Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Two Halves + Chapter 16
All The Way, Second Half

Dinner was nutritious but plain. Heero liked this. He'd always had frugal tastes, he would now be able to indulge them as a prince could not.

Trowa and Quatre were talking softly opposite him -well, Quatre was doing most of the talking, the tall gipsy occasionally smiling and dropping a word in response. They seemed to get along really well, despite differences in background, character and appearance that made them almost comically disparate. But if they'd been stuck in the wastes for years with nothing but Jay and his silent disciples for company, no wonder they were close despite this.

There were only five other people at the long dinner table. Echoes of song and laughter in the distance indicated that Quatre's Maguanacs ate outside, and were a bit more cheerful about it. In the dinning hall, there was only silence apart from Heero's two peers. The four men and one woman at the other end of the table ate in silence, faces partially hid by veils or cloaks they'd been wearing when they'd come in from the baking sun. What they'd been doing -certainly no cultivation or anything useful in this desert- was a mystery. Maybe they'd been accompanying a caravan that made a frequent trip to the desert retreat to bring food and fuel. Or maybe they were also sorcerers, older pupils who still worked with Jay. The master himself had not joined them for dinner.

Heero had just put down his spoon when one of the men rose from the table and leaned over him. A whisper informed him that Jay (just 'Jay', not master Jay or any honorific) wished to see him.

Jay's room was a combination of bedroom and office. It was Spartan to the extreme, making it seem bigger than its actual modest size. There was nothing that wasn't functional, and little even of that. A worn unadorned sword hung from a wall; Heero had noticed that Jay's hands were callused, though he'd not worn a weapon on the way back from Sanq. The desk held some charts, writing equipment, three books and nothing else. The bed looked like a soldier's cot. A cheap dresser and chest, wood warped by the desiccation of the desert air, hid whatever few personal items Jay had. A bookshelf off to one side held a paltry two dozen books and some manuscripts.

Jay was standing behind the desk. He nodded at a stool in the center of the room. Heero sat obediently.

"Well, we're safe from prying ears, here." The man said abruptly. "Start talking. I didn't think it would be that easy to convince you to come here. I take it you have... some knowledge of what's going on."

"No."

Heero lifted his eyes to the cold glints of glass facing him. "I don't know anything specific. But I've... become aware of something. I can't describe it, But it's something big and I'm connected to it. I had to come."

"Tell me." Jay grunted.

Heero spoke in a monotone, as if this could reduce the feelings behind the words. Maybe they could. It would be a promising start, thought Jay, if he already had that much control over his emotions, his weaknesses, and... maybe something worse. Jay listened as Heero told him about the nightmares, his strange upbringing, the hiding, and what had finally appeared to him, crystal clear, as he came within an inch of death, wrapped in black flames, by the hands of the one who was his other half. Heero didn't understand what it was that he had seen, what he could sense coming in the future. But he knew enough. That was why he'd come with Jay.

After he finished talking, Jay sat in a worn chair behind the desk, a finger toying lightly with his moustache. His eyes behind the thick glasses bored into Heero's.

"I hope you realize what you've let yourself in for. Any idiot can die for a cause. You will have to master yourself for it. Burn out the weakness in your blood, your mind. I can teach you this, but it will be hard, and very painful, and you may not like the end result." Jay's smile was as barren as the desert around his home. "You will have a choice of what you let me teach you and what you refuse to learn because it will be too hard." The voice was slightly condescending. Heero met his gaze flatly. "But I warn you that what I will teach you will be nothing short of perfection, and that is a very hard road to walk, and an end that is even harder to reach."

Heero shrugged. It was acceptance, and it was disdain for weakness, any weakness. Jay smiled again, this time it was downright cruel.

"Before you agree to this, my arrogant young man, maybe you should read this report."

Heero frowned, puzzled, at the piece of vellum Jay handed him. He glanced over it, then froze. Jay noticed approvingly that he tried to control his emotions, his shock, his grief. Maybe they all had a chance.

Maybe the world wouldn't end in five year's time.

"What is Duo thinking... ?" Heero finally whispered. "How can he hope-"

"Your cousin is a very interesting young man. My correspondent actually thinks he has a chance. And you know what that means, right? Now think carefully. Knowing this-"

"All the way."

