see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers
I've been a bit remiss in thanking all the wonderful people who've reviewed
me :) this fic is very hard to write and to keep in character and close
to my original intent, so your encouragements really help! To answer a
question that has been put to me repeatedly, yes, Duo does eventually
find out, but it won't be for quite a few chapters. And Heero does sorta
recognize Duo's merits, indirectly, but that's not for awhile either.
And thanks to Arith for thwaping me over the head with the stick she saves
just for people who mistreat her Quatre ;) The fic is much better for
it, and now Quatre isn't trying to kill me anymore.
AN2: //whatever// means talk over communication channel.
Arrangement + Chapter 5
Caught In The Cage Of The Other
Wufei knelt on the cot, hands
on his thighs, his bare feet folded beneath him. His eyes were closed
and his spirit as calm as it could be in the circumstances. The meditation
wrapped him in silence and light, keeping the fury and pain momentarily
The position annoyed the night guard tremendously. Almost twice a shift
he'd come in with a friend or two and kick the pilot around. Wufei encouraged
this by immediately adopting the same position again as soon as the guard
left. The man was a snivelling coward who couldn't even strike him that
hard. And one day soon he would make a mistake.
...Silence, light... The cell, the cot with a foam mattress and no bedding,
the simple stainless steel toilet, the remains of his evening meal in
a plastic container without utensils, his itchy, annoyingly light paper
uniform - OZ had had too many run-ins with suicidal pilots to take him
lightly on that account- all faded.
It had been a week since his capture, he thought. The first day was a
blank. The gun-runner who'd betrayed him, who'd rigged a voltage mine
on the case of missiles he was buying, had overdid it a bit in his nervousness
and Wufei had been in a light coma for over twenty hours while his burns
were treated by the OZ forces he'd been sold to. They still itched and
hurt but that slight sensation was a wisp of a breeze against the backdrop
of the howling tempest beating at the walls of his meditation. The fact
that he'd been weak and stupid enough to get captured burned worse than
When he awoke from the coma, he was looking up the nostrils of an OZ interrogator.
After two or three introductory threats, the man had said the nicest,
kindest thing anyone had said to Wufei since he was a child.
"So, boy, now you'll tell us where your Gundam is!"
They hadn't found Nataku yet.
The interrogator had flicked on a vid. It was the second day since his
capture, and OZ troops were carefully searching the area where he'd been
taken in successively widening circles, squirming little men swarming
around the landscape, Aries leaping like flies from hill to hill looking
for the better half of his soul. His Nataku was well hidden though, and
it would take them several days to find it if they hadn't already.
The interrogator had started his sessions immediately, trying to get Nataku's
location out of him. Wufei knew how to ignore pain, rise above it in a
state of nearly constant meditation. The manhandling of his burns and
the professional bruises he picked up were easier to ignore than the affront.
Did this man think that he would betray Nataku for a beating? Wufei's
temper was more at risk of breaking his mental discipline than the torture
Two days of interrogation were leaving him feeling better and better.
Physically they couldn't get too creative yet, because of Wufei's recent
injuries and dire threats from OZ HQ that he was needed alive. If the
man thought that yelling at him and repeating the question again and again
would break him down he couldn't be more wrong. It was a morale boost
each time he stuck his thick, hair-speckled chin in Wufei's face and shouted
'Give me the location!'
The video feed was more alarming; they left it on day and night while
he was strapped to a gurney and machines monitored his heart-rate and
blood pressure. Using meditation and sheer willpower, he never allowed
the readings to even quiver to indicate whether they were getting near
their goal or not. But he saw how the OZ troops were more efficient than
he'd given them credit for and were moving forward rapidly to the area
where he'd hidden his beloved.
By the end of the third day Wufei realized that if they hadn't found Nataku
yet, then that meant that one of the other pilots had been faster on the
uptake than he'd thought, and had evacuated the machine already. He distinctly
saw through the monitor feed -once more, probably not meant to
encourage him - a small three-man detail of Leos troop through the low
ravine where Nataku had been hidden. His partner was safe.
He celebrated by concentrating and freeing his right wrist from the restraints
in one savage kiai, sinking the interrogator's nose-bone into his brain
at the end of the movement. The cowardly fool really did have an aggravating
voice. The beating that followed almost killed him in his injured state
-at that point, with Nataku safe, he was almost hoping it would- but he
awoke alive and aching in a cell.
OZ must have figured out his Gundam was now out of reach as well for they
were no longer in any hurry to interrogate him. He was moved twice while
still nearly immobilized by the beating, and ended up at his present location,
much to his surprise. Not in a prison, but the four-cell brig of some
big military base. He'd been there two and a half days now. During the
day, he was drugged and asked for the location of the other pilots. He
suspected that his captors were now worried said pilots were going to
try to silence him, hence his new fortified location. For the moment they
were still going easy on him. The real fun would begin when he was well
enough to be sent to OZ HQ, with sufficient secrecy so that no-one would
be able to intercept him. There they would have the medical facilities
to ask some serious... questions. He didn't much care what happened to
him at this point but he owed it to Nataku and his comrades and the war
to get out if he could, before his transfer occurred.
Maybe tonight would be the night, maybe the sadistic guard and his friends
would be a bit more careless, not leave two people watching the monitor
screens, not keep one man out of reach. He would only have one shot at
it. Evening was falling outside, one more hour until the change of guards.
He sank back into-
Sirens exploded throughout the base. Wufei was moving before the first
banshee ululation had waned.
The door was solid and reinforced but Wufei had noticed on the first day
he'd been shoved into the brig that the underpinnings of the lock were
weaker than those of a proper prison cell. A normal man would not have
been able to do anything about it. Even Wufei couldn't do much with cameras
monitoring his every move and four sentries guarding the entrance to the
brig at all times. Now however...
He stood before the door, ignoring his burns and contusions, and concentrated
his centre. It took only a second, he'd been preparing for this mentally
for the past two days, all his focus and intent on that one square inch
of metal he'd have to strike to crack the lock keeping the door shut.
He straightened, felt his whole body and soul come together in a harmony
of balance and purpose, and gave the door a savage kick right on the sensitive
area. It took three goes but the lock finally ripped open with a crack,
silent against the scream of sirens.
