Reunion Chapter 11




( Chapter 11 )

TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 JUL 07 2023hrs
SUBJECT: Hi guys!
---message begins---

Hey Q-man, hey Tro,

How are you guys? I've tried calling, but you move around so much I keep just missing you. Did you like the postcards? I thought they were cool. Right now I'm in Germany. The cars are so awesome. I spent the day cruising the Autobahn. Gotta love no speed limits!

I was wondering... is the offer of a place to stay and go to school still open? I think I'm ready to come home.

I miss you guys.


Oh! Do you have Heero's new contact details? I've tried getting a hold of him, but everything's changed. My e-mail's going to change soon, too; Dr. G says he's shutting down his wartime communications network. I'll miss the 'xxxx'! I'll let you know my new addy when I get it, 'kay?

---message ends---


TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 AUG 18 1437hrs
---message begins---

Hi Quat, hi Tro,

I still haven't heard from you guys. Didn't you get the e-mail with my new address? I've tried calling, and your secretaries keep taking messages, but I guess you're really busy and all. I still can't reach Heero, either. And tell Relena she needs a new secretary.

Well, it's been an interesting day. Good ol' Shinigami thought his ticket was punched this time for sure. The shuttle I was on almost went down in a blaze of glory. Some heavy cargo shifted, punctured the hull and severed a fuel line, not to mention smashing my laptop flat! It's not like it was a normal one, and easily replaceable. Lucky thing I had my disks and player in the cabin with me. If I'd lost them too... I would really have been pissed.

I should go; other people want to use this terminal. Can you believe it? Shinigami, reduced to using an internet cafe... the world must be ending.

Email back and let me know how you are. I really miss you guys.


P.S. Where are you guys now? Do you have a spare room I can borrow for a bit?

---message ends---


TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 SEP 12 0238hrs

---message begins---


Well, still no word from any of you. No calls, no e-mails... heh, I may get a complex.

Please call or e-mail? And tell Heero, too. I want to come home, but I need a place to stay until I get back on my feet. Not long.

I've checked into the Blake's Port Motel on L1 for a week so I'll have a steady number for you to call me at. Call me? Don't worry about what time. I haven't been sleeping much lately.

-Duo Maxwell

P.S. How's Wufei?

---message ends---


"There's a few more," Quatre said shakily. "Just little ones, dated between the first two... one's an electronic postcard. These three are the... the ones that..." He choked, and stopped.

Trowa pushed away from the desk and started to pace, quivering with tension. "Shit. Shit!" he hissed between clenched teeth. "No wonder it affected him so badly... He just wanted to come home. He came right out and said it in the e-mails! It would have been bad enough being cut off by friends. Being cut off by the people he saw as home... He wanted to find out if he was welcome back, and when nobody replied, it sure as hell looked like he wasn't."

"His nightmares must have been really bad for him to mention that he wasn't sleeping," Quatre whispered. "That was three months ago. If he hasn't been sleeping properly since then--"

"Or even longer," Trowa interrupted, still pacing. "If he got depressed and sleep-deprived, he'd stop eating properly; Heero had to remind him to eat a few times during the war. The combination would lower his immune system, so he got sick... and that would make everything else worse. Shit! If we'd just received one message... That fucking shithead Taarnby!"

Quatre nodded decisively, attempting to regain his composure. "One thing is certain. I am going to ruin Taarnby," he said, his voice hardening. "Just for what he's been doing to WEI and for taking advantage of my father's death and Serena's gullibility, I would cripple his company. But his greed and stupidity hurt Duo. I don't care that he had no idea what he was doing. When I am through with him, he is going to have nothing left."

Trowa bared his teeth in a humourless grin. "Sounds good to me." He stopped pacing, coming to a halt in front of the vidphone and punched in a code. A few seconds later, Ninke's face flashed onto the screen.

< < WEI, Ninke Assink-- Mr Barton, hello again. How can I help you this time? > >

"Have you found anything yet?"

