Touch the World
- 11 -

"Hey, Heero."

He didn't take his eyes off the view out the window.  He kind of missed space.  Sure, he'd been living in space for the last five years, but it was different from traveling through it.  He wondered if it would be the same, though, being cradled in the sea of stars.  Maybe it'd just be the obstacle between point A and point B now, and maybe he was better off not trying to enjoy it.  One less thing to fail at.  "Yeah?"

"What you said at the end of the Barton thing..."

"Which thing?"

"I heard you said something 'bout not killin' anyone anymore."

Who was spreading that around, he wondered.  There hadn't been that many people there at the time.  "...I heard that, too."

"What, you denyin' it?"

"I was passing out at the time.  I don't remember it very well."  He wasn't even too certain how he had gotten from Wing down to the basement level of the bunker.  Then again, maybe it was just the passage of time that had dulled his memory.  "But I concede that I may have said that."

A nice cautious answer, Duo thought.  What was he afraid of?  "Did you mean it, then?  If you said it?"

A light blinked somewhere out there.  Not a star, of course.  Another shuttle?  People could be so close to each other in space some times, and barely even notice.  "...I'm sure I meant it at the time.  But I did just kill a man last week without even thinking about it."

"He was trying to kill you."

"I know.  I'm not looking for justification.  I don't regret taking him out.  He was trying to take me out.  But..."  He shrugged uneasily.  He'd meant it for a long time after first saying it, too, but all bets were off when it came to survival.  "It was a nice thought, and it'd be nice if we lived in a world where I didn't ever have to answer this question.  Why do you bring it up?"  He turned toward the pilot as he asked.

Duo leaned toward him, just to make sure there wouldn't be any miscommunication.  "I just wanna know what to expect in there.  I wanna know if I'm gonna have to cover your ass in there.  I wanna know if you're gonng freeze and get the both of us killed.  I wanna know if you're gonna make us do things the hard way."

Fair enough.  "What about you?"

"I never made any stupid promises I couldn't keep.  It's the circle of life, baby.  Born and raised on it.  I don't believe in messing with it."

"So you'll kill in there if you have to, no second thoughts about it?"

"Don't make me sound like some cold-blooded murderer, Yuy."

"Then don't make me sound like some bleeding-heart pacifist, Maxwell.  You know me.  I'll do what I have to, and deal with the consequences later."

Duo stared at him measuringly before turning back to check their course.  "What if they're all bleeding-heart pacifists in there?"

"Then they shouldn't be carrying guns."

"How much do you still believe in pacifism, Yuy?"

"Complete disarmament.... Hn.  Guns aren't the only weapons out there."

He grunted in agreement.  Not a bad answer.  "Go back there and wake Sleeping Beauty up, will you?  We're almost there."

Heero unharnessed himself from his seat and drifted toward the back of the small shuttle, thinking about their short-term itinerary.  He hit the button to open the door and went inside.  It was about five seconds later that he came back out, eyes wide and hand over his mouth.  He made sure the door slid shut behind him before he moved his hand and used it to punch Duo in the shoulder.

"Hey!  What?"

Heero glared at him, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that he was trying very hard not to laugh.  Which in itself was remarkable.  "He's going to kill you."

Duo blinked innocently at him.  "What?  I hear it's very popular these days."

"I don't see you doing it."

"Why, would it turn you on?"


"Just wake him up already."

"He's going to kill you."

It was nice to know Heero cared, but it was not his fate to be killed by Zechs Merquise.  "How do you know he won't get turned on by it?"

"That's disgusting, Maxwell."

"Hey, you never know.  Wake him up.  I'm sure we'll find out sooner or later."

"I'm swearing complete innocence on this one."

"Go right on ahead."

Heero woke him up, smothering another unexpected snicker, but not saying a word about the matter.  It was Duo's business, not his.

Five minutes later, they were completing the docking procedure at L1-X8790.  Pargan really was amazing.  Not only had he called ahead and reserved them a drop off point, he'd found an old family friend to take Zechs in.  That didn't make Zechs very happy, though.

