A/N: If anyone would like to be my beta for this story, it would be very appreciated!

Counter-Curse

Heero regained consciousness in an instant, but he remained motionless, keeping his breathing pattern unchanged. He found himself sitting in a chair, steel by the feel of it. His wrists were attached to each arm with a wide metal cuff; his ankles were cuffed to the front legs. He still wore his clothes: jeans, boots, t-shirt. His gun and belt were missing. There was nothing in his pockets. The temperature was about average, and the lighting against his lids was neither bright nor dark.

A door opened to his right. Light footsteps on carpet. Bare feet, he estimated. The swish of fabric. The smell of perfume. A woman. Uncallused fingertips brushed his cheek, his chin. She had medium length nails.

"I know you must be awake," a high female voice spoke directly in front of him. She had to be kneeling to get that angle while he was seated. "Please stop pretending. We need to talk."

Heero opened his eyes and lifted his head, keeping his expression utterly blank. The woman was about thirty and crouched in front of him just as he'd expected. She was slender, not athletic, and wore expensive slacks. Her silk button-down blouse revealed a good bit of cleavage. Brown eyes, little make-up, pearls around both wrists and throat. No earrings. Her red hair was in an artfully messy up do.

"Hey, there, handsome. So glad you could join me."

He said nothing in response.

"Forgive me for not telling you my name, but I can't quite trust you yet." She touched his face again, ghosting over his cheeks and lips. "You are beautiful, you know that?" She sighed as she stood, backing up so she could sit on the end of the four poster bed he was facing. "They must have done one hell of a job on you. But don't worry, Heero. You're safe now. I won't let them get you."

The accent was American, not British. Nor was it high-brow like her clothes presented her.

"Come on, talk to me," she cajoled, giving him a coy look and pouty lips.

He said nothing. Instead he looked around the room. It was opulent; something that would be right at home in Quatre's most decadent mansions. Rich brown carpet, cream wallpaper with subtle designs, petite crystal chandelier. The bed had a thick navy blue comforter. There were two doors. One most likely was a closet, the other was the entrance. No windows. The bed was the only furniture besides his chair.

"I'm not the enemy." The woman sat straight and crossed her legs. Her expression shifted to something more intelligent, less sex kitten. "I know you're confused right now. The government has you programmed, but it's all a lie. They're just trying to control you. Keep you contained. You can be free, Heero. If you let me, I'll even help you."

She slipped off the bed and once again knelt before him. Her hands pressed gently into his thighs. "We're not some terrorist group, Heero, like they've probably told you. We've attacked nothing. We've killed no one. We just want to be safe. We want to have the means of protecting ourselves just in case. You understand that, right? We just want to be prepared should the worst happen again. We can't count on there being another person like you to come around and save us." She shook her head, eyes large and sincere. "No. You're one of a kind, Heero."

Une's estimation had been correct. The Terrestrials were comprised of fanatics. It was not good news. Fanatics were notorious for being unpredictable and extremely violent. He needed to escape as soon as possible, and that meant he had to engage her and gather more information.

"Why were you searching for me?"

She smiled as if he'd given her a great gift. "I knew as soon as the government figured out we wanted you, they'd hand you right on over. You see, Heero? They don't care about you. You're expendable to them. A tool." Her expression grew dark, angry. "Why do you work for them? What did they do to make you obey?"

"Why do you need me?" he asked again. It was no use walking down a conversational road that triggered anger.

"Dursley thought he was smart. He didn't put the final sequence we need in any of his records. We've been through them all. It took days to get a message to the bastard, and do you know what he said? He forgot them. Had his kid memorize them. But we talked to his son. The brat could hardly remember his name let alone a forty-eight digit code. Then we discovered Dursley was in custody of a nephew. Good job trying to seal those records. Took us about a week to break into them. And low and behold Heero Yuy and one Duo Maxwell are the boy's new guardians."

This was about Harry? His heart began to beat faster as rage darkened his vision. He would die before he let anyone touch the boy.

She sighed and stood, looming over him. "I see you won't tell me. The government still has their hooks in you. But don't worry, Heero. I'll get what I need from you, and Earth will be safe, just like you would want it to be."

