Disclaimers:  I still own nothing other than a few models, and a wonderful collection of action figures and posters.

Author’s notes:  Another part of my long series.  No, it still isn’t over yet.  Enjoy.

Painful Memories
Part 12

Trowa sat there on the couch, just staring into the steaming hot tea inside his cup.  He wasn’t going to drink it.  He just wanted
to hold it, maybe get some warmth back into his hands, to fight off the coldness that threatened to steal his heart away again.  
Without Quatre, he was losing it.  Slowly, his heart was crumbling, his hope fading away.

Quatre was gone.  Trowa knew that it was all his own fault.  If only he had been there, none of this would’ve happened.  Quatre
wouldn’t have been taken, Duo would still be there.  Everything would have been fine, if only he hadn’t gone on that stupid
mission.  There hadn’t been a need for him to go.  It was supposed to have been just a simple mission to destroy a base.  Heero
and Wufei could have handled it, if it had been real.

The sound of a car stopping outside caught his attention, but he didn’t look up.  It was probably Wufei, back from whatever
errands he had gone out to run.  But a voice from the top of the stairs did get him to turn around.  It was Heero asking, “Who’s

“Probably Wufei.”  Trowa answered, looking at the bear that Heero held in his arms.  He was surprised that Heero had brought it
out of Duo’s room with him.  Trowa noticed that Heero looked so different right now, younger somehow.  His mask was gone,
his emotions showing.  It was a strange sight indeed.  Heero looked almost like a normal teenager, not like someone who could
kill without remorse, an emotionless killing machine, the Perfect Soldier.

The front door opened, and Trowa turned to see who it was, expecting Wufei to walk through the doorway.  But it wasn't
Wufei.  Instead, he watched as Catherine, Hilde, and Relena walked into the safe house.  Relena closed the door behind the three
of them.

“What are you doing here?”  Heero asked.

Relena looked up at him, her brow furrowing in confusion for a moment.  It was as if she didn’t recognize him, but it seemed to
pass after only a few seconds.  “Heero?”  She gasped.  

Heero walked down the stairs, still holding the bear in one arm, the other arm dangling by his side.  “What are you doing here?”  
He asked again, his voice returning to its normal monotone.  Trowa could see that Heero was putting his mask back into place,
at least for the time being.  Maybe it was still too early for Heero to show emotions in front of so many people.  Trowa
understood very well.

“I called them.”  Sally said, entering the room from the kitchen, placing most of her weight on her crutches.

“Why?”  Heero asked, glaring at her.

“They deserved to know.  They are friends of yours, and of Duo and Quatre.”  Sally replied.

Trowa turned his attention back to the cup in his hand, watching the steam rise from the liquid.  For some odd reason, it caused
him to think of Quatre.  The porcelain teacup reminding him of Quatre’s delicate features, of how he appeared so fragile.  But
inside of him there was the warmth of his love, the heat of the passion he felt for Trowa, almost like the steaming hot tea inside
of the cup.  It was silly really, to see a resemblance to Quatre within a teacup.  Trowa would have laughed if it had not been for
the worry in his heart, the desperate hold he kept on his dwindling hope slowly wearing down from his fear of not finding his
angel in time to save him.

A firm but gentle hand touched his arm and he looked up to see Catherine’s face, her worried expression.  He placed the cup on
the coffee table, trying to keep his mind off of Quatre.  He tried to hide his pain, to put his own mask back into place, as Heero
had only moments ago.  

Obviously, it hadn’t worked.  Catherine threw her arms around him, pulling him into a loving embrace.  His heart wished that
she really was his sister, that he had some family, but he was nothing, nobody.  He was back to being nothing without Quatre,
back to being that nameless mercenary with no joy in his life.  He might as well be dead without his angel, without his dearest

“Trowa, I’m here for you.”  Catherine said, rubbing her hands on his back in slow soothing circles.

Trowa returned the embrace, grateful for the contact, even if they weren’t related, even if she only cared for him because of a
need to fill an empty gap in her life.  He knew that she only loved him out of misplaced affection, because he was the same age
as her brother would have been if he were still alive.  He didn’t deserve her affection, she was of no relation to him.  Only her
long dead brother should have the privilege of being held by her in such a loving way, in such a sisterly manner.  He had no
family, no one.  But he didn’t want to let go of her, didn’t want to feel so cold anymore, so alone in the world.