"I still don't like this," he complained.  He did it with dignity, though.

Hardly mattered to the others.  "You don't have a choice," Duo answered, checking his instrument panels.  "We aren't taking you with us.  You'd just slow us down."

"I know.  That doesn't mean I have to like it."  Noin was his wife, after all, and he was less than pleased to leave her safety in the hands of two practically unfamiliar, if highly skilled, former enemies.

Heero was scarcely more reassuring.  "We'll contact you after we extract her.  Just stay put."

"Easy for you to say."  He was smart enough not to endanger the mission for his pride, but human enough to be less than gracious in his inability to assist.

Duo strove for the friendly smile.  "If you like, we can break your legs or something.  That'd probably make it easier for you to stay put."

Heero cuffed him on the back of the head, sparing Zechs the trouble of answering.

The former Peacecraft pastry chef was waiting for them at the gate.  She cooed and pinched like a grandmother long separated from her grandchild.  Zechs scowled mildly at them, knowing that it wasn't their fault.  "Look..."

"We'll bring her back safe," Heero said, more like a statement than a promise of any sort.

Zechs nodded, running a hand through his bangs as he tried to say what he knew he had to say.  "...Thank you."  Then he paused, hand tracing the anomaly of twin braids in his hair.  His eyes widened.

Duo grinned and waved.  "Buh-bye!"

The door slid shut so hastily it almost caught his farewell before it made it out.

"Fuck," Duo muttered, trying to make himself as thin as possible.  "Whose stupid idea was this again?"

Heero was too busy watching the little people beneath them to do more than answer blandly with what, sadly, was the truth.  They'd just sort of done it.  "I have no idea."

The I-beam creaked again.  "Fuck.  I know I'm not fifteen anymore, but damn..."

He would have told Duo to be quiet, if only he wasn't sure that the engineers below them couldn't hear a thing over the rumbling of the equipment.  There were conveyor belts, lifts, all manner of things required to move heavy materials that liked to clang and creak.   "There.  What the hell do they need that much shielding for?"

Duo slithered forward another few centimeters for a better look on the support girders running the width and length of the ceiling of the hangar.  Despite himself, he answered.  "Weapons-grade, too.  Must have been doing serious salvaging."

"And over there," Heero pointed to the other side of the hangar.  "The gears, the DLP chip arrays.  Looks like components ready for on-site assembly."

"If that all goes into one big thing... that's gonna be one really big beam cannon."

"What the hell would they need with something like that?   There's easier ways to get firepower.  Whom would they use it on?"

"Who the hell cares, Yuy?  It's big, it's bad, and let's hope it's not hungry, too.  So we've seen what Zechs saw.  Can we get out of here now?  These beams are giving me the creeps."

Heero finally took a spare moment to throw him an amused glance.  "I thought you were the sneaky, stealthy one.  You gained a few kilos these past few years?"

"Hey, that's all height, man.  Too bad you can't say the same."

He still fell a little bit behind in the height category, but his muscle mass had settled on his bones a little more gracefully.  A little more padding, perhaps, but at least he didn't look so gawky anymore.  While he had maintained his fitness over the unexciting years, there hadn't been any reason to push himself very often.  The government got antsy if he did, besides.   "Alright, we've seen enough here.  Let's move out."

They turned around and backtracked their slow crawl across the rafters.  The ladder down on that side was under relative cover, while the one on the far side was clearly exposed.  "It's about damn time.  We're here to get Noin out, remember?  Whoever's weird idea that was.  Not here to go poking our nose in weapons production stuff.  What are you going to do after we get her, huh?  You gonna come back and stop this stuff?"

Heero eased his way around a vertical connector.  "I'll think about that later."

"'Later', he says," Duo grumbled, slinking along.  "What the hell is up with this guy?  Talk about tunnel vision."

Once they reached ground level again, they darted their way through the maze of cargo, taking liberal advantage of all the cover to be found on their way to the exit.  Fortunately, they were both no stranger to the Moon Base.  They headed with sure knowledge through the corridors, but unfortunately, they had to take a guess at their destination.

