Author: Asuka Kureru

Warnings: Still not a lot of action n.n; But this is the end of the fluff and relaxation part. Bwahaha.

I love you all, everyone who reads my fic. ( XD I love you more when you review, but I love you anyway if you don't.) I sorry I can't answer to everyone. I is dying under the weight of teh mailbox. That and I changed my email recently, so if you email me, make sure it's the new one because the old one is quite dead. I'm sure I lost lots of mail like that. ::stabs email provider::

The Ozzies come back next chapter. Yay? n.n;

I think I am at about four fifths of the plot. But it will probably mutate on me again. So most of the fic has been written, but it's still not close to the end yet.

I am still not telling what Duo will be. (insert evil laughter here.)

Garou + Part 32 (cont)

+

Trowa knocked softly at the infirmary door and pushed it open, glancing inside. Sally wasn't anywhere in sight, but Quatre was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed, wearing a clean t-shirt and his briefs. Pale blue. Trowa pretended not to have noticed ; he was only interested by the state of his legs.

"How do you feel?"

Quatre looked up at him and made a face that the brown-haired boy couldn't interpret, before lifting the bottom of his shirt and the leg of his boxers, baring a large part of his thigh. For a second, Trowa wondered if it was an attempt at seduction. If that was the way the blond pilot wanted to convince him, he wouldn't go far.

"Look. Do you see anything?"

Trowa stared at Quatre's thigh. Apart from a few red marks and some bruising, his skin was as pale and smooth as always.

"No, nothing. Should I see something?" he asked, a second before seeing the hole and the brown-red spots on the outside of Quatre's underwear.

"Rather, yes. This is where the bulled grazed me," the blond confessed in a low murmur, his hand brushing the skin, where only a faint red line still showed.

Trowa took a second to digest that. Well. These healing abilities would sure come in handy. He wondered how good they truly were, but it wasn't as if any of them was going to volunteer to test them to the limit.

"You told Sally?"

"Yes. She's in her lab, verifying I don't know what in my blood," Quatre added with a small smile. "She has a theory about my loss of control being due to my body trying to heal itself."

"You have to admit that it's a possible solution, Quatre," the young woman answered as she walked in the room through the back door.

"Maybe. Or maybe it only was that I stopped trying too early to keep the instinct to transform at bay... Any clues?" he asked, absently rubbing the inside of his elbow, where Sally had pricked him.

The woman sighed, shrugging helplessly.

"I have some results, but I'm going to need days to interpret them. In the meantime, you seem to be in good health, but your glucose level is way too low. I want you to go and eat something. Trowa, make sure he doesn't faint before getting to the kitchen," she added with a nod to the green-eyed boy.

He nodded seriously, accepting the mission.

"Wait, I can't walk around in the ship in my underwear," Quatre protested as he got up. "Where did you put my pants?"

"Trash bin," she answered crisply. "It was dirty, shredded and covered in blood. Same for your shirt."

Quatre gave her an annoyed look but didn't protest, sighing instead. It was a bit too late to save them from the garbage chute now.

"You're decent enough to go to your own bedroom and change clothes," Trowa remarked. "We're not so far. Then we'll go and eat."

Quatre thought about it and nodded. At this hour, the cabins area would be mostly empty.

The trip to the bedroom was made in silence, Quatre lost in thought and Trowa watching him closely with some worry. The young man honestly was a bit pale...

Quatre got dressed quickly, then they went to the kitchen.

The cook was busy with the evening meal, but he let them raid the fridge, and then the two boys exited the kitchen to go and sit in a corner of the canteen. Trowa nibbled on some bread while Quatre devoured his meal, apparently more hungry than he had noticed.

"Quatre..."

"Hmm?"

"We were supposed to talk about something, if I recall right."

Quatre's expression darkened.

"The telepathy incidents?" he asked, after checking that no one was looking their way.

Trowa nodded soberly. "Did you ever read anyone else's thoughts?"

"No, only you. And not often. I don't know how it works at all," Quatre admitted, chewing on his nail thoughtfully. "The only element in common between these times was a violent feeling..."