“Catherine.”  He mumbled into her hair, holding her as close to his own body as he could.  “It’s all my fault . . . if only I had
been here.  I should have stayed behind.”

“No, it’s okay.”  She whispered back.  “You can’t blame yourself for any of this.”

Trowa just fell into the embrace, not letting his mind register on anything else.  He didn’t want to think anymore, didn’t want to
feel.  He just wanted all of those emotions to go away again, wanted to lock them up once more.  But he couldn’t stop it.  It was
already far too late.  Quatre had left too strong an impact on his life and there was no way to go back to the way he had been
before he had met and loved the blonde Arabian.  He felt the tears falling from his eyes, but didn’t stop them.  He only clung
more to Catherine, not wanting to feel so alone, so cold anymore.

“Where’s Wufei?”  Sally asked.

Trowa pulled himself together, brushing away his tears and letting go of Catherine.  He didn’t want the others to see his tear-
streaked face, to know that he had silently wept.  He still wanted to keep his emotions to himself, the others didn’t need to know
about his feelings.  Only Quatre had ever seen him truly cry, had ever seen him release his hidden emotions.  The others had
only caught small glimpses of his true emotions, a tear or two, but never as many as Quatre had been privileged to witness
during the time they had spent together.

“I don’t know.”  Heero replied, shrugging.  “Trowa, do you know where Wufei is?”

“He said he had a few errands to do.”  Trowa answered.

“He just left?”  Heero asked, a definite trace of anger in his eyes.  “What about the searches he was running?  Did he finish

“I don’t know.”  Trowa snapped, not really knowing why he was yelling.  He wasn’t angry, not at Heero anyway.  “I didn’t ask

“Please, calm down both of you.”  Relena said, standing between the two pilots.

“Yeah.”  Hilde said, standing beside her.  “It won’t help any of us if we fight amongst ourselves.”

Trowa snapped his head to the side, hearing someone clearing their throat.  Wufei was standing in the doorway, one of his
eyebrows raised, his arms folded against his chest.  “Am I disturbing something?  I go out for a little while, and you two are
practically at each other’s throats.  I’d love to explain to Duo and Quatre that you couldn’t save them because you had killed
each other.  That will go over very well, I think.”  Wufei said with a tone of sarcasm.  

“Where have you been?”  Heero nearly shouted.

“Just as I told Trowa, I had a few errands to run.”  Wufei answered, still standing in the doorway.

Trowa stood from his seat.  “And what exactly does that mean?”  He asked.  “Just where were you?”

“I finished my computer searches.  They were successful, and I was able to locate the man whose fingerprints were found on
the syringe.  I went and questioned him.”  Wufei replied.

“Without us?  You went alone?”  Heero glared.

“Neither of you were in any state to be of help.  I did not want to take the risk that you would kill the man before we acquired
the knowledge we were seeking.”  Wufei answered.

Wufei’s high-and-mighty attitude was really getting on Trowa’s nerves.  But he kept his anger down.  “Did you find out

Wufei nodded.  “Yes.  I know where Duo and Quatre are being held.”

Heero took a step forward.  “Then what are we waiting for?  Let’s go.”

Wufei held up his hand.  “We should come up with a plan first.”

“But . . .”  Heero started.

Wufei cut off his sentence.  “It will do no good for us to just rush in there without knowing what will be waiting for us.  We
need to be prepared.  It will not help either Duo or Quatre if we are killed before we can reach them.”

Heero bowed his head in defeat.  Trowa just nodded, knowing that Wufei was right.  They would only be putting Duo and
Quatre’s lives in danger if they just rushed in.  He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment.

“Who’s that?”  Hilde asked, once again getting Trowa’s attention.

Trowa looked up, his gaze traveling over to where Hilde was pointing.  Someone was standing, or actually hiding, behind
Wufei.  A face peeked out from behind the Chinese pilot.  At first glance, he looked like Quatre, the blonde hair getting Trowa’s
attention immediately.  But after a second, he saw that the shade of his hair was slightly darker than Quatre’s, his eyes violet
instead of Quatre’s wonderful blue color.  The face ducked back behind Wufei, apparently afraid.

Wufei turned slightly.  “This is David.  I found him when I questioned Nick Smith, the man whose prints were found on the
syringe.”  He held his hand out and gave a small smile, “Come along David, no one here will hurt you.”