According to the information that Zechs had given them, their captors seemed relatively well-disposed toward their prisoners.   Taking them into custody instead of talking their way out of it was a mistake that could not be unmade.  With the damage done, they were forced to continue in their path, but that did not mean that they were prepared to execute their witnesses.  Zechs had been kept in the residential sector of the MO-18 facility.  It stood to reason that Noin could do no worse.  More likely better, in fact, since she was a woman, and pregnant to boot.

Their first objective was the infirmary.  She was only five months into her pregnancy, according to Zechs, but perhaps they might have chosen to stash her there.  Men inexperienced with pregnant women often assumed things about them and their necessities.  It didn't hurt to check since it was on the way.  There were two offices on the working side of the base, and one more on the residential sector.  Another possibility was that they had imprisoned her as far away as possible from the troops.  Zechs hadn't thought they seemed comfortable with the notion of holding a pregnant woman, and during the short time they had been held together, Noin had played the hysterical helpless woman so well that even Zechs had been wide-eyed with worry.

Patrols wandered the corridors.  It would have been impossible to bluff their way past the guards, so stealth was their best option.  They expected the base to be on alert, though, no matter that it was night cycle.  Less than twenty-four hours had elapsed since Zechs had disappeared from his room, but they would know that the first place their escapee would go would be where his wife was being held.  It was a little galling to be doing exactly what the enemy would expect, but they had little choice.  As Zechs had observed, Noin's position was now tenuous at best.  With his escape, she became either an even more important hostage, or a hostage with no value left at all.  Neither was a good position in which to be.   They could only hope that the bad guys were expecting an injured, emotional husband to be rushing to his wife's aid, not a person once considered the most dangerous man in the world, and another that was only one of the most dangerous men in the world, but a little more crazy than the first.

Moon Base was a large facility, used to housing hundreds of men, and finding jobs for all of them, too.  The facility may have been on alert, but it was nominally a civilian operation these days, and there were only so many men to go around.  Except for the deceptively echoing sounds of men walking in corridors not far from where they trekked, they were alone for a good ways, up until they miscalculated the hollow reverb in one hallway and got spotted by a small, unexpected squad shuffling down the far end of a cross corridor.

At the sound of shouts, they sprinted for the next intersection and ended up turning left when they really wanted to go straight.   It was too early in the game for them to be leaving behind a trail of dead bodies.  Halfway down the next corridor, the flashing red lights and wailing sirens went on.  Doors were heard to open, boots pounding into the hallways they had left, voices demanding a report.

Too many to fight.  Run and hide it was, then.  Hiding by far being the best long-term option.  Close to the hangars were the cargo bays.  Parts and supplies had to be kept near the equipment.  The large rooms were filled with plenty of cover, but going to ground was not the best option.  They dashed inside anyway, and after a brief inspection chose their roost.

They had long enough to catch their breath before shouting men were heard outside.  Many of the footsteps continued further down the hall, but a small detachment of troops stayed behind.  Light poured into the room through the opened door, and four soldiers entered cautiously, weapons at the ready.

In the gap between two boxes, Duo peered at them and shook his head.  Amateurs.  He could have taken two of them out immediately.  The other two would have been thrown enough at the sudden loss of their teammates that they could have been dispatched with equal ease.  Two had their weapons pointed toward the ground, and two had their weapons pointing into the air.  These were not professional soldiers.  Not mercenaries, not some secret army being trained up by their adversaries.  And certainly not troops prepared for what they were about to run into.

He signaled their positions to Heero, crouching behind the next pallet of boxes.  Three were advancing, leaving one guard standing by the door.  Heero nodded, and readied himself.  The stacks were a bit haphazard, the sign of a cargo bay recently and well used.  The search pattern employed by the guards was sloppy to match.  Holding themselves with patient stillness, they waited until the three had passed them by, then advanced their position toward the door before the trio could loop back around to search the backsides of the pallets they had missed.

The man by the door watched his squad mates nervously, glancing back and forth through the patches of darkness.  He was looking the other way when a piece of shadow detached itself from its home and rushed him.  The butt of a gun hit him on his temple, and another shadow hurried forth to catch him before he fell.

