Genre: Action, Drama, Humour (some)
Pairings: 1x5x1, others tba
Warnings: Violence, language, sex, adult situations
Spoilers: Yes, quite a lot for end of series (no EW though)
Feedback: Please! Particularly what you like/don't like about the fic.
Disclaimer:Gundam Wing belongs to its owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole
host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off
of them. Not a single peanut.
Huge thanks to Dawna, for the beta, and to Sol, for editing this puppy's
last paragraph (it soooooo needed it *worships Sol's editing scissors*).
The part cuts in this three-part chapter are pretty awkward - this part
is twice as long as the previous ones - but you'll see it would have been
hard to cut it up further!
Arrangement + Chapter 26
Knowledge, Part III
will never lose a battle if you know your own situation as well as that
of the enemy."
Heero carefully opened the door and the partners split up without another
word. Wufei headed up the stairs and Heero cautiously started checking
doors along the hallway.
The mission took Wufei over. His focus came easily; he'd found his center
again, his fierce pride in his own strength, and he wouldn't let anyone
rip it from him again, not even- not anyone. He would need it and more
to get through the tender attentions of his friends in the near future.
And he needed it now, to make sure he was alive to fend off their well-meaning
questions later on. Plus he needed to punch Trowa, just once. He wasn't
really all that angry with his friend - not after living with Mr Die-For-Your-Mission
for a year - but it would relieve the tension that would undoubtedly exist
between them after this, and besides Trowa was no doubt rather expecting
Five minutes after they'd broken out, an alarm went off, short high whistles
like a very, very loud and obnoxious car alarm. Wufei tensed, quickly
taking shelter in an empty storage room, but if the alarm was because
of him, there was no indication of it. He heard shouts from several directions...and
a lot of movement from outside. He frowned; the alarm was getting annoying-
Shots! Nearly covered by the alarm - and shouts!
"Fuck," Wufei muttered; the shots had come from above. He was on the third
floor, deserted as far as his cursory examination had been able to determine.
The gunfire had come from the fourth- more shots, and what sounded like
a submachine gun spitting out death. Shit shit shit! So much for the hostage.
Sorry, Sam, we're going to be getting our arses roasted after all. Still,
he had to go and make sure. And mete out justice to the man's murderers.
The sound of running footsteps in the stairwell next to his door kept
him in the small storage area. An armed man - Bruckheim - passed him at
a run. Wufei leapt after him, grabbed him by the throat, tumbled him,
put a knee on his spine and quickly snapped his neck. All in all, it took
less than a minute. He threw the body in the room he'd been hiding in,
and then he ghosted up the steps. They lead to the uppermost floor - the
stairwell gave way to iron steps up to a roof access. Wufei's cursory
examination showed him a short hallway, with four doors on either side
and one at the end, leading into what looked like a big office taking
up most of the front of the building. Two men were crouching on either
side of that door. One had a shotgun, the other was pointing a machine
gun at an invisible target. They were shouting at someone to surrender
before they came in and made him, or something; the noise covered Wufei's
approach. He killed them both with neat efficiency, a bullet each as he
walked up to them. He cast a cautious eye into the room; guessing from
the way the thugs had been behaving, someone inside who was presumably
not on their side had been firing back. Maybe Wufei had misunderstood
the plan. Maybe Trowa had come to secure the hostage himself.
"...Who is that?"
The familiarity of that voice stunned Wufei into silence for a few seconds.
"...I'm coming in." He finally warned, not sure - what with all the undercover
stuff going on around him - how he was supposed to identify himself any
more. A soft gasp from inside the room indicated that the speaker had
recognized his voice as well.
Wufei poked a cautious head around the doorjamb, then came in slowly.
The room was U-shaped, an open office area curving around a small room,
probably reserved for photocopying, or a management office. The man with
the machine-gun had really been stupid. The four bodies lying around showed
that all he'd hit were his friends, while his target was safely behind
the corner of the U-bend, out of sight. Not that the machine gun had done
the fatal damage. Wufei was conversant enough with bullet holes to disregard
the wild strafes that had peppered the walls and bodies, and concentrate
on what had been the killing or incapacitating shots, neat holes from
a small calibre weapon, as precise as if they'd been delivered on a shooting
He was feeling off-balance again but this time he had a bloody good excuse!
He'd expected to have to fight his way into a heavily guarded room with
a terrified executive or politician cuffed to a chair. Or, worse, with
a bullet between the eyes.
Well, the important executive was there alright. He was crouched around
the corner of the U-bend, holding the wounded boss at gunpoint. Wufei
checked the other bodies quickly, making sure no-one was faking, and knowing
that wasn't the case. Quatre would have already made sure. Reluctantly
but without hesitation, the core of steel encased in the real but deceptive
Quatre was looking at him in amazement - though the HK pointed at the
boss didn't waver. Neither did Quatre's other hand, as it applied pressure
to the gunshot wound in the man's shoulder. The boss was on the floor
and had twisted painfully to glare at Wufei; he was no longer distant
"Uh..." Quatre glanced down at the boss, then, quite casually, gripped
the man above the ears with deceptively strong fingers. The boss stiffened
and squirmed in alarm, but Quatre was pinning him down with one knee in
the stomach and he couldn't get away. Finally he slumped, unconscious,
and Quatre relieved the pressure.
"There, that should give us a few minutes. I don't want to hurt him, though.
We went to a lot of trouble to get him. Wufei, what are you doing here?"