"So it's still linked to your emotions. Probably a development of your empathy. Do you know why it's happening now?"

"No... there wasn't a lot of research made on newtypes in the Colonies. Few people know how and why they're different, and a lot of people even think they're just another urban legend. I'd say the new development is linked to the lycanthropy, but as far as I know, it could just be a side effect of puberty, like the hair and the growth spurt. I don't know how we could check..."

"I doubt there are many newtype weres anyway," Trowa commented in a pensive tone.

Quatre sighed and nodded.

Were-animals couldn't live on a colony for very long, and in these times of war between Earth and the Colonies, rare were the Colonists who made trips down there often enough to risk a contamination. Seeing as newtypes were barely starting to appear in families who has been in space for at least three generations, the number of people in the Earth sphere who happened to be both newtype and werebeast had to be very close to zero.

"Okay, so we know your empathy is starting to ...spread out to also receive thought on top of feelings. Anything else?"

Quatre bit his lip guiltily.

"I think we're not dealing with just receiving any longer."

Trowa straightened up, staring at him.

"I... After the last full moon... I ended up in a farm. As a human. I... There was a farmer."

"And?" Trowa nudged him when the blond one didn't show any sign of wanting to continue.

"I thought at him not to go in my direction, and he didn't. Then I felt guilty, and he almost started to cry. I was imposing my feelings and my... my will on him."

Quatre shivered as he remembered, and hurried to check that he wasn't emitting again. He didn't seem to be, so he relaxed.

The green-eyed pilot needed a long while to digest that particular bit of info.

"... I can see you emitting feelings as well as receiving them..." Trowa commented as he remembered the sudden bout of sadness he'd felt the other day, after the full moon, when he'd been sitting with Heero and ignoring Quatre. "It only seems logical. But to command someone?"

"I don't think I really commanded him... but rather influenced him. And when I scratched my hip while escaping, he noticed me right away. And there were the hunters... I ordered them to look at me while Hilde ran off. It lasted until she landed in the water, and then the splash woke them up. I don't know if it was because I had stopped pushing them or if there were limits on what they could ignore."

"We'll have to test," Trowa muttered thoughtfully.

"Yes... If I can do it again," the boy sighed. "I'm not sure it works when I'm not convinced of absolutely needing it."

Trowa shrugged.

"Train. Train until you can do it at will, and until you can read my thoughts whenever you decide."

Quatre stared at him, surprised.

"It wouldn't bother you...?"

"It can be useful later. In the meantime, I prefer that you do it after warning me than by accident, and if you can control this thing, it will mean that I won't have to wonder how upset you can get before I need to watch my thoughts."

The blond teenager flinched, but nodded. Trowa was fiercely private, and he had to hate how Quatre could peek at his thoughts. If Quatre trained on him, it meant there were long stretches of time where he could be thinking intimate stuff without risking being caught. It wasn't as good as having his spirit entirely protected, but it was better than having to always wonder if right now, Quatre wasn't being a voyeur.

"When are you going to tell the others?"

Quatre grimaced and raked a hand through his hair.

"I prefer to have a better idea of what I can do, frankly. Right now, I have only read your thoughts twice, and both by accident. As for the mental influence... Those were really extreme urgency cases. If the gift responds to this feeling of urgency, maybe the simple fact of knowing that I'm not in danger because I have it will be enough to prevent it from responding to me."

Trowa had a little laugh, the corner of his lips quirking up in a sarcastic smirk.

"That would be ironic."

"It won't be as amusing if it really happens," the blond shot back. "I want to know exactly what I can do first, before I start taking it for granted. For now, it's too random. I will be happy to use it if I can, but I am not going to count on it. I don't want the others to take it into account as long as I can't depend on it utterly. They would expect me to use it for the missions, but right now, I can't, and I don't know when I will be able to... If I can ever learn to use it at will. I prefer not to give them false hopes."

Trowa nodded thoughtfully.

"Very well, we won't say anything for now. But we have a few days before the next mission..."

"I will find occasions to train," the blond pilot agreed as he picked up his fork.

+

Howard pushed back his account book and accepted the list of messages one of his Sweepers was giving him. There were a few letters and transcriptions of radio communications from his contact, but the stack of papers seemed a bit thicker than usual. The old man frowned thoughtfully.