The voice was still the light voice of a young boy. The eyes were not.

"I'll go all the way."

Jay nodded slowly. "Very well." He said at last. "Get a good night's sleep, because lessons start tomorrow. And will last every minute for the rest of your life."

Jay smiled at Heero's puzzled frown.

"The control I'm going to teach you is absolute. It is not something you can put on and off like a cloak. It's why I brought young Quatre here. I knew we'd need him sooner or later."

"Uh?" Heero was caught by surprise at the intrusion of the golden light-hearted boy into the conversation.

"He doesn't control it very well yet, it comes and goes, but that young man has a gift. He can feel what is in other people's hearts, their feelings and emotions." Jay smiled again, amused. "You will be living in very close proximity with him. The day you can convince Quatre that you are a cold, heartless, unemotional soldier, that will be the day I will start to believe in you as someone who will go 'all the way'. Understand?"

"And if I can put up with his babbling, that will tell you even more about my ability to control myself." Heero muttered.

"If I were you, I'd enjoy every minute of your stay here. Quatre and his cheerfulness will be the least of your problems soon enough."

*

Heero wandered back to the common room, his mind in a daze. What was Duo thinking! Joining the trials? Heir of Lin? He thought his cousin would be dead by now. Or worse, a slave in Septim's house, a sad shadow of his former self. But this?

The common room was quiet. Quatre was reading, Trowa was sharpening his daggers before heading off to his room. Neither did more than glance curiously at Heero as he came in.

Heero respected his cousin and his abilities. The rest of Sanq knew Duo as a jester, but Heero knew better. But this... and the worst was, if Duo was going to do this, join the trials, he would not be aiming for a subservient position. He would be aiming for the top, he never could resist a challenge. But he didn't stand a chance. Did he? How far would he go... ?

"All the way. He'll go all the way."

The words dropped into Heero's mind like stones, it took him a full minute to detach himself from his thoughts and confusion and by then Trowa had picked up his things and left as if he'd never said those cryptic words at all. Heero stared after him in, then anger flooded him and he took a step forward. To find Quatre blocking his path, his face frantic, a finger on his lips.

"Goodnight Trowa!" Quatre said, over his shoulder, his voice bright and cheerful; his face, turned towards Heero, was twisted with anxiety.

"'Night." Trowa's door closed with a soft click.

Heero stared at the blond. "What was all that about?" He ground out, trying to apply Jay's lessons to keep his anger under control, and only partially succeeding. Quatre took a nervous step back, and Heero remembered that Quatre was part of Jay's test, a way of seeing how well he could hide and control himself. Apparently he wasn't doing too good right now.

Quatre's voice was a small whisper, and his eyes were serious.

"Didn't you wonder what Trowa was doing here? With Jay's group?"

Heero blinked. He hadn't.

"Trowa has an ability, one that runs in his family. He's... not comfortable with it though, because... well, I can't tell you that. Trowa will one day, if he trusts you." Quatre's voice implied he doubted that would ever happen, and Heero realized that his first judgment of Quatre had probably been wrong. He wasn't quite the innocent twit he appeared to be. "Trowa can... sense things in the future. That's why Jay knows what is going to happen, he uses Trowa to cast fortunes. It's normally a draining magical process, but sometimes Trowa can do it without the rites. He doesn't know he's doing it, and he doesn't remember anything about it afterwards so he won't be able to explain what he just said, those words, so please don't mention it to him, because he'll just get upset. Please?" The quick words were now timid.

Heero thought about this then turned without a word and went to his own small room. He could feel Quatre's pained eyes on him, but he didn't care.

Well, aren't we all special here. One of them can tell the future, the other can read feelings. And then there's me. I know what Jay expects of me.

I'm the one who is going to have to stop the destruction unleashed by the heir of Lin.

Even if that's Duo.

Which means that I have to be as perfect as Jay wants me to be. Because otherwise I won't be able to keep the promise I made to Zechs. I said he would have a son after all this is over with.

But one of us is going to die.

If one of us is to survive this, then I'm going to have to go all the way as well.

[chap. 15] [chap. 17] [back to Maldoror's fic]