"A Silver Lining "

Written By: SkyLark

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Warnings: Angst, LOTS of it, mentions on NSC, sap, gore at times, strong language, possible lemon... Lots of flashbacks to give more info on event leading to the present.

Rating: PG-13

Pairings: Eventual 1x2, 5xS, 4xR, 3xOC, 6x9.

Beta Written and Plot Bunny from: Keiran

Disclaimer: I do not own Gunman Wing, nor it's characters. I just love playing with them.

Very special thanks to Tiff and Helen for helping to brush me up on my Japanese for this fic!! It's really appreciated!



"A Silver Lining "

Part 1

Throwing the papers of the file down on his desk again, he sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair He leaned back in his seat and spun his chair to look out the window of his office. Night had long since fallen over the city and the lights of the buildings shimmered through the glass.

Two years... More than two years had passed and still not a single lead. How was that possible? There had to be something to build a lead on after all this time.

A gentle knock on the door brought his thoughts back to the present, as he spun his chair back. Wufei stood in the doorway, his head tilted, watching him. "I'm calling it a night," he began. "You look like you could use some rest yourself."

Heero shook his head and wiped his face with his hands as he replied, "I have a few more files to read before I leave. There should be more tomorrow, if some of the contacts I've reached get back to me by then."

There was a deep sigh from the Chinese Preventer as he stepped into the room, past the empty desk across from Heero's, the one that he refused to look at for a long time now.

Placing his hands at the edge of his comrade's desk, he leaned forward, their eyes locked. "It's been more than two years, Heero," he spoke in a quiet but firm voice. "I know that you don't want to deal with the truth of it, none of us do..."

He paused, lowered his head a moment as he gathered his own thoughts and feelings over the matter. When he looked back up, his dark eyes never wavered in their resolve, nor did his voice, as he stated, "You have to come to accept that he must be dead."

Never taking his eyes off Wufei's, Heero glared fiercely and growled, "You and everyone else have been saying the same thing for the last year."

His voice rose as he all but shouted, "And, as I have been saying for years now, I won't believe that until we find the body! So until then, I would appreciate it if you would just let me continue the search!"

"I still think that you're wasting your time," Wufei said quietly, finally showing the sadness over the loss of their friend on his face. He straightened and made his way towards the door.

Before leaving, he looked over his shoulder, the shadows from the dimly lit room and the bright hall contracting on his shape. "For your own sake, you really should get out in the world a little more," he suggested, losing the edge of authority his voice had before. "You've been missing out on it." He stepped out of the room again.

Once he was alone again, Heero closed his eyes and leaned his head back in his leather chair as he said quietly to himself, "Not until I find him."

He couldn't blame Wufei for his concern. Every one of his friends was worried about him for a while now. To be honest, his search had not gotten him anywhere since he began more than two years ago.

The way that every detail and possible lead had been erased was what kept Heero going. Obviously, someone knew where he was and they were doing everything they could to see that he was not found.

Looking over to the empty desk that occupied the other side of his office, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The desk had remained empty all this time of searching. Lady Une had insisted of placing another Preventer to fill it and share the space with Heero, but he refused, saying that there was no proof that his partner would not be found and returned home.

Duo... The thought of his comrade, his friend hurt as much as it did now as it had when Heero had to leave him behind after they had been captured on their last failed mission. They had been in captivity for two weeks together. In the end, after they managed to pull off an escape, a bullet changed their clean getaway.

'They're going to be here before long. We have to get moving. We're half-way to the location where backup will be arriving to pick us up.'

'Heero... My leg is just going to slow us down. We'll both be caught at the rate we're moving.'

'Then I'll carry you.'

'You can't carry me for five miles!' Silence. 'You have to leave me here.'

'No.'

'Listen to me, Heero. I am not about to let you get caught because I got careless. I can fend for myself, maybe find a place where I can hide until things relax enough for me to call for help.'

'I'm not leaving you here like this.'

'There's no other choice!' Silence again. 'Please, Heero...'

'No! You can't ask me to do this!'

'I'm not asking. I'm ordering.'