Available supplies at the next harbor, report from a spy -- he spent a few minutes reading it over -- request for assistance for weapon manufacturing, contraband hardware to transport to Australia... Message from Catherine Bloom... Curious, he read the first sentence and started to laugh. The young woman had "convinced" one of his contacts back where they left her of transmitting a message to "her little brother". He put the message aside, promising himself that he'd stay to watch Trowa's reaction when he would read it. From her years with the circus, Cathy had apparently ended up with a very... varied vocabulary.

There was a transcription of a radio message, coded with a key he hadn't seen for months. He decoded it quickly, reading the instructions, then turned his computer on and connected to the net.

The webcam window barely surprised him when it popped open, but he hadn't expected to see S's absence of nose from so close.

"Move over, S!" G ordered as he bumped him out of the way. "Hey, Howard. Still on your floating pile of scrap metal from what I see," he added with a glance toward something that was just under the camera, probably a map to pinpoint where the call was coming from.

"Still here, yeah," the man with the Hawaiian shirt agreed.

He didn't ask G where he was. His old friends were extremely paranoid.

"The kids still with you?"

Howard didn't ask how he knew either; he knew that some of his men sent reports to the Mad Five regularly. Seeing how some of the mechanics he had trained worked for the scientists but still kept on asking him for help when they got stuck, he and the Mad Five tacitly agreed to consider it a fair exchange.

"Yes, still here. I'm dropping them off by their next mission site and then they'll get by on their own."

"There's... A week left? Two?" G asked innocently.

Howard pulled his shades off, cautiously put them away in his pocket, then looked up at G. They stared at each other quietly for a few long seconds.

"Why do you need to know that?"

"We had upgrade ideas. It wouldn't hurt the kids to have your men's help. Turn on your printer, I'm sending it directly. Hey, J! Make yourself useful, you old geezer," he called over his shoulder.

Howard saw J walk behind G, expressionless, without looking at the camera. His bionic goggles made judging his mood difficult, but the corner of his mouth indicated some bitterness.

Howard's printer turned on and he thoughtfully watched it spit out page after page of diagrams and plans.

"Your upgrade ideas, what are they?" he asked to start the conversation again.

"Simple, really. The base was common to the five of us, but we all innovated in our own domains for our Gundams. That each of them has a specialty is good, but still, taking what makes a Gundam more dangerous and adding it on another can only help. Of course, there are some compatibility problems... For example we can't add a lot on Wing; its beam weapons are already eating most of its power and the modifications also have to say out of the way when it shifts to bird mode."

Behind him, J grumbled something in Japanese which was probably not quite flattering seeing the way G snorted.

"Heavyarms and Sandrock need the same power accumulators as the other three if we want to give them some more thermal weapons. For the moment, Heavyarms isn't worth shit in close-range combat. Between us," he added, whispering just a bit too loudly, "S should keep with his new generation of joints, his Gundam moves well but its weapons suck."

A rolled-up ball of paper bounced off his head and Howard snickered, amused. Sometimes he felt that, emotionally, his friends were still stuck in adolescence.

"Anyway, the major point is adapting Deathscythe's stealth cloak on the other Gundams. It was genius to make it undetectable to radars, if I may say so, an idea that the other Gundams would find very useful indeed..."

"When you feel that you have sufficiently patted yourself on the back, tell us," J growled as he bopped G on the head with a thick folder. "The plans all went through, now cut the communication before we get caught," he added, walking away without looking back.

G rolled his eyes, grimacing, then winked at Howard, who was laughing his ass off quietly as he observed the scene.

"The plans aren't complete, and still only so many concepts. We're designers, not mechanics. But with a little work, the boys should get by just fine. You'll say hi to Duo for me?"

"No problem," Howard answered with a nod.

"And tell him to stop sulking because his baby won't be as unique anymore. It's an occasion to get his hands on Shenlong's flamethrowers, after all."

Howard started to laugh, and he was still laughing when G nodded a salute at him and cut the connection.

+

"There's no way I'll let these barbarians get their hands on my baby!!"

