[ Asuka's rant, condensed version: for those of you who might have e-mailed Asuka and bombasted this fic for it not being simply and only and now-ly 1x2 -- get over it. It's not your fic, it's hers. She knows what she's doing and it will end up 1x2 but in her own sweet time and way. *ahem* For those of you who are just enjoying the ride, good for you! ]

Author: Asuka Kureru
Warnings: None.
Oooh. Is that ACTION? O_o; Yes, I believe it is.
Finally.

Garou + Part 30
Predators

Leaning against the guardrail facing the harbor in which the old ship was anchored, Quatre sighed. Again.

"It's the seventh time in less than fifteen minutes," Hilde whispered to for Duo.

Up to his arms in his bike, Duo could only glance over the motor. Quatre was slouched against the rail; something extremely weird from the blond billionaire for whom standing up straight came as naturally as breathing. Duo spat out the screws he was holding in his mouth to answer to Hilde.

"Again? The cycle is getting shorter..."

An hour ago, the blond had walked out of the holds, claiming to whoever would listen that he had worked on Sandrock enough and wanted to rest a bit, and had gone to lean against the guardrail and watch the harbor, not far from where Duo and Hilde were sitting. Since then he'd developed a cycle. A glance at the doors of the holds first, then he turned toward the sea and sighed hard enough to throw down windmills, then returned to his contemplation of the city. There, his eyes slowly drifted toward the door of the holds, and return to the sigh of the beginning of the cycle. The time spent contemplating the sea and the town slowly diminished and the time spent staring sadly at the door augmented.

Hilde and Duo gave each other a meaningful look. The full moon had been over three days ago and Trowa still hadn't talked directly to Quatre. Duo was ready to burst in the holds and tear the ex-mercenary away from his Gundam and push him toward Quatre with a good kick to the ass, or maybe several. The blond one wouldn't appreciate it, though, having decided that the first step had to come from Trowa if he really wanted them to be friends again, so the American pilot was restraining himself for the time being. He could understand why Trowa would still be angry with Quatre, but he couldn't stand how the green-eyed pilot didn't even give Quatre a chance to give him his apologies. As far as Quatre was concerned, Trowa had reverted to his behavior from the start of the war: an ice wall of total indifference.

"If Heero did that to me, I'd tear out his throat with my goddamn teeth," he muttered around the screws in his mouth.

"Yeah, well, Quatre isn't as aggressive as you are."

"He should be," Duo grumbled, observing the eighth sigh. "Trowa is being a total bastard here. Ok, maybe he didn't wanna be a Were, but Quatre didn't mean to hurt him! And it's been three days since the end of the full moon and he doesn't look like he's complaining! He's adapting ok; you saw it. So why is he being such a dick to Quatre? He should know that Quat didn't mean anything. If it's anyone's fault it's mine, I should never have let him drink..."

"Oh, shut up, don't tell me you knew there was alcohol in that bottle," Hilde protested, kicking him lightly. "You wouldn't have let Q drink, you know he's a Muslim."

"I didn't know at first, but when we started laughing our asses off at nothing I should have realized..."

Hilde kicked him again, harder.

"In that case it's Trowa's fault too, he shouldn't have come in the room. It's Martinez's fault too, he shouldn't have left his whisky-coca mix where you were going to find it."

"I'd have found them anywhere, baby," Duo shot back, winking.

"Yeah but if he'd put them in his room you would have known it was his personal stuff an you wouldn't have touched it."

"Yeah but he couldn't, he hasn't got a fridge in his room..." Duo answered, somewhat insincerely.

"He couldn't have stuck a post-it on the damn bottle!"

"The post-it could have fallen off!" Duo shot back, determined to have the last word.

"Ok, so it's post-it's fault then," the brunette deadpanned, shrugging.

Duo spat out his screw and sprawled on the deck, laughing.

Quatre turned around to look at them, startled by their sudden laughter, and gave them a shy little smile. They signaled for him to come closer and he cautiously obeyed. Duo felt happy that Trowa wasn't there, because he would have made him swallow the hair gel he used on his bang: Quatre had been hurt so bad by what Trowa was doing that he wasn't sure of his place with his other friends anymore.

