A/N: Well, since a couple of people asked very nicely, here we go with
the rest of the story. It's been finished for some time, I just never
got around to posting it because no one ever commented on it, so I figured
no one was reading! So there's a lesson for you, folks: if you want something
from me, be sure to ask! Now, before you continue reading, a note on how
I stepped out of series continuity with this story: In 'Where I Started
From' you can't really tell, but by this point in Strangers, it should
be apparent that some things have transpired differently than the series
timeline. Basically, all I did was change one thing, and then extrapolate
my own theories on how that one difference might have changed the course
of the war. That difference is simply: Zechs did not join with White Fang
after the battle in Sank. From that small change, I've postulated a lot
of different scenarios, like the collapse of White Fang without Zechs
as leader after Treize returned to power in Oz and Romefeller. If you're
confused by what's going on in the background with Oz and White Fang and
the Alliance, well, that's partially intentional. The politics haven't
been the focus of the story so far. And that will pretty much remain the
case throughout Strangers. In the final story of the trilogy, when and
if I write it, the scope of the story will be widened further and, theoretically,
all will be made clear. But if you want to read that, you'll have to nag
me hard, because I'm very absorbed in writing Weiss these days. Okay,
anyway, enough blathering from me! Here's the rest of Strangers...
in Paradise + Part 7
Quatre bit his lip in trepidation
as he and Sandrock crouched behind the tree line beyond the base perimeter.
He had a bad feeling about this mission. He'd been uneasy ever since Heero
had brought it up, but no one had seemed inclined to listen to his protests.
The other four had either ignored or disregarded his arguments, and he'd
been swept along unwillingly in their wake, to find himself sitting here
in the dark, waiting for the signal to begin attacking.
After Trowa had run away from him, Quatre had forced himself to calm down
and decided the best thing he could do was to throw himself back into
his work for a while. It would take his mind off the rapidly disintegrating
interpersonal relationships of his team, at least. He'd gotten caught
up in the files and family discussions, though, and found he'd completely
missed dinner, somewhere amidst a conference call with three sisters and
a prospective brother-in-law, and an in-depth analysis of the potential
profitability of refurbishing an older resource satellite.
He'd barely paused to catch his breath until Heero had stuck his head
in the door without knocking, and informed Quatre they were going on a
The strategy session had been brief, since Quatre was firmly opposed to
the entire plan, and everyone else tended to favor a rather straightforward
battle plan. The final decision was that Duo would go in first, sneaking
past the base security with Deathscythe's superior stealth capabilities,
and Heero close behind him as backup in Wing Zero. Once the two of them
had caused enough explosions to generate a state of confusion amongst
the mixed personnel of the base, the other three pilots would move in
to complete the destruction.
It was a very simple, basic plan. Barring any surprises or unforeseen
problems, it should work quite well. But since surprises and unforeseen
problems seemed to be the natural order of events in this war, Quatre
had little confidence in the plan.
But he was outvoted, and although technically all of the pilots operated
independently of one another and he was therefore free to refuse to participate,
considering all that had happened recently, Quatre thought it best that
he encourage the team dynamic as much as possible. So even if it meant
walking into a potential trap (an almost certain trap, really), he'd decided
to go along with the others.
Besides, this way he knew Trowa's back would be guarded.
Quatre had ignored the angry glares Duo had directed at him throughout
the discussion, more troubled by the way Trowa was avoiding even glancing
in his direction. The tall pilot seemed to be doing his best to deny Quatre's
Quatre had found himself thinking about the scars he'd felt on Trowa's
back. How had they gotten there? They didn't feel like recent wounds,
so they'd probably been on his body for a while. Who had done such a thing,
and why? He was desperately curious, and he longed to pull Trowa aside
and ask him these questions, but Trowa easily evaded Quatre after the
meeting broke up, and then they were all in their gundams, moving into
Quatre nibbled at a fingernail, beginning to grow impatient. For some
reason, this mission was making him downright queasy with nerves. He didn't
like fighting, but he was good at it, and practiced enough by now that
he didn't get pre-battle jitters anymore. What had him so upset?
Trying to distract himself, Quatre began reviewing a takeover bid he was
planning in his mind. A sudden burst of flame heralded the beginning of
the attack, but Quatre's part in it wouldn't come for a while. He set
another portion of his mind the task of counting down the agreed upon
ten minutes and turned most of his attention back to the bid.
