Cursed

He'd been here for a while now, and he'd been given lots of food. There were five new Uncles. They came two at a time, always with food. Sometimes they had tasks for him to do. When he did good, they gave him something. When he couldn't do it, they didn't get mad and still gave him food. He slept a lot, and that made him nervous. He was a lazy freak, and they would punish him soon, but he was so scared to come out. Afraid if he came out then the nice Uncles would become angry and mean and the food would stop coming.

Heero had given him a piece of paper for untying his shoe laces when they'd gotten knotted. It made him feel so good to be able to be useful. His small fingers undid the knot easily. And Trowa had given him a blue crayon when he'd managed to recite the ABCs without a single mistake. Quatre had given him a green crayon when he'd counted to one twenty all by himself. Wufei had given him a penlight for cleaning about a dozen silver spoons. He'd had to push his curtains open on both sides because of the cleaning fluid, but he hadn't had to come out from under the bed, so that was okay.

Safe under his bed, he'd used the penlight, and the paper, and the two crayons, and he'd drawn a picture as best he could. He drew trees and a lake and flowers flying in the sky on a wind. He wanted to show his new Uncles that he could be useful with the things he was given. He wanted to say thank you for all the good food even though he was a lazy freak. Tears burned his eyes.

"Hey, little one, time to eat. Can you look out so we can see you, please?"

He moved the curtains aside and went to the edge of the bed. He blinked still sensitive eyes and saw Trowa and Quatre sitting in the doorway. He turned around and pulled his paper out.

"What do you have there?" Quatre asked sweetly, smiling with big blue eyes.

He stared at the picture in the light of day and saw that it was terrible. It was nothing like he had seen in his head. It was ugly. Just like him. He was a useless freak. He should just come out and take his punishment because that's all he was good for.

"Oh, sweetie, don't cry. It's okay. It'll all be okay now."

He looked out and was surprised to see Quatre crying. He gasped. Was it his fault? Oh, he was in so much trouble! They would whip him for this for sure!

"That is a lovely picture. Is that for us?" Trowa asked, deep voice soft as always.

Panting in fear, shaking badly, he curled in a ball. He stared in horror at Quatre, waiting for the new Uncle to leap forward and beat him senseless for making him cry. He knew the picture was bad! What was he thinking, trying to do something good? It was useless. He was a bad freak. He'd never do anything right. He needed punishment! But he couldn't move, too terrified to even blink.

Quatre began to stand, crying harder now, and he flinched, a whine rising in his throat. Trowa reached out and pulled the blonde back down. He wrapped an arm around Quatre and held him close to his side.

He blinked rapidly, confused. Trowa was awfully gentle. Not like an Uncle at all. And he was being so nice to Quatre. The blonde had even stopped crying, his face pressed to Trowa's shoulder. Slowly, he stopped crying, too. The fear bled out of him until he lay limp and exhausted on the floor. He had no idea what was going on, but he was beginning to realize that these new Uncles weren't the same as Uncle at all. Eventually, Quatre faced him again.

"I'm sorry, sweetie. I wasn't crying because of you. I had a bad day, and your picture is making me feel much better. Thank you so much for letting me see it."

He blinked, shocked. His picture was helping Quatre? A warm feeling began to bloom in his stomach. Quatre was smiling softly, looking at his picture and no longer crying. Feeling reckless, he crawled forward. He watched the two carefully, but neither reacted. They just watched him with calm expressions. He came half out from under his bed and reached his hand forward as far as it could go. He dropped the picture there and scurried back under the bed.

"Make feel better," he said, voice a hoarse whisper.

"Oh, thank you so much!" Quatre reached forward as far as he could and just managed to grab the paper without having to come into the room. He held it like it was something beautiful. "I love it! I will put it on the wall so everyone can see!"

He smiled, a deep sigh resonating in his chest. He'd finally done something good for his Uncle.

"Here, little one. Eat," Trowa told him.

The tray was pushed forward with a stick like a broom handle like always. He snagged it and ate in record time, still afraid it could be taken from him. When he finished, he pulled the small jug with his pee from the corner and put it on the empty tray. Trowa pulled it all back with the rope that was tied to the tray. He then pushed the tray back with a new, empty jug. He took it gratefully and the tray went away again.

"I need you to do something for me," Trowa said.