He'd turned slightly. One of the room's three sets of neon lights had
been shot, dangling from their holder. The other two cast a sickly glint
on Quatre's pale face. He had a nasty bruise and a cut over one temple,
with a trickle of blood running down the angle of his jaw, but he appeared
otherwise unhurt. "Did you come with- I can't believe the Preventers are
here already! That was fast. I only called them five minutes ago." Quatre
glanced at his watch. Wufei absently noted the cell-phone still gripped
in the boss's right hand and guessed that when Quatre had said he'd called
for help, he had meant he'd forced the boss to do the honours at gun-point.
"We..." Wufei looked around. Most of the people present were dead or unconscious,
but still he was cautious in his explanations. "We were captured and brought
here. Heero and I. By a Syndicate mobster named Nash." Quatre's pupils
dilated slightly but he gave no other sign of recognition. "We managed
to escape though. Heero is checking for data, anything he can find."
"Hm. I hope he doesn't do anything...imprudent." Quatre looked worried.
"Can you contact him?"
"No." Wufei sighed. The thugs they'd initially taken down hadn't possessed
a cell phone and their own had been confiscated.
As if in answer to their thoughts..."Chang?" The familiar voice sounded
from just outside the door.
"Yuy? You can come in, safe." Wufei poked his head around the corner of
the protective U-bend and looked towards the door, surprised. "What are
you doing here?"
Heero's eyes were flicking over every corner of the room. "I heard shots
"Hello, Heero." Quatre had leaned over the boss again, checking his wound
and his pupils. But he flashed the soldier a brilliant smile over his
shoulder. "Glad you could join us. We need to defend this location for
a few more minutes. The Preventers should be arriving soon."
"How would they know this address?" Wufei asked suspiciously.
Quatre grinned and gestured at the boss with his HK. "Well, I asked him
for it, for show, but I didn't need to. I had a locator surgically inserted
into my abdominal cavity a couple weeks back, when we were preparing for
this op. We set up several redundancies in case I couldn't the information
"Wonderful," Wufei ground out. "Any reason why you didn't tell us what
was going down?"
"Security." Quatre shrugged. "Ah, thanks, Heero." The latter had ripped
a shirt from one of the bodies and had applied a rough padding to the
boss's shoulder. The man's eyes were half open but still rolled back in
his skull. Heero frisked him, then moved him a bit so that they could
go to the door while keeping an eye on him. Quatre came with them, his
HK still loosely pointed at the boss. He glanced at his watch again.
"Well, if you're not with the rescue team...then we have a few minutes.
This area is apparently off-limits to all but the boss, the sub-division
commander Corazon, Nash, Vielle, and a few of their men. They're paranoid
about leaks in their own forces. And I think...I should imagine that there
might be some confusion in the ranks right now. And I bet their comms
have mysteriously gone down, and someone has apparently tripped the motion
detector on the outer perimeter fence. Although fortunately they've cut
off that annoying alarm now..."
Quatre explained this all smoothly, though Wufei doubted he'd had more
than a few coded words from 'Nash' before Trowa had left to sow the confusion,
allowing Quatre to take out these men and capture the boss. A few words
were probably all that was needed for the tactician. Even without those,
he's probably able to follow Trowa's movements and tactics the same way
I can follow Yuy's, Wufei guessed.
"So with any luck we'll be undisturbed for awhile. Why don't we tell each
other what we're doing here?" Quatre concluded, looking at them curiously.
"What a wonderful idea," Wufei ground out. He glanced out the grimy window,
where a dirty dawn was starting to taint the night. Men were moving, fairly
calmly, from the fence and the gate back to the building and the hangars.
He could still see a few people running though, and he thought he caught
glances up at the fourth floor. He wasn't sure they weren't going to be
disturbed. Surely someone on the second floor would have noticed the gunshots.
The alarm would take some time to spread if someone had turned on the
scrambler though...He took up position beside Heero, each on opposite
sides of the door, and kept a close watch on the stairwell.
"You both know that Ops and every level of ESUN have been compromised,"
Quatre started to explain further, his eyes and HK on the boss's slumped
form. Heero and Wufei exchanged a charged glance.
"We were aware of it," Wufei confirmed, acidly.
"This was obviously a serious problem, and Une did what she had to do
to deal with it. She sent someone we know under very deep cover several
months ago, to infiltrate the organization. But the Syndicate were being
careful. Our spy couldn't get any kind of information about who was selling
us out. So we decided -yes, I was in on this. Une wanted help from someone
who could do this kind of job but who wasn't a Preventer," he added as
Wufei looked at him sharply.
"And why, in the name of all the philosophers of the six dynasties, did
you decide not to inform us of this operation?" Wufei uttered between
"We couldn't take the risk. Of the entire ESUN and Preventer organization,
there were four people aware of this operation. Me, Grecko, Une and...our
undercover agent. We couldn't even communicate extensively between ourselves,
much less find a way of bringing you two, or Duo, in." Wufei found himself
nodding glumly. If Quatre had shown up at their doorstep, or if Une had
talked to them in her office, and told them something was going on...with
the monitoring devices listening to every word, it would have been Trowa's
"Besides..." Quatre looked slightly embarrassed. "Erm, though you are
both admirable agents, I understand that you're not exactly, well, let
us say, infiltrators."
"Is that so." Wufei muttered.
"And they already knew who you were, so-"
"Go on." Heero said, conceding the point in the face of all evidence.
"What are we doing here?"
"I have no idea." Quatre confessed, visibly puzzled. "As I said, communication
between me, Une and- and the others was minimal. She may have decided
to send you in- though how she managed that is beyond me...Or it might
have been a mole-test."
"A what?" Heero glanced away from the door.
"We wanted him." Quatre waved a hand at the boss. "And his information,
and, eventually, his colleagues. But we also really wanted to determine
who was selling us out."
