Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

AN: Dedicated to Dacia!

Huge thanks to Anaitis for the beta ^__^ And thank you for all the encouragement from the readers on the GWA archives. They stopped me from inflicting serious desk-related head trauma on myself during the worse parts of chapter 28, which I'm still working on...Sorry for the delay in this chapter; my beta and I saw our spare time rather vanish on us this past week ^^;

Freeport + Chapter 27

"God save the Queen
she ain't no human being.
There is no future
in England's dreaming

Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need.
There's no future
there's no future
there's no future for you"


- The Sex Pistols, 'God Save the Queen'

+

You can come...home...?

Duo had suddenly stopped laughing. Wufei barely noticed it. The words were running around in his head, but not making any sense. What home? Was this some kind of code?

"What?"

//I'm pulling you off this op, Wufei. You did a good job integrating into the colony; it looks promising for future efforts here, but for now-//

Braun snorted harshly. Trowa's eyes flickered towards the Elder. Wufei could see Trowa carefully note the man's reaction in his mind, though his face never lost its starchy keen-young-officer expression.

//For now,// Trowa continued, perfectly composed, //I want you back here. We did our best, but the case with the Governor has gotten a bit out of hand. We need you here for the enquiry. Don't worry too much. I don't foresee any serious problems: Relena's promised to intervene directly on your behalf if need be.//

"What?" Wufei repeated weakly. This just wasn't making sense. The L2 Governor could never pull an agent from an undercover op...

//I'm hoping that if we can get you and the Governor and his lawyers together, with Une and Relena backing you, then an apology on your part will be enough. A face-to-face apology, of course. It's the quickest way for the whole thing to blow over-//

"What the hell are you going on about?!" Wufei finally burst out. Behind his bewilderment, prickles of foreboding were creeping up his back and shoulders.

Trowa looked down his nose at the interruption. He picked up some papers in front of him and tapped them against his desk a few times, like a judge rapping a gavel to bring an unruly witness to order. A small, pompous gesture completely at odds with a man who never wasted a move or showed an emotion that didn’t serve a purpose...the prickles became claws which sank into Wufei's neck and chest. That was their personal code. Three taps: Trowa's side was being monitored by Internal Affairs and another party, and Wufei was to watch what he said.

//Chang, both Une and myself worked hard to get the Governor to this stage. Honestly, he wanted your head. He might still get it if you don't get back here promptly. We have a frigate, the Confucius, near the embargo line. If your informant can drop you off there in the next two hours, we can-//

"But what about my investigation here?" Wufei ground out.

//There's been an internal review about that. 'Codename Carver' has been reassigned to Criminal Class B. It was probably a mistake to bump him up to A to start with. The regular L2 Preventers will deal with him now.//

Wufei thought of Joshua and Herb, of Marta's fixed stare, of Lesley bleak look as she asked for justice-

"What about the rest?" he asked, his voice hoarse.

//The rest? Oh, that report you sent a few days ago? Some gang. There's no real indication that they're a threat. Well, except to Freeport, but that's to be expected of the place.//

There was a nasty little growl from Braun. Duo was still totally silent.

Trowa's voice seemed to be fading in and out, yet Wufei could hear every word.

//As for that report of yours...Internal Affairs reviewed that as well, and dismissed it from Records. I think they did you a favor. Linking a few ragtag pirates and thugs together, and coming up with some shadowy dissident movement operating out of Freeport...? Honestly, it makes you sound a bit paranoid. I know you've been working hard-//

"So this is not going to be followed up."

//No, we don't have the manpower. We'll catch them when they attack some ship or peddle drugs or whatever they're up to.//

That's not what they're up to! We both know that! The words boiled behind Wufei's facade, eating away at his control. He couldn't prove it, but he would bet his life that the Breakers were participating - maybe even causing - some of the riots and problems in the colonies. Carver, and Ferret, those men in Recyc, and now this...

Now this!

Paranoid, huh? A neat way of getting rid of the evidence from one lone Preventer who'd put his nose into a very nasty business. And wasn't this intervention very timely and convenient for Wufei's quarry...?

Looked like guns and assassination contracts were not the only thing the Breakers were buying and selling outside. Looked like they'd bought and sold some influence in Preventer upper echelon as well.

//Wufei?//

"What?" His voice sounded dazed.

//I said, can you be at the blockade in two hours? The Confucius can't wait around too long. We've been having some problems on L3. More riots. I need you back here, cleared of the Governor's charges and ready at your post sometime yesterday. I'm running your partner ragged as it is. So?//

So?