The main question, of course, was Winner Enterprises' liquidity at the
moment. He wanted the medtech company, wanted it badly. His was not the
only company courting the smaller firm, with their soon-to-be-patented
nerve replacement nanotech. The owners were wisely waiting to see how
high the bids would rise before committing, but they wouldn't accept a
deal from a company that couldn't cover their final bid.
Five minutes. Quatre noted the distinctive shape of Wing Zero, gleaming
softly in the night sky as Heero swooped toward the battlefield, transforming
from jet mode to suit mode.
The problem, really, was that a lot of Winner's assets were tied up in
property. They had so damn many resource satellites... it looked good
on the balance sheet, but their cash on hand was not what it ought to
be. Not that anybody's was, really, what with the war...
Two minutes. Mark. Quatre brought his mobile suit to life, rising from
the tree line and beginning to lumber slowly toward the base, which was
awash in fire and smoke. He could see Wing moving in the light of the
fires, slicing through Oz and Alliance suits with indifference. He couldn't
see Deathscythe, but Duo was supposed to be on the other side of the base
now anyway. Heavyarms was a barely discernable shadow several hundred
meters to Quatre's left.
The refurbishing plan was a good one, well thought out, but perhaps it
would be better to sacrifice the old satellite in the interest of acquiring
this new technology...
Quatre reached the inner perimeter right on time, and engaged a squadron
of Leos. He felt sorry for the men inside. At this point in the war, it
was hard to believe anyone was still fielding these things, but both Oz
and the New Alliance had Leos on the field. It didn't matter, though,
anything that wasn't a gundam was a target tonight.
Quatre could hear as much from Heero, who was muttering constantly under
his breath, repeating his personal mantra, "My enemy is anyone who stands
before me and tries to kill me. My enemy is anyone who stands before me
and tries to kill me. My enemy " With a frown, Quatre cut off the audio
feed. Without the sound of Heero's muttering, Duo's yelling, or Wufei's
declarations of justice, he concentrated on taking out the Leos before
him. When the last had fallen, a few Virgos arrived, and the mobile dolls
gave Quatre a bit more of a workout.
Of course, then there was Betina's wedding to consider. The father of
the child had agreed to the marriage, thank Allah, preventing a scandal
the tabloids would have just eaten up. The whole thing turned out to have
been a miscommunication, Jamison hadn't known Betina was pregnant, and
had just accidentally forgotten to tell her he was leaving on a business
trip. He hadn't abandoned her and the baby, as the overly dramatic girl
had been convinced at first.
Quatre finished off the Virgos and glanced around, surprised to find his
sector of the field relatively deserted. There was no lack of activity
on the other side of the base, though, judging by the massive explosions
he could see. He trudged toward the flames, switching his audio back on.
" the fuck is that thing?" Duo screeched hysterically. Quatre
winced as the sound battered his ears, unaccustomed to the volume the
others had probably been building up to as the battle went on.
"Shit! He got me again... Left side's almost shot, but I can still use
my scythe... C'mon, you bastard!"
"Duo, get the hell out of there!" That was Heero, his harsh angry tone
not concealing his concern. Quatre frowned, increasing his speed a bit,
wondering what he was missing.
"... thought he... not supposed to... trap... " Wufei's voice crackled
over the speakers, the communication garbled with static.
"I'm out of bullets," Trowa announced flatly.
"Shit!" Duo screamed again. "He's too fucking fast! I can't
"I said get out of there! I'll take him in Wing!" Heero shouted.
Quatre was approaching the side of the large hangar that effectively blocked
his view of the others. He wondered when the battle had drifted so far
from his position. If he'd been listening... but...
"If he's too fast for me, he's too fast for you!" Duo yelled back at Heero.
"I know how fast he is!" Heero screamed back. "I'm taking my shot! Move
"Fuck!" Duo shouted again, but Quatre cleared the building just
in time to see the black gundam dive to the side, activating it's massive
Vernier engines to avoid the blast radius of Wing Zero's buster rifle.
"Did that get it?" Trowa demanded, and Quatre could see Heavyarms poised
almost directly across from his own position.
"Not likely," Heero growled, charging at the enemy's last known position.