"Do you know who it is?" Wufei gripped his stolen Magnum, intensely interested
in the answer.
"Several people." Quatre sighed. "When Une constituted the Preventers,
she used men and women from old Romefeller and Alliance bureaucracies.
She was careful but those organizations had been heavily compromised by
the Syndicate. There was a war on, a criminal organisation was a minor
concern to them...we inherited the results of their carelessness. There
are dozens of moles, small timers, very discreet - each only giving the
little bit of information they have access to, not taking any risks."
"They hacked into Ops security monitors." Wufei snapped. "They don't need
"Camera surveillance was a recent addition - thanks to this Nash person,
among others." Quatre said smoothly. "Before, they had to rely on little
bits of information from many different moles, which they'd collate together...typical
Syndicate MO. They couldn't get massive details from the system this way
- which is good, because it allowed us to keep at least one- one of our
undercover operatives hidden. We...hoped."
For just a second, Quatre lost the remote calm of the tactician. Wufei
could sympathize; when Trowa had gone undercover, they couldn't have known
if he'd already been compromised or not. For months now, 'Nash' and little
pieces of information on Trowa could have come together somewhere in the
Syndicate, and the first thing Quatre would have known about it would
be when he was called to identify his best friend's body at the morgue.
Anger and heart-sick anxiety twisted Quatre's usually benign mask before
he hid them, as expertly as Trowa could.
"But you both know the damage those moles were causing. They sold out
your location to those terrorists in Berlin; warned that L3 criminal you
were coming; and many other Agents have had their operations blown or
lost their lives because of those...those traitors." Once more anger shone,
ugly on the round curves of Quatre's face.
Then it was gone, replaced with a smile, and his eyes warmed with admiration.
"We were rather helpless...until this absolutely wonderful woman came
to Une with the break we needed!"
"Who?" Wufei blinked; had Sally or Lu been in on this too?
"Her name is Anthea Stenhelz." Quatre murmured with visible adoration,
and Wufei nearly fell down. It had been a long, a very long night. He
wasn't in the mood for any more astounding revelations, and this one was
"What?!" Heero barked, visibly just as taken aback.
"Anthea." Quatre glanced at them, as if vaguely surprised by their reaction.
"You know her. She works in-"
"We know her." Heero ground out.
"That's right, I'm sorry." Quatre rubbed his bruised temple gingerly.
"Of course you do, you were the ones who gave her the information that
prompted her to look into the matter."
Gave her the information...?
Wufei, mind buzzing, remembered the ugly scene in Anthea's tiny cubicle
of an office a while back. Heero, leaning over her desk as if he wanted
to vault over it and grab her, snarling in uncharacteristic fury and waving
the secret record Duo had photocopied for them, as if he were one second
away from making her eat it. Anthea, shaking, her thin face twisted in
anger and distress, papery skin pale, angular pink glasses askew, had
been valiantly trying to defend herself and her procedures, her voice
piping like that of a furious little mouse. And that was nothing to the
way they'd torn into her when they'd come back from L3 with evidence of
serious leaks. Ahh, good memories. Or so he had thought.
"Winner, start making sense, now! What the fucking hell does that bitch
have anything to do with this?!"
"Wufei!" Quatre gasped, and glared at him reprovingly. "Anthea's performance
was above and beyond the call of duty. When you and Heero gave her evidence
of the leaks, she took it upon herself to trace them. In her own spare
time, I might add, so as not to not arouse suspicion, and by herself,
since she didn't know who had been compromised. Do you realize the kind
of laborious tracking this entailed? It took her hundreds of hours, sleepless
nights...fortunately she had help, or she could have had a nervous breakdown!
Your supervisor, Mr Grecko, figured out what she was doing. Those two
spent long hours together collating all the information they had, all
the leaks they were aware of, who had access to what information...Actually,
I suspect the time spent together wasn't all that onerous to them; I think
a small romance may be blooming there." Quatre dimpled and Wufei refrained
himself from gagging with considerable effort.
"So they figured out who the leak was?" Heero ground out, as if he was
trying to move on and forget everything Quatre had just said.
"No, but they narrowed it down to very likely candidates, and gave this
list to Une. Fortunately they did this all very discreetly - Grecko was
aware of how badly compromised even Ops might be. Une then set up a series
"Feeding information to those people they suspected might be moles, then
seeing which bits trickled down to the Syndicate and which bits did not.
Deducing who the traitors were from what was passed on," Wufei finished
through clenched teeth. "Real information, so no-one would realize it
was tests. Information like our address and-"
"What?! They broke into your house?" Quatre stared at them, shocked.
"Yes. Some time ago. They-" Wufei licked his lips, unwilling to just blurt
Heero suddenly moved, crouching, lifting his borrowed gun and squeezing
off three shots. Screams from the stairwell - it sounded like two men.
Sounds of bodies tumbling back down the stairs. Wufei crouched near the
other doorjamb and kept an eye out as well. Trowa must be doing something
to the troops below, sowing massive confusion in their ranks, because
so far they'd been remarkably undisturbed.
"I think Une may have deliberately sent us here, in case you needed a
hand, Winner. Our orders tonight came direct from her. She must have hoped
we'd end up in the thick of things," Heero analyzed absently, his eyes
and gun riveted on the stairwell. "I assume your location and presence
here this week was another piece of entrapping information she fed some
of the possible moles?"
"I have no idea!" Quatre replied brightly. "As I said, communication was
minimal. I know I was supposed to come here this week and be bait. Get
in here and do, well, this." Quatre nodded to the boss, who had come around
though he still looked bleary. Wufei didn't bother to ask how Quatre had
gotten loose. He was sure that, forewarned, and considered an easy target,
the angelic-looking killer could have smuggled in any number of means
of freeing himself and spreading havoc.