He watched, glaring, as she turned and grabbed something off the bed. It was a black case. She set it on the floor next to him. The angle was bad. He couldn't see within it, but her motions revealed it was something small and needed assembly. When the hypodermic came into view, he showed no outwardly reaction. He'd been trained to resist the influences of drugs and torture, not to mention his biology wasn't exactly normal after what Doctor J had done. He was confident he could hold out.

The needle punctured his skin at the crook of his arm. The drug shot through his veins, making him begin to shiver. The room faded in and out. It undulated and tilted. After long minutes of this, the worst of the effects began to fade. He discovered he'd unconsciously begun regulating his breathing, his head hung low, and sweat dampened his skin.

"The Earth's in danger, 01!"

He jumped, muscles twitching for a weapon. Couldn't move. Where? What?

"I need the location! The mission, 01, remember the mission! Tell me the location of the boy! Hurry!"

Boy? He was confused, drugged. That wasn't right. Training kept his mouth shut. A sharp slap. It disrupted his breathing rhythm. He struggled to get it back. Focus on breathing. Focus.

"Dursley's boy! Where is he? He's in danger. You must tell me so we can protect him!"

Harry… Heero's head shot up, looking for the speaker, but they were behind him. In a room, hard to focus. Blues and creams, where? Winner's?

"The boy, Yuy! Where is he? We have to get him out before the strike! Tell me!"

Strike? Adrenaline doused his system and his head cleared a little more. He was drugged. In enemy hands. She wanted to know Harry's location. Rage finished the job adrenaline started. He became more coherent. Harry was his now, and Heero would kill them all before they ever laid a hand on him.

A flash of red and then a pale face with brown eyes was in front of him. Hands were holding his head steady. Heero ignored the sweat rolling down his face. His fists clenched impotently as she caressed his face. A gentle kiss was placed on his cheek.

"You're truly one of a kind, taking in a messed up wreck like that boy. I saw the files. Dursley was one sick fucker. Don't worry. We've taken care of him. Slipped him something nice. He died this morning, choking on his own bile. Fitting, I think." She smiled at him, flashing teeth. "See, Heero. I'm on your side. I won't hurt the boy, and I'll give him right back to you, but I really, really need that code. Please, Heero, just tell me where he is. You came from L4 before arriving on Earth, so you've helped us narrow it down that far, but I need an address. Tell me, Heero, and this will all be over and you can go home with the boy safe in your care."

He was really getting sick of her voice. Jerking his head out of her grasp, he gave his answer in clear, unmistakable words. "I will kill you."

The slap he received sent the room spinning and her shriek of rage drove a spike of pain through his skull, but it was worth it. He barely registered the prick of the needle. As the drug began to take effect, Heero shut down. He retreated deep, conserving his strength and ensuring he wouldn't give away the location of his team and the little boy he'd sworn to protect.

xXxXxXx

Trowa was nearing his limit. They'd been searching for thirty hours now without stopping for more than nutrient bars. Harry was gone. They'd become aware the child had runaway not fifteen minutes after Duo had left in a whirlwind of action and temper. Distracted with getting Duo ready for the rescue mission, they'd left the station monitoring Harry's room unattended. It had only been fifteen minutes tops, and the boy was nowhere to be found.

The three of them had made a grid and had been canvassing it for over a day, slowly widening the parameters. Nothing. Clearly the boy had escaped the estate somehow. He was in L4 proper, and the colony was a metropolis. It wasn't going to be easy finding him, especially if they ran themselves into the ground.

"03 to 04, come in," he rasped into his com.

"04 here," came an equally tired response.

"This isn't working. We need to regroup."

There was silence for a long minute before Quatre responded, defeat in his tone. "Affirmative. Meet back at base. Over."

Trowa gazed out at the maze of streets and alleys before him for a moment longer before he turned and made his way back to the house. It took nearly half an hour. Wufei and Quatre were already present. They stood at the kitchen table, maps spread out before them. Quatre's still wore the white button-down and black vest with khaki pants from yesterday. Wufei, however, looked fresh in clean slacks and a light sweater.

"Should we get an APB out?" Wufei asked, looking around at them. His black eyes glittered with feverish resolve.

Quatre rubbed at his temple with one hand, the other braced on the table to support his weight. "I'm uncertain."

"We could use more eyes out there," Wufei pressed.