David slowly stepped out from behind Wufei, keeping his gaze locked on the floor.  He took small, slow steps, as if moving
caused him pain.  He held tightly to the jacket draped around his shoulders, keeping it wrapped around his body.  Trowa
recognized it as Wufei’s jacket.  He could see how tattered and torn the boy’s clothes were, where Wufei’s jacket wasn’t
covering him.   He could also see a number of bruises and cuts on David’s face, arms, and legs, the blood sticking to his skin
and hair.  Trowa wondered just how and where Wufei had found him.  By the look of him, the boy had been in one hell of a

“David, these are friends of mine.”  Wufei said, then introduced everyone to the frightened boy.

“Oh, he is so adorable.”  Hilde commented.

Wufei seemingly ignored her.  “Sally, I believe David here might need your medical assistance.”  He laid his hand on David’s

Trowa couldn’t help but notice that David shuddered slightly at Wufei’s touch.  Sally stepped forward, moving slowly because
of the crutches.  “Catherine, can you go get my bag?  It’s in my room, upstairs, last door at the end of the hall.  It's on my bed.”

Catherine didn’t reply, she just nodded, and walked to the stairs.  A few minutes later she came back down, carrying Sally’s
black bag in her hand.  She put it on the coffee table then stood beside Trowa, taking his arm in hers.  

Wufei stepped over to Sally, keeping David between the two of them.  He leaned over and whispered something into her ear.  
Sally nodded, then looked down at the boy, a hint of sadness on her face.  Trowa couldn’t help but wonder what was going on.  
It was obvious that Wufei was keeping something to himself, some piece of knowledge he wasn’t sharing with the rest of the
pilots, only sharing it with Sally.

Sally turned her attention back to the others.  “Okay, everyone out.  I don’t want David here to feel like he’s being put on
display.”  She said.

“Where are we supposed to go?”  Heero asked.

Hilde spoke up, “Into the dining room.  I believe it’s time for breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry.”  Heero stated.

“I don’t care.  You look like you could use a good meal.  Besides, I think you could all use all the extra energy you can get,
considering you’re about to go on a rescue mission.”  Hilde said.

“Don’t argue with her.”  Relena stated, placing her hand on Heero’s arm.  He just shrugged her off.  But Relena continued,  
“Besides, we have to leave Sally and David alone for a few minutes.”

“Fine.”  Heero replied.

Trowa and the others walked to the dining room.  Catherine let go of him, walking a few paces ahead of him.  At the doorway,
Trowa stopped and turned back, wanting to make sure that Heero was following him.  He watched as Heero walked over to
David.  Sally was busy opening her bag and pulling out equipment, so Trowa doubted that she saw what was going on.  

David looked up at Heero, who now stood in front of him.  His eyes were filled with fear, his body shaking.  Hesitantly, Heero
held out the bear he held.  David took it, timidly, as if it might hurt him.  

“I’m just loaning it to you.  It belongs to a friend.”  Heero said.  He smirked, then turned and walked to the dining room, passing
Trowa without saying a word.  David just watched Heero as he left, then smiled for a moment, hugging the bear against his
chest.  Trowa sighed and followed the rest of his friends into the dining room.


Quatre opened his eyes, hearing the door opening.  Carl stepped into the room, leaving the door wide open behind him.  He knelt
beside Quatre, and unlocked the shackle that was around his ankle.  Then he pulled something out of his pocket.  Quatre’s eyes
widened, seeing a syringe being so carefully held between the man’s fingers.  His mind was filled with fear, wondering what
Carl had in store for him now.

“Just a mild stimulant.”  Carl smiled.  “Don’t want you to lose consciousness, when I’m having my fun.”

Quatre felt the stinging of the needle as it penetrated his skin.  He winced, although it didn’t really hurt that much.  After a few
moments, he felt wide awake, as the drugs had obviously begun to kick in.  He felt some of his strength return, not much.  He
still wasn’t strong enough to fight Carl off, to try and escape, but at least now he wasn’t so weak that he couldn’t move.