"I...I can..."

So he'd go back and apologize to the Governor. Of course, Une and Trowa would in no way ignore Wufei's report on what was happening in Freeport; that would be suicidal. The problem would be dealt with, probably through a judicious strengthening of the blockade. A bit more attention would be paid to the comings and goings from the colony.

Whoever had pressured Une to drop this case would be dealt with, too. Oh, not openly of course. It would be very discreet; he or she was probably someone important and undoubtedly rich. They'd be...managed. Their influence reduced. A subtle warning given. Everything would be handled delicately, and there would be no fuss to disturb the six o'clock news. As far as everyone in TV-land would be concerned, the Peace was whole and prospering. They didn't need to know about Carver, who would probably never be caught now. They didn't need to know about the bodies and the blood.

//Agent Chang?//

Wufei muttered something even he couldn't understand, slammed back the chair and headed towards the door.

"Wu-?!"

Duo's exclamation was cut off by a sharp command from the com unit. //Maxwell! I need to talk to you!//

Wufei didn't hang around to see what means of pressure Trowa would use on Duo to keep the smuggler from kicking up a fuss about all this. That would be more difficult than calling Wufei paranoid and dragging him back by the scruff of the neck; Duo was a free agent, after all. But a threat to impound Scythe, and look more closely into what the ship occasionally carried...that should do the trick. As for Braun, the Elder knew little, and was stalemated by the fact that he'd allowed Wufei's presence on Freeport in the first place.

An old man practically threw himself out of the way, a heap of papers scattering around him, when he caught sight of the look on Wufei's face as the latter charged past him. Wufei noted the fact in the back of his mind where he kept a watch out for enemies, but otherwise didn't slow down.

His feet thundered down the steps. Someone asked him a question in a surprised voice as he passed. He didn't turn around. The only thing he could really hear over the beat of his boots on metal was the memory of a conciliating voice saying 'Wufei, you don't understand.'

No, I don't, Relena. I never will. I can't.

He veered towards the emergency exit out of the building, slammed the bar down and shoved the door open hard.

Of course, that was not how he’d answered during that argument with Relena over two years ago. He remembered his words as if he'd just shouted them at her.

"What is there to understand?! We have enough proof to interrogate them! Give them to me for twenty-four hours and-"

He'd slammed his fist on her desk again; she'd looked rather thankful to have the thick piece of furniture between them. She'd been making appeasing gestures, and her eyes had flickered beseechingly towards Heero, who was ten feet away and looked like he could be in the next galaxy for all he cared about this conversation. He was not taking sides.

"Wufei-" Ooooh, that stress on his name, as if he'd said something particularly obtuse. "We're talking about the chairman and two members of the senate-"

"They're traitors!"

"They're important." Her eyes had darted towards Heero again. Please help me pacify this crazed brute, they pleaded. "They're known and respectable figures. We can't arrest them - it would cause a panic. Armed forces trying to take over the government bring back too many bad memories- the situation in the Disaster Zones is too instable for- They'll be dealt with. We will discreetly remove-

"But not openly," he'd snarled - he'd known all this before he'd even shown up at the palace, her explanations were unnecessary; he'd been doing the Preventer's dirty work for over a year at that point, he knew how it worked. But this time, he wanted something more than a hint to go 'clean up some trouble' and a stint in the stockade aftewards. Heero probably knew what Wufei wanted too, the reason his partner was not interfering.

"So to stop the armed forces they're gathering, you want me to walk in - unarmed and without official orders, to avoid any political repercussions if I'm caught - into a well guarded compound - look at me when I'm speaking to you, woman!"

Relena's eyes had flinched away from the still-silent Heero and back to Wufei.

"I'll either get the information that will blackmail them out of power, or I'll get myself killed and give Une an excuse to investigate the compound where my dead body turns up. All because you don't want to arrest three corrupt-"

"Wufei- if you don't want to do it-"

"Oh, I'll do it," he'd whispered. The sudden quiet had worried her more than the shouting, she'd stepped back from the desk, eyes widening. "But if I'm going to go get myself killed for your politics, Madam President, then I want you to look me in the eyes and order me to do it."

So Relena had ordered him to do it.

She hadn't even glanced at Heero. In her steady gaze Wufei had seen his death sentence, the need for it, her guilt and her resolve to bear the responsibility fully. He'd been the one to look away first...