They dragged his inert body into the corner, propping him up against the shelving and out of the way.  His weapon was appropriated for use by Heero.  On their way back to the cleared door, however, the man slumped over, his head hitting the side of the metal shelf with a hollow thump.  They froze, breaths coming slow and even as they waited for a response.  It came, though delayed.

"Yo, Mallory?  You see something?"

When it became clear that Mallory was the unfortunate soul they had neutralized, Duo improvised.  "Ssshh!" he hissed loudly.

The guards that had been on their way back towards the entrance stopped where they stood, searching the room with their eyes for what had put their comrade on alert.  Duo found a bolt lying on top of a box next to where he hid.  He mimed his intent to Heero, who took a quick peek through the shelving on his side.  When the timing was right, he signaled to Duo, who lobbed the bolt with a high curving arc across the room, above their line of sight.  It knocked against the side of a box, fell and hit the metal shelving, rolled, and fell to the floor with a clatter.  Damn.  Too loud.  It was the sort of sound that, had it really been made by an experienced infiltrator, would have been followed by immediate action.  Not the sort of sound a frightened little field mouse could make and hope that no one would hear.

Amidst the agitating of the guards, Heero fell back to plan B, planting his hands against the side of the shelf next to him and applying a sharp impulse.  The box he had displaced earlier on the far end teetered, and after a moment decided that it too wanted to follow gravity's urging.  It fell with a convincingly loud crash, and any sound of a fast, hasty escape by a bad guy would have been covered by the loud shuffling of the guards themselves.  As the trio rushed over to that quadrant of the room, the pair of intruders slipped out the door and continued their run.

They marked each door and corridor they passed, staying aware of the possible alternative routes.  The three guards they had just left behind would probably be calling in their supposed find.  It would become a find for certain after they found their sleeping friend Mallory, and then the patrols that had been sent out would be returning this way.

Once, they ducked into a side passage, plastering themselves against the wall as a squad ran by.  A second time, they took refuge in a conference room as a CO strode past, barking out orders.  There were no guards posted around the first infirmary they came to.  They quickly left it behind without a search and headed toward their next objective.

"You know what I think I hate the most about times like these?" Duo muttered to Heero as they loped down the hallway.  "The alarm.  The fucking, incessant alarm.  Couldn't they find something a little easier on the ears?  Like, like, like birdsong or something?"

It was with just a little consternation that Heero found that concentrating on the sound of Duo's voice helped block out the unrelenting screech of the alarm.  It was really quite impractical.  The sound was enough to mask the gentle footfalls of two people stealthing through the hallways at a steady clip, but not enough to hide the thumping of a group of boot-clad men.

"Although, I dunno, birdsong can get kinda annoying after too much of it.  Though that may just be when it's damn early in the morning and you've got a hangover and you're trying to sleep.  Tell me, Yuy.  Ever have a hangover?  Bad time to ask, maybe, but I'm curious."

"Yes, Duo.  It is a bad time."  They turned right, reached a locked door, and stopped to bust open the panel and short it out.

"I'll take that as a, 'Yes, Duo, I have had a hangover.'   Don't suppose you woke up next to someone in some stranger's bed or anything?  No?  You're so boring, Yuy."

If that was boring, then so be it.  "How many times have you, Maxwell?"

"Nice try, Yuy."  The door opened and they continued their journey.  "Zippo.  None.  Nada.  Zero.  I don't wake up in other people's beds."

"I find that hard to believe."

"Can't wake up if you don't go to sleep."

Ah, yes.  He'd forgotten Duo's life of the quick bang.  Duo probably couldn't wake up in someone else's bed if they never made it to a bed, either.  "That makes you boring, too, doesn't it?"

"Nah, I got other things that make up for it--  Fuck."  The emergency doors in their path started closing.  They put on a burst of speed, but they didn't make it in time.  Turning around, they saw that their path in had been similarly barricaded.  "When the hell did the bad guys get so smart?" Duo cursed, hustling toward one of the few doors left in their small segment of hallway.  It was locked.  They ran to next.