"I guess Une thought I might need backup," Quatre concluded. "Or she was
testing some more moles...we'll find out eventually, she should be with
the Preventers showing up right about now, if that is what I think it
They all recognized the noise of a chopper approaching.
Wufei let Heero guard the door and once more prudently approached one
of the windows facing the entrance to the yard.
Dawn was reluctantly creeping over the industrial zone, complete with
the wail of sirens in lieu of birdsong. A slight morning mist folded the
flashing lights back in on themselves, a kaleidoscope of blurred colour.
The chopper was a few blocks away still, apparently circling with a searchlight,
looking for anyone who might have broken away early before the block was
surrounded and cordoned off.
Men were scurrying around the yard, setting up lines of defence. Wufei
tensed as Heero fired more shots from the door. Looked like someone was
organizing the men and trying to find the boss. Would they fight it out
or surrender? On the one hand, these weren't OZ troops ready to die for
Treize or some cause. On the other hand, men like Vielle could expect
a life-time in prison, and so would make sure there would be considerable
resistance, maybe even try to hammer their way through the forces encircling
them. Wufei bit his lip, quickly assessing the situation.
"Not good." Wufei answered without turning around. "A lot more men than
I had thought."
"Several teams came together here, to protect the boss, and bring me in
- and you too." Quatre pointed out thoughtfully.
"...I'd say...sixty or seventy men, if they have as many out back and
reserves in the hangars." Wufei reported, carefully keeping out of full
line of sight of any snipers in the yard or beyond.
"How many on our side?" Heero asked.
Wufei stared through the faint mist from the canal. "Looks like thirty.
And some of those will be making sure no-one gets a pot-shot at Une."
"So few?" Quatre gasped.
"Our resources have been badly stretched recently. A lot of our teams
are out in the field." Heero explained from the door. Wufei heard shouts
from downstairs. It sounded like someone was trying to mount an assault
on this room.
"And they couldn't have mobilized too many people without warning the
moles." Quatre concluded. He sounded merely analytical, but Wufei was
ready to bet he felt more concern than he showed. "The cost will be high,
"No it won't be." Heero refuted matter-of-factly. He leaned forward cautiously
and scooped up the FN P90 and three spare chargers from the bodies of
the men Wufei had killed earlier.
"Not if we kill everyone from here to the ground floor." Wufeis agreed
as he turned from the window and also scooped up a rifle and a pack of
ammo from the floor. He slipped the latter into his belt and headed towards
the door. "If we attack them from the rear, that will disorganize them
Heero turned from his post to measure him with a glance. Then his eyes
twitched towards Quatre.
"Winner can hold this position by himself." Wufei answered the unspoken
objection calmly, chambering the next cartridge.
A minimal nod was the only agreement he expected or got. Entire strategies
unfolded, discussed with a flick of an eye or a movement of a weapon.
Something in Wufei started to sing, with excitement and the sheer rightness
of it. Clear and sharp as the edge of a knife.
"I am quite capable of holding this area by myself. That was the original
plan." Quatre, lagging a bit behind the unspoken planning, finally put
"How were you planning on getting out? With him?" Wufei turned towards
his friend and jerked his chin at the boss, fully awake now and glaring
at them now in a mixture of pain, anxiety and frustrated defiance.
"I gave them my location in the building when I called. A taskforce should
evacuate him." Quatre put away his HK. He quickly went up to the boss
and secured his hands with the sleeves of the man's coat, then used his
own sports jacket as a crude blindfold. The boss started to swear and
threaten, harsh words abruptly interrupted as Quatre used the sleeves
of the jacket to calmly gag him, unruffled as if he did this on a regular
"They should be landing on the roof with the chopper." Quatre continued,
standing smoothly and taking his HK out of his belt again. "Once the landing
site is clear."
Once more the partners exchanged glances.
"I'll clear the roof." Wufei muttered a touch sullenly. He wanted to go
with Heero on the main assault of the enemy holed up in the house, to
break the back of their resistance before the Preventers had to run that
gauntlet. And he wanted to watch his partner's back. But the mission came
first. "I'll join you as soon as the taskforce lands. Maybe you should
just hole up here until I -" One look at Heero's set face told him to
forget that brilliant idea.
"Don't go shooting up everything at random." Wufei grumbled in resignation,
wondering what he could say to convince Heero to be cautious and knowing
there probably wasn't anything. "Someone
might get caught in the crossfire."
Heero glanced at Quatre, who'd understood this part of the conversation
"You're clear to do as much damage as you want." Quatre outlined deliberately,
eyes piercing. "No-one you're likely to meet deserves to live." Then Quatre
must have realized that, apart from telling them that they were not likely
to shoot Trowa accidentally, his words had another, more immediate and
decidedly unpleasant meaning. For all that he was an efficient tactician
and a strong fighter, Quatre was not a bloodthirsty or merciless killer.
"We know what you meant." Wufei reassured him. Though at this point, so
heavily outnumbered, the kid gloves were just going to have to come off.
Wufei caught sight of Heero checking the machine gun. Well, Wufei's kid
gloves were going to come off. He didn't think Heero had ever owned a
A final glance between the two partners. Then Wufei smoothly stepped out
into the hallway while Heero crouched and started to fire at the stairwell
with the SMG.
They made it to the stairwell without any problems. Heero glared at Wufei
to get going - the iron stairs to the rooftop access were behind them.
