AN: A little reminder - though presumably those of you still reading me probably don't need it: This is not a romance, so no, Heero is not crying himself to sleep every night with the name 'Wufei' on his lips (snark, thanks for the laugh, Ash). What is he really feeling and thinking? Since this is Wu's POV you can't be entirely sure yet, but if you read very carefully between the lines you might see that there's a small glimmer of something starting. Yes, Wu's going to miss it by a mile, of course, what do you expect...
A frog in a well shaft seeing the sky.
Trowa was efficient as he gathered up his men - fifteen in all, well, twelve now, and four of those injured. He had two of them frisk and cuff his captives and hustle them to the truck, driven right into the hangar. There were openings the partners could have exploited, but not many; the men seemed to be in awe - and fairly terrified - of their leader and his obvious competence.
The truck ride lasted about half an hour, but they stopped several times and Wufei was willing to bet that they'd changed directions frequently. They were probably in the same industrial zone. At least, that's what it looked like when the truck finally stopped and they were dragged from it. The truck had pulled up under the portico of a building - no doubt to protect them from eventual satellite surveillance. Wufei glanced around quickly as he was pulled roughly over the tailgate. They were in the middle of a huge yard, with three hangars and a big garage off to one side, off towards the canal. He saw shadows move in and about the buildings. Many shadows. Mounds of garbage and broken old cars made odd, amorphous shapes under the few, unbroken streetlights, like sludge dredged up against the double-chainlink fence a hundred feet away. They were being shoved towards the doors of what looked like a disused office building, rising incongruently from the puddle of gunk around its base. A cracked, dirty sign read 'Klimt Haulage Corp' under some crude and uninspired graffiti.
Two men on either side of each cuffed Preventer escorted them through the broken doors, Trowa right behind them with a gun trained on Heero at all times. The entire ground floor had been gutted, and held traces of firecans near a broken window and weather damaged wall. There was garbage everywhere. They were taken up a flight of stairs smelling of old piss and cats. The second story was better kept - the ruined first floor and the stairwell were probably there to discourage the curious, if there were any stupidly wandering around in this wasteland.
They were taken to the back of the building. Wufei noted as many details as he could. Most of the doors were closed. The open ones...he saw a room full of sleeping bags - he counted six of them. But there weren't many men in the building, that he could hear. It must be off-limits to most of the men outside. The Syndicate were notoriously cagey about letting their minions know more than they needed to. Two men were talking in low voices over a map spread on an abandoned desk in a room without a door. In another, a man was sitting in front of several monitors wired to a portable generator, cables running all over the floor in bunches tired together with wire. Finally they arrived at their destination, or rather, their holding cell: one of the old offices.
It was a far cry from Exeter's shabby attempt at locking them up. Wufei and Heero were cuffed each to a deck chair moulded from one piece of tough, flexible plastic. Wufei managed to keep any wince of pain from his face or stance as his wound was forcibly pressed against the chair's back, and his arms wrenched backward to pin him to it. Three men kept watch in the room with them. Two stayed near the door, and they almost immediately brought out a deck of cards and pulled up two more garden chairs and a crate. Trowa was the third, he took first watch without a word to any of his men; he sat down and stared at the partners, as if waiting for them to try something stupid and longing to make them pay the price for it.
The silence was heavy and lasted a long time, only ruffled by the slap of cards and a few words as the two men near the door played baccarat. It was probably around four in the morning, that dead time when even feral cats had slunk back to their lairs in the garbage and the ruins. Wufei couldn't relax. It would have been wise to meditate, conserve his strength and energy, but having Trowa's eyes on him, with that expression, was sending his stress levels way up, even though his mind kept reminding him this was a friend and ally. Probably. Almost certainly. But Trowa might not be able to save them from execution, if that was where this was heading. Even if he was willing to compromise his mission - and Wufei, used to Heero's way of thinking, wouldn't count on that - he was one man against several dozen, if not more. The odds were not good...
Trowa was on his feet and his back against the wall before Wufei even registered the slight noise beyond the door. A gentle tap, and one of the men, after a nod from Trowa, went to open it.
Two men came in. Trowa nodded an acknowledgment to them, then stood back, on one side of the door, and chased the previous guards out with a curt gesture.