Wing Zero pounded down the asphalt and into the billowing smoke and flames.
Deathscythe shot briefly into the air and landed on its feet.
"Hey, Quatre, nice of you to join us," Duo snapped. An image of the braided
pilot popped up in a corner of Quatre's viewscreen. "Where the fuck
have you been? You didn't respond to any signals." There was a trickle
of blood running down the side of Duo's face from somewhere over his right
eye, and the red fluid mingled with sweat to drip off his chin.
"I... uh... " Quatre muttered, taken aback by Duo's battered appearance
and the obvious fact that his comrades had been calling for his assistance
while he had his comm turned off. "Where's Wufei?" he asked, avoiding
Duo scowled at him, but answered shortly, "He got his comm system fritzed,
and then that... thing practically ripped off his dragon fang.
He's out of the fight, waiting for retreat. Which should be pretty goddamn
soon, once Heero finishes beating that fucker into scrap metal " Duo's
face turned as he spoke, apparently looking towards the billowing smoke
Heero had disappeared into. Quatre looked over as well, and noted that
a massive figure was beginning to coalesce from the smoke. "Great, here
he comes now. Hey, Heero, what the hell took you so oh, shit!"
Duo's voice rose to a screech as the figure stepped out of the smoke.
It was big. It was maroon and black and had a whip attached to one forearm.
The opposite arm was dragging something large behind it.
"Whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck " Duo whispered harshly to himself.
"Epyon," Quatre breathed in shock and horror.
"Epyon?" Trowa repeated sharply. "That... thing is Epyon?"
"Didn't Heero tell you?" Quatre asked weakly as Trowa's face appeared
on his viewscreen as well, scowling forbiddingly. Duo was still looking
off to the side, eyes wide and riveted on the massive mobile suit.
"We've been rather busy," Trowa snapped, "with Wufei out of the fight,
and then that... monstrosity appearing out of nowhere and nearly pounding
Deathscythe into metal fragments "
"Uh, guys... speaking of Heero," Duo interrupted softly, but Trowa instantly
fell silent, glancing first to a spot that probably held Duo's image on
his viewscreen, then off to the side, at Epyon. "What... " he began, then
his green eyes widened in dismay.
Epyon raised the arm that had dragged a large something behind it... and
Quatre felt his stomach clench in terror as he recognized the somewhat
mangled form of Wing Zero.
"Heero! Are you okay? Talk to me, man!" Duo was screaming, squirming agitatedly
in his cockpit. Quatre tried to open the channel to Wing, but got only
"His comm may be fried," Trowa offered, obviously trying to soothe Duo.
The braided boy was wild-eyed and frantic, the blood on his face smeared
by a nervous hand.
"Gundam pilots," Heero's nasal monotone, only slightly roughened by pain,
boomed over the field suddenly. Duo froze, staring at the image on his
viewscreen. Quatre felt slightly relieved. Heero's comm system was gone,
so he was using his external speakers. Trowa seemed relieved by this as
Heero's next words shattered their momentary relief. "Move away from the
blast radius. Repeat, this unit is unable to escape. Move beyond the blast
"Oh, fuck, please no," Duo whispered, looking horrified. Quatre had to
agree with the sentiment. Watching Heero blow himself up once had really
been enough. If only I'd been paying more attention!
Wing Zero began to emit a high-pitched alarm as the self-destruct was
"NO!" Duo screamed, lunging towards the two suits. Trowa seemed
to have anticipated the move, though, and caught Deathscythe's arm, using
the Gundam's momentum to swing it around and pitch it down the crumbled,
rubble strewn runway. Deathscythe skidded to a stop several hundred meters
away, with Duo cursing a blue streak inside.
Epyon had turned its massive head toward the Gundam it carried in one
hand. Zechs' familiar, cultured voice announced, also over external speakers,
"Not today, I'm afraid, Heero. I've flown Wing Zero, remember? I know
how to deactivate the self-detonate." And with that, Epyon produced a
massive green beam saber and proceeded to neatly excise said mechanism.
"Shit," Trowa pronounced succinctly. The tall boy met Quatre's eyes from
the viewscreen. "We either have to get him loose... or blow him up."