It had been a bitter epiphany. The last shreds of his warrior ideals torn away in the face of reality. But he'd had to accept it. Relena knew what she wanted, and she knew the cost. She was willing to pay it. She might lose her own soul on the way to Peace; she accepted that sacrifice too. She'd also had to give up some of her ideals in exchange for a future without war, a future where people could live with those ideals without compromise. A future Wufei believed in too. He just had to learn to accept compromises too, to help build it.

The street rushed past him, he was almost running. He remembered racing with Duo, bright, murderous and free...

He hadn't seen Relena since then. The fact he'd had to knock out her bodyguard when he'd started yelling at her was only part of the reason.

'You're letting them use you! It's killing you inside and you don't even care!'

He was running now, full out, turning and twisting blindly through alleys and shadows like a rat in a maze. His instincts, used to Freeport now, kept him from the busier streets, but otherwise let him try to escape the inevitable without interference.

Heero, Trowa, Quatre, Sally, Une...their sympathetic looks flashed before his eyes, more real than the curious glances of the occasional passer byes. His other Preventer colleagues, eyes mocking, or stiff with reproof...

A maintenance hatch let him into the inner workings of Freeport. He caught his shoulder against a protruding pipe, careened against the wall, kept on running, broke out of the confining space and into the metal cage of another sector.

Relena's New Year speech of AC202, 'Peace is our only truth now’. They'd made the prisoners listen to it while he was in the stockade-

His boots kicked debris as he staggered up a slight incline. His breathing was harsh and labored, more than his exertions could explain, as if the colony's oxygen mix had dropped, leaving him drowning in sterile air.

He stopped suddenly. He'd run out of alleys and labyrinthine streets. He turned on himself like an animal at bay. Dust rose to his knees. He was in a dump, where the non-recyclable trash accumulated while waiting for removal from the colony. Metal twisted around him with no clearly defined paths ahead, merely breaches in the barrier.

- he was going to leave Duo alone here - Trowa had ordered him back - Carver was never going to pay -

"YAAAAAAA!"

Wufei leaned over abruptly, hands on his knees, as if the furious, incoherent scream had ripped out whatever kept him standing straight.

The echoes bounced and shattered amongst the metal of the scraps and the nearby buildings. Wufei shivered and hunched further in on himself, horrified as his reason slowly returned. He waited, flinching, for someone to start shouting at him, for reproof-

Behind him, someone opened a window in a building abutting the junkyard.

“Ya okay?” The words drifted over the wreckage.

Wufei weakly lifted a hand and waved without turning around. He doubted that would suffice though-

A clanging noise made him glance up swiftly. A boy appeared between the heaps of junk ahead of him, apparently looking for the source of the shouting; he had an intense look of curiosity on his face, as if he expected to find something exciting going on. He was dragging a two-foot metal spike with him, clanging it against the pieces of junk he passed.

Wufei stared at the child. The child stared at him. The boy was about eight years old, skinny and dirty as hell, but he didn't look derelict.

The kid examined him solemnly, looking disappointed for a moment that Wufei was the rather anticlimactic source of all that noise. Then he grinned, revealing small sharp teeth set in a strange pattern, some spacer mutation. His skin was pale beneath the dirt, a contrast to his messy black hair; his dark eyes were slightly slanted, making his smirk look all the more impish.

The kid threw up his free hand all of a sudden, and let out a series of wild whoops. The peals of his high voice followed Wufei's previous shout out of the twisted maze of junk, falling short of haunting the rest of the sector. The boy laughed in delight, listening to the echoes.

Wufei realized he was laughing as well. His deeper chuckles bounced around the small nest of wire, plastic and sheet metal around them, and the kid laughed right back at him. Behind him, the window closed without any further comment from the owner.

An adult voice called out beyond the junk pile. The boy lifted his head, gave Wufei a cheerful wave and rushed off; he stopped after a few feet to jab at the air with the spike, fighting invisible enemies who had sprung up to obstruct the way home. Having defeated them, he disappeared in the maze of junk.

Wufei watched him go, then he shook himself. Time to take stock. He had a lot to think about.

For starters, where the hell was he...?

+

Wufei tapped the code into the back yard door's keypad. He could hear movement on the other side, Duo must have gone straight back home to wait for him. Fortunately Wufei had been able to make his way discreetly back to the apartment without meeting anybody inclined to ask him pointed questions regarding his absence of Handler. His months of running around Freeport's under city and secret streets with Duo had been of good use.

Duo was in the yard, moodily throwing a basketball through the hoop with a bit more force than warranted.