Wufei examined the new arrivals carefully, in case he ever had the pleasure of filing a crime report on either of them. One he thought he recognized: a local lieutenant in the Syndicate, risen from the ranks the hard and bloody way. The other he'd never seen before. He noted finely manicured hands, very expensive shoes, a clean, professionally tanned face and well-cut hair; he ignored the attempt at unobtrusive and casual dress. This guy was a big fish. Probably one of the many heads of the Syndicate, the one Sam had said was feeling cornered. The partners had been on his tracks for weeks now, but had never seen him even in a picture before. In his late fifties, though he looked younger at first glance. Slightly paunchy but mostly fit. Round, regular features, handsome in a well-groomed and unremarkable way. Hair was brown, probably dyed. When he rubbed his hands together Wufei noted the pale dimple of a removed wedding ring. The man's gesture was not nervous; it was slow and thoughtful. He looked them over carefully, examining their features attentively without catching their eyes.
"These are definitely the men we wanted. Well done, Mr Nash," he finally said, without any further introduction.
"Just Nash." Trowa muttered, but he sounded a lot more polite - in a resentful way - than with his men.
The boss - Wufei was ready to bet his life this was he - ignored the comment and the tone. "I can hardly believe you got both of them at so little cost. Bruckheim gave me an accounting of their capture; he was impressed."
Trowa sniffed, a gesture eloquent in its dismissal of Bruckheim and his impressions. "It helped that we knew where they were going to be tonight. Allowed us to set up a welcome in that hangar," he added.
Wufei had been reluctantly admiring Trowa's complete immersion in the role - and so his ears pricked at those last two sentences. There had been something there. Something a bit off. And, very briefly, Trowa's eyes had flashed their usual deeper green. Some kind of warning.
"How did you know where we were going to be?" Wufei found himself asking, prompted by his intuition and that tone. He'd felt Heero tense to ask the same question.
The boss completely ignored him; he was staring at Heero, or rather, an inch above Heero's head. He rubbed his hands again.
The third man in the room snorted. It was an ugly sound. Vielle, Wufei suddenly remembered. He'd seen surveillance photos of possible Syndicate operatives here in Brussels. Antoine Valery Vielle.
"We've been watching you two. Very carefully." Vielle's grin was awful, a slash of a leer on thick, beefy chops. "Ve-ry carefully. Right, Nash?"
Trowa smiled tightly, as if humouring him. Vielle, who'd glanced back, raised his eyebrows at the expression.
"Oh come on. You said we should make it a pay-per-view."
"As a joke." Trowa shrugged, uncaring. "Personally, I don't swing that way."
Pay-per-...? What...?Wufei reined in his questions and impatience. Vielle was going to tell them, that much was obvious. And Wufei wasn't going to like it; that much was obvious too. Had these goons hacked in to Ops's security cameras?
"We have our ins and outs in your precious Division." Vielle chuckled. "It's like gruyere!" Beside Vielle, the boss smiled, though it appeared most of his thoughts were elsewhere.
"We have your Lady Une under constant surveillance. Did you know she has a shower in her private bathroom?" Vielle leered and Trowa made a cruel, appreciative noise in the background. Wufei let himself enjoy a quick mental picture of Une taking Vielle's testicles off with a melon baller, though in reality Une probably wouldn't give a shit.
"We heard you were her two golden boys. So we decided to keep a close eye on you. We got your home address..."
Fuck, more leaks. So they'd been followed tonight...?
"And we put little monitors in every room."
There was a moment of silence. Vielle grinned, waiting in ugly anticipation. Wufei stared back in slowly dawning comprehension and disbelief.
"You're lying." Heero's voice was an uncaring monotone. "You couldn't get past my security system."
Wufei's ears were ringing, but he heard it nonetheless; the slight, nearly unnoticeable hitch in Heero's voice as he realized, even as he said those words, that there was someone here who could break into their rooms, plant bugs sufficiently discreetly where even Heero would miss them, and leave without a trace.
"It wasn't easy." Trowa confirmed their suspicions, casually. "But our sources told us you two were out in Mexico somewhere. I had a few nights to worm my way in. You didn't wire up your roof access properly, there were gaps."