"But if anyone figures out we're the ones looking for him, he could be held for ransom or used as revenge," Trowa reminded his friend. They were Gundam pilots, and a lot of people were angry about their part in the war. Not to mention, Quatre's extreme wealth and political power. These factors provided a wide range of motives for anyone to hurt Harry if he was found.

Wufei spat out a long string of Chinese. He pushed away from the table and began to pace. Trowa looked to Quatre to see him staring blankly at the table, fists clenched. He stepped close, but he didn't touch his lover. He knew it would be unwelcome right now.

"I'll make a few phone calls," Quatre decided. He held both their gazes, determined. "I'll make it clear to the authorities not to reveal the source of the APB. We'll tell them to hold Harry at a police station until we can fetch him if he's found. Wufei, I need you to get me a picture of Harry from the footage we have."

"Yes," Wufei said and immediately strode from the room.

"You need to rest. Just for a little bit," Trowa cautioned. "We can search in shifts."

"Draw up a schedule," Quatre relented. "I'll rest after I get the APB settled."

Trowa nodded and got to work.

xXxXxXx

The hotel was a swarm of activity when Duo arrived. There were two Preventer agents standing on guard at the front door, and he could see more inside interviewing potential witnesses. He debated for a moment on whether or not to sneak in or announce himself. On one hand, he so didn't need imbeciles getting in his way. On another, contacting Une might get him where he needed to go faster and without disruptions. Duo gave a sharp nod. Announce himself it was and announce himself he did.

Duo strode right up to one of the guards. "Hey, chuckles, I'm Duo Maxwell, Une-baby sent me. Now tell me where the hotel security station's located, won't you?"

"Let me see some ID," the buffoon growled at him.

Duo flipped him off before handing it over. "Can you make this snappy? I'm about done with your bullshit."

The guard was busy talking into his headset. Duo rolled his eyes and strode past him. The man yelled out, but Duo didn't pay him any mind. In seconds, he maneuvered so he was out of line of sight and lost in the crowd. Idiot. It was a good thing he was here, they'd never find Heero. The reminder that his fearless leader was in danger sharpened his focus. It didn't take long for him to find the stairs and discover the security station on the second floor. There were three agents inside, working over the footage. Duo rolled his eyes.

"There is a bomb threat downstairs! The manager told me to tell you," Duo cried, eyes wide with false alarm.

Two of the guards looked up sharply. They conferred momentarily and took off down the stairs, leaving Duo with one. An evil grin stretched his mouth. A sharp kick to the loser's head, and there were none. He quickly pushed the body from the room and locked the door. It wouldn't slow the agents down for long, but he was making a point. If Duo had been the enemy, the man would've been dead.

Cracking his knuckles, he got to work. The footage didn't seem to be tampered with. He ran through the hours leading up to Heero's kidnap at triple speed. Nothing. Heero checked in, went up to his room on the third floor, and stayed there. Static for fifteen minutes, and Heero was gone. Duo whistled. They were dealing with professionals if they had the equipment to interrupt a closed security system for that long without the hotel being able to stop the hack.

The door busted inward. Duo straightened his sleeves, nonchalant. "I'm done here. Continue on about your business."

"Wait a minute, you little punk!" A meaty hand reached for him.

Duo ducked and lunged for the door. He was gone before the goons could say another word. Idiots, he thought again in disgust. No wonder Heero felt obligated to work for Une. She'd be useless without him.

Grumbling, jumpy, Duo prowled the parameter of the building. There were three ground floor exits, and Heero could only be taken unconscious. He was smaller than the average man, but he was heavy. The alterations done to his body made his muscles stronger, his bones denser, and that added up to a lot more pounds than you'd think to look at his lean, short frame. A muscle-bound goon could haul Heero out over his shoulder, but it wouldn't be a cake walk. Not to mention a bit obvious and attention getting. No, more likely they put him in something. A trunk, a crate. Heero was small. It wasn't inconceivable he could be scrunched into one. Then two meatheads could lift it, and, poof, Heero was gone. That meant the front door was out. So two exits. The back entrance and the kitchen entrance.

Duo examined the streets in both directions. He began to grin. Across the street from the kitchen exit was a computer café. He jogged across. God, he loved technology. Each of those computers had a video camera. Now all he had to do was hack into the one angled in the direction of the kitchen door, and he might get a visual on the enemy. If he was really lucky, he'd get a visual on the getaway vehicle. Then he could hack into the traffic system and track the car via satellite.