He peeked out curiously, a yawn stretching his face.

"You will have to go poop soon. To your left, that way, is a doorway. Can you see it? It's a bathroom. I want you to go poop in the toilet."

He stared at the doorway. He didn't want to come out. It would change everything. He'd be in the open where the pain could get him. The Uncles were just pretending to be nice! It was a trap! He snarled and pulled the curtains closed, heart hammering in his chest.

"Sweetie, if you don't want to come out, you need to poop in this bowl here. And when you're done, one of us will have to come in there and clean everything up. But if you use the toilet, you will get a present just like the crayons and paper and light, okay?"

No, no! He was safe here. He didn't want anyone coming in! They said they wouldn't come in! Sobbing, he curled in a tight ball, so very afraid.

xXxXxXx

Quatre stalked into the command center. He paced the room, ignoring Wufei's raised eyebrow. When he felt he had enough control not to yell, he spun on his lover. Trowa stood patiently against the wall, his arms crossed. Quatre narrowed his eyes dangerously and strode over to stand inches from his face.

"What were you thinking? He actually spoke! He came out from under the bed willingly! How could you push him like that?" he demanded in a low, furious voice. He didn't want Harry to hear him, after all.

"Our mission was to inform him about the toilet," Trowa answered, which was no answer at all.

"You could have told him about it next time with Wufei!"

"The schedule…"

Quatre spun, turning his back on the lanky teen. "Sometimes the schedule must be adjusted!"

"Duo said…"

He turned back sharply. "I know what Duo said. And maybe he's pushing for too much too soon! He doesn't know what Harry's feeling! He's never dealt with such an extreme case."

"If we don't push him, he'll never come out from under the bed," Duo interrupted. He stood in the doorway, hands braiding his loose hair. "We can't let him keep hiding under there for much longer. It's been five days."

"Five days is hardly going to erase a lifetime of abuse," Quatre argued heatedly. "He's still scared. He's not ready! And we shouldn't be threatening him!"

"He needs to learn…"

"Shut up!" Quatre finally raised his voice.

He was so sick of planning out every encounter with the boy. Harry wasn't some mission. He was a child! A hurting, wounded child, and they were playing mind games, telling him they were his keepers because that's all Harry would understand, threatening to break into his safe space if he didn't comply with their orders, and… and… Tears blurring his vision, Quatre pushed passed his friend and moved toward the front of the house.

"I'm going to the office for a few hours," he muttered stiffly.

xXxXxXx

He opened his eyes at the sound of the voices. It was Wufei and Trowa. They wanted him to look out and eat and use the toilet. He did have to poop. He could feel it. But he was so afraid. Whimpering, he buried his face in the blankets piled around him and closed his eyes, shutting everything out.

xXxXxXx

Wufei sighed as he set the untouched tray on the kitchen counter. It was the first time Harry hadn't taken the food they'd brought. Duo had devised the schedule. They each saw Harry twice a day, arriving at his door in pairs. First it was Heero and Duo, then Duo and Quatre, then Quatre and Trowa, then Trowa and him, and him and Heero. That led to five small meals a day, each getting a little bigger than the last. The most important aspect of each meal was the canister of juice and the bottle of milk. Each had powdered nutrients mixed in.

After nearly a week of this, Harry still looked gaunt, but his green eyes were brighter, his skin had more color, and the general air of sickness was dissipating. The boy was getting stronger, but maybe Quatre was right. Duo didn't know everything. Perhaps they were pushing too far too soon. Harry had finally spoken to them. He'd colored a picture, and now he was shut down just when they'd finally made some significant progress.

"Hey, Wu-man, no success?"

"Thanks to you," he snapped. He turned and saw Duo standing in the doorway of the kitchen. His eyes wide at the attack. "Winner's right. Barton shouldn't have pushed the bathroom issue, not when he finally reached out to us."

Duo crossed his arms, on the defensive. "Hey, man, Harry's ready for more. We can't baby him too much or he'll never recover."

"You sound like Yuy," Wufei growled in disgust. "That's a little boy in there, not some soldier you can push until he breaks."

"Fuck you, Chang!" Duo yelled. "I know what I'm doing!"

"Do you? That'd be a first. You're always fucking up. I don't know what we were thinking putting you in charge of a little boy!"