"Ok, I'm finished with the dumb thing. How would you two like to do something fun?"

Hilde bounced enthusiastically.

"YES!"

Quatre didn't look as enthusiastic but Hilde gave him puppy eyes and grabbed his arm. He gave Duo a pleading look, but the longhaired one shook his head, smirking. He wouldn't free him.

"What do we do?"

Duo thought for a second, looking at the little town.

"We take a walk. I like the ship but frankly, I'm starting to feel claustrophobic."

"Fine by me," the brunette answered.

Quatre hesitated then nodded, a small smile on his lips.

"Let's go!! exclaimed Duo, taking a dramatic pose.

They walked to the gangway, Duo stopping a Sweeper in passing to ask him to warn Howard and the pilots that they were taking a walk.

"And if someone sees us...?"

"No Ozzies in this town, so don't worry."

Duo hid his braid in his cap, and they walked down the gangway.

* * *

Duo and Hilde attacked the ice-cream stand, dragging behind a Quatre half-dead from embarrassment and half-dead from laughter. After ten minutes to debate of the best flavor combination possible, they bought their choices and started to walk down the seaside path. Quatre was starting to relax and appreciate the walk.

More and more people were walking by the water, but the big summer rush was still far. Duo jumped on the little stone guard and followed the others from up there, as balanced as a cat, not ceasing to chatter or to lick his ice-cream once. Hilde, deprived of Duo, dragged Quatre instead to the little stands scattered along the path, and finally he started to smile sincerely.

He wasn't stupid, he knew that they'd dragged him there mostly because to make him feel better... and it worked. Resolutely taking in a deep breath, he grinned at Duo and, escaping from Hilde's clutches, jumped on he little wall just in front of the American teen, making him stop short and nearly lose his balance.

"Think you can go faster, slowpoke?"

He started to run, easily jumping over the few loose stones and breaks in the wall, and after a few seconds of surprise, Duo followed, Hilde running after them on the ground. The rare passerbies were jumping aside, some of them giving them amused looks.

"You're so childish!!" Hilde shouted, trying to follow.

She nearly bumped into a man wearing a trench-coat that was talking on the phone and apologized swiftly, starting after the two acrobats who hadn't waited for her and were now jumping from pole to pole where the wall ended.

* * *

The man watched them run away, then lifted his cell phone to his ear to continue his conversation.

"I just crossed paths with the target. It's directed toward the North area, following the seaside. Accompanied with two other teenagers. ... No, I don't think either of those are in our database, but... Yes... yes."

He ended the conversation and turned around, calmly following the path in the direction the three adolescents were going.

* * *

Trowa checked the solidity of his welding then squirmed out from under the part he was repairing. He wiped his hands clean on a rag, thinking about his work, and decided that it was done as well as it could be. He then turned toward the other Gundams. Heero was still working on his, and he couldn't see Wufei but the Chinese pilot was probably in the cockpit.

He turned toward Sandrock and blinked, wondering when Quatre had left. He'd been so caught in his repairs that he hadn't paid a lot of attention. The other teen was always there when he looked away from his Gundam so he hadn't expected him to be gone when he was finally able to pay attention.

He had decided that he'd talk with Quatre today, as soon as he was finished with Heavyarms. His decision about his relationship with Quatre was taken. He still didn't know what to do about the kiss itself, and he still resented him slightly for the contamination, but he wanted to save what could be saved.

He walked out and started to search for the blond one, determined.

* * *

Finally they arrived at the end of the poles. Quatre jumped on the ground, laughing, narrowly avoiding two old women.

"First!!"

It was the first time in his life that he was behaving in such an uncouth way, making a show of himself on top of a wall like some brat. And it was fun. He'd been a little monster when he was younger, but his goal hadn't been to have fun, but more to get revenge on the whole world.

Duo jumped on his back, and the blond teen stumbled forward, laughing loudly as he tried not to fall. He stepped forward, unbalanced, the American pilot still gripping his neck... and nearly fell on his ass in his haste to get the hell away from the massive Doberman who pounced on him, snarling aggressively.