"I'm coming, Heero," he whispered.

xXxXxXx

Quatre shut his bedside alarm off with a groan. He rolled naked out of bed and gave a long stretch. Trowa was passed out on the other side, having come in off his shift two hours before. Quatre smiled fondly. He put his knee to the bed and leaned over to kiss his lover's lips. Gently moving the dark auburn bangs from Trowa's face, he traced his thin eyebrows and down his long slender nose. He was beautiful. It was a shame Trowa was so shy that he only felt safe if he could hide behind his bangs. Quatre shook his head and pulled away.

In near total silence, Quatre pulled on some slacks and a pale blue button-down. It was one of Trowa's favorite colors on him. He was just doing up the buttons when a red light began to flash in the corner near the ceiling. Quatre's eyes went wide. "03! Get up! We're under attack."

Trowa sat bolt upright and rolled from the bed. There was a gun in his hand instantly as he crouched beside the bed. "Where?"

"The house alarm has been tripped, but not the parameter alarm. There was an attempt to disarm the house, but the secondary alarm still tripped," Quatre explained as Trowa hastily dressed. "I'll notify 05. You get to the garage to secure our escape. I'll get to the security room."

They moved in sync toward the bedroom door. Trowa went high, Quatre went low. The hall was clear. They bolted from the room, going separate directions. Quatre strained his ears, but he heard nothing. Fortunately that wasn't true of his empathy. He could feel multiple people in the house, all strangers. There was anticipation, excitement, and bloodlust. Quatre felt his mind go cold and calculating. These people were intruding on his house. They were endangering Trowa. They weren't going to like his response.

Quatre slipped into the security room and silently shut the door behind him. He quickly examined the monitors, opening his cell phone and speed dialing Wufei. "05, base is compromised. Twelve intruders wearing all black. Armed with tasers and semi-automatics. Two SUVs half-hidden outside the northwest wall. Parameter alarm disabled. We're dealing with professionals."

His eyes widened. Two intruders had found Harry's room. He grabbed at his chest as a sense of victory was followed quickly by angry frustration. Alarm jangled down Quatre's nerves. "They're after little rabbit." Narrowing his eyes dangerously, his fingers began flying over the controls. "I'm destroying all records. Regroup at Red 15."

Quatre began to smile, eyes dark with killing intent. The intruders in Harry's surveillance room screamed as the computer exploded.

xXxXxXx

Heero was lost in a maze of confusion and disorientation. Voices came and went. Pain brushed him. He hid from it all. He hunkered down to ride the chaotic waves of delirium. Pictures flashed before his eyes, whether from inside or out, he had no idea. Pictures of his team. Pictures of the war torn world, of colonies exploding. The screams of hundreds. And dead bodies, always so many dead bodies. Blood coating every surface. Pictures of 04's houses. Harry. Harry was somewhere in the mess. And he simultaneously wanted to find him and keep him hidden. The pressure was building. His breaking point rushed forward. Heero groaned, pained. He couldn't catch his breath, a scream building in his chest.

xXxXxXx

Duo leapt out of the moving van, his rifle at the ready. He wore a SWAT uniform and was backed by fifteen of the best agents Une could muster. After working his magic, Duo had finally found where they were keeping Heero. Now they just had to take him back. The enemy was outside the city in a town house. It had been recently constructed and was supposedly still for sale, but the heat sensitive satellites proved otherwise.

They crashed through the front door, voices yelling instructions. Bad guys opened fire. Duo ducked and rolled, coming up in a sitting room. He ran for the opposite doorway, leading to a kitchen. He shot a man in the back of the head, vaulted his body, and ran up the stairs. A narrow hallway, five closed doors on either side. Shit!

He kicked in one after the other, ducking and diving, but there were no shots taken at him. Over the com, he heard the squad leader call clear. The sounds of the gunfight tapered off. Duo kicked in the last door. He rushed forward, sliding on his knees. Heero sat in a chair, soaked with sweat, tears rolling down his cheeks. His lips were chapped, his pupils blown wide. He was mumbling in a mix of six languages and his arm had more tracks than an addict.

"Shit," he muttered, heart pounding with worry and fury. "01, respond! Can you hear me, 01?" He gently slapped at a cheek.

The mumbling continued, but the brow scrunched.

"It's 02. I'm getting you out of here."