Parts of their last conversation ran through Heero's mind as he thought back to that day, the last time he had seen Duo. When he had been able to find safety and as soon as he was recovered by the Preventers, Heero insisted on going with the team to the site where he had left his partner.

While he had his own injuries that needed to be looked over, Heero had been determined to help find his braided friend before he was captured by the enemy again. He had promised Duo that he would be back for him. He made him promise to hang on as long as he could until he returned. All he could do was hope that he made it to the rendezvous point where he was picked up in time.

His fears came to life when he found the small opening in the side of the hill where they had hidden vacant. His heart sank finding no signs of Duo for miles around as they made their first search that night. Finally, his injuries getting the better of him, he had no choice but to turn back with the team so Sally could look after him.

From that day forward, Heero continued his search. By the time the first year passed since the last time he say the braided Preventer, his friends were beginning to fear the worst.

When even Quatre finally laid his own assistance to the search to rest, Heero was the only one left to continue. He worked after hours, taking out his own personal time when he as finished with his new assignments, to find anything that would give him a lead to his friend's whereabouts.

After everything that they had been through together, not just during the wars, but during their time in captivity on their last mission together, Heero owed it to the braided youth to do everything in his power to find him.

Regardless of the fact that the others had given up any hope that Duo was still alive and thus gave up on looking for him, Heero really couldn't blame them. After all this time, and under other circumstances, Heero might have acted the same, himself.

Still, he could not allow himself to do the same. He knew that Duo had to be alive somewhere. If he stopped searching now, he could miss a valuable lead to finding his partner. He had his mission and he would not be deterred from it, not until he had closure one way or another.

There was no other option. Failure in this was not an option.

Whatever the others had to say to try to get him to give his mission a rest, Heero appreciated their concern but would not rest in his efforts. He could deal with whatever they had to say about his determination, or stubbornness, as they called it.

'You're still so sure that he's alive?'

'I know that he's out there somewhere, Quatre. Whether he's alive or not, I can't just abandon him until we know for certain. He deserves better than that!'

Pause. 'I just... I think that you're setting yourself up to be crushed when this is all over.'

'You, Trowa, Wufei, Relena, Sally, and everyone else has been saying the same thing to me ever since I started looking for him. It didn't stop me then and it's not going to stop me now. I don't care that I'm going this alone.'

'I wanted to continue searching for him, too, Heero. But there just comes a time when you have to reason-'

'There hasn't been any evidence that he's not alive. That is what I will reason with.'

'You're still blaming yourself that he's gone. Whatever happened to him isn't your fault-'

'This coming from someone who is still blaming yourself for calling off his end of the search!' Long silence. 'I'm sorry, Quatre, but I do have my reasons for doing this. I can't... I just refuse to believe that Duo's really gone.'

Pause. 'I know you can't, Heero. I sincerely hope that you prove all of us wrong one day.'

While Quatre did allow Heero his space by not unloading his own doubts on him, the others had not. Lady Une did, however, allow him to use whatever facilities the Preventers had to offer to help him continue looking. Even she was having a hard tome coping with the disappearance of the braided pilot.

After having no luck in finding anything new in the last of the files he had been sent, Heero sighed deeply and rubbed his eyes. Satisfied that he did all he could that day, he rose from his seat and left the office.

Falling into his bed, Heero set the alarm for early the next morning. He would have time before his first meeting to look into a few more possible leads. Then, he would stay late after his assignments were finished to continue searching.

He drifted off to sleep reassuring himself once again that one of these days, something had to come up.

As he did every night, he whispered into the darkness, "Sleep well, Duo."

* * * * * *

Lady Une had called off every meeting that Heero and Wufei had that next day to meet with the both of them. Running into each other in the hallway as they approached their commanding officer's office, Heero asked, "Any idea what this might be about?"

Wufei shook his head, "No. I was about to ask you the same thing. So if neither of us was hinted on what this could be, you know what that means."

"Field assignment," they said at the same time.

Reaching the door at the end of the long hall, Wufei knocked firmly. The door slid open before them as Lady Une's voice called from within, "Come in."