Quatre sucked in a frightened breath. Trowa was right, of course. They
couldn't allow the enemy to take a Gundam. One of them would have to attack,
and try to get Heero away from Epyon, or activate their own self-detonate
and blow up all three suits.
"Shit shit shit! Forces are regrouping... more mobile
dolls headed in!" Duo yelled from his vantage point down the field. "We've
got no time! Get him out quick, or we're completely fucked! Move
It was the most logical decision. Sandrock had the best armor, the best
chance to withstand a blow from that evil whip. But... Quatre had seen
Epyon in action... the machine was uncanny, more destructive even than
Wing Zero, and Quatre could vouch for Zero's destructive capacity.
Wing Zero could blow up a colony.
Epyon was stronger, and faster.
But a mission was a mission. He had to go, he had to...
He had to give his sister away at her wedding. He had to make a decision
whether to keep or trash the satellite, affecting the lives of hundreds
of laborers. He had to make thousands of little decisions, was responsible
now for the well being of thousands of employees... If only Father
hadn't died... I hadn't thought, things have been mostly peaceful lately,
I hadn't realized... How many people are depending on me, now...
"Shit," Trowa said again. And Heavyarms pounded forward, toward the waiting
"Trowa!" Quatre and Duo yelled in unison.
"You asshole! You don't have any ammo left! What are you
gonna do, stick it with that stupid knife?" Duo screeched frantically.
Quatre could see Deathscythe turning, the Vernier engines beginning to
spit blue-white flames. In a moment, Duo would rush Epyon as well, and
they would lose not two pilots, but three.
"No, Duo, we have to go," Quatre said. His voice was soft, but somehow
the braided boy heard him.
Duo's crazed violet eyes latched onto Quatre. "Are you nuts?" he
demanded. "Trowa can't take that thing! He's gonna get killed,
you little "
"Duo. Please allow me to do my job," Trowa said flatly. Heavyarms had
nearly reached Epyon now. Zechs still had his beam saber out, apparently
intending to fight Trowa's arm-knife with the closest approximation of
an equal weapon he had to hand.
"The rest of you may go," Zechs announced. "I accept single combat with
Trowa Barton in exchange for your freedom."
"What the hell? Like we're gonna walk away and leave Heero
and Trowa "
"Go, Duo," Trowa interrupted firmly.
Duo faltered in his tirade. "W-what? Trowa?"
"This is the best we can manage right now. I don't stand a chance of winning,
but Zechs will let you go. So go. Live to fight another day."
"Of course," Duo murmured distractedly. "Shinigami always lives." The
wide violet eyes were starting to glaze over a bit as the reality of the
situation sunk in. Quatre felt tears streaming down his own cheeks. But
he knew what he had to do. As Heavyarms squared off before Epyon, Zechs
casting Wing Zero to the side for the battle, Quatre moved Sandrock away
from the fight, toward Deathscythe, an eerie black shadow against the
flames and smoke on the runway.
"We have to go," Quatre repeated grimly, firing up Sandrock's Verniers.
Altron finally appeared, stumbling onto the runway, obviously unbalanced
by the extendable arm that dangled at it's side, halfway torn loose.
"We fzzsnap go," Wufei announced over his external speakers.
"Right," Duo murmured. "Right." Deathscythe slowly turned, the engines
spitting fire again. Quatre could see hordes of Virgo mobile dolls hovering
in the sky, but they made no move to attack, holding to Zechs' word. Honor
had become such a fragile thing in this war, though, that Quatre felt
they should take advantage of the respite before the binding of Zechs'
word was broken.
Deathscythe shot upwards, and Sandrock and Altron followed close behind.
Duo had switched off his visual channel, and Quatre did so as well, so
they were all alone in their cockpits, only the view of the starry night
obscured by rising smoke and hovering Virgos in their viewscreens. Quatre,
at least, did not have 360 visual activated, so he only felt the shockwave
and heard the crash of the massive explosion behind them as they rose
into the night.
He heard Duo's voice, though, as the American whispered in a softly ominous
tone, "I'll see you in Hell, guys. You and every single person responsible."
Quatre felt a chill run down his spine at the cold implacability in Duo's
voice. He tried to summon thoughts of his family or his business, but
for some reason, none of his other responsibilities seemed terribly important
Heero woke, and wondered why.