Wufei braced himself as Duo lunged forward, fury burning in his eyes, only to relax when the braided pilot jerked to a stop. He saw Heero over Duo's shoulder, his hand holding tight to Duo's braid. Duo spun and yanked his hair free. He shot both of them death glares before storming out of the room.

Heero pinned Wufei with a look. "Harry has been constipated due to the starvation. He will have to release his waste soon, and the issue could not wait. You must consider that Harry is aware that defecating on the floor or in a container is unsanitary and unacceptable behavior. Allowing him to do so under the bed will only increase his belief that he is subhuman and exempt from the rules of society. By informing him that he is expected to use the toilet, we are in essence telling him he is normal. Duo also hoped to ease any anxiety about the issue by stating clear rules and expectations that Harry could understand before the need became distressing."

Wufei stared, uncertain what to say. Those were all good points. He was just frustrated. They'd been working in shifts, getting barely five hours of sleep a night, and had been cooped up in this house for going on six days now. It was wearing on all of them. "I will apologize to Maxwell."

Heero nodded and slipped out of the room.

xXxXxXx

Heero and Wufei were here with his tray, and he couldn't ignore it anymore. Trowa was right. He had to go potty. He was afraid of coming out, of leaving his sanctuary, but he didn't want to poop in the bowl, and he really, really didn't want his new Uncles to have to come in and clean up any mess he made. He was afraid, but he was always afraid. He had to do what he always did and push through it. The bottom line was he had to go potty, and it was always so much better using a toilet.

He opened the curtain and peeked out. Heero and Wufei were sitting just outside the doorway. They had a tray of food with them, and he was hungry because he hadn't come out when Trowa and Wufei had come. First, though, he had to go to the bathroom. He bit his lip.

"Hello," Wufei greeted him, dark eyes solemn. "We have food."

He looked from Heero to Wufei a few times. They were more serious than his other new Uncles. They weren't as talkative as Duo, and not as gentle as Trowa or friendly as Quatre. It was reassuring. He knew what to expect with Heero and Wufei. The others were so strange! They made him feel uncertain, but Heero and Wufei were different. They never asked questions and they didn't show emotion, so maybe they wouldn't get angry.

Trembling, tensed to spring back under the bed, he began to crawl out of the safety of his nest. He was all the way out now. He froze, belly to the floor, breathing hard. His eyes never moved from the two in the doorway, but they didn't move or even widen their eyes. They acted like it didn't matter one way or another. He relaxed a little and looked quickly for the other doorway. Just as Trowa said, it was just to the left. He scrabbled at the floor and lunged for the other room.

Cool tile pressed against the bare skin of his shins as he knelt in front of the toilet. The bathroom was comfortingly small. There was a window he could get through if he had to, so he wasn't trapped. There was a single toilet and a low sink with soap and a towel. He quickly sat on the seat and went potty. He felt much better when he was done.

Still shaking a bit, unnerved about being in the open, he quickly wiped himself clean, flushed, and hurried through scrubbing his hands. Then he was sprinting back for the bed and diving for cover. He felt lightheaded and dizzy, but he'd done it! He'd made it, and nothing had grabbed him or hurt him. A quick check showed Heero and Wufei still at the doorway, unmoving. He was still safe, and no one would come into the room now!

"Excellent job," Heero said, voice even. "I'm very proud of you."

Wufei nodded his head. "That took a lot of courage. You are a very brave boy."

He gasped, shocked, and grinned madly, pressing his face into his blankets. He was brave! He was a good boy, and they were proud of him! His head got even dizzier, but it felt wonderful. He curled up and wrapped his arms around himself, rocking slightly, still smiling wide. Then the tray was coming forward. He uncurled just enough to snag it and shovel everything into his mouth. It tasted better than ever! Giving a gurgling little laugh, he froze, expecting them to tell him to shut up, that he was stupid, but instead Wufei smiled and Heero winked. He couldn't believe it! It was so strange, which was scary, but so exciting and good, too.

He gave them the full pee bottle and empty tray. He watched as Wufei put a new empty bottle back on the tray to give it back. Feeling brave, still high on his unexpected success, he shook his head. "No. Keep. Use toilet."

"Very smart decision," Wufei approved and kept the bottle.