The young woman looked up from her desk and smiled at two of her best pilots. There was a pain that she did not allow to show at being reminded once again that she should be looking at the three best in the organization instead of only two of them. "Please," she said as she gestured with a hand to the two chairs before her desk.

Once they were seated and each gave her a firm nod, confirming that she had their full attention, she went right to business. "There has been news of a new development that came to my attention and we cannot sit on this. Once I acquaint you with what I have learned, you will have two hours to assemble your teams to leave immediately after."

Shifting in his seat slightly, Wufei asked, "What have you learned?" Heero had straightened even more in his seat, not allowing his lack of sleep to show.

Taking a deep breath, Lady Une folded her hands before her face as she began, "For the last four years, there has been a hidden foundation, code named 'White Out', that has been capturing and selling people into slavery to the highest bidders."

Neither Preventer could hide their shock at such an announcement, as their eyes widened in disbelief. "Slavery," Heero repeated. "How are they able to get away with this?

The young woman's eyes narrowed as she answered in a near growl, "Those involved in this movement have been capturing people living on the streets of the Colonies and the Earth. Once in their possession, they break them, force them to follow the wishes of their owners."

"Those living off the streets have no names, no way of being able to be tracked," Wufei stated, his frown deepening with realization. "They have the perfect victims for such a thing."

"As far as most people are concerned, those on the streets might as well not exist," Heero hissed, his eyes narrowed and his fists clenched.

He recalled the night in the cell he and Duo shared after their last mission together. The braided pilot had finally told him of his past, his life of struggle for survival on the streets and the Maxwell Church Incident.

Knowing fully well from his friend's accounts how even children left to survive on their own were treated, it was no surprise how this foundation was able to find so many people to sell for their business. Who would be concerned over the bottom of society? There were hundreds of thousands of those nameless faces throughout Space.

What fueled Heero's fire even more was the secret name 'White Out' for the organization. It was a means of saying that those involved were wiping out and 'cleaning' civilization of those who lived such lives. They saw people who, like his friend had been as a child, could not afford anything of their own, as smudges that needed to be cleaned away.

These people that they were dealing with were barbarians, nothing more.

Lady Une nodded, "There was a slip from one of the pilots of a transport ship for the organization. We were able to... get him to cooperate with us and relay what he knew to us." At the last part, she smirked smugly. Whatever means those Preventers used on the man that aided White Out to spill what he knew, neither Wufei nor Heero felt any sympathy for him.

"There is to be another transportation ship going out tonight," she continued, now laying out the law of her mission ahead. "I want you and your assembled teams to intercept it and use whatever means to release those being held in the ship.

"I want as many men working there taken and brought back here for questioning. We do not know how much influence, or how large this 'White Out' organization is. We'll need to learn whatever we can if we hope to put an end to this."

"Ninmu ryoukai," Heero spoke up in a clear, firm voice. His hands were still clenched and his eyes still glaring ahead at nothing in particular.

Lady Une couldn't help but give a small smile, relieved to see that the Japanese pilot's resolve in defending those who could not defend themselves had not changed, despite the disappearance of his best friend.

Wufei also nodded, "I am up for this as well. We'll have our teams ready in less than two hours for our departure time."

"Thank you, gentlemen," the commander smiled sincerely as she nodded firmly to them. Extending her hand holding two folders, she explained, "These are the coordinates of the light path that the transport ship will be taking. It shows where it should be at the top of ever hour as well as the fifteen minute intervals of every hour.

"We need you to make this as clean a hit as possible. I don't want those in charge of White Out to think of this as anything more that a... unfortunate accident that one of their ships was lost."

At that, Wufei accepted his folder and smirked, "No worries about that. They won't think of it as any more than faulty wires that caused the destruction of the ship as it was en route."

Heero took his own folder and added, "We'll have as many of their own as we can get our hands on for questioning when we return."

More than satisfied that they were capable of the task at hand, Lady Une replied shortly, "Good." Rising from her seat as her pilots did the same, she extended her hand and told them quietly, "I wish you both the best of luck in your mission. Come back safely."