Carl grabbed his wrist, and pulled him up.  Quatre stood there for a moment, trying to stop himself from swaying.  His legs felt
like jelly beneath him, and moving so quickly had made him quite dizzy.  Then Carl took hold of his arm, his grip tight, and
forcefully pulled him from the room.  Quatre stumbled several times, trying to keep up with Carl as he quickly walked down a
long hallway.  A chill ran through his body as they walked farther down the hall.  It felt as if someone had turned the heat off.

Finally, Carl stopped in front of a door, still holding tightly to Quatre’s arm.  He unlocked and opened the door, then shoved
Quatre inside.  Two pairs of hands immediately grabbed him, keeping him from falling to the floor.  Quatre looked up,
wondering who held him, but the faces were unfamiliar to him.  One was a girl, maybe in her twenties, her dark roots showing
through her bleached blonde hair.  Her eyes were green, but seemed empty.  She wore a red halter top and a black leather
miniskirt.   A man with flaming red hair stood next to her, a number of freckles covering his face.  He was dressed in only a pair
of plain black jeans.

“He’s pretty.”  The girl smiled.

“Very pretty.”  The man agreed, taking one of his hands and lightly running his fingers through Quatre’s hair.

Carl’s deep voice pulled Quatre’s attention away from these new people.  “Where is he?”

“I'm right here.”  Said a shaky voice.  Quatre turned, looking to the man that had just walked into the room.

The man was dressed the same as the one holding Quatre, in only a pair of black jeans.  But this man was definitely hooked on
drugs.  There were track marks,  caused by the drug needles he used, on his arms.  It was obvious by the way his body shook,
by the sweat covering his face, that he was going through withdrawal symptoms.  

Quatre could see a slight resemblance to Duo in this man.  He had the same color hair, although his was only shoulder length,
and was greasy and unkempt.  Seeing him, standing in front of Carl, holding his arm out in a silent plea for a fix from Carl as his
body shook, make Quatre shudder inwardly.  It scared Quatre, thinking about Duo.  He had seen Duo just like that, shaking,
sweating, wanting a fix from Carl, during those days at the safe house.

Carl sighed.  “Fine.”  He reached into a pocket, pulling out yet another syringe.  Quatre couldn’t help but wonder just how many
he had on him.  Quickly, Carl readied the syringe and injected the liquid into the man.

Quatre gasped at the memories that resurfaced as he watched Carl inject the drugs into his employee.  It reminded him of Duo,
of how sick he had been, of how weak and hurt he was.

Carl turned to Quatre, a smirk appearing on his face.  “Desperate people will do anything if only to get away from the pain I can
inflict.  And yes, my dear little empath, Duo was that desperate!”  Carl sneered.

Quatre struggled against his fears, holding them back.  He didn’t want to say anything, do anything that would anger Carl.  It
would only get him hurt, and possibly Duo as well.

“What do you want me to do, Boss?”  The man asked, after a few short moments as his drugs kicked in.

“Just hold him from behind.”  Carl answered, pointing to Quatre.  

The man took his place behind Quatre, grabbing his arms and pinning them to the sides of his body, as Carl walked further into
the room.  Quatre followed Carl with his eyes, for the first time getting a look at the rest of the room.  But when he saw what
was across from him, just lying on the floor only feet away from him, he took in a sharp breath.

“Duo?”  He gasped, looking at his friend who lay helpless on the floor.  Duo was naked, sprawled on the floor face down, his
hair a tangled mess around him.  His left arm looked odd.  Quatre remembered that had been the broken arm.  Carl must have
done something to it.  By the looks of it, he must have twisted it or broken it again.  Duo’s entire body was covered in bruises
and scratches, the one side of his face looked to be just one huge bruise.

Carl walked over to Duo and nudged him with his foot.  Duo groaned, as Carl had obviously hit a sore spot.  He looked up, his
hair falling away from his face.  His eyes widened.  “Quatre?”  He asked.

Quatre watched as Duo pushed himself from the mattress, lunging at the trio that held Quatre.  Carl had obviously anticipated
this, and he just grabbed Duo by the hair, yanking him back.  Duo fell back to the floor, panting from the pain he was apparently

“Now, now . . . don’t spoil my fun here.”  Carl smiled, letting go of Duo’s hair.

Duo stared up at Carl, his eyes burning with rage.  “Bastard!”  He shouted.  “You said you wouldn’t hurt him!”

“That’s why I brought him here.”  Carl replied.  “I haven’t touched him, other than a few tastes.  He’s perfectly all right.  See?”  
He gestured toward Quatre.