He smiled, fit to bursting. This was the best day ever. Then it got even better. Heero reached to the side and revealed a soft looking stuffed bunny. It was grey and its long ears stuck up and folded over in the middle, flopping down. A brown silk bow hung around its neck. It had two black button eyes, a brown triangle nose, and a smiling mouth made from black yarn. He stared at the toy in utter longing. Unconsciously, he wrapped his arms around his chest again, afraid he'd reach out and get punished for being a greedy no-good freak. But then the impossible happened. Heero used the stick to push it over.

"For you. You were very good today. I promise we will never take it from you. It's your responsibility to take care of him from now on. I'm counting on you."

He nodded frantically and reached out for the toy. It was just as soft as he'd imagined. He pulled the precious gift in toward his chest and hugged it desperately. Tears welled up in his eyes and he began rocking again, sobbing helplessly. "Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you."

"You're welcome," Heero answered, actually smiling back at him.

"I will take good care! I promise! Be very good boy! Thank you, Uncle Heero!"

"We aren't your uncles," Wufei corrected.

Still crying happily, he looked from Wufei and Heero and back again. They were watching him seriously as always. He swallowed hard, confused. "Not Uncle?"

"No," Heero answered, and he almost sounded mad but not quite. His voice was all hard and his eyes were sharp, but he didn't yell or get red. Still, he hunched over his bunny, afraid they'd take him back because he'd said something bad.

"We're your… brothers," Heero told him.

His eyes went wide. Brothers?

Wufei looked at Heero and nodded before looking back. "Yes. We are all your new older brothers."

He stared, dazed. Not uncles. Brothers. He'd never had a brother before. Just a cousin and an aunt and Uncle. He was amazed. Having brothers was a sure lot nicer than having uncles. He should have known because they were so much nicer than Uncle ever was.

"Rest," Heero ordered. "I will return with your brother Duo, and we'll have more food for you."

He nodded, still hugging the bunny close. "Thank you, big brother Heero. Thank you, big brother Wufei."

"You're welcome," Wufei answered with another small smile.

Shaking, he reached out and closed the curtain. He laid there for a long time, hugging his new bunny, overwhelmed with everything that had happened.

xXxXxXx

Duo and the others huddled around the screen as they watched a replay of Harry leaving the shelter of the bed and his reaction to receiving the stuffed toy. He whistled, a wide smile splitting his face. "Good one, Quatre. You were right. He loved that thing!"

Quatre blushed and turned to face his friend. His blue eyes sparkled with tears. "I'm sorry I questioned you, Duo. You were right about the bathroom and about needing to push him." He leaned forward placed a kiss on Duo's cheek. Violet eyes widened at him. "I can feel how much you worry and doubt yourself, but you're doing great. Heero was absolutely right in picking you. No one could do better."

"Enough!" Duo laughed. He was blushing a bright red. "You're killing me here, Q-ball."

"I apologize as well, Maxwell. I should not have taken my frustrations out on you," Wufei added, solemn.

"Forget it." Duo waved his hands in front of him in dismissal. "It never happened!"

"What's the next plan?" Trowa questioned, obliging Duo by changing the topic. He inclined his head slightly when Heero shot him an approving look.

"Weeeelllll…" Duo tilted his head back and tapped his chin. "We wait a day. Let everything sink in a bit. Then we get his butt back out from under the bed. He's needed a lot of sleep to recover, but he needs some light physical activity soon or he'll never regain true strength. So we need to think of something that he can do that will stretch his muscles and make him work a bit while still in his bedroom."

They all went silent in thought. Unsurprisingly it was the statistician that came up with an answer.

"We can print up picture instructions and have him build a small bookshelf. That way he can put his things on it when we begin his lessons. I assume that will happen soon?" Quatre questioned.

Duo nodded. "Yeah, kid needs to learn to read in the worst way. And he'll be awake more and will need to be occupied." He grinned and flung an arm around the blonde's shoulders. "I like it. It will also ease him into the idea that the whole room is his if he starts filling it up with his things. Then maybe we can convince him to actually sleep on the bed. But that probably won't happen for a while."

"Is it safe?" Heero asked. "Constructing a bookshelf will require nails and a hammer."

"Not necessarily," Quatre countered. "We can buy one that already has holes and comes with screws and washers. Then he'll only need a Phillips head."