Drugged out cobalt eyes lifted to hold his gaze. "02."

"Yeah, it's me." Duo sighed and pressed his forehead to his partner's. "You're safe." Quickly, he removed the thin lock picks he stored in his braid and went to work on the cuffs holding Heero to the chair. He winced as he saw the deep bruises along both wrists and ankles. "Can you walk?"

Heero shook his head hard, muttering once more.

Duo wasn't sure if that was in response to his question or the voices he was undoubtedly hearing in his head. Either way, he braced himself, grabbed a hold of Heero's forearms. He pulled the heavy teen up out of the chair. Heero staggered, and for one second, Duo thought they'd both go down. But then Heero pulled an arm free to grab at Duo's shoulder. He steadied, though his head still hung low.

"Target…"

"Killed or captured," Duo reassured, only to wince as Heero's hand clamped down on his shoulder painfully.

"No. I'm not… target… They want… Harry's location…"

Duo's eyes went impossibly wide. Why in the hell would terrorists want Harry? But even drugged out of his head, Heero would never give false information. "I'm on it. Come on. We gotta get out of here."

xXxXxXx

Wufei snapped his phone closed and turned to the others. Quatre was kneeling in front of a motel bed. Trowa sat at the end, shirtless. A bullet had grazed his side during their escape. It was a messy wound, but it wasn't fatal. Quatre was tending to it while the green-eyed pilot sat stoic and still.

"That was Maxwell. He found Yuy. They're on their way back."

Quatre looked up with a smile. "Good. Did you tell them about…"

"Everything," Wufei confirmed with an internal wince. Maxwell sure could scream. "He wants Harry found, of course. Apparently the terrorist group Yuy was investigating wants some code from the boy. Dursley had him memorize it and forgot it himself. The group wasn't too pleased. Dursley died in holding, poisoned."

Quatre's eyes glittered dangerously. "So it wasn't enough the bastard abused Harry, he had to sell him out, too."

Trowa grabbed his shoulder comfortingly. "We'll find Harry."

"Barton is right. No one is better than us." Wufei grabbed his katana from where it leaned against the wall. "I'm going out."

"We're right behind you," Quatre announced, standing, his hands bloody.

xXxXxXx

It was dark. He was dirty and lost. He was lonely, but he was too afraid to try and talk to anyone. Sage was damp from when he'd accidently dropped his precious friend in a puddle. He was trying hard to take care of him like Heero wanted, but it was so hard. He had scrapes and bruises from running from gangs and cops. His shirt was filthy, and he really wished he had pants and shoes. He was getting cold.

It had been three days since he'd run away. He was getting really hungry. When he slept, he dreamed of his brothers. Trowa's soft voice and the gentle way he always moved his hands. Quatre and him playing with Sage and Fredrick. Duo making him laugh with silly jokes or funny stories. Wufei helping him with lessons and the small smiles the Chinese teen gave when he got a problem right. He remembered Heero. Heero who always watched him calmly. The way his dark blue eyes seemed to see right into him and accept what he saw. Heero had promised to keep him safe and gave him brothers.

Back to the alley wall, he curled his knees to his chest and cried. He wanted to go back to them so badly. He wanted to know if Heero and Duo were okay. But he didn't know where he was or where to go. And he didn't want to go back because they'd only get hurt because of the curse. He hated it! Why did he have to be cursed? He just wanted it all to stop! He didn't want to be alone anymore.

"Hey, there, you hurt?"

His head whipped up and he stared in horror as a gray-beared man came walking toward him.

"Don't be scared, kid. I ain't gonna hurt you. Are you lost?"

He shook his head frantically and scrambled to his feet. He bolted toward the other end of the alley only to crash into someone else. Arms came around him and lifted him off his feet. In his panic, he dropped Sage. His mouth opened to scream, but a sweaty hand slammed over it. The man he'd run from came up, a grin on his face. He knew that kind of smile. It made him feel lightheaded and dizzy. No… Please, no…

"Gotcha, squirt."

Tears rolled down his face. The man tisked and wiped them away.

"Don't cry. I'm gonna give you the best deal of your life. Name's Toshi, and I'll let you live with me and my littles, but you gotta pay your dues, boy." The man yanked the hand away from his mouth and kissed him.

He went limp, knowing better than to fight. A tongue was shoved in his mouth. It tasted terrible, of sickness and alcohol.