Howard thought to himself that G knew Duo decidedly well.

"I'd have to let them in my cockpit, and they'd put their noses everywhere, and they'd steal what makes Deathscythe the best Gundam! ... Apart from his pilot, of course."

"If you let Wufei borrow your stealth cloak, I'm sure he'll be willing to let you adapt the flamethrowers," Howard commented innocently.

The braided teen shut up, blinking dreamily.

Apparently G knew that Duo had a pyromaniac's soul.

"Flames? Oooh, fire... You'd do that?"

"I would have to want your cloak first," Wufei grumbled, crossing his arms. "Hiding to attack secretly is cowardly. I am certainly not going to use such a technique."

"Ouch," Howard commented softly as Duo growled.

Quatre swallowed a fit of laughter.

"As for me, using non-thermal weapons is an advantage, since I don't risk running out of energy, but if we could adapt my generators after Wing's model, I wouldn't say no to a secondary weapon. Trowa?"

"Same," the green-eyed boy commented soberly.

"In any case Tro's weapons can't get worse," Duo snickered. "Heavyarms and its habit of running out of ammo..."

Trowa showed him his middle finger.

"But its joints are both more flexible and more resilient than the other Gundams," Heero commented. "If there was a way to reinforce Wing's, it would suit me. The transformation to bird mode regularly deteriorates them."

The pilots were lost in thought for a few minutes. The pilots lapsed into thought for a few minutes. Howard observed them in silence, stupefied (as he still was sometimes) by the competence and instinctive mechanical skills that these adolescent boys possessed.

"I suggest we list everything that the others possess that would make our own Gundams better, and then we'll arrange a way to put everything into place."

Trowa and Heero nodded their agreement, Duo grinned at Quatre and Wufei shrugged before turning away.

"I don't want anything," he commented.

"So think of what you can give," the blond shot back.

Wufei gave a long, indecipherable look at his comrade, then smirked and nodded. Knowing that the other Gundams would be made more efficient because they would make some of Nataku's abilities theirs amused him greatly. He just had to see it not as a theft but a tribute.

+

[ A few days later ]

Duo dragged his feet along the corridor, relieved when he finally saw the door of his bedroom. He had spent the day working on the Deathscythe adaptations on Sandrock with Quatre, like the previous day and the day before that, and he was dead on his feet. He didn't understand how the blond pilot managed to keep going, but if he wanted to stay "just five minutes longer," really, it was his choice. It was a good thing that for now the five of them were concentrating all their efforts on Sandrock and Heavyarms; it was already difficult to upgrade a Gundam with help, so doing it alone...

The light was on in the common room at the end of the corridor, indicating that at least one of his teammates was there. It was implicitly known that their bedrooms were private, and could only be accessed on invitation, but when someone was in the common room, it generally meant that they wouldn't say no to some company. And an invitation like that from one of the three antisocial guys of the team couldn't be refused without a better reason than some fatigue.

He shouldered the door open, leaning against the frame, and glanced inside.

... Okay, maybe they didn't really need him.

Heero and Trowa were sitting on the couch side by side, slightly turned toward each other, Trowa nonchalantly leaning on his elbow which was resting on the Japanese teen's shoulder. Their thighs were pressed against each other. They were leaning over a large sheet spread across their laps and had been murmuring to each other when he had barged in. Now they were looking at him, interrupted.

"Ah, Duo," Heero greeted him before he could open his mouth to apologize for interrupting. "Tell us what you think."

The American realized that the sheet was a plan; a Gundam's arm to be precise.

"What are you doing?"

"We're trying to find a way to place the circuits so that they don't get stuck in the new joints," the Japanese teen replied with a pensive frown.

"I don't know a lot about Heavyarms-type joints, you know," he reminded them as he leaned over the sheet.

It was quite complex indeed, and he had to make an effort to visualize these red, green and blue lines as a three-dimensional object.

"... I think I see where it gets stuck, but it won't be practical to get around it. Unless you lengthen the wires and go that way," he added, his finger following the external edge of the elbow, "but the armor plating is thin there and it's going to be a lot easier to lose power in combat."