Ninke blinked. < < Ah... with all due respect, sir, it's been less than an hour. At the moment, I have people locating and collecting the files. > >

"...Fine. Sorry." Trowa rubbed at his forehead. "It's just gone up in priority; poach staff from other areas if you have to. In fact, use Elite's personnel wherever possible. They put the stuff on the files, they can get it off again."

< < Certainly, Mr Barton. > >

"Also, you're no doubt aware by now that parts of Elite's current operating procedures are utter crap--"

Ninke nodded emphatically. < < They could be termed that, sir. > >

"--so I want you to get hold of copies of their old SOPs, the ones from eighteen months ago. I want them reinstated as of this afternoon."

< < Yes, sir. > > Ninke made a quick note, then looked up again. < < I should point out that we're likely to encounter arguments; my understanding is that according to the terms of their contract, Elite's management determine the SOPs-- > >

"And now we come to the main reason I called you." Trowa grinned nastily. "The contract with Elite will be severed very soon. Set up a team to interview all the staff they currently supply to us. Find the ones that can actually think for themselves without referring to a list of procedures every five minutes, and offer to hire them." He glanced over his shoulder. "Quatre? Did I miss anything?"

Absorbed by his computer screen once more, Quatre waved a hand vaguely in Trowa's direction. "No, no, that's perfect. Exactly what I want. Do it."

Scribbling another note to himself, the Dutch man nodded sharply. < < Begrepen. *> >

Trowa blinked; then one corner of his mouth slowly turned up in an amused smirk. "You know, Ninke, I've been waiting for you to say that for months."

< < Uh... really, sir? Why? > >

"I must introduce you to Heero Yui some time. Keep us informed." *click!*

Trowa slowly walked back towards his chair, rubbing his forehead and smiling slightly; he paused as he realised that Ninke's little 'Heero comment' had bounced him partway out of his uncharacteristic black mood, then spoke. "You know, Quatre, Ninke Assink is a gem. He's wasted in clerical admin; I think you should promote him and have him work directly for you. Call him your Executive Officer or Special Assistant."

Quatre blinked, looking up. "But... I've never had an assistant."

"Exactly. You need one."

"Father never had one either..."

"Your father spent all his time at WEI. You, on the other hand, also have responsibilities to the Preventers, and all the other political things you help Relena with. You don't even have a personal assistant to handle your calls and appointments!"

"But I never stay at any one branch for more than a week or two!" Quatre protested. "I'd hardly ever be in the same place as the assistant!"

"So hire one who's willing to follow you around," Trowa suggested, sitting down. "Your father did a fair amout of branch-hopping himself. How did he handle it?"

"...His personal secretary followed him everywhere," Quatre admitted with a wry smile. "She had an assistant at each branch to forward messages and take care of things that came up when she wasn't there."

"You see? It's not such a bad idea."

"All right, all right, I'll think about it." Quatre settled back into his seat and sighed, rubbing at sore eyes, then changed the subject. "That ex-secretary of Relena's probably deleted any e-mails he sent her. I wonder if they're recoverable?"

Trowa snorted. "Heero set up her security and fiddled with her office's computer setup. I'd say everything is recoverable until he wants it gone."

* * * * *

A few hours later, Trowa was proven right.

Heero had added a few of his own... refinements... to the computer systems in Relena's office. One of them, similar to a program he'd written for the computers at Preventers' HQ, automatically recorded all the vidphone calls to or from the office; another archived a copy of every e-mail.

'Just in case,' Heero had told Relena when she asked why. 'You never know when you might need something, and it turns out someone's deleted it.' At the time, she'd dismissed that as mild paranoia, a hangover from the war; she'd agreed because he wanted it, not because she thought the archives would ever be needed.

*If Heero says he wants a stuffed penguin in every room, because 'we might need one', I'm going to say 'How big?'* Relena thought, watching the third recording Georg had pulled up out of the archive. *And then I'll place a bulk order at Toys'R'Us. I can't believe I was stupid enough to hire that... that bitch! I knew she was a snob, but I thought she wasn't letting it affect her work. Her own personal feelings should have had nothing to do with how she treated people I chose to deal with!*

"Georg," she said abruptly as the recording finished, "please assign some people to go through this whole archive, call by call. I realise it's going to be an enormous job, but I want to find out who else she froze out like this."