"Oh, there you are," he muttered as Wufei closed the door and walked towards him. "I'd tell you just how stupid that was, running off like that, but we only got thirty minutes to get you to Scythe. I put your stuff in the duffel-"

"Did you now?" Wufei grabbed the ball from Duo's hands and tossed it at the hoop. It missed, smacking against the metal wall about two feet away from the net. "Make sure you fold my clothes properly when you put them back on the shelf, then. I hate it when my stuff gets rumpled."

"Uh?"

Wufei caught the ball on the rebound, and threw it again. Missed again. His arms felt like they were trying to bend steel rather than hoop a ball.

"I'm not going back."

"Er, but Trowa said-"

The ball slammed straight into the wall so hard the whole yard rang like a drum.

"Barton can go fuck himself! They all can!"

Wufei caught the ball by reflex and sent it smashing against the wall again.

"I'm going after Carver and the Breakers! If I can’t do it legally then-" the ball hammered the metal - "then I’ll do it any bloody way I can but Carver is going down!"

"Er-" Duo took a step back as the ball came rocketing towards him. Wufei had to stretch to pluck it out of the air, but the movement barely registered. He spun on Duo.

"I know that's vigilantism! I know it's not the law! But who cares! It looks like you can buy the law for a couple of bucks and a blowjob these days!"

The ball went crashing back into the wall again. It hit a seam and bounced back oddly, but Wufei managed to catch it.

"Wufei, I didn’t say-"

Slam!

"And if Barton wants to get me on a ship, then he better bring a fucking army with him because-"

Slam!

Duo was suddenly in front of him, snatching the ball out of the air on the rebound with one hand. The other hand thumped Wufei on the shoulder. Wufei was so keyed up he fell back into a defense form on instinct.

Duo gave him a fine glare. "Yeah, I got the picture. I’m not with the suit monkeys, remember?"

"…Sorry, I just…I…." Wufei rubbed his face until his skin ached. A scream was ringing in his ears- or maybe it was a wild whoop of joy…

"Yeah, I know." Duo's hand was on his shoulder again, but this time it was a strong, comforting pressure. "You sure about this though? Barton...he looked serious. He mentioned the charges the Governor wants to level at you. It's not just the fact that you cuffed that moron's ass in the basement, it's about the way you neutralized the opposition afterwards. I don't know if Trowa can help you if that gets too far. You could go down hard."

Wufei growled something and looked away.

"Sounded like he's expecting you to dig your heels in," Duo continued. "Told me to drag you to Scythe - but clown-boy can swivel on that! Still, sounds serious, mate. He seems to think you're coming apart at the seams. At least that's what he said to the cameras; I know Barton’s not that dumb. But he's going to have to put you out to farm for a long time if you give him any shit; the kind where holiday means house arrest by the sounds of it. He also said 'paranoid' again." The ball thumped through the hoop, the noise nearly burying Duo's disgusted snort.

Wufei turned around slowly and stared at Duo's shoulders.

"Holiday?"

"Yeah. Better than the stockade, I guess, but-"

"What did he say exactly?"

Duo looked over his shoulder, probably startled at Wufei's sudden calm interest.

"Nothing much. Said that I should walk you to my ship and drop you off at the embargo line. I wasn't to take 'no' for an answer." Duo absently twirled the ball on his fingertip, his lips twisted into a rich sneer. "Mentioned the Gov's charges. Said all that pressure was probably getting to you, 'cause you were showing signs of 'mental fatigue', and that he might suggest you take a long holiday to rest, use some of the leave you’ve accumulated over the years. He said something about a friend in Monaco too."

Wufei ignored the fleeting look from Duo, the near-question in that last sentence. He was thinking.

"What is it?" Duo asked him quietly.

"A 'long holiday' is code. We never take more than a few days break, the three of us," Wufei explained absently. "When we take a 'long holiday', that means we're going under the radar."

The ball toppled from Duo's finger, but he caught it neatly before it hit the floor.

"You saying...Trowa's suggested, without really doing so, that you take a...working holiday?" he asked slowly, a deadly grin forming on his lips.

"Tell me, Maxwell, how is Freeport this time of year? Nice place for a tourist like me?"

"Oh sure. Lots of activities. Sports, if you haven’t killed my ball. Good- well, healthy food, and the natives are friendly."

"Really? I’ll just have to hunt around until I find some unfriendly ones then. According to my shrink, I have a lot of aggression to work out."

"I’ll help," Duo announced generously, looping an arm around his shoulders.