"I'm in!" Duo exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air.

xXxXxXx

A day or so after getting Sage, his bunny, Duo and Heero pushed in a box with all the pieces and the instructions to building a bookcase. It looked hard. His brothers told him he could take his time, but they'd really like it if he'd build it for them. He wanted to help, really he did! He just wasn't very smart, and as he said, it looked hard. But the instructions weren't in words, so he didn't have to read, which was good since he wasn't very good at it. After looking at the pictures for a while, he thought he just might be able to do it. So he slowly crawled out from under the bed.

He shifted so that he had a good view of the doorway in case his brothers came back and opened the box. His hands were sweaty. He didn't like being out from under the bed. It should be okay, though. He had several escape points. He couldn't be cornered here. There was a wide window behind him and another window in the bathroom. He was safe even if his brothers came running in angry as hell. Besides, he was doing as Duo and Heero had asked. They should be happy, but he knew that it didn't matter if you were doing what you were told. Sometimes adults got mad anyway. They were strange like that. He'd come to accept it long ago. So with one eye on the door at all times, he got to work.

There sure were a lot of pieces. He got really worried. Maybe he really couldn't do it! But he took a deep breath and kept the instructions close. He triple checked everything before putting a piece together. The wood was heavy, but he stretched and pushed with both arms. Soon he was sweating, but it felt kind of nice. He didn't have bruises or welts. He actually felt pretty good. Better than he had in a long time. He was actually surprised when he finished, he'd gotten so caught up in the work.

"It looks great!"

He jumped in the air with a scream of fright, almost braining himself as he dove for the bed. Panting, safe in the dark with the curtains pulled shut, he lay there, blinking fast as the panic slowly faded, leaving him feeling exhausted and nauseous.

"Sorry, kiddo. Didn't mean to scare you," Duo's voice reached him, soft and remorseful.

His eyes widened. Had Duo just apologized? To him? No way! He reached out and pulled the curtains open. Sure enough, Duo was staring right at him, a sorrowful look on his face.

"Next time I'll remember to make more noise when I come to the door, I promise. I know it's hard to believe, but I really won't hurt you. Not even when I get mad, I won't hurt you. I don't like pain, so I'm not going to give it to you, either."

He just gaped at his big brother. He didn't believe it for a second, but… Duo sure seemed to. "S'okay," he offered, not knowing what to say. He just wanted Duo to be happy again. Duo was sure nice to him, and he didn't want him to be sad. Not cause of him. He wasn't worth it.

"Thanks for understanding. That means a lot to me," Duo answered and smiled brightly.

He smiled back, still uncertain, but it was a lot better than Duo being mad and hurting him.

"The bookcase is perfect. You did a really good job," Quatre spoke up.

He ducked his head, embarrassed.

"I'm glad," Quatre continued. "Now you have somewhere to put your school books."

His head darted up in astonishment. "Books?"

"Yep!" Duo said cheerfully. "We're going to teach you math and reading, so you're going to need to have somewhere safe to put your books. That bookcase is just the thing!"

He couldn't help but stare at them as if they were crazy. "Too stupid for school."

"Nah," Duo waved his concern off. "Stupid is like being sick, and books are like medicine. Once we teach you, you won't be stupid anymore. You'll be smart!"

He was pretty sure he could never be smart, but Duo made sense. Maybe he could be smart one day if he worked really hard. He offered a small smile and hugged his bunny to his chest.

"What's his name?" Quatre asked and pointed at his bunny.

"Sage," he answered softly, blushing. "He's the bestest friend in the whole world."

"I bet. I have a teddy bear. His name is Fredrick. Maybe they can play together one day."

His eyes went wide and he looked down at Sage. "Will Fredrick hurt him? Sage is… is…" His face scrunched up as he thought of how to explain the fear. "…sick. He has to be careful."

Quatre nodded in understanding. "Fredrick is always very careful. He's shy, so I'm sure he wouldn't hurt Sage."

"Okay," he allowed reluctantly.

"Where'd you come up with a name like Sage?" Duo asked. His hands were linked behind his head and he wore a silly grin. "It's a great name. I'd never've thought of it!"

"I cook. Use sage sometimes. It's soft grey like Sage's fur."

"It's a good smell, too," Duo agreed. They shared a smile.