"Yes, ma'am," Georg said, nervously eyeing the screen as he brought up the fourth call he'd found. "Your friend's pretty brave, ma'am. I would've stopped calling after the first try."

"She does do coldly polite, 'why are you wasting my time, you worthless bug?' very well, doesn't she?" Relena said dryly.

Georg nodded. "Oh, definitely, ma'am. She never said a single rude word, but she might as well have been yelling 'GO AWAY! I don't want to help YOU!' at the top of her lungs."

"Duo wasn't looking particularly disreputable," Relena muttered to herself as Georg clicked 'play', "and he was polite. He even had polite slogans on his T-shirts..."

< < Good afternoon, Foreign Minister Peacecraft's off-- oh, it's you again. I told you, if Miss Peacecraft wishes to speak to you, she'll return your call! > >

Relena's eyes widened. *We have now crossed the line into actively rude... Ha. That line alone, combined with the fact that she never passed any messages to me, is justification for dismissal. So much for her court case. Everything from here on is just going to increase the size of the damage settlement I'm going to get for Duo.*


Heero listened to the calls Relena and Georg were playing with half an ear as he ran searches through the e-mail archive. He'd only found one e-mail from Duo's old address; unaccountably reluctant to read it, he'd tried keyword searches to find more. Searching by 'Shinigami' and 'Death' found him another e-mail address Duo had used. (It also brought up a message from somebody who insisted they'd seen Death hovering over the Empire State Building, and 'i tell you BECAUSE you is QUEEN and is YOUR job FIX things liKe this. tell him Go aWay. why you called MInister? YOU QUEEN. FIX this so i go up to OBservation level not get scared', but Heero thought he could safely ignore that.)

He sat staring at the half-dozen messages he'd found for a moment, then took a deep breath and clicked on the first one.


TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 JUL 08 1926hrs
SUBJECT: Hey Gorgeous!
---message begins---

Hey Queenie!

How are you and your Prince UnCharming? *grin* Did you manage to get a formal proposal from him yet? Just present it as a mission. You know him, he can't refuse.

I hope you got the postcards. I wasn't sure where to send them, so they went to your office. Did Heero like his?

I should be coming home soon. Just waiting to hear from Quatre and make sure his offer of a place to stay is still open. See you soon!

Hugs & Kisses


OH! Tell Heero to send me his new contact details. I have to get a new e-mail address too; I'll let you know when I do.

---message ends---


"He loved that four-x address," Heero muttered. "It's the name of a beer in Australia, I think..."

"Heero? Do you want to see these? They're getting worse," Relena said grimly.

"No," he said, glancing up briefly at her. "I can hear. Duo sent us postcards, by the way."

Relena winced. "He sent them here?"


"All the mail sent to me at the Ministry goes through my secretary," she said tiredly, waving her hands in a throw-away gesture. "I think we can guess what happened to them."

Heero nodded again, clicking on the next mail. "Ah. He sent us an electronic postcard, too; a photo of Uluru. 'Here's a picture of that big red rock in the middle of Australia. I had to test my new e-mail addy anyway, and this is one of the big tourist things Down Under, so... I'm down here toasting the end of with XXXX beer! Mail me, 'kay?'"

Relena smiled sadly, then nodded to Georg. As the next call played, Heero clicked his way through the next few messages -- brief updates on where Duo was and what he was doing -- then stopped as he came to a longer one.


TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 AUG 20 1714hrs
SUBJECT: Helloooooooo?
---message begins---

Hi Relena, Heero,

How are you? I haven't heard from you. Is everything OK? I suppose you're both real busy.

Did Quatre tell you about the close call? Next time, I pilot the shuttle. If I'd been flying, I'd still have my laptop, instead of a bunch of pieces. It's a bad day when Shinigami has to use an internet cafe.

Well, gotta go. Do you have room for me to visit?


P.S. You REALLY need to get a new secretary, Relena. The one you've got is very rude.

P.P.S. HEERO! Send me your contact details!