Granted, it was hardly the first time he'd survived a self-detonate, but
last time he'd been pitched far from his Gundam when the explosives went
off. This time...
Of course, his Gundam hadn't blown up.
Fear twisted his gut as he was suddenly gripped by the thought, Trowa...
Gods. After that little conversation he'd walked in on between Duo and
the tall pilot...
Heero rolled off the cot he was sprawled on, grimacing at the pain of
numerous cuts and bruises. He didn't think he'd even managed to break
a bone. And Trowa was...
Trowa was lying on the cot against the opposite wall.
Heero jumped to his feet, ignoring his pain as he crossed the tiny cell
in two steps, falling to his knees beside the other boy's cot. Trowa's
face was turned away from him, toward the wall, and Heero's hand hovered
uncertainly over the taller boy's neck for a moment. Finally, his need
to know overrode fear, and Heero gently probed the cool flesh, seeking
It was there. Heero slumped against the cot, leaning his forehead against
Trowa's bony shoulder in relief. It was there. Weak and thready, but there.
Trowa was alive.
Once he'd gotten past his initial relief, though, Heero frowned in confusion.
Trowa shouldn't be alive. He shouldn't either, for that matter. At close
range, Heavyarms' self-destruct should have taken out both itself and
Wing Zero, and hopefully taken a substantial chunk out of Epyon. Heero
knew there had been a large explosion, but...
Still frowning, he began assessing Trowa's injuries. The tall boy would
be pissed when he woke up. After the events of the past few weeks, Heero
was sure Trowa felt he'd spent enough time convalescing. He held to this
thought to buoy his mood as his fingers located cracked ribs and a deep
gash on the left thigh where a piece of shrapnel had probably been imbedded,
and a lovely set of bruises and cuts to match his own.
Trowa was in worse shape than Heero, but he still didn't look like he'd
come through a self-detonate. As Heero sat back on his heels pondering
this mystery, the cell door swung open.
He instinctively gathered himself to attack, but the three soldiers in
the door held guns trained on himself and Trowa's still form. Heero scowled
fiercely. There was a time when he would have attacked anyway, preferring
being shot to being a prisoner against the colonies. But the way the war
had drifted, Heero didn't think there was really anyone he could
betray, except for his fellow pilots. And to get himself or Trowa killed
when they'd just survived self-destructing would be a betrayal
to his friends.
So he remained kneeling on the floor and studied his visitors.
They were genuine Oz, Treize's boys. That answered any question about
who was in charge of the trap. The one on the left was nervous, he was
the weak link. Short and just barely avoiding plumpness, he was sweating
under a shock of bright orange hair and his wide brown eyes flickered
from one person to the next, never settling. Sometimes the nervous ones
were dangerous, but this man's loose grip on his gun betrayed his unwillingness
to shoot. The one in the middle, this was his idea, whatever ‘this' was.
He had short, dark brown hair and angry blue eyes. His face was set in
an infuriated mask and he glared determinedly back at Heero. He was more
than willing to shoot, but Heero guessed he had other ideas. The one on
the right, though... He was muscle. He was big and blond, and his eyes
were gray and cold. Heero recognized the look in those eyes. Here was
a man who didn't give a shit about morality or consequences. He was a
walking weapon. He would kill without pity or remorse, if he were ordered
to do so. He might even do it for fun.
He was the man Heero was supposed to have become.
Once upon a time, Heero would have challenged the coldness in those eyes
with his own. But now... he avoided that frigid gaze. He wanted to test
himself, find out if the emotionless, efficient husk was really better
than the hybrid being he had become, if no heart at all was better than
half of one, but...
There was Trowa to consider. Since they were alive, the others would be
coming to rescue them. Heero would have to help them as much as possible.
And that meant taking care of Trowa and himself. They had to be capable
of running when the cavalry arrived.
So when the leader growled out, "Okay, which one of you little fuckers
set up that ambush at the circus?" Heero calmly replied, "I did."
Whatever they had in mind, he was sure Trowa, who wasn't even conscious
yet, wouldn't be up to it.