"Here, I bet you're hungry." Quatre pushed the tray to him and he ate it quickly as he always did. "When I come with Trowa, we'll have the first book to work on, okay?"

He nodded, giving a yawn.

"Get some sleep, kiddo," Duo told him.

He nodded again and closed the curtain, curling up to go to sleep with Sage safe in his arms.

xXxXxXx

Heero stared at his computer screen and the message from Une. He'd expected it and was only surprised it had taken this long for her to summon him. It had been six weeks since he'd brought Harry to the house. The boy was making outstanding progress. He would now come out from under the bed to lay on the floor in front of the doorway and work on his studies with them. He did his homework and kept his books neat and organized on the bookcase he'd built. He went to the bathroom without showing significant signs of panic. He even got within reach of Quatre to play with Fredrick and Sage. They continued to reward him with little things, and he was growing stronger and putting on weight.

Unfortunately, Harry still wouldn't let them touch him and, in fact, wouldn't let them in the room. If they mentioned it, he'd panic and hide under the bed for a couple hours. The thought of leaving the room garnered a similar reaction, but Duo said they'd have to push him on the issue soon. If they let the fear take hold, he could develop agoraphobia.

"Whatcha doin?"

He turned to see Duo enter his room and flop down on his bed. The braided pilot rolled on his back, head hanging over the edge as he looked at Heero.

"A message from Une. She says she needs me to come in. It's urgent."

Duo groaned. He sat up and hugged his legs to his chest. "You goin?"

Heero nodded. "If the mission isn't critical, I'll turn it down."

Duo looked away with a frown.

Heero stood and came to sit by his partner. He waited patiently for a reaction, knowing he'd get one, but he wasn't prepared for what he got. Duo uncurled and grabbed his shoulders. Heero's eyes widened as that soft mouth pressed against his. He swallowed hard, his heart rate elevated as he stared into the violet eyes so close to his own. Then Duo pulled away.

"Be careful, Hee-chan." With a dismissive wave, Duo walked out of the room, braid swaying like a cat tail along his spine.

Heero stared at the empty doorway for a long minute before preparing for his departure.

xXxXxXx

Une glanced up as her door opened. She gave a smile at seeing Heero. The pilot wore boots, spandex shorts, a tank top and a bomber jacket. It was definitely off-duty attire, and a statement that he had not consented to return to work yet only to hearing her out. She was still surprised that Heero had taken to the poor child so passionately, but she couldn't say she was surprised at how serious he took his job as the child's caretaker. Once Heero assigned himself a mission, it got his full attention until it was completed. That's why she had supported his guardianship of the boy even though he and Duo Maxwell were only seventeen.

"I'm sorry to have disturbed you," she opened.

Heero said nothing, merely watched her with his intense stare.

"The terrorists involved with the Dursley case are more dynamic than we'd thought. They call themselves Terrestrials, ardent defenders of Earth. None of the core members have been identified. We are only able to catch careless corroborators who are doing their dirty work, like Dursley. They apparently are very convincing if they can keep persuading these company men and politicians to break the law against armament. They are fanatics and honestly believe they are defending the Earth. We need to take down the leaders of this group or we'll be forever cleaning up after them."

"Why call me?" Heero cut in, clearly impatient.

Une sighed and leaned back in her chair. "Recently, I've become aware of someone trying to find your location. I highly suspect it is someone from the Terrestrials. They became aware that you were instrumental in the downfall of their Drunnings operation. It isn't outside the realm of possibility that these fanatics feel betrayed by you, since you risked your life to save Earth and they believe themselves following in your footsteps. Likely they want to explain themselves or question you as to your reasons. The mission would be to make contact and infiltrate their group."

"Such a mission would be long term. I already stated that I am unavailable for any such missions until further notice, and it is up to my discretion to lead short-term operations."

"I understand that, Agent Wing," Une answered stiffly. "But this is vital. This group is more spread out and far reaching than we anticipated, and until we get a handle on the ringleaders, there is no guarantee we will detect their every project before it's too late. If anyone else could do this, I wouldn't have called, but they are seeking you and no one else. I'm not asking. You have a mission, Agent."

Heero held her gaze for a long minute, long enough that she felt sweat gather at her nape. "I will let them make contact and do a short recon. I will not go undercover, nor will I lead the mission to eradicate or arrest its members."