A half dozen gun barrels met them, face to face and happy to see them.  The troops behind the faceful of weapons looked a lot less friendly.  Behind the crowd stood an officer by the looks of him.  Two of the other doors slid open, and six more guards joined them in the hall, all with weapons trained on them.

"Told you this was a bad time," Heero griped softly.

"Hey, take it easy, man!" Duo complained as he was pushed unceremoniously into cell.  With his hands bound behind his back, he had trouble catching his balance and fell roughly to his knees, splaying them out awkwardly to stop himself from sprawling forward on his face.

Heero stumbled into his side and did a clumsy dance to avoid tripping altogether as the door slammed shut behind them.  Once he steadied himself on his feet, he turned around, studying the confines of their cell before seating himself against the wall.

Duo wiggled his way forward and flopped himself down beside his partner in crime.  "Well.  This sure brings back memories."

"Hn."  Heero shut his eyes and tried to relax a bit.

He made a sour face.  "And that sure as hell brings back memories, too.  Wufei used to do the exact same thing...   Guess he just wanted to die in dignity or something."

Heero opened his eyes.  He'd just wanted to untense a little after being manhandled by the guards.  They hadn't been unnecessarily rough, but they'd been thorough.  He was quite unaccustomed to having people pawing at him, patting him down, taking his weapons, and divesting him of most of his clothing.  Well, he supposed that Duo had been groping him quite frequently of late, but, well, that was Duo, and somehow that seemed alright.  But Duo wasn't pulling his shirt off like these guys did.  Not that he didn't want to.  Well, maybe he didn't, given what he wanted.  Heero was stricken with the sudden curiosity to ask.  "Do you take off your clothes?"

"Huh?"  That managed to throw Duo off track.  He'd been studying the ceiling, trying to find a familiar pattern.   "What?"

"When you fuck around with guys.  Or do you just unzip your pants?"

"What.  The.  Hell.  Yuy," he asked slowly.

"Never mind.  I was just wondering."

"You're one strange cookie, Yuy."  He sat up straight all of a sudden and leaned in close.  "Ooh, have I finally found your secret kink?  You're into bondage?  This stuff turning you on?"

Heero rolled his eyes.  "No.  I was just wondering because--"  He was just wondering if Duo was interested in stripping him?  No, he really didn't need to say that aloud.   "Never mind."

"Oh, so it's the power differential thing, right?  Maybe you get off on being violated?"

"That's sick, Maxwell."

"Hey, I don't claim to understand it, man.  Some people are into that.  That's their thing.  I don't judge."

"Why does everyone have to have a kink, Maxwell?  Doesn't anyone have just plain old sex anymore?"

"Why?  You interested?"

He made a frustrated sound.  "Still a bad time, Duo."

"What?  You started it."  They lapsed into a heavy silence, which Duo eventually broke with a loud laugh.  "Damn, I hope there are some guards surveilling us right now.  Wanna have a properly lewd conversation, babe?"

"No.  Not really."

"Bah.  You probably think we oughta be talking about how to escape or something."

"No.  Not really."  If there really were people surveilling them right now, that would be an unwise decision.

"Yeah, you're right.  Because there's no way outta here.  Not in the cell itself, anyway."

"That's strangely pessimistic of you, Maxwell."

"What, it's not like we didn't look."

"Hm?"  He turned his head to see Duo staring at the ceiling.

"They're a little bigger.  But they're still there.   Those cracks.  They were here the last time."  Duo dropped his gaze.  "This is the same cell, did you notice?  It's kinda weird in the light, though."

Honestly, no, he hadn't.  He hadn't spent nearly as much time in here as Duo had.  He hadn't almost died in here.  He hadn't had a long, suffocating death during which to do nothing more than stare at the ceiling and study the cracks.  No, he'd been out trying to shoot down one of their own.

"Hey, Heero... don't suppose you'd like to keep me warm tonight?"