Wufei was out the door before it had even crashed into the wall and ran
up the hall to the entrance of the cell block. Only two guards were there,
looking out the window instead of at the monitor feed to his cell. The
other two had probably run outside to see what the disturbance was. Fools.
Weak, pathetic, undisciplined fools. It would be a pleasure to kill them
if it didn't imply touching them.
The guards disposed of, he shrugged into one of their coats, boots and
cap, grabbed a rifle and ran.
Sounds of explosions and an occasional shudder in the ground beneath his
feet proved that the alarm wasn't a false one. Some kind of attack. Wufei's
heart accelerated. Not many people attacked OZ bases these days...
People were running in panic or quiet controlled purpose, ignoring him.
At the door leading out of the command block, the checkpoint guards had
their back to him, waiting for a possible attack from outside. He killed
them efficiently. One of the alarms was probably for him at this point
but no one cared. He ran past men shouting orders, platoons forming near
anti-aircraft cannons, mobile infantry regiments running towards their
vehicles or their suits. Many people cringed and glanced upwards again
and again as if they expected to see angels of death descend upon them,
which was foolish. The disturbance was still at the other end of the large
base, echoing with explosions and the crackle and bang of return fire.
Wufei didn't bother glancing back, knowing that smoke would cover most
of it at that distance. It didn't matter. He ran in the opposite direction
of the disturbance, until he reached a low shed near the perimeter fence.
He sat behind it, panting, cracked ribs and raw burns aching and ignored,
After a few minutes the scream of mortar and the crash of shells crept
nearer, and, overruling it all, the swish of a very big thermal weapon.
One he knew well. He crept cautiously forward and glanced around the edge
of the shed.
Wing and Sandrock were making mince out of the base. Wufei nodded approvingly
as Wing's beam sword cut through a communication tower and efficiently
pounded it into the ground. Sandrock was holding back a bit and providing
cover, darting after any tank or mobile suit that was foolish enough to
challenge them and slicing them in two with its wicked shotel.
"You-! Who are you!? Stand up, keep your hands where I can see them!"
The explosions had covered the soldier's approach. What was he doing way
out here at a time like this? Wufei wondered as he turned slowly, hands
raised. The guard stared at him. "What-?! Who- stay back!" Wufei had taken
two slow steps closer. The guard kept his rifle pointing unsteadily at
Wufei's chest as he nervously pawed at his belt for his communicator.
Wufei's dark eyes followed his movements, fastened on the comm. device.
"How nice of you to bring me that." He commented politely.
A minute later, Wufei was sitting -on the unconscious soldier, since the
ground was very cold through his paper prison uniform pants- and fiddling
with the communicator, wishing he had Duo's skills with this sort of thing.
He ran through the frequencies in sequence, setting up a pulse through
the memorized channels that would decode the pilots' communication broadcast
- finally a crackle, and he could hear voices.
"01, 04, do you copy?" Wufei barked.
//- nobody is firing at us now, Heero! Stop it!// Winner, always forgetting
to use code numbers. //I tell you he's still alive!//
"01, 04? Come in."
//I know he's still alive! Look, you watch my back and I'll
go in and search for him, okay?!// Winner was practically yelling, his
voice caught between anxiety and anger.
//Negative, reinforcements will be here soon.//
//If they arrive and I'm not back you can damn well shoot me too!//
//No, we can't let them have your Gundam.// Heero's voice was as uncompromising
as ever. Wufei found himself nodding in approval. Yuy's strength and focus
were a credit to his training and his dedication to a life of battle.
//Heero, for god's sake!//
"01? 04? It's 05, I'm-"
//Either help me destroy the base or shut up, 04. Leaving him for interrogation
is not an option. We only have a few minutes before -//
//Heero, I got something on comms.// Winner's voice was suddenly neutral
and all business. //It's our frequency.//
//Scramble.// Heero said, as predictable as a binary switch in his laptop,
and Wufei snarled in silent fury as his communicator whined and lost Wing's
//01? Drat. Come in, who is this?//
Wufei glared at his fingers, forbidding them the slightest tremble as
he tried to fine-tune his settings.
"04, it's 05. Do you copy? I'm on the east side of the camp."
//Hee- 01! It's him, it's Wu- it's him! Damn it-// A whine of changing
channels and hurried words cutting in and out.
//05?// Heero's voice came back online, coldly assessing.
Wufei froze, hands light on the communicator, barely daring to breathe
on it lest he lose the painfully attained setting. "Yes, it's me. I am
currently near the east of the camp, ten o'clock to your present position."
//Status? Did you escape?//
No, they took me out for a walk on a leash! "Affirmative. Which is a good
thing because Sandrock is standing on what used to be my cell."
//Oh my god! Wufei I'm sorry we didn't know where you were being kept,
//Shut up, 04.// Which took the words out of Wufei's mouth. //Keep me
covered, I'll pick him up.//
Sandrock stood still, ready to intercept any reinforcements as they arrived.
Wing ran with clanging gait to the east of the camp. Wufei quickly shed
his borrowed coat, dropped the rifle on the unconscious soldier, and carefully
made his way out into the open where Heero could see him, away from any
buildings that could be hiding troops. He knew the reason Heero had opted
to recuperate him up rather than Quatre, despite having a buster rifle
which was much more convenient for picking off reinforcements than a pair
of shotel. If there were any signs this was a trap, Heero wouldn't hesitate
to get out, leaving a smoking crater behind him. Quatre would draw the
same conclusions and react as quickly but would try harder to save and
not silence a fellow pilot, at a possibly high cost for all.
Wing crunched to a halt a few meters away, sword at a ready. Wufei ran
forward and scrambled into the hand the mecha had stretched down for him.
He balanced as he was lifted, and leapt as soon as he could towards the
opening cockpit, remembering Heero's mention of reinforcements on the
way. He squirmed inside the hatch as it opened and landed heavily on the
small bit of floor space next to the command chair where he could squeeze
himself and not get in the way. Heero didn't glance at him, hands flying
over the controls as he closed the hatch and turned the mecha around.