Mexico...that meant the bugs had been there for over three weeks. Trowa was warning them, giving them an indication of how much the Syndicate might know of their current operations - as well as informing Heero about a hole in his security net that he should address if ever they got out of this mess alive.
The thought of having been compromised was one thing...Wufei had another, more personal concern. Very personal. But that bit didn't matter...The worst, in a way, was that Wufei wasn't even going to make a fuss about this, assuming they survived. He'd been living with Heero for too long; he'd learned to think differently. Everything was for the mission. Pride, honour, justice, self...they all became words, notions you discarded as inefficient and unessential. You just...did the job. You accepted stuff like this and moved on and forgot about it and killed a bit more of that small, inner self that was, right at this moment, gasping in shock, feeling vulnerable and violated. That bit didn't matter.
He managed to feel a distant pride that nothing had shown on his face beyond his extreme contempt for the insects before him.
Trowa's eyes had been fixed on Heero's, ice on ice. He glanced away nonchalantly and turned towards Vielle.
"I still think we should make a montage of the one from the bedroom," he said, his voice as smooth as a cat toying with a mouse. "So far, only you, me and Xian have seen it. I'm sure the guys would love it. That and all the home footage we taped from our other targets. Especially that Swiss agent and her girlfriend..."
So they had more than Heero and Wufei under close surveillance...and the details of the partners' private lives were not yet spread around the entire Syndicate and underworld. Wufei rather suspected Trowa had been trying to tell them the former rather than the latter. Or maybe that was just Wufei's long association with Heero speaking. It didn't matter. All that mattered was the mission; the enemy had been watching when Sam had given them the details of tonight's operation. They'd heard Sam inform Heero and Wufei that they would have no backup, no surveillance, no nothing...
Vielle was saying a show was a good idea when the boss finally stirred.
"Let's not get crass, Nash." The curl of his lips spoke of more distaste than the video suggestion could warrant. Trowa ducked his head, sullen and watchful, like a vicious attack dog used to being harshly brought under control by its trainers.
"We have bigger concerns," the older man continued, once more distant. "Corazon came back with yet another guest. The camera you planted at the Himmel pent-house came in very handy."
"The target at the Himmel? The rich bastard? Corazon got him?" Trowa suddenly looked keen. It was obvious that he expected some monetary fall-out from this success.
"Yes. He was imprudent. Decided to ditch his bodyguard and go to town. It was already a boon for us that he decided to make his visit to the Lady Rat a whole week early. The Brussels police weren't ready to properly guard him yet...You'll be rewarded for this, Nash. We do not forget those who help us."
"If we have him...do we need those two?" Trowa asked, eyes feral on Heero and Wufei. The latter had a feeling that whatever his cover story was, it included a dislike for Gundam pilots.
"Yes, we need them." The boss answered shortly. "And my associates will pay a lot of money for them to arrive alive, and relatively unharmed."
"We're hostages?" Heero sounded frankly incredulous.
The leader had taken a step towards the door. He slowly turned back. His eyes were cold and uncaring as he finally looked straight at Heero.
"No, Mr Yuy. We are not holding you hostage. We are going to kill you. Fairly unpleasantly, I'm afraid. You and Une really have left us no choice."
Heero smiled slightly, in a way that sent prickles up Wufei's spine, and made the boss frown and look away.
"Dekim was a fool, going about it the open way, like he was Napoleon! He's the one who really started the war between us," the boss grumbled, eyes flickering over Wufei, Vielle, the dirt-covered window, anywhere but that smile. "He was a calamity waiting to happen. If anything, I'm grateful you people took him down without more fuss. Some of my colleagues will claim that they are executing you to avenge Dekim." He looked at Heero from the corner of his eye. The smile had disappeared and Heero's face was back on Yuy-neutral. The boss straightened and faced him fully. "We aren't happy about Dekim. But that's not really why we are going to be sending your body parts to the various members of the Preventer and ESUN board."