Wufei glared right back. Not before he'd helped Heero clear out a defensible
position downstairs. So many years on the edge had sharpened Wufei's warrior
instincts. He could almost feel armed men moving around the floor below
them, getting into position, ready to shoot at anybody coming down the
Heero broke the contest of wills with a reluctant shrug of assent, then
leapt down the stairs, almost catching Wufei off guard, as well as the
men waiting for them. Wufei cursed in a way that would have made Maxwell
proud and followed, picking off the two armed men who'd stood up from
behind a fallen desk in the big open area, aiming at his partner.
The FN hacking out its deadly hail, Heero dodged, jumped and darted through
a doorway at the bottom of the stairs, throwing himself on the ground
and to one side. Wufei was a second behind him, crouching behind the protection
of the doorjamb, trusting his partner to 'clean out' the room the same
way Heero trusted Wufei to watch his back while he did so. Wufei's rifle
punched two fat holes through the thin plastic of a few cubicle partitions
that had been left in the big office area. He didn't wing anybody but
from the shouts of alarm and the sudden scuffle as men crawled back to
safer positions, he'd put the fear of ex-pilots and Preventers into them.
The SMG had fired just one round behind his back - Wufei had absently
noted the noise of a body propelled against a wall by the force of the
strafe, and the sound of a window breaking. Then he felt Heero approach
him cautiously, moving around Bruckheim's body which Wufei had dropped
"Go!" Heero hissed as he crouched by the other side of the door. A bullet
bit plaster and the flimsy inner partition near his head. He didn't even
Wufei groused and glared, but he went, waiting for Heero to let loose
a volley from the FN and darting back up the stairs, towards the steps
leading to the roof. The crashing staccato of the submachine gun accompanied
him all the way up to the small door at the uppermost flight of the stairs.
He wasn't in the best of moods when he kicked the door open. Three people,
at the edge of the roof. Shooting at the Preventers below. Another joining
them - they'd used the fire-escape to get up to the roof.
They turned - the one on the fire-escape died immediately, catapulted
over the handrail with a rifle shot. Another fired wildly. Wufei didn't
even bother to move as he drew the pistol from his belt and shot him twice
automatically, chest and head. Then he had to dodge as another hostile
- a woman, long hair catching on a cheap flack jacket - fired at him with
much better aim than her erstwhile companion. He smoothly stepped around
the little concrete building which held the door to the roof and the end
of the stairwell. Bullets spat as they hit the sidings as he reloaded
The two remaining hostiles shouted at each other - and then just shouted,
in alarm; the heavy beat of the approaching chopper drowned out their
voices. Wufei walked around his defence and shot them both while they
were gaping upwards. He hit their two jackets deliberately, pitching them
back. The man fell with a sickened grunt, dropping his gun and clasping
his ribs. The woman kept a hand on her sniper rifle but, faced with the
twin muzzles of Wufei's gun and twelve-gauge, dropped it reluctantly and,
with a groan of pain, sank back to the ground.
The chopper - a very light model, three-seater only, to insure the roof
bore the weight - landed with a wash of wind and a furious noise. Wufei
crouched and protected his eyes from the grit being blown up by the rotor,
while keeping an eye on the last two hostiles. He was ready to throw down
his own weapons, in case the men in the chopper didn't recognize him.
But he needn't have worried.
Two people jumped out, leaving the pilot in his cockpit. One - Louis Armand,
an excellent operative, Wufei noted with relief - ran towards the hostiles,
holding them in his sights as he approached. The other man trotted towards
"Thank god you're alright!" Even shouting above the noise of the helicopter's
engine, Foxwood's relief was as audible as his slight London accent.
"Sam." Wufei nodded politely, as if they'd met at one of Une's office
parties. He saw Foxwood roll his eyes and grin briefly, but then Wufei
was being carefully examined.
"Where's Heero?" Foxwood's voice was suddenly taut over the noise of the
"Downstairs. I need to go back him up." Wufei walked towards the door,
keeping his head down.
"Okay. How's the floor beneath- no, don't tell me. Cleaned out." Sam was
still shouting, though the noise was cut down when they closed the door
access behind them.
"We didn't check, but there should only be Winner and your target, unless
they got around Yuy." Which wouldn't have happened, Wufei thought fiercely.
Not in a hundred years.
"Good. Can you cover me for a bit? I'll go fetch the git and then you
"Okay," Wufei answered reluctantly. He went down the stairs ahead of Foxwood
and cast a careful eye over what was visible of the fourth floor.
"I thought you didn't do this 'active shit' anymore." Wufei whispered,
hearing Foxwood move up behind him and crouch stiffly. The old copper
was holding his MP Heckler as if he was never going to let it go again,
for all the administrative jobs in the world.
"Yeah, well, you know how thin we were stretched. Even the Lady's out
there with that custom Viper of hers. She didn't tell me, Chang." The
change of subject was abrupt and the words bitten out. "I wouldn't have
sent you and Yuy in blind if I'd-"
"I know, Sam. We were okay. Someone was watching out for us."
"Yeah, so Une made me understand. I'm still fucking mad though," Sam growled.
He was a cop, not a soldier. He didn't put any truck with the notion of
sacrificing pawns to win the game. He just wanted, if at all possible,
for 'his girls and boys' to do their duty but come back alive and enjoy
their pension one day.
"Go get the target," Wufei murmured. "I'll make sure no-one comes up the
stairs, or from the other rooms." They'd not had time to clean out this
floor. He kept a careful eye on the doors and stairwell as Foxwood trotted
towards the front office.