"04, I have him, we're pulling out."
//Great! Is he hurt?//
"He's mobile." Heero clicked off comms before Quatre could ask for further
Wing started to lumber forward and Wufei winced as a console on one side
and the edge of the command chair on the other poked into his sore ribs.
The next few minutes were a blur as Wufei concentrated on staying where
he was despite the shaking of Wing's cabin. Heero's concentration was
absolute and he'd probably forgotten the very existence of his un-strapped
passenger. Wufei hung on grimly, waiting for the Gundams to outdistance
pursuit and adopt a steadier pace.
Wufei blinked. After so many days on the edge of his mental endurance,
not to mention the drugs they'd pumped him with, he'd instinctively slipped
into a meditative trance like an animal darting for cover. He glanced
up. Wing was on autopilot, moving smoothly, and Heero was sparing him
a fraction of his attention, the rest of it riveted by the monitors showing
no signs of pursuit.
"Chang, how badly are you injured?"
"I'm fully functional." Wufei answered automatically, then realized he
wasn't being asked to fight anybody. "Mainly superficial injuries. A lot
of bruises, some burns along my left side, a cracked rib or two, not broken
Wufei glanced at his fingernails, which were still a healthy shade of
Wufei shrugged. "The usual cocktail of antidepressants and disinhibitors.
Quite mild as I was in a stage one comma for a day, and I'm still recuperating
from electrocution and a boot-party. They were only warming me up, they
wanted me healthy before sending me to the HQ interrogation facility."
"Do you have Nataku?" His blood stilled as he waited for the answer.
"Yes, we pulled your Gundam out of its hiding place a few hours after
you were captured."
"I owe you my life." Wufei wasn't talking about the prison break and Heero
knew it. "Where is it?"
"Somewhere off to the northwest, in the desert. Winner's troops are guarding
Wufei fell back down in his nook, limbs suddenly weak. Nataku was safe.
'A few hours' after he was captured? Strange, how did the others know
his Gundam needed evacuation? They shouldn't have missed Wufei for three
days at least. Never mind, the important thing...
"Where is it exactly? When can I go get it?"
Heero's attention was still on the monitors and he answered slowly. "When
we get to the safe-house, in an hour. Winner will take you there. Rest
Wufei nodded, but, now that the howling storm that had roared through
his mind for the past few days was finally trickling to a tired, defeated
breeze, he noticed something odd about Wing's pilot. Heero was speaking
in his usual cold tones, maybe even more detached than usual. His eyes
were hard and bright in the light reflected from the monitors, his gaze
slightly fixed... .His body language... .Maybe he was always like this
in Wing, Wufei thought. It wouldn't surprise him.
The swaying jarred him, his head and sides ached, and the self-directed
anger -he'd failed, he'd been captured, he'd lost Nataku, however briefly,
he'd put the others at risk to come get him- pummelled his soul. It was
more a savage blow of emotions than relief that allowed him to sink into
Wufei twitched, reaching for a weapon that wasn't at his hip anymore.
A hiss of opening hatch and Heero was reaching towards the zipcord. They
were in a dark space, a hangar, Wufei noted. Broken mining machinery,
long abandoned, skulked in a corner where they'd probably been shoved
by one of the mechas.
Wufei frowned more and more as he followed Yuy across the shadowy space.
Heero's footsteps echoed where they were normally silent. His shoulders
were still stiff. Whatever was affecting him, it wasn't due to piloting
The L5 pilot did not have the time to inquire. Or the desire. Heero's
problems were his own. That was the way they worked. They shared their
strengths and a mutual physical relief, not their problems. Wufei wasn't
about to lay his self-loathing at his capture on Heero's shoulders. And
a good thing too. He'd get a sneer of annoyance in lieu of sympathy. Which
he probably deserved, but he didn't need Yuy to provide it.
A blonde bullet shot past Heero and grabbed Wufei before the Chinese pilot
"Winner! Get off!" Wufei snarled, before realizing that he wasn't being
hugged but his wounds examined with quick, gentle hands.
"You are hurt... " Quatre's eyes widened as he took a step back,
his gaze lingering on the burns from which the dressings had begun to
"Just bruises." Wufei snapped, and quickly walked on, embarrassed at what
he saw as needless fussing. Yuy was giving him that cold, hard smirk that
passed for humour in the chilly assassin. Damn him too.
"Wufei, stay with Sandrock!" Quatre said over his shoulder as he ran to
the safe-house next to the hangar. "I just need to grab a few things and
we'll be off."
Wufei didn't feel like moving any more than necessary. But he found himself
trailing after Heero anyway. He tried to focus his mind; something was
bothering him. Probably the thought of spending the long trip to wherever
they were going in Winner's company.
"Yuy, why is Winner taking me to Nataku? I mean, where are you going?"
Heero took another step then glanced back. Wufei noted the delay in reaction
and started to frown. "I'm staying here. I have a mission in the south
of the country tomorrow afternoon and this place is much closer than Winner's
"A mission? Tomorrow?" Wufei was tired and his mind still slightly dazed
from the day's cocktail of mild drugs, he couldn't pinpoint why this was
"Hn." Heero's eyes and face were the usual cold mask. Nothing strange.
Wufei followed him into the house.
It wasn't much, the old residence of the man in charge of watching and
repairing the mining equipment for a shaft that had been out of use long
before the war had started. It had no rooms. The kitchen was a small thing
that sprang up around a cracked porcelain sink along one side of the wall
near a grimy window at one end. A door leading to the garage and the bathroom
stood at the other, wood so warped with weather and age it wouldn't close
properly any more. A three-legged stool stood at the kitchen table, pale
blue paint peeling and matching the cracked linoleum of floor and tabletop.
The bland peeling wallpaper rose to the rafters. The roof was corrugated
iron packed with torn foam for a minimum of insulation. The small scurry
of rodent feet echoed from the space above them. A single large mattress
with two sleeping bags, probably a recent addition, lay on the floor next
to the fuel heater standing alone and ugly against one wall. Wufei was
singularly glad he wouldn't be staying here. Winner's safe-house would
probably be the usual mansion, and much preferable.