"We'll see how to get around the armor problem if we can't find another way," Trowa commented absently. "Sit down," he added, pulling the coffee table closer with his foot.

If Heero had invited him, Duo wouldn't have been sure that he was truly welcome. But if it was Trowa... Content, Duo sat on the table face to them, his knees touching theirs, and looked over the plans with them.

The problems to sort out with Wing and Deathscythe were more complicated than Heavyarms and Sandrock, the reason why the five pilots had started working on Gundams 03 and 04 first. Heavyarms and Sandrock were now equipped with thermal weapons, more efficient generators, and Sandrock now had hyper jammers modified from Deathscythe's design.... well, it wasn't finished yet, but Quatre and Duo were working on it. Trowa hadn't wanted them for his own Gundam, the bulk would have compromised his mobility.

As for Shenlong, Wing and Deathscythe, that was another matter. The fuel conduits that were necessary to install Shenlong's flamethrowers on Deathscythe interfered with the circuits of its shields. Wing was even more complex because of the Bird mode. As for Shenlong, Wufei had refused to change anything, and so he was using his free time for a complete check-up.

+

Quatre opened the door to the common room to discover the three of them flat on their fronts, drawing furiously.

"Gimme the red pen!"

"I'm using it," Heero growled, not letting go of said pen.

"Evening, Quatre," Trowa greeted him as he swiped the green pen Duo had left on the floor.

The blond pilot approached slowly, staring at the sheets of paper... ah, diagrams. They had been swimming in them for days.

"I thought you were done working for today, Duo," he commented with some amusement, but Duo didn't answer, too busy trying to pin Heero down on the floor and make him let go of the red pen.

Tiredly, Quatre wondered if they were fighting for real or just playing. Without thinking too much about it, he extended his senses.

It was a lot easier for him to receive Heero's feelings than Duo's, as he realized after a few seconds spent trying to untangle the different "tastes" attached to the emotions and impulses he was getting. But it was mostly because Heero's Wolf insisted to make the American bare his throat in submission. It wasn't really aggressive though, only a weird mix of canine protocol and play. As for Duo, he was just having fun. Which didn't prevent him from enjoying the way he was accidentally rubbing against his comrade's body. Blushing slightly, Quatre thought that Duo would be better off conceding the victory or he would end up poking Heero in a most embarrassing way.

He sat down cross-legged at Trowa's side, sending him a little smile and his amusement. The green-eyed teen blinked, his surprise transmitting to Quatre, then his understanding. They had tested Quatre's gift often during the last days, and the blond one had understood pretty fast how to share his feelings --even if it only worked properly when he was relaxing or tired-- though he had a lot more trouble starting a sharing than stopping it once he was "connected". Trowa had learned to discern his own sentiments from his comrade's-- they had a brighter, more sophisticated feel than his own -- but he knew that if he wasn't aware of what the cheetah-boy could do, he would have been hard-pressed to notice that his reactions came from outside of himself. They'd never tested while around the other pilots, either.

/triumph/ Quatre sent with lots of smug satisfaction.

Trowa looked up at him, arching an eyebrow.

Another day, the Arab would have stopped there when faced with the relative complexity of the message he wanted to send, but he was quite satisfied with himself and suddenly it didn't seem so hard anymore.

/Other:sad-rejected. Me:relief. Other:notsad./

Trowa blinked several times, trying to sort out what Quatre had just dumped into his head. The string of concepts was longer and more complex than usual, and some of the perceptions, though not Trowa's, didn't feel like Quatre's either, as if the empathy had tried to imitate another emotional timbre.

Quatre checked that Heero and Duo were still roughhousing, and then informed Trowa in an unconcerned tone.

"Sorry I'm late. One of the Sweepers just got dumped, but from what he tells me it was to be expected; his ex-girlfriend was a first-class manipulator. He would have felt better in a few days, but for the moment he was so depressed that... I spent a moment chatting with him to help him see the positive side of the whole mess."

In other words, he had read his feelings and brought to the surface the most positive ones. Trowa nodded, impressed. Quatre's ability rarely worked on people he didn't know. Except the compulsion apparently, but they had a theory that it was because he felt less guilty forcing people to do what he wanted when they weren't his friends.