Five minutes later Sam was back, dragging the boss with him. He was muttering
under his breath - reading the filth his rights, apparently, a habit Sam
couldn't rid himself of even though the Preventers' mandate didn't require
it. Wufei carefully covered their trip back to the chopper, watching with
cold satisfaction as the man, whose name he still didn't know, baulked;
the boss had realized he was going to be spirited away from the fight,
and that whatever his men did, he was well and truly caught. Justice,
Wufei had learned, was a nuanced and relative thing, not the absolute
that Meiran had believed it to be, and he had valiantly tried to live
for once. But that didn't mean it wasn't real; Wufei felt its shape and
weight as he watched the criminal get dragged off by Sam despite his futile
resistance. Foxwood shoved the boss into the helicopter, gun planted in
his side, followed him and closed the door. Wufei, Armand and the last
two hostiles ducked their heads as the blades caught and lifted it away.
Wufei didn't wait to see what Armand might want him to do. He had his
duty. First, check that Quatre didn't need him to do anything crucial
and mission-related, and it better be fucking important if he did. Then
go see if Heero was okay. There hadn't been any more shots from downstairs
while he waited for Sam, so Heero must have finished there and moved on.
The noise from the line of resistance outside covered any signs of where
his partner might be further down in the building.
He stopped suddenly, all senses alert. There'd been- he gripped his gun.
The sound he'd heard was so faint he couldn't identify it but his instincts
were telling him it was out of place, and that meant danger. It had come
from the room where Quatre had taken down his captors and held the boss.
A prickle of worry walked up Wufei's spine. He ghosted forward, ears pricked.
Quatre should be in there alone. Wufei's senses were telling him this
wasn't the case, and he prayed to his ancestors that he wasn't just about
to lose a friend.
A quick glance - dart forward and back again to avoid any bullets - and
Wufei leaned back against the wall, staring at the dirty paint on the
other side of the large hallway, eyes very wide.
Though he really didn't want it to, the brief image - Quatre, perfectly
healthy, pinning Trowa to the far wall in a desperate kiss - kept dancing
in front of his eyes.
Well. Well! No surprise there. He'd seen that one coming a mile away.
Hell, he'd been expecting that to happen all during the war, but then
that messy bit with Zero, and circumstances, and the solid friendship
and mutual reliance that had sprung up between Quatre and Trowa, and Duo
as well, while on Peacemillion...Wufei had felt - without paying all that
much attention to things - that it had cooled off the physical aspect
of- But apparently the end of the war had been the start of something
"I've got to go." Trowa spoke in a whisper, as if the habit of being hidden
still clung to him.
"Yes." Quatre's voice was calm and matter of fact. But the next words
weren't. They were tight with repressed emotion, and muffled. "Take. Care."
"Oof. Careful. I might need that spine you're squeezing."
There was something like a miserable chuckle from Quatre. "You sound like
"I wonder why." Then the voice dropped to a low whisper and Wufei, suddenly
and to his absolute horror, realized he was spying on his friends in a
moment of intimacy. "I'll be seeing you soon...in a few weeks. And I'll
"No, you won't." Quatre sighed. "But...go. Before I change my mind and
keep you here."
"No, you won't." Trowa countered softly. There was the sound of another
embrace and Wufei crept away in absolute silence, back towards the stairs.
This was really none of his business. Okay, it had been unwise for Trowa
to come check on Quatre when he should be getting out. For that matter,
Une probably expected Quatre to be on that helicopter instead of Sam,
so he wouldn't get accidentally shot by the Preventers. But...he wasn't
about to judge. If they'd managed to find something- some tenderness and
comfort between them...well, he supposed he was happy for them. He told
himself, ignoring the faint bitter taste of that thought. No matter. He
should leave them to it. And...he didn't want to see Trowa. Eventually
it wouldn't be a problem, once he'd meditated and accepted the inevitable
but right now...
Besides, he needed to make sure someone was watching that idiot partner
of his, since he'd apparently gone and stormed the rest of the building
all by his stupid self!
He counted six incapacitated bodies on the floor below, plus a lot of
bullet holes in the walls. Many were concentrated around the door where
he'd left Heero crouching for protection, but he saw no traces of blood
there. Every window had been shot out, and the echoes of distant battle
sounded from below, but the dust and faint fumes of cordite hung in the
air muffled in the enshrouding silence found in cemeteries. Wufei gripped
his weapons and ran on - vaguely wondering how Trowa had gotten up here
and how he counted on getting out again. But with Trowa's acrobatic skills
and talents of making his lanky frame invisible, he'd have no problems.
Wufei, in contrast, would probably have to fight his way out the hard
No signs of his partner on the third and second floor - well, plenty of
signs actually, of the fallen body variety, but no annoying, suicidal,
won't-wait-for-no-backup partner. There was no one on the ground floor.
Apparently the fight had been carried to the compound outside. Wufei remembered
the large area strewn with junk and clenched his teeth. It was not going
to be fun, hunting the bastards out from that area, and even a cornered
hare bit hard, as the saying from his ancestors' homeland went.
Wufei quickly resigned himself to not finding Heero in the chaos. Instead,
he found Sunil and Gills, two of the special ops agents he knew, and he
stuck by them to avoid getting shot by his own side. It was not an irony
he would have appreciated.
Shrugging Sunil's borrowed Preventer jacket over his more slender frame,
he inched around the upside-down body of a later-day ChevyFusion. He quickly
glanced through the window of the garage then pulled back. It was at the
back of the yard, a big brick building where the haulage company used
to keep its machinery, and the present day criminals kept their exit vehicles.
He hoped that Trowa had found a better way out than this - the garage
and indeed the whole yard had been as efficiently sealed as the Preventers'
meagre forces could manage.
Logic said the Preventers should wait until the thugs realized there was
no way out and surrendered. A few had already come bolting out the back
door, hands in the air, to be arrested by regular agents at the gate.