---message ends---


*He sounds worried in this one,* Heero thought, frowning. *Worried, and trying to hide it from us... and what's this about a close call?!*

His train of thought abruptly cut off as he heard Marie Reynard's raised voice from Relena's terminal.

< < You might as well give up! I don't care what sort of handout you're after, and I don't care what sob story you've got to tell. Miss Relena doesn't associate with worthless bums like you! > >

"Shit," Relena said conversationally. "That bitch."

When Heero looked up, Relena was looking calmly at the screen; the only outward sign of emotion was a whiteness around her lips as she pressed them tightly together, holding back further comment. Georg, however, was obviously furious.

"That sucks," he burst out angrily. "I'm amazed she passed the security checks. There should have been something in there to tell us she was such a bitch!"

"I don't think being a bitch is normally considered a security risk, Georg," Relena said in a tightly controlled voice. "It's not something the checks look for."

"You know what I mean, ma'am," he grumbled.

Heero opened the last message.


TO: < >
FROM: < >
SENT: AC197 SEP 15 0342hrs
---message begins---

I still haven't heard from any of you. Did I do something wrong? I'd like to come home, but I'll need a place to stay... just for a little while. Can you put me up? Just until I find something else?

I'll be at the Blake's Port Motel on L1 for another four days. Please call me if I can stay with you. Call any time. I don't sleep much.

-Duo Maxwell

---message ends---


Heero stood up, turned around, and slammed his fist through the wall panel behind his chair.

"Heero! What's wrong?"

"Mr Yui, are you--"

"Read it," Heero spat out, pulling his fist back for another punch.

"...Oh. Oh no," Relena moaned, pressing her hand to her mouth as she read and Heero methodically demolished the panel behind her.

"Mr Yui, you're bleeding!" Georg protested.

"I know." *CRASH!*

"All he wanted was to come home. All he wanted was to know if he was welcome... but because I was stupid enough to hire that opinionated, stuck-up bitch, he thought he didn't have a home to come back to..."

Heero curiously examined his torn knuckles, turning his hand and watching as a trickle of blood ran down to his wrist.

"What do we do now?" he asked quietly.

* * * * *

It took hours for Duo to finish his story. He never really stopped crying as he talked; his words were interrupted by sobs, and several times he broke down completely and couldn't continue until Wufei soothed him. Towards the end, his voice was so ravaged by coughing, crying and talking that it was reduced to a raspy whisper, but Wufei never considered telling him to stop. Duo needed to get it all out... and Wufei needed to hear it.

He started at the very beginning, with Solo.

Wufei listened intently as Duo told him everything, including things he'd never told Heero. He went on from Solo's death to the destruction of Maxwell Church, and to all the things that happened to him on the streets before and after those happier times. He talked about what had happened to him during the war; some of it Wufei already knew, but there was more -- things that Duo had hidden so well that even Quatre hadn't realised anything was wrong.

"And then we won," Duo whispered, "and I thought maybe... maybe things would be OK. We'd all made it through the war alive, and it looked like we all had a chance to be happy. Trowa and Quatre had each other. Heero and Relena were working it out. And... I..." He swallowed, turning to press his face into Wufei's chest.

"I screwed up again," Duo continued, voice muffled. "I screwed up, and I thought you hated me, and I ran away like a coward. I just... I was only going to stay away for a little while. I needed to spend some time alone, so I could get things sorted out, and... so the others wouldn't find out. I didn't want them to know. Heero woulda got mad. Quatre and Relena woulda been upset. Trowa... I dunno about Trowa. Something. I didn't want them to fuss, and I didn't want them blaming you for something that was my fault."

"It wasn't your fault," Wufei murmured, blinking back tears of his own and tightening his arms around the boy lying cradled against his chest.

Duo continued as if he hadn't spoken. "And when I got myself to the point where I figured I could come back... I couldn't. Nobody would talk to me. Nobody would return my calls or my e-mails... I couldn't even leave messages for Heero; all his numbers had changed. And then everything started going to shit.