Duo jumped off his back just as the dog arrived at the end of its leash and dragged his comrade back out of reach. They both fell on their asses, Quatre between Duo's legs.

The dog's master was glaring at them coldly, rolling the links of the chain lead around his hand.

"Hey, you could put a muzzle on your damn dog!!" Duo growled, dusting himself off.

Quatre was still slightly shaken and only stared back at the man in silence. Hilde joined them running and the dog turned toward her, growling furiously. She gave it a circumspect look and went the long way around it.

"You ok?"

"Yes, yes..." Quatre reassured her.

"No thanks to mister Bastard!" Duo threw, giving the man a dark scowl.

"Sorry, I wasn't expecting him to react that way," the man apologized insincerely before turning and walking away.

Duo glared balefully at the back of the man, who was dragging behind the dog still trying to reach them, then took his friends' arms and pulled them the other way. A crowd had formed around them and he didn't like it one bit.

"Goddamit, what a dick! He's got a dog that big attacking people and he couldn't care less? It doesn't make the same kind of damage as a poodle. Fuck..."

Hilde glanced right and left and leaned toward him, whispering.

"We often get attacked by dogs, Duo. They can smell what we are and they usually don't like it. You gotta get used to that. You ok, Quatre?"

"Yes, I just wasn't expecting it... bah, it wasn't the dog's fault. ...Still, that guy was weird," remarked Quatre in a thoughtful voice.

"Weird how?" Duo asked immediately. Quatre had good instincts about people, and Duo had learned to trust them.

"I don't know, really, it's only... something's bothering me... He looked so... cold.... Oh well, I'm probably imagining things. He was just a bastard."

"Oooooh, Quatre said a baaaad word...!" Duo laughed.

"Oh, enough Maxwell!!" the blond one shot back, punching his arm.

* * *

"The blond guy's one too," the man with the Doberman announced in his cell phone. "The third one maybe. Still no info? ... Not in our database, you sure? Hmmm... The men are in place?"

He nodded, shortening the lead.

"Roger."

He crossed paths with the man in the trench coat and they nodded at each other and smiled with satisfaction, and se started to walk down the path together, chatting quietly like old friends who meet to talk about their favorite pastime.

* * *

They had left the seaside to visit the town. Some of the souvenirs shops were open and Hilde wanted to visit them all. The two boys followed without daring to protest too much, humoring the she-wolf. She disappeared in a shop that sold all sorts of clothes and the two pilots were left outside, looking at the displays, really not wanting to step inside.

"She's nuts, ne?"

"Yes," Quatre laughed back as he walked around the display. "I'm understanding why you get along so well," he added with a little laugh.

Duo scowled at him, but he couldn't reach the blond teen without turning the display over and had to be satisfied with giving him an evil glare.

"Just you wait, blondie, I'll get you... hey, another guy with a Doberman," he continued without changing his facial expression.

"Where?" Quatre asked, laughing -- but his eyes were now sporting a suspicious look.

"The corner of the street. Looking our way."

"Coincidence."

"Perhaps."

But even if, apart from the dogs, the two men had nothing in common, the same intense coldness was emanating from them, and that, the pilots couldn't ignore.

As soon as Hilde walked out, they dragged her in a perpendicular street, trying to get to the main street. There were more people that way, they'd be safer.

The she-wolf started at them, surprised. Their scents didn't match their smiling faces.

"I'm sure there will be way better shops on the other street, love," Duo grinned as he slid an arm around her waist.

Ok, there was a problem. They'd stopped finding funny making people think they were a couple ages ago.

"What's up, guys?" she asked in an insouciant voice.

"Nothing, I dun like that street anymore."

"We should phone your uncle to tell him we're late," Quatre intervened innocently as he looked at Duo.

"Whoops, I forgot that."

The arrived in the main street to see that a man wearing a long trench-coat who looked weirdly familiar was leaning against a wall about fifty feet away, accompanied by the first Doberman guy.

"Trench has a shotgun under there," Duo informed them. "Doberman one has a handgun under his arm."

"Doberman two just walked in the street behind us," Quatre whispered.

"They can't know that we noticed them. Hilde, don't look at them. Pretend they're not there."