The question was asked so half-heartedly that Heero hadn't the will to rebut.  It was actually a little warm in the small cell, even without their shirts and shoes, but he supposed that Duo might just be remembering a chill from the past.  He scooted a few centimeters closer and left it at that.

It was a few minutes before footsteps were heard outside.   Two pairs.  A set of eyes peered into the room, blocking out most of the light.  Though it was likely impractical, they stayed for a while, probably for the intimidation factor.  "So these are mighty Gundam pilots, eh?  You did do fairly well against my guards, I suppose.  I'll need to have them better trained," the floating eyes said in an aside to his companion.

"I told you that months ago," a quiet voice answered.

Duo stiffened at the sound of that voice, jumping to his feet and rushing to the door.  He stuck his face up to the slot in the door and glimpsed the outside.  When he saw who stood there, he kicked the solid door, remembering at the last moment that he had had his boots taken from him.  He pounded it the ball of his foot instead.  "Trowa fucking Barton!" he roared.  "You fucking traitor!  Now I know how the bad guys got so fucking smart!   Because he was a fucking good guy!"  He pounded the door twice more for good measure.

"Duo," Trowa answered calmly in greeting.  It inspired another good kick of the door.

"My, such manners," the other man smirked.  "You're our guest here, Mr. Maxwell.  Please refrain from breaking anything while you're here."

"Can we just cut the crap?" Heero called out, still sitting against the wall.  "Are you going to hold us here, or are you going to kill us?"

"Kill you?" he responded with an urbanely offended tone.   "We wouldn't do anything so barbaric, Mr. Yuy.  We could have shot you down earlier, but we didn't."

"You did try to kill me a week ago, remember?"

"That was a week ago.  Things were different then.   After Mr. Barton was so kind as to tell us you were coming, we went through so much trouble to arrange these accommodations for you.   Please, stay a while and relax.  Take advantage of our hospitality."

"You TOLD them?!" Duo shouted through the narrow slot.   That would explain the thorough search of their persons.  "I thought you were on OUR side!"

Trowa regarded him neutrally.  "I never said I was on your side."

Duo kicked the door again in answer, though it was questionable whether that was for anger with Trowa, or himself.  Or maybe even Heero, while he was at it.  It was true; they had made the simple assumption that Trowa was doing what he did best: infiltrating.   They hadn't once considered the possibility that Trowa was doing what he did best: fitting in, adapting, surviving.

Heero worked his way to his feet and pushed Duo aside for a look.  "What are you doing here, Trowa?" he asked softly.

Trowa shrugged.  "Just doing my job."

Duo pushed Heero out of the way.  "Then why did you help us before?" he growled.

"You asked me a question.  I answered it."

There was only a little satisfaction to be gained from the fact that the other man looked rather miffed by that.

Heero reclaimed his spot by the opening.  "Is Noin alright?"


"Mr. Barton," the older man interrupted pointedly.   "Perhaps you'd like to return to your duties."

"I thought you were stationed on MO-18," Heero asked further, ignoring the man.

Trowa did likewise.  "I was.  But when I reported your involvement, I was shipped out here.  They knew you'd be coming."

"Of course we'd be coming.  Even pilots are predictable sometimes."

"Unless you're a fucking chameleon," Duo muttered to the side.  He voice gained in volume.  "No, no, actually, I should have expected this.  You always did seem to have a rather loose moral fiber."

"You're still sore at me for shooting at you on X18999."

"Of course I am, you little fucker!  Whose side were you on then, hmm?"

The second man coughed loudly.  "*Now*, Mr. Barton.   Return to your post."

There was a pause before he answered.  "Yes, sir."  He nodded at the others before striding down the corridor.

The man waited for him to disappear around a corner before resuming talks with his prisoners.  "You needn't worry for yourselves.  We do not intend to treat you poorly.  As long as you prove yourselves to be tractable, we will treat you accordingly."

"Quite the pacifist, aren't you?" Heero observed.

He smiled humorlessly.  "Pacifist.  Yes, of course."

"Are you a Jurgensen, too?"  They had finally gotten confirmation that these people had tried to kill Heero.   Conclusively tying them in with the family of Relena's intended would put the bow on the package.  Or maybe the nail in their coffin, depending on how one chose to look at things.

