against the wall, Jules had a gun in his hand pointed at Duo. Blood ran from a cut over his left eye; parts of the wall and window they'd crashed through littered the living room into the dining room, glass was embedded on the wall next to Jules.

"Not so tough now, are you?" Jules sneered.

"And you hide behind kids and guns," Duo snapped back. "You're no man."

"Put the gun away," Heero commanded, positioning himself in front of Duo. "The police will be here in a minute."

"Get out of my way," Duo demanded, pushing on Heero's shoulder. "This is my fight—"

"Not while he holds a gun," Heero shot back, his eyes never leaving Jules'. "You've already been shot once tonight. You're not going to again."

"You think you can stop me?" The gun moved a fraction, covering Heero more than Duo.

"Yes," Heero replied simply. His hand flashed a signal; his other hand whipped behind him. Duo responded as he hoped, and the gun in Heero's hand bucked even as he launched himself to the side.

Jules yelped, his gun flew from his hand with two of his fingers. "You shot me!"

"Now it's fair." Heero stood up, and brushed plaster from his face, hands, and clothes.

"Where'd you get the gun?" Duo asked, dusting his own clothes off.

Heero shrugged, glancing at the piece he still held. "Picked it up back at the lot."

Sirens were heard in the distance, and Heero looked over his shoulder. "You might want to hurry. Law enforcement will be here soon."

"Yeah." But Duo didn't move. He was staring at Jules, cowering against the wall, bleeding, and he sighed. "I want to kill him, Heero. Hurt him."

"I know," Heero answered. He was holding the gun loosely, but still kept it ready in case Jules tried anything.

"He took my son – kept him from me."

"I know." A quick look at Duo showed the man was still staring at Jules, his eyes troubled.

"I should do something about it." The last was a whisper, and Heero moved closer, shifted the gun from one hand to the other, and reached out to touch Duo.

"You have already."

Duo sighed again, his fists unclenched and fell lax to his sides. "Ryan's safe, he's not hurt?"

"No, Ryan's good." Heero stepped closer, slipping his arm around Duo's shoulders. "Quatre has him."

"Are you two all right?" Wufei asked from an open spot between the house frame and the van.

"We're good," Heero called out. Blue and white lights were flashing through the opening, splashing against the walls. Heero lowered his gun, tucking it into the waistband of his jeans at his back.

"Novatny still alive?" Wufei was coming through the front door now, climbing over chunks of wall, and bits of broken furniture.

"He's breathing," Heero supplied. Duo was sluggish, his breathing harsh. His hands going to Duo's ribs, Heero felt the protection vest for dents. "You okay?" he asked softly.

Nearly a full minute passed before Duo raised his eyes to Heero's face. "Take me home," he mumbled.

Uniformed officers were making their way inside, over and around the debris. One approached Heero and Duo. Wufei was there in a moment, reaching for his identification, covering for their presence smoothly.

The officer looked at the van, the wreckage of the living room, and back to the three standing shoulder to shoulder. "How did the vehicle get here?" She asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"Foot slipped," Heero supplied immediately. "Meant to hit the brake, but hit the gas instead." Duo was staring at him, and Wufei cleared his throat.

"No one's been hurt. And our kidnap suspect is now in custody." Wufei expressed his meaning.

"Right." She snapped her incident book closed. "You will be available to provide statements?" She asked, looking at each in turn, accepting their nods. "Good."

Wufei turned to Heero. "I left the keys in your car. Quatre and Trowa should have Ryan at Duo's. Get him out of here." Heero nodded, and started to lead Duo away. "Officer…" Wufei addressed the police officer, and looked for her nametag. "…Armstrong, I can answer your questions, and provide details leading to this moment…" Wufei was leading her farther away from them, and Heero used the advantage.

"Come on, Duo. Just a little longer," Heero murmured, pulling Duo along behind him, and helping him over some of the larger objects blocking their path. "Ryan's waiting for you."

Duo nodded numbly, and let Heero put him on the passenger side like an invalid.

"Your place," he croaked, his eyes pleading with Heero.

"Okay," Heero assured, nodding. "We'll pick up Ryan and go to my place."

"Home," Duo sighed, closing his eyes.

It took Heero several heartbeats to breathe, close Duo's door, and make his way to the driver's side.

The drive to Duo's house took longer than Heero would have thought to make. He parked in the driveway, and discovered Duo sleeping. His eyes narrowed on the untreated wound; Duo had received worse during the war, but that was then. Now, it should never have happened.