"God, you got a soft mouth. Can't wait to feel it other places."

A dirty hand ran through his hair. He began to cry louder.

"Don't be like that." Toshi grinned. "I'll feed ya and keep you safe from the other gangs. You oughta thank me. What do you think, Dash? Think he should thank me right here and now?"

"Yeah, make him do it. I wanna go next."

He was dropped to the alley floor, but he couldn't run. A hand was tangled tightly in his hair. It shoved him to his knees. He saw Sage and reached for him, but the man kicked the bunny far down the alley. He let out a cry at that and was backhanded. All fight left his body. He just couldn't do it anymore. He watched with dull eyes as the man shifted a tattered shirt to reveal opened pants. The hand in his hair tightened and pulled, lifting his mouth.

A single deep green eye stared down at him from over the man's shoulder. The numbness encasing him cracked and shattered and his vision went blurry with tears. His heart began to pound with terror. Everything went so fast. There was yelling and the sound of fists hitting a body. Then it was silent and he realized he was pressed back against the alley wall. He scrubbed a hand across his eyes. Trowa crouched down a few feet away. The man who was going to hurt him was unconscious or dead, so was the younger man who'd held him captive.

"Come, little one. I won't hurt you," Trowa promised, his voice as gentle as ever.

He stared dumbly, shocked that he'd been found, shocked that Trowa who was the gentlest of his new brothers had been able to fight and beat the two bad men so easily. He stood shakily. The mouth of the alley stood clear behind him. He ran.

Trowa caught him as he flung himself toward his brother. He flinched as the strong arms closed around him, but then he relaxed. Trowa would never hurt him. Trowa had fought to save him. And if Trowa was that strong, then maybe he could survive the curse. Maybe now he didn't have to run away from his brothers. He wanted to go home more than anything, where he'd be safe from ever having to endure the things that man was going to do to him.

"Hush, baby. I've got you. You're safe now." Trowa's warm voice touched all the painful places inside him and he began to sob. "Look who I found. Sage ran right out into the street to fetch help. You sure have a good friend."

Something soft and sticky was pressed into his arms, and he grasped hold of his bunny desperately. Still sobbing, he pressed his face into Trowa's neck. The strong arms came around his back and behind his knees and lifted. A hand cradled his head close. He'd never felt so safe. Panic at being touched jangled in the back of his mind, but the warmth overpowered the fear, and slowly as they walked, it disappeared completely. For the first time in years, he wasn't afraid. Giving a tearful sigh, he let go of everything, knowing somehow he was okay.

xXxXxXx

"Trowa found him. He's on his way back," Quatre announced with the biggest smile Heero had ever seen.

He and Duo had just arrived at the motel from the concourse. He still wasn't at one hundred percent, but he was functionable. He nodded, but he couldn't relax until he saw the boy was safe with his own eyes. Duo practically ran for the door, and Heero hurried after him. Quatre stayed behind to call Wufei back from his search. Heero felt deep gratitude toward his team for working so hard to find Harry. He wouldn't trust anyone else with the job.

Trowa turned the corner not two buildings away to Heero's right. Immediately he began walking in that direction. Duo tried to sprint past him, but his hand snapped out and grabbed a hold of the long braid. Duo spun, eyes alight with fury. "Baka," he hissed. "Don't make a scene. The enemy is still at large."

"You're so mean, Hee-chan," Duo whined, but he relaxed his stance and took up a more sedate pace. Satisfied, Heero released his hold on his friend.

It seconds they met Trowa, whose long legs made short work of the distance. Heero stared at the small boy cradled in his arms. Duo quickly did a check for injuries as they continued to the motel while Trowa spoke in Japanese, describing the scene of Harry's recovery. Heero saw red and sharply demanded if the bastard was dead. Trowa gave a short nod, and Heero hummed in satisfaction. They were in the room now and it was Quatre's turn to check the boy over. Duo had slipped into the bathroom to draw a bath.

Harry made a weak sound, and his eyes fluttered open. He flinched deeper into Trowa's embrace at the feel of Quatre's hands. The blonde pilot jerked away as if burned, one hand coming to clutch at his shirt above his heart.

"Hello," Heero said, getting the boy's attention.

Bright green eyes, lighter than Trowa's, shifted to him. "Big brother Heero! You not dead!" A wide smile split the boy's face.

