Author: 0083
Disclaimer: i don't own gwing.. my bad. again.
Pairings: 1x2x1, 3x4x3, wufei's single, ladies!
Genre: AU, fantasy, aka no spoilers
Warning: this is for all the parts, generalized. look out for language abuse, strange philosophical rants, random tidbits and above all, ANGST ANGST ANGST
Notes: i didn't have time to get it betaed or even reread it, so please excuse plot holes, grammatical ickiness and other unforgivable acts of desecration.

Evergreen + Part 8

In the game of war, one must never fight to win, but to survive.

The warp and loom were silly superstitions that mortals associated with the Fates, imagining three crones over a machine, constantly threading and weaving a tapestry. In reality, the Fates worked like any other immortal, vast in mind and detail, plotting lives without a twitch of their lovely fingers. The sunlit room looked warm, but there was nothing warm about the expressions on the faces of the Fates who sat there. The rose tinted windows did not soften their angered features nor gave comfort to their stiff shoulders.

"Time grows short, Dorothy. Why hasn't Milliardo captured those two yet?"

Dorothy polished her nails with a soft cloth while she pondered her sister's terse question. She looked into Milliardo's path that Relena had set before this whole mess began, glimpsing his future of greatness that her sister had graciously laid out for him. Then she flipped through her own knowledge of his past and found that nothing, whether it be in the past or the future, showed that Milliardo would be a failure. His ambition was too great.

"It's hard, Noin. Isn't it your job to guide him along anyway?"

"I can hardly be blamed," Noin said with disgust lining her voice, "since the two radicals are ruining all my carefully laid plans. So far, they should have been captured according to my weaving, but there is just too much chaos around those two. Every decision I make is being thwarted either by Relena who keeps changing paths on me or them who have no respect for universal order."

It was the longest sentence Noin had spoken in the past three months of searching for the elusive rebels of destiny. Until now, she had concentrated all her efforts on guiding certain mortals to her cause, trying to find these two Relena had set free upon the world. However, it seemed that nothing was working out for the Fates.

"My dear sister," Dorothy said rather gently, "we will have them. They are just mortals, even if they are free. They can't evade us forever. And besides, haven't you been working on the mortals who travel with them?"

A frustrated snort answered Dorothy's question. Noin's pained expression was a study of rage and impotence rolled into one, a look that should never have graced a Fate.

"I can't do it by myself! The three of us always must work in conjunction with each other to make it work. With Relena's defection, we are an imperfect team, pitted against each other. I can only work within Relena's parameters and she is not giving me any choices that would be helpful."

"It is a tangled skein we weave, Noin."

"I don't need your fucking metaphors, Dorothy!"

The younger Fate shrank back at her sister's loss of control. It was frightening, something she had not seen in many millenniums. The situation must have been more dire than she had previously thought.

"Calm down, Noin. I swear to you, Milliardo will have them!"

"How can he have them," Noin bit out, "if I cannot see it!"

A tense silence followed as Noin got up from her seat and paced around the room agitatedly. Dorothy merely plucked at her dress with a bland expression that hid her inner turmoil and fear at the situation.

"It's nearly the end of three months. We have only another week and a day before time runs out! If we can't use the Raduleum.."

Noin let her sentence trail. The consequences need not be spoken for it was obvious. In exactly a week and a day from this day, they had to use the Raduleum to erase the free mortals' souls or they would be free for another century and then some before it could be used again. And that was not acceptable to them.

"Have faith, Noin."

The irony was not lost on the two Fates.

+

The darkness did nothing to hide the presence of an ambush from the professional assassins who knew night as well as their own hands. The ambush ended with seven dead ambushers, all killed within moments after their failed attempt.

Trowa picked through the bodies carefully, letting his trained eyes roam over the bloodied corpses in a dispassionate way. They were all soldiers from their style of dress and haircuts, professionally trained and well equipped with fine weapons. None of that had helped in the end.

"Prince Milliardo's personal guards."

With Trowa's announcement, all eyes went wide with confusion.