“Liar!  I can see the hand print clearly.”  Duo snarled, mentioning the red mark on Quatre’s cheek from when Carl had slapped
him before.  Quatre could feel Duo’s anger, along with a great deal of pain from within him.  He didn’t know where Duo was
getting all of this energy.  He was so tired, Quatre could sense his weariness.

“You should thank me.  The little morsel was about to leave us.”  Carl replied.

“Why the hell did you bring him here?”  Duo asked,  “He doesn’t need to see me like this!”

“Why, Duo . . . I thought you wanted to see him.  That is what you wanted, right?  You asked about him enough.”  He glanced
to Quatre, “And he’s asked about you.  I figured that you’d appreciate my generosity toward a street urchin like you once were.  
You know what they say, ‘Once a street rat, always a street rat.’  You ought to be grateful.”  He knelt beside Duo, brushing the
strands of long, chestnut hair over his shoulder.  Duo moved away, but didn’t get too far since there really was nowhere for him
to go.  “Now, if you’ll just give in, your little friend can go home unscathed.”

Quatre couldn’t just stand by and listen anymore.  He was already losing what strength he had left, what the stimulants had
given back to him.  His breathing was becoming ragged, making him sound as if he had just run a race.  “No!  Duo . . . don’t . .
. I wouldn’t be able . . . to live with . . . myself if you . . . did that!”

Duo looked up at him, smiling slightly.  “It’s okay Quatre.”  He turned to Carl, glaring, his smile vanishing in an instant.  “I'd
rather die!”

“That can be arranged, Duo.”  Carl said, smiling once again.  “Pity, you were my best employee.  However, we won’t kill you
until after this little one’s spirit has fled.  He’s so close now, Duo.”  

Carl walked over to Quatre, grabbing his hair and pulling him forward slightly.  Quatre gasped, feeling his scalp being stretched,
but he didn’t let himself cry out, didn’t let himself make a sound.  

“Can you see that?  The little light in his eyes is dying.  The flame within him is flickering and soon it will go out.”  Carl said,
keeping his eyes locked on Duo. “You know, it’s your fault.”  He released Quatre’s hair.  “Had you given in, I might have sent
him someplace where he could have been found.  But no . . . you had to be stubborn.”

Quatre watched as Duo hung his head.  Carl was getting to him, he could see it.  He opened his mouth, but before he could utter
a word, a hand clamped over his mouth from the side.  He knew the hand belonged to the red-haired man, since the man behind
him already had his hands on Quatre’s arms.  

He couldn’t do anything but watch as Carl moved in front of Duo, grabbing him by the hair and pulling him up.  Carl
backhanded him, almost knocking Duo to the ground once again.  If it weren’t for the grip he held on Duo’s hair, Duo would
have fallen.  A few more strikes to Duo’s already swollen face, and Carl was done hitting him.  

Carl moved behind Duo, keeping one of his arms wrapped around Duo’s waist to keep him standing.  Quatre closed his eyes,
not wanting to watch this.  He didn’t want to see his friend suffer any more.  But he reopened his eyes quickly when that girl bit
him on the ear.  He could feel the warm blood trickling down his throat from his ear.  Obviously, he was supposed to watch.  

Duo raised his head, his eyes looking directly into Quatre’s.  Quatre could sense his fear, all the pain within his beaten body.  But
something stuck out, guilt.  Quatre knew that Duo felt this was all his own fault, everything that had happened to Quatre and
himself.  Duo completely blamed himself for everything.  Quatre wished he could say something, to tell Duo that he didn’t blame
him.  But with that hand covering his mouth, he couldn’t form a single word.

Then Duo let out a scream, as Carl forced his way into his body.  He clenched his eyes shut, lowering his head to hide his face
beneath the waves of hair that draped around him.  Quatre clenched his teeth shut, feeling the intense pain along with Duo.  His
legs gave out from under him as he completely lost his strength.  However, the man behind him kept him from falling by keeping
his hands firmly on Quatre’s arms.

“Look up, Duo.”  Carl said, between his own moans, as he roughly used Duo’s body.  “Look at your friend.  Just look at what
you’ve done to him.”