"I was starting to think maybe I should hack into Relena's system, or Quatre's... bypass all the damn secretaries and talk to them direct... and then there was a cargo accident on the shuttle I was on, and I didn't have a laptop any more. I tried anyway, from a public terminal, but without the stuff built into my laptop I couldn't get through. The security was too good. I was so glad I still had my CDs at least, but half of them got smashed when some idiot drove over my bag in a carpark, and then my hotel room was broken into when I was out and they took the player and the rest of my disks. I didn't even get reimbursed for them, 'cause the hotel said I musta left the door unlocked. They threw me out when I argued.

"Then my money started to run out--"

"Why?" Wufei asked, gently stroking Duo's back. He was pretty sure he knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from Duo's mouth. "You got so much money from OZ during the war. What happened to it?"

"I gave it away," Duo said matter-of-factly. "They needed it more than I did."


"...Kids. Charities. Everyone, really. They deserved it." There was a short pause, then Duo continued. "I started getting sick, and I wasn't sleeping much. The last of my money just kinda disappeared. And then Relena's secretary... I gave up. I thought that was it. I thought there wasn't anything left that could make me feel worse..." He started to sob again. "I s-started hiding. I mean, really hiding, not just messing up my trail for fun or b-because it was a habit. I d-didn't really think anyone would l-look for me, n-not after so long, but... I w-wasn't taking the chance. I didn't w-want to see them any more, except sometimes when I wanted to t-tell them what I thought of them. I n-never wanted it enough to try c-calling again, though. And then... I...

"I finally went back to L2. I d-didn't want to, but it was n-nearly the anniversary, and... I n-needed to pay my respects. And I... I got mugged. They g-got me in an alley, and I tried to fight, really I d-did, b-but I just wasn't strong enough any more... and..."

Duo started to cry in earnest, clutching desperately at Wufei's T-shirt and his own braid.

"They took my cross, 'Fei. The cross Father Maxwell gave me. I thought nothing could hurt worse than what had already happened, and then they t-took my c-cross... Everything goes, 'Fei! Everything I get, I lose again eventually. Everyone I c-care about dies or leaves me. I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I musta done something... otherwise why wouldn't I get to keep just one thing? Just one? And now I'm so scared because I don't know when you'll be taken away from me again..."

"I won't, Duo," Wufei insisted fiercely, tears running down his face as he held Duo even closer. "I won't. I promise. I'll stay with you as long as you want me to."

"But... I can't... I can't even watch you walk out the d-door without panicking!"

"I may leave to go shopping, or to go to work... but I'll always come back. I promise, Duo."


Duo eventually cried himself to sleep, curled up against Wufei's chest and cradled in his arms.

*There must be some way to explain what happened so that Duo no longer thinks it was his fault,* Wufei thought, slowly stroking the sleeping boy's hair. *The first thing to do, obviously, is to find out exactly what did happen. I know what happened to his messages to Relena... but what about the others? Why did Heero change his contact details? I don't remember an explanation; he just e-mailed me one day with his new numbers, from his new e-mail address, and I never asked why.* He sighed, carefully shifting around in preparation for standing up. *Even then, it won't explain why it took eight months for them to think about looking for Duo. Even if they thought he was keeping in touch with me, why didn't they ask me about him sooner? Why didn't they wonder why I didn't mention him?* He carefully stood up with Duo in his arms, wincing as various muscles protested the movement after sitting still for so long. *How can I explain this to Duo when I don't understand it myself? And can I really expect him to forgive the others, when I don't want to?*

*We'll have to work something out,* Wufei thought, carrying Duo towards the bedroom. *Duo's lost too many families.*

He gently settled Duo onto the futon without waking him, then hesitated. *Damn... the washing's still in the dryer downstairs. Can I leave him for five minutes to go get it? I really don't want him to wake up and find him alone in the apartment... and he's certain to have nightmares tonight, after dragging up all those bad memories. If one starts while I'm gone--*

Duo whimpered softly, pulling himself into a tighter curl, one hand clutching at the neck of his T-shirt. The other hand started patting over the blankets on the empty side of the bed.

*Screw the laundry.* Wufei pulled the covers back and slid carefully into bed beside Duo, holding him close.

end 'Reunion' chapter 11

*'begrepen' = 'acknowledged'




















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