"The Prince's own? What the hell are they doing hunting us?"

"I wish I knew, Wufei," Trowa answered without taking his eyes off the bodies, "but I don't think they'll tell us."

"Relena posed as a Peacecraft princess, didn't she?"

Trowa nodded grimly at Duo's observation, and there was only one conclusion that he could draw. As far as they knew, Relena was dead to this world since the news of her demise had traveled quite quickly. Therefore, Prince Milliardo must have sent out his own guards to capture those who were responsible for her death. The mystery was how he knew that it was they who killed her that second time. Their descriptions had not been on any wanted poster they had seen so far.

"I don't think this is vengeance."

It still surprised Trowa when Quatre seemed to read his mind like that. However, he acknowledged that his lover had a point. For a vengeance, the pieces did not add up.

"I agree with Quatre," Wufei said gravely, "since these guys weren't acting like they were going to kill."

"A capture mission, then?"

A silent nod answered Hilde's question, but other questions hovered in the air. Why a capture mission for a bunch of disgraced assassins? What was the plan? What was Milliardo up to?

"You know, it would be really fucking nice if Relena showed up with some fucking information now and then!"

Heero put a restraining hand on Duo's flailing arm, calming his lover down with a simple touch.

"She is busy, too, Duo. We can't rely on her for everything."

Duo knew that Heero was right, but that did not help his frustration level at all. He was tired of being ambushed, of being on the run. He just wanted to settle down somewhere with Heero and have a happy, fun life. Was that so much to ask?

"Wait, I found something."

Everyone leaned in closer when Trowa retrieved something from one of the bodies. It was a small scrap of paper folded many times, worn around the edges and turning brown from dirt and blood. It seemed like nothing until Trowa unfolded it.

"Shit."

Heero agreed with Duo. On that small piece of paper was a perfect rendition of their faces, down to the stoic expression on his and the smile on Duo's. The colored sketch had a wayward looking scribble on it on the bottom, almost illegible from the smudging.

"Wanted alive. The rest are of no consequence."

Trowa's serious voice added weight to the already dire words. It was chilling how such short phrases could clear up a situation.

"The Prince wants just us two, Duo. It must mean that he's working with the Fates to bring us in for the.. eradication."

Swallowing thickly, Duo clutched Heero's arm for support. No matter what kind of front he put up for everyone, the idea that he and Heero could just be erased from existence frightened him.

"I guess we're expendable then."

Sally sounded matter-of-fact, not bitter at all that the Prince considered them of no consequence. It was a nicer fate than the one laid before Duo and Heero certainly.

"I knew you guys should not have come with us! I knew it. This is just.. this sucks."

Wufei waved aside Duo's worries with a flick of his wrist.

"Don't say that! We asked Relena to thread us in like this and this is the way it is. We're family, are we not?"

"Well," Duo said with a hint of chagrin, "if you put it like that, how am I supposed to argue with you?"

"You don't. Just shut up and accept it, okay?"

Duo did not resist his urge to stick his tongue out at Wufei, but he did appreciate everyone's loyalty for them. Even knowing the dangers ahead, his friends had stuck with them, giving up their chances to be free of this mess. It was more than he could have asked for and it humbled him in a way he did not think was possible.

"So what do we do now? Let the Prince come after our sorry asses?"

It had been meant as a joke, a stupid and careless idea that Duo had tossed out to cover his reaction to Wufei's short but meaningful words. However, Heero did not think it as a joke; in fact, he thought it was a capital idea.

"We should get captured. It's a sure fire way of running into the Fates."

Jaw slack at Heero's determined statement, Duo stared at his lover in surprise. He could not be suggesting that they just give themselves up to the Prince for what the Fates had planned for them. When they had decided to meet the Fates, Duo had assumed that it would be on their terms, not the vicious Fates'. Getting captured and being dragged into confinement was not his idea of being on their terms.

"Are you fucking crazy, Heero" We can't just.. I mean, what the hell.. Shit, we'd be handing ourselves over on a fucking silver plate with ribbons on top!"