Both young men shook her hand and extended their thanks before stepping out of the room again. As they split ways at the end of the hall, Wufei smirked over his shoulder, "See you in a couple hours."

"Hai," Heero replied curtly, still enraged over what he had learned. If he was not going to be able to continue his search in the next couple days, he could at least deliver a blow to these bastards on Duo's behalf. He would have wanted to be a part of this mission.

* * * * * *

The attack began at 0721 that same evening, when the transport ship was locked on target. That was when all hell broke loose.

After a lengthy battle amongst the stars, the massive transport ship was finally taken. As the fleet of Preventers embarked the massive hanger, they threw themselves into the confusion as they faced their enemies head-on.

Between the cross fire and the screaming and scrambling of soldiers on both sides, it was difficult to determine which side was faring better.

The ship's crewmen in the observation were finally taken down by a few lucky sharpshooters; automatically allowing the Preventers to make their way through the entrance to the main hull of the craft. As they cleared the way, more of their own landed their crafts in the hanger to join them.

Despite the fact that they achieved a small victory in taking the ship, time was not on their side and it would only be a matter of time before they would be up against more resistance when the call for help from other ships like this would be answered.

Three suited Preventers came to a stop when they reached a branch that broke into three different hallways. Looking to each other through the dark visors of their helmets, they gave a short nod before splitting and going off on their own.

The cells seemed to go on forever down ever path. The fact that many prisoners would be left behind was a something that was a sad reality, but better to free as many as they could, rather than none at all.

Overriding the access code to each door they came across, Heero managed to open those cells he first came in contact with. The men and women inside each looked to him with wide eyes, recognizing the organization that the dark flight suit and helmet belonged to.

With a gesture of his head, he silently told them to get to the hanger. Without a word needed, those he freed ran as fast as their feet could. Other captives helped out those wounded as they made their way to freedom as the sirens overhead continued to pierce through the air.

Only briefly did Heero look on some of those grateful people as they ran with their families and friends. These were the lowest of low souls. These people, they were the men and women who could not care and fended for themselves on the streets.

How anyone could use such people for their own benefit in this fashion was appalling. And to think that they had been getting away with this for so long. Who knows how many people like these were now the slaves of wealthy owners throughout space? Separated from their families and loved ones to be forced into whatever their masters wanted.

Snapping himself from his thoughts, he quickly went back to his task. Despite the fact that he managed to open a fair amount of cells at a rate that would make any rookie's head spin, he hardly made a dent in what remained in that corridor.

With a glance to his watch, Heero cursed darkly to himself. It was time to go. But there were so many others left. Satisfying himself that he would open one more cell, he began to punch in the override code on the lock beside the door just to his left.

When the door opened, instead of finding a face or two waiting in the doorway, there was no one there. Pausing a moment, he stared at the dark, empty entrance for a moment, as the grip on his pistol tightened. Stepping inside carefully, with the gun aimed forward, he switched the light on beside him as he made his way in.

Across the room, a broken form lay on their side, back facing the door, stretched out lifelessly. The captive's pale skin was bruised and cut all over, a few wounds still bleeding in different places. The Preventer stopped dead in his tracks as his gaze fell on the long strands of chestnut hair that were spread over the naked body and the cold floor.

Quickly, Heero removed his helmet, revealing his widened cobalt eyes that had never left the person before him. His feet finally moved again and he knelt beside the prisoner as he carefully turned them to face him.

A sharp gasp escaped his tightening through as he gazed at the unconscious face that he had been searching for. Taking a deep breath, he whispered, "Duo..."

Looking around the room, he spotted a blanket spread carelessly on the single mattress in the corner. Moving quickly, he took it to wrap around Duo's lifeless body and lifted him into his arms.

Just as he returned to his feet, Wufei's voice shouted over the radio on his belt, "Yuy, you better get the hell out of there! We picked up on four more ships on their way!" Cradling the young man to him, Heero turned and ran through the door again.

The detonators would have already been set by now, and they would be going off in a few minutes.

TBC...


Chapter 2

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