"Duo, wake up," Heero said quietly. "We're here."

His eyes blinked open, and Duo yawned, turning his head in Heero's direction. He smiled softly. "'Ro." His smile faded, and his head jerked around. "Ryan?"


Duo threw open his door, and sprinted for the house. Heero trailed behind, closing his door on the way. Trowa had answered Duo's frantic knock, and was standing aside, letting Duo rush by him.

Watching Duo disappear down the hall, Heero closed and locked the door. "Ryan?" He asked, nodding in the direction Duo headed.

"Yes." Trowa released the round in the chamber, flicked the safety back on, and sheathed his weapon. "He… soiled himself. Quatre thought it best to let him shower, and take a bath."

Heero nodded, but grabbed Trowa's arm when he was turning away. "What happened to you?"

Trowa looked down at the cut in his suit, stained dark from its opening. "I ran into an old acquaintance," he said.

"The one you warned us of?" Trowa nodded, and went back to his seat. Heero could see that the wound had been taken care of, that Trowa didn't appear to be in pain. But, he'd seen the ex-mercenary take worse abuse, and not say a word. "The operative?"

His look said what was necessary, and Heero let it drop. Instead, he stripped off his jacket and shirt, and peeled the protective vest off, letting it drop to the floor and kicking it to the corner. Wufei would collect it later. He replaced his shirt, grimacing at the smell. Quatre came in, and smiled tiredly.

"Duo's in with Ryan," he said, and sat next to Trowa. His head dropped back, and he closed his eyes. "I think I'll sleep for a week after this is all over." Trowa leaned closer, taking Quatre's hand in his. Heero left them, heading down the hall, looking for Duo.

"…he wouldn't let me… and I couldn't help it…and…" Ryan was holding fast to Duo, crying into his shirt.

Duo was crouched on the floor before the tub, his arms wrapped around a wet and naked Ryan. "It's okay, now, son. I'm here. Nothing's going to happen to you again. Promise," Duo murmured into Ryan's hair, his hands clutching at his head, holding him pressed close.

Backing out of the bathroom, Heero went to Duo's room and found a clean shirt. He carried it with him back to the living room; Quatre was murmuring in a low voice to Trowa, not opening his eyes. Trowa made note of his presence, of Heero picking up his med kit, and unvoiced question. Heero was gone a moment later, heading back to the bathroom.

Ryan was no longer clinging to Duo, and his tears seemed to have stopped. Duo was washing him, running a cloth over his shoulders, and back, telling him some nonsense story. Heero set his items down, and took a seat on the commode, smiling at Ryan when the boy looked up at him.

When his story came to a finish, and Ryan was smiling voluntarily, Heero leaned forward. "Duo, I need to take care of your arm," he told him quietly.

"It can wait." Duo didn't look around, but scooped a handful of bubbles from Ryan's bath, and blew air over them, sending them flying.

"No, it can't." Duo did look at him this time, and Heero squatted on the floor next to him. "Ryan's asleep on his feet, and you're not much better." With a flick of his eyes to Ryan, he leaned into Duo. "Let me take care of you," he whispered. "Please?"

Duo sighed softly, rested his head on Heero's for a moment. "Okay."

Right there on the floor, Heero peeled Duo's jacket and shirt off, being careful of his injury. The vest he was able to slip off over Duo's head. Ryan's eyes were wide, his face worried. "For such a little cut, your dad bleeds a lot, doesn't he?" Heero asked with a grin. Ryan nodded, looking from Heero to Duo's injury to Duo's face.

"Just a scratch," Duo told him. Heero was swabbing the blood away, assessing how much of a 'scratch' it was, brows puckering in indecision on whether it needed stitches or not.

"What happened to your mouth?" Ryan asked, sitting up and touching Duo with a finger.

Heero looked around from working on Duo's arm, unsure how he could have missed a facial injury.

"Got punched," Duo answered with a grin and a grimace.

"Did you punch him back?" Ryan asked. Heero soaked more gauze with an antiseptic solution and handed it to Ryan, indicating he should clean it for Duo.

"You bet!" Duo pushed out his lip, making it easier for Ryan to wipe up the blood, cleanse his split lip. "And Heero punched him so hard, he went to sleep!"

"Cool!" Ryan turned admiring eyes to Heero. Heero grunted, and pulled out Steri-strip sutures.

"I brought you a clean shirt," Heero said, sealing the wound with a large bandage. "You might want to wash a bit before you put it on."

"You saying I smell?" Duo turned where he sat, and Heero saw echoes of humor in his eyes.