"But we'll have our confrontation, Duo. That is what we wanted."

Sputtering at the airtight logic, Duo looked around to his friends for some help. Unfortunately, all his friends were taking Heero seriously, contemplating the supposed plan with sincerity.

"Did everyone go insane while I wasn't watching?"

Quatre shook his head in denial as he explained.

"Duo, this is the best chance we have. You'll go straight to the source and you know you won't be killed until at least you see the Fates."

"Shit, Quatre, it isn't death I'm worried about! It's that other thing they have planned! Besides, they want only me and Heero. What about you guys? You aren't suggesting I watch while the rest of you are killed off, are you?"

"No, that would be fruitless," Quatre replied, "so the plan should be that we split up and follow you from a distance."

"Then we rescue you two if you need rescuing." Trowa finished Quatre's thought.

"I don't fucking believe this shit. You can't expect me to go along with this!"

Despite Duo's misgivings, the plan was approved by a vote of six to one and plotting began immediately. Duo could only watch and listen as his friends and lover outlined the plan.

"The trick is to find the Prince's patrols. We don't know where they are."

Heero was deep into the logistics of finding a group of would-be ambushers. He explained that he and Duo would just walk up to them and make them take him and Duo to the Prince whereupon they would meet up with the Fates. Duo shook his head to make sure he heard right. He had just suggested that they just stroll up to a bunch of armed and dangerous men and ask them to take them to their leader. He loved Heero dearly with all his heart, but he was beginning to have doubts about his sanity.

What was even more disturbing than the crackpot plan was that the rest of the group was fine with it. Sally outlined her and Hilde's role to trail them to their place of confinement to lie in wait for the perfect time to break them out. Wufei drew up battle plans if such a contingency arose and Trowa was busy calculating the likelihood of a Peacecraft ambush at certain spots along the road. Quatre was supervising the whole hair-brained scheme like a general over major war plans.

Duo was convinced that he was the only one with his head screwed on just right.

"So, we split up at dawn. Duo and I will continue walking along the road and watch for signs of the Prince's soldiers. Sally and Hilde will be our trail and the rest of you cover for them. Good plan."

Heero sounded so damned congratulatory of this lame idea that Duo could only stare in mock horror. His friends also had that same look as Heero though, as if they considered this plan somehow feasible. It was crazy.

"May I just fucking reiterate that all of you have lost your goddamned gourds?"

"Point noted and ignored. Next?"

It was a wonder that no one heard Duo's jaw drop to the ground.

+

Heero sighed at his lover's truculent face, noticing for the fifth time in that many minutes that Duo was angry with him. He still did not agree with the plan even if he was going along with it and he let it be known by being silent and moody. Heero wondered why his smart and generally clever lover could not see the plan for what it was.

"How long are you going to be angry, Duo? It has been six hours since we split up."

"I'm not angry. I'm fucking pissed."

That was the only sentence Duo had spoken in the past few hours and it was laden with icy rage. It wasn't pleasant, but at least he was talking.

"You know this plan is not a bad one."

"Hah! Right! This plan is so shitty I don't know why I'm going along with it!"

Heero could feel his own temper fraying at his lover's stubbornness. Why couldn't he just admit that the plan had merit and that it was probably their only option to find the Fates?

"Duo, stop being unreasonable. What is your problem with this plan?"

As soon as the question finished, Duo stopped walking and stood on the road, still as a rock. Heero stopped walking as well, staring at his lover with frustration in his eyes. He nearly snapped at Duo when he refused to move after a few minutes, but then he noticed that Duo was shaking. Concern immediately overrode irritation and Heero went to Duo's side.

"What's wrong, Duo? Won't you tell me?"

Violet eyes looked up and to Heero's surprise, they were dry. From the way Duo's body had been shaking, he had been certain that Duo was crying, or at least on the verge of tears. However, his eyes were completely void of liquid and glittered in furious whirling colors.