"No. I am not dead. I promised to come back," he said, aware it was poor consolation for the fear the boy must have suffered the week he'd been gone. "I'm sorry for worrying you."

Duo appeared at his side. "Why'd you run away, kiddo?"

The boy flinched again and whimpered.

"We're not mad," Quatre hurried to reassure the frightened boy. "We just want to know what we did wrong, so we don't do it again."

Green eyes went impossibly wide. "Nothing wrong!" he exclaimed. "Wan'ned to save brother Heero and Duo from curse."

"What curse, sweetie?" Quatre asked with a frown.

Harry pressed his face into Sage, his head still leaning against Trowa's shoulder trustingly.

"Oh, Harry, you shouldn't have run away because of that," Duo spoke up. Heero turned to him with a lifted eyebrow. He'd never heard the jokester pilot sound so grave. "You see, we're all cursed. That's how we all became brothers. That's how we knew you were meant to be ours. Our curses cancel each other out when we're together."

Harry lifted his head, and there was such pain in his expression. "Y-You're cursed, too?"

"We all are," Duo said again, his wide violet eyes staring unblinking into the boy's. "Me in particular. I don't remember my parents. I grew up on the streets, like how you were these last few days. I had a group of friends. We were like family, but they all got sick and died. Only I survived. Then I want to a church and lived there for a while. I made new friends at last, but then bad guys came and attacked the church. They all died, again. I lived alone a long time after that because of the curse, but then I met my brothers, and you know what?"

Harry shook his head, crying silently, eyes locked on Duo's.

"I haven't lost anyone else since then."

Harry's sobs became audible. "P-Promise?"

"I promise," Duo vowed. He reached forward and gently touched Harry's bruising cheek. The boy flinched, but then leaned into the caress. "So don't run away again, okay? We need you to help balance out our curses, too."

"I promise!" Harry exclaimed. "I wan'ned to come back so bad. Wan'ned to be home."

"You are always home when you're with us," Heero said firmly. "You're Harry Potter and our little brother."

"H-Harry?" the boy sniffled.

"That's your name, baby," Trowa spoke for the first time. He stared down at the child with a gentle expression. "Our little brother Harry."

"Come on, Harry." Duo grinned, his serious mood broken. "I think it's time for a bath. You're dirty!"

The boy blushed and nodded. He was still looking around at all of them with wide, shocked eyes. Heero watched as they went into the bathroom, Duo chattering away, Trowa silent as usual. Something pressed against his side and he looked to see Quatre leaning against him. The blonde was a little taller than Heero now, their eyes no longer on level.

"I'm so glad he's back," Quatre breathed, tears falling down his cheeks.

Heero noted the dark circles around his eyes and moved toward the bed, towing Quatre with him. "You should rest."

The blonde nodded. "Couldn't sleep with him out there. Allah, I'm so glad Trowa got there in time."

Heero's fists clenched. "Yes."

Quatre lay out on the bed. "You should sleep, too, Heero. You're not looking too good yourself."

"I need food before I rest," Heero countered.

The blonde nodded, his eyes closing.

Heero watched over him until he was certain he was deeply asleep before moving toward the bathroom. Harry was sitting in a tub of warm water. He was trembling, afraid, but clearly desperate to trust Duo and Trowa. Trowa moved slowly and calmly, and the boy was obviously more comfortable with him. Duo, on the other hand, was splashing gently in the water and playing with the sponge, making up some ridiculous story. Harry flinched at every sharp movement and loud laugh.

Heero almost intervened, but he knew what Duo was doing. He was being himself, yes, but he was also beginning the process of desensitizing the boy. Harry couldn't be afraid of loud noise or fast movement for the rest of his life, not if they wanted him to live a semi-normal life. So instead of interfering, he moved away from the doorway. Harry was safe with the others to watch over him. He had other tasks to do, like securing food. The boy likely hadn't eaten in days, and Heero would need sustenance to help remove the last of the drug's effects.

xXxXxXx

They were spread out in the small room. Trowa stood by the window, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. Half his face was obscured by his chin-length bangs. Quatre sat at the end of the only bed. One arm was across his stomach, his hand bracing his elbow while his other hand taped at his chin in thought. Duo sat next to him, Indian style, his long braid falling over his shoulder into his lap. Wufei sat primly in the desk chair, his inky black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. His hands rested loosely on his knees. Heero stood, ankles crossed, as he leaned against the dresser behind him. As for Harry, he was sound asleep under the bed. They'd stirred in sleeping powder into his milk to ensure he wouldn't wake for another few hours.