"How is Sandrock?" Trowa asked, cautiously changing the subject.

"Not complete yet. I'm afraid he won't be ready for the next mission," the blond sighed. "We'll be there soon, and we cannot ask Howard to float aimlessly until we are ready, we're already putting him at enough of a risk..."

"I think I can finish Heavyarms, but it's going to be hard work," Trowa commented, sighing quietly.

"We still haven't really started on the last three, at least they'll still be battle-ready," Quatre replied thoughtfully.

"Can someone tell me why Maxwell and Yuy are currently rolling on the floor like two actors from a bad porn movie? Unless they're pretending to be two extras in a cheap action flick..."

Leaning against the doorframe, Wufei was observing the scene, one of his black eyebrows arched expressively.

"I'm leaning toward the porn movie," Trowa commented calmly while Quatre choked on his laughter.

"I'd lean toward the porn too," Duo shot back without loosening his hold on Heero, who was rolled into a ball around his pen, "but it's kinda hard to have a realistic sex scene when you're dressed, yanno."

"Since when are porn movies realistic?" Wufei scoffed, his eyebrow taking on an even more mocking curve.

"Monsieur is a connoisseur from what I see."

"Your collection taught me a lot."

"You watch my porn flicks!!!" Duo exclaimed, pointing at the Chinese teen accusingly.

"It's not as if you hide to watch them, you know," Trowa deadpanned.

"Blahblahblah... Hey!! Gimme that pen back!!!"

Heero rolled on the floor, evading his comrade.

"No."

And he flopped down on his front before his blueprints and started drawing lines, ignoring everyone once again. Duo growled, glancing at the wolf from the corner of his eye.

/To give him a good hard slap on his ass or not to give a good hard slap on his ass?/

Since he seemed not to be able to make a decision, Quatre did it for him. Heero yelped with surprise, jumping off the floor, and stared at the blond pilot.

"You spanked me," he said, blinking owlishly.

"You shouldn't have showed them," the cheetah grinned back innocently while wondering what the hell had gotten into him.

"You slapped Heero's ass!" Duo exclaimed, at the same time admiring and envious.

Quatre laughed heartily, scratching the back of his head in a vaguely guilty way. He had let Duo's enthusiasm contaminate him.

"Yes, and I'm not going to do it again. I think I broke my hand."

Giving him a wary glance, Trowa rolled on his side to put his own butt out of range. Wufei couldn't help but snort at his falsely suspicious expression. A few seconds later they were all laughing.

"... I think we're all tired..." Quatre commented, still smiling.

"We've been working hard recently," Duo replied, slumping back against the couch.

He stretched his legs, and since one of his feet was bumping against Heero's side, decided to just rest his leg across his back. The Japanese teenager growled at him, but thinking that a second brawl wouldn't be very intelligent, decided not to bother protesting more verbally.

"I should finish up my side of the blueprints before I go to bed, but I'm just too lazy and Heero is monopolizing the only red pen."

Wufei stepped over Trowa and picked up the abandoned sheet of paper, giving it a quick glance.

"I have a brown felt-tip pen," he indicated, pulling it out of his pocket.

Instead of giving it to Duo, who for once honestly looked tired, he sat on the couch by the American and pulled the coffee table close to finish inking the lines Duo had penciled in quickly.

Quatre closed his eyes and tasted the currents of feelings in the room. Everyone was tired, but it was a good tiredness born from a full day. The general mood was good, and they were all expressing variants of contentment and quietude. It was comfortably peaceful, as was the quiet friendship they were all feeling and that, to his surprise, he was receiving only to send it right back. That was a nice feedback loop.

After the next mission, there was no doubt that their quiet little vacation would be finished. It would be like kicking an anthill; OZ was going to scramble all over for a long moment and it would have repercussions on the rest of the political situation. Who knew when they would have an occasion to get another moment like this one?

He leaned back against the wall, his eyes still closed, sharing the sentiment of tranquil unity with his four teammates. He would have the headache from hell tomorrow morning, using his empathy so much in one day, but it was well worth it.

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