+

Duo was reading out as he typed swiftly.

"-buy...the law for a...couple of bucks and a-"

"Maxwell!"

"Hey, that's just what you said! You said you could buy the law for- ow."

"I'll write it."

"No no, I'm nearly done. I just need to add the bit where you told Barton and the rest of the fascist brigade to go fuck themselves-"

Wufei manhandled Duo out of Scythe's copilot seat and sat down himself. He deleted the disrespectful drivel Duo had written and started typing.

"I preferred my version," Duo whined, looking over his shoulder. He was vibrating with energy and his sense of chaotic humor seemed to have gone into overdrive. Wufei realized that he didn't mind. His own head felt like it was buzzing. He didn't mind the hands that slipped around his chest as Duo leaned against his back, either.

The message was curt. 'Lieutenant Barton. Agreed, the mission is now cancelled. As we discussed before this operation, I wish to request paid leave from my accrued in-lieu time. You have the form on your desk. Auth. Code: 45292. Agent Chang.'

"He has the form on his desk?" Duo asked, his words tickling the side of Wufei's face.

"He always has; a precaution Heero and I take whenever we leave on any mission that might spin out of control. He just needs to fill in the dates, and say we both agreed to it ahead of time. Duo, are you sure about this?"

"Huh?" Duo tilted his head away to glance at him. Wufei met his gaze. "Whadya mean? You're the one who's in deep shit here."

"Yes, but if there's really bad fallout- did Trowa threaten you? Say anything during that transmission to pressure you off the case?"

"Nah, I think whoever was watching over Tro's shoulder thought I was just some stoolie. Clown-boy gave me a lot of orders about you, and then he promised he'd dump partial payment into my secret account as compensation for my time." A finger started slowly tracing the pattern of Wufei's chest muscles.

Wufei refused to lose his concentration.

"Maxwell," he said sharply, "he was trying to keep you out of this, and I approve of that. But if I stay here- if I end up a smoking hole in the ground, you could well be in the blast radius. I'm working without a net here. Trowa will try to help us if I go down, but if he has to he'll sacrifice me, and potentially you as well, without hesitation to-"

The fingers reprovingly pinched the skin over his ribs. "I piloted one of the great beasts too, Chang. I hit the button, I know how it goes. Just send the fucking message already and let's go home. We can start your holiday with a bit of R&R, then we can go find some unfriendly natives."

The last was said with a cheerful leer. The eyes were those of Shinigami. The Breakers were as good as dead. Wufei buried his twinges of guilt; it was Duo's decision, and the ex-pilot of Deathscythe would know and accept every consequence.

"Very well. How do I send this?"

"Here, hit this to encrypt...and then-...Oy."

"What?"

Duo suddenly detached himself from Wufei, came around to the ship's console and started entering commands with a frown of concentration on his face. Wufei waited tensely, knowing Duo would tell him what was so serious as soon as he could.

The smuggler blinked as a command window popped up and a progress bar started to creep very slowly across the screen.

"We already had mail on the encrypted channel from the blockade."

"What does it say?"

"Well...nothing. It's just a huge chunk of data- Jesus, Mary and Joseph, seven Gs, high compression and double encrypted, what the fuck-"

Wufei let out the breath he'd been holding. Very well, the fortunes were cast.

"What is it?" Wufei could feel those intelligent eyes scrutinizing him, reading him like a book.

"Trowa's last message. I imagine it's a huge chunk of raw data from the Preventer's database. All the information - and more - that Heero managed to comb out in the past few days, plus anything else that could be remotely helpful thrown in. All criminal files and cases involving colony riots, underground arms ops, drug deals-"

"Lieutenant Barton's way of telling us, 'good luck, you're on your own'..." Duo supplied.

"Yes."

Duo stared at the progress bar and grinned savagely.

"Good, better this way. Come on, Chang. This will take awhile to download, and we need to dump it onto my laptop which I don't have with me- let's go and come back in a couple hours. It'll be safe in Scythe's computer in the meantime; Heero vetted my baby's security thoroughly."

Wufei rose from the seat, and found himself pinned against the console and wrapped in a fierce kiss.

Just as suddenly he was left gasping and staring at Duo's back as the latter headed towards the airlock with the assured prowl of the hunter with the scent of blood on the air.

Wufei glanced back breathlessly at the progress bar, its creeping red line slowly slicing away the tether that kept him linked to the Outside.

He turned away without regret and followed Duo out of the airlock.

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