Wufei should really wait but he'd seen Vielle head into the garage just
as he rejoined Sunil and Gills, and that was one man he definitely did
not want escaping.
Wufei inched closer - then froze, instinct kicking in on hearing a horrified
scream of protest from within the-
A flash of light through the windows and doors - and the walls of the
garage suddenly bowed out as if heaving a deep sigh before giving up and
resigning itself to gravity. Wufei, flung to the garbage-strewn ground
by the concussive blast, saw the roof dangle for a seemingly eternal second
before suddenly collapsing in on the wreckage soundlessly. Not soundlessly
- Wufei swore weakly, his words muffled in his ears, and shook his head.
He was peppered with fragments of wood, glass and concrete, and his ears
felt about as healthy as the garage.
Gills helped him to his feet then walked Sunil, who'd been swiped in the
knee by a bit of fallen wreckage, away from the remains. Behind them,
a few Preventers in flame-retardant gear were doing their best for whatever
survivors they could hope to find. None, Wufei surmised, pretty familiar
with explosions and their consequences by now. Please, eternal ones, let
Trowa have chosen another route...Vielle must have realized he was cornered.
Either he'd been trying something clever and mishandled the explosives,
or he'd taken the easy way out. Somehow, he doubted the piece of shit
had the backbone for that last option...
Gills left him when it was obvious that Wufei was only shaken and recovering
quickly, and walked his partner from the battlefield. The explosion had
blown away whatever little fight there was left out of the criminals.
Only a few more pockets of resistance, heralded by scattered shots, remained.
Wufei glanced over at the gates to the compound as a flash of gold caught
his eyes. Winner should really learn to cover that hair of his, Wufei
grumbled internally. The former Sandrock pilot was near the armoured command
car, talking to Une and Grecko. Wufei was just glad not to see Anthea
hanging around. Damn, he and Heero had cowed the bitch for awhile, but
now she was going to be insufferable. He watched morosely as Une, Quatre
and Grecko got into the car and drove off. Probably going to explain all
this fuss and mess in the heart of ESUN territory to the members of that
particular organisation. Quatre's diplomatic abilities would definitely
be called upon. Wufei turned again, looking for something else to do,
but no-one seemed to have any need for him at that point.
He saw Heero from a distance, back turned towards him, and a small knot
of tension he hadn't wanted to acknowledge suddenly loosened.
Well, there you had it. It had been circling him like a vulture all evening
- hell, since they had gotten back from L3 where he'd had that little
glimpse of...something. He could keep his head stuck in the sand or he
could admit that-...that every time this past month that Heero and he
had split up to fight, having his partner out of his sight had felt like
a small piece of barbed wire slowly tightening in his gut.
He'd been trying to convince himself that it was just normal worry for
Yuy, the man who brought out the best in him. As Heero's injury in Berlin
had shown, either of them could get killed tomorrow, and then the partnership
would end. It was normal to feel tense about the possibility of change,
of losing what he had, he told himself repeatedly, and knew that he was
lying, just a little bit.
He'd disembowel himself before he let Heero catch even the slightest hint
of any of this; that was one fairly clear indication that this reaction
was probably a bit outside the bounds of the arrangement they had.
Wufei stayed where he was, forty feet behind Heero. His eyes stayed fixed
on his partner's strong back as he took stock, and he mercilessly analysed
his own actions over the past few hours - how he'd cleared the roof, covered
for Sam, went to check on Quatre first...He felt a measure of cold relief
in concluding that a bit of worrying hadn't compromised his ability to
operate as an agent, or as Heero's partner.
Heero was ordering the Preventers around and they were obeying him as
if he were God. Wufei felt a little smile cross his features and quickly
removed it. His partner wasn't hindered by anything as messy as...sentimentality
or whatever. He was doing his job. For all he knew, Wufei was one of the
bodies being dragged out of the burning wreck of a garage, but he wasn't
even looking around to check. The man was just...so dedicated, so focused.
Wufei found a distant pride in that, cold and hard as ice, but pride nonetheless.
A young cadet neared Heero as if afraid of being bitten, and asked him
a question. Heero glanced at his timid accoster, and then he jerked a
thumb over his shoulder at Wufei without even looking around. The cadet
followed his gesture and nodded, then sped towards a startled and slightly
confused Wufei. Oh, apparently Heero had
seen him. When had he checked-...? Trust the perfect soldier not to miss
anything. Or maybe he'd had Dr J put eyes in the back of his head. That
would explain a lot. The cadet's arrival interrupted Wufei's internal
"Agent Chang?" The cadet looked at him curiously, as if wondering how
someone a year or two younger than himself could actually have earned
that title. He hadn't looked at Heero with such insolence.
The cadet suddenly wilted as Wufei turned towards him slowly like a dragon
"Yes?" Wufei ground out. He did not need this newbie to add to his annoyance
"Mr Winner asked me to make sure you got this," the man yelped, thrust
something into Wufei's hands, and ran off to the safer grounds of the
Wufei glanced down at what he'd been given. It was a rumpled piece of
paper, a torn print-out of a directory and file paths. And the root user
name and password. Wufei smoothed it out slowly. The folder containing
the files listed was titled surv0105. The files were in vid record format.
Wufei swallowed painfully, and read the words scribbled across the bottom
of the half-page. They were hurried but still graceful, Quatre's loose,
'Wufei, someone gave me this for you. You or Heero can use this access.
Do it in the next hour, before the system is impounded for evidence. Delete
those files you think appropriate.
Both silence and words are the gifts of friends. Please accept whichever
you need, whenever you need them.