"That is acceptable," she finally answered. It was better than nothing but not by much.

"Mission accepted." With that, he turned and walked out.

Une sighed and relaxed her posture. She hadn't expected her best agent to basically retire at nineteen and start raising a kid. She felt for the child, but she highly resented the loss of her man. Something would have to be done. Perhaps she could finally convince the other four pilots to work for her part-time since they had also quit their usual employment. That would go a long way to reimbursing her.

xXxXxXx

"Hey, kiddo, got your grub here!"

His eyes widened and he quickly opened the curtain. "Brother Duo?" He saw Wufei sitting next to him. He'd never seen Duo and Wufei together. It was Heero and Wufei's turn to see him. "Where brother Heero?"

"Just Duo, kid, really! It's okay," Duo said with a laugh.

He nodded and looked to Wufei to answer his question.

Deep black eyes, always calm and watchful, held his own. "Heero is a Preventer. Do you know what that is?"

He scrunched up his face in thought. "Ummm…"

"It's like a policeman," Duo offered. "Preventers go after bad guys to make sure they don't hurt anyone else."

"Oh!" His eyes were wide in astonishment but clouded with worry. "He come back soon?"

"Yes," Wufei assured him. "He wants to be here with us very much. I'm sure he will come back soon."

He nodded his acceptance of this and took his tray. He ate quietly and crawled out to do his homework. He practiced writing and reading, giggling at Duo's silly voices and the way Wufei glared at him, but he couldn't stop thinking about his big brother Heero. He didn't want to ask questions out in the open, in case Duo and Wufei got mad and tried to hit him, so he scampered back under the bed before voicing his thoughts.

"Brother Heero go after bad guys. He get hurt?"

"Sometimes," Wufei answered, which made him feel good to be taken so seriously. "But Heero is very skilled and strong. He can take care of himself."

"He not work before," he pointed out.

Wufei nodded. "He was taking a break from work, but his boss called him with a very important mission."

"Why I come here?" he finally blurted out.

Wufei and Duo looked at each other for a long minute. It was Duo who answered. "Heero catches bad guys. Your Uncle was a bad guy, and he came to your house to arrest him and found you. You reminded Heero of himself when he was young, so he decided to bring you home to us so we can take care of you now."

Heero did that? He could hardly believe it. Why would he do something like that? Why would he care? Why would they all care about him and make him their brother? It didn't make sense at all. He was happier than he'd ever been in his life. He was learning fun things and ate good food all the time. He was given things like Sage and crayons and a light. He was kept safe, and it was all because Heero wanted to take him home.

Tears burned his eyes. Heero and the others were so nice. They were good people, not like Uncle and Aunt. He didn't want anything to happen to them, but he was a curse. He killed his parents and now Uncle was arrested and Aunt was… she was… He couldn't even think it, it was so horrible! What if that happened to Heero? What if his curse got his new big brothers? Sobbing, he curled up under the bed, afraid and desperate. What could he do? He had to save Heero!

xXxXxXx

Heero crossed the hotel room to the window. He stood to the side, preventing a good visual angle of his body as he looked out. It was grey and raining, and he could feel the cold seeping through the glass. He was back on Earth, in England. His cover was to do a follow up on the Dursley case and make a target of himself so the Terrestrials could make contact. The ring of his phone had him turning back inside.

"01."

"Hey, man, how's it hangin?"

His lips twitched in a smile. "How is he?"

Duo sighed. "Hasn't been talking since we told him what you do and that you're out on a mission. He's still eating, but he won't engage or complete any tasks we assign."

Heero felt a stab of guilt. Was he making Harry worse? "What should I do?"

"It's not all your fault," Duo reassured. "He was presented with the fact his Uncle was a bad man. That could also play havoc with his psyche."

That truly baffled Heero. It was beyond clear that Dursley was scum. How could the kid think anything different? And why wouldn't it make him feel better to be told his uncle was evil? Duo assured him there was nothing wrong with Harry, that it was normal for children to become distressed when people vilify their family, especially when it was deserved.

"I thought maybe you could talk to him, actually. Reassure him that you're coming back," Duo said, cutting into his thoughts.

"Affirmative," he agreed instantly.

