by Anria Chiou Lalumin

Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing. Don't sue.
Warnings: AU, OOC . . . um . . . that's it. For this part, anyway.
Feedback: Pwetty pwease? If you missed the previous parts -- although I did put a link up to them -- then just go to any URL below and you'll be able to catch up. ^_^

Past Encounters + Part Nine
Setting Up the Ruses

J was seated at his desk, surrounded by reports, maps, and other assorted bits of data when he was interrupted. "What do you want!?" he bellowed at the young recruit who looked rather afraid and shell-shocked. Some officer from higher up had probably relegated the duty to him in order to ensure that whatever the boy was there for, the blame would not land on his shoulders.

"Ah . . . um . . . there is an urgent message from Heero, sir," the boy said. He skittered forwards and dropped the letter on J's desk, then skittered backwards and looked at the irate commander of BG out of the corner of his eye.

J ignored him, picking up the letter and slicing open the plain wax seal with his metal hand. That was probably why the boy had jumped back so fast; there were rumors that he could -- and had -- ripped people's arms off and eyes out with that hand when they foolishly got too close.

He scanned the contents of the letter, an irritated frown between his brows.

J,

Security problem. Immediate briefing required. Meet next quarter moon at 21:00 in the second dining hall, West Wing, Juki Palace.

Heero.


How very like Heero. Minimal information in blunt sentences . . . ah. Security problem. That must mean he was on the verge of being caught, and so could not come to J for fear of being followed when he left the palace and reported seen with a dangerous terrorist. Immediate briefing required . . . hm. Orders needed for further procedure, no doubt.

Writing back was out of the question. It would only increase the chances of his prize warrior being found out too soon.

So, a personal meeting it would be.

J looked up and saw that the young boy who had brought him the message had taken advantage of his preoccupation with the letter to vanish. He made a mental note to find out the boy's name and have him given twenty lashes. Next quarter moon was in . . . two days, so he had some preparations to make. It wouldn't do to be found, now would it?

+

Duo waltzed into G's office, braid swinging and patented grin in place. His customary black clothing made him slip into the role easier than he had thought he would, and he walked over to his commander -- former commander, he corrected himself, not that G knew that -- looking for all the world as though he belonged there. "Gotta problem, G-man," he said, grinning as he used his nickname for Quatre as another way to piss the old man off.

"Duo, can't it wait until another time? I'm in the middle of some very important arrangements right now." G frowned from under his mushroom-shaped hair at a map, making scribbled notes in the margin.

Duo planted his hands down on the desk and leaned forward, almost nose to nose with the old man, still grinning maniacally. "I know something you don't know," he said in a sing-song voice.

"Duo, either tell me what it is you know that I don't or get the hell out of my office."

"I know where and when J and Heero's next meeting is going to be."

G froze, and looked up at his protegé. "What?" he said, beady eyes wide.

Duo grinned and threw a piece of paper down on the table in front of G. "Intercepted a communication. A plain wax seal caught my interest, so opened it and hey presto! Our big break. I copied it word for word, by the way," he added when he saw G frowning at the terse contents of the message.

"Security problem... Briefing required... Meet -- next quarter moon at 21:00 in the second dining hall of West Wing in Juki Palace! Duo, my boy, if I thought you needed it I'd give you a pay raise!" G bounced to his feet with a delighted (not to mention evil) grin on his face. "You're sure this information is reliable? They don't know you've intercepted it?"

"Is the sky blue? Do pigs stink? Sure it's reliable." Duo grinned again.

"Think you can handle Heero, my lad?"

Duo flicked his fingers dismissively. "There is nothing the God of Death can't handle," he replied flippantly, thinking, Better than you know, old man.

"Then let's get planning." All of a sudden G was in business mode again, all exuberance gone.

"Sure thing."

+

"Your Majesty, I am absolutely certain of the authenticity of these messages."

Quatre was developing a headache. Neither Duo nor Heero had warned him that King Treize was as stubborn as they come.

"I don't see how, after all we have tried, BG and BR could be so careless as to let these messages fall into your hands when they have never come to ours!"

"Perhaps that is why, my Lord. Myself and Barton are unknowns here, and so they would be less careful around us than around men who are firmly devoted to your cause."

"Are you saying my men are incompetents?"

Quatre had to hand it to the noble; not once throughout their discussion had his tone been anything less than cordial, even when making the most outrageous accusations -- like ones of Trowa and himself being part of either organization and out to set a decoy to catch Treize and his men off-guard. Quatre decided on one last try at diplomacy. "Your Majesty, I understand your concern, but please look at it this way. What if these messages are not traps, and you, deciding that they are because you cannot believe that your men could not have intercepted many like this previously, overlook it and ignore the content of these messages, could very likely cause yourself far more trouble than anything previously. From the looks of it, you are potentially ignoring a full-scale battle within the walls of your own palace with all the residing nobles who advise with the running of the kingdom here for the tournament and surrounding festivities, and all because you put faith in the guards, who, I might add, are in the habit of parading around as though on patrol when they are supposed to be on infiltration duty!"

Okay, so maybe he was getting fed up with diplomacy.

Treize stared at him, one ginger eyebrow raised. There was a long silence in which Quatre flushed and considered that the words might be worth his head for such disrespect to a King, never mind who he was in another land, but his stubborn pride refused to let him take them back.

"You are right," Treize said, then laughed out loud. "You are right, little one. If only for the possibility that this is a threat, I will go along with your plan. Apologies for my stubbornness."

Quatre let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding, and smiled at the King. "It may be wise to listen to what is said before charging in and arresting J and G. If you will listen to my plan..."

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