"If Ryan wasn't in the tub, I'd throw you in," Heero deadpanned, winking slyly at Ryan. Ryan giggled and backed into a corner.

"I see how it is," Duo complained mockingly. "You two are going to team up on me."

"Yes." Heero nodded, and Ryan giggled again. He rose up on his boots, and brushed a kiss to Duo's ear. "I'm going to go pack some things for you both. Ryan has pajamas on the sink." He left father and son still laughing together, and headed for Duo's bedroom.

The bag Duo started was still out, and Heero added another set of clothes, and Duo's toiletries from his bathroom. In Ryan's room, he pulled out enough clothes for two days, and a pair of sneakers. The giraffe went in last, its head sticking out the unzipped portion of the bag. Heero returned once again to the living room, dropping the bag by the door.

"I'm taking Duo and Ryan to my house for a couple of days," he told Trowa and Quatre. "I have room for you both, or," he looked around Duo's house, "I know Duo wouldn't mind if you stayed here."

"I'm not moving," Quatre mumbled, snug against Trowa's side.

Trowa looked up with a slight smile and a shrug. "Guess we'll be here."

There was a light knock on the door, and Trowa was on his feet instantly. Heero's hand flashed back for his ill-gotten weapon. Sharing a look with Trowa, he looked through the security hole, and backed down. "Wufei," he said quietly, unlocking the door and letting in the last member of their group.

"Novatny's in jail," Wufei stated without preamble. "He'll be held without bail, pending extradition orders." He looked at Heero and back to Quatre. "Preventers want him for terrorism in conjunction with the WEI satellite bombing, the abduction of Ryan, attempted murder, and criminal conspiracy. After his arraignment tomorrow, he'll be transported to Sanc."

"Good," Quatre said, sitting up, and looking alert suddenly.

Wufei glanced at each one before saying, "You will all have to go down to police headquarters to swear out a statement," his eyes swept Heero again, "including Duo and Ryan." Heero started to protest, but Wufei held up a hand. "I delayed his testimony until after noon, but he'll have to make a statement."

"Affirmative," Heero acknowledged, and looked to the hallway. Duo should be done now, and Ryan out of the tub, dried and dressed. "I'll make sure they're on time."

"It's been good to see you, Heero," Wufei stated solemnly. "And too long since the last time."

"Yes, it has," Quatre agreed, rising and coming to stand next to Trowa. "It had better not be another twelve years—"

"No, it won't." Heero was smiling slightly, but movement down the hall caught his eye, and he broke away, heading for the hallway. Duo was carrying Ryan with his good arm, wearing the clean shirt Heero picked out for him. He stopped long enough to take in the tableau, and offer a smile in thanks.

"I owe you all—" he was choking on the words, and Heero was there. Quatre drew closer, with Trowa behind him.

"No, you don't owe us anything," Quatre was saying.

"We're family," Trowa added in a quiet voice. "A one of a kind family."

Wufei nodded his agreement. "You would be there if the position were reversed."

"In a heartbeat," Duo vowed, holding Ryan closer.

"As will I," Heero added his voice. "Now that I'm back in 'the family'."

It was minutes before dawn, and Heero eased himself carefully from his bed. Mister Peabody lifted his head, and blinked at him, only to lay his head back on his paws and curl his tail around his body. Heero stood over his bed for a moment, looking at the two lying entwined under the covers.

Duo was curled about Ryan, and Ryan lay on his back, one arm splayed outward, the other tucked close with his hand holding tight to Duo's shirt. Heero felt the tenderness well, but turned from the bed, and padded down the hall. He checked the locks on all three doors, verified the security alarm was set, and wandered on slow feet back toward the bedroom.

Years before, a simple kiss started him on a journey. One that for nearly a decade, he believed would never be complete. Now that dream of a kiss had become his reality. He watched Duo sleep, watched Ryan murmur in his sleep, and let the fullness of it wash over him.

It would be days, if not weeks, before a sense of normalcy returned. But it would return. Duo would go back to work, and he and Ryan to school. The difference in the so-brief routine would be instantaneous. Duo and Ryan wouldn't be returning to that house – not if he had any say about it.

Climbing back into bed, Heero moved closer under the covers, bracketing Ryan, and laying a hand on Duo's hip. Duo's eyes opened, and he stared at Heero over the span of pillows. His smile was brief, his lips formed words that had been left unsaid between them. Heero's hand tightened on Duo's hip, and he mouthed his own confirmation.



The characters depicted in this work of fiction are over the age of minority.