Heero put one hand down on the ground and sat down on the mattress. He
leaned forward and plugged his laptop into the free-standing electric
generator he'd recharged in Wing, and the small dish that allowed him
to connect to the outside world and do all the electronic damage he wished
to OZ's cyberspace defences. He began typing without looking back at Wufei,
who was staring at his back, at the line of the shoulders.
Wufei followed the rattling noises to the bathroom where Quatre was packing
"Wufei? You could have waited in the hangar. Oh you probably need to use-"
"No." Wufei turned on the tap. A cascade of beige water smelling of iron
fell into the cracked plastic that was yellow with age. He splashed his
face, avoiding the bandages on his left hand. He passed the tepid water
over his neck.
"Auda will check you over when we get to our destination." Quatre's eyes
were warm with sympathy as he tracked the visible bruises and burns on
Wufei's hands and face. "Trowa's in Australia but Auda knows enough first-aid
to get by. Sorry I can't check you now, or let you rest, but I'll barely
have time to get into position as it is. I have a mission tomorrow. I
hope Duo won't do something rash and start attacking that shuttle port
without me." Blue eyes narrowed in worry. Duo and patience weren't even
close acquaintances. "I'm supposed to be there already-" He interrupted
himself. Wufei didn't need to know how much his capture had inconvenienced
the others. Talking of which...
"How did you find me?"
Quatre threw his toothbrush and towel in the duffel bag and went to the
mattress to grab his sleeping bag. He gave Heero a cheerful wave - which
was completely ignored - and headed out the door while talking over his
"It took some effort! They kept moving you around. Trowa started the search
but he doesn't have the hacking skills. Heero and Duo were both unavailable.
Duo was in outer space until yesterday, and Heero was finishing that three-day
mission on the coast. Trowa did his best but he didn't have a clue where
to start looking, and he had to keep moving too, what with Shenlong in
a flatbed truck and roadblocks everywhere-" so it was Barton who had found
and rescued Nataku."- and did his best but... then Heero and me arrived
and he left. He had to fly to Australia, to get Heavyarms and complete
his mission there, you know, he's trying to infiltrate that base near
"I know." Wufei snapped, his mind running. He remembered the particulars
of Heero's three-day mission, they'd been exacting, as always. "So you
and Yuy got Nataku from Barton and then did Yuy get some rest?"
"Rest?" Quatre blinked. "Er, I don't know, I guess." His aquamarine eyes
blinked owlishly at Wufei from the darkness of the hangar.
"You weren't with him?"
"No. I took Shenlong to the Maganacs myself, to make sure that it was
stored properly. Heero stayed here, used his laptop and broke into OZ
records and managed to find out where you were being kept. Unfortunately-"
"Yuy was alone here?"
"So then what?"
"Well when it became obvious you were in a heavily fortified area we couldn't
easily infiltrate, and that he'd need my help for a frontal attack, we
got together- why are you worried about Heero?" Quatre's intelligent eyes
and sensitive mind were focusing on Wufei, curious, as he paused at Sandrock's
"Does he look alright to you?"
"Er yes? He's a bit tense - actually his mood has been foul - but he's
the same as usual apart from that."
"You don't think he looks tired?"
"Tired? No, he's been full of his usual relentless energy." Quatre looked
momentarily tired himself at the thought.
Wufei looked at the intelligent blue eyes carefully. How could Winner
not have noticed? He wasn't a bad warrior, even though he was not of Wufei's
or Yuy's calibre. And he had this space-heart nonsense to rely on. But
then, that read the emotions and Wufei doubted Heero had much going on
there. Wufei could only read Heero's body, and that was almost certainly
more informative. Which meant Wufei was probably right... Damn fool!
None of Wufei's business. His priority was Nataku. Though of course, his
beloved machine was safe already, thanks to the efforts of others. All
the more reason to go where he belonged, the place where his soul dwelt.
Nataku needed its partner. Who was also safe due to the efforts of others...
Wufei's face remained impassive, while inside he was ripped apart. Partner...
"We're four hours away, I'm afraid. One hour to the hangar where we stashed
our carriers, then three to reach Rachid and his men." Quatre's voice
echoed from inside Sandrock's cockpit. "This space wasn't meant to be
shared, it's not going to be very comfortable. I grabbed my sleeping bag
and pillow so you can-"
"Come on, you're injured. I know you're tough but-"
"I'm not coming with you."
A moment of silence and Quatre's blond head shot out in the space far
above Wufei's head.
"What?! Why not?"
"Yuy needs me here for something." Which wasn't exactly a lie.
"But you're injured-"
"I'm fine. We'll be rejoining you after Yuy's mission."
"No!" Quatre snapped. "I don't care what Heero says, you've been through
enough! What does he think- he didn't even discuss that with me! I'm going
to-" His foot felt for the zipcord loop in the dim light of the hangar.
"I take it you're headed for the Kuru shuttle port?" Wufei said, calmly
and clearly though he felt like shouting. "You'll be there faster if you
don't have to detour north. I'd rather you stop Maxwell from doing anything
stupid than baby my bruises. I'll stay here while Yuy is on his mission,
I'm not required to fight."
He could feel Quatre stare down at him from the hatch.
"Go. I'll be fine."
" ...okay." Quatre didn't sound too happy but he must have realized he
didn't have the time to argue. Wufei heard the hatch close as he headed
back out of the hangar, leaving Sandrock a clear path.
He hesitated at the hangar door, as Sandrock manoeuvred out and prepared
to leave. He could be wrong - Nataku forgive him. He had the feeling that
if he just went in and asked... he knew how that conversation was going
to go and he was too tired to argue. He walked carefully around the house
and entered through the garage door, partly stuck open with rust. His
bruises ached as he squirmed beneath it and his paper uniform caught and
tore on a jagged edge of corroded metal but he had to hurry and get into
the house before Sandrock was far enough for Yuy to switch on whatever
motion sensors he had covering the place.