There was the sound of Duo walking and then a soft knock on the wall beside the doorway to Harry's room. He could hear Duo's voice at a distance. "Hey, kid, Heero's on the phone. He wanted to talk to you. Do you feel like talking? … Hey, there. Glad to see you. All right, come on over so I can hand you the phone. I don't want to slide it on the floor. It might break or something…"

A rustling sound and then he heard soft breathing. Heero closed his eyes, his chest feeling tight. In his mind, he saw dark messy hair falling into big green eyes in a too thin face. There was always such fear in the boy's body language, in the hunched shoulders and the way he was always low to the ground, the darting eyes. But there was also a lingering willingness to trust in the way Harry made eye contact and offered shy grins.

"Hello, little brother," he said, voice low and even.

The breathing sped up, clearly growing distressed.

"I'm not going to be gone much longer. I should be home in a day or two. Maybe I'll bring you something back," Heero offered, scrambling for anything that might make the boy feel better.

"Don't… Don't…" The boy was panting now, his voiced hitching on quiet sobs.

Heero went rigid. He hated feeling helpless, and he had no idea what to do. Duo should have given him clearer parameters! "Don't what?"

"I sorry," the boy whimpered in answer.

Heero winced. The child's speech was underdeveloped due to the abuse, and it made the plea all the more heartbreaking. "Don't be sorry. You didn't do anything wrong. I promise I'll come home soon. You have to trust me."

There was a rustling and Duo was back. "Hey. Hold on, Heero… Kiddo, I'll be back later with Quatre with some food. Get some rest, okay?" Then he could hear the sound of Duo walking. "Sorry, Hee-chan. I thought that might make him feel better. I'm not quite sure what's wrong."

Heero sighed and ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "I'll be back soon. Take care of him."

"Roger," Duo answered with a grin clear in his voice.

Heero rolled his eyes and snapped the phone shut.

A knock sounded at his door. Heero was on his feet, a gun in hand, instantly. Moving stealthily, careful not to make a sound, he pressed his back to the wall. A second knock sounded. Heero turned his torso enough that he could look out the peep hole without putting his body in the frame of the door. He saw woman in a white suit, hair in a bun, black glasses, briefcase. Hands in sight. No visible weapons. She looked to the right before knocking again. Something wasn't right, but that was the whole point of this mission, right? To make contact with the enemy? He had a feeling that's exactly who stood outside his door now.

Bringing his gun down to his side, he stepped back and opened the door. There wasn't a woman in white. Three men in black. Something metal on the door over the eye hole, likely a projector. Two tasers and a canister. Heero flung himself backward in a roll, escaping the tasers, but the canister was flung into the room. Gas instantly began to saturate the air. Keeping his eyes narrowed, holding his breath, Heero lifted his gun and fired once. Taser one and two had already dove to the side for cover, but canister guy went down, flung backward by the hit to his chest.

He began to get dizzy. It wasn't an inhalant; it was a contact drug. Heero crab-walked back toward the bed, gun still rock steady and aimed at the doorway. He snatched his phone, one handedly sending a short text. The room began to spin. Darkness followed and he was out.

xXxXxXx

"I don't care how classified it is! I want to know where he is!"

His eyes snapped open and he pulled the curtain aside quickly. There was no one in the doorway, but he could hear Duo yelling from somewhere close by. He shivered, terrified it was over. The pain was going to come now.

"I don't care! I'm getting Heero back with or without your help!"

He froze. Heero? Oh no! His curse really did get him! He thought maybe it would be okay after talking to Heero on the phone, but… He felt sick. Heero had saved him. He'd wanted him when no one else had. He'd even brought him home and made him his little brother! Now Heero was going to die because he got too close! It was all his fault!

Duo appeared in the doorway. "Hey, kid. I'm going to go get Heero. I'll be back soon, okay. Be good for the others." He winked and was gone so fast that his long braid trailed behind him like an angry snake.

His eyes widened. Now something would happen to Duo, too! Oh god, he had to do something now before it was too late! He quickly snagged Sage and crawled out from under the bed. The bedroom window was low and wide. It was easy to get it open. Outside was grass. It was strange grass, but it didn't matter. He had to go! Trembling, eyes wide in panic, he pushed Sage out and then went over the windowsill himself. He wouldn't let his brothers get hurt.

Chapter end.

Please review!