"This.. plan is stupid, Heero. What if they find out about Trowa and the guys and kill them? What if they can't get us out before the Fates have their way with us? What if one of them dies because of some stupid shit we haven't thought of? Have you thought about any of that shit, huh?"

"Duo," Heero said quietly, "these are concerns that have always been present, even before the plan. Why are you so reluctant all of a sudden?"

Instead of answering, Duo looked away, his eyes focusing on something beyond Heero's shoulder. He bit his lip, worrying the flesh between his sharp teeth and his brows contracted in thought. Duo knew Heero was right, that he was being a paranoid idiot, but he couldn't help it. There was so much at stake and everything was coming to a head.

"I'm just scared, Heero," Duo admitted softly, "and I don't know what to do. It was easier just looking, not actually having the possibility of finding. I know I'm being a moron, but.. I just don't want anyone to die."

Heero moved to put his arms around Duo and felt his lover sag into his body. There was so much tension within him like so many coiled springs ready to snap.

"It will be okay. I know it."

Duo sighed at Heero's reassurance, knowing that Heero could not possibly predict that it would all turn out fine. However, his heart believed Heero and told the rest of him that those words were not empty and hollow of meaning, but that they were a promise to him. It took away the greater part of his fear and chased away the desperate thoughts in his mind.

"You better be right or I'm going to fucking strangle you, got it?"

Chuckling, Heero nodded into Duo's hair and rested his forehead in the full mass. His lover was coming to his senses finally, his fear having washed through him and leaving his system.

"I'm glad you're okay now, Duo. I thought for a moment that you'd cry."

It was supposed to lighten the mood; it was supposed to be a small teasing comment. However, Duo stiffened and turned his head to look into Heero's eyes with a deadly look in his violet eyes.

"I don't cry, Heero. Ever."

There was nothing to do except nod uncertainly at Duo's clipped response. Then suddenly, Duo smiled big and his eyes twinkled with determination.

"Shit, we can't just stand here! Let's get going Heero."

So they continued to walk along the road, only this time, they were of one mind about the plan. The tension and the anger had disappeared in one moment of confession and they walked hand in hand once again, eyes set on the future.

+

It was with relief and some amount of disbelief that the captain of Prince Milliardo's Fourth Unit Guards watched as two figures leisurely sauntered up to them in a measured pace. To make sure, the captain looked at the sketch and then back at the boys, making sure that they were the ones who were to be captured. Unlike the previous description of their mode of travel, they were alone, none of their purported companions anywhere near them.

When they stopped just in front of the Fourth Unit captain without having drawn a weapon or even getting into a defensive posture, it was obvious to the brilliant captain that they meant to be captured. Though he was somewhat suspicious of their actions, he wasn't about to curse the good Fates for landing him an easy capture. The previous group had died rather quickly and he did not want to test out these two's skills.

"I am Heero, this is Duo. You are from the Princes Guard Unit, are you not?"

There wasn't even a hint of fear in that well modulated tenor voice and it should have tipped off the captain that they were up to something. However, it did not matter much to the captain... it was his mission to capture them and here they were, just offering themselves up.

"I am the captain of the Fourth Unit. We are under orders to take you to the Prince."

"Well then," the long haired boy said with a half smile, "lead the way, buddy."

The captain ignored the mocking tone and pointed them towards a small wagon just beside the road. It was equipped with bars and an inch thick chain that served as a lock. It was an inescapable prisoner transport system, sturdy and strong.

"Say, Heero, looks like we're going to travel in style."

Quirking his lips in what could have been a smirk, Heero opened the barred door to the wagon and stepped inside, his eyes looking around their accommodations with appraisal. Duo followed closely behind him and sat unceremoniously by the corner farthest from the horses, squirming around to get comfortable.

"So, captain.. take us to your leader!"

Duo received neither a smile or a laugh at his light-hearted comment. Instead, the captain signaled his soldiers to lock the door and to check the hitches on the two horses responsible for dragging the wagon to wherever Milliardo was. When everything was done with soldier like efficiency and candor, the group of soldiers formed ranks around the wagon and then they were on the move.

+

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