The back door inched open slowly and Wufei ghosted in, wishing he had
Maxwell's abilities for this. Not that he thought he needed them and that
was the problem. Heero was sitting on the mattress in the same position
as when Wufei had left. He was staring at the screen and occasionally
his finger twitched to scroll down. He was facing the front door which
meant his back was to Wufei. The L5 pilot shook his head disdainfully
and approached slowly, after slipping out of the thick oversized military
boots. The floor was cracked and ragged wood beneath linoleum and his
bare feet, he moved them cautiously. It creaked once or twice but the
figure bent over the laptop didn't move. Wufei angled so he could approach
from the side to avoid his reflection appearing in the screen. He was
two meters away, breath shallow, watching the rowdy chocolate hair glow
in the dying light of the sun pouring through the window.
"You're wide open you know."
Heero was up like a snake, laptop slithering from his knees, gun out and
pointing -Wufei already had his hands raised- his breath catching in a
strangled gasp in his throat. Wufei stared into two wide blue eyes. Heero
was speechless for a few seconds, the gun still pointing at Wufei's head.
"Chang! What the hell are you doing here?! I heard Sandrock leave!"
"Did you set the motion sensors?" Wufei asked, practical.
"Wh- of cou-" Heero's eyes suddenly unfocused, then he muttered 'Che!'
and turned towards the laptop. He knelt and picked it up, checking it
-with a nasty glare in Wufei's direction- then quickly opened a window
and typed in a code. The L5 pilot heard a faint beep from the door as
the wireless connection activated the sensors in and around the house.
Wufei put his hands down, crossed them across his chest, winced and decided
to sink to his knees on the mattress instead. Heero glared at him as he
settled down again, babying the computer on his lap.
"Why are you here?"
"Why do you think? Skip it, Yuy, just tell me what you're on."
Heero's eyes narrowed. "On?"
"Amphetamines? Or something J cooked up?" Wufei corrected himself, Yuy
wouldn't do street drugs.
Heero stared, then turned towards the laptop and started typing. "Neither.
It is a mental program similar to self-hypnosis. It increases my awareness
and capacities despite lack of sleep. It is draining but not damaging."
Wufei snorted. "Oh yes, you're in full fettle. You normally let people
creep up on you."
"I was concentrating-... " Then Heero frowned. Wufei knew that despite
his cold calculations and his mental 'programs', Heero wasn't a computer;
he could delude himself, at least for a little while. But when you shoved
facts under his nose, he didn't try to squirm away and reinterpret them
like normal people would. It was too brutal for the word honesty; more
like lack of any kind of self-awareness or comforting self-image. A weapon
didn't need any.
"I appear to be impaired." Heero said slowly, eyes turned inward. He wasn't
self-conscious or embarrassed, but annoyance was beginning to make an
appearance. Wufei remembered Quatre mentioning Heero being in a bad mood.
Great, if he wasn't careful he'd be collecting more bruises before the
evening was out.
"Yes. I imagine your... program is very good but probably not meant to
be used for so long, or after an intense three-day mission."
"Its operational parameters were never clearly defined." Heero admitted.
"And I suppose you couldn't do anything more than catnap here. You'll
be out like a rock for hours once you let the tension drop." And with
no one to watch his back, Heero wouldn't let himself do that.
"You know this program?" Heero's eyes searched his own with something
"Not as such, but I have read about states of conscious trance that are
similar. Though no one I know could maintain it this long and continue
operating." Once more Wufei felt that reluctant admiration/rivalry/resentment
towards the perfect soldier.
"How could you tell? Winner never mentioned anything. I don't think my
mental state is abnormally-"
"Since I'm here, why don't you let me do something-" Wufei waved a vague
bandaged hand towards the laptop "-and keep watch and you can pass out."
"Is that why you stayed?"
"You're wasting your time." Heero said without sympathy -or anything,
as usual. "The program I'm running will take several hours to bring my
adrenaline and dopamine levels back under control. I won't be able to
sleep during that time, and then I will require at least twelve hours
of heavy rest to recuperate. I don't have the time before the mission."
"And staying awake until then will get you shot." Wufei snapped.
"The mission is a short one." Heero turned back to the laptop with a touch
of condescension in the lines of his body. "I can operate efficiently
until I finish it."
"Oh? Let's see." Wufei leaned forward and snagged the laptop before Heero
could react. He only glanced at the mission parameters - they came from
J, that's all he needed to know; they'd be on the far side of impossible.
He didn't give the laptop back though, merely put it down on the floor,
then used his own 'program' - the sudden rush of willpower and adrenaline
that could force speed and strength from his weary body despite his injuries-
to catch Heero's left arm as he reached for the laptop.
Lithe arms tensed abnormally strong muscles but a fraction too late. Wufei
already had one hand twisting Heero's in a thumblock - his bandaged burns
ignored - his right hand on Heero's neck, fingers searching. He ignored
the gun that was centring between his eyes again.
"Perfectly efficient, yes." Wufei said sarcastically. Heero's eyes blazed
but the gun dipped. For a second. Until Wufei's fingers found the spot
he was looking for and squeezed.
"What the hell!?" Heero twisted but couldn't get out of the thumblock
"Shut up and take it like a man, Yuy." Wufei sniffed, ignoring the gun
that was pointing his way again. "You can bear a lot more pain than this."
"What I can or can't bear isn't- what are you doing?" Heero snarled.
Wufei's fingers released the hold on his neck, dropped an inch and reapplied
pressure again. Heero grimaced but didn't move this time and the gun clunked
against the floor near the mattress.
"I've seen you do this after your kata." Heero growled. "This is some
kind of pressure point method? What are you doing? Explain."
"Insuring you don't get arthritis of the neck in your old age." Wufei
said, with one of his rare streaks of outspoken humour. "But that's incidental.
If you terminate your... program, this will allow you to relax your muscles
and climb back down to a state where you can sleep, hopefully within the
"You don't know anything about my program." Heero said coldly. "You can't
"No, but I am sure that I managed to get you into a lock while covered
in bruises and burns and with a cracked rib or two, so do you have anything
Heero muttered something very unflattering in Japanese -who it was meant
for was actually not clear- and subsided. Wufei dropped the lock and applied
both hands to the task. Heero glared straight ahead as if the oxygen in
the air had insulted him.
"Get your top off and lie down, I'll do your back. If you think you can
stand the pain, that is." Wufei added solicitously.