The man frowned, and looked down at his well-manicured hands. He'd not looked the slightest bit upset at the description of Heero's end, but the next few words seemed to come out reluctantly. "It's crude. We shouldn't have to be so...vulgar about it. But you forced our hand. We had an understanding with Romefeller. We will hammer out the same understanding with Une and this new-fangled ESUN that took Romefeller's place. But first, we will need a few object lessons, and you, Mr Yuy - both of you - will have to be it. We will never get anywhere if people don't fear us. Capturing and terminating two of the Gundam pilots, the two that Une kept close to her and used for her dirty work...that will put the fear of our organization back into their minds." He turned away dismissively, and Wufei wondered if he'd even bother to show up when he and Heero were being tortured to death.
"They're dangerous, though," Trowa muttered as the boss passed him.
The man shrugged. "That they are. But I trust you to keep them quiet, Nash. If you do your job right...we might even require your help when my friends finally have our long-delayed discussion with Mr Yuy and his-...er...I'm sorry, I was told your name but I-" He'd turned back and glanced at Wufei, almost apologetically.
"Chang Wufei." Wufei answered coldly. If he was going to die, when they made a break for it or later, under torture, then he wanted it to be under his own name and not as Heero's anything. He ignored Vielle's leer. Trowa was smiling, a cold, savage grin, eyes still fixed on Heero.
"Right." The boss muttered absently, as if remembering the name and forgetting it just as promptly. "Be ready to have them evacuated in thirty minutes, Nash. Coordinate with Antoine, he's getting the transport ready. Our other guest is here already; Corazon brought him ten minutes ago. You will have to go talk to Corazon yourself, nobody is allowed up there but those with maximum clearance."
"We'll move all of them together? Is that wise?" Trowa asked, still staring at Heero.
"I don't see that we have much choice. I want all three of them out of Brussels in less than an hour, and we cannot arrange for another plane in so short a time. It was truly fortuitous that Mr Yuy and his friend decided to come looking for us tonight. I suggest we trust fortune to keep them and our hostage in our hands for awhile longer."
"You're the boss," Trowa commented, finally turning and nodding with a show of insincere respect at the chief's departing back.
The two men who'd been playing cards outside the door stood hastily as the boss passed them by without a word. Trowa glared at them as they came back in.
"Can you two fucks stop playing long enough to watch these guys? I got something I gotta do."
The men mumbled something incomprehensible, put away the cards and stood in an attempt at parade ground attention that would have gotten them shot under Treize. Trowa sneered, started to leave, then with a contemptuous look at the two, swivelled around and walked behind Wufei.
"You two are staying on guard." Trowa informed his men, voice hard and aggressive. Cruel hands jerked Wufei's handcuffs, shooting pain up and down his arm and through the joints of his shoulders. "You're to stand there and keep your eyes on them at all times." Trowa's fingers curled around Wufei's, pressing something metallic into his palm. "If you need a break, one of you go out the door and shout for Phillips, he's down the hall with his guys. But the other one stays here with gun drawn on them." He moved behind Heero. Tugged his cuffs too. "Don't get too close to them and don't fuck with them. They're more dangerous than twenty of you. Got that?" Wufei noted the way Heero's fingers quickly flexed and closed over his palm.
The men muttered their agreement, both sullen and nervous as Trowa approached them. His eyes narrowed. Before they could do more than gasp, he grabbed them each by their forehead and slammed their heads back against the wall. The men froze, eyes rolling as 'Nash' leaned forward between them until he was almost whispering in their ears.
"Listen carefully. I'll be popping by. If you two aren't doing exactly what I told you just now, I will rip off your dicks and fuck you with them. Is that...perfectly clear?"
Both men swallowed at once and said 'yes' in choked voices. Trowa leaned back an inch and stared at them, up close, for a few seconds, then let them go and made a show of wiping his hands on his jeans. Then he turned towards the partners and looked at them with cold, anticipatory menace.
"I doubt they'll let me have a go at you...they want it to last, and I'd kill you in twenty minutes. Or less. You and the rich bastard they're keeping upstairs...you all have an appointment with someone who'll take much better care of you. But I will be with the big cheeses, and I'll be watching. See you around."
"We certainly will," Wufei answered arrogantly, since some kind of response was probably expected of him. Heero just did his Death Glare number 9 and left it at that. The door closed softly behind Trowa, and the two men leaned back against the wall, relaxing a little bit, though their drawn weapons were still loosely pointed at the partners.