Several thoughts wound their way through Wufei's mind. The risk, for Trowa
to have gotten this information - 'Nash' would not have had access to
the root user name and password...the fact that Trowa would never, ever
tell Quatre about- about what he'd seen on that video feed, but that Quatre
had obviously already been aware of it. And had said nothing. But had
let Wufei know that he knew. The thought of his friends, breaking the
Preventer chain of evidence in true ex-terrorist, 'above the law' fashion,
for their sakes. No. More precisely, as Trowa - and Quatre - had given
this to him...for his sake. And they were leaving him the choice of informing
Heero of what he might do, or not. That was...a lot to think about. He
would be meditating about all the edges on this startling gift in the
days to come.
But one fact he didn't have to think about, because it was there like
an offered hand as he struggled to rise up from a blow that had knocked
him to the ground. His friends knew. In a certain measure, it appeared
they...understood the complexities of the arrangement. And even if they
didn't, they were not about to judge, or even talk about it, unless he
needed them to.
...A gift of friends...
Would he tell Heero? About the files? His partner might not want to do
anything illegal to hide something which he probably saw no reason to
His partner might ask him why this disturbed Wufei so much...
Wufei quickly folded the paper and slipped it into his pocket as he noticed
Heero walking towards him; he was looking around, making sure there was
nothing left to do.
In his mind's eye, the image of his partner was, as always, tinged with
the memory of that hard, emotionless sixteen-year-old killer, staring
at Wufei coldly and explaining that the other pilots did not posses the
emotional detachment necessary to see sex as a need to relieve, a purely
physical problem. Wufei remembered agreeing.
Quatre and Trowa embraced in his mind, their worry for the other obvious.
Trowa had taken a big risk, coming back to check on Quatre. Quatre had
taken a risk sticking around for him. They'd both taken risks, particularly
Trowa, in getting Wufei this information.
Heero was right; affection, emotions, influenced your decisions, overrode
the cold, hard rules of necessity. Wufei baulked at ever following Trowa
and Quatre down that road; Heero would be appalled if he thought Wufei
would take such risks and endanger the mission. Those times during the
war, Wufei recalled, Heero had looked at him, weighed him...tested him,
even, on some occasions, to ensure that Wufei kept the warrior's edge
that made him a valuable partner as well as adequate sex relief. It didn't
take much imagination to guess how Heero might react.
No...better not go there...
Heero examined him quickly as he approached, checking for injuries. Wufei
nodded - after checking Heero himself, since the man could be missing
a leg and wouldn't even ask for a band-aid until the mission was over
- and then he turned to examine the battlefield once more. Counting the
bodies, the greater number of men who'd surrendered and were being arrested.
He glanced back at Heero to comment, and found his partner still checking
Wufei blinked at the uncharacteristic tone and hesitation in Heero's voice,
and glanced quickly down at himself. Hell, maybe he was the one missing
a limb and he hadn't noticed in the adrenaline rush. Sunil's borrowed
jacket looked like it had been through a wash and rinse cycle with a couple
of razor blades, and shrapnel had sliced up his coat and his skin beneath,
but nothing serious, or missing that he could see. He glanced up to realize
that Heero's measuring stare was concentrating on his face, and Wufei
instinctively passed a hand over it.
"What? Do I have blood on my nose?"
Heero just stared. Wufei remembered him staring this way back in the room
where they'd been captured, after they'd killed their guards. As if Heero
was trying to ask him if he was injured without insulting him or calling
his word into doubt.
"You have a few cuts." Heero finally said. His hand lifted towards Wufei,
interrupted its movement halfway - as Wufei stared at it, wide-eyed -
and then touched Heero's face instead, brushing the cheekbone and forehead.
"Here and here."
"No, probably not."
Well who gives a shit, then, Wufei thought, slightly bewildered. The way
Heero had been acting, he'd assumed half his face had been accidentally
melted away by the explosion.
Heero looked at him carefully, then appeared to relax. An eyebrow lifted
laconically. "You look okay actually."
"There were only four people on the roof. And you went and took out everybody
else." Wufei added acidly. "These scratches are from the garage, I was
"I meant-" Heero shrugged. "Mission successful." He'd turned abruptly
as if dismissing the subject, to Wufei's obscure relief.
"Yes." Wufei snuck a glance at his partner's profile as Heero surveilled
the wreckage, looking satisfied.
This was what he had. And it was probably for the best. He had chosen
to live his life for strength, for perfection, for this arrangement. This
was what he had and he wouldn't lose it because of some...weakness of
his, some vague want. The time on L3 would be ignored.
"It was nice of you to leave a few of them for your colleagues." He added,
dryly. "They did come all this way after all."
Heero's lips twitched. "Hn. How about you? Are you still restless?"
"No, I think I worked out some of my aggression." Wufei answered sarcastically.
He expected it might become a regular thing; to worry just a bit when
Heero went charging recklessly into battle; to feel short-tempered when
he had too much time to himself, and the cold, hard edge of his chosen
life pressed against him. But he was a warrior, he could keep himself
under control, in the heat of battle or through meditation. Eventually
this weakness would die, and Heero never need know.
"I will definitely whip your ass in a sword-fight tomorrow." He added
Heero merely snorted and walked towards Une. Wufei followed contentedly,
fiddling with the piece of paper in his pocket. He'd lose Heero for a
few minutes, get hold of a terminal and get rid of a few files. He couldn't
count on Sally and the others to be as discreet as Trowa and Quatre, and
he wasn't interested in friendly teasing or discussions about relationships
that didn't exist.
He had all that he wanted, he told himself firmly.
And knew he was lying. Just a little bit. But he could live with that.
[chap. 25] [chap. 27] [back
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