The smile turned into an expression of distaste.  "Please, there are more than enough Jurgensens in this world without adding another one to the stack.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have business I must attend to.  Good evening, gentlemen."  With a final baring of his teeth, he slid the cover of the slot closed and left them to their own devices.

The whoosh of the slot opening changed the light quality in the room, waking them from their light slumber.  After a moment, the slot whooshed closed again, and they heard the locks on the door disengage.  A second later, the door opened, letting in even more light.  Duo jerked his head off of Heero's shoulder and blocked his eyes with his hand.  "Karma always bites a guy in his ass, doesn't it?"

"I beg your pardon?"

He made a sound of disgust hearing that voice and turned away to let Heero deal with him.

Making sure that Duo wasn't leaning on him anymore, Heero stood and padded towards the center of the room.  "What are you doing here, Trowa?"

Trowa put two boxes down and held out a key.  Heero offered his bound hands and Trowa unlocked the cuffs, then gave the key to him.  It was far better than getting close enough to Duo to unlock the second set of cuffs himself.  "You're letting us go?" Heero asked, releasing Duo.


A derisive *pbfft* sounded from Duo's side of the room.  To appease him for a while, Heero fetched Duo's box and slid it in his direction before sorting through his own.  He sifted past his clothing to find their weaponry also within.  "I thought you were on their side."

"I never said I was on their side."

He found his shirt and pulled it on, pleased to hear a similar rustling out of Duo.  A sulk would have been inconvenient.   "You're being unusually... anti-mercenary, aren't you?"

"How do you mean?"

"You don't seem to have given your loyalty to anyone, at any price."

"No, I suppose not."

He pulled his socks out of the box next.  "Why help us, only to turn us in, only to let us go again?"

Trowa entered the cell and closed the door behind him.   Leaning against it, he answered the question with one of his own.   "Why are you here?"

Yay, he found his trusty boots in the box, too.  He had hoped they weren't gone for good.  "We're getting Noin out."


His hands slowed as he tied on his boots.  It was a lengthier process than he was used to since those buffoons had decided to loosen the laces.  "We rescued Zechs."


"Because..."  He got a sense of what Trowa was trying to ask, and needed a minute to think up the appropriate answer.  It was slow in coming.  "I'm not sure why, Trowa.  There was simply a chain of events that led to it."

"So you're not... still..."

He shook his head.  "No.  I'm not... I'm not the person I used to be.  And I'm fairly certain he isn't, either," he added, tilting his head Duo's direction.  "But something's happening in this world right now, Trowa.  Something that, no matter how I tried to stay out of it, dragged me in.  I don't know if I... 'care' yet what's going on.  I'm only here because... I just ended up here."

"Then maybe... maybe you know why I'm doing this."  Trowa didn't much sound like he knew himself.

"Because it's right in front of you?"  Heero pulled his gun out of the box, still in its holster, and strapped it on.  It was a little strange to think he was more attached to his boots than he was to that gun, even if it was a gun he had kept with him after the wars.  "Because it's the path of least resistance?"

"Can that path really lead you back to saving the world?"

"Is that what I'm doing right now?"

Trowa nodded.  "They're building a weapon.  I don't know what kind.  They haven't seen fit to tell me, and I... haven't cared to find out.  Just one so far.  Large.  Single burst fire.  Narrow beam.  That much I've simply seen.   But they're nominally pacifist, too.  Some days I can understand their politics, and some days... I can't."

"Who are 'they'?"

"They're a consortium of sorts.  They've never referred to themselves by name.  Not as organized as Romafeller, but similar.  Just a bunch of rich and powerful men, sharing an ideal, that got together trying to put it into action."

"And this 'ideal'?  These 'politics' of theirs?"

"I think they believe that peace can only be managed by those with the power to enforce it."

"Do you believe that, too?  Is that why you accepted their offer?"

"No.  It was just... it was just something to do.  Is that wrong, do you think?"

"They took away all the other things that we could do.  We had to end up doing something."