Right. Twenty minutes and he and Heero would break out of here, Wufei thought, carefully using the key to unlock the cuffs without any motion visible in his arms or shoulders. Then Trowa expected them to go and insure the safety of the hostage that the boss had apparently managed to capture. Damn that moron of a politician or whoever they'd managed to snag; if he hadn't arrived ahead of schedule, or decided to go for an unprotected stroll, Wufei could have gone and had a long talk with Vielle and his boss. Now they had to go and protect his rich ass instead. It seemed that Trowa did not share Sam's lack of faith in their hostage rescue abilities. Or, more likely, he just didn't have a choice. Wufei guessed, from Trowa's words, that the infiltrator wanted to keep up his cover for awhile longer, try to get a few more heads of the Syndicate into his noose.
Wufei started a countdown in his head, ran over in his mind how many men he'd seen in the building - not that many, most of them were outside - how they were armed, what the situation would be...the hostage was on one of the floors above them...they'd have to get to the stairwell...how discreet did Trowa need them to be...?
A small part of him was still pulsing with anger and shock...he mostly ignored it. He shouldn't really care. After all, they'd been ready to have sex for the benefit of Exeter's men back on L3.
But that had been...that would have been faked. Ultimately, and deep-down, they'd have known that, and the knowledge...somehow that would have shielded him. Just a game, just an act. Like that kiss in the club, he reminded himself, and was surprised at the faint surge of bitterness at the thought.
But the two occasions they'd fucked since the cameras had been placed...that had been them. The real thing. The raw deal. The arrangement was ripped open and laid bare. Vielle just saw it as a peepshow, and Wufei, hardened in Heero's crucible, didn't care about that overgrown amoeba. He was more upset about Trowa. And Une, Sam, and Sally...because of course, assuming they managed to crack this operation, the records would become evidence. They'd be in the Preventer files; classified, but...they'd still be seen by those who mattered.
Why did it matter? So they'd find out. The arrangement wasn't something he was ashamed of. He'd often been embarrassed at the necessities of the arrangement but never ashamed that Heero had chosen him for the shudo, for the agreement of samurai who wanted no affection, no bonds to weaken them. If the others asked - and he was sure they would - he'd just tell them the truth. That Heero and he relieved their sexual frustration with each other, had done so since the war. Like Heero had put it at one point...no needless emotions.
In his mind's eye he was telling this to his friends - who were kind, concerned people who cared about him. They'd probably think it was great he and Heero were together, they'd want to know more details about their supposed relationship, get them to be more open about it, as if they were- were lov-
He'd tell them it was just for sex and for the partnership and they'd look at him and...and question that and root around and try to understand and scrutinize and why was the very thought of this taking on the same dimensions as the boss's casual threats of torture? He had nothing to hide!
Wufei wrenched his thoughts away. Nothing he could do about it. Nothing...
Heero twisted in his chair. He looked...upset. Something like a little consolation flickered in that tiny part of Wufei that was still trembling with wounded pride and...no, nothing else. Just pride.
His partner hissed quickly, in the English they used together, with a few words of Japanese and Chinese tossed in, and peppered with suit references, war lingo and code, a private dialect even a multi-linguist would barely follow: "Three weeks - what cases did we talk about? Did we discuss Ops defences? Security? Did we mention any informants by name?"
Figured...Wufei felt something inside him finally crumble completely as he carefully examined every nuance of his partner's stance, his face and eyes, looking for any trace that Heero was as shaken as he was...that his partner wouldn't be able, when their friends asked, to shrug away their arrangement with a casual 'just a convenient fuck'.
He found nothing. Except the beginnings of a small, puzzled frown at his silence.
"I can't remember..." Wufei mumbled, then shook himself.
No. This wasn't...this wasn't him. He'd been off-balance for long enough. Wanting something - not even sure what - that didn't exist. That couldn't exist.
Wufei breathed in. Out. Closed his eyes briefly...and his centre was there, unexpectedly right before him.
He'd accepted this arrangement years ago - embraced it. For a reason. It made him better, stronger. It gave him the opportunity to live on an edge few others had ever known even existed. An edge that no emotions or feelings could cling to. Now was the time to call upon that strength.
Besides, it had been fifteen minutes since Trowa had left. Time to do their thing.