"This is going to be difficult," Quatre murmured. "They aren't going to give up."

"And we can't let Harry know the terrorist are after him," Duo added. "He's made a huge step today, but it's still very fragile. If he finds out, he'll blame himself and think his curse is too strong. He'll constantly try to run away if that happens."

"We have to keep Harry ignorant and neutralize the threat," Heero summarized.

"What do you know about this group, Yuy?" Wufei demanded.

"Not much. They are impossible to infiltrate, fanatical, and well organized. They are a highly capable group and very well financed. I'm the only one to ever come in contact with a core member. She was in her early thirties, dressed wealthy, but her accent and habit revealed she wasn't born to it."

"We didn't catch her in the raid, just her lackeys," Duo spat in disgust. He twisted his braid in anger. "And the goons didn't know anything."

"We need a plan of attack." Quatre clasped his hands before him. "They're earthbound, so we have the advantage here in space. If we can draw them onto a field of battle we've already prepared, it should be easy to overcome them."

Duo shook his head. "This isn't going to be that easy. We have to strike at the leaders for Harry to be safe, and we have no idea who or where they are. If we try to draw them out, they'll just throw more goons at us."

"Earth is not an easy place to search," Wufei pointed out darkly.

"We could give them what they want," Heero suggested. The four other pilots looked at him, surprised. Heero stared back at them. "They only want Harry because of this code. They won't target him if they have it."

"Who knows that that code will do," Wufei snapped. "It sounded like it was the final step in some project."

"They shouldn't attack anywhere immediately," Heero argued. "They want to arm the Earth to protect it in a worst case scenario."

"You don't know that for sure. It could be a preemptive attack to damage the colonies before they can attack Earth," Quatre pointed out. "I don't think that's an option, Heero."

Heero looked away, glaring hotly at the wall.

"What about a decoy?" Duo asked, breaking the tension. He was the infiltration specialist. He knew dozens of ways to get inside impossible places. It was time for him to step up his game. "We could make an effort to give them what they want, let them reel us in further, and then strike."

Quatre eyed his friend, his eyes lighting up. "That could work!"

"I don't see how," Wufei grumbled, glaring at both of them.

"Heero gets in contact with them somehow, says he's thought over what that woman told him. He can act like he's not going to help them or stop them, that he's neutral. So in the spirit of neutrality, he had decided they should have their code. If the Preventers stop them, fine. If not, the Earth will be safe. It's a win-win for Heero."

"Not seeing how that's different from Hee-chan's plan," Duo drawled with a grin.

"Wait, hear me out." Quatre hand gestured sharply for quiet. "So Heero questions Harry, but Harry's forgotten the last part of the code. It has been nearly two months, and Harry's just a kid. They'll get mad, and Heero will then say he now feels like he's failing a mission by not getting them the complete code. He can then offer to try and use his skills to hack whatever needs this code and make a new one for them. They'll have to at least let him in on the plan, if not take him to their headquarters. They could even meet him in person and Heero can then gather more data on the actual leaders of this group."

"Sounds good except for the certain death involved," Duo growled. "I mean, Hee-chan's good and all, but no way is he gonna get outta that scene alive!"

"Not alone," Quatre agreed. His smile fell as he grew serious. "We're going to shadow him the best we can."

Duo's scowl disappeared under a sunny smile. "Now that's a plan I can get behind!" He flung his arms around Quatre, laughing. "Good thinking, Q-ball!"

Heero nodded, straightening. "It's acceptable. Maxwell, Barton, you're on the infiltration team with me. Winner, Chang, you will stay behind to guard Harry and to act as go-betweens for us and Une. Keep her informed. If we lose contact, give us twenty hours, then have Une send a rescue team."

"I want to go," Wufei argued.

"This is a stealth mission. You and Winner's skills lie elsewhere," Heero countered. "We're going to need back-up. I want you to lead the rescue operation if we break communications."

Wufei nodded. "Very well. You can rely on me."

Heero nodded once. "Move out. We've got a lot to get ready."

Chapter end.

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