"You've somehow ended up doing something heroic anyway.  I don't think they can take that away from you, Heero."

He was a terrible role model, and wished people could see that.  "I'd hardly call it 'heroic'.  I'm no more than you, Trowa.  I'm just a person floating around in this world without purpose, without faith, without loyalty.  Someone just tried to kill me one day.  I found some sleeping part of me that remembered that I don't like people that try to kill me.  And here I am now.  Saving the world?  I don't know.  I just know I'm on this path now, Trowa.  I don't know where I'm going, or what I believe in yet, or if I'm on anyone's 'side', but, well, it's a hell of a lot more interesting than what I was doing before.  And it's something I chose to do.  What do you choose, Trowa?"

"Choose?"  He rolled the word around his mind, tasting it from all angles. "I think... I've already chosen, haven't I?  I'm letting you go."

Duo finally interrupted.  He had finished putting himself back into order, and now he strode up to them and put himself in Trowa's face.  "The last time you 'let us go', you turned around and got us caught.  You gotta make up your mind, man.  You in or you out?"

My, that question sounded awfully familiar.

He didn't wait for an answer.  "You know what?  I don't care.  You turned on us once, and I'm not gonna let you do that again."

Heero coughed his way into the conversation.  "Ahem.   Technically, he wasn't 'turning' on us."

"Piss off, Yuy.  Maybe you get his weird motivations for all of this, but I don't.  Now, where's Noin?"

Trowa accepted the accusations with his usual aplomb.  He hadn't expected much more.  "E-block.  Two thirty five."

"Thank you.  I hope you come to the right decision some day.  But today..."  He sucker punched Trowa hard in the gut, watching with grim satisfaction as their former comrade crumpled to the ground.  "Today, you're sitting this one out."

"That was uncalled for," Heero observed mildly.

"No, it wasn't."

"He wasn't going to 'turn' on us.  He was letting us go."

"Yeah?  And who's to say he wasn't going to be waiting for us outside Noin's quarters again with another squad of guards?"

"We could have asked if he wanted to come with us."

"Ugh, god, Heero!  You're such a fucking pacifist sometimes.  Fine.  Say he said yes, and we believed him, and all the rest of that sweet and happy crap.  I'd still punch him.  Yeah, that's right," he growled at the unconscious body at his feet, resisting the urge to kick him while he was down.  "That's for blowing up 'Scythe, you fucking bastard.  Damn, I've wanted to do that for the longest time.  Next time I see you, I might just punch you for shooting all that shit at me on X18999.  And let's not forget the time you thought about leaving me behind on that same colony.  Yeah, you still got payback coming to you for that one, bitch.  And--"

"Duo," Heero interrupted, tugging on his sleeve.  "Let's just go."

"I'm not done yet," he answered irritably, pulling away.   "This bastard hit me in this very same room once!"

Heero shook his head, kneeling down to pull the keycard from around Trowa's neck.  "Save it for the next time you see him, when he's conscious enough to care, okay?  And he was handing you blueprints, as I recall."

"Yeah, well he didn't have to punch me so fucking hard."

"Let it go, Duo.  Just let it go."  He pushed Duo ahead of him toward the door.

"Fine," Duo huffed.  "We'll go save Noin, then.  At least she never hit me.  And make sure we lock this damn door behind us, too.  Wait--  What the hell are you waiting for, Yuy?"

Heero had paused for a moment, leveling a strange smile at his back.  It widened fractionally when Duo turned around.  "You woke up next to me."

"I..."  He spluttered silently for a few nonplussed seconds before he blinked it away.  No bed.  No sex.  Didn't count.  "Hurry the fuck up.  I wanna get out of here."

Listening to their receding footsteps, Trowa smiled to himself and started thinking about his choices.

This piece of fiction is the intellectual property of the little turnip that could. The basis for this fic, i.e. Gundam Wing, Kyuuketsuki Miyu, et al., is the property of someone else. The author can be con tacted at jchew at This has been an entirely automated message.

last modified : 1/14/2006 23:52:01 PST