"We would never mention an informant by name, we always use code," he answered crisply, completely ignoring the two guards who had straightened up from the wall and were looking at each other hesitantly. His mind quickly recapitulated the contents of the last three weeks and he bit his lips and exchanged worried glances with Heero. Damn. There would still be some damage. Especially this last week when they'd worked from home. They'd discussed Heero's findings, his work on breaking the financial aspects of the Syndicate. I expect a lot of money got shuffled behind our backs, Wufei thought angrily. Damn it, couldn't Barton have found a way of - no. This wasn't the OZ Lunar base. These men didn't have the rigid, easily infiltrated infrastructure of a military hierarchy. They had the paranoia of rodents. If Trowa was under deep cover, he wouldn't risk breaking it for anything that wasn't crucial.
"Oy. No talking," one of the men ordered.
"Did you recognize the leader of that taskforce? Nash?" Wufei asked his partner. The room might be monitored; they had to keep up the pretence.
"No," Heero answered neutrally. "But I recognize most of the others. Including these two." He stared slowly, first at one, then the other of their captors.
"I said, no talking!" The man shouted, waving his gun around.
"Yes, I know I've seen their faces somewhere..." Wufei murmured thoughtfully, examining the unshaven and threatening mugs while ignoring the menacing steps forward they'd taken.
"Shut up!" The other man growled.
"Of course we have. We know every one of the Brussels operatives for their organization," Heero pointed out, as he twisted to look at Wufei. There was a faint hint of curiosity in his voice; no doubt he was wondering where his partner was going with this.
"No...no..." Wufei bit his lip in thought. "That wasn't where I-...Oh, I remember. It was at the police station the other day; a list of the local pimps."
"You little fuc-"
The man didn't have time to finish his sentence, much less pistolwhip Wufei into submission. One hand to knock away the blow, the other deep into his gut. Heero had already leapt off his chair and clocked the other one in the jaw, gracefully catching the gun mid-air as it and its owner tumbled to the ground.
At a gesture from his partner, Wufei gripped his stolen Luger and went to listen at the door. A few people were moving about the building. From a glimpse in the dark stairwell when they'd been brought up, Wufei estimated the place had at least three or four more floors, and they didn't know where the hostage was being kept.
He ignored the sounds behind him, of Heero crushing their former captors' throats. It was an unfortunate necessity. They could not afford having them come to and give the alarm. These men might also guess that Trowa had freed them. To protect his cover...sorry, Sam. Heero moved the bodies to one side of the room, against the wall behind the door, and moved to his partner's other side.
Wufei glanced at Heero, wondering how they were going to tackle this, and found his partner looking him over carefully. It was the way he would give him a once-over to check for injury after a firefight. But he had to know that Wufei was mobile and unhurt, must have known that before they jumped the guards. Wufei was just starting to wonder what his partner was looking for when Heero's eyes dropped quickly from his face to his back, then flicked towards the deck chair where he'd been sitting. Blood was smeared like reddish brown paint on the white plastic.
"How bad is that?" Heero asked brusquely, handing him some extra chargers he'd found on one of the bodies.
Wufei shrugged. "Bleeding, painful, not crippling," he answered absently, slipping the ammo into his pocket.
Heero didn't look at the stained hole in the coat; his eyes went once more over Wufei's stance, as if not quite convinced his partner wasn't downplaying his injury. He didn't look entirely satisfied, but from the uncharacteristic hesitation that followed, Wufei gathered he was unable to find a way to formulate the question again, now that Wufei had told him his status clearly and was not expecting to be contradicted...Heero nodded abruptly and turned towards the door.
"You secure the hostage," he ordered, tightening his grip on his weapon. "I'll get the man who was here earlier and any information-"
"That might...interfere with...another operation," Wufei cautioned him, carefully. The room was probably not being monitored, since no-one had shown up to recapture them, but no point being careless, not with Trowa's life on the line.
"I'll stay away from their commander then, but I'm not leaving without some more information, now that ours was compromised." Heero's voice was below a whisper but still managed to get a bit of steely determination into it.
Wufei merely shrugged. He had his duty.
They opened the door and split up without another word.
On to part twenty-six. Back to part twenty-four.