Heero gave him a look that could have turned coal into diamonds and jerked
off his tank top before lying down on his stomach stiffly.
Wufei worked quietly and efficiently along the vertebra, not feeling much
in the way of relaxation in the muscles. He hoped Heero wouldn't be stubborn
about this... no, that wasn't how the perfect soldier operated. He didn't
let pride get in the way of efficiency and excellence. It was one thing
that Wufei admired about him, though he didn't want to.
"Why didn't you go check on your Gundam?" Heero asked abruptly. His twisted
his head, eyes narrowed, trying to catch Wufei's.
"It's been in safe hands for the last week." While I rotted in jail. "It'll
forgive me for not rushing to its side until after tomorrow. It needs
its partner to be at his best."
"What is taking care of me to do with being your best?" Heero grunted
as a particularly hard jab of Wufei's fingers dug into his tailbone at
the edge of the spandex.
Wufei tried to think. Tried to think of a way of saying this that wouldn't
give Heero the wrong impression.
"I'm injured, I might as well recuperate here, and incidentally make sure
you get back alive. Wing and Nataku make a good team; keeping you functional
might spare my mecha some injuries in the future."
Heero's eyes narrowed further... then flickered closed for an instant
that was too long for a blink. He was beginning to come down from the
high, Wufei realized, suddenly hopeful that he wasn't wasting his time
here. He knew from experience that done properly, the pain/pressure stimulus
could do wonders for locked muscles and blocked energy paths. Wufei started
to alternate pressure points and slow hard kneading of the muscles around
them, to induce some form of relaxation. As much as Heero was capable
of. It felt like he was massaging concrete. His fingers crept up the spine
to the scalp, applying force to the seams of the skull and the pressure
points above the ears, then rubbing the skin beneath the messy locks.
Heero began to blink more frequently.
"How did Barton get Nataku out?" Wufei asked suddenly. "Winner said it
only took him a few hours after I was captured. Turn around."
Heero looked puzzled as he rolled over onto his back. Wufei grabbed the
pilot's right hand and began to apply pressure with pin-point accuracy
to the joints of fingers and wrists. The arm was about as supple and relaxed
as Wing's, but he thought that would change. Already there was less of
that screaming unnatural tension in Heero's shoulders.
"Barton was checking some of his own sources that day. He heard from one
of them that the gun-runner you were meeting might have been compromised.
He arrived at the same time as the first OZ troops. There weren't enough
there at that point to form an effective roadblock or oppose him." Heero's
eyes narrowed as they plunged into the onyx gaze. "I was the closest.
He called in and alerted me. I was about to leave on my mission, and none
of the others were near enough to intervene. I told Barton to find Shenlong
and get it out."
"I owe Barton a favour." Wufei said morosely.
"He had the opportunity of getting you out. He thought he could attack
the convoy that was holding you captive and get you to Shenlong-"
"I'm glad you told him to forget about that brilliant plan." Wufei interrupted,
voice cold and measured, though inside he felt hot at the thought that
Trowa might have gotten himself caught trying to free him, and then Nataku
would have fallen as well. Unacceptable!
Heero said nothing but Wufei thought he felt him relax a bit, his eyes
on him. Wufei dropped the arm he was kneading and glared, hugely offended.
Heero nodded slightly, as close as he could come to an apology for suggesting
Wufei would not think of the safety of his Gundam first. "Winner thought
Barton should have tried to get both of you out, despite the risk. He's
been complaining about that decision for the last three days." He said
in lieu of explanation.
"And you're tired." Wufei grunted, picking up the left hand and applying
the same treatment, up to the upper arm.
"Hm." Heero's eyes were slightly glazed and half closed.
"I guess no one saw what happened to the gun-runner?" Wufei asked quietly.
"Hm. Barton kept tabs on him and managed to intersect his path while avoiding
OZ troops." Wufei stiffened in anger at the risk to Nataku, until Heero,
probably sensing his tension through the touch on his arm, explained.
"Wasn't too hard once he slipped through the first roadblocks, they were
all concentrated on the area immediate to your capture. Barton caught
up with the man after a couple of days."
Heero raised his right hand, finger gripping an imaginary trigger.
"Too good for him." Wufei muttered, restraining the growl. He was trying
to keep his voice low and monotonous, to lull Heero to sleep, but he was
having problems. He was not making as much headway as he wished against
the tension. Heero was definitely relaxing but it would take more than
that to get him off the adrenaline high he was on so he could sleep. His
shoulders were still rigid and recalcitrant, as Wufei roughly rubbed them,
hunting down the dragons of nerve and sinew roiling under the golden-toned
Cobalt blue eyes caught his frown and read it correctly.
"I may have compromised the mission." Heero's voice was quiet, but there
was a dark undercurrent to it, his eyes focusing inward in self-directed
anger. "I wasn't sure of the operational limits of the program. And the
imperative to not leave a pilot in OZ hands was just as important. I kept
thinking I'd found you, but they moved you several times before dropping
you out of the prison system entirely." Heero's eyes followed Wufei's
hands as they went over his chest, inch by inch, alternatively pressing
hard against the sternum and kneading the muscles. "When I realized you
were in that military base, it took me all the time before Winner's arrival
to insure we had a plan to attack it and silence you as efficiently as
possible. As we had no margin for error, the objective was to terminate
Wufei paused, his hands on the sternum, eyes wide as he stared at Heero's
slightly challenging glare.
"I can't quite believe my ears." Wufei answered the question in the cobalt
blue eyes, anger flickering in his own.
"You doubt I would dispose of you?" Heero's voice sounded menacing, as
if this confirmed something he'd feared.
Wufei took his hands off of Heero before he did any damage and snarled.
"Don't insult me more than you already have. I know you're tired, Yuy,
but you're not talking to Winner or Maxwell here. And I can't believe
I just heard you lie to my face."
The muscled body beneath him started to coil and gather like a snake as
Heero's eyes blazed in the most anger Wufei had ever seen. "What did you
"If you'd wanted to kill me, three shots from your buster riffle in the
right place would have levelled that base before they even had time to
gasp let alone call in reinforcements."
Their eyes clashed and Heero was the first to look away.