The leader's eyes lit up with unholy glee, and he ordered the muscle,
Nervous guy fluttered... well, nervously as they left the cell, and weakly
protested, "Jeremy, do you really think we should be doing this? I mean,
you know how General Trieze gets about prisoners, not to mention Lieutenant
"Frank, either shut up, or get lost. If you're too much of a pansy to
help me, then go hide in your bunk and pretend this little piece of rebel
shit didn't open fire on a circus tent full of innocent people. Just forget
Kimmy died there for no better reason than this little monster wanted
to cause a sensation! Go, Frank! Get lost!" Jeremy was yelling now, gesturing
wildly with his gun still in his hand.
"You got the safety on, Jer?" the muscle asked. Jeremy paused in his ranting
at the cowering Frank to glower at the tall, powerful man who was marching
Heero forward, the barrel of his own gun pressing uncomfortably into the
Japanese boy's back.
"What the fuck do you want, Kent? I'm trying to make a point,"
Jeremy raged, waving his gun some more. Heero grimaced in irritation,
and guessed Kent probably did the same.
"I want to not get shot in the middle of illegally torturing a
prisoner," Kent replied flatly. "Hard to explain to the medical unit."
Jeremy seemed to calm a bit at this and finally put his gun away. Heero
considered trying to rush the two in front, but Kent rumbled warningly,
"Don't even think about it." Heero scowled, but allowed himself to be
led into a small room down the hall from his cell.
It was, he saw, another cell, but set up slightly differently. For one
thing, there were no cots, only a table that held a few sets of manacles.
Heero wasn't sure what they planned to do with him, but he knew he could
handle a certain amount of torture. He'd been trained for it. You just
had to send your mind someplace else for a while.
Heero took a deep breath and started to do this as Frank unhappily crawled
on the floor, clamping each of Heero's ankles to the legs on the short
end of the table. This set his legs far enough apart that it was hard
to balance, and he toppled forward onto the table when Kent pushed him
hard from behind. While one heavy hand held Heero down, Jeremy attached
the last pair of manacles to Heero's wrists, and looped a rope through
them. This he tied to the front table legs. So Heero found himself firmly
bound, his upper body stretched across the table, his legs spread apart.
Pretty much helpless.
It began to bother him, interfering with the meditative state he needed
to separate his mind from his physical body. He didn't like to be helpless.
He liked to be in control.
He needed to be in control.
He heard a slither of leather behind him, then a sudden sharp sting as
someone's belt came down across his back. He actually relaxed a bit. He
could handle a whipping. He wouldn't enjoy it, but he could tear his mind
away from it, and thus retain control of the situation.
The belt came down a few more times, and each time Heero paid less attention
to it. Eventually, Frank gasped, "Jesus, Jerry, he's bleeding!" Heero
heard Kent snort in disgust, and silently echoed the big man. What the
hell did Frank think was going to happen?
"So he is, Frank, so he is," Jeremy replied, his voice much colder and
calmer than before. Heero felt a twinge of alarm at the tone. Jeremy was
not getting off on whipping him. That meant Jeremy was going to try something
else, and Heero didn't know what that would be.
The belt stopped hitting him. He waited in silence for a moment, then
someone grabbed the waist of his shorts and pulled them and his briefs
down to his knees. They wouldn't go any further with his legs spread.
Heero bit back a curse at the unexpected disrobing. He was vulnerable
again, horribly vulnerable, and he hated it.
my girlfriend, bastard," Jeremy hissed from behind Heero. The Japanese
pilot heard the sound of a zipper, and Frank's shocked gasp. "You're going
to make up for my loss," Jeremy added, in case there was any confusion
left as to exactly what he intended.
to scream now, in protest, in fear, but he couldn't seem to make a sound.
He was frozen, utterly helpless. He had no control. They were going to...to
use him, and there was nothing...
stop them, Heero realized dazedly. There's nothing I can do.
he found that he could scream, but it wasn't much relief.
however, bring his salvation, in a most unlikely and unexpected form.
Kent was pounding into him, the pain having long since reduced Heero's
vision to a red haze, when he heard the door of the room crash open, and
a familiar voice demand harshly, "What the hell's going on here?"
Heero resisted the hysterical urge to ask Zechs if he really didn't know.
He wasn't sure he was capable of coherent speech anyway. All that seemed
to want to come from his throat at this point was a quavering sort of
wail. Kent, totally absorbed in his current task to the point that he
hadn't even noticed Zechs' arrival, smacked him in the back of the head
for the noise.