Quatre’s body shook uncontrollably, shuddering from the pain of his friend, from the feelings he sensed from him.  Duo lifted
his head, his face a mask of pain.  Quatre almost couldn’t bear to see the agony in his eyes, to feel all of that sorrow and
shame.  But he held on, knowing that Duo would want him to try to, at least a little longer.

With just a few more thrusts, Carl had finished with Duo.  He just let go of Duo, letting him fall to the floor in a heap.  Quatre
could see him shaking, as his own body shook.  But Duo still forced himself to his knees and looked up at Quatre.  “I’m sorry.”  
He whispered, his eyes full of shame.

Carl pulled his pants back up, and walked over to Quatre and the trio that held him.  He turned back to Duo for a moment.  “It’s
time for my friends to have some fun now.”

“No!”  Duo yelled, trying to stand, but he fell back to the floor, all his strength apparently gone.

Carl turned, facing Quatre and the three that held him.  “Do it.”  He ordered.

Quatre’s eyes widened, feeling the hands running along his body.  He balled his hands into tight fists, clenching his teeth shut.  
His eyes brimmed with tears as their hands wandered to places he really only wanted Trowa’s hands to go.  There were kisses,
savage and rough against his skin.  But at least they never kissed him on the lips, only on his arms, his neck, or wherever else
they felt like kissing him.  They groped him, their hands going in places he didn’t want them to go.  But no matter how much he
wished to get away, he just didn’t have the strength.  

And then there were the emotions he sensed, the wanton sexuality of the girl, the red-haired man’s lust, and even a hint of regret
from the man holding his arms.  But the strongest feelings he sensed came from Duo.  Duo was filled with rage and guilt, with
sorrow and self-hatred.  To Quatre, those emotions were almost like daggers, so painful, so exhausting to keep sensing over and
over again.

Duo’s voice cut through the haze of emotions that once again overwhelmed Quatre.  “What’s the matter, Carl?  You know it
too, don’t you?”  Duo said, his voice strangely calm.  “They’re close to finding where we are, and you know you're a dead man
when they do get here.”

Carl smiled and turned to Duo.  “Maybe, but you will be dead, and this little one as good as dead before they can even discover
the name of this place.”  He paused.  “And I was having that house watched, while you were recovering from those injuries
Jack gave you.  How will that sweet-eyed Japanese boy take your death?  How will the emerald-eyed acrobat take it if this one
never returns?”  He had gestured to Quatre as he spoke that one sentence.  Then he crossed his arms in front of his chest.   
“And that Chinese boy won’t last long on his own.  A mission will come that he can’t handle alone and he’ll die.  They’ll all die,
Duo.  All of them . . . All because of you.”

Quatre watched as Duo bowed his head.  He couldn’t believe that Duo was letting Carl’s lies get to him.  Quatre wanted to say
something, to let Duo know that Carl was lying, but his voice was gone.  Duo lifted his head once again, as Carl turned back to

Carl walked over to Quatre, a lustful gleam in his eyes.  He snapped his fingers, and immediately the red-haired man and the
woman moved away from Quatre.  However, the man behind Quatre stayed where he was, since he was the only thing keeping
Quatre from falling.

As Carl stood in front of him, he stared Quatre down, his lust-filled eyes boring into him.  Without uttering a single word, Carl
reached out and groped him.  If only Quatre had some strength left, he would have tried to escape that invasive touch.  He
futilely tried to imagine that it was Trowa who was touching him.  But that was impossible.  Carl was being so rough, Quatre
could never pretend it was his gentle, silent Trowa.

Carl continued his harsh ministrations.  His terrible hands were on him, rubbing Quatre in places that would feel good if it were
Trowa’s gentle hands touching him, his dearest Trowa instead of the terrifying man that stood in front of him.

Quatre could feel it, the last shred of his grasp on reality slipping away.  His hands fell limply to his sides, his fists dropping
open.  A chill ran up his spine, as panic welled up inside of him.  His mind struggled madly against it, not wanting to fade away,
not wanting to leave Duo alone in this horrible place.

“Duo!”  He called out, forcing his voice to work once again, for that one desperate cry for help.

“Carl, stop it!  Stop it now!”  Duo screamed on Quatre’s behalf.

But it was already too late.  As a single tear fell from his eye, Quatre lost that last desperate hold connecting him to the world.  
His consciousness lost its grip as it retreated deep into his mind, maybe never to return.

To Be Continued . . .