"Your termination was the primary objective." He said quietly, eyes on
the ceiling, blank and unapologetic. "But I planned it so someone of your
abilities had a chance of escaping."
Wufei's hands went back to Heero's abdomen and the soldier winced as anger
fuelled the jabs from his fingers. "I thought you knew me better than
to suggest-" To suggest that because they had shared a few moments of
intimacy, Wufei would think Heero might hesitate to sacrifice him.
Wufei didn't know how to say those words, but, from the way Heero's eyes
dropped again, he apparently didn't need to.
"I do." Heero said heavily. He seemed put out by the entire conversation.
He's realized he's made a mistake, Wufei thought, and its just one more
proof to him that he's made an overall error in judgement by using this...
'program' and barely sleeping for, what, a week? "I was thinking back
to a conversation with Winner. He seemed reluctant to kill you."
"Winner would have accepted the decision you made if he'd been the one
to get caught. He can sacrifice his life as well as any of us." And you
know it or you would not have allied yourself with him, or the rest of
us either, Wufei added mentally.
"Yes, he probably would have." Heero sighed. "But believe my experience
of the past few days... he's not good at making that decision on behalf
of others, not without suggesting highly debatable plans."
"He is an excellent strategist." Wufei felt obliged to point
out, irritated at the way Heero couldn't seem to respect anyone's capabilities
- Wufei's included.
"Yes, but we both had missions after the attack and no margin for- can
we not have this argument?"
"Of course, you're right." Wufei grunted, reeling in his temper with some
difficulty. He began tracing up Heero's ribs and sides. "In fact, you
probably shouldn't have compromised yourself by giving me a chance. Which
did allow me to escape." Wufei added honestly.
"I guess... " Heero's eyes had closed and he was beginning to sound tired,
which indicated that the program had stopped, but Wufei didn't think this
coiled spring beneath his hands would be able to sleep any time soon,
and Wufei's fingers were beginning to ache sufficiently to penetrate his
A frown settled on the brow beneath the messy chocolate bangs. "It is
very difficult to weigh sometimes. Each mission is important but not paramount-"
Wufei, concentrating once more on the shoulders and lending his whole
weight to it, nearly slipped and fell over at that minor blasphemy against
the Yuy prime directive "- since they fit into the overall mission of
Operation Meteor. That has a much broader definition and is harder to
judge. Because of that - " the frown darkened into the familiar scowl
"- I find myself putting up with a lot of distractions that I should normally
be avoiding. It is... annoying."
I'm sure it is, Wufei thought bitterly, I'm sure we are.
"Although your contribution to my overall mission is well defined." Heero
continued practically to himself, eyes still closed and scowling. "We
are all motivated and dedicated. But you also have intelligence and focus,
and you despise distractions and mistakes. I didn't understand it to start
with, your pursuit of improvement, of excellence, but I do now. I have
even integrated it into my own overall mission plan."
"What... does that mean in Japanese?" Or English, or Mandarin if you know
it, hell, use Esperanto or any other human language. Wufei had never gotten
along too well with computers. And he found that he really wanted to understand
what Heero was saying.
"I thought it would take time and a lot of effort to develop my abilities
further, time I couldn't spare during the war. And I never thought training
with someone else would be of any value at all. But I found that sparring
with you has improved my combat skills overall even in a short time."
Heero's eyes flickered open then closed again. He did not seem embarrassed
at the admission -Wufei would have curled up and died if he'd had to admit
someone else made him better, even though...
Even though, to be honest at least with himself, this was the entire reason
he was here. Because Yuy made him better, the same way Nataku did.
"Sparring." Wufei began the slow descent of the ribs again, and applied
pressure to the side of Heero's hips, at the joint. "So you would want
to continue training with me even without the... arrangement afterwards?"
Heero lay unmoving for a few seconds, then his eyes opened slowly to stare
at the ceiling. "You want to stop the sex after our matches." It wasn't
"Yes. I think we would both get more out of our training and sparring
sessions if there wasn't anything else attached to it." This was something
that Wufei had wanted to point out before, but he never would have dared.
He needed their battles, and he didn't think Heero would be interested
without the arrangement. But apparently he was, so...
"Very well." Heero turned his head slightly, eyes fixed on the window
where the last dregs of light were trickling from a dark blue sky. The
laptop's screen - a dark blue with a scythe cart-wheeling across it, the
screen-saver Maxwell had installed as a joke and Heero had never bothered
to remove- illuminated the scene. "I knew you found it somewhat distasteful
but I thought... you drew similar benefits from it." Heero looked slightly
broody in the light, but not otherwise angry. Maybe he was wondering about
Barton, Wufei thought, surprised at the flutter of mixed emotions the
Wufei could let him. It would be easy to say and do nothing. But then,
that wouldn't be honest. Or just. Or fair. Or even, in a strange, twisted
Heero was more relaxed but still bucked and twitched towards his gun as
Wufei let his hands linger -without pressure point application this time
as this wasn't needed and he didn't want to get shot- on the front of
"I don't find it entirely... easy to accept." Wufei said quietly and openly.
"I was brought up in a hard school where the needs of the flesh were spurned.
But since that time-" Only a year and a half ago at that "-I've had to
abandon academe and get down to earth again, and I have to admit that
I-... have needs on that level too. So I'd be a fool to turn my back on
an arrangement that allows me to help alleviate this need without any
strings attached. Also... " Wufei found the words to be almost harder
to bear than what he was letting his fingers do. Heero's eyes were on
him now, incandescent slits in the dark. "I think it is pretty obvious
that our association has brought me some benefits beyond that. You...
challenge me. In our sparring and in everything you do. I need that to
bring out the best in me. You would probably say that you have become
an important parameter in my own ongoing mission, and as such I need you
at your best."
Heero grunted in understanding. His hands twitched at his side as Wufei
let his hands trail up the hardening length beneath the shorts, then down
"I certainly don't need you gunned down on a mission because you weren't
able to sleep beforehand... is this going to help?" Wufei felt stupid
for asking, didn't want to sound hesitant but at this point the important
thing was to get Heero to sleep, get him off the damaging high he was
on, not worry about what Yuy thought of him.