She growled softly at him, annoyed, but a little ashamed too. She knew she shouldn't do that, but instinctively, she'd been ready to turn around anyway.

The three adolescents walked a little farther, then Duo pulled them toward a wall casually and crouched down to redo his laces. He used their legs to hide the hand sliding up his own ankle to grab knives.

"We could try to get in a restaurant and phone from there, he muttered as soon as he was sure that he wasn't facing anyone who could read his lips.

Quatre nodded.

"We can get rid of those ones, but I don't like it. I think there are more than those we saw. We should find a city map."

"No subway here... Bus stops maybe?"

"We're in the pedestrian district," Hilde remarked.

"We should shake them off before we try to return to base. Steal a car?"

"Gotta find one first."

Duo straightened up.

"We try walking past them, try not to show we noticed anything."

They casually walked down the street, chatting as the walked past the men.

Who immediately started following them, barely leaving twelve feet between them. The dog was growling softly, its claws scratching on the paved street.

The teenagers started looking for an open shop discretely, but there were only restaurants around, which at this hour were closed, and private buildings visibly locked.

And then Duo caught a glimpse of something metallic, on the first floor of a building they were walking past.

He'd barely shouldered Hilde and Quatre out of the line of fire that they heard the muffled shot. He rolled on the ground, hand on his holster, realizing a second later that he couldn't draw his gun in the middle of the street. Behind them, Doberman one and his pal were running at them. He had to jump back to avoid the beast that the man had let go of and who was pouncing on Quatre and snarling, ignoring the braided one totally.

The blond pilot kicked the animal's jaw, snapping its head back, grabbed Hilde's arm to pull her up on her feet and pushed her toward the small and dark street at the corner of the building the shot had come from. As he whirled around to follow her, he caught sight of the wet stain on the wall, where the bullet had hit.

Sedatives.

Somewhere, the fact that they didn't want to kill them but capture them failed to reassure him.

* * *

The man called back his dog when the three teenagers disappeared in the little street, swearing loudly. He'd been so sure that his sniper would touch one, but they'd noticed him. It shouldn't have been possible, and it was most probably an aberration, he told himself. Bah, anyway it didn't matter if they had avoided it; the whole district was locked up. They wouldn't escape.

The Doberman came back unhappily, and he caught the lead firmly. There was no way he would let his companion run after their prey in a dark street, it would get torn apart by those monsters and it had been hard enough to train it. The man had stalked those abominations of Nature for twelve years and seventeen of his dogs had already been killed by that dangerous game.

The passerbies were staring at them with surprise and a touch of unease, unsure of what exactly had happened. He elbowed his comrade, and stepped in the narrow street, wary. The sniper met them at the bottom of the fire escape, and together, they started to track the creatures.

"At least we know one thing," the man with the Doberman grunted at his two comrades. "The braided brat isn't one. My dog didn't even glance at him."

The man wearing the trench coat nodded thoughtfully. The boy didn't seem to know of the traitorous nature of his friends. He should be spared, if possible... as long as he didn't bother them. Killing an innocent was still regrettable, but it wasn't as serious as letting one of those creatures escape and proliferate.

* * *

After having glanced at his locator to get an idea of the area his friends were in, Trowa walked down the quay. He didn't especially want to go in the town, and he wanted even less to approach Quatre when he would be with Duo and Hilde, probably having fun... but he had given himself a mission, which was to reestablish the dialogue between him and the one whom he still considered his best friend. He would just have to bear the crowd and Duo's displeasure.

A stray thought suggested that he wait for Quatre to come back, arguing that he would probably spoil a moment of rest and fun, which wouldn't make Quatre nor Duo happy with him, but his conscience replied with an image of Quatre that he'd kept in a dark corner of his mind. His eyes when, once more, Trowa had walked past him as if he didn't exist.

He was at the end of the quay before having thought twice.

Halfway to the place he'd seen Quatre and Duo's cursors last, he glanced at his locator again. They were in a completely different district and were now nearly to the docks, and moving fast. Way too fast for a simple walk with friends. Trowa adjusted his direction and started to run.

[part 29] [part 31] [back to Asuka Kureru's fic]