The loud report of a handgun echoed through the small chamber, and Heero
felt Kent suddenly pull out of him. He heard the sound of a large body
hitting the floor.
"Lieu Lieutenant Zechs! You shot Kent!" Jeremy protested lamely, obviously
shocked by the violence.
"Yes, and I'll shoot you, too, if you take one more step toward the prisoner,"
Zechs replied calmly. Heero heard the grim determination in Zechs' voice,
but he hoped Jeremy wouldn't. He wanted Zechs to shoot the little bastard.
But apparently Jeremy backed off, because the gun didn't go off again.
Someone approached Heero, and he began to whimper softly, hating the fact
that he could make such a defeated noise, but unable to control it.
"Heero?" Zechs asked, in a tone of horrified amazement. Heero whimpered
louder in reply. It was Zechs who had approached, and now stood about
where Kent had been, from the sound of his voice.
Oh gods, please, don't let him decide to take a turn, too... Heero
pleaded to some unknown deities.
He felt a hand slide down the curve of his rear and along his upper thigh,
and could barely contain another scream, but the touch was clinical, not
sexual. Zechs' hand came to rest lightly on Heero's back, in a protective
"They've hurt you, Heero," Zechs murmured, apparently to himself as Heero
was in no shape for conversation. "I can only pray they haven't broken
you. But this... This is... "
"This is revenge," Jeremy suddenly interrupted fiercely. He seemed
to have recovered form the shock of Zechs' arrival.
"Revenge for what?" Zechs demanded in his quiet, intense tone. "What could
possibly justify this?"
"He killed my girlfriend, sir!" Jeremy wailed miserably, and Heero recognized
the genuine grief in the man's voice. But he didn't care. Even if he had
killed the girl, he wouldn't have cared.
"In cold blood?" Zechs asked. This seemed to surprise Jeremy, because
he was quiet for a while.
"Well... no, sir. At a... a circus... a sneak attack, it was a trap...
"He killed her in battle," Zechs interpreted, the hand resting gently
on the back of Heero's tank top clenching slightly in the damp fabric.
Zechs knew damn well Heero had never attacked a circus. The Lightning
Count would know, as these lower rank soldiers would not, that the circus
ambush had featured the performance of Gundam 03 piloted by Trowa Barton.
Heero hoped Zechs wouldn't bring that fact up.
"She was a civilian, sir!" Jeremy protested.
"And you took her, in the midst of a war, a guerilla war no less,
to a large gathering of Oz troops?" Zechs asked. Jeremy
apparently nodded, because Zechs continued, "Then you only reaped what
you sowed, pilot. This is war. People get killed. What happened
is regrettable, but no more solely this boy's fault than the deaths of
any of his friends would be yours. When you begin to take these things
personally, it's time to leave the service."
Jeremy and Frank both gasped in shock.
"Sir, are you... throwing me out of Oz?" Jeremy demanded.
"Hardly," Zechs muttered. "That honor will go to General Khushrenada,
following your court martial."
"C-court martial?" Frank whispered frantically. "B-but, sir, I... I didn't
"You were here, and you did nothing?" Zechs demanded.
"That is worse," Zechs declared grimly. "You're confined to quarters.
If you attempt to escape, I will personally hunt you to the ends of the
"Yes, sir," Frank muttered miserably. But Jeremy had a little defiance
left in him.
"He's nothing but an animal, sir. He de "
"If you say he deserved it I will shoot you where you stand,"
Zechs interrupted coldly.
"Sir," Jeremy murmured sullenly, but Heero heard the sound of the two
soldiers leaving. When they were gone, Zechs released a deep sigh, the
hand on Heero's back relaxing to stroke gently. Heero shivered beneath
the gentle touch. Zechs pulled his hand away.
"Heero... " he murmured.
"Can I go back to my cell now?" Heero asked flatly.
"I should take you to med bay, at least."
"I'd rather just go to my cell." Damn it, Zechs, I just want to go
crawl in a corner and lick my wounds, not have them prodded at by more
"All right, Heero. All right." Zechs carefully unlocked the manacles on
Heero's ankles with a key taken from Kent's body. Heero lost consciousness
sometime before his hands were free.
[part 6] [part
8] [back to Aoe's fic]