"... I think it might." Heero muttered. His hands reached out to grip
Wufei's shoulders hard, then dropped away as the L5 pilot involuntarily
flinched at the steel grip on his bruises. Wufei concentrated on the movements
of his hand -the right one, the burned left one finally giving him more
pain then he could handle in his own tired state- and wished he'd been
a bit less of a hypocrite and paid more attention to what Heero had done
to him previously. He felt clumsy and awkward, but not embarrassed beyond
that. Yuy was just too cold and dispassionate about sex; Wufei could almost
believe he was fixing a machine.
The hands reached up to grip again as Heero's breath quickened. His lips
curled in slight frustration. Wufei knew that the sexual release was only
a part of the arrangement. Heero could manage that part on his own after
all and probably better at that; but it seemed that the emotionally detached
soldier who always kept a watchful perimeter guard around his very life
needed the occasional human touch as much as the next social animal. Wufei
had realized this before, understood it without sharing the need. He picked
up Heero's hand and placed it on his shoulder, but couldn't help but wince
again as the grip tightened.
Heero put a hand on Wufei's as it covered his hardened erection and, keeping
it there, rolled away and over onto his side, grabbing the Chinese pilot's
other hand over his back and drawing him near. Wufei found himself pressed
against a hard spine, left arm around a shoulder and pressing a sinewy
chest, the other sliding beneath the spandex -Heero twitched in his hold-
to caress hard flesh, soft skin, a few veins, the slickened head, a pulse
of rising heat. Heero clasped Wufei's arm to his chest on one of the unburned
areas, the other hand wandered back to grasp the Chinese teen's hip as
he leaned behind Wing's pilot.
We're going to need a towel, Wufei thought clinically, as he realized
that Heero's lingering tension and adrenaline were making even his inexperienced
efforts effective. He slid his hand out from the spandex -Heero let a
slight puff of air escape from between his lips and stirred - and easily
ripped off the top of his prison uniform, something he'd been longing
to do for days. He dropped it in front of Heero and continued where he'd
Heero leaned and rubbed his back against the bare flesh of Wufei's chest,
like a cat marking its territory. Wufei, through the haze of pain, lingering
medication and concentration, didn't find this arousing. Although... He
glanced down at the perfect soldier arching in his arms, face relaxing
slowly, eyes closed, his head rubbing back against Wufei's shoulder...
he had a feeling this was going to make an appearance in some of his more
involving dreams to come. Not that he was all that attracted to men outside
of the necessities of war, but you'd have to be as dead as Kong Qiu to
not find this at least somewhat erotic.
Heero gasped and surged back against him, as Wufei felt him tighten and
give between his fingers. He slowly disengaged them, noting with some
satisfaction that the line of the shoulders near his was finally relaxed,
more than he'd ever seen them in fact - Heero was going to be in a coma
when he finally let go. Wufei grabbed the prison shirt, and felt hands
take it from him. He let Heero finish cleaning up, and used his sore hands
to work on down the side of the leg beneath him until he reached the feet.
He slipped off the steel-capped boots with some difficulty, his left hand
throbbing alarmingly. He remembered seeing a first aid kit in the bathroom.
He leaned back a bit to see if anything more was needed. Heero was on
his back again, Wufei could work the shoulders and scalp one more time-
Heero turned on to his side and an arm snaked around Wufei's waist, pulling
him down against the mattress.
"You?" Heero muttered, eyes closing.
"Too drugged. And sore." Wufei whispered quietly. "I'm fine." Apart from
the burns. And the bruises. And the ribs that Heero was pressing. And
the slight feeling of emptiness at having to accept his need of someone
else when it was so much simpler to be alone. Oh yes, just fine.
He tried to roll but the arm tightened. Wufei lay still for a few minutes,
supposing Heero wanted that extra bit of contact... wait, not Heero. Neatly
compartmentalized. Contact went with sex and outside of that there was
the perimeter fence with big nasty metaphorical guard dogs around it.
Definitely not the kind to spoon after-...
Shit he's asleep.
Wufei stared at the barely distinguishable features in the gloom. The
laptop had put itself in standby mode and starlight had yet to make much
of an appearance. But the soft sound of breathing told him all he needed
to know. Mission accomplished. Pat yourself on the back, Chang, oh wait,
you can't, because you're pinned to the bed by an arm that can bend steel
Wufei tried to lift the limb. It tightened instinctively and came much
too close to crushing his ribs for comfort.
The L5 pilot stared, bemused, at the black expanse where the darkness
had stolen the corrugated iron of the ceiling. And found his own eyes
closing despite himself.
No. This wasn't the way it went. They were not... they shared their strengths,
not moments like this. They agreed that the sparring - and yes, the arrangement
as well - made them better. But this wasn't necessary -and it was entirely
unconscious on Heero's part. As for Wufei, he didn't need comfort, in
fact he despised it, like he did anything that could weaken the raging
determination that drove him. Which was why Heero was the only one he
would be making this arrangement with, the only one who wouldn't taint
something that was already complicated with feelings and attachments and
offers of comfort. The only thing Heero would offer him was scorn if he
went to sleep when he was supposed to stand watch. Besides, his burns
He squirmed out carefully from beneath the arm -relaxing when it tightened
until it loosened again- and stood up carefully. Fortunately Heero was
practically comatose, it gave him some leeway to walk away without waking
him and getting shot. He stared down at the figure cut out in monochrome
against the mattress.
If he's the only one I could make this arrangement with, it doesn't hurt
that he's so easy on the eyes.
Wufei didn't like the way his subconscious mind occasionally dropped things
like that upon the rails of his normally rigid thoughts, and he couldn't
help noticing that when it did it had a distinct American accent. This
was why he wanted to stay solitary. But even he -hell, even Yuy, and that
had to hurt- had to admit that he was stronger with others than
He turned and limped off to the bathroom in search of bandages and some
clothes, his body finally presenting the tab for the demands he'd heaped
upon it the last few days. It was going to be hard to let Heero sleep
as long as he needed to. But he would do it. He was counted upon to do
Wufei wasn't in the habit of letting his own flesh get in the way of the
needs of war.
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